The Complete Rowing Machine Buying Guide
From types and features to budget and more, find everything you need to know to help identify your dream rower with our complete rowing machine buying guide!
As always, if you have any questions or need some additional support, just contact out friendly team of experts.
Choosing the right home rower
When you search for a rower, you will find that there are many different types available, from air rowers to magnetic rowers and water rowers.
You’ll also find cheaper models that offer hydraulic rowing resistance.
Purchasing one of these pieces of equipment is tedious because there are many different features to consider, and unless you’re an avid rower who knows what they're looking for, you will start looking at reviews and equipment with features you may or may not need.
What Features Should You Look for in a Rowing Machine?
Features vary from one model to the next. One of the first things that you'll notice is that there are a variety of different rower types. The right type for you may be a hydraulic model, or it could be a water resistance or magnetic rower.
You must choose between:
We will be going into the different types of row machines in more detail in the next section. But the main difference is the form of resistance that these machines offer. While a water rower may offer the most fluid and natural type of resistance, it is also the most expensive model on the market today.
This will lead you to your budget.
If you're on a very small budget and don't have a lot of money to spend on a rowing machine, a hydraulic model may be your best option. These models don't allow for the same fluid movement as other models, but they're far more affordable
When looking at a specific model, it's very important to read reviews and see what other people are saying. This will allow you to have better insight into what you can expect from the machine you want to buy.
In terms of features, you will find that the following are the most common and important features you'll come across:
- Flywheel. Larger flywheels offer lower noise production and a better-quality rowing experience.
- Seat. The seat is an especially important feature because you want one that is ergonomically designed to fit your body shape.
- Handlebars. Most models will have a handlebar that you can bring underneath your rib cage, but hydraulic models may have handlebars that are set to the side.
- Caster Wheels. Rowing machines with caster wheels are easier to place into the corner and move around the house. If you plan on folding up your machine and moving it often, this is a must-have feature.
- Folding. A lot of models fold up and will allow you to store it vertically in a corner or closet. You'll need an appropriate height space for this, but since the size of a rowing machine is rather compact, most users will be able to keep them in a flat or in the corner of a room.
- Console. Having a console is one of the most important aspects of a rowing machine. This is where you'll be able to use preset functions or monitor your workout stats, such as heart rate, weight and calories. Some models even allow you to race against virtual people. Higher-end models have a USB port that allows you to collect your data and upload it to your computer or laptop, or use it with an app.
While these are the most important features to look for in a row machine, there are other options that you will also want to consider. A few of the things that we recommend you look at before making your purchase include
- Reviews from other consumers
- Warranty information
- App functionality (if it exists)
- Levels of resistance
Speaking of resistance, it's important to know the different types and how they will impact your rowing experience.
What Type of Resistance is Best for a Rowing Machine?
Resistance is often discussed as the type of rower because it is so important when buying a rowing machine. There are multiple different types of resistance, and everyone has their own preference. A lot of people prefer water resistance rowers because they simulate real rowing, and the resistance increases based on your pace.
You'll also find that different resistances will increase or decrease the price of your rower.
The key types of resistance that you'll find with all modern rowers include:
- Air: Often seen as the second-best type of resistance, air allows you to increase the resistance by the speed that you're rowing. You can often alter air resistance by using a damper, and some models are starting to combine magnetic resistance with air for the best of both.
- Hydraulic: Two pistons are attached to the handlebars of these models. Using hydraulic cylinders, you'll be pulling against fluid or air compressed pistons that supply the resistance to the rowing machine. These roles will have different levels of resistance that you can adjust, and they are often less realistic in their feeling versus other types resistance.
- Magnetic: A common adjustable resistance type is magnetic resistance. When you choose magnetic resistance, you'll be able to row using smooth action and be able to better control your resistance with different types of controls. These units do not increase in intensity the faster that you row, so they are limited if you increase your endurance, stamina or strength and row faster.
- Water: Expensive yet practical, water resistance is often seen as the best resistance for a rowing machine. You can adjust the amount of water in the tank to increase or decrease the level of resistance, or you can simply row faster and harder to increase the intensity. The one drawback of water resistance is that they are larger in size and are often much heavier than their counterparts.
How Much Do Rowing Machines Cost?
Pricing ranges from as little as £200 to as much as £1200+. Higher priced machines are usually more durable and use water resistance. These models are for advanced rowers, but they can also be very beneficial if you plan on rowing intensively for a long period of time.
When you choose mid-range rowing machines, you'll be spending between £200 and £600. These models will include:
- Pre-set programs
- Magnetic resistance
- Advanced consoles
If you can spend even more money, you'll be able to have a rowing machine that is more in line with what you would find at a fitness centre or gym. These models will have top end resistance that often fluctuate with the intensity level of your rowing. What does this mean? You won't be able to outgrow your own machine as you would with a magnetic rower that may have up to 12 resistance levels.
The lower tier models will still provide a good workout, but they're often not as fluid as other rowers. If you plan on spending less than £100, you'll be purchasing a hydraulic rowing machine that is a little bit bulkier and doesn't provide the fluidness of other rowing machines.
How Many Calories Can You Burn on a Rower?
If you ask any fitness expert, they'll tell you that rowing machines can help you burn significant calories in a short amount of time. But you need to be engaging in an intense rowing session for this high caloric burn.
Multiple factors will determine how many calories you burn in your session. These factors will include:
One way to determine how many calories you'll burn is by performing a moderate rowing session, which is determined by rowing at 100 watts. If you row at this level of intensity for 30 minutes, you'll burn the following calories, depending on your weight:
- 7 stone – 160 calories
- 8 stone - 200 calories
- 9 stone - 240 calories
- 10 stone - 280 calories
- 11 stone – 320 calories
If you're able to hit a very vigorous intensity level, which is about 200 watts, you'll be burning significantly more calories. For example, for the same amount of time on the lowest end, you'd be burning 270+ calories when weighing just 7 stone.
Adapt your rowing workout, keep your stroke rate high and keep your heart rate up to maximize each session on your indoor rower.
Can You Store Rowers for Long Periods of Time?
Rowing machines require very little maintenance. You can store away your machine for long periods of time and begin using them again quickly. Water rowing machines may have to have the water removed before storage, but you’ll want to read your instruction manual for more information on this.
Most models, except for many water rowing machines, can be folded.
With the rail in the vertical position, you can store your machine in the closet or in the corner of the room.
How Do You Row with Proper Form?
Whether you use the Concept2 or Hydrow, you’ll need to follow the same form. Full range of motion is important to optimise the fitness benefits, and stick with just your body weight (i.e. no resistance) until you’re able to perform a row with proper form.
The row consists of the:
- Catch position
- The Drive
- The Finish
- The Recovery
Each of these movements should be performed as smoothly as possible. Follow these quick tips:
- Catch: A move that requires you to keep your arm straight, your head in a neutral position and your shoulders level. It's important not to hunch over and to lean forward from your hips with your shoulders. Your shins will be in the vertical position, and your heels may be slightly lifted.
- Drive: The drive is when you’ll start pushing with your legs and going through the vertical position that ends in the arms. Your arms are meant to move in a straight line to and from the flywheel. Keep your shoulders relaxed and low.
- Finish: The finish will require you to lean back slightly while using your core muscles for proper support. The handlebar is held right below your ribs, and your legs will be fully extended.
- Recovery: The final move is the actual recovery. This is when your arms will be straightened before you lean forward towards the flywheel. You'll be slowly bending your knees as you slide the seat forward and start bending your knees. When you're fully bent forward in this position, you’ll start to go back into the catch position.
How Often Should You Use a Rowing Machine?
Rowing is a full body workout that engages the lower and upper body. You'll be able to leverage this full body workout to burn more calories and gain muscle. If you increase the resistance on your own machine, you'll build even more muscle, especially in your arms.
But a rowing machine will not be able to replace free weights or resistance machines for upper body or even lower body strength.
An ideal amount of time to build up to when rowing is about 30 minutes. This duration allows you to get in an intense cardiovascular workout, and you'll be able to lose weight if that is your goal.
In terms of how often or how much exercise you should be engaging in, the standard according to health officials is:
- 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity cardio exercise
- 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity cardio
Now, you may be able to get some of this cardiovascular exercise in while performing HIIT exercises or other forms of training. Ideally, you want to use your rowing machine three to four times per week. Aim for more sessions if you're not able to push the 30-minute mark.
If you’re new to rowing, you’ll want to try some of the preset workouts and learn how to best perform a row on your machine.
Can You Use a Rower with Bad Knees?
It depends. While a rowing is a low impact exercise compared to a treadmill, you are going to be pushing your full body weight using your quadricep muscles and your knees. You want to reduce the resistance levels that you're using, and you may want to avoid a deep knee bend when using a rowing machine if you have arthritis or existing knee pain.
If you plan on rowing with bad knees, you will want to reduce the depth when you're in the recovery move and also make sure that you are not locking out your knees during the drive phase.
Proper form and technique can help strengthen your knees as well as your hips. Rowing machines are versatile, but if you feel additional pain, you may want to perform another form of exercise.