Few bits of fitness kit can boast the health-boosting benefits of the best rowing machines. (We doubt there are too many treadmills or exercise bikes available in Appalachian oak, either.)
A session spent in the sliding hotseat recruits both your upper and lower body for a complete workout, taxing your legs, biceps, back, core and more. It also provides a cardio hit, challenging your heart and lungs to supply working muscles with enough oxygen to maintain a sustained effort. Over time, your organs will adapt to this stress, working more efficiently. So, whether you’re faced with a 5K or an active holiday, you can breathe easy.
They’re compact and versatile too, making them an ideal accessory to a sweaty home workout.
If that hard sell has you ready to press pay, we don’t blame you. But, first things first, you need to know which machine to buy. Our Esquire Approved team of fitness experts has tested some of the best rowing machines on the market to bring you their seven top recommendations.
All rowing machines have a handle attached to a flywheel via a chain or belt. When the handle is pulled, the flywheel spins, but there are different ways in which the rowers can generate resistance.
These are the three main methods:
Air rowing machines: Paddle-like structures on the flywheel (which is contained within a “cage”) are met with air resistance as they spin, providing a realistic rowing feel. The harder you pull, the more resistance you will be met with. Many air rowers also have damper settings, which change how much air is drawn into the cage during each stroke. Higher settings will require more force to accelerate the flywheel, making for a more difficult row.
Magnetic rowing machines: Strong magnets work against a metal flywheel, providing smooth resistance. The magnets can be moved closer and further away to alter the resistance, altering the difficulty of your row. Many feel these aren’t as true to an on-the-water rowing experience, but they will still provide a comprehensive workout.
Water rowing machines: This time, the paddle-like flywheel is made to spin inside a water tank, with the liquid inside providing the resistance for each stroke. As you’d expect, this makes for a true rowing experience. And, unlike some air rowers which can have a “flat spot”, they provide constant resistance.
Ten top rowing machines faced a trial by fire from our fitness experts. While racking up the miles through a mixture of intense workouts and steady state sessions, they judged each model on its design, ease of use, functionality and stability.
Results were compiled and analysed to decide a final seven impressive products, which you can find out more about below.