Rowing is a fantastic way to improve your fitness – despite being a full-body workout, with 86 per cent of your muscles put to work, it’s still a low-impact pursuit.
Whether you’re just looking to keep fit and healthy or you’re a keen triathlete, it’s a workout that suits a wide range of training plans.
If you’re dipping your toes into the world of rowing machines for the first time, it can be a little daunting. Thankfully, we’ve written a whole piece on the best rowing machines, which is well worth a read.
If you already know a thing or two, chances are you’ve used a Concept2 ergo – a brand that has long dominated the market and is a go-to in gyms and rowing clubs across the country.
But with a variety of new machines appearing on the market, the manufacturer is slowly slipping behind.
Echelon is one of the main challengers. The brand is on a mission to make rowing a more approachable sport. Its one-and-only rower (£1,199, Echelonfit.uk) is designed to be connected to a tablet, giving you access to upbeat and motivational live and on-demand classes, as well as the option of scenic rows.
We wanted to see what the fuss was about and whether it’s really worth its price tag of £1,199, plus the monthly subscription fee.
How we tested
We tested the Echelon rower for a number of weeks, assessing it on how easy it was to use, set up and store within the home, as well as how comfortable it was.
Most importantly, though, we paid close attention to the classes on offer, how easy they were to follow and whether they provided us with the motivation we needed to keep fit at home.
Echelon rower: £1,199, Echelonfit.uk
Dimensions: L211cm x H105cm x W51cm
Resistance levels: 32
The USP of Echelon’s equipment is that it can be easily stored away easily, and this rower is no different. It has a streamlined design and can be folded and moved around thanks to the wheels, making it ideal if you’re short on space. Taking it from place to place single-handedly was no problem at all, which we think is great – particularly for those who live alone.
As for the build, it’s sturdy and makes very little noise when in use, even when on a solid wood floor. But it is worth noting that it does need to be plugged in.
The seat is comfortable and a little larger than the others we have used previously. It glides forward and back smoothly, helping you to maintain the correct form, even during high-intensity sessions. When it comes to changing the resistance level, this is done using buttons on the handlebar – a total blessing as it means you won’t need to stop rowing during your session, unlike with a Concept2 ergo and other similar rowers.
Connecting tablet and the workouts
The Echelon rower (£1,199, Echelonfit.uk) relies on you having your own tablet, because an area it really excels in is its live and on-demand workouts, where an instructor guides you through the session.
There is an additional payment for the Echelon subscription: you can either pay an upfront fee of £599.85 for a two-year plan, £399.90 for a one-year plan, or £39.99 for a monthly rolling plan. You can cancel the last option at any time, but to get real value out of the rower, we’d recommend subscribing.
When it comes to connecting your tablet, all you need to do is position it in the nifty slot and plug it in using a USB port.
The Echelon app interface is simple and easy to use, and there are a number of different workouts on offer. For example, there are sessions that are tailored towards novices – they are great in that they help you to nail your form, body position and movements, and get you used to moving your legs, back and arms in harmony before you start high-intensity classes.
With thousands of hours of content, there really is something for everyone. When choosing a specific class, you can filter by type (including, speed, bootcamp and power), length, instructor and music genre. The instructors count you in and out and provide a ballpark for where your stroke rate should be, and the classes are high in quality and intensity.
The coaches provide the perfect amount of motivation – particularly at times when you feel as though you’re beginning to flag. Should you need more, though, there’s also a leaderboard. During the sessions, the coaches also remind you to check in with your form and body movements, which we found particularly useful.
Time elapsed and your metrics (resistance, output and stroke) will also appear on your screen throughout your workout, so you know exactly how hard you’re pushing yourself. If you’d rather not see this, then it can be removed.
The app is not exclusive to rowing – it also has a range of yoga, meditation, HIIT and barre classes. All of these can be streamed on your tablet or phone. And, as with the rowing sessions, you can opt to stream them on your TV using Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV or Chromecast.
The verdict: Echelon rower
If you’re a rowing novice or even a fanatic, the Echelon rower is an ideal machine if you want to have entertaining, hardcore and enjoyable workouts at your fingertips.
The classes not only provide fun, easy-to-follow sessions across a broad range of difficulty levels, but because there are so many to choose from, every workout can be different – one day you can focus on your power, while another day you may want to concentrate on your lower body. As such, the app really caters for everyone.
The brand has clearly thought about those who are low on space too, and the fact that the machine can be neatly folded and easily manoeuvred only adds to its list of benefits. What’s more, it’s incredibly quiet when in use.
While the initial price point is of course steep, if you think of the money you’ll save over time from not having a gym membership, we do think it’s a great investment. And as ergos go, it makes rowing a more approachable and fun sport.
Buy now £1199.00, Echelonfit.uk
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Want to learn more about ergos? Read our review of the best rowing machines