The Top 10 Best Rowing Machines of 2015 & 2016

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Rowing Machines: Questions & Answers

What is a rowing machine?

A rowing machine is one of the most effective ways to work out indoors. It is essentially a row boat simulator. A racing “shell” is constructed using a metal or wooden frame, and you either row in a circular motion or tug a bar back and forth, like you’re moving a pair of oars. As you row, you slide back and forth on the middle bar on a padded seat.

How do they work?

You get your workout from a rowing machine by the resistance it provides. This resistance is meant to mimic the drag you get from pulling oars through water. There are four main types of resistances that rowers get: air, magnetic, hydraulic, and water. Air-resistance mowers produce tension using air. The mechanism for this is called a flywheel, which is connected to the “oars’ by a chain. As you row, the flywheel spins, generating air and tension. Magnetic rowers are the most common type right now. They use adjustable resistances that you control, so you can’t generate more resistance just by rowing faster. Hydraulic rowers are similar this way, though they use cylinders filled with fluid instead of magnets. Water-resistance rowers are the closest you can get to the feel of real rowing. Water flywheels, which are usually two paddles, are enclosed in a tank of water that is connected to the “oars” by a chain. As you pull, the paddles revolve in the water and create resistance that increases the faster you row.

What advantages do rowing machines have over other fitness equipment?

Rowing is arguably the most effective workout you can get on an indoor fitness machine. It burns 10-15% more calories than indoor cycling, which is one level down from rowing in terms of calories burned. Another benefit to rowing is that it works out your whole body. Rather than focusing on different parts of your body like weight-lifting or cycling does, rowing machines work out every muscle group at once. Exercise on a rowing machine is also low-impact so you don’t put stress on your joints. This is very important in the long-term and allows you to work out much longer without damaging your joints like running does. The low-impact also makes rowing a great workout for people recovering from injuries.

Are there are any disadvantages?

The disadvantages you might face with rowing machines depend on what kind of resistance your machine has. Air-resistance rowers tend to be the loudest rower because of the whooshing fan. They also tend to be larger which is a problem for smaller spaces. Magnetic and hydraulic rowers are both quieter than air rowers, but they aren’t as smooth and are often jerky. The resistance levels on hydraulic rowers in particular are tricky to adjust. Water rowers are very popular because they are so smooth, but they are also significantly more expensive than the other rowers. Their fitness monitors also tend to lack more advanced features like preset programs or wireless capabilities. In terms of the general concerns about all rowers, there is a risk of straining your back when you use it. People who are either very tall or short also have trouble finding rowers that fit their heights.

What features should I look for if I want to meet specific fitness goals with my rower?

If you want to set and follow through on specific goals like burning a certain number of calories, rowing a certain distance, and so on, you need a fitness monitor that will keep track of your stats. Nearly all machines will track the basics, like how far you’re rowing or strokes per minute, but not all of them include heart monitors. If you want to really focus on recording your progress, you’ll be happiest with a rower that has a very advanced monitor. Some rower examples include the Velocity Exercise magnetic rower, the Lifecore R100 commercial rowing machine, and Concept2 Model D indoor rowing machine. The Velocity has a large LCD screen that displays distance, pulse, strokes/minute, and so on. It also includes 12 programs, with 6 preset workouts. The Lifecore R100 is very advanced and includes 15 preset programs, 4 polar-compatible heart rate programs, and the ability to store up to 4 people’s workout data. The Concept2 is USB-compatible so you can store workout data on a flashdrive to keep on a Mac or PC. You can also connect a heart monitor wirelessly to the rower.

What kind of features make the rower challenging?

Certain resistance types are more challenging than others, so that’s the first thing to for when you want a real challenge. Air and water-resistance rowers tend to be more challenging because they increase in tension as you speed up. With other rowers, you have to manually adjust the resistance, but you can still get an intense workout with magnetic and hydraulic rowers if they have a wide range of resistance levels or built-in programs you can follow along. Examples of rowers that provide challenging exercise include the Lifecore R100, and the Lifecore R88. The R100 has 16 magnetic-resistance levels as well as 15 preset programs so you can learn how to use the resistances in the most effective way and then create your own workouts. The Lifecore R88 combines air and magnetic resistance in a unique way so you get the benefits of both resistances that allows you to grow from a beginner to more experienced rower.

Are there any components that make rowing machines more comfortable?

Rowing is a repetitive motion you do from a seated position, so having a comfortable, smooth experience is important or you won’t enjoy it at all. Magnetic and water-resistance rowers provide the smoothest, most natural experience so your body more easily adapts to the motion. In that same vein, machines that use more circular motions as opposed to the bar tug-style of others feel better after a while. Other features like padded seats and pivoting foot rests make them comfortable. Some especially comfy rowing machines include the Stamina Air and Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050. The Stamina Air rower has a padded seat, large footplates, and textured hand grips. The Stamina body Trac Glider has two oars that you operate independently of each other (like real rowing) and a heavily-padded seat.

What features make a rower ideal for a small space?

Rowers are nice pieces of workout equipment because they can be quite compact or easy to store standing upright. Magnetic rowers in particular are more compact, so they work well if you don’t have a lot of space. Other features to look include wheels, so you can move the machine from room to room as you need the space, and if the machine folds up for storage. The Lifecore R88 folds up to 16’’x24’’ and fits in a closet when you aren’t using it. The Sunny Health and Fitness is very small and only weighs 24 pounds.

How much do rowing machines cost?

Rowing machines can be very affordable or very expensive, depending on the kind you get. In general, the more advanced the fitness monitor, the more expensive the rower. Water rowers also tend to be more expensive than other resistance-types. Rowers start at about $100 (the Sunny Health and Fitness) and go up from $200-$400 (the Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050, Stamina Air Rower). The middle-priced rowers cost between $600-$800 (like the Kettler Kadett Outrigger, Lifecore R88 and Velocity Exercise) while the most expensive rowers can tip over the $1000-mark (for example the WaterRower Natural).

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