Rowing Machine Buying Guide

Buying Guide to Rowing Machines

If you have decided to buy a piece of gym equipment for home use you may be feeling a little overwhelmed. Perhaps your an avid gym goer who wants to save time and money over the long term and you already have a machine in mind, or maybe you’re quite new to fitness and want to work-out in the privacy of your own home. Either way deciding to buy your own personal gym equipment is a big long term commitment that shouldn’t be rushed into, and before you make a choice you should know all there is to know about your chosen machine and the options that are available.

This is a buyers guide to rowing machines and in this guide we will go over the health benefits and common features of rowers as well as the things you should look out for and the different types of rowing machines you can buy.  Rowing machines are a great alternative to the treadmill because they offer a low impact full body workout that will help you lose weight, get toned, stay supple, improve cardiovascular health and train for a specific occasion.

Benefits of Rowing Machines

Full body workout

Rowing machines mimic the real-life motion of rowing a boat and the motion requires you to use both your arms and legs. Rowing machines will work your arms, shoulders and back whilst also engaging your legs, glutes, hips and core and so if you use your rower regularly you will be strengthening your arms, back and core as well as legs.

This is really useful because whilst a lot of people think that cardio is the only way to lose weight building muscle will boost your metabolism as the more muscle you have the more calories you will burn just to maintain those muscles. This is not to say that muscles burn a lot of calories by themselves, but they do burn more calories than fat does and they will tone and mould your body so you have less flab and more definition.

A workout that focuses on most of your body is important for other reasons too people tend to put a lot of pressure on their backs without attempting to strengthen them and thus over time we develop back problems and are more susceptible to injury. If you start strengthening your back now you will be less likely to develop problems later on and it will also improve your posture.

Strengthening your arms may not be the first thing you focus on when you exercise (perhaps you are more interested in losing stomach fat or toning up your thighs) but strong arms can be really useful for every day life as well as personal safety and should be included in everyone’s workout.

Low Impact

When you use a rowing machine you’ll most probably be sitting in the machines adjustable seat whilst using your arms and legs to create the motion. This takes a lot of the pressure off your joints and muscles and, if you are using your rowing machine correctly, it is a lot less likely that you will sustain an injury using your rower.

As you are sitting down you don’t have to support your own weight in addition to the rowers weight and so if you already have bad joints or you just don’t want to risk getting them later on low impact exercise is a great way to stay fit whilst keeping yourself safe.

Cardiovascular Workout

Cardiovascular exercise is a term that basically refers to any type of physical exercise which raises your heart rate and keeps it up for an extended period of time.  This can cover anything from cycling, swimming running and (of course) rowing and it is really important because cardiovascular activity strengthens your heart and lungs and improves your bodies oxygen flow.

Rowing can be a great alternative to cardiovascular exercise if you are not comfortable with or you don’t enjoy jogging as it still offers the same benefits without the additional risk of injury.


Weight Loss and HIIT Training

V Fit Rowing Machine Review 2015 - 2016Rowing machines offer you a full body workout whilst increasing your heart rate, both of which are going to help you burn calories, tone your body and ultimately lose body fat and gain muscle. Rowing machines are a good source of cardio exercise as they increase your heart rate and make you break as sweat but as you are not over working your joints and you don’t have to support your own weight you may well find that you can row for longer than you can run, and if that’s the case you will be able to do longer workouts with your rowing machine and you will burn even more calories.

Rowing machines are also a good way of incorporating HIIT training into your workout. HIIT stands for high intensity interval training and it basically involves varying the pace of your workout in order to achieve better results. Rather than working at the same pace for the entire exercise the user starts of at a medium pace, takes it up all the way and works very hard for a short period of time (say 45 seconds) and then slows down and repeats.  HIIT training is recommended by exercise professionals because it is now regarded as more efficient than regular training and because it helps keep your workout interesting and may increase your enjoyment and stop you giving up.

Varying the pace of your workout can help you burn more calories than exercising at the same steady pace as it not only makes your body work harder and so you burn more calories during your workout but you will actually continue to burn calories for about two hours after you have finished exercising.  This is because your body will have to repair and replenish after your workout and it will require calories to do that, and so if you use HIIT training on your rowing machine you could still be burning calories in the bath, whilst watching TV or even as you eat a pizza!

Rowing Machine Types

There are four different types of rowing machines which you will be able to choose from.


Air rowing machines are powered by their fly wheel and often increase their resistance depending on the intensity of your workout, so the harder you are working the harder the resistance will become. Air rowers can be a little on the noisy side but they do also release cold air which can fan you and keep you cool as your working out.


Water based rowing machines use real water pressure for their resistance and thus tend to be more authentic and high-end products. They harness water filled cylinders to create resistance and so when you use a water rowing machine you are working against real water resistance and you can use these machines as effective practice for outdoor rowing.

Water rowing machines often have the best resistance and are really smooth to use, but they are also heavier than other rowing machines and require quite a lot of maintenance as the water tanks need to be cleaned and re-filled regularly.


Hydraulic rowers use oil filled cylinders for their resistance, so they tend to be quite an eco friendly and cheaper option than Rowing Machine Reviews - The Best Of 2015 - 2016their counter parts. They are light-weight and tend to be smaller than other rowers and therefore they are easier to store away when not in use, but they are often lower quality and don’t provide the same resistance options and features as other rowing machines.


Magnetic rowing machines use magnets for their resistance. They tend to be quieter and lighter than heavier rowers and they often offer adjustable resistance so you can choose your own resistance level rather than having to work up to it. Magnetic rowers are one of the most popular rowing machine types because they offer strong resistance and high quality without the added price tag or weight.

Features to Look For When Buying

Now that you know the benefit of rowing machines and the different types of rowing machines that you can buy here is a list of features and things to look out for to ensure that you make the right choice for you.

Space and Transport

It is so obvious you may be wondering why it’s included here at all, but if you want to buy a large piece of home gym equipment you need to make sure you have space for it in your house. Some people may have an entire room dedicated to home fitness and so space may not be an issue, but other people may live in a flat and have limited room and so for some people space is one of the biggest issues.

Some rowing machines are larger than others and some are advertised as ‘compact’, but if space is a very big concern your best bet is a fold-able rowing machine. These machines can be folded in half when not in use and are therefore far easier to put to one side or store out of the way. Transport is another big issue for rowing machines as they tend to be quite heavy and it may be hard to carry them around if you are not super strong, but many models come with wheels that you can use to easily transport the machine from room to room.


There are lots of different rowing machines to choose from and prices will range from £100-200 to somewhere in the thousands. It’s important not to go by price alone as there isn’t much point buying a machine that is cheap but is also either flimsy and breaks within the first few months or doesn’t have enough features to keep you occupied. You can get some really good deals on rowing machines but most of the time you do get what you paid for. You can’t expect the same quality and options from a budget machine as you would a high-end rower and buying something which is low quality and keeps breaking may work out more expensive in the long run than paying a bit more initially.

Exercise equipment tends to be a bit pricey initially but it’s important to think of how much money you will save over just one year by not having a gym membership and if your exercise equipment is going to last you several years you have actually saved yourself quite a bit of money in the long run.

It’s also important not to pay too much if there is a cheaper option out there. Comparison guides are a good way to see what features you can get for what prices and it’s also important to look at a few different brands and models and compare them before making your final decision.


Folding Rowing Machine Reviews - The Best In 2015 - 2016Rowing machines are suitable for most people but there are a few things you should keep in mind. If you are especially tall or have larger than average feet you should check to see if the machine seat and foot pedals are adjustable because if they are not you may not be able to use the machine comfortably. Many rowers do come with adjustable feet and seats but it’s important to check the specifications to make sure.

Another thing to look out for is the weight limit. Exercise machines will have a weight limit and if someone who is over the weight limit attempts to use the machine it could damage the rower or cause injury to the person. Most of the weight limits will be quite high, but if you are over weight or you are sharing the machine with multiple people it’s best to check before you buy.

Some rowers will allow you to adjust the resistance level on your machine and thus control the hardness and intensity. This is another important feature especially if you are sharing the machine because different people are going to have different fitness levels.

Display Screen and Programs

Many rowing machines will come with a monitor which will display data from your workout i.e. the amount of calories you have burned since the start of your session, the amount of hypothetical distance you have covered and the speed you are on. This information is actually really useful because it helps keep you up to date with your progress, it can keep you motivated and it helps you set goals.

Some display screen will have additional options and quite a few will let you create your own user profile which you can use to set yourself goals and work towards them during your work outs. Your profile may record your current progress so you can make sure you continue to improve over time and you can also set yourself specific targets before you start working out and the machine will let you know when you have completed the goal (i.e. burned 200 calories in one session).

Some more advanced models will also have pre-made workout programs that you can use to focus on specific targets. Some programs may focus on weight loss, others may focus on strength and toning and there may be heart rate and recovery programs which you can use as well. These programs help vary your workout and give you new ideas, both of which are especially important if you are working out alone.

The display screen and available options will vary between machines and so if you have a specific feature that you want to use you’ll have to double check to see if the machine in question offers that feature. Some screens may not display the total distance you have covered which could be a deal breaker if you are training for a rowing expedition or have a specific goal in mind, whilst other lower end models may not offer programs or may not let you set your own goals on the monitor.

Resistance Levels

The amount of resistance your machine offers and how you can control that resistance will vary greatly from rower to rower. Magnetic rowers will mostly let you manually control your resistance level whereas air rowers will increase the resistance depending on how hard you are working. If you do buy a rowing machine that has manual resistance control it’s important to see how many levels you have to choose from because if there aren’t enough you may not keep improving and benefiting from your machine over time.

As you get fitter and improve you need to keep challenging yourself in order to see results. If your body becomes comfortable with its routine it won’t need to work as hard and whilst you may be able to maintain your weight you’re unlikely to see much more progress. Therefore if you want to use your rowing machine for a long time it’s important to make sure it has enough scope for improvement and enough resistance levels to keep challenging and pushing you over a long period of time.

Warranty and Money Back Guarantees

Warranties are great for peace of mind because they will cover any accidental or manufacturable damages over the warranty period. Rowing machines tend to be fairly expensive and bulky products and so the last thing you want is to invest in one, have it break in the first few months and then have to pay a large sum of money in order for it to be repaired or replaced. Depending on the warranty you get some will cover repairs and will actually send someone to your house to fix your machine whilst others will cover the parts and will replace them at no extra cost if they are accidentally damaged.

Products that come with long warranties (2 years or more) are especially attractive because it is a good indication of quality. PureFitness & Sports ReviewIf a manufacturer knows they have made a flimsy machine that’s likely to break in a few months it wouldn’t make any sense to put a large warranty on that machine as they would have to keep paying to get it fixed, so as a general rule if an exercise machine has a long warranty it means that the manufacturers believe it is going to last for at least as long as the warranty covers.

Money back guarantees are also important because if your rowing machine is guaranteed and it isn’t quite what you were hoping for you can return it for a refund within the stated time period (normally 28 days). You will normally have to pay to return the item but if you are not totally sure about your purchase or you decide that a rowing machine isn’t right for you after you use it a few times a money back guarantee can be really beneficial.

This brings us to the end of our buyers guide to rowing machines. Hopefully you have found it useful and informative and now you feel that you know enough about rowing machines and their features in order to make the right choice based on your personal goals, budget and needs. There are so many different brands, models and varieties to choose from that you are bound to find the right rowing machine for you just as long as you keep an eye on the specifications and any available customer reviews to ensure you know enough about your chosen machine before you buy it.