What To Consider When Buying A Rowing Machine

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In recent years, rowing machines have become an increasingly more popular fitness trend. This is not difficult to understand when you take into consideration the many benefits they offer. The rowing machine can burn up to 1,200 calories an hour and unlike most other exercise equipment that targets one or two areas, the rowing machine involves push and pull movements that use the calves, thighs, arms, shoulder and back whilst also providing a cardio workout.

Our health and fitness are very important and there are various types of rowing machines available on the market, so it is important that you choose the correct one to suit you. That is why we have put together this buyers guide gathering all the information we feel you need to know, to help make that decision easier.

Only got 5 minutes?

The rowing machine has become an increasingly more popular home fitness trend. It is not difficult to see why when you take into consideration the numerous benefits.

Besides being convenient, easy to use and fun, it also hosts a number of health benefits that challenge many of its more popular home workout machine rivals.

Rowing is an aerobic exercise whilst also giving a cardio workout. This helps strengthen your immune system and stamina, and releases endorphins, which can improve your mood and sleep patterns as well as increasing stamina and boosting metabolism.

On average, a rowing machine will burn 600 calories per hour and uses a number of muscles, thus contributing to weight loss and toning. Rowing also has a low impact on joints for those who struggle with joint pain or injury.

The rowing machine gives a good workout for both the whole body targeting thighs, calves, quads, glutes, biceps, pecs and abs.

Before buying a rowing machine it is important to choose which type best suits you. Each type of machine creates resistance in a different way.

The air/flywheel rowing machine offers a similar feel to outdoor rowing, the air or flywheel rowing machine uses air to create resistance. The faster you row the stronger the resistance.

The Hydraulic rowing machine creates tension is created by air or fluid being compressed by a cylinder or a piston. This tension/resistance is adjustable on this type of rowing machine. This machine is usually cheaper and smaller but does not allow to row in a straight line.

Magnetic Resistance Indoor Rower creates resistance using magnetic force. It is a more expensive type but still popular as it is silent, unlike the others.

All these types essentially have the same health and fitness benefits. However, it is important to pick which type of resistance you feel will suit you best.

Besides picking the type of machine you would like, other considerations to make when choosing a machine include:

  • Space. Check the size and if you are limited to space, foldaway rowers available.
  • Assembly. Some can be difficult and frustrating to assemble.
  • Construction. Check the materials are strong and durable and that the seat is adjustable.
  • Warranty. Ensure frame and parts have a warranty of at least 2 years
  • Price. You tend to get what you pay for but should be able to get a good quality machine for under £500

Best Pick

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Best Budget

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Our Best Pick Rowing Machine – In Brief

The JL R200 rowing machine is an ideal all round rowing machine for someone who wants a rowing machine they can quickly setup in their living room or bedroom then pack it away again. It is a fully featured machine with 10 different magnetic resistance settings and isn’t too pricey to boot!

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The internet is full of review sites that claim they have bought and rigorously tested every product so they can give you the best buying advice, Tripadvisor has some fake reviews, who do you trust?

Let us be straight from the off, we provide the following, we get a product category or subject area, find out everything you could possibly want to know about it, find some of the best products for sale in the category and combine it all into a concise buyers guide.

If we were buying something that is exactly what we are looking for, we don’t care much for someone’s opinion, we want facts, the best products based on specifications and reviews and it all presented in one place. That is what we provide in our buyer’s guides.

What do I need to know about rowing machines?

Rowing machines, or ergometers as they are also known, are said to be one of the best full-body cardiovascular fitness machines. When you are using a rowing machine, you are actually imitating the action used when rowing a boat on the water. All rowing machines have a mobile seat attached to a track and a handlebar attached to a flywheel. You use your legs to push back with each row as your arms to pull the handlebar; this also engages your core, chest and back and raise your heart rate for a full body and cardiovascular workout. The more established and familiar exercise equipment like treadmills and exercise bikes do not offer this full body workout.

The original rowing machine was invented as a way for rowers to train during the winter, however, they now come with several features including a number of resistance approaches. Although there are various machines on the market offering different features, most modern machines have computers that assess data such as distance, watts and heart rate.

Types of rowing machine

Before purchasing a home rowing machine, we feel it is important that you understand the various types of machines to enable you to make the best decision for you.

The air/flywheel rowing machine

Offering a similar feel to outdoor rowing, the air or flywheel rowing machine uses air to create resistance. When the user pulls the handle it spins the fan wheel and as the flywheel spins it creates a ‘wind’ by moving the air front and sideways to create air resistance.

The faster the user rows the more ‘wind’ that is created thus creating a higher resistance. In short, the faster you row the stronger the resistance.

Air rowing machines have a ‘damping’ setting. This helps the user control how much air is entering the flywheel hence giving control of the feel of resistance. A low setting will only allow a small amount of air into the wheel, and a high setting will allow a large amount.

Air rowing machines provide a more natural, unremitting, and even stroke compared to piston/cylinder or hydraulic based rowing machines.

The Hydraulic rowing machine

In a hydraulic rowing machine, tension is created by air or fluid being compressed by a cylinder or a piston. This tension/resistance is adjustable on this type of rowing machine.

The hydraulic rowing machine is compact and affordable. Although this machine is perfect for those on a budget and wanting to save on space, this machine does not allow you to perform a natural rowing motion in a straight line, which disallows a natural synchronisation of arms, and legs when in use.

The Water rowing machine

The water rower uses water to create its resistance. This type of rowing machine emulates the power and exertion needed when rowing on water. This type of machine is perfect for those who do partake in outdoor rowing as it provides a more natural rowing workout.

The resistance in this type of machine can be altered by the amount of water.

A positive to this machine is the quietness of only hearing the swish of water, however, this machine is not for those who require simplicity and ease.

The process of adding water can be difficult and messy on refill and has to be emptied by the user.

Magnetic Resistance Indoor Rower

This popular type of indoor rowing machine creates resistance using magnetic force.

This type of machine is popular due to being almost silent, as it does not produce friction like the other machines.

The magnetic resistance rowers are usually more expensive than the hydraulic rowers but still just as popular due to being silent.

Our conclusion of types of machines

Whichever rowing machine you decide to use, you are guaranteed a good full body and cardiovascular workout. Therefore, the choice is simply down to your personal needs. Just ensure you take into consideration the space you have available and your budget. If you attend a gym, it is also worthwhile spending time on the rowing machine there to feel how effective the machine is for you and support your decision.

What should I look for when buying?

Your first decision should be which type of rowing machine you would like, based on the type of resistance. However, even after you have made this decision there are still numerous rowers on the market. Here are our top five tips of other things to look out for.


It is important to take into consideration the amount of space you have available for the machine. Hydraulic machines tend to be the smallest. If you only have a small apartment or know the machine will not be in very regular use it may be worth opting for a fold away machine.

Ease of assembly

Although it is likely you will only need to assemble once, some rowing machines on the market can be a puzzle to piece together.


It is important to check the rower, seat and sliding track. The rowers should be made of heavy-duty material with a strong grip. Check the material, the size of the seat and length of track to ensure comfort. A good machine should also have adjustability and strong footpads.


It is important to purchase a product with a good warranty that includes the frame and individual parts. Most manufacturers will give a minimum of two years warranty.


Prices can range from around £100 to well over £1000 and as with most items when buying a rowing machine you usually get what you pay for. That being said, it is possible to get good quality rowing machines for under £500.

Benefits of buying a rowing machine

There are numerous benefits to buying a rowing machine. First of all, using a rowing machine is an aerobic exercise that contributes to your health. Aerobic exercise increases stamina helps strengthen your immune system and stamina, and releases endorphins, which can improve your mood and sleep patterns. This machine will also increase your heart rate for an effective cardio workout. If rowing regularly, it can increase stamina and boost metabolism

On average, a rowing machine will burn 600 calories per hour, which is more than many other home gym machines. It also requires the use of a number of muscles, contributing to weight loss and toning.

Whilst rowing is a cardio exercise, it is low-impact cardio creating less risk for those who are overweight. Rowing also has a low impact on joints for those who struggle with joint pain or injury.

The rowing machine gives a good workout for both the upper and lower body. The muscles it targets include thighs, calves, quads, glutes, biceps, pecs, abs, shoulders and lats, whilst also improving posture as well as reducing back pain.

Besides all the health benefits, regular use of a rowing machine is convenient, easy to use and fun!

Comparing rowing machines to other popular home exercise machines

Rowing machines, treadmills, ellipticals. Which is best?

Treadmills provide weight-bearing exercise, therefore, burning the most calories out of these three. However, weight-bearing exercise can cause stress and damage to your joints; they are often expensive and only give a lower body workout. Treadmills are recommended for those who already have high fitness levels with no joint pain or injuries.

Ellipticals avoid many of these issues. They provide both an upper and lower body workout, cost significantly less and reduce stress on the joints.  The downfall being they burn very little calories. The rowing machine offers the best of both. It gives the full-body workout without causing stress on joints, whilst burning calories. Rowing is recommended to people looking to work on their entire body.

Best Pick Rowing Machine – JLL R200

JLL® R200 Luxury Home Rowing Machine, 2024 Model Rowing Machine Fitness Cardio Workout with Adjustable Resistance, Advanced Driving Belt System, 12-Month Warranty, Black and Silver Colour
  • Advanced belt driving system provides rapid engagement for an excellent training result. The inbuilt wheels allow this item to be easily transported.
  • LCD Monitor Display: Total count, Calorie, Count / Min, Count, Distance & Time
  • Compact and foldable. Maximum User Weight is 100kg.
  • 10 levels of magnetic resistance.
  • CE, UKCA & EN957 Standard Safety Compliant

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

The JLL R200 is a new revised model for 2019 and is what we would call a fully featured rowing machine. In that it has the same physical appearance of one you would expect to find in your local gym.

It offers 10 different magnetic resistance settings, great depending on what sort of workout you are after and for different ability levels. It has an LCD monitor on the front giving you feedback of your workout as you go. The R200 folds flat too for easy storage, whilst it doesn’t fold as flat as some of the more budget models, it does fold flat and upright so that it can be stored easily in the corner of a room.

Best Budget Rowing Machine – Bodyfit Rowing Machine

Body Fit Rowing Machine Rower for Home Use Hydraulic with 12 Resistance Levels Integral Computer
  • Get a complete workout at home, with this fantastic hydraulic rowing machine from Body Fit.
  • Targeting every major muscle group in your body, it allows you to efficiently tone up and increase your aerobic endurance.
  • With a six wheel carriage under the saddle for a smooth rowing action, the adjustable footplates provide greater ankle support during exercise.
  • Boasting a Dial-A-Tension hydraulic cylinder with 12 resistance levels and an adjustable incline to raise the difficulty as your fitness improves, this rowing machine also features a computer monitor that measures your total stroke count, workout time, calories burned and strokes per minute so that you can easily chart your progress.
  • Max user weight: 100kg. Measures: L138.5 x W42.5 x H40cm and the monitor screen requires 1 x AA battery (included).

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

This rowing machine from Bodyfit is a hydraulic model. This allows for much quieter operation compared to some of it’s competition. Whilst it doesn’t fit the normal stereotype of how a rowing machine looks, it still offers an amazing workout with 12 different resistance levels.

The two stand out features of the Bodyfit rowing machine are its price and ability to fold so slimline that it can be hidden in most houses and apartments without any issues.

Best of the Rest

Body Sculpture BR3010 Rower and Gym

Body Sculpture BR3010 Rower and Gym | Adjustable Resistance | Built-in-Gym | Folds | Free DVD | Track Your Progress | More, Red / Black, One Size
  • ADJUSTABLE RESISTANCE: There are 3 tension cords on the rower which can be set to low, medium or high resistance
  • BUILT-IN GYM: The built-in gym is perfect for muscle toning and can be used to strengthen the arms, chest, shoulders, lats and abs. The 2-in-1 nature of this rower ensures you receive a versatile fully body workout with every use.
  • FOLDS FOR EASY STORAGE: The BR3010 is easily foldable, this is perfect for those who are limited on free space within their homes.
  • FREE DVD: A free complimentary instructional DVD is included to help you get accustomed and settled in with your new rower. You'll be a pro before you know it.
  • SECURE FOOTPLATES: The large pivoting footplates have velcro straps to keep your feet comfortably and firmly planted in place throughout your workout.

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

The BR3010 from Body Sculpture is a pretty neat piece of kit with a decent price point. Ideal for someone who wants something that can easily fold away and offers more than a standard rowing machine.

The BR3010 brings the popular cable machine from the gym to your home, allowing you to work your arms in all sorts of different exercises as well as using it as a standard rowing machine. It offers 3 different resistance settings and comes with a DVD with different programmes you can follow.

Concept 2 Model D Rower

Concept2 RowErg Standard Legs with PM5 - Black
  • Indoor rowing is an effective full-body, low-impact workout. Flywheel design minimises noise while maximising a smooth feel.
  • Includes the Performance Monitor 5, giving you accurate, comparable data for every row. Adjustable monitor arm.
  • 35.5cm seat height, nickel-plated chain, adjustable footrests and ergonomic handle
  • Easily separates into two pieces for storage. Caster wheels make it mobile.
  • Requires footprint of 274 cm x 122 cm; 227kg capacity; 5-year frame warranty.

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

The Model D from Concept 2 is the professionals choice. Olympic athletes use the model D to train inside when not in a boat. For that reason this thing is designed to last! It comes with a 5-year warranty on the frame and 2-years on everything else.

It is designed to last a lifetime and looks that way too. The PM5 monitor gives accurate information during your row, but the Concept 2 Model D can also be linked to your smart phone to record and track your exercise after the event via Bluetooth.

V-Fit Tornado Air Rower

V-fit Tornado Air Rower,black, silver and orange
  • Club style, speed proportionate air resistance chain drive rower with canted, wide reach row bar
  • Contoured polyurethan anatomically designed seat with bearing mounted upper and lower seat guide rollers
  • Pivoting, oversize PVC footplates with two-position mount and adjustable velcro style footstraps
  • Three-screen, six-function exercise monitor
  • Maximum user weight is 115 kg

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

The V-Fit Tornado is somewhat of a middle ground when it comes to home rowing solutions. It has the look and feel of something you would find in the gym, yet can be folded for easy storage. It’s not at the professional level and so doesn’t attract that price point either.

It covers all of the essential features with an LCD readout of your workout. It is far from the level of the Concept 2 rower mentioned above, but it offers a similar feature set and provides a good cheaper alternative if budget is of concern.


How often should I use a rowing machine?

How often you use the machine is dependent on your specific goals. As a guideline, beginners looking to increase fitness are recommended to train for 15minutes 3-4 times a week. If your goal is weight loss, keep in mind that an hour on the machine burns on average 600 calories.

What are the disadvantages to using a rowing machine?

Machines can be quite difficult and therefore frustrating to assemble. Although the rowing machine can aid back pain, some people may find that it can cause back pain especially if the correct technique is not being used.

How do I use a rowing machine?

1. Strap your feet onto the pad2. Enter ‘the catch’ position by bending your knees into your chest whilst keeping good posture and taking hold of the handle.3. Using the footpad push using your hamstrings to extend your legs.4. Engage your core muscles whilst leaning back to a 45-degree angle. Just before you reach that angle, pull the handlebar to your chest. This is called ‘the finish’.5. Stretch your arms back out in front and then bend your knees allowing yourself to slide back into ‘the catch’ position.

About Chris Sharples 68 Articles
I love a good gadget! Whether it's something that makes my home smart, saves me time or just looks great. I blog about gadgets and technology in and around the home. Follow me on my journey to avoid the pitfalls and find the best.

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