Best Rowing Machine Accessories For a Comfortable Exercise

Now I’m a fan of keeping rowing machine workouts simple. It’s just you versus the machine (spoiler alert – the machine always wins!). You get right in the zone (or the pain cave, as some rowers call it) and nothing else matters. But I accept that this approach isn’t going to be for everyone. There are a number of bits and pieces that you could look to invest in which might help make your sessions more enjoyable and productive and most importantly… fun!

TV screen

TV Screen

If you have a rowing machine at home, you might want to consider getting a TV set up in front of you. This can serve two purposes. The first is that for longer sessions, you can put on a show or movie or documentary and get your binge on whilst burning those calories. Make sure that you don’t neglect your form if you’re watching something and the minutes (or hours!) will fly by on the machine. The second use for a screen is to display performance information. It’s possible to stream data from machines such as the Concept2 Model E right to the TV screen, or heart rate information from straps such as the Whoop or MyZone. This can help you train within specific heart rate zones which can result in a more effective use of your workout time.

Rowing machine clothing

indoor-rowing-exercise-clothing

You might argue that rowing machine clothes aren’t an accessory, but making the right choice of attire for your rowing workouts can have a huge effect on your performance. In terms of what you have on top, pick something lightweight which is going to wick sweat away from your both. Something heavy, like cotton, is going to get heavy and not assist you in modulating your body temperature. Keep it light but not too loose, as that could get stuck around the handle and otherwise impede your rowing stroke.

The All-In-One (or AIO) is the rowers go-to piece of attire. It might not be something that you see too often in the commercial gym, but it’s something you should seriously consider if you are going to be putting in the metres, day after day on the machine. AIOs reduce chafing massively and allow the full range of motion required to row freely. Once you’ve tried rowing in an AIO, you might find it difficult to go back to a heavy, cumbersome tracksuit. YOu have been warned!

Gloves

best rowing gloves

Rowing purists might scoff at the idea of using gloves when you row. To them, having torn-up calloused hands is a sign that you’re training correctly and with the right intensity. I disagree, hand calluses can increase the frequency and likelihood of injury and even infection which is only going to get in the way of your progress. It might take some time, trialling a number of different types of gloves to see which works best for you. Some people opt for fingerless, whereas others prefer a glove which covers the entirety of the hand. You’re going to want to make sure that the fit doesn’t get in the way of your rowing stroke at all and isn’t going to start rubbing when you do longer sessions. As with the clothing choice, you’re going to want to make sure the gloves are made from a material which wicks sweat away from your hands, helping you to maintain a solid grip on the handle.

Water bottle

Prepare-Food-and-Water-Ahead-of-Time

Hydration is vital during rowing. Rowers can lose kilos of water during the course of a difficult session and having a water bottle to hand is something you should make sure you have before each workout. The bottle should be big enough to contain a decent amount of fluid (at least a litre), be easy to hold on to and have a lid which you can easily open and replace. You want it to be secure enough that you don’t soak the floor if you knock it over, but it shouldn’t be so tough to remove that you’re struggling to get your drink in time between HIIT session intervals. Something to remember is that you should be cleaning and washing your water bottles between each workout session. Simply adding more water, without making sure that everything was cleaned out is a recipe for disaster and could result in illness and infection which again, can get in the way of your progress. I know some rowers who even go as far as keeping their water bottles in the freezer between uses, so that they know they will be sterile and bacteria free between uses. This might be taking things a little far, but it’s these simple processes which will help keep you on track and progressing in the long run.

Heart rate monitor

Rowing-machine heart rate monitors

If you’re looking to train within certain heart rate zones during your rowing sessions, then having a monitor is a must have. These can come in a number of different styles and forms, with some going around your wrist, others around your chest and even some around just a finger. Personally, I find that heart rate monitors that go around the chest are more accurate and will give you a more reliable reading, even when you’ve built up a sweat. There are a number of brands of heart rate monitors which can connect directly to your Concept2 D or E PM5 as well as WaterRowers, allowing you to see your heart rate whilst you row, without having to look at a different screen or, god forbid, stop and pick up your phone to see how hard you’re working.

Wireless music headphones

cycling-headphones

When I see people rowing with wired headphones in the gym, I lose my mind. Having wires tangled around you, getting in the way of your rowing stroke or worse, getting tugged out of your phone/mp3 player, forcing you to stop your rowing workout so you can fix your music situation is my idea of hell. Instead, make sure you invest in a good pair of wireless music headphones. As with the heart rate monitor, there are a number of different brands and models for you to consider and you may need to try a couple of different styles to find the pair that work for you best. If you’re anything like me and you sweat a lot, consider opting for headphones which are advertised as being waterproof. This will reduce the risk of them dying at the all important final 500m of your workout!

USB memory stick for the PM5 monitor

Memory stick

Not all rowing machines but n the back side of the Concept2 rowers’ PM5 performance monitor you find an USB port to attach your USB flash drive stick. The PM5 records your workout data including heart rate (if using a heart rate belt) in its internal memory, and on the USB stick if attached. I will recommend this USB stick because of its sturdy construction and its loop hole, so you can have it in your key hanger. Do not attach it with your keys hanging on it as it can shake loose during use or break the USB port. It is a good idea to write your name and contact details if you bring it to the gym – it is easy to forget in the rowing machine. How to initialise your USB flash drive.

Heavy duty mat

best rowing machine mats

If you are using a rowing machine at home, you should seriously consider purchasing a heavy-duty matt to put it on. Air or water rowing machines are heavy pieces of kit and due to the forces generated, you are likely to mark or damage whatever surface is directly underneath. To address this, you can buy any number of thick rubber mats to put underneath the rowing machine. This will have the dual benefit of keeping your floor damage free, but also improving the grip and stability of your rowing machine. If you’ve ever used a rowing machine on a smooth surface before and found yourself literally rowing backwards across the room, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Could can also consider putting a towel under the machine, on top of the mat, to collect the sweat that you work up. This can reduce clean-up time afterwards and save anything dripping down the mat and through the floor below.

Seat pad for rowing machine

best rowing machine seat cushions

If you’re undertaking lower rowing sessions, you might want to think about getting a seat pad for your rowing machine. These are rubber or silicone based pads which give you a bit of extra protection and comfort. They’re relatively cheap and are simply placed on the rowing machine seat. I have undertaken rowing marathons before and the single biggest pain from the whole experience has been the soreness in my glutes! These seat pads play an important role in reducing that soreness which allows you to focus on your technique, breathing and getting the workout completed in good form.

Rowing slides

rowing machine slider

I’ve talked in previous articles about dynamic rowing machines. These are air rowing machines which more closely mimic the movement of being in a rowing boat and are preferred by some rowers and coaches as a consequence. It’s possible for certain types of rowing machines to transform a static rower into a dynamic one by using what are called sliders.

These slides are put underneath the rowing machine and allow it to move like a dynamic rower. Sliders can also be attached together in a line, allowing multiple rowers to train together, as if they were in a boat. This is an accessory which is perhaps geared towards the more serious rower and is a mean piece of kit if you’re looking to gain that transferable advantage from indoor to on-water rowing.

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