Can you tell a footpad from a footboard? Or do you know what is rowing SPM? You might be confused about all these nouns. Therefore, before reading rowing machine reviews, it might also be necessary to learn Rowing Machine Terminology. Table of contents
  • Rowing machine terminology
  • Frequently-read articles

Full Guide of Rowing Machine Terminology

Dead Spot

The part of the stroke with a drop in resistance. The better indoor rowers such as Topiom and Waterrower do not have a dead spot and you’ll feel the tension through the whole stroke.

Drag Factor

The number set by adjusting the slider (damper) on the side of the fan cage. This is the correct term for a C2 machine. “Drag factor” is not “resistance”. The higher the number, the high the drag (more like a heavy boat) and vice-versa for a low number (like a racing shell). Damper setting is entirely down to personal preference.


Topiom water rowing machine Ergo for short and refers to an indoor rower. The name comes from the early indoor machine used by rowing clubs to measure the performance and technique of their rowers to find the best combination for the positions in a boat.


It is short for Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. EPOC is associated with an elevated energy consumption after the workout and thus helps you to burn calories for up to 24 hours after you have finished your training session.

Folding Model

Many machine fold at the end of the rail to allow for storage when not in use. This ensures a smaller footprint by placing the rail in the vertical position. This is one of the indoor rower design features to ponder on. Read this article to learn more about the designs.


footplates of Topiom rowing machine Footpads are where you put your feet on a rowing machine. Well-designed rowing machines have sliding footpads. Sliding footpads have two main functions. Firstly, such design can accommodate feet of different sizes. Generally, users need to adjust the level of footpads according to their feet size to ensure the straps cross the ball of their feet. The second function is to better meet specific needs of rowers. For example, for those who suffer knee pains, raising footpads up a little bit might a good idea. This will relieve strain on the Achilles tendon. That said, sliding footpads are of great importance in ensuring correct and comfortable workout. However, some flaw-designed rowing machines lack such design. Read the article of rowing machine buyer beware to learn more.


Footrests include footboard, footpads and straps. It’s where you strap your feet on a rowing machine. The strap should cross the ball of your foot. On the market, there are two common footrest designs: fixed or pivoting. Fixed footplates are good for beginners and professionals who care about the correct rowing technique. Pivoting design is, to some extent, good for those who have flexibility issues, provided that the pivoting angle is scientifically designed. A kind warning: there are some flawed-designed rowing machines with weird pivoting angle out there. Read the article of rowing machine buyer beware to learn more.


Also called the bar, replicates the handles of an oar. A good handle should be padded and slightly oval (cross-section) to allow for a good grip. A poorly designed handle can cause blistering on the palm.

Heart Rate Monitor

Polar heart rate monitor Can be a wrist, chest strap, ear clip or an armband, to feed your pulse rate to the rowing machine’s computer. Note, a chest strap will provide the most accurate reading.

Heart Rate Programs

Use the readout from a heart rate monitor to set workout programs accordingly. For more specific information about heart rate programs, this article about heart rate training might be helpful to spice up your rowing workout.


HIIT is short for High-Intensity Interval Training. It is also called sprint interval training (SIT). HIIT is a form of interval training, a cardiovascular exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods, until too exhausted to continue. Though there is no universal HIIT session duration, these intense workouts typically last under 30 minutes, with times varying based on a participant’s current fitness level.


Repetitive training set e.g. 4 x 1000 = 4 sets of 1000m rows successively with a short rest inbetween


The screen that shows your workout data. monitor of Topiom rowing machine The workout data includes meters, time, strokes per minute, calories. Some monitors will also show your pulse rate. The higher end models have software to download your performance data to your PC. That said, Concept 2 has the most sophisticated monitor in the industry. Lose your heart with rowing machines with well-funtioned monitors? Read this review.

Pyrimid Workout

In a pyramid workout, target settings such as the reps, the speed, the intensity, etc. increase step by step until it peaks, then decrease step by step.


The central beam for the seat to roll up and down. This should be sturdy and well supported to prevent the machine moving during a workout. Most rails are made from extruded metal. On the market, rowing machines feature either monorail or dual rails. And rail(s) are either horizontal or inclined. The rail design, to some extent, determines the space between footrests , the maximum user weight and the rowing intensity. Read the article to learn more.

Resistance Mechanism

This phrase explains how resistance is generated. Indoor rowers on the market can be mainly available in 5 kinds: water, air, magnetic, and hydraulic and cable/cord resistance. Most rowing machines use one of the types to provide resistance for the rower. But, there are also some rowing machines use a combination of air/magnetic resistance. Read the article of rowing machine resistance types to learn more.


seat of Topiom rowing machine Seat is one of the touching point for users to connect with rowing machines. During rowing, you need to sit in a correct way to perform a good rowing posture. Read the article of indoor rowing machine technique 101 to learn more.

Seat Rollers

The bearings or wheels that allow the seat to slide up and down on the rail.

Split Time

What split means is how long it would take you to move 500m. In this sense, split equals to speed. The smaller the number, the shorter the time, and the faster you are going. 500m split time is important for professional athletes because the Olympic rowing race distance is 2000m and many athletes split up that 2000m into four segments of 500 meters. Learn more about 500 split time and how to improve it.


One full rowing action comprising of four phases: correct indoor rowing postures in the catch, drive, finish and recovery phases
  1. Catch – set-up for the next phase.
  2. Drive – generates the power
  3. Finish – also known as the Release is the end of the stroke
  4. Recovery – slide back to the catch position
Rowing form can affect workout benefits. Read indoor rowing technique to learn the correct rowing form. Or you can also watch this video to learn rowing form step by step.

Stroke Rate

The number of strokes you take in a single minute, in essence, this is the speed of your stroke.(how many times you pull the handle per minute)

Tabata Workouts

A type of workout. Named after the founder, Izumu Tabata, these workouts (also call Wattage workouts) are based on a target number of watts you can produce according to your body weight.

Tap Down

The action of using the outside of the palm to push down on the oar to take it out of the water.

Time Trials

Workout programs based on time settings. Type of workout where you record your time to row a pre-determined distance (usually 2,000 meters), or record your rowing distance within a target time, for example, 2 minutes. You can use the result to assess your progress over time.

Transport Wheels

Rollers embedded into the feet of an indoor rower that makes it easy to move around and prevents damage to your floor.

Wattage / Watts

The amount of energy you’re producing with each stroke. The higher the number, the harder you’re working. Also see Tabata workouts above. You can find more rowing machine terminology, plus the whole history and development of indoor rowing at Wikipedia/rowing.
Now, you have a general idea about indoor rowing machine world. Welcome! Let’s further explore the amazing world. Rowing machine, low-impact, is good for weight loss, endurance, muscle building, etc. Read the article of benefits of rowing machine to know more. The all-in-one buying guide and reviews are helpful if you decide to bring outdoor rowing experience into your home.