When we think of cardio exercises, our first thoughts go to running, treadmills, ellipticals, and so on. The truth is that running and jogging or only a couple of ways to improve cardio activity and endurance. Believe it or not, exercises like rowing that require a lot of tempo and regulation of breath.
Plus, you’re getting a full-body workout in the process. We all like to fuss on when to focus on upper or lower body, but rowing fits in between the argument. Specifically, with rowing machines, you pull a retractable bar close to your body while extending your legs away from the foot pedals.
As you pull the bar close to you and your legs propel you away, your body fully extends from its original position. This is what gives you that full-body workout. That full-body workout is a cardiovascular exercise because it focuses as much on regulating your breathing as it does your entire body.
Table of Contents
- 1 Cardio?
- 2 Why buy a Rowing Machine?
- 3 What is a Rowing Machine?
- 4 Best Choice:
- 5 What to look for in Rowing Machines
- 6 Rowing Workouts
- 7 Benefits of Rowing
- 8 Some Frequently Asked Questions
- 9 Where to Row
The common misconception is that cardio has a lot to do with muscle growth. You’d be surprised how many marathon runners could easily outpace and outrun those who favor muscle build. This is because cardio has everything to do with the right mental game and focus on the breath.
When you feel you’re out of breath, it’s not so much that your muscles are exhausted. Your body needs oxygen every second of the day. Inhaling and exhaling safely are a huge determiner of your body pushing its limits.
Why buy a Rowing Machine?
You may have heard of the sport of rowing, which can be an individual or team sport. It is a grueling exercise, as pushing through water isn’t as easy as it sounds—especially over long distances and in sync.
A rowing machine is as close as you can get to the actual rowing experience on water. You may seem in your gyms every so often—appearing as loaded weights or electronic. The following rowing machines are some of the most popular on the market for their ability to deliver constant, intensive workouts.
What is a Rowing Machine?
Rowing is a popular full body workout. Using machines can be comfortable and fun. They’re not to be mistaken for the weighted rows, but the idea and concept are the same. These electronic, aqua, and magnetic rowers are focused on improving cardio and the sculpting your body as opposed to straight building muscle.
You may have already noticed that these rowing machines are designed differently. You can be sure that the motion of your body while rowing is going to be mostly the same. The reason why rowers come in different constructions is that each mechanism offers a unique type of resistance. We’ll explain more as we get in-depth with each type of rower.
Most of these rowers use a movable seat, sometimes called a monorail. Unlike weighted rowing machines, this one moves along the rail and allows for a fuller extension.
Here are the best rowing machines of 2018:
The Concept 2 Model D is perhaps the most popular rowing machine on the market. We could hardly find anyone that said anything negative about it. Why is it so popular? Similar to some of the at home gyms we explored, the Model D relies on your body weight and effort as opposed to actual weights.
The Model D utilizes a flywheel and a damper. The damper is a mechanism that regulates the air as it passes through the flywheel. This will make a noticeable change in the way the machine responds to each pull on the cable. Most users like the damper because it allows them a more comfortable feel for constant rowing.
The Model D also comes with a performance monitor which analyzes each row. If you want to know that you are improving, the performance monitor will constantly update you on your progress.
For a full review of this machine, click here.
Sunny is also well known for their popular spin bike. The SF-RW5515 is a classic rower design that comes equipped with large pedals, a comfortable seat, and a performance monitor to track the stats of each individual row.
The SF-RW5515 uses magnets for its cable system, which allows for eight different levels of resistance. This one major difference from flywheel system means you won’t be able to go past the highest setting (assuming you can get there).
With how popular the SF-RW5515 is, it doesn’t seem like too many users are concerned with going past the highest resistance level.
The Stamina ATS is simple rower with a flywheel design. Like the Model D, air resistance and body weight are going to be the primary drivers behind your workout.
The performance monitor for this machine is located behind the flywheel. This seems like an inconvenient location but the fact that it has one is great regardless. A performance monitor is going to help you improve over time by displaying the stats of each row.
Another great factor about the ATS is that it’s convenient and accessible. It folds up and has wheels on the bottom for easy transport.
The Avari is a magnetic rower with a few different levels of resistance. Magnetic resistance feels a little stiffer than resistance generated by a flywheel. It comes with 12 different workout programs that will challenge you in different ways than just increasing resistance levels.
The performance monitor is a digital screen just below the resting place of the cable bar. The Avari really is a simple design. One problem is that it is not foldable and doesn’t have wheels on the bottom for easy transport. This means that wherever you end up putting it is probably going to be its resting place for a while.
The WaterRower is a pretty unique type of rower and one you’re unlikely to see at your typical gym. Apart from being one of the most expensive rowing machines on the market, it’s also the closest you’re going to get to actual boat rowing. This is because it utilizes water in its flywheel to simulate pulling water away.
It may look simplistic, but the WaterRower also comes with a performance monitor to track your progress. The WaterRower is hand constructed of solid ash which allows for a near noiseless exercise.
The WaterRower is going to be one of the most helpful machines in helping you shape and tone your body. It works close to 85% of the muscle mass on your body. The price tag is going to be the biggest deterrent for most customers, but it’s the closest one will get to a full-body, on water rowing experience.
The Sole SR500 is a combination air/magnetic resistance glider to give you the best of both worlds. While the price is a little stiff, the quality is excellent and it offers a lot of excellent features that other varieties of machines can’t. More to the point, it’s sure to deliver a spectacular rowing experience with the foldaway design that doesn’t take up space, and two color LCD screen to track all of your momentum.
It might be a little expensive, but if you know you’re going to use a rowing device regularly, you’ll love the Sole SR500. It delivers constant, spectacular performance, no matter what your needs are. This high-end machine is one of the highest rated on the market.
Click here to shop the SR500.
The R100 is a magnetic resistance rower with 19 different exercise programs (including heart rate monitoring) and 16 levels of resistance. We can see why it’s a pretty expensive machine because it uses magnets and a flywheel. You’re likely the notice the difference in resistance when you start rowing with this machine. The trick with rowers like the R100 is that pulling the most amount of weight is not always the best workout.
When working on a rower with magnets like the R100, continuous strokes will tone your body as opposed to straight pulling hundreds of pounds. That exercise might be better for a standing or different sitting machine.
We also like how the performance monitor stores data for up to 4 users at a time. We always say that monitors with the ability to store information are some of the best machines out there, and the R100 is no exception.
The BodyCraft VR500 is the most expensive rower on our list, but it sure comes with the right bells and whistles. This rower is interesting because it uses a hybrid of magnets and air as its primary resistance system. This system allows for 32 levels of resistance.
Apart from coming with a sophisticated performance monitor, the cable bar itself comes with four onboard buttons so you can change resistance while you’re rowing. This leaves you with more time to row so you don’t have to stop and fiddle with the controls.
The price tag is enormous, but is the VR500 worth it? We definitely think so. The hybrid resistance system and a couple small but noticeable features make the VR500 an accessible machine that is designed to sculpt a better you.
What to look for in Rowing Machines
Rowing machines may look simple enough, but there are some factors you should consider before you purchase one.
- Price – What’s your budget like?
- Accessibility – Can it be folded up after use? Can it be easily transported?
- Resistance – Does it use a flywheel, magnets, or actual water? Maybe a combination or hybrid system?
- Performance monitor – Does it have the ability to save your stats after workouts?
One of the biggest questions regarding the top rowing machines is what you’re getting for your money. If you spend a grand or so on one machine, what’s the difference between it and the cheapest machine?
- To answer this question, we’re going to have to combine almost all of the above factors. Many of the expensive machines are either magnetic or hybrid resistance levels. Different resistance types are going to feel different from one another. Additionally, more money means more effort was put into your experience. We’re not trying to slander any specific model, but machines like the VR500 were built to help you improve and be better than the competition.
Rowing back and forth is good and all, but how much can you challenge yourself by pacing yourself or stopping and going with different resistance levels?
Air resistance machines are perfect for beginners, or anyone new to rowing in general. The best part about air resistance machines is that they function perfectly for people who are new to rowing machines. They’re great about automatically adjusting to your needs and providing a nice breeze of air while you’re doing it.
Magnetic resistance machines are probably one of the more popular varieties of rowing machines, because they’re found in most gyms and fitness centers. They’re also very affordable, smooth and durable. They operate much like air resistance rowing machines, except they produce little to no sound or air flow.
Hydraulic piston rowing machines are probably some of the cheapest models of rowing machines on the market, because they aren’t as solid as other models, and are made to fit virtually anywhere, which eliminates some of the comfort and ease of use that other models provide. They do operate independently, which allows you to engage your arms more in the workout, which burns more calories and builds muscle.
Water resistance rowing machines are a relatively new technology that actively makes you feel like you’re rowing in a river or lake, because they utilize a tank of water with several revolving blades that provide a realistic sense of rowing in an outdoors environment, which is refreshing and relaxing. They’re also very quiet, but very expensive. They rarely need maintenance, which makes them more attractive for someone who knows that they will regularly use their machine.
Your rowing machine might come with present programs that you can use to conduct different workouts. In all honesty, these programs are probably preferable to rowing back and forth. Challenging yourself to do more difficult resistance levels is going to be the key to getting stronger.
Here are some ways you can improve your rowing experience:
- Time interval
- Intermittently increasing resistance
- Slow release of handlebar
- Lower resistance/increased reps
- Higher resistance/decreased reps
How did your challenge go? Tell us in the comments!
Benefits of Rowing
As you can probably guess, rowing is one of the most popular exercises for muscle sculpting and toning. It’s simply not enough to keep lifting the most amount of weight you can every day at the gym. Rowing and the machines that mimic the motion exercise the entire body one stroke at a time in order. You’ll definitely feel beat after an intensive workout with one of these machines.
Here are some notable benefits of rowing machines:
- Body Toning
In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to stay at the gym or purchase a rowing machine. Regardless of where you use the rowers, you can almost guarantee results if you’re able to stick with the routine.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
Are these machines easy to put together?
Often these machines are awkward, but not that difficult to put together. Most of the more expensive models come pre-assembled, but with basic knowledge of mechanical systems, it shouldn’t take you that long. While some of the rowing machines out there are pretty heavy, the individual components aren’t.
How long are these machines? What about short people?
Look for these machines to be between 85-130 inches long. Remember, only the bottom half of your body will actively be sitting on the machine, so you’ll really only need between 40″ and 72″ of leg room, and that’s being generous. Most provide a wide range of functions to fit everyone, especially those between the heights of 4’8 to 6’4″
What kinds of materials is this product made out of?
In general, look for the quality of the material to vary based on price. Many magnetic, air, and hydraulic models of rowing machines use high-quality nylon rope that typically lasts for a long period of time in the right conditions. Obviously, your machine will last longer if you keep it inside, away from the elements and take good care of it.
Where to Row
It goes without saying that if you’re considering any of these rowing machines, you’re probably looking at it for your home use. Our recommendation is to either place it in an empty garage or room that you know you won’t be using in the near future. Like home gyms, if these machines don’t have wheels or folding capabilities, they can be very difficult to transport.
Like home gyms, if these machines don’t have wheels or folding capabilities, they can be very difficult to transport.
Has a rowing machine made a significant impact in your fitness? Let us know in the comments!