JTX freedom air rowing machine review: A dual resistance rower that offers a new way to train
If you’ve jumped on a rower at the gym, chances are that it will have been a concept 2, which is really the standard machine by which all other rowers are measured.
However, if you’re one of those sadists (sorry, fitness enthusiasts who find that they actually enjoy the lung-busting, leg-shredding workout that a rower can provide) then you might be considering installing a rower at home, in a spare room or garage.
However, to do so with a concept 2 you’re going to be looking at spending around £800, but there are other machines out there that can offer you a solid rowing workout for half the price.
One of those machines is the freedom air rowing machine from UK-based manufacturer JTX, which is available for £399 and offers a rowing workout that is based on magnetic and air resistance, rather than purely the air resistance of the concept 2.
How we tested
We got the lowdown on the Air Rower by giving a club rower, who regularly competes in indoor rowing competitions, some extended time with the machine to keep their technique and fitness sharp during the winter months, when time out on the water is limited. Their usual erg was a concept 2, so we were looking to see how it compared across a range of workouts and ultimately whether half the price meant half the machine.
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JTX freedom air rowing machine
Buy now £399, Jtxfitness.com
By and large, assembly of rowing machines is not a particularly arduous task and can be carried out by one person – usually with a little assistance from the packaging to prop up the monorail while you join it to the flywheel. This was the case with the JTX, which one person put together in under half an hour.
Of course, rowers are one of the bigger home fitness machines in terms of footprint. But the air rower had more modest dimensions than some of the better-known machines coming in at 230cm in length and only 55cm wide, it’s a good option for a home workout space.
Once you’re done with it, the machine can fold vertically, leaving a footprint of just 130cm x 55cm, so it can be rolled on its wheels out of the way to repurpose the room from impromptu gym back to usable living space.
Rowers tend to be slightly obsessive, okay, totally obsessive about their form, which is why good ergonomics are so important in a rowing machine. The air rower’s seat was very comfortable, even for longer sessions with a smooth roller mechanism along the 120cm monorail, which allowed for good form and fully straightened legs, even for our 6ft 2in rower.
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The machine also allowed for good range of movement throughout the stroke with the adjustable pedals positioned to allow for a solid base on the driving movement.
The rower is chain driven, so is slightly noisier than some of the newer rowers which have swapped chains for belts, but the drive mechanism was fluid with no lag on the easy-to-grip handle, so we could just concentrate on our form.
The machine is much heavier than the concept 2 at 40kg, and although this makes it bulkier to move on its wheels it did give a sense of stability even when we were at maximum output and really going for it when trying to beat our 1000m personal best.
Now, let’s talk resistance. The freedom air uses both magnets and a flywheel to replicate the feeling of an oar through water. The magnetic resistance is selected via an easily accessible dial, which allows you to choose between eight levels of torture.
However, the fly wheel also adds air resistance so that the machine responds to each individual stroke effort, so the harder you row the more the air resistance builds up. We paid particularly close attention to how uniform the resistance was throughout the stroke, as this is a measure of a quality rower and we were mightily impressed.
Concept 2’s have damper controls that regulate the air flow into the flywheel and it’s one of the reasons that established rowers train so much with them because it affects how the stroke feels, without having any bearing on the resistance. We really liked the air-mag combination of the air rower because the magnets gave us up front control over the technicality of the session, while the flywheel lent the feel of the water to each stroke.
Compared to the many resistance levels of other machines, we were slightly concerned that the eight offered by the air rower wouldn’t allow us to fine-tune our workout, but the addition of the flywheel meant that we never struggled to challenge ourselves and had to work hard from our first stroke.
When you’re sat on an ergo the display is the digital window that provides you with a second-by-second quantification of your physical output, so a good monitor is key to a good experience and to ensure quality training and consistent improvement. We were judging the air rower’s display by the benchmark set by concept 2’s performance monitors and again we were mightily impressed.
In the new landscape of connected rowers, which offer all sorts of motivational options and online training content from their shiny tablet displays, the air rower might seem a little basic, but if you’re a serious rower it still has everything you need. All you need to do to activate the battery-powered display is grab the handle, pressing the start button to start the metrics.
The actual metrics you can access are time, distance (in metres), 500m split time, strokes/minute (rating), total strokes, watts and calories. The primary focus for most serious rowers is Time, Strokes per Minute, the 500m Split time and Distance in metres and these were all clearly displayed so that we could read them easily, even when we were in the last 500m of a particularly energetic 2000m.
Numbers are everything when you’re rowing and we experienced some abnormalities between the splits and stroke rate of the air rower and the usual measurements that our rower was used to on a concept 2 – with about 20 per cent difference between the two. This is to be expected as different manufacturers will have machines that calibrate differently, so as long as you’re aware of the difference and aren’t comparing the air rower’s read outs with what you get on a different machine in the gym, you’ll be fine.
Also, the monitor won’t allow you to memorise custom workouts, so if this is particularly important to your training you need to keep this in mind.
What the air rower does have is a heart rate monitor, we used it with a polar and the display picked up the information and relayed it in real time so we could track our heart rate throughout a range of workouts, including intervals. We also really liked race mode, where you compete against the computer over a particular distance.
The verdict: JTX freedom air rowing machine
We liked the versatility of the JTX freedom air rower which is a no-frills, home-friendly, folding machine that will suit anyone who wants to work on their rowing form, as well as begin to shave seconds off their split time and simply get faster over distance. The price should attract many to the sweaty benefits of on-erg workouts and the fact that the machine is self-powered and doesn’t need an outlet means that you can even take your session outdoors.
Buy now £399.00, Jtxfitness.com
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