Best Rowing Machines 2018 – Buyer Guide

Indoor rowing machines are a hugely popular piece of equipment that can provide an excellent cardio, strengthening and toning workout. Having your own home rowing machine is a great way to push yourself and are really great for burning calories and building muscle with very little to no impact.

Rowing machines come in a variety of shapes and styles but there is something for everyone and every budget type.Like many things for the best quality you can expect to pay a premium but there are also great budget machines that work well too.

Regardless of your current athletic ability and fitness a rowing machine is a great place to start and workouts can be tailored to suit a complete novice to a seasoned athlete.

In the following post we highlight the best rowing machine reviews and break them down in terms of value for money. As well as providing detailed comparisons we also cover the benefits of rowing as well as key considerations when purchasing a rowing machine.

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Benefits of Rowing

There are many benefits of rowing but it is important to consult with your doctor for sound medical advice specific to you and your body before starting any exercise regime.

The are many benefits to rowing such as increased cardiovascular fitness, muscle toning and weight loss. In addition to this other benefits include (but are not limited to):

  1. Low impact exercise 
    Rowing is great for anyone with joint pain and is highly recommended as an exercise for post knee surgery patients. There is very little pressure on the joints as the rowing is performed in one fluid motion meaning no jolting or sudden pressure on the joints. Don’t confuse the words low impact with low intensity. Rowing can be as intense or as easy as you make it!
  2. Upper Body Workout
    The upper body is thoroughly worked out when using the rowing machine. One can expect to work the rhomboids (shoulders), trapezii (upper back) and lats (lower back) muscles. So those are the directly targeted muscles but in addition the hands, wrists and arms get a workout too as well as the biceps and your core.
  3. Lower Body Workout
    Many rowers consider rowing to be a lower body or leg workout which to the average person seems strange! The quadriceps (upper front thighs), calves and buttocks get a strong workout! As the legs are the largest muscle group one working out these muscles provides a very strong workout to help you burn more calories.
  4. Effective Cardio Workout
    Working out on a rowing machine definitely gets the heart rate up. By tweaking the resistance you have the power to essentially control the heart rate zone and your workout. There are countless benefits to cardio workouts and one can expect to see a huge jump in your overall health by incorporating cardio.
  5. Weight Loss
    A rowing machine workout is said to burn 600 calories an hour on average. If we compare the calorie burn rate this is significantly higher than many other exercise equipments. Ones weight loss goals can be assisted greatly with the use of a rowing machine.

Best Rowing Machines on the Market

Now that you are familiar with the benefits of rowing lets take a look at the best rowing machines on the market.

1. Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

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Features

  • Unique, full-range-of-motion rowing mimics being on the water
  • Multi-function electronic monitor to keep you motivated
  • Comfortable molded seat
  • Adjustable, hydraulic cylinder resistance for a smooth rowing stroke
  • Foldable arms for compact storage

The Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 is a very simple design made for tight or limited spaces. Compact, this rower will fit into just about any space, schedule and budget.

Key Features

  • Hydraulic resistnace
  • Two handles/arms as opposed to one handle
  • Full range of motion
  • Electronic monitor included
  • Comfortable seat included
  • Adjustable hydraulic cylinder resistance
  • Textured footplates
  • Foam padded handlebars
  • Space saving
  • Steel frame construction

In terms of value for money this is the most affordable model when it comes to home rowers. The steel frame offers a solid construction, although the aluminum center beams makes it light enough to move around, fold up and store.

This rower may appear to be quite small in comparison with others in this range, although don’t let that dissuade you – this machine will still provide a solid workout.

The resistance is hydraulic which can be adjusted via a manual control knob to increase or decrease the intensity as needed.

Dimensions of this rower are 23.5″ H x 21″ W x 46″ L. Also included with the rower is a multi function fitness monitor which really puts the cherry on top for this price so to speak.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Computer included
  • Ideal for compact workout spaces
  • One year frame warranty

Cons

  • Parts are only guaranteed for 90 days

This rower comes with many great Amazon customer reviews and in this price range the Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 is a good buy. 

2. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine Rower

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine

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Features

  • Magnetic tension System with (8) levels of adjustable resistance
  • Large LCD console displays time, count, calories, total count, Scan
  • Fully padded seat and non-slip grip handlebars for optimal comfort
  • Large anti-slip foot pedals with adjustable foot straps
  • Built in transportation wheels for easy portability; maximum user weight 250 lbs

The Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine is a good, basic rowing machine without the high price tag.

Sunny Health & Fitness are a very reputable brand in the fitness equipment industry. There are many great features of this machine so let’s take a more detailed look.

Key Features

  • Adjustable resistance – 8 levels
  • Magnetic tension system
  • Comfortable seat
  • Non-slip, grip handlebars
  • Handle attached by webbing for smooth function
  • Large foot pedals
  • LCD console
  • Transportation wheels
  • Relatively small footprint
  • Quiet machine
  • Max user weight 250lbs

The LCD console is quite small and displays stroke, time and calories. The downside to this machine is that it doesn’t show distance rowed.

Personally I give myself a distance to achieve and then work towards. So for me, the computer is a bit of a let down to this rowing machine.

The footprint of the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine is quite small, assembled it is 82L x 19W x 23H in and is easy to move with the transport wheels and store if you don’t have a permanent space. 

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Small footprint
  • Easy and fast to assemble
  • Quiet

Cons

  • LCD screen doesn’t display distance rowed.
  • Monitor is small

In terms of value for money you really can’t overlook the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine.

It is one of the cheaper ones on the market yet it still has many great features and is high quality.If you are looking for something that can handle a very rigorous workout then this machine is not for you.

Personally, I prefer my LCD computer to display more information but you could always look at upgrading this in the future.

3. Stamina ATS Air Rower 1399

Stamina ATS Air Rower 1399

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Features

  • Wind-resistance rowing machine with multi-function performance monitor
  • Monitor displays speed, distance, time, and calories burned
  • Padded, upholstered seat; large footplates for any size user; over-sized, angled seat rail for smooth sliding
  • Folds for storage; built-in wheels for portability; floor protectors prevent skidding
  • Three-year frame warranty; 90-day parts warranty Assembled size-77" long x 18" wide x 22" tall

Next up is the Stamina ATS Air Rower. This rowing machine is a air/wind-resistance machine that presents great value for money.

Key Features

  • Wind resistance machine
  • Multi-function monitor
  • Comfortable seat
  • Large footplates
  • Folds away well
  • Transportation wheels
  • 3 year frame warranty, 90 day parts warranty

The monitor on the Stamina ATS Air Rower shows speed, distance, time and calories burned. Although the monitor is a little difficult to see it displays key information to the workout.

Assembled the rowing machine is 77” long x 18″ wide x 22″ tall and is easy enough to fold, move and store. 

As this is an air resistance machine to increase the intensity of your workout simply increase the speed of your rowing stroke. The machine adjusts accordingly.

Pros

  • Price
  • Easy to store – small footprint
  • Wind resistance that adjusts to your rowing stroke
  • LCD monitor displays key information
  • 3 year frame warranty

Cons

  • Parts warranty only 90days

While the Stamina ATS Air Rower won’t compare to those in the gym or the more expensive models it still performs well.

Although the frame of the rowing machine comes with a 3 year warranty my concern is with the parts warranty only being 90 days.

Overall for the price, this machine has all the basic features one looks for in a rowing machine.

4. Stamina | X Air Rower

Stamina | X Air Rower

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Features

  • Durable rowing chain; Air resistance
  • Steel frame construction; Molded Seat; Padded rowing handle; Pivoting Foot Plates
  • Foldable and built-in wheels for easy storage. Some assembly required

The Stamina X Air Rower is a more attractive model than the previous and is still suitable for those who are budget restricted.

Key Features

  • Durable
  • Comfortable construction
  • Air resistance
  • Foldable with wheels
  • Steel frame construction
  • Pivoting foot plates
  • Adjustable seat rail
  • Padded rowing handle
  • Higher quality with better rowing capabilities than other Stamina models

This rower is tough, durable and ready to work as hard as you can make it. Made with a steel frame and durable rowing chain this rower will see you through workouts time and time again.

Incorporated into the design is pivoting footplates along with an adjustable angled seat rail. This rower uses air resistance which is quite noisy but means you can work as hard or as little as you’d like.

Possibly one of the best features of the Stamina X is that it folds compactly for storage purposes so if you are limited on space then consider this model!

Also included is a multi functional computer where you can track your progress and it also displays distance, calories burned, speed, time, number of strokes and strokes per minute.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Strong design
  • Ideal for even tall users
  • Compact frame that folds for easy storage
  • Comfort seat and handles
  • Pivoting foot plates for more comfort
  • Double rowing chain

Cons

  • Some assembly is required
  • A bit more expensive than some of the older models
  • Fan is a bit loud

Overall the Stamina X Air Rower is great value for money and only slightly more than the Stamina ATS model. Adjustable and easy to use this rower is durable and designed to last.

5. Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine Obsidian SF-RW5713

Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine Rower

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Features

  • WATER PERFORMANCE: Row on the water in the comfort of your home. The water creates a smooth and steady rowing experience with every stroke. Instant resistance is available with the flywheel and steel fan blades. The faster the fan blades spin the higher resistance and dynamic response caused by the harmonious interaction with the water, giving the user a unique experience.
  • DESIGN: Constructed with light weight sturdy steel, for solid performance and durability. The 3 Hydro Blades mimic the dynamic movements of competitive rowing. Non- slip HD handle bar is sweat resistant and wide enough to accommodate different hand widths. Tear resistant mesh belt withstands the stress of repeated pulling. Keep the rower sturdy and level with the adjustable leveling end caps.
  • ERGO-EFFICIENT: Molded padded seat is designed to be comfortable and functional. High-profile seat design is 17 inches from the ground, which allows user to get on and off the seat without bending and straining your back. Non-slip foot pedals with durable nylon Velcro straps keep feet secure. Foot pads pivot to allow more freedom of the foot and ankle to ensure optimal rowing mechanics.
  • FITNESS TECHNOLOGY: The R2 Fitness Meter is designed to accurately track all essential workout metrics i.e. Total Time, 500 m Time, SPM, Total Strokes, Calories, HR, Ambient Temperature, and more. R2 Fitness Meter allows the user to tailor a personalized workout or use the built preprogrammed features. Wireless connection with a compatible heart rate strap
  • SPACE EFFICIENT: High density non-marking rubber wheels perfect for easy transport and store upright when not in use. Recommended to be placed upright against the wall for storage.

Another Sunny Health & Fitness Rowing Machineto make the list! This machine is the more upmarket rower that functions through water resistance.

Key Features

  • Water resistance
  • Lightweight yet sturdy design
  • 3 hydro blades
  • Non-slip handle bar
  • Mesh belt
  • Comfortable seat
  • Large foot pedals with velcro straps
  • Monitor to display key information
  • Transportation wheels
  • 3 year warranty
  • Max user weight 250lbs

The water resistance feature of the Obsidian Water Surge Machine gives the user a similar experience to rowing on the water. This is achieved with the three hydro blades which appeals to many rowers who prefer to train in a real or similar environment.

In terms of use and getting on and off the seat is actually a high profile design and is about 17 inches off the ground. Many customers agree this is a strong positive!

Included is a monitor which tracks and displays all the key metrics you’d want to know. This includes total time, SPM, strokes, calories and distance.

In addition this rowing machine is easy to store, it has non-marking rubber transport wheels and measures 78.74L x 22.05W x 33.46H with a total weight of 82lbs.

Sunny Health & Fitness recommend it to be stored upright against a wall when not in use.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Water resistance
  • Easy to transport
  • Good monitor
  • Smooth rowing

Cons

  • It is a new item that is yet to have consistent feedback

For those with a bit more of a budget the Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine Obsidian SF-RW5713 presents good value for money. In terms of a water rowing and using water resistance to train this is one of the better cheaper options available.

6. Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower

Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower

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Features

  • Resistance: DMC System (Drum Magnetic Control)
  • Electronic tension control
  • Large PU molded saddle & Foldable and space saving.Polyurethane Molded Saddle
  • The machine comes equipped with a heart rate monitor chest strap to monitor your heart rate for intense cardio training
  • Beam: Anodized Aluminum Profile + rectangular tubing support.The maximum weight capacity for the Rower is 275lbs

The Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower uses a Drum Magnetic Control system as well as electronic tension control to easily adjust the resistance level.

Key Features

  • Magnetic resistance
  • Electronic tension control
  • Comfortable seat
  • Foldable
  • Heart rate monitor chest strap included
  • Sturdy frame
  • Available in black or grey

The computer included with this rower displays all the vital information including rowing time, strokes per minute, distance, calories burned, heart rate as well as 12 programs. The 12 programs include 6 pre set workouts as well as 1 manual program.

Measuring in at 25.2″ H x 20.1″ W x 80.3″ L this rower is easy to fold away and store. This rower is also relatively easy to assembly with the instruction manual provided. There are very few loose parts to put together which makes the process quite fast.

The Drum  Magnetic Control system is ideal for those needing a quiet to silent machine. Very quiet and smooth to operate the electronic controls further add to the ease of use.

Non-slip foot pads allow for maintaining correct posture during use and the ergonomically designed seat add to the comfort. This unit has a user weight capacity of 275 pounds.

Included with the purchase is a 5 year warranty on the frame, 90 day warranty on the computer and 30 days on all other parts.

Pros

  • Smooth and quiet to use
  • Folds up
  • Easy to assemble
  • Two colors to choose from
  • Comfortable seat
  • LCD display

Cons

  • Short time span for the warranty is a little concerning

Overall the Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower uses Drum Magnetic Control for it’s operation which is smooth and very quiet. A great purchase the electronic adjustability with this unit is great.

7. Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower

Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower

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Features

  • Combination rowing machine and recumbent exercise bike for total body workouts
  • Rower allows additional upper body strengthening exercises, including bicep curls, triceps kickbacks and forearm curls
  • Machine also doubles as a leg press when you attach the rowing handle to the seat hook
  • New, sleek multi-function electronic monitor with a larger LCD display for easier reading; tracks speed, distance, time, calories burned, and pulse
  • Hand pulse sensor built into grips to measure heart beats per minute

Another Stamina product, the Conversion II Recumbent Rower also doubles as a recumbent bike which really is excellent value. More than these two pieces the rowing handlebar is positioned in such a way that it can be used for bicep curls and shoulder exercises too. A multi functional piece of equipment for the home gym!

Key Features

  • Combination rowing machine and recumbent exercise bike for total body workouts
  • Rower can be used for upper body workouts
  • Large LCD display
  • Hand pulse sensor in the grips
  • Sturdy steel and aluminum construction
  • 8 levels of magnetic resistance
  • Foldable design
  • Transport wheels for ease of storage
  • Two color options to choose from

The steel and aluminum design makes this a durable rower and exercise bike, with the extruded beam to ensure stability while in use. This along with the low center of gravity further enhances the stability.

Once assembled the unit measures 75.5″ L x 20″ W x 27″ H and has a weight of 102 pounds. Assembling this unit is not overly difficult to do but it will take some time. Included is an illustrated manual which provides a step by step guide.

Easily folded, this rower/bike can be stored fairly quickly with the casters built into it. The computer included with the machine is very basic and lacking all the features you would expect for this price range.

Pros

  • 3 in 1 machine
  • Two colors to choose from
  • Easy to assemble, transport and store
  • Magnetic resistance

Cons

  • Computer lacking in features
  • Seat not too comfortable

Overall the Conversion II Recumbent Rower offers great value in terms of getting 3 for 1 in terms of equipment. This machine comes in two different color options and is a stable, well built piece of equipment.

8. NordicTrack RW200 Rower

NordicTrack RW200 Rower

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Features

  • Adjustable console angle; inertia enhanced flywheel; adjustable air resistance
  • Oversized steel seat rail; ergonomic molded seat; oversized pivoting pedals with adjustable nylon foot straps
  • Watts backlit display; Ipod Compatible audio (2-2 in. Speakers); readouts - watts, strokes per minute; total strokes, time, calories, distance
  • Space saver design. 250 lb. User capacity
  • 5 year frame Warranty. 1 year parts and Labor Warranty

The Nordic Track RW200 Rower is a manually adjustable air resistance rower. Nordic Track have a great reputation with fitness equipment and this machine is no exception.

Key Features

  • Excellent computer
  • Nordic Track SpaceSaver Series
  • Inertia enhanced flywheel
  • Adjustable and comfortable to use

Adjustable and ergonomic this indoor rowing machine is comfortable and smooth to use. it is air resistance though so be aware that there will be some noise.

Measuring in at 84.75″ L x 22″ W x 43.5″ H this machine has a maximum user weight of 250 pounds. Falling into the Nordic Track space saver category, this rower folds easily for storage after your workout.

The computer included with this rower is quite impressive. There is a large display which presents the statistics from your workout. Backlit it is easy to read even in low light situations.

Data displayed includes watts, strokes per minute, total strokes, time, calories, distance and energy expenditure in live time. In addition there are 20 built in workouts that have been designed by personal trainers.

The computer is also iPod compatible as well as the ability to plug in any MP3 device to listen to music through the dual two inch built in speakers.

Pros

  • Excellent value for money
  • Easy to fold and store
  • 20 programmed workouts
  • Adjustable and comfortable
  • Good warranty

Cons

  • Air resistance is quite noisy

The Nordic Track RW200 Rower is a quality indoor rowing machine that offers excellent usability and features. Ergonomic and adjustable, the rower is comfortable and smooth to operate.  Warranty included with the purchase is 5 years on the frame, 1 year on parts & labor and Nordic Track also offer a 30 day money back guarantee.

9. Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine (Black) with PM5

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Features

  • Indoor rowing is an effective full-body, low-impact workout; Flywheel design minimizes noise while maximizing a smooth feel
  • Includes the Performance Monitor 5, giving you accurate, comparable data for every row; Adjustable monitor arm
  • 14-inch seat height, nickel-plated chain, adjustable footrests and ergonomic handle
  • Easily separates into two pieces for storage. Caster wheels make it mobile
  • Requires footprint of 9 x 4 feet; 500-pound capacity; 5-year frame warranty

The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine is a personal favorite. This machine, although once of the more expensive items on the list is well worth the price.

Arguably it is the most popular rowing machine on the market.

Key Features

  • Smooth to use 
  • Quiet
  • Performance monitor
  • Comfortable seat, large footrests
  • Ergonomic handle
  • Separates into two for storage
  • Small footprint
  • Max user weight of 500 pound
  • 5 year warranty

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machines are used by competitive rowers worldwide as an indoor training method.

The rowing machine has been designed and built to last but offers a 5 year warranty for buyer peace of mind.

If you like to push the limits of your workouts then this machine can handle it. Check out the comprehensive review I wrote about the Concept 2 Rowing Machine.

A spiral damper allows the user to adjust the airflow to the flywheel putting you in control of your stroke and preference. The flywheel makes it quiet and smooth to use.

Included is a monitor which tracks all the key metrics you need including – distance, speed, pace, calories burned, and watts.

The monitor is also backlit and automatically starts when you begin rowing. Many people love the monitor and all the extra features it includes such as preset workouts, games, and it’s even available in multiple languages.

Another great feature is the ability to transfer the data collected to your computer via a USB (sold separately) and you can pair via bluetooth with compatible heart rate monitors.

Pros

  • Available in light gray or black
  • Sturdy, well built rowing machine
  • 5 year warranty
  • Easy to store
  • Many features with the monitor.

Cons

  • Price

The only negative thing we can say about the Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine is the price and the fact that not everyone can afford to have this machine. It really is worth the money if your budget does allow!

This machine can handle a solid workout, the fact that it is used by athletes says it all.

10. WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine in Ash Wood with S4 Monitor

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine in Ash Wood with S4 Monitor

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Features

  • Handcrafted rowing machine with "water flywheel" that replicates actual rowing feel
  • Flywheel sits in enclosed water tank to provide smooth, quiet, self-regulated resistance
  • Series 4 performance monitor tracks workout intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, and more
  • Solid ash and stained honey oak construction absorbs sound and vibration
  • Stores upright; measures 84 x 21 x 22 inches (W x H x D) and weighs 117 pounds

The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine looks good and works well too. This is the more expensive rowing machine on the list but lets read on for the features, pros and cons.

Key Features

  • Handcrafted rowing machine
  • Water flywheel
  • Solid ash and stained honey oak wood construction
  • Performance monitor to track key workout metrics
  • Relatively small footprint and stores easily
  • No maintenance machine

The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine has been designed to replicated natural rowing as best as possible. The flywheel itself is inside the water tank which provides a very quiet yet very smooth rowing experience.

The great thing with the water rower is that it adjusts the resistance with your rowing stroke. Want a more intense resistance? Increase your stroke. The faster you go the drag is increased and resistance increased too.

The monitor includes six information and programming windows. Six QuickSelection buttons and three navigation buttons.

In addition it also displays your workout intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, zone bar, duration, and distance.

If you like to use a Heart Rate monitor this machine is also compatible.

Aesthetically speaking this rowing machine is one of the nicer ones out there. It will easily fit into your home and is easily stored upright if you don’t have a permanent spot for it.

It measures 84 x 21 x 22 inches (W x H x D) and has a total weight of 117pounds. The wood construction also helps to absorb sound and vibrations. 

Perhaps the most interesting feature that sets this rowing machine apart is that there are no moving parts. This means the machine can’t wear out over time.

It is essentially a no maintenance machine as the recoil belt and pulleys don’t need lubricating or maintaining either.

Pros

  • Easy to assemble
  • Very quiet
  • Looks good
  • Performs well
  • Smooth and fluid rowing- similar to on the water

Cons

  • Price

This machine has excellent reviews and performs exceptionally well. If you are trying to decide between the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine and the Concept2 then it’s a hard decision! I don’t think you can go wrong with either choice.

The WaterRower will look great in your home or workout area and is exceptionally quiet. It can withstand a solid workout and tracks key data from your workout.

As the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine has no moving parts it is a no maintenance rower which appeals to many.

Reasons to Start Rowing

Muscles Targeted

Rowing is a full body workout, which may come as a surprise to many new to the sport. There are 9 major muscle groups worked which include:

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Lats
  • Core
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Biceps
  • Back

This means rowing is not only excellent for cardiovascular health but also for strengthening and toning of the muscles listed.

Injury Prevention

Due to the nature of rowing – low impact, this is a great way to build strength especially for injury prevention but also for rehabilitation following an injury. For those who have worn knees and hips that can’t handle the pounding impact of running, rowing is a great alternative.

Easy to Learn the Sport

A somewhat simplistic sport, with the correct technique and right form working out can be very enjoyable. The great thing with rowing is that even if your form is not 100% the risk of injury is very low. Basically, you can sit on the machine and get started. We recommend watching a YouTube video to at least familiarize yourself with the basic techniques but if not, you can’t really go wrong.

Control your Workout Pace

With rowing machines setting the pace and intensity of workouts is easily achieved. Just like running offers sprints, long distance etc you can do the same with a rowing machine. There are many rowers that come with built in workouts on the computers and if not there are plenty of guides online to get you started.

Changing your stroke style will also change your workout from aerobic to strengthening. By making slow and harder strokes this could be compared with weight training low reps with high weights, whereas fast and light strokes can be compared to light weight at high reps.

Key Features to Look for When Buying a Rowing Machine

There can be an overwhelming amount of information when it comes to buying a rowing machine. Some of it very important other things not so much. The following highlights the key features we look for when comparing rowing machines.

Be sure to find a machine that has all the features you are looking for to achieve your fitness goals.

Type of Resistance

Rowing machines work on resistance but there are different types available. Types of resistance include:

  • Air resistance
  • Water resistance
  • Magnetic resistance
  • Hydraulic resistance

All of the resistance types mentioned work well, it is more a personal choice as to which you prefer!

Air Resistance

As the name suggests the resistance is powered by air pushed through the flywheel at the front. This style machine is also referred to as ergos or ergometers which is the standard model for indoor rowing. It must be noted that air resistance rowing machines are very noisy, so if you plan to workout while watching TV do not buy this style!

Having said that, air resistance machines are the most popular and are most commonly found in gyms. This style has been around since the 1980s and for this reason, many people consider them the best in the business.

So the resistance in this style machine works by with the air flowing over an internal flywheel. The flywheel is connected to the rowing handle by a chain which when pulled spins the wheel. The faster you row the faster the flywheel turns and the greater resistance.

Water Resistance

Somewhat a new technology to hit the indoor rowing machine markets, this type of machine actually uses water and paddles to create the resistance. These machines are very, very quiet and are very pleasant to use.

The water tank is situated at the front, where a flywheel would be and the tank is connected from the paddles inside the tank to the handle by a chain. The moving water creates an opposing force to the paddles and produces the resistance for your workout.

Many users agree that water rowers closely mimic the natural rowing conditions by producing a smooth and even stroke. However, as water rowers are relatively new they are quite expensive.

Magnetic Resistance

Magnetic rowers are much quieter than an air resistance rower but are much more affordable than a water rower. A great feature of magnetic resistance rowers is that they are the most compact models, so if you are tight for space or want to be able to move it easily then this type of machine would be ideal.

These machines work with magnets on the spinning flywheel which is attached to the rower handle by a chain. The resistance is adjusted via either mechanical sliders or digtial controls which can increase or decrease the resistance level.

Smooth to use and quiet magnetic rowers are a very popular choice.

Hydraulic Resistance

Hydraulic rowers are the most affordable rowers and are actually very quiet as well. The hydraulics are in the form of pistons so using one of these machines is not exactly smooth and flowing. Having said that, they may not be the best at mimicking the rowing environment but they do still provide a good workout.

The resistance in this machine is by the pistons which are attached to the handles. Pulling against the fluid or air inside the cylinder which provides the opposing force.

Noise

For home workouts the noise from the machine is a really important consideration. Especially for those who prefer to workout while watching a TV series or movie. Many rowing machines are very loud. Especially the air resistance ones.

I have been to many gyms where the sound of the rowing machine drowns out just about everything else. The noise from these machines can be overwhelming for some but for others they love the sound!

If you are looking for a quiet machine be sure to find one specifically suited to that either magnetic or water.

Storage/Footprint

The ability to pack and store your rowing machine away is high on many buyers lists. If you don’t have a dedicated workout area or space then be sure to consider a rowing machine that can be folded and stored with ease. Generally the magnetic machines are the most compact so this type of machine would be well suited to a smaller workout space.

Computer

The computers that are included with the premium branded rowing machines have a huge range of pre programmed workouts, statistical data and many other features you probably didn’t know you needed.

Nearly all rowing machines will include a computer to at least highlight the basic or vital information about your workout.

If the computer is something you value a lot but you don’t have the high budget for a premium machine, consider choosing a machine that is compatible with a top of the range computer. That way you can upgrade this feature in the future.

Either way, the computers are a great way to challenge yourself, record workouts and keep track of your fitness journey and progress.

Techniques for Correct Rowing

Learning how to use your rowing machine is the next key step after making your purchase. Although they are categorized as a cardio machine they also provide much more than that. The resistance training also works to strengthen and tone muscles which means you will definitely notice it after you’ve worked out in the following days.

An indoor rowing machine uses your legs included your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings but the also workout the arms, shoulders, abs and engage your back. Although the machine won’t offer as much resistance as say a weighted machine at the gym you will still notice these muscles the following day. The muscles worked really comes down to the muscles engaged while working out.

Rowing Machine Technique Tips

Although it is fairly intuitive, when starting out with an indoor rower knowing a few key technique tips will help you immensely.

  • Having good posture and correct form while seated and rowing is going to maximize your workout and prevent any injury.
  • Sit on the seat and secure your feet to the pads.
  • In terms of getting started begin with your back very straight and your arms extended holding onto the handle. This is referred to as the ‘catch’ phase.
  • Begin with a very low resistance until you are comfortable with the motion of rowing.
  • When it comes time to begin or to enter the ‘drive’ phase push off in a controlled way by powering through into the pads and straightening your legs.
  • Pull the cable toward your chest as opposed to on a angle.
  • In a fully extended or ‘finished’ position your legs will be fully extended, shoulders back and the bar pulled close to the upper chest with elbows bent. Be sure to keep your wrists straight to prevent any unecessary strain.
  • On the return or ‘recovery’, allow your arms to straighten and bend your knees.
  • During the return it is very important to engage the core muscles and lower back muscles to ensure they are protected.

Fitness professionals as well as health experts agree to the use of rowing machines for a solid workout and maintaining good health. Using this form of exercise offers low impact yet high intensity – if desired and really allows the user to be in control of their workout.

A near whole body workout, the large muscle groups are challenged and tested which is what one needs and wants in a home workout piece. The computers make for excellent tracking of your progress and meeting fitness goals.

In comparison with a treadmill, for example a rower offers a whole lot more at a whole lot less impact on the body. You may be surprised with just how hard a rower can kick your behind.

Bottom Line

There are many rowing machines on the market and they are a fantastic piece of equipment for getting fitter and stronger. There are many different features to consider before making your purchase so be sure to read through the detailed guide as well as rowing machine reviews and comparisons. Investing the right machine for your needs will have your workout goals met in no time! Although everyone has different workout needs and styles, the overall top pick is the Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine or the Stamina ATS Air Power for the budget restricted. When it comes down to it the best rowing machine is the one that suits your needs and budget!

9.4 Total Score

Rowing machines come in many different varieties as well as sizes and resistance types. There are many benefits to rowing so choosing the best rowing machine is going to do wonders for your health and fitness.

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine
9
Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5515
9.2
Stamina ATS Air Power
9.2
Stamina | X Air Rower
9.3
Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine Rower
9.3
Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower
9.5
Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower
9.4
NordicTrack RW200 Rower
9.7
Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine (Black) with PM5
9.8
WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine
9.7
User Rating: 5 (13 votes)
1 Comment
  1. The Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine is one of your last reviews, but in my opinion it should be number 1.

    For everyone thinking that is much too expensive, I urge you to think twice before buying a cheaper model. The old saying you get what you pay for is 100% spot on with this rowing machine.

    If you don’t believe me read the other reviews on Amazon for this rower – as of writing this there are over 1700 and they are all nearly 5 star reviews.

    The quality of this machine makes me believe it will be the last rower I ever buy and I use it most days and so does my wife.

    On top of that the brand is well known and respected so I am sure I will always have good customer service if it is needed. I doubt the other brands have this type of option.

    Just my two cents worth – Cheers!

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