How to buy a rowing machine


To help you pick the right rowing machine, we put the latest bunch through their paces. Here are the best four

9 Feb 2009

All of the rowing machines here are available to buy from Fitness Superstore.

First Degree S500 Fluid Rower Rowing Machine
First Degree S500 Fluid Rower - £1,399
The good: Two separate drums let you adjust the amount of water dragging against the paddles in this rower, allowing 20 levels of resistance while still making each stroke even throughout. It’s also wider and shorter than other rowers, taking up about the same space as a recumbent exercise bike. The back support detaches, but the seat’s incredibly comfy either way. 
The bad: It hasn’t got the mass of programmable workouts or workout info that other rowers have – but it does give you the vital bits. 
MF verdict: Comfortable to sit on and an even stroke – the First Degree will push you, but it’s a pleasure to row on.  
Proteus PAR-5500 Programmable Air/Magnetic Rower Rowing Machine
Proteus PAR-5500 Rower - £899
The good: The Proteus uses magnetic and air resistance together, so it can offer decent resistance with a more even pull than a typical air rower provides. The programming is inventive, too – it even offers the rowing equivalent of an exercise bike’s hill sections to keep things interesting. 
The bad: You can’t turn the ‘air’ side of the resistance off, so it’s still pretty noisy. 
MF verdict: Not as enjoyable to use as some of the more expensive fluid rowers, but still better than most rowers that only use air resistance. 
Horizon Oxford 2 CS Air Rower Rowing Machine
Horizon Oxford 2 CS Air Rower - £699
The good: A solid, well-built rower with a decent degree of resistance – as long as you row fast enough, it’s about equivalent to level six on the Concept 2. It’s made from heavy-gauge steel so it’s pretty sturdy, but it actually folds in half to save space. 
The bad: Not the most sophisticated electronics – it measures how far you’ve rowed by counting how many times the seat moves across the middle of the rail. 
MF verdict: If you just want a cheap, reasonably tough rower to add a bit of cardio training to your workouts, this is a good option. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time on it, though, look for something else. 
WaterRower Natural Ash Rowing Machine
WaterRower Natural Ash - £725
The good: With its elegant hardwood construction, the WaterRower wouldn’t look out of place in a country house – and you’re soothed rather than deafened by the gently sloshing water in its flywheel. It also provides a constant, smooth resistance throughout your stroke.  
The bad: Since you effectively set the resistance yourself – by rowing hard to create drag – you’ve got to be pretty self-motivated to get the best possible benefit out of it. 
MF verdict: Looks lovely on the floor or propped against a wall, but there are better fitness tool around.