This content originally appeared on Mashable for a US audience and has been adapted for the UK audience.
Are you looking for a full body workout at home? Or an exercise machine that just doesn’t take up too much space? Either way, a rowing machine is a solid choice.
There are plenty of rowing machines out there — plus, a variety of price points, sizes, and specifications. We’ve done most of the work for you, so we can get you off the computer and onto your rower in no time. You can thank us later when those muscles are bulging.
When it comes to purchasing a rowing machine, there are a lot of factors to consider. Air resistance or magnetic resistance? Water resistance or hydraulic resistance? Hi-tech features or just the basics? Built-in workouts or rowing solo? Fear not, we are here to answer all of your rowing-related questions and steer you in the right direction.
Why do you need a rowing machine?
Rowing machines give you a full body workout. It’s cardio-heavy but low-impact. That means less stress on your joints or over-worked muscles, and less chance of sustaining an injury. This makes rowing a safe and effective workout for people of all ages, sizes, and abilities.
There’s more — rowing is good as both a warm-up and warm-down, if you’re having an intense or lengthy workout. It also adds variety to the run-of-the-mill weights and jogging routine.
What are the types of rowing machine resistance?
Here’s a bit of jargon you need to know about when buying a rowing machine. Resistance is the thing that makes it hard to pull back those handlebars, and thereby works the muscles. But there are multiple types of resistance, which each have their own plus points and negatives:
Magnetic Resistance — This is the most common type that you’ll find on home gym rowers. It works by placing a strong magnet at a varying distance from the flywheel, which can increase and decrease the resistance. These machines are quieter but don’t necessarily simulate an authentic rowing experience.
Air Resistance — As you pull, the flywheel spins and creates its own air resistance. The harder you row, the tougher the resistance. This simulates the experience of rowing on water — but these machines can be noisier than the magnetic resistance options.
Water Resistance — These use a small tank of water. As you row, the flywheel paddles through the water. Unsurprisingly, this is the closest you get to the real rowing-on-water experience. Once again, the harder you row, the harder the resistance. They make a “swoosh” sound as you go. These tend to be high-quality, high-cost, and generally bigger. They won’t fold away quite so easily — if at all.
Hydraulic Resistance — This is a standard mechanism on low-cost, stripped-down rowing machines. They use pistons, which push against liquid or air to create resistance. It’s not as smooth or robust of a workout as you get with other rowers, but it does the trick if all you want is the basics. These machines are usually smaller and easy to store.
Keep these points in mind when shopping for a rowing machine.
What features do rowing machines offer?
Once you’ve got a type of resistance in mind, the next thing is to look at other spec — specifically the display screen and how tech-savvy it is.
Some will offer basic information, such as distance, calories burned, strokes per minute, and time — while other hi-tech models will offer pre-programmed workouts and Bluetooth connectivity that can hook you up to fitness apps. Ultimately, it’s about how serious you are about rowing, and how much you’re willing to spend.
Other features include the number of resistance levels – around 10 is standard — and whether or not the rower folds up for easy storage.
How much does a rowing machine cost?
That’s the big question, of course. We’ve included models across a range of price points. It’s possible to pick up a rowing machine for under £100. It’s also possible to spend well over £1,000.
For anything above a very basic model, prepare to spend at least a few hundred pounds. But it’s worth the cash if you want a durable, full-body workout machine — and in the comfort of your own home.
What is the best rowing machine?
We have lined up impressive models from top brands like NordicTrack(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab), WaterRower(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab), and XS Sports(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab). Whether you’re just starting out or looking to take your workouts up a notch, we’ve compiled a list of the top rowing machines for everyone.
These are the best rowing machines in 2023.