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Indoor rowing machines have come a long way and there are now a variety of sleek, highly-refined pieces of exercise equipment ready to get your cardio health on the upswing. Having a rower right there in your home can really be the push you need to get your muscles moving in a challenging yet comfortable way. Overall, rowing machines provide an outstanding way to increase fitness by burning calories and building muscle in a safe, low-impact way.
If you’re on the hunt for a rowing machine for home fitness, keep in mind that there are many different styles and features that you’re going to want to consider before choosing. As always, high quality comes with a price, but there are great, reliable rowers at lower prices as well. We’ll do our best to break down all the things you need to know below. And we have included our top rower picks to help you find the best rowing machine for your needs.
Best Rowing Machines by Price
In the rowing machine category, there are a lot of models to chose from. They range in price from under $100 to well over $1500. As you can imagine, you’re getting a different type of row machine at those ends of the spectrum, but within that variety there’s something for everyone. To help guide you, we’ve listed our favorite row machine models and brands by price below:
PRICE RANGE: $50-$200:
Sunny Health and Fitness Rowing Machine– $79 – 650 Reviews
Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine – $110 – 2136 Reviews
PRICE RANGE: $200-$300:
Stamina 1215 Orbital Rowing Machine with Free Motion Arms – $215 – 327 Reviews
Stamina ATS 1399 Air Rower – $299 – 645 Reviews
ProForm 440R Rower – $300 – 137 Reviews
Kettler Favorit Rowing Machine – $399 – 130 Reviews
PRICE RANGE: $400-$800:
Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower – $549 – 154 Reviews
Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Rower – $699 – 110 Reviews
Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Bike/Rower – $799 – 89 Reviews
PRICE RANGE: $900-$1300:
Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Monitor – $945 – 1,362 Reviews
Xebex Air Rower – with Bonus Conditioning Pack – $945 – 5 Reviews
WaterRower Club Rowing Machine – $1160 – 183 Reviews
WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine in Ash Wood – $1160 – 207 Reviews
PRICE RANGE: $1300 and up:
WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 Monitor – $1560 – 47 Reviews
Our Top Rowing Machine Picks
To get more specific, here are our top picks for the best rowing machines. You can click through for more in-depth rowing machine reviews.
#1. Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine
The Concept2 Model D is the ultra-popular air rower that you’ll see at most gyms. It is one of the best home indoor rowers you can buy period. Expertly constructed and ergonomically unequaled, this rowing machine looks great and rows smoothly without so much as a jarring catch. As an air rower, the Concept2 employs air baffles to create the resistance. A nickel-plated chain pulls the flywheel and you get your workout by pulling against the increasingly higher air pressure that the fan is creating.
The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine includes the excellent PM5 monitor that provides all vital data. It can display your workout performance in two ways. You can choose to see your workout in total distance and time, or as “splits”. Splits is a way of seeing how your pace is varying along two set points. Either way is useful, but splits give you more of a “real-time”, in the moment calculation of how you are doing.
The other nice thing about the Concept2 Model D’s PM5 monitor is that is calculates drag factor. This means that you get a true measure of your workout effort no matter if any other factors change such as damper resistance adjustments or a stiff breeze comes through your workout room (not likely).
There’s a reason CrossFit enthusiasts choose the Concept 2 Model D – it’s a work horse. Click here to read the full review.Read Full Review of the Concept2 Model D
#2. WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine with S4 Monitor
This piece of finely tuned, hand-crafted, water-resistance workout equipment also sits at the top end of the rowing machine spectrum. Employing a water flywheel that helps to mimic the feel of rowing in actual water, the natural wood WaterRower Rowing Machine will bring you a smooth, yet challenging workout that is as tough as you want it to be. If rowing is one of the best exercises you can do for your body as far as natural motion with low to no-impact, then the WaterRower is one of the best machines to do it on.
The water flywheel is comprised of two paddles encased in an enclosed tank of water. As you pull the cable, the paddles move through the water creating resistance. The beauty of this machine is it uses the mass/density of water. The paddles create the drag, so the harder you pull, the more resistance increases. Think about moving your hands through water. The faster you go, the more dense water feels. The slower you go, the less you feel the resistance. And this type of resistance is excellent for your joints. Click here to read the full review.
#3. Stamina Air Rower
The Stamina ATS Air Rower is an example getting a ton of value for a low-priced rowing machine. This rower features wind resistance which creates a very smooth workout. And that’s just the beginning.
Featuring the ability to fold and with its attached roller wheels, the Stamina Air Rower is very portable and stores easily in a closet. The Air Rower includes a monitor that provides speed, stroke count, time elapsed, and calorie count.
With a sturdy steel and aluminum frame and solid construction, the Stamina ATS Air Rower comes in at a very reasonable price and is very easy to assemble in around 15 min. Click here to read the full review.Read Full Review of the Stamina ATS Air Rower
#4. Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower CHR-2001 Review
This popular rowing machine utilizes magnetic resistance for a quiet, and very smooth workout. The Velocity Exercise CHR-2001 also features a programmable computer with 12 programs that will keep your exercising varied and challenging for years. The computer also provides data on distance, time, calories burned, pulse rate, strokes per minute, and stroke count. Additionally, the tension resistance is electronically controlled via the computer. This electronic resistance control feature puts the CHR-2001 ahead of other magnetic rowers that tend to use knobs.
A nice feature is the included heart-rate monitor strap that allows you to see your pulse during intense cardio workouts.
Velocity Exercise puts a premium on comfort here with a polyurethane molded saddle seat, and magnetic drum resistance contributes to a row machine that is durable, won’t need much or any maintenance, and, as we mentioned does not create much noise in use. This makes it easy to row while watching TV or listening to music. It also means the other people in your home won’t be listening to you workout quite as much. Easy to assemble and store, the Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower CHR-2001 is a good choice for a mid-priced rower. Click here to read the full review.Read Full Review of the Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower
Rowing Machine Features to Consider
Type of Resistance
Rowing machines may all have similar designs, but where they can differ the most is in their form of providing resistance. This is where your workout is going to be the most effective. The types of resistance include:
- water resistance
- air resistance
- magnetic resistance
- piston/hydraulic resistance.
Each type of resistance has its benefits and unique rowing feel, so be sure to take that into consideration.
Comfort and Adjustability
The best rowers will have a comfortable seat, good foot pads, and some adjustability.
Some indoor rowing machines are noisier than others. But a silent machine isn’t necessarily for everyone. Some people appreciate the rushing noise as a kind of feedback that they’re working hard.Workout Space
You’re going to need a good amount of dedicated floor space in your home to comfortably and safely place your rowing machine. Rower length varies, and they are usually rather narrow, but almost all have long footprints.
As with most pieces of exercise equipment, you’re going to find that the price will vary widely between the budget level and the high end row machines. Higher priced models are made to take a lot of use and last a long time, while cheaper models can get you working out now if you’re on a budget but may need more maintenance or replacement sooner.
Max User Weight
Rowing machines can usually handle higher weight than most other exercise machines. There are less moving parts to become stressed by heavier users.
Being able to easily store your rower is a huge plus. Make sure you investigate how well the machine stores, if it folds up or comes apart easily to be able to put it in your closet, or in other storage areas. As an example, the Concept2 Model D rowing machine folds up nicely by a simple pull pin located in the middle of the rower. Wheels on the bottom allow for easy moving.
Row Computer / Monitor
Most good rowing machines come with a handy computer that tells you information such as distance, time, and calories burned. Additionally, check to see if the rower you’re looking at has the option to connect to apps so you can upload data and be able to track your progress.
Ease of Assembly
You might only have to assemble your row machine one time, but you want that one time to not be a total nightmare. Do your due diligence and make sure you’re not getting some crazy puzzle instead of a piece of exercise equipment.
As always, you’re going to want a decent warranty that covers parts and frame.
Benefits of Rowing
Rowing is a great cardiovascular workout as well as a way to strengthen most major muscle groups of the body. It’s a low-impact exercise that can be just as challenging as any higher impact exercise. It burns calories and tones the body which, in conjunction with a healthy diet, can help you lose weight.
As with any fitness activity, it’s important to exercise with proper technique, however. The big muscles in the legs are where most of the workout action should be. Injury to the lower back can occur from bending too far forward in the row. It’s best to maintain a upright 90 degree angle to the rowing machine’s seat and slider bar. Using the legs for the motion rather than relying as heavily on the back or arms can help reduce the chance of muscle pulls or other related injuries. Always check with a physician before starting any new fitness regimen.
Rowing Machines and Weight Loss
Not only does rowing allow you to improve your cardiovascular fitness and build muscle, but when you put those together, you’ve just found yourself on the path to healthy weight loss. If shedding pounds of excess fat is your goal, a rower is a great tool to help you get there.
Comparing the rowing machine to the stationary bike, the rowing machine is superior in terms of calories burned. Yet, it’s important to note that the stationary bike is also easy on the joints and only includes the lower body. So, if you have any upper body problems then the stationary bike will be a much better choice. In 30 minutes of cycling 12-13 miles per hour, an 125lb individual will burn around 225-250 calories.
For Weight Loss, Intensity Is the Name of the Game
Here’s a secret, because the rowing machine provides an intense full body workout, the exercise burns a high amount of calories not only during the actual activity but also for a period after you’ve stopped. This is known as the “after-burn effect”. Essentially, you’ve worked your body so hard that it is forced to keep burning calories and fat even when you’re not rowing. The scientific jargon for this is “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or “EPOC” for short. But all you need to know is that if you’re doing an intense rowing workout, the benefits continue after you’re done. How great is that?
A 125-pound person moving at an average pace for 30 minutes on a treadmill will burn roughly 250 calories. However, they aren’t able to take advantage of this after-burn effect. The same person rowing vigorously will burn around to 250 calories but will have less stress placed upon their joints and continue to burn calories after the workout has ended. Rowing machines have been shown to burn on average 800 calories an hour if you work harder and are slightly heavier.
Rowing Machine HIIT
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a great style of training to burn fat, build toned muscle, and improve cardiovascular systems as the same time. Challenging HIIT workouts help you get to that state of EPOC and take advantage of the after-burn effect. The ability to change the resistance of the rowing machine at will means that the equipment is ideal for this method of exercise.
The beauty of a rowing machine HIIT is it offers an optimal workout in a minimal amount of time. It may sound too good to be true but you can really make a huge difference to your overall fitness in just 20-30 minutes.
Give this rowing machine HIIT sprints workout a try if you’re looking for a good fat burning workout. Remember to start off every workout with a 5-10 minute warm up and cool down.
This workout will take a total of 26 minutes (not including the warm up or cool down).
- 30 second sprint
- 30 second rest
- Repeat for six rounds
- 20 second sprint
- 10 second rest
- Repeat for four rounds
- 15 second sprint
- 15 second rest
- 15 second air squats
- 15 second rest
- Repeat six rounds
- 20 second sprint
- 10 second rest
- Repeat for four rounds
- 30 second sprint
- 30 second rest
- Repeat for six rounds
Using Your Rower
Rowing is primarily a cardio workout, but it’s also more than that. Your heart rate is absolutely going to be climbing, but unlike a jog in the park, you might also be sore the next day. The rower requires you use your legs more than anything, and as we know, your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings are the biggest, most powerful muscles in your body. But you’re also pulling with your arms, shoulders, abs and engaging your back. That said, you’re not pulling as hard as you might with, say, a seated cable row machine at the gym. You don’t want to hurt your back, but you can engage them and this will help you get those muscles toned.
Rowing Machine Technique Tips
- Good posture and correct form while rowing are key to getting the best workout as well as avoiding injury.
- Start with a low resistance level to make sure you’re comfortable, then increase resistance as needed.
- Sit on the seat and secure your feet on the pads. For the “catch”, keep the back very straight with arms extended while holding the bar or handles of the rower.
- For the “drive” phase, push off in a controlled motion, powering through your heels into the pads and straightening your legs. Pull the cable toward your chest, but don’t worry about pulling it all the way in.
- At the “finish”, your legs are fully extended, shoulders back, and the bar pulled near the upper chest with wrists straight, not curled.
- On the return or “recovery”, allow your arms to straighten and your knees to bend. The recovery is where your core muscles such as abs and lower back can get a good, safe workout so keep them engaged.
Other Rowing Machine Considerations
You don’t want to be rowing without shoes on. It’s plain dangerous. And, of course, this goes for any kind of workout on an exercise machine. It can be sneakers, running shoes, or cross-trainers. Just make sure you’re protecting your feet. Flip flops and high-heels are not advised. Think closed-toe, rubber bottoms, shoes.
On a rowing machine, you don’t want to be wearing clothes that are too baggy as the fabric can get caught between the seat and the beam it slides on. It’s not a disaster if that happens, but it can get annoying if your shorts keep getting caught there while you’re trying to get a serious workout. It’s better to wear shorter, tighter-fitting shorts (nothing ridiculous), but just enough to ensure it doesn’t the material doesn’t hang down.
Keep It Clean
Although some rowing machines are made of space-age, super-sweat-resistant metals, you still want to wipe off the equipment after a sweaty workout. These machines are usually constructed with a lot of various materials and salty sweat can be very corrosive. Keeping your rowing machine clean can go a long way toward extending its life, and its appearance.
Final Word on Rowing Machines
Fitness experts as well as health professionals agree that rowing machines provide one of the best workouts possible. Exercising on a rower will allow you to target the great majority of your muscle groups and give them as hard and challenging a workout as you feel like giving them. On the better rowing machine models, you’ll be able to track your progress and see how your splits are improving.
As previously discussed, the rowing machine’s big advantage is that it provides more than just a cardio workout. It can definitely help you build muscle and lose weight. Compared to a treadmill, the rowing machine works most of your body. It will really hit your shoulders, core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, arms and back effectively while being low impact thus reducing the stress on your joints. Bigger muscles need more energy and will burn fat to get it, which of course leads to healthy weight loss.
When starting your search for a rowing machine, you’re likely to be at a bit of a loss as to which way to go and which type rower to buy. But even if you’re well under way in your hunt, we hope this review helped you understand the wonderful world of rowing machines a little more clearly.
Overall, the most important thing is to get on a rowing machine and get rowing. The best rowing machine is the one that fits in your budget and fits your body. Your heart, muscles, and mind will thank you!