The Argos guide to rowers - 2 of 4

2. Features to look for in a rower

The most important features

All rowers will improve your fitness, but you'll find lots of extras to add to your enjoyment. Use this list of features to decide what’s best for your lifestyle.


A rowing machine console

The display is an LCD digital readout giving you useful information – your stroke rate, total distance rowed, time and so on. The console controls, usually surrounding the display, let you switch the display to the numbers you’re most interested in and enter or change the programme.

Some of the numbers on a rower’s display are confusing. Here’s your key.

Stroke rate The number of strokes you're rowing at per minute
Speed The speed you’d be moving at if you were putting in the same effort on a real rowing boat
Time The time since your workout started, or your time per distance set, or your target time – most machines give you a choice
Calories Estimated amount of calories you’ve burnt off since starting
Distance Total distance travelled or distance left to go on a programme
Pulse/heartrate Your current heartrate, measured through hand grips, a chest strap, or earlobe clip


Many rowers fold up for easy storage. Really useful if space is limited – they take up the same space as an ironing board!

Grip sensor

Some rowers can sense your heart rate through the rowing bar. This is useful for checking you’re within the most effective training zone of 70-80% of your maximum heart rate.

Adjustable seats and handlebars

A good rowing position is really important, so look for adjustable positions, including the distance the seat and bars move during a stroke - known as the 'throw'.


When you’re sitting on the rower's seat, make sure your legs 'brace' your body when you lean forward - this means you can pull the bar back using your legs as well as your upper body. (Using the upper body alone is risky, since you're putting extra strain on your back.)

When the bar is pulled all the way back, your legs should still be slightly bent and your back shouldn't feel stretched - this is called 'hyperextension' and it risks injury. Likewise, when you release the bar (this means allow it to retract while still holding it - don't just let it go!) you shouldn't have to strain forward before you start the next stroke.

Make sure you've got your seat and position set up before you start rowing, and you'll never have problems with strain or injury.


Programmes give you a planned rowing workout based on distance, time, or stroke rate. Rowers tend to have fewer programmes than treadmills or exercise bikes - no hills on water! - but there's still plenty of variety to enjoy by changing resistance and your stroke rate over a workout.

All rowers are different, so check you know which features to look for. With that done, let's choose your machine.

page 2 of 4

Argos guide to rowers

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