Rowing machines aren't as popular for the home as treadmills and ellipticals, but can be a less expensive choice. You'll need about 20 square feet to fit a rowing machine in your home gym. The best ones are sturdy enough to support the weight of any user in the household and offer a smooth gliding motion for the seat, and an "oar" that simulates the feel of rowing along on the water. A jerky sensation as you pull is a sign of a lesser quality model.
Structure of the Machine
Before purchasing a rowing machine, try it out on showroom floor. Rowers feature a bar that is attached to the machine via a chain and handle. You pull this bar back as you glide on the seat and press with your legs to simulate the rowing movement. When you glide back and forth, you should have enough room to fully flex and extend the knees, and your arms should reach forward at the beginning of the rowing motion. You want a comfortable seat, but not one that is padded and soft. The bar that represents the "oar" should track in the center of the movement -- if it pulls off to the side, skip the model. Choose a machine that uses air, water or magnetic resistance -- all of which provide a smoother ride and, in the case of magnetic and air versions, faster resistance changes than piston-driven models. A quiet machine is also a must for the home so you don't annoy other occupants and you can still hear the television or music as you row. Piston and air versions are the most noisy, while magnetic and water are the quietest.
A monitor that gives you a reading of your pace, distance and watts is not essential, but can help you track your workouts and progress. Like other cardio machines, the best rowing machines also have pre-programmed workouts or a screen that shows a virtual pace boat for you to keep up with or race.