Buying Guides

Rowing Machine Buying Guide

Rowing machines, also sometimes referred to as ergometers (an ergometer being a device which measures the amount of work performed), can burn around 1000 calories an hour as they engage your upper and lower body, your core and your back. They offer a great way to get in shape since they get so much of your body working and will build up your strength, power and endurance.

Rowing machines deliver a low-impact workout which means that the pressure on joints is kept to a minimum, as long as you use the machine with the correct technique.

Another bonus of rowers is that they tend to cost less than other fitness machines, making them great value for money, although you can push the boat out and spend more on a top-of-the-range piece of kit.

To help you understand them better and find the right one for you, we’ve made this rowing machine buying guide. Read it through to get an idea of what will suit your needs before heading over to our online store to browse our range.

Rowing Machine Buying Guide

Resistance Mechanisms

The main thing to consider when buying a rowing machine is the resistance mechanism, and there are four types to choose from. Each type has its advantages so it’s mainly a question of personal preference and to a certain extent your budget.

Magnetic (Manual/Computer)

Magnetic rowers are becoming more and more popular, especially when it comes to home use, principally because they operate very quietly and deliver high levels of resistance. Magnets near the flywheel create the resistance which can either be altered manually or using buttons on the console. This type ensures a great range of resistance and very effective cardio workouts, although the feel is quite different to water or air resistance models. However, the key is the quality of your workout and from that point of view magnetic rowers are a great option. What’s more, they tend to have more compact designs than water and air rowing machines. Most models will fall into the £200-£600 region, though of course you can always spend more.

Magnetic resistance rowing machine


Water resistance works by using a paddle inside a tank that turns as you row. The amount of resistance depends primarily on fast you row and get the paddle to rotate and to a lesser extent how much you water you fill the tank with. You can get very good intensity and a constantly smooth feel throughout your whole stroke with water resistance, and it is much quieter than air resistance rowing. In fact, the sound of moving water can even help people visualise being out rowing on the water! Some water rowing machines have beautiful wooden designs that will certainly look great in homes. They are often bigger and heavier than other types (especially once filled with water) and prices are usually higher, ranging from roughly £800-£1600.

Water resistance rowing machine

Air & Air/Magnetic

Air rowing machines have been around for the longest and are the standard piece of kit used among serious rowers. As you pull the chain you turn the flywheel which pulls in air to create resistance. The harder you row and the faster the flywheel spins, the greater the resistance. Some models may feature a dampener to change the resistance and feel, and you can get air/magnetic hybrids which combine the best of both styles in the same machine. Air rowers are very popular, with the only real drawback possibly being the noise they make especially when rowing faster. Similarly to magnetic rowers, most will cost somewhere between £200 and £600, but some premium models may cost more.

Air magnetic resistance rowing machine


Hydraulic resistance machines tend to be the cheapest of all types of rower (some cost under £100) and are normally quite quiet. They use cylinders which contain either fluid or air, and pulling against that provides the workout. The level of resistance can be changed using a lever or clamps and these rowers can be more compact than other types. However, rowing action can be less smooth and the machines less comfortable and enjoyable to use than other types. They can also require more maintenance. So the main advantage is the low price for a cardiovascular workout.

hydraulic resistance rowing machine

Additional things to consider

Once you’ve had a think about which type of resistance you’d prefer your machine to have, there are a few other aspects to consider. Click or tap on the below tabs to see more about each of these points.


Rowing machines are certainly less bulky than treadmills or other fitness machines, but they can be over 2m long (see dimensions section). Some models will, therefore, allow you to fold the rail up vertically to store it more easily and efficiently. Alternatively, some water rowers may tip on their end, which although not being an actual fold can be a useful feature – if you’re ceiling is high enough!

Weight (Product & User)

Check the weight of the rower and also its maximum user weight before purchasing. In general, models with a higher max user weight will be heavier as they will be made of stronger materials. Water rowing machines are usually the heaviest – they can weigh up to 50kg and even more once filled with water. However, they tend to boast the highest maximum user weight as well. Air and magnetic rowers can weigh between 20 and 50kg and have a max user weight between 100 and 150kg typically. You’ll find this information in the Key Features section on our product pages.


Whilst rowing machines don’t take up as much space as other fitness machines, their length is the thing to keep in mind. They can vary from 1.2m long to over 2.2m. Hydraulic rowers are normally the most compact and shortest whilst water rowers are longer and bulkier because of their water tank. Taller users will want a machine with a long enough rail for them to complete a full rowing action. Also, keep in mind where you’ll be placing it so there’s enough room around for you to row comfortably and safely.

Heart Rate

If you want to measure heart rate and perform heart rate controlled workout programmes, you’ll need a magnetic rower with computer-controlled resistance and a chest strap. The machine can then alter the resistance to keep you in the optimal heart rate zone for more effective training.

Why buy from Sweatband?

We’ve been selling rowing machines and other sports and fitness equipment for over a decade and we have unrivalled experience and expertise in the market. We use this expertise to make sure that the products we stock are ones that you will like and get great use out of. We sell rowers from the top brands in rowing, including DKN, Kettler, WaterRower, V-Fit, York Fitness and Viavito. We give you the best selection from the best models and work hard to offer the most competitive prices on the market!

You can buy from us with great confidence for a number of reasons. First of all, we are a Google Certified Shop. This means that Google confirm that we offer fantastic customer service, reliable dispatches and they will even guarantee orders up to £1,000 in the unlikely case that there is a problem.

Furthermore, we’re not just an online store. We’ve got a fitness showroom in North Manchester where you can speak to a specialist who will help you find the right machine for you. Our experts have years of experience when it comes to making tailor-made recommendations for customers, and they will ensure you get the right one for you, not pushing you towards particular brands or models. We have a selection of fitness machines in our shop that you can test to help you decide what you like before purchasing anything. We also have a running and racket sports store in the heart of London: you’ll find us a short walk from Oxford Circus.

Our fully staffed customer service team is on hand to deal with any questions or problems, and you can get in touch via phone or email. Whether you have a question about any particular product, about orders, payment, delivery or anything else, we are ready to help you out. Our after sales team has great expertise when it comes to warranties, and we certainly won’t leave you on your own to deal with suppliers like some retailers do if your equipment develops a fault. We will be proactive and work to help resolve any issues and ensure you get the highest level of customer service.

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