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Updated November 2018

Best Rowing Machines

WHY BELIEVE HOUSE METHOD?

We analyze consumer reviews to find the best products on the web. We buy products with our own money and test them in our lab. We also interview experts and conduct independent research to pick the winners. We have affiliate partnerships so we may get a share of revenue from purchases. It’s how we fund our Research Lab and bring you better reviews and comparisons. Read more.

Best Rowing Machines Updated November 2018

Conclusion

Pros

Cons

Concept2

Model D Indoor Rowing Machine
Check Price at: 1 store
Several customers described their debate between this and the WaterRower (our runner-up), and most of them wished they had gone with the Concept2.
This is a well-constructed machine seen in professional gyms everywhere. Our editor was able to install it by herself, but she advises enlisting a second set of hands to carry the box from your doorstep to your workout area.
It’s a fixed machine, so it's bulky and difficult to store without breaking it down.

WaterRower Club

Rowing Machine in Ash Wood with S4 Monitor
Check Price at: 1 store
This rowing machine provides an excellent workout for everyone from athletes to novice rowers.
Beautifully constructed from ash wood, this rowing machine is very durable and yields a super smooth flow.
Assembly is more time-consuming than other rowers and once it’s built, it’s built. This is a fixed rower, so it’ll have to be stored upright.

LifeSpan

Fitness RW1000 Rowing Machine
Check Price at: 1 store
Seasoned rowers might not get as much out of this rower than other machines.
The LifeSpan machine is budget-friendly, easy to install, has highly adjustable resistance, and features a helpful LED display.
It’s a fairly loud machine compared to others on our list. It’s probably not as reliable for serious athletes who row every day.

Stamina

Air Rower
Check Price at: 1 store
With this product, you’ll get low impact exercise machine for a low price.
Wind resistance creates adjustable resistance for all skill levels and not to mention, a more authentic outdoor rowing experience.
Some customers reported a low resistance with a limited range, but that might be just what rehab or novice rowers need.

Sunny Health & Fitness

Magnetic Rowing Machine
Check Price at: 1 store
The digital display could use some work but this machine is well-built for a smooth, stable, and quiet rowing experience.
The 8-level magnetic tension system provides plenty of resistance for rowers of all levels.
Interface issues are apparent. The digital display is reportedly hard to read and can’t track distance, which is important to some users.

Our process

3,397
Customer Reviews
5
Products
18
Hours

If you want to get serious about your health, one exercise machine can make the difference you need to stay motivated. Many of us are looking for that all-in-one routine or machine that saves time, money, and effort without skimping on results. We, at House Method, found that rowing machines provide just that and they definitely don’t get the hype they deserve. As a testament to this underrated machine, our team sorted through thousands of customer reviews and questions to find the best rowing machines on the market today.

Rowing machine reviews guide

Going to the gym is certainly a time commitment. Fortunately, you can turn a spare room, basement, or living room into an at-home workout area. Start by clearing the space, laying a yoga mat down, and adding some hand weights or resistance bands. A mirror and TV are helpful for checking your form or following a workout video.

Investing in a rowing machine can really amp up a makeshift fitness area to a heavy-duty home gym that exudes dedication. Many of us tend to think of treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes first, but we think a rowing machine should be at the top of your list.

Our five favorite rowing machines are listed above and they include the three most popular forms of resistance. Continue reading for health benefits, factors to consider before buying a rower, and even some exercise tips to get started.

The weight of the flywheel correlates with the smoothness of the ride. Buy a rower with a heavier flywheel for a smoother rowing experience.”

Health benefits of rowing machines

Rowing machines provide a total body workout: You use your legs to push, you use your arms and shoulders to pull, and you work your core and back as you sit on the backless sliding seat with proper posture and form. Rowing is as much a cardio workout as it is a strength-training exercise. Some customers have reported losing over 100 pounds and 10 inches around their waist in less than six months.

When used properly, this underrated piece of fitness equipment can work for everyone—even those with chronic back pain. Compared to injuries on a treadmill or elliptical, there have been very few accounts of ankle, leg, or back injuries from rowers.

Rowing also allows you to practice power, interval, and distance training. Some machines are better at tracking these metrics than others. The Concept2’s interface is preset with five games for a—dare we say—“fun” workout whereas the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine has a more limited interface.

Best rowing machine for the best workout CONCEPT2 MODEL D INDOOR ROWING MACHINE

Pushing and pulling means there is some coordination involved in rowing but it’s always smooth sailing with the Concept2. Set your rower to a light or moderate resistance level as you get used to the movements. We got into a natural rhythm on the Concept2 right away. The first five minutes felt effortless but the tension built up gradually into a full body workout without premature burnout.

What kinds of rowing machines are there to choose from?

Water is the opposing force against real boats, but indoor rowing machines must compensate for this type of resistance. There are four different types of resistance that set rowing machines apart from one another.

Air rowing machines

  • How it works—Air flows over an internal flywheel, which is connected to the rowing handle by a chain. As you pull, the flywheel spins. The faster you row, the faster the spin and the greater the resistance.
  • Pros—These machines have the widest range of resistance, including automatic resistance that adjusts to your stroke.
  • Cons—Air rowers are usually louder than other types of machines.
  • Who uses them—Serious or passionate rowers in training use air rowing machines.

Water-resistance rowing machines

  • How it works—Surprisingly, water resistance rowing machines are the newest type of indoor rowing machines. Paddles revolve in a tank of water, which creates drag and produces resistance as you row faster.
  • Pros—These machines are quieter, smoother, and have a more consistent resistance than air rowers. They also have a greater range of motion with a more authentic feeling of rowing through water.
  • Cons—Water rowing machines are usually larger and more expensive than other rowing machines.
  • Who uses them—Those who want a quiet, low-maintenance machine with an aesthetic design will love water rowing machines.

Magnetic rowing machines

  • How it works—The distance between magnets and a spinning flywheel creates resistance. Resistance is adjusted through mechanical sliders or the digital interface.
  • Pros—Magnetic rowing machines are the quietest type of rowing machine and they’re more compact than others.
  • Cons—This is the furthest rower from feeling like you’re really working on water.
  • Who uses them—Someone who cares more about a good workout than a true rowing experience will choose magnetic rowing machines over others.

Hydraulic rowing machines

  • How it works—Pistons produce resistance rather than a flywheel. Resistance is adjusted by levels or clamps as you pull.
  • Pros—Hydraulic rowing machines are the least expensive, the smallest, and the easiest to store.
  • Cons—They aren’t as smooth as flywheel models and require more maintenance.
  • Who uses them—Renters and small space dwellers who want portable home fitness equipment use hydraulic rowing machines.

4 Major factors to consider

Noise

Like all fitness equipment, rowing machines can cause a racket. If you live in an apartment or plan to row early in the morning, you’ll want to buy a quiet rowing machine. Magnetic rowing machines are usually the quietest—some even silent—while air rowers are the loudest.

Flooring accessories

You probably don’t notice the vibrations a rowing machine produces at the gym because most gyms have rubber flooring, music playing, and several people exercising at a time. Your home is a different story, especially if you have hard floors. You can secure a mat beneath your rowing machine to absorb these vibrations. This will not only prevent slippage and scratches on a beautiful hardwood floor, but a mat can actually make rowing more comfortable. Without a mat, a machine can move mid-stroke and throw your rhythm off.

Absorbing vibration will also reduce the noise of a rower. Your neighbors will thank you for this. Not to mention, mats are easier to sanitize than carpets after every workout. Your roommate will thank you for that.

Comfort

If you’re feeling discomfort—other than the natural tension and soreness of regular exercise—your likely rowing with incorrect posture. Avoid hunching over as your row to prevent discomfort in your shoulders. Remind yourself to roll your shoulders back—This will open your chest and relieve your neck of tension. Engage your core throughout your workout and don’t forget to breathe. Poor posture will actually make breathing more difficult, so that’s another telltale sign that your form is off.

You can also visit a local gym to give a rowing machine a spin before you order your own. Make sure the seat, handlebar, and footrests are all up to par with your standard of comfort. The backless seat should be large and durable enough to provide a stable base even as it slides back and forth. The handlebar should have a slightly padded grip and your feet should be securely fastened to footrests with adjustable straps.

Storage

Some rowing machines are smaller and more portable than others. If you’re fortunate enough to dedicate a decently sized space at home to fitness, you may be fine buying a fixed rower rather than a foldable machine. Water rowing machines tend to be bigger but more visually appealing than other types of rowers. On the other hand, hydraulic machines are the least popular type of rowing machine but they’re the smallest and easiest to store.

Measure your workout area to determine whether you want a fixed or folding rowing machine.”

Best rowing machine for your money STAMINA AIR ROWER

The Stamina Air Rower isn’t the cheapest machine out there, but we think it’s the best bargain for the quality you can expect. You won’t suffer from total sticker shock when you see the less-than-$300 price tag, which is especially assuring if you’re already on the fence about buying a rowing machine. If you’re new to rowing, you’ll love how easy it is to assemble and adjust. In addition to providing a solid workout, we’ve heard several customers’ stories about using the Stamina Air Rower to rehabilitate from an injury. Another bonus: It’s portable. Simply fold the machine and roll it into a nearby closet for quick and easy storage.

Rowing machines offer a full-body workout that's focused 60% on leg strength. Use on an explosive movement similar to rising up from squats.”

Best rowing machine for permanent home gyms WATER ROWER CLUB ROWING MACHINE WITH S4 MONITOR

The beauty of this fixed rowing machine is, well, its beauty. Although you can’t fold and hide this rower in a narrow hall closet, you won’t mind leaving the Water Rower Club Rowing Machine out for all to see. A fixed design definitely lends itself more to a house with a dedicated gym—whether that’s a spare room, basement, or converted attic—rather than a temporary space you have to clear every time you want to exercise. The handcrafted ash wood and woosh of the water as you row will bring your modern home gym back down to earth.

Rowing machine exercise tips

We hate to be the ones to reiterate what you’ve already heard a thousand times, but rowing is all about form—good form. Here are some best practices for rowing the right way:

  • Rowing is largely a leg workout. Think about pushing off like coming up from a squat. This movement should be explosive and your arms and back only account for 30% or so of the exercise.
  • Find the right resistance. If the workout feels too easy, it probably is. Ramp up the resistance notch by notch to find what works for your strength and skill level. Note: There’s a part on the rowing machine called a damper. The damper affects the drag in the release, not the resistance in the pull.
  • The length of your strokes doesn’t matter much. Emphasizing a long pull and reach isn’t the point of this workout and it might even do some damage.
  • Rowing is a cardio workout, so your heart rate should go up.

Frequently asked questions

Are rowing machines good for you?

Yes, rowing machines are undoubtedly good for you. As long as you maintain good form and an engaged core, rowing machines can provide a total body workout that strengthens and tones your arms, shoulders, back, abs, and legs.

Can you lose weight with just a rowing machine?

Yes, if you use a rowing machine regularly (two to three days a week), you can lose weight. It’s important to continue to challenge yourself by increasing resistance and distance. Complementing exercise with a healthy diet and enough sleep are also contributing factors to weight loss and management.

How many calories do you burn from rowing?

Individuals who weigh 125 to 185 pounds can burn approximately 210 to 311 calories in 30 minutes by rowing at an average pace, according to Harvard Health Publications. As your body adjusts to the resistance from a rowing machine, your muscles remain activated and you can continue burning calories even after your workout.

Is the rowing machine a good cardio workout?

Yes. Rowing increases your heart rate and is a great cardio workout. Enhance the impact of your cardio workout by adjusting the resistance on the machine, upping the number of reps you complete, or increasing the amount of time you row.

Which is better: treadmill, elliptical, or rowing machine?

It’s up to you to define “better.” If you want to burn more calories, a treadmill or elliptical would be better for your goal. However, a rowing machine is better for managing your weight and building muscle simultaneously. Additionally, if you have a preexisting injury, like chronic back pain or weak ankles, rowing has a lower impact on your joints than running on a treadmill.

Think about what is better for your home, too. If you have a large room, basement, or garage that you’ve dedicated to fitness, a treadmill or elliptical are solid candidates. However, if you are temporarily clearing space in your living room or bedroom to work out a few times a week, you’ll want a foldable rowing machine that you can store in a closet after you’re done exercising.

The team that worked on this review

Kelsey Roadruck
Writer
Kealia Reynolds
Editor
Marc Lewis
Producer
Sabrina Karr
Photo Editor
Sean Burgess
Developer

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