There are four different types of models that are defined by the way they apply resistance to the user. Each model has strengths and weaknesses over the others. With so many rowing machines available to purchase online, a great place to start narrowing down your list of potential rowers is by defining the type of rower that is best suited to you.
The four types of indoor rowing machine resistance are air resistance, water resistance, magnetic resistance and hydraulic resistance.
Magnetic Resistance Rowers: These are typically the smoothest to row and also the quietest model so if you are in need of a rower that will not cause much noise at all, then a magnetic resistance rower is your best option. A great feature about this type of rower is the ability to manually adjust resistance yourself and another outstanding feature is that many come with the ability to be folded. Folded rowing machines are often sought after by individuals that want a space-efficient rowing machine. In terms of a price, you will typically pay something in the $600-$900 range for a good quality magnetic rower.
Air Resistance Rowers: This type of rower is the model most-often purchased by serious rowers. Although these rowers have a damper to adjust resistance, the main way that resistance is created is through the rower’s stroke intensity. This gives you greater control over how hard you are working. You will have the option of either a chain or rope driven system attaching the handle to the flywheel. The only real difference between the two is that the chains require oiling every so often. The oil is cheap and this is a simple task however.
There are three other downsides to air resistance rowing machines. Firstly, they are noisy and are definitely not the best option if you need a near-silent rower. Secondly, the top models are expensive. They are certainly great quality machines, but they will cost you somewhere in the high hundreds as a starting point and often will over $1500. Thirdly, they are typically full-length and so require at least 2 meters of clearance and cannot be easily stored away (though a rower of this length is definitely of benefit to adults over 6ft or 180cms as they allow for a full stroke-length).
Water Resistance Rowers: These are increasing in popularity and are un-rivaled in terms of their ability to create a life-like rowing feel whilst rowing indoors. Resistance is created by water in a container that you pull against. You can add more water to create greater resistance. Water towers are an exceptional option and often come with additional features such as online coaching programs. However, they share three of the major downsides of their air resistance counterparts: They create noise, though are not as noisy as the air alternatives (some people like the water swishing sound).
Next, they are heavy and cannot be easily moved once water is added to the machine. They are also- full-length and best suited for taller individuals that have ample space at home to position it on a permanent basis. Finally, they are expensive and the best models can start at high hundreds of dollars and extend all the way up to $2500+.
Hydraulic Resistance Rowers: We have covered these as the last of the four options because they really should only be purchased if you are in need of a cheap model. The rowing motion is the least life-like and somewhat jerky. They do have the benefit of being able to be folded and are the most space-efficient; however they are a lower-grade option. They are best for individuals working on a budget of a under $400 and with very little space within their home and in need of a folding rower model. You can find some fantastic hydraulic models, such as the Kettler Favorit, however they are few and far between.
Space: Full length rowers will require at least 2 meters of space. If you are over 6ft (180cms) in height then your ideal rower will be a full-length option (typically an air or water rower). If you have little space, or need to pack your rower up after use, then go for a folding rower.
Your height: If you are over 6ft you should go for a full length model.
Weight limit: Rowing machines come with a user weight limit. A good idea is to select a rower with a weight limit at least 10% more than your current body weight. This will account for the additional force your body creates during the rowing motion so that you do not overly stress the structure.
Number of users: if it is more than just you that will be utilizing the rower, consider a more expensive option as these will usually be more durable.
Warranty: This should definitely be a factor in your decision and can help split closely matched rowers. Be sure to check the details of the warranty as heavily discounted rowers will sometimes have a massive price drop with a lesser warranty period as the trade-off and this may not necessarily be made explicitly clear.
Console: Rowing machines typically come with a display console to show you speed, distance, time and calories. Some models have other display options which can be of benefit.
Comfortable seat: You can’t avoid the seat so although rowing machines don’t usually come with a padded seat like a bike, just make sure that it is an adequate size and comparable (or better) to other alternatives in the price bracket you are looking for.
Other features: Some machines come with pre-set programs, heart rate monitoring that can aid your workout regime. Many of the upper-level rowing machines also come with downloadable workouts, or the ability to upload your workouts to a central system that tracks your progress, and some even provide online coaching. These little features can occasionally help you to split two closely matched rowers.
A word of caution: Do not spend on features you “might” use. If you have a history of stopping and starting exercise programs, the best advice is to be sensible and not pay for a top model with features that you may not use.
Top sellers list and user reviews: Check out popular online rowing machine retailers such as Amazon as these give you the best indication of the price you should pay (Amazon are known for their great prices) and also contain plenty of user-reviews. Our advice is to look for rowers that have a solid average user review of 3.8/5 and above.
Safety: Given the moving parts, we strongly recommend that you keep your rower out of access from children. Whilst they are fine for children to exercise on, this should only be performed with an adult present.
Good luck finding your ideal rower, we hope to have helped you in your quest for a home indoor rowing machine. If you are not yet sure about whether a rowing machine is suitable for you, be sure to read through this article that explains the benefits of indoors rowing at home.
Ready to take a look at the best rower for you? Browse our latest reviews of home rower machines.