Rowing Machine

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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If it's too cold to hit the river for regatta racing, a rowing machine can tide you over until the gray skies and cold air finally clear. Rowing machines have come a long way in the past 10 to 15 years, evolving from simple hydraulic-piston affairs to fully automated and programmable exercise stations. Today's rowers monitor your power output, heart rate, calories burned, and resistance among other variables.

While there's plenty of disagreement throughout the medical community about exercise regimens, the consensus remains that a cardiovascular workout that elevates the heart rate for at least 20 minutes three times a week is an integral part of any program. Even if you practice resistance training and stretching, these cannot match the fat-burning capabilities of a an extended cardio burn such as the one you receive from a rowing machine, exercise bike, or elliptical trainer. And like elliptical machines, rowers are perfect for those with bad knees and other joint problems since there's little to no impact upon each stroke.

An Array of Rowing Machines

The standard rowing machine with handlebars, cushioned seat, and air pistons can cost as little as 100 to 200 dollars and is more than adequate for a basic no-frills workout. You'll still get the cardio benefits as well as some back, arm, and leg toning, so if those are your goals, it may be worth sticking with an entry-level machine. For a little more money, however, you can step to a model with a built-in training computer for even greater control over your workout.

At the very top of the line are rowing ergometers that are specifically tailored to match the unique contours of your body. Swivel foot rests, silent braking systems, and stepless adjustments are just a few of the bells and whistles you'll receive for spending 10 times the price of your most modest rower. Don't despair: there are a few intermediate machines that combine the best features of advanced rowers with the economy of the most basic versions.

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