Rowing machines are complex creatures, and choosing which type is the best fit isn't an easy thing to do. That much we already know. Before you buy your very own, it's always good to look around and see what's out there, and that's exactly what we're here to do.

There are three main types of rowing machine, and even on top of those, there are features which set all rowers apart. This can make it a real minefield to find the perfect fit. We're here to break down every single one of these aspects so you can build them back together and find the perfect match.

As a small note, before we start, the very first thing that you need to do is to identify exactly what it is you want your rowing machine to do for you. If you want to get Olympic performance ready for example, you might want to look for features that aren't included with the more intensive calorie burners and muscle toners. That's just a note.

Resistance

The first place to start and the biggest difference you'll find in rowing machines is the type of resistance that they have to offer you. They all have their unique benefits, so it's important to find which are going to be the most beneficial to you and your home gym. (Don't panic, they're all awesome).

Air

person on an erg outside

The most common type of rowing machine is the air resistance flywheel rowing machine. This one operates by the rowing motion spinning a flywheel inside a chamber that as it hits the air, causes resistance upon the next motion etc.

This means that the faster you row, the more resistance you feel, making it a useful device for not only cardio over a long period of time but also some back and bicep workouts and even H.I.I.T workouts if this is what is wanted. However hard you row, it comes back harder. It's pretty amazing really.

Magnetic

The magnetic resistance rowing machine is the second most common type of rowing machine you'll find, and they're just as awesome. The idea of these is that the flywheel has magnets attached to it. When you change the resistance, you move the magnets closer or further away from the wheel, making it easier or harder as a result.

As well as still being an amazing workout, magnetic rowing machines may be the best for a few unique reasons too. The machine can be quite dramatically smaller as well as quieter than the other types. They're both extremely valuable points when you're considering the machine in a home gym. This does, however, mean that it is slightly more expensive than a typical air resistance rower, but prices do vary.

(This can be an awesome choice if you have kids at home or need a quiet workout).

Water

a water erg

Lastly, we have water rowing machines. They replace air or magnetic resistance by putting the wheel in a tank of water, which provides its own resistance with the same as the air would. This feature alone is what makes them arguably the best type of rowing machine you can get.

The difference in this scenario is that the water provides a much more realistic feeling to the exercise as it would do in real life. The water behaves in the same way it would in real rowing, giving more resistance as speed increases, rather than the adjustment of the magnets like on the previous. It's still massively quieter than air rowers too, which is always a good thing.

Deciding

 

All of these machines have their good and bad points, that much is clear. Most of the time, the decision comes down to which is the best fit for what you need personally. It all depends on location, experience, budget... It's really varied. If cost is not a worry, water rowing machines and magnetic rowing machines do tend to have more benefits to them overall.

Some machines even offer combinations of resistances, typically putting both air resistance and magnetic resistance together allowing the machine to be both realistic and customisable, which tends to be more of the professional standard. Explore your options before you go all in.

(You can find all of ours here)

 

Features

We'll finish things off by looking at the different features that a rowing machine has to offer you. That comes from the things that make a rowing machine unique aside from the different types of resistance out there. They all have a huge impact on your performance in the long term, and you need to find the perfect balance. Some of these can be a real dealbreaker/maker.

Displays

an erg display

Most machines include electrical displays which offer statistics and measurements of your performance to help with this too. The machine will work out your general speed and how many calories you are burning in order for you to know if you’re doing your best or even set your own records or goals. They also mean you can view how long or how far you’ve been rowing if you’re more performance-based.

It's not all workout data in these either. These devices do actually include some extra features like games too if applicable to the machine too. That's perfect for keeping you engaged, motivated, and allowing some sort of variation and provides you with a customisable experience so you can row for pleasure, your health, or even competitively. It opens up a lot of avenues.

Sizes

On top of the display that your machine has, it's a wise thing to look at how big your machine is too. No matter what you're doing with your rower, if it's going into a home gym, you need to make sure that it's going to be a good fit; in every sense.

Check out how far back your seat goes, and how bog the flywheel is, for example. your stroke distance may change depending on each machine, and if you're particularly tall, you may have issues. If you're tight on space, a folding option may be better. there's more to think about than you might think, and different rowers allow different things.

 

To really find which rowing machine is going to be the best type and the best fit, you need to check out what you need. Every person and every gym is completely different, so there's no right or wrong. Check out our guide to building a home gym for some more things to think about, and other than that, just think in advance. Rowers are hard to beat, no matter what form you buy.

 

Exercise.co.uk Rowing Machines


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If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.