Indoor rowing machines are one of the most efficient ways to workout. Low impact, rowing provides a full-body workout – quads, hamstrings, glutes, abs, obliques, biceps… (you get the gist) – promotes cardiovascular endurance and burns calories.
Yet for years, rowing machines have remained one of the least popular items in the gym – loathed mainly because there’s no option to ‘just take it easy’. Once your lower body is strapped into the footplates and your arms reach out for those handles, you know there will be no respite in a rowing workout. You can’t just walk like you can on a treadmill.
Thanks to a surge in boutique fitness classes, workout fanatics of all fitness levels are finally embracing the rowing machine. Bored of pedals and tired of treds, spinning studios and HIIT combo-sessions are being swapped for high-intensity, low-impact rowing classes. And we’re all for it.
Of course, not everyone is back working 9-5 in the city, and with the rise of WFH post-pandemic, home workouts are here to stay. Which can only mean one thing: adding a high-quality rowing machine to your at-home gym. Here are our top picks.
The best rowing machines at a glance:
- The Hydrow Rower, from £1,995.00, Hydrow
- Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine PM5, £859.99, Argos
- WaterRower Performance Ergometer Rowing Machine, £1,275.00, John Lewis
What are the benefits of rowing? Can you get in shape by just rowing?
There’s a reason rowing machines are loved by both CrossFit and OrangeTheory buffs alike. They’re an easy-to-use and enjoyable way of upping your cardiovascular fitness, and use a huge 86% (!) of your muscles during every rowing experience (in comparison to the 44% used when cycling). Not bad, hey?
Michael Browne, a rowing instructor for leading at-home interactive fitness technology providers Echelon Fitness, told us: “86% of your body’s muscles are engaged; arms, back, abs, obliques, quads, calves, and glutes are all involved, building muscle definition. Unsurprisingly, a rowing machine is a fantastic tool to burn calories, which simultaneously benefits our cardiovascular health.
“Another advantage of rowing is that it doesn’t add additional strain on our joints, such as our hips, ankles, and knees, because it’s low impact. Additionally, there is a seemingly meditative effect that rowing can have due to the calming effect of repetition on our bodies while also relaxing our minds.” Sold? You bet.
So, what should you look for in a good rowing machine?
- A guarantee on the frame. Our first top tip: make sure your rower comes with at least a three to five-year guarantee on the frame. It’s also worth checking if the company provides any other guarantees for the separate parts
- How much floor space does it take up? This seems obvious, but you’ll want to check whether your swanky new gym equipment will actually fit in your home. If not, consider those that are foldable or can stand upright.
- On-demand classes. If you know you’re the type of person who needs to be immersed in pre-programmed or live classes to really get into your workout, making sure your machine has some pre-programmed courses is key. Through high-tech LCD screens, many of the best smart rowers will enable you to compete against virtual components (or even just allow you to try and beat your PB without having to download a separate performance monitor).
- Rowing machine type. Time to get technical, ‘cos there are loads of different types of rowing machines, from air rowing machines, to magnetic rowing machines, to water rowers, to hydraulic rowers – and you need to consider which will be best for your needs. Keep reading for a breakdown.
What are the main differences between magnetic rowing machines, water rowers, and hydraulic rowers?
The most significant differences between the three main types of rowing machines are noise, size, price, and resistance.