Different Types of Rowing Machines

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types of rowing machines

Rowing machines or ‘ergs’ are mainly classed on the type of resistance it offered. And there are four main types of rowing machines air, hydraulic, water and magnetic.

An indoor rower works when you pull out the handle and slide back on the machine. In starting phase the resistance is set on low to row faster and with ease. Gradually increasing the resistance tend to require harder muscle work with a slow stroke rate and a harder pull.

Sometimes it gets harder to take a decision when it comes to choosing the best-suited type of rowing machine. So I decided to cover a post on this.

You should consider reading the benefits of using a rowing machine.

Air Resistance

Air resistance indoor rower models use fanlike air-fins on the flywheel to generate the resistance. As the individual row faster it gets harder to pull the bar and resistance increase gradually. There is a vent on the flywheel which can be adjusted to increase or decrease the resistance generated by the machine.

The resistance is measured by a tachometer on the basis of acceleration and deceleration of the flywheel, which is given by the moment of inertia. Air Resistance models are used by many sports rowers and also the best selling rowing machine Concept2 Model D is air resistance type.

Water Resistance

If you really want to replicate the feeling of outdoor rowing on a river then this type of indoor rower is the best choice for you. Because the resistance is produced by the paddled water in an enclosed tank. The mass and drag of moving water generated the resistance for the machine and the user. The faster you row the more you generate resistance.

The water rowing machines are quite popular than the other types but still there is a downside of this type is itself the need of water, which make it heavy and unportable.

Hydraulic Resistance

Piston resistance is generated by hydraulic cylinders attached to the handlebars of the machine. The length of the handlebars is adjustable to the user so that to control the resistance generated by pistons and obviously the length remain fixed during exercise.

But this makes it less accurate because sometimes the user adjusts the bars on a distinct length which may lead to off combination. That is why this type of rowing machines are priced much lower.

Magnetic Resistance

In this type, the resistance is generated by electromagnets which make its functioning silent and more compact than water and air rowers. But there is also a downside of this type.

The resistance is generated by electromagnets so the resistance remains constant whether you row fast or slow which is not the actual simulation of real rowing, where resistance increases with the pace. But still, magnetic rowing machines are one of the widely used type of rowing machines especially in homes because of their portability and silent working.

I hope you find this post helpful and ready to make the perfect purchase of your first rowing machine. I personally recommend you to go for the best selling air type Concept2 Model D machine. You can also find the full comparison table of rowing machines here.


Anam Shabista is a writer, blogger, aspiring chartered accountant, and author at RowingFeed.