In this rowing machine reviews feature, we take a look at the best rowing machines on the market. A rowing machine is an excellent addition to any home fitness space. They are much like a treadmill or elliptical machine, allowing you to get a full cardiovascular workout but rowing workouts do sport a few distinct advantages. We couldn’t put it any better than U.S. Olympic Rowing Coach Mike Teti when he stated, “Rowing machines provide the best total body workout of any cardio machine.” While you may have trouble getting up the stairs after your workout, you can rest assured your upper and lower body are getting a thorough exercised.
Rowing Machine Benefits: Rowing Machines vs. Treadmills and Other Types of Workouts
Rowing machines have been growing in popularity in recent years. As Harper’s Bazaar reports, more people are converting from cycling to rowing than ever before. Perhaps it was because they were featured on the extremely popular show House of Cards or simply because people are beginning to catch on to their benefits. Whatever the case, there are now more rowing machine models on the market than ever before to cater to all these new rowing enthusiasts. The great thing about that is there is more competition in this niche, benefiting the consumer with lower prices. The challenging part is that means you have more choices than ever before.
Though rowing machines have been around a long time, their popularity is currently on an upswing. These machines are drawing in professionals and consumers alike. Boutique rowing studios are opening up across the country in big cities like New York at an unprecedented rate. Whether rowing is just another fitness fad or a longer term trend, the facts remain clear, rowing is an excellent, full-body workout. In fact, according to studies done at Ohio University’s Physiology Lab, working out on a rowing machine burns 10 to 15 percent more calories than cycling at the same level of exertion. Here, we discuss the top, most noteworthy benefits of exercising with a rowing machine.
Top 10 Benefits of Rowing Machines:
- Efficient Conditioning. According to the Harvard Heart Letter, a study of 158 exercises showed that rowing placed in the top 5 gym activities in calories burned. On average, a 155 pound person vigorously rowing for 30 minutes will burn about 316 calories. Holy cow! The continuous rowing motion requires your entire body to participate, which will quickly boost your heart rate, strength your cardiovascular system, and get your into fat burning range in no time.
- Suitable for Beginners to Experienced Users. The best rowing machines feature adjustable resistance enabling you to build up your strength. Rowing punishes the body in different ways that other types of workouts, so even if you are a fitness fanatic you will be able to put in a workout at high resistance level that kicks your butt.
- Muscle Development. Excellent rowing form will condition both the upper and lower body. You only have to look so far as Olympic rowers physiques for evidence of the brutal workout rowing presents to the human body. Whereas rowing on water you’ll find you have an approximate set rowing resistance, that is not the case with rowing machines. Rowing machines simulate the rowing motion with the benefit that you can increase the resistance of the “water” via the “paddle” mechanisms. Legs are exercised since you have to push yourself back from the platform which hits the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. The upper body is exercised when you pull back which hits your shoulders, arms, and back. You can easily increase the resistance level which in turn will help you build more muscle.
- Low Impact. Another notable benefit is the fact that rowing puts a lot less stress on your joints than say a treadmill for example. Throughout the workout, you will be in a sitting position where your arms and legs are fixed. This reduces the chance of injury and harm to your joints. Less injuries means you can stick to your exercise plan and maintain your ideal fitness level. This is an effective way for older fitness enthusiasts to stay in shape because it places no strain on your joints or back.
- Core Muscles. Rowing machines will help sculpt and tone your abdominal muscles. Furthermore, these machines help strengthen the lower back. Core muscles are used to constantly stabilize your body during the rowing machine motion.
- Versatile. Most types of workouts necessitate you committing about an hour of your time to burn a significant amount of calories and/or get in a decent workout. While it is great if you can get in 60 minutes of a rowing machine, you can fit in a high intensity workout in 20 to 30 minutes if you are willing to push yourself.
- Small Footprint. Rowing machines are great for working out at home because they take up relatively little space. The best rowing machines are designed to be foldable and/or portable so you can store it out of sight after your exercise.
- Easy to Learn. The great thing for beginners to know is that the basics of indoor rowing can be learned in about 10 minutes. In our “how to use a rowing machine” section below, we discuss some pointers to get you started on the right foot.
- Measurable Progress. Another benefit of rowing machines is that they have displays where you can monitor your progress. Stats such as total time, distance traveled, pace, resistance level, and calories burned are all available to watch on many machines. You’ll know if you’re getting an awesome workout in and whether or not you want to kick it up a notch. Having milestones to hit such as increased resistance or total time provides the motivation to keep working at it.
- Relatively Low Cost. When compared to other cardio equipment, a top of the line rowing machine from say a company like Concept2 will cost you around $800. Compare that to a high end cycling bike for about $1500 or a commercial grade treadmill at $4,000. The best thing is once you make the investment, there are really no ongoing costs like a gym membership would entail. You won’t have to buy more dumbbells or weight plates as you get stronger, all you do is increase the intensity level.
How to Use a Rowing Machine
While rowing isn’t as easy as hopping on a treadmill, as long as you follow a few general tips you’ll be off and rowing in no time. The first thing to do is if your model of rowing machine has a damper setting, check to make sure it isn’t set on one of the higher settings. If it is, you’ll feel like your trying to row a giant houseboat on all your own — not ideal for beginners or for someone focused on cardio over muscle development. The best thing you can do is to be patient and practice your form before you get to crazy with the resistance setting. The damper setting is much like gears on a bicycle. The higher you set the gear, the heavier it will feel on the body.
Another popular mistake is rowing with only your arms. Not proper form, and a big no no! Not only will your arms get tired out after 5 minutes, you increase the risk of injury by putting too much pressure on your shoulders and back. Think of it this way. Only 20 percent of your rowing power on a machine should be from pulling with your arms. Over 50 percent, probably around 60 percent of your power should come from pushing on the platform with your legs. The last 20 percent of your power comes from bracing with your core.
The ideal rowing motion on a machine is a three step process. Push with the legs first, following that you’ll pivot backward at the hips. You’ll notice if you do it right that your shoulders will pass your pelvis and you’ll be in a slightly laid back position. Once you reach that position, pull the arms into your chest as far as you can. Focus on pulling the handle about to where you’d bring a bar during a bench press and for ladies right about the bottom of a sports bra. After that pull, your first repetition is finished, let the machine pull you back into starting position. However, you still want to be in control, and slowly let your body reverse the order of the three steps to drift back into the starting position. By the way, for rowing newbies, the starting position is called the “catch,” the leg pushing phase is called the “drive,” and the pull to your chest and driving the elbows over the plane of your hips and behind you is referred to as the “finish.” Last is the recovery phase where your controlled movement returns you to the starting position.
Other mistakes to avoid are shooting your butt out and having to jerk your upper body back, letting your butt bang into your heels on the way back into starting position (always maintain control instead), and hunching your back during the rowing motion. The last one in particular is pretty common for beginners, as many people work at a desk these days and develop the bad habit of rounding their back. People will naturally assume that same position when they sit down at the rowing machine. Focus on engaging your core, relaxing the shoulders, and keeping the spine neutral. Ultimately this will improve your posture and help you get the most from your rowing machine workouts.
If you’re just getting into rowing, a great rowing workout to start with is a slow 5 minute warm up followed by a 15 minute workout at moderate intensity. Then, end with a five minute cool down. As you perfect your form and get the hang of things, you can increase the machine’s resistance. Rowing is also a perfect choice for interval training. You can execute simple timed intervals such as 30 seconds at maximum intensity and 30 seconds at low intensity or you can perform intervals based on number of rows or “strokes.” For example, instead of 30 seconds on and off, you’d perform 15 strokes at high intensity than 15 strokes at about 50% intensity.
Rowing Machine Reviews: The Best Rowing Machines of 2015
Here our the top indoor rowing machines of this year. In this section we provide readers with in depth rowing machine reviews. There’s a little something for everyone here!
Concept2 is one of the premier brands of rowing machines. They are known for their high quality and fair pricing. Concept2 backs most of their machines with a 5 year warranty, including this one. The Model D provides just about everything a rower needs ergonomic grip and handle, footrests with adjustable straps, a smooth flywheel, and perhaps best of all the new Performance Monitor 5. First of all, the monitor arm is adjustable so you can always get the right distance to make viewing your progress accessible. This performance monitor tracks all the stats you’re used to — total time, calories burned, distance, pace and number of strokes. However, it also lets you set up interval training, create a preset workout, rowing games, and stores your data. You can then transfer the data to a computer using a flash drive to analyze your stats even more. The machine separates into two pieces so you can easily store it when you complete your workout.
Water Rower crafts premium rowing machines that are prominently featured in many fitness magazines. They are beautiful machines that incorporate a water flywheel design which is constructed to mimic the actual feel of rowing. The flywheel is smooth and quiet, allowing you to listen to music or simply focus on your workout. Water Rower constructs this machine with real ash wood and stained honey oak.
This is similar to the Water Rower, however is uses their “hydro-power drive” system. ProRower claims this does an even better job of simulating the experience and dynamics of actually rowing. It features an oversized display panel that makes it easy to see your progress, strokes per minute, heart rate, and other helpful stats. The footrests can be adjusted and pivoted to get just the right position. The maximum weight capacity of this unit is 350 pounds and the unit itself weighs 65 pounds making it pretty easy to move around and store.