Rowing machines or 'rowers' are a great way to get fit at low risk. They're designed to simulate the action of rowing a boat, and they're one of the best fat-burning workouts you can have - with the bonus of firming up your lower back. Best of all, you do it sitting down - so rowing machine exercise doesn't put stress on your hip, knee, and ankle joints.
You exercise in long, sweeping movements, which is great for maintaining supple limbs - so rowers can be used by all ages. Make sure you warm up and warm down properly, though, and don't over-extend yourself when rowing - this can lead to 'hyperextension' muscle strains.
Like an exercise bike, indoor rowing machines create resistance to your movements to give you a good workout, and most machines let you increase and decrease the level of resistance.
The parts of a rower
As usual, there are a few terms in rowing machine fitness you might not understand. Here’s what the jargon means…
|Bar or handle||The bar or handle is the part you grip and pull back on to create the rowing movement. It's attached to the rower by a cable.|
|Flywheel||A flywheel creates resistance inside the machine. As you push and pull it creates momentum so you can build up pace smoothly (and slow smoothly, too).|
|Magnetic rowing machines||Magnetic rowing machines create resistance with magnetic force. They give you a smooth action that reminds you of rowing across real water.|
|Air rowing machines||Air rowing machines (or hydraulic rowing machines) use a piston to create resistance to your rowing strokes. It's less realistic than a flywheel (or rowing on real water!) but hydraulic rowers are excellent value for money.|
|Pulse/heart rate monitor||A pulse/heart rate monitor detects your pulse, usually through touching the grips, so you can see how hard your heart’s working! Remember, the most effective heart rate for you is about 70-80% of your maximum heart rate.|
|Saddle or seat||The saddle or seat is where you sit down, facing forward. The seat moves backwards as you 'pull' the bars towards you, making it feel as if you're moving across the water, then slides forward again as you release.|
|Sculling||Sculling rowers use a swinging lever (or two) rather than a bar and cable. They're easier to get the hang of, but less interesting to use!|
|Stroke||A stroke is one complete rowing movement, involving a pull on the bars or levers plus the release, where they move away from you ready for the next pull.|
So now you know your rowers, let's find out
what features you should look for.