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11 Best Rowing Machines of 2020 – Buyer Guide

Indoor rowing machines are a hugely popular piece of equipment that can provide 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.

$945.00
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$149.00
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$251.61
$399.00
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$499.98
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$644.49
$799.99
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$599.99
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$414.87
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Last updated on July 6, 2020 9:11 pm

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 word’s 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 equipment. One’s weight loss goals can be assisted greatly with the use of a rowing machine.

Best Rowing Machines on the Market

Best rowers in 2019 buyer guideNow that you are familiar with the benefits of rowing lets take a look at the best rowing machines on the market.

1. Concept2 Model D

Concept2 Model D Indoor

$945.00  in stock
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Features

  • Your purchase includes One Concept2 Indoor Rowing Machine, D Model. A Performance Monitor 5 computer, One Model D User Manual, One Performance Monitor Quick Start Guide, tools and illustrated assembly instructions
  • Rowing machine dimensions: Assembled: 8 ft x 2 ft (244 cm x 61 cm) With Clearance for Use: 9 ft x 4 ft (274 cm x 122 cm) For Storage: 25 in x 33 in x 54 in (63.5 cm x 83.8 cm x 137.2 cm).
  • Designed to fit most users: 14-inch seat height, 500lb user capacity, adjustable footrests and ergonomic handle. Users with an inseam of 38 inches (96.5 cm) or more may require an extra-long monorail.
  • Separates easily into two pieces for storage; caster wheels make it mobile; easy to assemble with only eight screws.
  • Track your progress with real-time reliable data; the Performance Monitor 5 (included) self-calibrates for comparable results; connect wirelessly to heart rate belts and apps (not included).

The Concept2 Model D 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’s 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 our comprehensive review of 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 that 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
  • A 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 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!

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

2. Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050

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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 resistance
  • 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 solid construction, although the aluminum center beams make 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. 

3. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515

$399.00
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Features

  • DIGITAL MONITOR - The large LCD console displays time, count, calories, total count, scan. The convenient scan mode displays your progress to assist you in tracking all your fitness goals
  • EXTRA LONG SLIDE RAIL - At 48 inches in slide rail length and 44 inches in inseam length, the SF-RW5515 can accommodate rowers of nearly any size.
  • ADJUSTABLE MAGNETIC RESISTANCE - With a simple twist, you can increase or decrease the 8 levels of magnetic resistance, so your workout can remain challenging and effective throughout your fitness journey.
  • TRANSPORTATION WHEELS - Built in transportation wheels for easy portability. Simply tilt and roll out for use or away for storage, no need for heavy lifting or muscle strain. Folded Dimensions: 37L X 19W X 53. 5H inches
  • NON-SLIP FOOT PEDALS - Textured non-slip foot pedals will ensure safe footing during the most demanding and vigorous workouts! Foot straps keep your feet saddled in so you can focus on the workout without feeling unbalanced

The SF-RW5515 is a good, basic rowing machine without the high price tag.

Sunny Health & Fitness is 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
  • 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 SF-RW5515 is quite small, assembled it is 82L x 19W x 23H in and it 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 SF-RW5515.

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.

4. Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian SF-RW5713

Sunny Health & Fitness Water

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Features

  • Your purchase includes One Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine Obsidian SF-RW5713, and One LCD Monitor
  • Rowing machine dimensions: 80” L x 22” W x 34” H. Seat dimensions: 10” L x 12” W x 2” H. Slide rail: 42”. Slide rail inseam: 38”
  • Machine is compatible with users up to 300 lbs and/or with a leg inseam less than 49”
  • Monitor can sync up with any heart rate monitor that is 5.3 KHz
  • The water creates a smooth and steady rowing experience with every stroke with instant resistance coming from the flywheel and steel fan blades, giving the user a unique experience

Another Sunny Health & Fitness Rowing Machine to make the list! The SF-RW5713 is the more upmarket rower that functions through water resistance.

Key Features

  • Water resistance
  • Lightweight yet sturdy design
  • 3 hydro blades
  • Non-slip handlebar
  • 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 appeal 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 that 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 recommends 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 Water Obsidian SF-RW5713 presents good value for money. In terms of water rowing and using water resistance to train this is one of the better cheaper options available.

5. Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower

Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower

$799.99
$644.49  in stock
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Features

  • DRUM MAGNETIC CONTROL SYSTEM – This rower features a DRM system for and electronic tensions control to produce the optimum friction needed to build muscle strength and enhance endurance
  • ALUMINUM FRAME – The sturdy aluminum frame extends outward and houses the molded padded seat to keep your lower back muscles stress free
  • HEART RATE MONITOR – Equipped with a heart rate monitor chest strap to monitor your heart rate for intense cardiovascular training and sessions
  • CONSTRUCTION – Beam: Anodized Aluminum Profile with rectangular tubing support; Maximum weight capacity is 275 pounds; Assembled dimensions are 80” length x 21” width x 25” height; Weighs 75 lbs

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 preset 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 assemble 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 a 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, a 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 its operation which is smooth and very quiet. A great purchase is, electronic adjustability with this unit is great.

6. 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 that 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.

7. Stamina 35-1402 ATS Air Rower

Stamina 35-1402 ATS

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Features

  • Wind resistance-provides efficient, smooth rowing stroke; Multi-function electronic performance monitor-displays strokes per minute, total strokes, distance, speed, time, and calories burned.
  • Sliding seat-padded and upholstered for comfort; engineered to slide easily; Large foot plates-accommodate any size user; Adjustable nylon foot straps-hold feet securely in place; Over-sized aluminum seat rail-supports smooth-sliding seat
  • Sturdy steel construction-built to last; Textured grips-keep hands stable & comfortable while rowing; Built-in wheels-ensure easy portability; Foldable frame-makes storage simpler
  • Nylon rowing strap-chosen for strength; Floor protectors-safeguard your workout area & prevent skidding
  • Angled seat rail-enables easy seat return

When rowing, you need to take a comfortable position, so you have less impact on the body. A quality padded seat is an essential factor to consider. The Stamina 35-1402 ATS has a sliding seat with padding to ensure comfort and safety.

Key Features

  • Wide resistance
  • Multi-function monitor
  • Sliding seat
  • Large footplates
  • Adjustable nylon foot straps
  • Aluminum seat rails
  • Steel construction
  • Built-in wheels
  • Foldable design
  • Angles seat rail

When starting, you need a machine that can support your weight and you pull and release. This particular one comes with an aluminum seat rail that ensures a smooth sliding action. Also, it has textured footplates that are non-slip to ensure you can safely land the feet. With the adjustable foot straps, you can secure the feel properly before exercise.

The machine can be a useful tool for full body and cardiovascular workouts. It features a wide range of resistance where you can structure a workout depending on your activity levels. For a more challenging workout, you can pull harder and advance your training. This provision makes the machine a suitable choice for both beginners and trainers.

After your workout, you want to ensure that the machine is easy to store. This Stamina model comes with built-in wheels that come in handy when you need to transport it into another room for storage. Also, it can be folded to suit tight storage spaces around the home.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Variety of resistance levels
  • Comfortable seat
  • Adjustable foot straps
  • High-resolution display
  • Oversized foot pedals

Cons

  • Requires regular tightening

This rowing machine is ideal for people looking for a tool that offers a variety of resistance levels for both simple and challenging workouts.

8. First Degree Fitness Fluid Rower

First Degree Fitness Fluid

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Features

  • Max User Weight: 140kg (300lb)

The First Degree utilizes patented adjustable fluid resistance technology which allows it to control and adjust from light to challenging. This gives you a wide range of applications for different workout needs.

Key Features

  • Multi-level computer
  • USB port
  • Height adjustable footplates
  • Padded seat
  • Improved pulley system
  • Flexible fluid resistance technology

The water-based system of this rowing machine delivers a smooth yet consistent level of resistance. With this one, you can enjoy your workout without any dead spots or excessive load points. The fluid resistance tank of the rower is nearly silent, so you can comfortably use it at home.

The rowing machine features an advanced computer monitor that provides accurate feedback during use. Also, it has an ergonomically designed seat that rides on precision bearings and rollers. This ensures smoothness, upgraded footboard, and advanced heel support. With the soft grip handle, you ease the stress on your hands for a comfortable workout session.

The machine has height adjustable footplates to suit individual needs. The plates are fitted with straps to ensure proper positioning and securing of the feet. For storage, it comes in an upright storage design which allows it to fit small workout spaces around the home.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Provides a wide range of resistance
  • High-quality construction
  • Lightweight to carry

Cons

  • Foot straps require regular tightening

The First Degree is ideal for regular users that need a simple yet consistent machine for full-body workouts.

9. Stamina 35-1215 Orbital

Stamina 35-1215 Orbital

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Features

  • Compact rowing machine with full range-of-motion rowing that mimics rowing on the water
  • Smooth hydraulic cylinder resistance; adjustable tension controls
  • Single button monitor shows speed, distance, time, row count, calories burned, and miles rowed
  • Thick, padded seat; pivoting foot plates;Assembled size: 48 inches long x 32.5 inches wide x 27.75 inches high
  • Some assembly required; 5-year warranty on frame, 90 days on parts

One of the qualities of the Stamina 35-1215 is the compact size with a full range of motion. The design of this rowing machine mimics rowing on the water which makes it quite useful in different workouts.

Key Features

  • Deluxe ball bearing roller system
  • Adjustable tension controls
  • Thick-padded seat
  • Pivoting footplates
  • Multi-function monitor
  • Smooth hydraulic cylinder resistance

This rower is a suitable option for small workout space. It comes in a compact size which makes it easy to store. The rowing machine features a multi-functional fitness monitor that keeps the motivation going as you track the progress. It shows speed, distance, stroke count, time, and calories burned. The display helps you to focus on what works for you and show where you need to advance for better results.

The machine has a smooth hydraulic cylinder resistance which provides you with different workout levels. With this machine, you can increase the bean incline for a more challenging workout. This feature makes it a suitable choice for starters that want to advance quickly and get the most out of their workouts. It has pivoting footplates and a padded seat for comfort.

Pros

  • Easy to put together
  • Great value for money
  • Perfect for starters
  • High-quality construction
  • Comfortable seat

Cons

  • Lays low to the floor

This Stamina model is a perfect choice for someone looking for an affordable starter rower.

10. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5639

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5639

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Features

  • Extended weight capacity of 350 lbs
  • 12 Levels of adjustable resistance and LCD digital displays-scan, time, count, calorie, total count
  • Full motion arms allows for larger range of motions for the shoulders
  • Fully padded seat and non-slip grip handlebars provide optimal comfort and support
  • Large anti-slip foot pedals with adjustable foot straps for secure footing

The maximum weight capacity of a rowing machine is an essential factor to keep in mind. The Sunny Health & Fitness rower has an extended weight capacity of 350lbs to suit heavy people without compromising on the quality.

Key Features

  • 12 resistance levels
  • Hydraulic cylinder resistance
  • LCD digital display
  • Full-motion arms
  • Fully-padded seat
  • Non-grip handlebars
  • Large anti-slip foot pedals
  • Foot Straps

The rower comes with a digital monitor which helps you to track your progress. It shows the time and counts to keep you focused on achieving your target. With the convenient scan mode, you can choose to have the parameters repeated continuously.

The hydraulic rower works with fluid for resistance. It has one piston which includes cylinders that are filled with hydraulic fluid which creates resistance as you pull back. When pulling, you will exert energy which will get your heart pumping for a productive workout.

The rowing machine has foot pedals that are textured for a non-slip quality. They accommodate all sizes, and the grip ensures safe footing during the workout. The foot straps come in handy to ensure your feet are secure and balanced as you pull. The extra padding on the seat provides comfort during the workout.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Comfortable to use for long hours
  • Sturdy construction
  • Comfortable seat
  • Variety of resistance levels

Cons

  • Cylinder gets hot after long workouts

The Sunny Health Rowing Machine is ideal for regular short exercises.

11. ProForm 440R Rower

ProForm 440R

$414.87  in stock
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Features

  • Integrated dual action strength training
  • Oversized pivoting pedals with adjustable nylon foot straps
  • Space saver design

Advance your fitness levels with the Proform 440R Rower. It is designed for everyone that needs a machine that works efficiently on full-body workouts.

Key Features

  • Large LCD monitor
  • Pivoting pedal
  • Adjustable foot strap
  • Eight resistance levels
  • Ergonomic handle
  • Molded cushioned seat
  • Aluminum seat rail

The ProForm 440R helps you to combine cardio with strength training. It enables you to reach your fitness goals with a single machine. It comes with eight resistance levels which range from light to heavy. You can advance with time by setting more challenging workouts.

With the soft ergonomic handle, you can comfortably work out. It is non-slip and helps to cut down fatigue and ease the pressure exerted on your wrist when you pull. With oversized seat rail, you have better support as you pull. It is lightweight and made from durable material to last long.

The rower comes with a large LCD monitor which helps to measure the progress of your training. You can track the strokes per minute, total strokes, distance, time, and the calories burned. With the pivoting pedal and adjustable foot strap, you can increase the stability while ensuring your feet remain in a secure position.

Pros

  • Comfortable for long workouts
  • Great resistance
  • Great value for money
  • Smooth operation and minimal noise
  • Perfect for beginners

Cons

  • Installation takes a while

The ProForm 440R is an ideal choice for someone on a budget but looking for a stable and practical rower for regular workouts.

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 lightweight at high reps.female and two males using rowing machines

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 work out 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 digital 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.older man using a rowing machine in a gym

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 ones 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 a 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, 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. Couple on rowing machines in the gymAlthough 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 including your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings but they also work out 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 an 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 unnecessary 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.

man using a rowing machineFitness 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 by 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!

In addition, consider the following articles by Fitness Equipment Reviews:

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.

Concept2 Model D Indoor with PM5
9.8
Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050
9
Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5515
9.2
Sunny Health & Fitness Water
9.3
Velocity Exercise
9.5
Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower
9.4
Stamina 35-1402 ATS
9.4
First Degree Fitness Fluid Rower
9.6
Stamina 35-1215 Orbital
9.3
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5639
9.3
ProForm 440R
9.4
User Rating: 4.69 (36 votes)
Jason

Jason was a former bodybuilder who dedicated a significant part of his life to the sport. Although now retired from the competitive bodybuilding World, he still coaches a select few clients and is a full-time health advocate to the readers here at Fitness Equipment Reviews!

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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