Different Types of Rowing Machines

Different Types of Rowing Machines

What are the different types of Rowing Machines?

Whether you’re in the market to purchase a Rowing Machine or you’re just interested to know more about the different types of Rower, we’ve put together this quick guide to explain the basic differences.

Different Types of Rowing MachinesFirstly, how does a Rowing machine work?

Rowing machines (or Ergs!) work on resistance and the harder you work, the harder they do. Unlike a treadmill for example, you are not led by the hand through the routine, you sort of become one with the equipment. This is quite hard to explain if you haven’t used one before, for those that have, you’ll know what we are talking about.

Air Resistance Rowing Machines

What are the different types of Rowing Machines?
These machines have a large flywheel which houses a fan blade. The fan is moved by the user pulling on the rower handle. This creates wind resistance and has the added benefit of also creating a ‘welcome’ cooling breeze, useful when the going gets tough!

The harder and faster you row, the more resistance is generated by the flywheel. Various models also allow you to adjust the flywheel setting which alters the resistance as well.

Piston Resistance Rowing Machines

What are the different types of Rowing Machines?

Generally (but not exclusively) at the lower end of the rower budget, the piston resistance machine features a pair of hydraulic pistons which are connected to the rower handlebars. Most models will allow you to manually adjust the resistance on the pistons. Apart from being more affordable than the other types of rower, these are also generally more flexible where storage is concerned. Most are easily foldable and neatly ‘tuck away’ after your sweat session.

Water Resistance Rowing Machines

What are the different types of Rowing Machines?-WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine


This type of rower is often described as having the most realistic ‘action’ because it actually uses water for resistance. They feature an enclosed water tank which has paddles suspended inside it. As the rower pulls on the handle, these paddles turn in the water and use its natural resistance and feel. The downside with these is as because the need water, they can be quite heavy and certainly not as portable as the Piston machines. They tend to compete with the Air Resistance models as the popular option.

Magnetic Resistance Rowing Machines

what are the different types of rowing machines - LifeSpan Fitness RW1000 Rowing Machine


These machines use electromagnets to provide resistance braking. They slow down the main flywheel making the user work harder to keep the momentum going. The resistance settings tend to be very adjustable and the action smooth with very little noise. Because of their rigid design however, they tend to be less portable than other types and would probably not be ideal for someone with limited space.



All 4 types of indoor rower have their advantages and disadvantages. A lot will depend on budget, available space and personal preference. What we can advise is that, regardless of how much you are going to spend on one, do your best to physically try out the different types first. A large gym is ideal for this, you will quite often find a small range of different models to trial and most gyms will let you in free for a few hours if you express an interest in joining!

Failing that, how about your local sports superstore, WalMart etc.?

Try before you buy…

Best Rowing Machines 2015 Comparison Guide

Looking for a guide on the Best Rowing Machines 2015?

We compare the top 5 Rowing Machines for 2015, show you which models have discounts available and where to buy with Free Shipping.

Take a look at the Best Rowing Machine 2015 Guide HERE…

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Posted Under: Rowing Articles