Rowing machines are – in theory – the best possible fitness devices for people who want (or have received recommendations from their therapist) to engage in a low impact routine. This assumption is based on the idea that the user purchases a rowing machine that is in accordance to his body specifications, can provide years of quality exercise, matches his budget, fits neatly in the designated space, etc.

Naturally, that is not always the case and some individuals purchase units without considering any of the aforementioned criteria – well, maybe the price tag – only to find out it’s not able to provide the anticipated health benefits or not for long. Let’s elaborate on the proper way to select an effective rower.

1. Air, water, magnets or hydraulics?

The debate on the “optimal” type of resistance can go on forever, but in the end it all boils down to personal preference and the feasibility of the characteristics proprietary to each one in context. To put it simply, hydraulic resistance rowers are the least expensive variant but they provide “less smooth, more jerking” motions and extra strains on your tendons. Air/water rowing machines have natural flowing motions – overall a more authentic experience – but their dimensions as well as their price tag are higher. Magnet resistance rowers constitute the middle ground between smoothness, costs and size.

2. Can it fit in your exercise room?

Naturally, you won’t buy a rower that you cannot fit in your exercise room due to the large footprint, but you also have to remember that you also need clear space around it while exercising. Even the most compact variants require 50 by 25 inches of space at least. Moreover, if you are short on space, purchasing a foldable (upright or not) rower is highly recommended.

3. Can the resistance be adjusted?

The ability to modify the resistance according to the fitness level of the user is crucial, as working out on a machine with excessive resistance will get you tired in a matter of minutes whereas one with sub-par resistance won’t allow you to improve your strength and stamina. At the same time, keep in mind that the other members of your family will want to exercise on the rower.

4. Is the model appropriate for your body?

There are two considerations in this case, namely whether or not the maximum weight supported by the machine is appropriate for you and if the seating is capable of sliding backwards sufficiently as to permit you to keep your legs fully extended. For instance, standard versions designed for personal use will not withstand more than 200-250 pounds, whereas the max weight for gym-designed rowers is over 500 pounds. In addition, if you are taller than average, then the seat should be able to slide backwards in excess of 45 inches.

5. Can the unit help you track your performance?

Monitoring capabilities are mandatory for every user who wants to keep track of his fitness progress, because otherwise you have no way of knowing if your body is actually benefiting from the routine other than the scale. In most cases, rowers are equipped to track laps, distance “travelled”, heart rate, etc. and to record the data in order to provide over time statistics.

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