What Type Of Rowing Machine Is Best?

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There are many different types of rowing machines on the market that can vary in price, features and performance. It is important to know what exactly you’re looking for in your rowing machine before you spend any of your hard-earned cash. With so many types of rowing machine out there, it may be difficult to know what type of rowing machine is best for you, but don’t worry, we’ve done extensive research and have finally answered the question…

What Type Of Rowing Machine Is Best?

what type of rowing machine is best

To start, let’s take a look at the different types of rowing machines that are available to buy. There are five main types of rowing machine:

Each type of rowing machine has its own advantages and disadvantages, and all of them can be used as home rowing machines very effectively.

So what are the differences, and what type of rowing machine is best for you? Let’s break down each type of rowing machine so you can make an informed decision as to which one to buy.

Elastic Band Rowing Machines

XS Sports R110 Home Rowing Machine
The XS Sports R110 Elastic Rowing Machine, which we reviewed on our guide to the best budget rowing machines

Elastic band rowing machines are typically on the budget-end of home rowing machines (alongside hydraulic), so if you’re looking to keep your costs down, you’ll be wanting to purchase an elastic band or a hydraulic machine.

Elastic band rowing machines work by using resistance bands that increase the tension as they’re pulled towards you. Essentially, the machine is using a strong resistance band that you pull, and as you pull, the bands’ tension increases (like an elastic band) and it gets harder to stretch the band, thus making for a difficult workout.

There are typically very few moving parts in an elastic band rowing machine as it’s only using banded resistance, so the most complicated part you’re going to get is the display monitor/LCD screen, which will usually be battery operated.

Pros of Elastic Band Rowing Machines

  • Very budget-friendly
  • Lightweight, easy to set up and foldable for storage
  • Few moving parts, so less to go wrong

Cons of Elastic Band Rowing Machines

  • Some models can be made from poor materials/cheap design
  • Max tension is at the top of the row, which is not ideal
  • Can feel too easy for a lot of people / no exercise benefit
  • Can be too small for taller or heavier people

Hydraulic Rowing Machines

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 rowing machine
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 hydraulic rowing machine

Hydraulic rowing machines are still on the budget side of home rowing machines, but they can have a few benefits over elastic band rowers. One of these is that hydraulic rowers usually feature higher tension at the top compared to the bottom, so you end up working more muscles as you move through your workout.

Another benefit is that these hydraulic rowing machines are going to have a much more elaborate design, so you’re also getting lots of other features such as the LCD screen, more resistance options and different programs.

Pros Of Hydraulic Rowing Machines

  • More tension at top creates greater muscle exercise
  • Little maintenance required as only one moving part (hydraulics)

Cons Of Hydraulic Rowing Machines

  • If the hydraulics fail, it’s essentially a large paperweight
  • They typically don’t fold up, so harder to store at home
  • Can be quite loud

Magnetic Rowing Machines

Dripex Magnetic Rowing Machine
Dripex Magnetic Rowing Machine

Magnetic rowing machines are going to be a step up from the previous two types of machine, and they’re probably more suited to those with some experience in fitness that are looking for something with a bit more resistance and room to grow.

These magnetic rowing machines work by using electromagnetic resistance to make it harder or easier to pull. This means the more you pull, the better the exercise is going to be for you!

Whilst they’re typically more expensive than the previous two types of rowing machine, they provide a big step up in terms of quality, feel and difficulty. They’re also still very reasonably priced – some models start from around £150.

Pros Of Magnetic Rowing Machines

  • The best balance of cost and quality out of all 5 types of rowing machine
  • Can have a range of tension levels, which can suit both beginners and more experienced users alike
  • Can significantly increase resistance, allowing you to progressively overload as you get stronger
  • Typically offer a lot of other features such as USB ports and tablet holders

Cons Of Magnetic Rowing Machines

  • More expensive than hydraulic and elastic rowers

Air Rowing Machines

V-fit Tornado Air Rower
V-fit Tornado Air Rower

Air rowing machines are the creme-de-la-creme of home rowing machines, and you’re going to find them in gyms and clubs as well as in homes. They usually have a few more features than magnetic rowers, including multiple tension levels, resistance curves for different exercises and even heart rate monitors built into the handlebars!

Air rowers are what most people think of when talking about rowing machines. They utilise a flywheel that spins in the air as you pull – the harder you pull, the more air resistance is generated for the flywheel to pass through, and so the harder the workout.

If you’re looking for a home rowing machine that will last you a long time, and will give you the biggest benefits/ability to improve over time without hitting the upper limit of the machine, then you’ll want to buy an air rowing machine.

Pros Of Air Rowing Machines

  • Wide range of resistance levels and programs to suit all experience levels
  • Typically comes with lots of additional features and options in the display panel
  • Most accurately resembles rowing on water

Cons Of Air Rowing Machines

  • More expensive than elastic band and hydraulic rowers
  • Heavy and more difficult to move around than other models
  • Can be louder than other types or rowing machine

Water Rowing Machines

TOPIOM Water Rowing Machine
TOPIOM Water Rowing Machine

Water rowing machines are a newer development in the home rowing machine market, and they have only really been available on the home market for ten years or so.

On the most basic level, water rowers work by using an adjustable amount of resistance to stop you from simply going faster and faster down the track as you pull (as with air rowers), but there’s an extra feature that makes these machines more exciting – the water itself.

In case you’ve never seen (or heard) one of these in action, they make a great whooshing sound due to the flywheel spinning in the water and how much resistance there is to your rowing motion. Whilst the majority of people tend to love the noise, you might want to have a look at some videos online to make sure you like it too before going out and buying one!

Pros Of Water Rowing Machines

  • Easy to maintain, not much to go wrong on the machine
  • Dynamic resistance is much closer to the actual act of rowing than other types of machine
  • Quiet movement so won’t disturb others
  • Featuring a water wheel allows you to be low-impact

Cons Of Water Rowing Machines

  • Can be very expensive for a home rowing machine, but you’re paying for quality
  • Typically much larger than other home rowing machines


If you’re looking for a home rowing machine that will last you a long time and will give you the biggest benefits/ability to improve over time without hitting the upper limit of the machine, then our recommendation would be to invest in an air rower.

If you want something a little bit more budget-friendly, your best option will be to go with a magnetic rower. Starting from around £150-£200, they’re a big step up from hydraulic and resistance band rowing machines and will give you a great workout at home.

If you’re looking to spend as little money as possible, then an elastic band rower or hydraulic rower is for you. Whilst not quite as good in terms of quality and rowing mechanism, you can still get the benefits of home rowing from these machines. they typically start at around £80.

We hope you found this guide useful. If you’re still unsure as to what type of rowing machine is best for you, leave a comment below and one of our experts will be more than happy to help!