This guide will help you to research and confidently find the best rowing machine for your fitness goals and budget. Find out about rowing machine benefits as well as the different types of rowers available.
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The rowing machine is the only piece of indoor fitness equipment that gives you a full body workout. Unlike many other exercises, rowing requires your upper and lower body to work in equal measures to perform a full stroke. A huge range of muscles are used in rowing, which means you gain maximum benefit from one machine.
Rowing machines benefit your cardiovascular and muscular systems. Rowing gets your heart racing, bringing you all the benefits of improved circulation. It also introduces resistance, which leads to increased strength and muscle condition.
Indoor rowing is a low impact and non weight-bearing exercise. The smooth movement of a row makes for much less impact on joints, decreasing the likelihood of injuries. Therefore rowing benefits a range of people in recovery or rehabilitation for existing injuries. Because there are no weights to hold during rowing, it’s highly suited to users with bad knees or hips. It’s also fantastic for older people who want to enjoy a vigorous workout without the risk.
Rowing machines are an excellent choice for endurance training. Rowing stimulates and strengthens the heart and lungs, helping you along in your fitness journey. You can perform full body aerobic and anaerobic exercises on the rowing machine by switching up your workouts. Steady state rowing will promote aerobic endurance. HIIT sessions will develop your anaerobic endurance.
Rowing machines benefit all muscle groups, keeping you strong and well balanced. Rowing regularly will strengthen your shoulders, arms and back muscles as well as your glutes and hamstrings. It will also improve the strength and tone of your core muscles.
Because your entire body has to work hard during rowing, it’s a great exercise to help you achieve a healthy weight. Weight loss facts: Rowing burns 600- 1,000 calories per hour, making it a highly effective exercise to shed some pounds.
You don’t have to brave the stormy seas to get an incredible workout from rowing. Indoor rowing has just as many health benefits as outdoor rowing, so much so, indoor rowing has even become its own event. A home rowing machine is a convenient and reliable fitness option throughout the year.
If you’re looking for home workout equipment, but you don’t have a lot of room, a rowing machine could be a perfect option. Rowing machines are relatively lightweight and don’t take up as much floor space as other fitness equipment. If you have lots of steps or access to your home is tricky, rowing machines are probably one of the better options for you.
We recommend you use the following factors to help you choose the best rowing machine for your fitness goals and budget:
The resistance type effects how hard you work and how smooth and realistic the rowing motion is. There are six types of rowing machines widely available to buy in the UK:
This is one of the most basic type of rowing resistance but you can get a very reasonable rowing experience. Ideal for users who are looking for cheap rowing machines (approx. £200- £300) and just want to get a bit fitter rather than become expert. Don’t confuse these with air rowing machines that also have programmes. These magnetic rowing machines have a similar type of resistance to exercise bikes. The magnet is used to create a drag on the spinning™ flywheel.
This is the main type of rowing machine found in a commercial gym. For the market leader, the Concept 2, expect to pay approximately £850. The resistance is created by blades attached to a fly-wheel - like a windmill which is designed to create a drag. Rowing faster creates more resistance on the fly wheel blades which in turn makes it harder to row.
These are generally good quality rowing machines. They combine both magnetic resistance and air resistance to offer an affordable alternative to air rowing machines. They provide a great rowing experience and can usually be picked up for between £350 – £800 depending on a variety of features. In our opinion, this is the best rowing machine for the majority of home users.
These provide the most realistic motion for rowing fans but are extremely expensive for limited additional fitness benefits. For about £1000 you can buy a beautiful wooden water rower which will look great in any designer home gym. BUT the rowing movement won’t make you any fitter than a traditional rowing machine. If you are looking for this level of realism we think you would be better off joining your local rowing club.
We have carried out a lot of tests on these cheaper rowing machines. If you are likely to be exercising on them more than once a week or you weigh over 10stone, we recommend that you avoid them. They are often very cheap but the build quality is in general not very good either so you are likely to end up wasting your money.
The elastic cord rowing machines have a tendency to create a lot of different problems including losing their elasticity over time and slipping.
Hydraulic rowing machines use a piston mechanism to provide the resistance which can often get stiff and put the welding under a lot pressure.
If you do end up buying one of these cheap rowing machines please be careful to look at the rowing machine warranty.
You can buy cheap rowing machines for as little as £60 from Argos but for most people these won’t provide a good workout. They are mainly elastic cord or hydraulic rowing machines (see our description above). However a budget of over £400 will get you a good quality and reliable home rowing machine.
Gym quality rowing machines will start at over £850 and water rowers will cost over £1000.
Measuring the space that you have available for your home rowing machine is an important first step. If a rowing machine has transport wheels it can be moved before and after a workout. You will also need to allow an extra 30cm in length and 60cm width to ensure you have enough space to exercise comfortably. This will allow for your back and elbows to extend beyond the rowing machine.
Smaller rowing machines are available for shorter people. You should check the length of the rail that the seat slides along to ensure it won’t inhibit movement. If you are trying to buy a rowing machine for a smaller space, please remember to include the additional space you will need around it (L+30cm, W+60cm).
You may have enough space for a rowing workout but you don’t want the rowing machine to take over the whole room when not in use. This is when folding rowing machines can be ideal. The JTX Freedom Air Rowing Machine folds easily away and reduces its length from 225cm long to 112cm long.
Some rowing machines can be turned on to their end so they are stored vertically. This can be quite a tricky storage solution. Lifting them into this position can be quite heavy. Also bear in mind you will need a good ceiling height for some models (not ideal for garages).
The commercial rowing machines that are found in gyms are normally about 250cm long. The Concept 2 Rower is the established market leader and costs £860. It can be taken apart and stored in half if required.
Size: Over 6ft tall? Look for a rowing machine with a seat rail over 120cm long.
Need glasses? Some rowers have particularly difficult to read LCD screens. Remember you will be moving when reading the screen and it’s important to be able to read them at a glance so you don’t have to slow down… the bigger the better!
Transport wheels to allow the rowing machine to be moved into more space.
Whatever your fitness goals; from losing weight, improving fitness, to training for a marathon, our help of fitness experts will help you reach them.
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If anything should go wrong a good warranty will make a massive difference. Look for at least a two year warranty which covers all mechanical problems.
Beware of all ‘return to base’ returns policies which will leave you having to pay courier charges over £100 for sending the machine to be fixed.
Also look to see if the retailer has a try before you buy policy. Some online retailers allow you 14 days to return your rowing machine.
JTX Fitness products come with a in-home service warranty and a 28 day money back guarantee so you can test them out for yourself.. no quibbles, just keep the box!)