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May 25, 2017


what type of rowing machine is bestAre you wanting to purchase a rowing machine but you don’t know what type of rowing machine is best?

In this article that was researched and written by one of our dark Iron Fitness writers Tina Ngai, she breaks down a lot of great information on indoor rowing machines and what type of rowing machine is best depending on the goals you’re trying to achieve.

Because when it comes to rowing machines. it’s not just “what type of rowing machine is best” it really takes answering : what type of rowing machine is best for my specific goals.

And that’s what this article will help you figure out.

Also if you haven’t purchased a rowing machine yet and you’re in the market for one then check out our buyers review guide here for the best rowing machine to buy

Enjoy the article:

General Information On Indoor Rowing Machines

Rowing machines, also called “indoor rowers,” basically simulate the action of rowing a boat.

The rowing machine typically has a braking mechanism connected to a chain or handle.differnt types of indoor rowing machines

It usually has a rail on which the mechanism or rail would slide. The difference is usually found in the assembly and the braking mechanism can vary greatly from one machine to another.

Rowing machines often have a digital display to show the distance traveled.

The most important thing to note when you’re trying to find what type of rowing machine is best is this:

You’ll only reap real benefits from your home rowing workouts if you’ve got the right machine and know how to use it.

Each rowing machine is different and offers different benefits which means you need to get the rowing machine based on what goals you’re trying to accomplish.

You can maximize the full benefits of a home rowing workout by learning the proper technique.

Having the right form and method will ensure the desired results and help prevent injury. As with most forms of exercise, efficiency is a top priority when rowing.

The stroke should be long and fluid to help you go the farthest and fastest while expending the least amount of energy.

The different types of rowing machines are categorized by the way they produce resistance.

Benefits From Using Rowing Machines

According to U.S. Olympic rowing coach, Mike Teti:

“rowing machines provide the best total-body workout of any cardio machine.”

Rowing is an extremely demanding, yet highly rewarding type of indoor exercise that works the upper and lower body.

The added benefit of developing muscular biceps and triceps, as well as improving blood circulation, gives rowing an edge over running on the treadmill, stair-climbing equipment, and exercise bikes, which all tend to only work the legs.

A rowing stroke on an indoor rower uses 65-75% leg work and 25-35% upper body work

benefits of rowing machines
A rowing machine is one of the few pieces of equipment that will allow you to exercise without pain if you have bad knees or arthritis in your hips, knees and ankles.

With a good quality machine, you will be able to push yourself without straining your joints.

Since there is no impact with this motion you won’t run the risk of tearing a tendon or developing inflammation.

You can raise your heart rate and tone all major muscle groups with a great workout that takes no more than 20 to 40 minutes each day.

If you’re wanting to know some more benefits of rowing machines then check out this article by live strong.

What Type of Rowing Machine Is Best ?

Below is a description of the different types of rowing machines, there purposes, and their benefits.

In order to find an answer to the question of ” what type of rowing machine is best ” we first need to look at what each different type of rowing machine has to offer.

In the end the decision ultimately comes down to what you’re wanting  to accomplish from using a rowing machine because each different types of rowing machine will have different benefits.

Let’s check them out:


best magnetic flywheel rowing machineMagnetic-resistance rowing machines use electromagnets to provide braking resistance through a flywheel.

Their design will make you feel as though you are rowing in tangible water.

A huge benefit to having a magnetic-resistance rowing machine is its quiet and smooth movement.

Magnetic rowers use a magnetic brake system to create resistance, which doesn’t generate any friction resulting in a silent workout.

This type of rower is available with only magnetic resistance or a combination of magnetic and air resistance. Its resistance is fully adjustable and can also be accurately measured through electronic components.

These types of machines can have digital displays that provide detailed information on distance, calories burned, and other data.

Magnetic-resistance rowers are built with a rigid central rail that cannot be folded or collapsed. Because of this design they often take up a lot of room and may not be ideal for home use and tighter spaces.


This type of rowing machine uses hydraulic pistons to generate resistance.

Most rowers have two pistons: one on each arm of the handlebar.

These machines usually allow you to adjust the resistance. In addition to this the hydraulic piston is the only rowing machine that will give you an independent workout for each arm.

If you are trying to balance your upper body strength you have the ability to set one arm to an intermediate level and one arm to an easier level.

But most piston-resistance rowers provide more of an arm workout than a leg and full-body workout. This is mainly because the handlebars on this type of machine are fixed, which gives the user a less-natural stroke.

Piston-resistance machines are designed to be compact, so they usually have a fixed seat position and shorter range of motion.

Pros for this style of rower is its compact size and relative affordability as compared to other types of rowers. Piston rowers can often be folded up and slid underneath a bed for easier storage.

The drawback with a piston machine is that occasionally the pistons can leak oil.

If you have a piston rower it’s best to keep a mat or towel underneath the machine to protect your flooring in case of a leak.

A huge advantage to a piston machine is that they are generally quiet, affordable and compact.

If you don’t have a lot of room to spare this type of machine is definitely worth considering.


Water rowers have a tank that is filled with water and this is used as its means of resistance.

To create resistance the paddles are suspended in a tank of water.

Each time you pull the handle you spin the paddles and generate resistance.

Resistance can be adjusted to some degree by adding or removing water from the tank.

The higher the tank’s water level, the heavier or more difficult the rowing will be. As you increase your pace, the resistance naturally increases as well.

This option allows you to set your own pace and resistance with one motion.

Water rowers are ideal for those who participate in outdoor rowing and want to capture the true feel of the sport.

Galt, a website that specializes in product buying guides, says that water rowers perform like a boat moving through water.

This highest-end style of rowing machine resistance is probably not suited for the average home.

It requires a big, heavy tank of water to simulate the feel of actual rowing.

Water-resistance rowers are relatively large, rigid, and very heavy because of the water tank. They are not as noisy as the air-resistance models, but noisier than the magnetic versions.

You will hear the swishing of the water while using this rowing machine.


Air-resistance rowers use a cylindrical fan blade, or spinning flywheel, to create resistance.best air restance flywheel rower

Each time you pull the handle, you spin the flywheel and create wind.

The harder you pull the more wind is generated. The more wind you generate, the harder it will be to pull the handle.

You have control over the intensity of the workout because the air resistance depends on the pace that you set. This type of rower offers truly adjustable resistance which can be adjusted whenever you want.

Some air-resistance rowers have a lever that you can use to adjust the airflow to the fan blade, which will in turn affect the resistance.

There are no buttons to press and no pins to pull out or push back in.

Some styles have a digital display to keep you in tune with your workout data.

The Concept 2 (or Concept II) rower is one of the most popular flywheel air rowing machines.

This is the one used by fitness enthusiasts, health clubs, and rehabilitation centers.

It is also the rowing machine chosen for indoor rowing competitions all over the world.

Men’s Fitness notes, however, that air rowers are the type most often used by rowers during the off-season.

Compared to piston/cylinder or hydraulic based rowing machines, air-resistance rowing machines give the user a more natural, continuous, and smoother rowing stroke.

Air rowers typically have a longer main rail, which is beneficial for users who are taller than average.

But this rigid central rail does take up more space and some people find the fan blade to be noisy.

Overall Thoughts On What Type of Rowing Machine Is Best

Many, but not all, rowing machines fold for storage and transportation.

Dual-handle, hydraulic-resistance rowers tend to be the most compact, with shorter slide rails and the ability to fold into a smaller package for easier storage.

The longer rail on magnetic and air-resistance rowers can make storage more problematic, especially if the rower does not fold.

Choosing the right rower for you will depend on the amount of space you have, your budget, as well as your workout needs and goals

For those people who simply want a great workout they might prefer the hydraulic piston or magnetic-resistance machines.

More advanced rowing enthusiasts might prefer the air or water-resistance machines.

All in all you should first ask yourself  “what do I want to accomplish from using an indoor rowing machine”.

Once you ask yourself that and you have the answer, then you can choose the rowing machine you to help you accomplish what you’re looking for.

That wraps it up for this article on what type of rowing machine is best. I hope you enjoyed it.

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