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Rowing Machine Buying Guide

Although rowing machines are not quite as popular as treadmills or exercise bikes there is still a wide selection of brands, styles and price ranges available to choose from. Below we have outlined some of the main things to look for and keep in mind when buying a rowing machine that will suit your needs.


Rowing machines can vary quite substantially in terms of both style and quality - and so does the price. A very basic model can be bought for about £50 whereas a high quality top of the range rowing machine can set you back by almost £1500. Remember that with all exercise machines you generally get what you pay for so it is always a good idea to spend a little bit extra to get a durable and more comfortable machine. As you go up in price not only will the build quality be better but you are also likely to find extra features that will add to the comfort, convenience and motivational power of the machine.


There are a few different types of resistance system commonly found on rowing machines. Air resistance is often found on good quality rowing machines. The resistance is provided by a finned flywheel which sucks in air as the row arm is pulled back. This allows for “stepless” and unlimited resistance adjustment – more resistance is simply achieved by rowing faster.

A hydraulic rowing machine is a more low-end option which uses hydraulic pistons to provide resistance. This type of rower will offer levels of resistance, often adjusted manually by moving some form of clamps or levers. While hydraulic rowers can provide a decent workout, they do not simulate the feel of real rowing to the same extent as air rowers do as the movement tends to lack the same smoothness and fluidity.

Magnetic rowers use a flywheel and magnetic braking to provide resistance. Just like hydraulic rowers these will often come with a limited number of adjustable resistance levels, although some models offer stepless resistance. There are also models that use a combination of air and magnetic resistance.

If you are after the most authentic feeling of real outdoor rowing possible you could consider a water rower. It uses a stainless steel paddle inside a tank filled with water to provide resistance. Just like with rowing machines based on air resistance intensity is increased simply by rowing faster, but you can also increase or decrease resistance further by adjusting the water level. A water rower provides exceptionally smooth, vibration free movement - with the soothing sound of moving water rather than the noise of air being sucked into a flywheel.


Rowing machines can take up a fair bit of space, especially more expensive models as they tend to have more generously sized seat rails. If you have quite long legs you will need a machine with a good length seat rail, whereas a shorter user may be able to get away with a more compact model. Measure the space you have available and compare it to the dimensions of the rowing machine before making your choice. If lack of space is a concern there are several models available that will fold for storage to free up some of that much needed floor space for other things when the machine is not in use.

Control panel

As opposed to treadmills and exercise bikes, rowing machines seldom offer any preset or customisable workout programmes as speed and resistance often completely depends on how hard and fast you pull on the row arm. As such they cannot really be called fully motivational machines but look out for models with heart rate monitoring and consoles that display a wide range of workout feedback as this will still help with keeping you motivated and tracking your progress.


It is always a good idea to check out the warranties offered on any exercise machine you are considering, especially if you are investing in a more expensive model. Generally speaking, high quality manufacturers will back durable equipment with generous warranties. Most rowing machines will come with at least a one year parts and labour warranty with higher quality manufacturers offering a two or even three years warranty.

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