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Types of Rowing Machines and How to Choose Between Them

Niharika Arya Mar 16, 2020
An indoor rowing machine can provide the same benefits as natural 'on the water' rowing without having to set foot outdoors. But to get the best one at home, you need to know the various types and their features. Read on to get details about the various rowing machines and tips on how to choose the best one.

Did You Know?

Of the four types of rowing machines: air, water, hydraulic, and magnetic, the water rowing machine comes closest to mimicking the actual feel of rowing.
Rowing is one of the most beneficial low-impact exercises that aids aerobic conditioning and also strengthens vital muscle groups of the entire body. But due to weather, rowing on the river or water body is not always possible. Hence, we have indoor rowing machines that simulate the actual movements involved in natural rowing and provide the same benefits.
These machines are usually available at fitness centers and gyms, but smaller ones can installed in homes too. Now, before you start looking for a rowing machine for your home, you need to know about the types of rowing machines available on the market, and how to choose the best amongst them.

Types of Rowing Machines

There are four types of rowing machines: air, water, hydraulic, and magnetic. You can select a machine according to your requirement, age, and budget. Now, let's take a look at these types in detail.

Air Rowing Machine

As the name suggest, this machine provides resistance with the help of an internal flywheel that house a fan. The fan generates air resistance due to the user's effort, and the faster the rower pulls, greater the resistance and effort required.
This machine is commonly used in gyms and fitness centers. It is little noisy, and sometimes, it can become irritating when used indoor. The main rail of this machine cannot be folded, which makes it difficult to store.
Some models allow the user to adjust the air entering the machine through a vent (damper setting) to alter resistance levels, which makes it good for beginners as well as for athletes.

Water Rowing Machine

This type of machine generates resistance with the help of a water flywheel that is immersed in a tank containing water at one end of the machine. The spinning of the flywheel in water provides the real 'on the water' rowing experience.
These machines are quieter than air machines, and require very little maintenance. However, they are heavy and require more space as compared to other types. This machine is available in various stylish designs and usually, has a long warranty period.

Hydraulic Rowing Machine

In this type of machine, resistance is achieved with the help of hydraulic cylinders. These cylinders are attached to the handles of rower.
In comparison to air and water rowing, this machine is cheaper, quieter, and smaller. It can also be stored easily and occupies less space. The only downside being that it has a less smoother rowing motion as compared to the other machines.

Magnetic Rowing Machine

The resistance in this machine is created by the magnetic break system. The flywheel contains magnets that adjust the level of resistance. Since the calibration of the magnets is set, the level of resistance does not vary according to the effort applied.
These machines are quieter and smoother than all the other types. It is low on maintenance and occupies little space (ideal for homes), but does not provide actual 'on the water' rowing experience. They are costlier than the other three.

Tips on Buying a Rowing Machine

Selecting a rowing machine will totally depend upon your requirement and your budget. Following are some of the tips which will help you to choose between the four machines available.
  • If you intend to use a rowing machine to lose weight, then a light resistance machine will be enough. It will fulfill your requirement at a reasonable price.
  • If you want to build endurance and develop muscles, then opt for a machine with greater resistance that requires a higher intensity to work out.
  • If you want to train for an event, then choose a machine that provides a range of resistance. This will help develop cardiovascular endurance and build muscle strength.
  • If you want one for your home, then go for a quieter machine which can be stored easily in a corner.
  • The machine should be comfortable. When buying a rowing machine, sit on the machine and row a little. This will give you an idea about the comfort and smoothness of the machine.
  • Choose a machine which fits your budget, especially when you do not intend to train for any competition or rowing event.
  • Check for the control panel which will provide you with all the data, work out programs, resistance setting, etc.
  • If you are looking for a rower that you intend to use for only a few weeks, then a low-priced hydraulic machine is ideal. For extended or long term use, air, water, and magnetic rowers are recommended.
Check the quality and manufacturer's warranty. Try out all four types before buying, and choose the one which is comfortable, fits your expectations, and suits your budget.