Have you ever watched an Olympic rowing competition and noticed how well trained the athletes are? In fact, these people are probably among the fittest individuals in the world. With a rowing machine you can mimic the movements of a rowing boat at home and thus build an athletic, fit and healthy body as well.
The main advantage of a rowing workout is that it targets almost all of your muscles at the same time and therefore provides an extremely effective home workout. In addition, almost all fitness goals can be achieved, from building muscle to burning fat and improving your endurance.
In this article you will learn everything you need to know about this topic! Furthermore, I will introduce you to the best rowing machines for each category, target group and price. Have fun! 😉
The Benefits of a Rowing Machine
Building Muscle and Losing Weight
Many people ask me about the main advantages that rowing machines have over other fitness equipment alternatives. Are exercise bikes the better choice? Or shouldn’t you instead just go running?
The really decisive advantage of rowing machines is the multitude of muscles you can train at the same time. While running, cycling and other popular sports activities mainly target the lower body, the rowing machine provides a very effective full-body workout! But which muscles are actually used?
You can effectively exercise more than 80% of your muscles, and in particular your legs, back and arms benefit from the rowing motion. Here is a complete list of the muscles that are trained while rowing:
- Large Back Muscle (Latissimus)
- Back Extensor
- Trapezius Muscle/Neck
- Rear Delts
- Front Thighs
- Glute Muscles
- Ab Muscles
- Forearm Muscles
In my opinion, this is very impressive! However, that’s just the beginning as this advantage is accompanied by another major benefit: Activating such a large number of muscles also requires a very large amount of energy. And our body gets this energy by drawing from our stored fat reserves and increasing your energy expenditure to a maximum. For this reason, rowing is ideal for losing weight because you can burn many calories in a short time.
Okay, so for building muscle and losing weight, exercising on a rowing machine is very effective, as we have seen. But besides that, the numerous health benefits are at least as noteworthy!
Since rowing trains the muscles in our back particularly well, we can counteract the typical “bad desk posture” with a rowing machine. It is worth knowing that our body needs 140 muscles just to stabilize our back. It is extremely important to train these muscles regularly to ensure a healthy posture. And the right posture is an important key to a healthy body in general.
Working out on a rowing machine after a long workday just sitting at your office desk is therefore ideal for preventing back pain and slipped discs in the long term and generally for relieving tension.
The tensions in the lower back and neck pains that frequently occur in our society can be effectively relieved with a rowing machine.
Rowing Machines Compared to Popular Alternatives
Rowing Machines vs. Exercise Bikes
The biggest advantage of rowing machines, as I said, is the large number of muscles you can train at the same time. This is even more the case than during a workout on an exercise bike or on an elliptical.
With an exercise bike, only the legs are actually trained, whereas rowing is more of a full-body workout.
Exercise bikes are certainly the cheaper option, but rowing machines are more effective and beneficial and in my opinion it’s worth digging a little deeper into one’s pocket.
Rowing Machines vs. Running
And what exactly makes rowing more beneficial than running? Here, too, the rowing machine is clearly ahead in terms of the amount of activated muscles, but even more important is the keyword ‘health’.
While running puts a lot of stress on your joints and ligaments, rowing is known to be low-impact and very easy on the joints.
However, since the rowing motion is also a bit more complex than working out on an exercise bike or going for a run, you should pay more attention to the correct execution.
Don’t worry, the rowing movement is not too difficult to learn and should not be difficult with a little practice.
Types of Rowing Machines
Not all rowing machines are the same! There are different types of rowing machines and the right choice depends on your personal wishes and goals. Let’s have a look at the different types of rowing machines so that you can make the best choice for you.
Rowing Machines with Water Resistance/Water Rowers
The models with water resistance are THE classics among the rowing machines. They have gained international popularity through the regular appearances of the Waterrower in the TV series “House of Cards”, in which the main character Frank Underwood uses them to stay in shape.
The special thing about these rowing machines is that they come very close to the rowing experience on real water. Just like in a real rowing boat, you are rowing against the resistance of water. This creates a very natural and real rowing feeling, which is a real blessing for many sports fans, including me. 😉
The resistance cannot be individually adjusted in advance, but it does adapt to the power of your own rowing strokes. The more powerfully you pull, the higher the resistance, just like when rowing in real water.
Additionally, rowing machines with water resistance are usually real eye-catchers. The Waterrower, for example, is made of high-quality wood, which has been handcrafted with great attention to detail.
For such a rowing machine you have to dig a little deeper into your pocket, but as I said, they are also very high quality and therefore very durable. Just take a look at the Waterrower yourself to get a feeling for the special charm of this device. Find it here.
|✅ Similar to Real Rowing||⛔ Exact Adjustment of Resistance is Not Possible in Advance|
|✅ Very Durable and Easy to Maintain||⛔Comparatively High Cost|
|✅ Resistance Adapts Automatically (Depending on the Power of Your Strokes)|
|✅ Awesome Design|
Rowing Machines with Air Resistance/Air Rowers
Principally, rowing machines with air resistance are very similar to water rowers. As with the aforementioned option, the resistance adapts to your own rowing power. This results in a very harmonic motion sequence, which is very similar to real rowing on water.
Also, the air rowers are high-quality products in most cases, but are cheaper than water rowers.
A small drawback of the devices with air resistance is the comparatively high noise level. On the other hand, it blows as a pleasant breeze in your face during training, which is also quite nice.
The bottom line: A small drawback because of the noise level, but all in all, the air rowing machines are certainly a very good and recommendable option as well. 😉
The best model of this category is the Concept2 Indoor Rower, which next to the Waterrower is one of the most popular rowing machines you can currently buy. This one is also the choice of most athletes looking for the possibility to exercise in the winter months, when it is too cold to row on real water. You can take a look at this product here.
|✅ Feels Very Natural||⛔ Comparatively High Noise Level|
|✅ High-Quality & Very Durable||⛔ Low Maximum Resistance|
|✅ Airflow During the Workout|
Magnetic Rowing Machines
In terms of price alone, magnetic rowing machines are very different to air or water rowers. These models are usually much cheaper than the machines with water or air resistance, which makes them especially attractive for beginners.
But does the lower price go along with any major drawbacks? Well, first of all, the rowing experience is quite different from rowing on real water. You choose a certain resistance in advance, which doesn’t change during the workout. This means that the resistance does not adapt to your own rowing motion, unlike other braking systems.
This may be a crucial drawback to many, but on the one hand, this makes the workout more controllable. Particularly experienced rowers describe this movement as inauthentic, but if a natural rowing experience isn’t that important to you, a magnetic rowing machine might be a good choice.
One of the biggest advantages is that rowing machines with magnetic brakes are super quiet and low-maintenance because there is no friction during the whole movement.
So, if you don’t put too much emphasis on a natural rowing feeling, and instead just want to enjoy the effective full-body workout, then a rowing machine with a magnetic brake might be the right choice for you. If you’re interested in these models, you can check out my blog post about them here or take a look at the best magnetic machine you can currently buy here.
|✅ Very Quiet||⛔Personal Training Style Not Really Possible|
|✅ Low Maintenance||⛔Resistance Does Not Adapt to Your Own Rowing Power|
|✅ Comparatively Cheap|
|✅ Higher Maximum Resistance Possible|
Hydraulic Rowing Machines
The fourth and last version I would like to present to you here are the hydraulic rowing machines. These are not that common, so I will keep it short.
These models are often offered at a very affordable price, but I personally am not their biggest fan. They also provide an effective workout, but the resistance can neither be adjusted in advance nor does it adapt to your rowing power. In addition, incorrect resistance settings can quickly lead to imbalances and thus to an unhealthy workout.
Lastly, experience has shown that these machines wear out somewhat faster than the other versions. Of course, this variant is an option worth considering for beginners due to its low price, but in my opinion, you will be better off with my previous recommendations. But in the end, this is your choice of course. If you want to, take a look at this hydraulic rowing machine at Amazon.
|✅ Very Affordable||⛔ Less Natural Rowing Experience|
|✅ Effective Full-Body Workout||⛔Wrong Resistance Settings Can Quickly Lead to Imbalances|
Can Rowing Machines be Used at Home?
Every well-equipped gym has a rowing machine. However, if you don’t want to pay 20, 30 or even 40 euros a month for a gym membership, but still want to profit from the rowing benefits, then buying a rowing machine might make sense!
Provided that you have enough space for a rowing machine in your home, you will be able to train your whole body effectively in a short time in your own four walls.
The size of a rowing machine is normally something like 6’7’’ in length and 1’7’’ to 2’3’’ in width when unfolded. In most cases, the weight is approximately between 20 and 30 kg.
A lot of rowing machines nowadays are foldable, which means that you can store and transport them more easily.
How Much Does a Good Rowing Machine Cost?
Especially in terms of the cost, rowing machines differ enormously. There are models you can buy for a couple of hundred bucks, while other machines carry a hefty price tag. However, a higher price does not always go hand in hand with higher quality, which is why many people are overwhelmed when looking for a good rowing machine to buy. In fact, there are also excellent machines for under 500 dollars.
The SereneLife Rowing Machine must be mentioned here, as I’m always amazed at how cheap it is. You can take a look at it on Amazon.
In general, a good rowing machine will cost you at least 200 dollars. Anything that’s cheaper may sound appealing, but due to the high material and production costs it can hardly be high quality.
On the other end of the scale, rowing machines can cost well over 1000 Euros. However, these machines usually provide high quality and durability. Take the Concept 2 Indoor Rower for example. It is certainly not the cheapest, but if you want to invest a little more and get the best of the best, then this rowing machine is definitely the right choice! Again, I can only recommend you take a look at it. Find it here.
Where Should You Buy a Rowing Machine?
At Amazon you can buy almost all the models I mentioned. Additionally, the websites of the manufacturers themselves are always great places to look for the respective products, of course. However, I would take care to choose the well-known manufacturers to avoid possible problems with customer service.
If you want to save some money, you can also buy very good used rowing machines on eBay.
Moreover, you will find rowing machines in every good fitness equipment store, and even occasionally at places like Walmart. Just keep your eyes open! 😉
The Proper Rowing Technique
Since the technique can be learned much better with pictures than just with written words, I’ll leave you a little video that shows you how to do it correctly. I think this one explains it very well, so pay attention 😉
How Long Do You Need to Row on a Rowing Machine?
When used correctly, 20–30 minutes of rowing is completely sufficient. Reduce the breaks and get your heart rate up. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is ideal for losing weight, as it brings you a long afterburn effect. So, you can train very effectively in a short time and lose weight fast. If you want to use the rowing machine for other fitness goals, 20–30 minutes will be enough as well.
When Do I See First Results?
Despite their great effectiveness, rowing machines are not an overnight weight loss magic machine. So, you have to have a little patience to see you lose the first kilograms or to observe significant muscle growth. Depending on your body type, your diet and many other factors, it can take a few weeks before you see any results. But with a rowing machine you can definitely reach your goals faster and use your time as effectively as possible.
The Bottom Line: Rowing Machine Reviews 2021
I hope I helped you with this article and answered all of your questions. The rowing machine provides a very effective full-body workout and can help you reach your goals significantly faster.
If you have any further questions about my rowing machine reviews or rowing exercise in general, you can always send me an email or just leave a comment below. 😉