Technogym Skillrow – Key specs
Dimensions: 2435mm L x 629mm W x 1280mm H
Resistance type: Mag & Air
Display: 7-inch LC display with backlight
Resistance levels: 10 + 3 Power Mode levels
Min - Max user height: 150 - 210 cm
Technogym Skillrow review in a sentence: this luxurious, technically advanced rowing machine more than justifies its premium price.
Working out on one of the best rowing machines – which Technogym Skillrow certainly is – is one of the best ways of burning fat, strengthening muscles and improving cardiovascular performance. With every stroke, you are working 86% of the body’s muscles, including nine major groups.
Better still, a powerful workout for your arms, back, chest and legs comes without the associated pains and niggles that go hand-in-hand with high impact exercise, such as running, skipping or performing thousands of burpees during a punishing HIIT session.
The Technogym Skillrow is one of the most advanced rowers available today and, thanks to input from Olympic medal winners and coaches alike, offers arguably the most realistic rowing experience around.
Although it's not as home fitness focussed as the NordicTrack RW900, with its big screen and online fitness sessions, or the Peloton-aping Hydrow system, this Technogym number still caters for all abilities with some neat app involvement and video coaching via a smartphone or tablet.
It’s also smarter than the rival Concept2 RowErg, which has become the go-to rowing machine for athletes, CrossFit enthusiasts and gym-goers over recent years. Not only does the Technogym Skillmill look better, it also packs improved technology and a more considered rowing feel.
At £3,490, it is also one of the most expensive rowers out there, meaning it has to work twice as hard to impress, especially when things like the WaterRower Performance Ergometer cost less than half that price and offers a very good rowing experience in its own right.
So is the Technogym Skillrow worth it? I spent a number of weeks with one, and here is what I found…
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Technogym Skillrow review: design and build quality
First thing to mention is size, because the Technogym Skillrow is chunky beast. At 2435mm long, 629mm wide and 1280mm tall, it requires a fair amount of square footage to set-up. Although not too much longer than rivals, it sits tall off the ground and the Multi-drive and Aquafeel resistance technology (the big fan thing at the end) give it the additional girth.
You see, Technogym isn’t happy with just fan resistance or the kind that comes from whopping magnets, so it has fused the two to create what it thinks is the most realistic and smoothest rowing experience around. It also means the company can boast about its Power Mode… but more on that later.
It’s also very easy to wax lyrical about the rest of the bodywork and general build quality because, as the price would suggest, this is a hell of a cut above the rest. The Technogym Skillrow’s designers carefully placed all of the controls within arm’s reach, the foot straps are of the quick release fabric variety and the seat is beautifully sculpted to cosset buttocks.
The twin stack digital display and smartphone holder look neat, as does the expanse of metal that means they are both easy to prod, even when strapped in. Other than that, it’s a study in simplicity, with only a bright yellow dial sitting in the lake of clean surfaces. You turn this to increase or decrease resistance.
You could argue that, when sat next to a Concept2 RowErg or even something like Wolverson’s own Air Rower, it looks overly sleek, but the general construction feels heavyweight and far more robust than its elegant lines suggest.
Those worried about storage will be pleased to hear that, unlike the WaterRower, it quickly splits and both parts can be stored on their ends up against a wall or in the corner of a room. However, this still doesn’t take away from its overall mass and attempting to split the thing works better with two people on hand. It’s also too long to merely flip on its end (unless you have ridiculously high ceilings) and lean against the wall. Something you can do with a, ahem, WaterRower.
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Technogym Skillrow review: performance
Using a mix of magnetic and air resistance, the Technogym Skillrow manages to be both quiet and massively powerful. Granted, there’s a muted whoosh with every stroke, but it’s far quieter than many rivals.
The stroke is also incredibly smooth, featuring a power curve that, to get massively geeky, has been carefully designed to replicate the velocity curve and resistance peaks of a proper rowing boat. I’ll admit to not being a professional rower, but it felt a lot easier to practice the catch, perfect the drive and master the return phases of the rowing stroke on this machine than some of the others test, but that could be because I had a professional trainer in my ear telling me how to do it.
There’s a noticeable difference between the ten standard resistance levels. Cleverly, Technogym has included a Power Mode, which goes above and beyond the standard levels of resistance to encourage progressive overload in users.
Taking advice from medal-winning rowers, this Power Mode has been designed to mimic the resistance added when rowers drag a net or add weight to the boat when out on the water. So rather than merely getting heavier and clunkier, the stroke remains just as smooth, but it’s a lot harder.
This makes it possible for beginners to really hone in on stroke form, by practicing every step of the rowing motion in a slow and controlled manner, with plenty of tension to fire up the key muscle groups. Alternatively, it’s possible to whack it up to max resistance and build the legs, abs, the back and even muscles in the arms by treating it like a seated rowing or seated press machine in the gym.
Above all else, it feels solid and everything from the handle to the well-considered footplates and foot straps are of a quality that you’d expect to see in high end fitness centres and expensive gyms with bottles of Molten Brown shampoo in the shower.
The small display, which is cleverly powered by the power generated from the rower (and therefore doesn’t require a plug socket), is clear and easy to use, delivering all of the major states that most rowers need. Just don’t expect it to entertain you like a massive 22-inch HD touchscreen and a jabbering American instructor.
Technogym Skillrow review: features and app
Unlike an exercise bike or treadmill, where plenty of online software and smartphone apps exist in an attempt to gamify and spice up a workout, the humble rowing machine has largely been left in the dark. You certainly can’t row alongside runners and riders in the world of Zwift, put it that way.
Both Hydrow, a new connected rower in the vein of Peloton Tread, and the NordicTrack RW900 we have already reviewed, feature HD touchscreens and access to online classes but the Technogym Skillrow feels little more geared towards someone who wants to genuinely improve their rowing technique and overall strength, rather than just get fit and receive a bit of virtual encouragement on the way.
The free Technogym Skillrow app is the beating heart of the machine, as it features virtual training videos, live online racing and detailed feedback on overall performance, stroke rates and myriad graphs on peak force and stroke length - stats that prove to be the rowing equivalent of fitting a pair of power meters to your road bike’s pedals.
It is possible to simply row and use the performance readouts from the console, but the Skillrow really does come to life when a smartphone is popped in the designated holder. The training videos are informative and packed full of expert knowledge, but lack a little in the Hollywood factor. It’s just a bloke… on a rowing machine… in a white box.
Arguably the most fun of all is the online racing and live leaderboards, where the app determines your skill level based on recent rows and pitches you against those of a similar skill level over classic distances, such as 100m, 500m and the gruelling 2000m sprint races.
Everything works slickly and the presentation is excellent, while the pairing process with the app and other external heart rate monitors etc. is quick and easy, too.
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Technogym Skillrow review: verdict
The Technogym Skillrow is a wonderful, natural-feeling machine to use and offers some of the best feedback tools and sports specific training programmes on sale today. With this in mind, it definitely feels like something that’s geared towards those who are perhaps already oar-wielding converts or who understand the minutiae of a perfect rowing stroke.
That said, the virtual trainer and readymade programmes are great for getting started and feeding back on progress, but quickly become a bit tiring if you’re just not that into perfecting your rowing prowess. On the contrary, the Hydrow and NordicTrackRW900 we’ve tried are more engaging, purely because there’s a huge screen with someone on it telling you what to do. And in Hydrow’s case, it’s someone on a real body of water talking you through the workout while picturesque scenery floats by.
If you get distracted easily and perhaps don’t need in-depth stroke analysis and brilliantly judged rowing feel, then one of the aforementioned machines could be a better buy. Similarly, the WaterRower is quieter, packs an equally fun smartphone app and generally looks a bit cooler in your house.