Thrifty Fitness with the Kettler Kadett Rowing Machine
by Rhian Hunt
Humanity’s long history with water and boating has led to the creation of one of the major types of modern exercise equipment – the rowing machine. For millennia, rowing was one of the two ways of powering a vessel, the other being sails. Countless generations of sailors labored at the oars of boats ranging in size from rowboats and skiffs to huge merchant and war galleys, without ever realizing that the muscles they were building at their daily tasks would be the inspiration for a dry-land exercise in the age of engine-powered boats that eventually emerged.
So now, when the era of muscle and sail-powered boats is past, rowing has found a new lease on life by helping people lose weight, increase their fitness, and strengthen their hearts. I am intrigued by this adaptation of seafaring techniques to home fitness application for ‘landlubbers,’ especially since this powerful form of exercise and weight loss was formerly inaccessible to anyone lacking a boat.
Many rowing machines are now on the market. Some, such as the Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine, are top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art models which are finely designed and built to top-quality standards, but which also carry a hefty price tag. Knowing how not everyone can afford a huge investment in their fitness, but that nearly everyone needs some kind of fitness aid in this time of sedentary jobs, I went in search of a solid, workmanlike model of rowing machine for the thrifty exerciser – and found it in the Kettler Kadett, an outrigger-style rowing machine.
The Basics of an Affordable Rowing Machine
Somewhat resembling the abstract, silver metal sculpture of a dragonfly when fully extended, the Kettler Kadett Outrigger-Style Rowing Machine is an entry-level rowing machine for those whose budgets are limited, but who want to gain the health benefits of rowing without needing to make time-consuming and inconvenient trips to the gym. My initial impression of the Kadett is that is a lower-cost alternative that offers good-quality exercise at the price of being less durable than the more expensive models, and further investigation has confirmed this impression.
The Kettler Kadett features a comfortable contoured seat mounted on a central beam, a pair of ‘oars’ placed in the outrigger position, a computerized monitor for information tracking, and footrests with straps for a secure and comfortable pull. Like the more expensive Concept2 Model D, the Kettler Kadett Rowing Machine stands out from the competition by offering smooth, natural rowing motions in which each ‘stroke’ flows into the next, rather than each starting from a complete stop. This means that the Kadett stresses the joints less and can be used for a longer period, and that the rowing experience is similar to rowing on actual water.
The Kadett’s oars can be set to one of 12 levels of resistance, with resistance offered by a magnetic braking system (meaning that there are no physical brake pads to wear out). The computer display provides the expected information – time, number of oar strokes, distance ‘rowed,’ speed of strokes, and heart rate (via an earlobe heart-rate monitor which is unfortunately not wireless – although use of a different heart rate monitor is wise in any case, as will be explained in a moment).
Users should note that an outrigger stroke is necessary with the Kadett, rather than the usual rowing stroke, which will not work with the machine. As with all rowing machines, most of the body’s major muscle groups are included in the workout, providing a well-rounded exercise session.
More details and specifications
One interesting detail of the Kadett’s computer monitor that intrigued me is that you can program the device to track for a specific distance covered and speed of strokes, and the computer will give you an audible or visual warning (the user can choose which) when the speed of strokes leaves the desired limits, and when the distance covered is attained.
The Kettler Kadett has a footprint of slightly less than 3 by 4 feet when fully extended. Initial assembly requires around 90 minutes, so time should be budgeted appropriately. The rowing machine can support up to 250 pounds, and is mostly built out of metal tubing, with rubber shoes to protect the floor and provide a firm seating on the substrate. The construction is sturdy and long-lasting. Unlike some cheaper models, which have
What limits does the Kettler Kadett have relative to more expensive systems?
As with most matters, the relatively low price of the Kettler Kadett Rowing Machine involves some trade-offs. By buying the Kettler Kadett, you are getting a fairly inexpensive way to build your fitness, increase your cardiac health, and possibly lose weight (depending on your goals and food intake), while accepting that the machine has a few limitations and foibles that more expensive equivalents do not have.
Mostly obviously, the earlobe pulse meter, besides trailing wires inconveniently across the user’s face, is, according to some customers, wildly inaccurate, showing pulse rates far lower than the actual rates once the heartbeat is over 100 per minute. Such inaccuracy could be dangerous, since the machine would not warn the user of perilously-high heart rates. This is easily remedied with a pulse monitor from another source, of which many excellent examples are now on the market, but a better built-in monitor would have been a pleasant addition to the machine.
Initial assembly is made more difficult by the instructions – which are completely without words – and the fact that the parts are labeled in German rather than English. However, the process is somewhat eased by the fact that all assembly tools except an Allen wrench are included in the kit, and because there is ultimately only one way the rowing machine can be put together.
Where Can I get the Kettler Kadett Outrigger Rowing Machine?
The best combination of price, free shipping, and customer service that I found is on Amazon.