Health, wellbeing, and exercise are more important than ever. Rowing machines are a great way to work out, but it's a crowded market, and there are many different types of rowing machines to choose from.

The type of rowing machine you need totally depends on your fitness goals. It will be influenced by your shape, size, and individual requirements. It's important to take your time and understand what's out there so you can make the right choice. Ultimately, this will save you time and money and help you achieve what you want to with the machine.

This guide will take you through all the different rowing machine types and give you all the information you need to pick the best one for you.

Over time, the market has diversified, and there are now more rowing machines available than ever before. The main types to choose from are:

Magnetic Resistance Rowing Machine

Magnetic resistance rowing machines aren’t as common as other types of rowers but are still fairly easy to find. They work using magnets that provide resistance against the user. The magnetic resistance can be increased or decreased to meet the user's personal needs so you can customize your workout.

Magnetic Resistance Rowing Machine

Magnetic rowers offer a number of advantages to other models. They’re smaller and more compact, they're really quiet, and they're affordable. All of this makes them well suited for use at home or home gyms. If you have limited space and want a rower that won’t get in the way, then magnetic resistance rowers are great for you.


  • Quiet
  • Compact
  • Affordable


  • Less durable
  • Lower levels of resistance
  • Less natural feel

Air Resistance (Fly Wheel) Rowing Machine

Air resistance rowing machines are pretty standard, and you’ll see them in most gyms. They operate using a flywheel which works like a fan, using air to provide resistance. The rower naturally adjusts to your effort level, meaning the harder you row, the higher the resistance will become. This infinite resistance level makes it well suited for experienced users.

Air Resistance (Fly Wheel) Rowing Machine

Air resistance rowing machines offer a more natural rowing experience that mimics the feel of being on the water. The fan offers a cooling breeze as you work, and they can give you a great workout. However, they are larger and noisier than other types of rowing machines and often require some maintenance.

The nature of air resistance rowers makes them best suited for larger spaces or gyms. They’re best for experienced rowers.


  • Realistic rowing experience
  • Infinite resistance
  • Great workout


  • Larger
  • Noisy
  • Harder to build and maintain

Hydraulic Rowing Machine

Hydraulic rowing machines are the most common on the market. They’re probably the most basic rower, but they’re still effective and will give you a good workout. They work using a piston which is adjusted to provide a certain level of resistance. The user then pulls against it and works against the resistance.

Hydraulic Rowing Machine

Hydraulic rowing machines are fairly inexpensive. They’re compact and can fit in most homes, with some foldable models which are even easier to store. Hydraulic rowers only offer a more limited experience, though, because the movement isn’t particularly natural.

This means it won’t be very similar to rowing on the water. The piston also only allows you to move the handle straight back as you pull, limiting the range of movement.

Hydraulic rowers are great for beginners and will work well in-home gyms.


  • Inexpensive
  • Adjustable resistance
  • Easy to set up and use


  • Not like outdoor rowing
  • Limited range of movement

Water Rower

Water rowers are also really common in your home, but you won't find them in many gyms. They use water to provide resistance, and there's a tank of water attached to the rower. As you pull the handle back towards you, a paddle in the water tank and spins the water around. The weight of the water is what gives the resistance.

Best Type of Rowing Machine

Water rowers are larger than other rowers and a lot heavier due to the water. They offer a good workout, but they are the loudest type of rower. They can also be more challenging to set up and maintain. However, water rowers offer the best authentic experience, closest to being out on the open water. If you're an actual rower or in training, then this is the type of water rower that's best for you. 


  • Affordable
  • Can be constructed at home
  • Closest to rowing on the water


  • Bulky
  • Heavy
  • Loud

Rowing Machine Benefits

Rowing machines are renowned for giving you a great workout, and they offer several key benefits over other types of workout machinery:

Total Body Workout

A rower will use 80% of your muscles and engage all the major groups. This makes them perfect for users of all levels and allows you to train your body in one go, rather than having to focus on one group at a time. Only rowing machines and ellipticals offer this much of a full body workout.

Burn A Lot of Calories

When you’re working out, you want to feel the burn and get the benefits. Rowing machines are one of the most efficient fitness devices which allow you to burn a lot of calories fast. You can burn up to 1100 calories an hour on a rowing machine, and if you use it regularly, you could see your body change quickly. 

Good for People of All Fitness Levels

One of the best things about rowing machines is how easy they are to use. Everyone can use them, and regardless of your physique or fitness level, you'll have a great workout. So whatever stage you're at, a rowing machine is a great tool.

A Low Impact Exercise

Rowing machines are very low impact and should be used as one continuous movement. This means no impact on your joints and makes them well suited for people of all ages or rehabilitation exercises.

An Alternative to The Treadmill Or Elliptical

Treadmills or ellipticals often come to mind when you think about cardio, but rowing machines offer an even better workout. They engage more of your muscles at once, and they're generally more affordable.

Keep Your Workout Beginner-Friendly

Rowing machines are ideal for beginners. You don't need any prior experience to use them, and you can literally jump on and get started straight away with very little risk of strain or injury.

Types Of Rowing Machine Workouts

There are lots of ways to use a rowing machine, and there's not really a wrong way to do it. Here are some of the most popular and most effective workouts you can do using a rower:

Steady Rowing

Steady rowing is the most basic workout and best for beginners. Focus on maintaining a steady pace for 10, 20, or 30 minutes and getting your technique right. You'll burn a lot of calories and build up your strength quickly.

Interval Training

Interval training is a great way to raise your heart rate and burn more calories. Interval training involves alternating between standard pace and sprints. Start with 1 minute at regular speed and 30 second sprints, and you'll feel the burn in no time.

High Intensity

High intensity training is great if you don’t have much time. You focus on short, intense bursts of speed and then have a small amount of time for your body to recover. Think of this as interval training flipped on its head, so 45 second sprints with 30 second rest periods.


In pyramid workouts, your effort and speed should increase with each set. So, 4 minutes at a low speed, 3 mins at a medium speed, 2 minutes at a high speed, etc. These are intense workouts that athletes and elite rowers use.

Duration workouts

Duration workouts are all about the length of time rowing. You pick a long time and just row, imagining yourself on the open water. These workouts are great for improving fitness and relaxing your mind.

Time Trial workouts

Time trials are great for progressively building up your fitness and monitoring your progress over time. Pick a set distance (usually start with 1km or 2km) and see how long it takes you to get there. Next time you row, challenge yourself to beat it and see how you get on. Track your results, and hopefully, you'll see good progress over time.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine?

Rowing is a great way to lose weight and fat. Rowing burns a significant number of calories, and if used regularly, you can lose belly fat and tone up quickly.

Is 20 minutes of rowing enough?

20 minutes of rowing can be enough for a good workout, but generally, you should aim for 30-minute workouts if possible. If your time is limited, you should consider a high intensity workout.

Is rowing bad for your back?

If your form is correct, then rowing shouldn't impact your back. However, if you have an existing condition or suffer from back pain, then rowing may not be the best option for you.

Is rowing better than running?

Rowing is generally considered a better workout than running. It engages more muscles than running and offers a better full body workout. It also burns more calories per hour.


Rowing machines are a fantastic way to get in shape, and there are loads of different types of machines to choose from. Your choice should be influenced by your individual goals, your set up and your budget. If you have a gym at home or in your garage, you should look for magnetic resistance or hydraulic rowers because these are effective but much quieter and compact than other models.

Last Updated on April 11, 2024

Paul J

Paul J

Paul J is is an ex-professional footballer who has seen a gym or two and is an expert at knowing what is required for home gym setups. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually going for a run in the park or out for coffee.