Rowing Machines

What is a Rowing Machine?

In its most basic form, and most typically an indoor machine one would use to exercise on with adjustable resistance settings. It is actually a sport and well established with a keen following in the UK and across the world. Commonly known as an ergometer (a device used for measurement of action) A rower records the energy you use to reach a known set goal, electronic versions give digital LED displays so one can monitor one’s performance.

early concept2 rowers

The History

Rowing machines are long-established and its believed they came about around 1850. The most notable early version was created by WB Curtis who was awarded a US patent for a hydraulic damper design in 1872.

The primary point here is the amount of resistance per stroke, this was fine-tuned by Mr.Curtis and around 1905 undoubtedly the most popular unit and the first real workable model was the Narragansett hydraulic rower which was made from 1905-1960 with high sales and ensuing popularity, it became for many years the de-facto standard of the time.

As time moved on towards the end of the 1960s there were many who crafted there own rowing machines to exercise on, although considered crude they nonetheless were successfully used for training and they took power measurement to the next level with improved accuracy.

At this time much advancement was being made, with the introduction of a solid iron flywheel and a friction brake engineered by Professor. John Harrison, an accomplished champion beach sprinter based in Sydney Australia, he went on to actually win the 1965 Olympics held in Melbourne. His mentor was Professor Frank Cotton. It was Professor Cotton who further refined the rowers’ workability with the introduction of an enhanced braking mechanism and with other adjusts this drastically improved the accuracy which previously had been unreliable.

This first machine known as the Harrison-Cotton was thus able to accurately measure the energy used (output) and this was a major breakthrough accurate to 1.5% of the machine itself. With additional adjustments to the seating trolley and pulley, the operation proved to be a commercial success and is considered today by many as the first real rowing machine.

Further enhancements cam in 1974 with the introduction of the Gjessing-Nilson ergometer with employed a friction brake and strapping of an industrial nature (still used in machines to this day) with weights connected by strap gave accurate readings for measurement. This machine was for many years the internationally accepted standard for measurement.

Many more advancements took place over the years and in 1981 air resistance arrived on the scene manufactured by Repco (an Australian automotive engineering company) around the same year, the Dreissigacker brothers released the Concept2 ergometer.

This was a fixed-frame design with sliding seat with the resistance created by a bike wheel (complete with fins), further advancements took place in 1986 with the introduction of the solid cast iron flywheel(which we still see in use today) and a digital LED display for monitoring energy and usage giving highly accurate results this was a major step forward and it was this unit which captivated the public and the sport of indoor rowing was therefore born which to this day has formed the basis for many in their pursuit of fitness at home.

pic showing flywheel operation