Rowing machines are some of the most popular pieces of fitness equipment you’ll find. Whether at the gym or at home, they can help to burn off tons of calories in a relatively short time. What’s more, it’s an all-body workout.
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Your arms, your legs, your shoulders, your glutes – everything is working together in tandem. But how do you go about finding the best rowing machine for your money?
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Rowing Machines: A Buyer’s Guide For 2022
As with all fitness equipment, there are going to be more than a few significant differences between the main models and units on the market. There is a vast difference in cost, too, which is mainly dependent on the technology included and the brand who has manufactured the machine.
In this guide, we will take a thorough look at what you can expect from rowing machines, how much you should pay, and whether or not they are right for you.
Rowing Machine Types
If you’re new to rowing, what you may not know is that there are actually several different types of machine. All rowing machines are referred to as resistance machines.
This is because they actively resist when you use them – to be able to row, you will need to pull back, glide forward, and repeat. Resistance machines offer a great deal of ‘pull’ to give you an all-over workout.
But which types of machine should you be looking for? You may have come across some of the more common models in gyms and fitness clubs, but there are many more choices available for the home market, too.
Air Resistance Machines
Air resistance rowing machines are probably the most common. These machines are very much recommended for beginners as well as for seasoned rowers, as it will only resist as intense as you make your workout.
It will work with you the faster you row. Therefore, if you like to row at a leisurely pace, an air resistance machine will not punish you. These machines are built with a flywheel and blade system, meaning that it works purely on wind resistance.
Hydraulic Resistance Machines
Hydraulic piston models are largely recommended for the budget market. These models have adjustable intensity and resistance, and their storability is also a major selling point. The resistance works thanks to piston attachments on the handles.
While quieter than many of the other types of rowing machine available, these systems can often feel a little clunkier. Some people would advise that you do best by paying more for smoother tech.
Magnetic rowing machines are very popular. They’re quiet, they’re compact, and they give genuine resistance when you want it. Drag is created by magnets which are installed in specific zones near the flywheel.
This means you can easily control and adjust the resistance level by hand if you wish to. Magnetic machines are probably going to be the most readily-recommended for the best workouts, though some rowers will prefer water machines for the added realism.
Water rowing machines are fairly new as far as the market is concerned, but they are becoming increasingly popular with the general rowing crowd.
The point of a water rower is to emulate the act of rowing on a body of water. This means you can expect maximum smoothness and stability as well as a great workout.
These machines use water-based flywheels where drag is created through submerged paddles. One drawback of this type of machine, sadly, is that it is both bulky in design and often very expensive to buy.
Things You Need to Consider
Now that we’ve explored some of the main rowing machine types and models available, we need to consider how to accommodate them.
We’ll take a look at some of the advanced features and – of course – pricing – a little later on, but for now, it’s time to think about preparation.
Planning for Space
Even if you consider taking on the more compact hydraulic machines, a rowing machine is still going to take up plenty of space. These units are ideal for garage or gym spaces, but perhaps not so much for bedrooms or lounges.
With this in mind, you should always measure up and plan space for where you wish to install your machine.
All good machine stockists should give you an idea of what to expect from width, depth and height. Don’t be surprised if the stats come out higher than you may expect!
Rowing machines are heavy-duty, bulky and demand plenty of installation space for the sake of safety as well as comfort. If space really is an issue but you still want to buy a machine, there are models which can compact and store away.
Is a Rowing Machine Right for Me?
The good news is that most rowing machines are built to offer flexible resistance. With some models, your machine will only resist as much as you allow it to.
Therefore, both experienced rowers and beginners can push their rowing experiences as little or as much as they desire.
Most rowing machines are super low-impact, which means if you wish to exercise but can’t use treadmills, steppers or cycles, they offer plenty of flexibility and safety support.
You’ll be able to strap into a good rowing machine safely, and you will also be able to learn how to use it as you go. They really aren’t too complex to understand!
The Difference Between Home and Commercial
When looking for rowing machines online, you may notice that there is a major difference between ‘commercial’ and ‘home’ models. Commercial models are built to be installed in public gymnasiums and fitness centres, while home machines are naturally built for less intensive workouts at home.
Commercial machines may cost more than entry-level rowing systems, though you may get a better deal if you look for refurbished models. This, of course, is entirely up to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s time to consider some of the more frequently asked queries that people pose before buying rowing machines.
How Much Should I Pay for a Rowing Machine?
There are a few variables in play, but you should expect to pay as little as £150-£200 for entry-level models, and up to £1500-£2000 for the best on the market.
Some of the factors that can influence pricing include the type of resistance, functionality such as compaction and storage, and whether or not you are purchasing a ‘home’ or ‘commercial’ unit.
As mentioned, home rowing machines tend to be a little more on the simple side of things, but they retail for much less than what you’d expect to pay for a gym machine.
Can I Measure Calories and Distance?
Yes – many rowing machines arrive with onboard monitors, timers and computers. You can measure how many calories you’ve burned, how far you’ve rowed in miles or km, and how long you have left in any given session.
Some of the best rowing machines have systems in place which will allow you to tailor your workouts to the last digit. This means you can enter in your own stats and you can keep track of records you have previously set.
You don’t necessarily have to pay too much extra for this tech, either. You’ll find hydraulic and magnetic machines often come fitted with performance monitors installed as standard.
What Makes a Good Rowing Machine?
This is a very good question to ask, especially if you’re just getting started. However, it’s not one which is so easy to answer. People will generally be looking for rowing machines which offer comfort during extensive use, robust design, safety features, compatibility, performance monitor technology and more.
Ultimately, everyone’s rowing and exercise needs, in general, will likely be very different. Brand quality may vary, too – do always research your brands.
With this in mind, it is always recommended that you consult genuine user or verified buyer reviews. These will help you to understand what you’re getting into before you buy.
If you make a list of all the features and factors which are most important to you, you can cross-reference them when you read reviews. It may even be worth trying a few rowing machines at your local gym to see if you can get a feel for a certain model or style.
The best advice we could give concerning this query is not to necessarily be led by budget. While you should set a healthy budget before you go shopping, do be aware that the most basic rowing machines may not offer you the best comfort or support. Both are extremely important while rowing!
Rowing is a great way to get fit, and there is now more choice than ever before when it comes to models, brands and functionality. However, a great rowing machine is a long-term investment.
Make sure you prepare your space, your budget and your body before you get started. Read some verified reviews, research the market and try before you buy – if you can! Most of all – just have fun!