If you are fed up of using the rowing machines in the gym and are thinking about buying your own rowing machine that you can use at home, you will find that there are a range of different rowers for you to choose from.
For example, there are the very basic hydraulic rowers that are available for less than $100 in some cases, as well as more expensive rowing machines that use air, magnetic or water resistance.
As you might expect, the price of one of these machines can therefore vary quite a lot, and to confuse matters even further, you will notice that these rowers will have a range of extra features.
So in this article I thought it would be a good idea to list all of these extra features, and discuss which ones are worth having and which ones you can live without in order to help make it easier to decide which rowing machine to buy:
A lot of the entry-level rowers, and indeed many of the mid-range models don’t come with any workout programs at all. However these programs can make your workouts a lot more enjoyable, and they can help you achieve certain goals, whether you are looking to improve your cardiovascular fitness or lose weight, for example.
Verdict: Workout programs are not absolutely essential, but you will get more out of your workouts, and will be a lot more motivated if you buy a machine that has plenty of programs.
Once again you will find that a lot of the cheaper rowers won’t have any kind of fitness apps at all, but some of the mid-range and top-end machines certainly will. These apps will enable you to monitor your performance stats in more detail, and see how you are progressing over time. Plus there are also apps that will test your fitness and enable you to race against other rowers.
Verdict: These apps are not really essential for casual users who are just using one of these machines to stay in shape, but professional rowers and seasoned fitness fanatics should seriously consider buying a machine that has fitness app compatibility.
A lot of indoor rowing machines come with their own pulse sensors nowadays, whether it’s a pair of hand grip pulse sensors on the handles, or whether it’s a chest strap pulse monitor, for example. You can then monitor your pulse rate during your workout to see how much you are pushing yourself, and to see how quickly you can recover once you have completed your workout.
Verdict: You should always look to buy a machine that has a pulse monitor, and preferably a chest strap monitor because these are generally a lot more accurate. However if you are not concerned about your pulse rate, then you don’t really need this feature.
Speakers / MP3 Port
Some of the more advanced rowers now come with their own sound system, which includes built-in speakers and an MP3 port to connect your iPod or iPad, for example. This obviously enables you to listen to all of your favorite music whilst you are working out so that the time will seem to pass a lot quicker and it will not feel like such a monotonous workout.
Verdict: Not really needed because you can always have your own radio or your own music system nearby, which will have much more powerful speakers, but still a nice feature to have.
Most indoor rowing machines are designed for rowing purposes only, but there are a few rowers that come with their own strength stations, or have some additional attachments that enable you to get a decent muscle-building workout as well. Indeed the very first rower that I ever bought had a very versatile t-bar and cable, and came with a wallchart that illustrated lots of additional exercises that I could do to strengthen my arms, shoulders and legs.
Verdict: If you already have a barbell or a set of dumbbells at home (or have a gym membership), then you don’t really need to go out of your way to buy a machine that comes with its own strength station. However this feature is ideal if you want to get a complete toning and muscle-building workout from a single machine.
Cooling fans are more commonly found on treadmills and exercise bikes, but you can still find one of these fans on one or two rowing machines. These are generally built into the console, and are purely designed to cool you down during your workout, as the name suggests.
Verdict: Not needed at all because they are generally not very powerful anyway. You are better off buying an air resistance rower because the airflow that is generated will often have the same effect, or buying yourself a proper fan that will do a much better job.
A relatively new feature that you are also likely to see being included with some of the more modern machines is a tablet holder. This is generally a small ledge built into the console, and essentially allows you to listen to music or watch TV or a movie on your phone or tablet whilst you are working out.
Verdict: Not really needed if you place your rowing machine in front of your TV, or near a stereo if you want to listen to music. Indeed these tablet holders can often be a hindrance because your tablet or phone can sometimes block the LCD display in many cases.
There may be one or two extra features that I have forgotten to include on this list (if so, please leave a comment below), but the point is that you don’t really need most of these extra features.
Indeed if you check out our list of recommended rowers, you will see that many of the top choices have very few extra features, and have largely been chosen because of their overall strength and durability, and because of the quality and comfort of the actual workout.
The only two features that are worth paying more for, in my opinion, are workout programs and fitness apps. However you could easily live without these if you are someone who just wants to get a decent fitness and toning workout once or twice a week on one of these machines.
The reality is that some of the best machines, such as the WaterRowers, for example, are simple and straight forward, and place more emphasis on delivering a perfect workout for its users because this is the one thing that most people look for when buying a new rowing machine.