The JTX Freedom Air Rowing Machine was voted the ‘best home rowing machine’ by The Independent so we couldn’t resist taking it on a 30 day test when we had the chance to give it a full review. The benefits of rowing are there for all to see but for years it has been seen as a bit of a luxury to have a rowing machine as part of your home setup – either that, or the affordable rowers that have been on the market have simply not been up to scratch. UK based JTX Fitness have put this straight with their Freedom Air rowing machine range and they have focused on bringing an affordable but high quality home rowing machine to the market.
We put them to the test in our full JTX Freedom Air Rowing Machine review.
Freedom Air First Impressions
The Freedom Air rower is available in two colours. Both the silver and black models have a look of quality about them with the only difference between the two models being the colour – (edit – we have now been notified by JTX that black is the only colour option going forward). Upon first inspection the Freedom Air looks a classy piece of kit. Its slimline frame and wider than average foot pads lend themselves to the striking design and although it looks as if this rower would struggle with the demands of a commercial setup, it is clear that it is more than adequate for moderate to heavy home usage.
The Freedom Air rowing machine can be folded for easy storage and has been designed with comfort and challenge in mind as well as practicality. The soft touch handles are comfortable to the touch but have a good level of robustness that should stand the test of time. The seat is very comfortable and has an extra wide ergonomic design for added comfort. The feet pads have adjustable straps as you would expect and are also positioned slightly wider apart (in terms of stance) than you would usually find – this makes for a more comfortable ride position and helps you really drive the rower with your legs as well as your arms and back.
Our first impressions of the Freedom Air were that it looked more expensive than the price tag and that it promised to deliver a comprehensive full body workout.
The JTX Freedom Air Rower features dual resistance which the British company calls DualTorque. Essentially, it operates using airflow resistance and magnetic resistance. The airflow resistance works in the usual way providing greater resistance the more you row with an almost limitless level and if you need to push harder you can add the electro-magnetic resistance of which there are 8 levels to choose from.
The Freedom Air dimensions measure up at 230cm (l) x 55cm (w) x 86cm (h) when in use with the length reducing to 130cm and the height increasing to 160cm when folded. This space saving folding design makes the rower very compact and if you want to move it in to a different place for storage this is easy to do thanks to the transport wheels and an overall light weight of just 40kg.
It is worth pointing out that unlike some rowing machines the Freedom Air does require mains power so be sure to consider this when purchasing and ensure you have a viable power point near to where you want to use the rower. (Update – JTX have now made this rower self powered so there is no need to plug in to mains).
The rower features 8 pre-set workout programmes to choose from or you can of course work out manually. The killer feature that we haven’t yet mentioned is that the Freedom Air can be used with a wireless chest heart rate strap that beams your heart rate to the centre console – you can then have the rower automatically set the resistance level to have you working within a set target heart rate zone. This is ideal for high intensity cardio and/or fat burning workouts.
This JTX rower can hold a maximum user weight of 135kg which considering it is a foldable rower is quite impressive. The frame is made from reinforced aluminium and the sliding rail uses JTX’s MotionRail system which provides a super smooth rowing motion.
JTX Freedom Air In Use
We tested the JTX Freedom Air Rowing Machine for 30 days. Our tester was an active 6’1″ male weighing 77.5kg and has a good amount of experience with rowing machines. He had never used the JTX rower before and tends to use commercial grade rowers at the gym – rowers such as the Concept 2.
We found the Freedom Air to be at least on a par with more premium priced models and the fluidity of the sliding seat was noticeably smooth. The extra wide padding that is provided by the seat is definitely on a par in terms of comfort and ergonomics with pricier models and the 6 adjustable positions for the foot straps mean you are guaranteed a secure and stable workout.
Working through the levels of resistance provided what we would deem a challenging to difficult level of challenge and even hardcore rowers will find the top resistance settings difficult to manage over a longer lasting workout. The dual-torque system will suit all levels of users from beginners and inexperienced rowers right through to competitive athletes.
The chain that drives the rowing mechanism is nickel-plated and feels incredibly secure and durable. The likelihood of having issues with this chain when compared to belt or cable driven mechanisms is very slim and it is great to see JTX investing in quality components for this rower. The two year home repair warranty also provides plenty of peace of mind and points to the fact that JTX have a lot of faith in what they have built with this rower.
The blue LCD display is easy to see and easy to use with a focus on less is more. Unlike many rowers, the buttons are oversized so it is easy to control with the LCD displaying the key information at all times while you are working out. Data such as distance, speed, strokes, stroke rate, power, split times and heart rate are all there for you to see. The LCD display has an adjustable viewing angle that is simple to move and this really helps you view the screen no matter how tall you are or your preferred angle of viewing.
The heart rate monitor is worthy of a special mention as this is often an element that is overlooked with budget home based equipment. The Air Rower can be used with a chest strap telemetry heart rate monitor and sends this across to the Polar receiver in the on board computer of the JTX. This real time heart rate data can then be seen on the screen or broadcast to other Polar enabled apps so you can track it using your preferred fitness app on your mobile device.
There are two heart rate programmes built in to the Freedom Air and they both work to keep you within a target heart rate. The resistance of the rowing machine will automatically change based on your heart rate and your heart rate target. This is perhaps one of the standout features of this rower and is one of the key reasons why we would agree with assessments that deem it the best home rowing machine.
We were able to take on 30 minute programmes that included interval training, hill based training and heart rate training and found them to be an enjoyable, if somewhat gruelling experience.
Our tester found this rower to be very stable and even when really pushing hard with each stroke the base stayed firmly on the ground. It is important to have it on a completely level surface though.
Folding the JTX Freedom Air rower is as simple as lifting the rear of the unit and folding it in to its upright position. The rower is lightweight and easy to move around thanks to the transport wheels at the front.
The Freedom Air is an exceptional rowing machine for home use. It might lack the grit of a commercial rower but it has the elegance and just enough bite in its dual resistance system to allow it to play against the big boys and to offer a challenging workout. For daily or casual home use the JTX is more than up to the task and the included heart rate functionality really does mean the JTX is streets ahead of its mid-priced competition.
This is not a cheap rowing machine, but it is a quality rower available at an affordable price and when you factor in the two year home repair warranty and the 5 year frame warranty it starts to look like a very appealing investment.
Anyone looking for a high quality full body workout that is low impact on the joints but high impact in terms of cardiovascular fitness then the JTX Freedom Air Rowing Machine is a very savvy purchase.