Best Rowing Machines – Buyer Guide

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. In the following post we break down in terms of value for money the best rowing machines on the market. In addition we cover the benefits of rowing as well as key considerations when purchasing a rowing machine.

$216.99
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$195.30
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$469.60
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$945.00
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Last updated on February 20, 2018 4:23 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 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. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine Rower

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine

$216.99
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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 solid 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.

2. Stamina ATS Air Rower 1399

Stamina ATS Air Rower 1399

$195.30
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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 a wind 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.

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

Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine Rower

$469.60
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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 Water Rowing Machine Obsidian SF-RW5713 to 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. The 3 hyrdo blades have been designed to make the user experience as close to rowing on water as possible.

The seat is high profile and is 17 inches above the ground. This makes it easy to get in and off.

The monitor tracks and displays key metrics including: 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.

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. Many people like water resistance as it mimics the natural rowing environment.

4. Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine (Black) with PM5

$945.00
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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

The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine is 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.

The 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.

The monitor allows the user to track key metrics including: distance, speed, pace, calories burned, and watts. The monitor is backlit, automatically starts when you begin rowing and has many features such as preset workouts, games, and 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.

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

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine in Ash Wood with S4 Monitor

$1,160.00
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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 decisions! 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.

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. 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!

Noise

I have been to many gyms where the sound of the rowing machine drowns out just about everything else. Many people actually like the sound it makes while others hate it. If you are looking for a quiet machine be sure to find one specifically suited to that.

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.

Computer

Many rowing machines incorporate a computer which can share vital statistics about your workout. Really helpful for logging workouts and achieving goals.

Bottom Line

There are many rowing machines on the market and they are a fantastic piece of equipment for getting fitter and stronger. Our top pick is the Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine or the Stamina ATS Air Power for the budget restricted. We hope you found the best rowing machine article helpful!

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