This rowing machine buying guide will help you research and confidently find the rowing machine to suit your needs. Find out about rowing machine benefits, the different types of rowing machine and which type will help you reach your fitness goals.
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Rowing machines provide a full-body workout when used correctly. Unlike many other types of exercise, 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. Check out our How To Use A Rowing Machine video to ensure you get the full benefits of a rowing workout.
Rowing machines benefit your cardiovascular and muscular systems. Rowing gets your heart racing, bringing you all the benefits of improved circulation.
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.
Regularly using a rowing machine is good for all major muscle groups. This resistance training leads to increased strength and muscle condition. It 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.
Indoor rowing has just as many health benefits as outdoor rowing. Without beautiful outdoor views, it's great to follow free online rowing workouts to keep you motivated. A home rowing machine is a convenient and reliable fitness option no matter how little time you have or how bad the weather.
If you’re looking for home workout equipment, but 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 you live in a flat, rowing machines are probably one of the better options for you.
To get the most out of these benefits, it's important to choose a rowing machine that’s right for your needs. We suggest you consider the following factors before you buy a rowing machine:
The various types of rowing machine are generally grouped together depending on the kind of resistance they offer. Resistance type affects the intensity of your workouts as well as how smooth and realistic the rowing motion is. There are six types of rowing machines widely available to buy in the UK:
Air rowing machines are the main type of rowing machine found in commercial gyms and rowing clubs. Generally, these machines are preferred by Olympic rowers and keen enthusiasts. For the market leader, Concept 2, expect to pay approximately £850 for their cheapest Model D version. Read our Concept 2 vs JTX Ignite Air Rower comparison here.
FEATURES: When you row, you pull a flywheel into a spinning motion. The resistance is created as the blades of the flywheel push against the surrounding air. Rowing faster creates more resistance on the flywheel blades which in turn makes it harder to row. This means that air rowing machines provide an excellent rowing-on-water simulation.
AIR ROWING MACHINE BENEFITS: Air rowing machines provide an excellent rowing-on-water simulation. With an air rowing machine, you remain in control of your resistance throughout your workout. If you want more resistance, you simply row harder and faster. For less resistance, row less intensely.
Magnetic rowing machines are the most basic type of rowing machine. They utilise cheaper materials to keep costs down. You’ll find them from £100 to £300. Unfortunately, the build quality means they are often not as durable as other types of rowing machine. If you’re thinking about buying one, be sure to read the reviews first.
FEATURES: These magnetic rowing machines have a similar type of resistance to exercise bikes. Magnets are placed next to the flywheel and create a drag on the spinning flywheel. Changing the resistance involves moving the magnets closer to the flywheel for more resistance. Resistance is then changed manually during the workout.
MAGNETIC ROWING MACHINE BENEFITS: You can set the resistance at a level that suits your fitness level. The resistance will remain constant, however hard you work out. The downside? Because the resistance doesn’t respond to your movements, the row feels less smooth.
Air and magnetic rowing machines combine both magnetic resistance and air resistance to offer an affordable alternative to air rowing machines. They are also known as mag-air rowers. Magnetic air resistance can be changed manually, depending on how challenging you want your workout to be. Additional dynamic air resistance creates a smooth rowing motion. Mag-air rowing machines can usually be purchased for between £350 – £800 depending on a variety of features.
FEATURES: The addition of magnetic resistance means you can tailor your workout to your ability. Air resistance adds a dynamic element. The harder you row, the more air resistance you feel.
However, the feel of the row is not comparable to that of air rowing machines. The air resistance mechanisms are less powerful in mag-air rowers. The resistance is not as dynamic and the row not as smooth.
MAG-AIR ROWING MACHINE BENEFITS: Although mag-air rowers don’t give the most accurate rowing simulation, they suit most home users. They offer a rewarding rowing experience, tailored to your ability.
Water rowing machines provide resistance via water resistance. Rowing pulls paddles through a tank of water. This creates an accurate rowing-on-water simulation. The market leader is the WaterRower brand with stylish wooden framed rowing machines from £850 to £1300. Other cheaper brands offer versions of the WaterRower brands with fewer design features from £500 but please check out the build quality.
FEATURES: One of the most popular features of water rowing machines is their aesthetic design. They’re usually made from wood and designed to look beautiful in-home settings.
WATER ROWER BENEFITS: Water rowing machines provide an accurate rowing simulation, with dynamic resistance. They are stylish and the more expensive WaterRowers have a reputation for being pretty quiet. The only drawback other than the cost is storage. They are heavy to move into the fully upright position and they rarely fold down or separate easily.
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 10 stone, 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.
Hydraulic rowing machines often use an elastic cord, rather than a high-quality belt or chain. The elastic cord has a tendency to create a variety of problems. They can lose their elasticity over time and slip, causing a jerky rowing motion.
Hydraulic rowing machines use a piston mechanism to provide resistance. This can often get stiff and put the welding under a lot of pressure.
If you do end up buying one of these cheap rowing machines, please be careful to look at the rowing machine warranty.
When you buy a rowing machine, look in the specification for these important features. If you think you've found a great bargain, don't buy until you're sure the product will deliver in these areas.
Some of the cheaper rowing machines will have a very short monorail and be unsuitable for taller rowers. A monorail length of 120cm will be a safe bet for rowers up to 6,4".
Rowing machines that are too light can lift up at the front while rowing, which makes for an unpleasant rowing experience. Make sure the rowing machine is a good weight, look for above 35kg as a minimum.
A high maximum user weight is another good indication of good design quality and durability. Look for a maximum user weight of above 130kg.
When you buy a rowing machine, you'll want to make sure it stores easily when you're not using it. A folding rowing machine, or one that separates easily into two pieces, are good options for small spaces.Compare Rowing Machines
If anything should go wrong after you buy a rowing machine, 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 an 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!)