Best Rowing Machines

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Best Rowing Machines

THE GOATS BEHIND THIS REVIEW:
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Dan
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Jamal - Team Fitness Goat
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Ahmed-FitnessGoat
Ahmed
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Indoor rowing machines bring all the muscle and cardio power of the open water straight into your workout. You can practically feel the cool, fresh air whipping through your hair as you row using different types of resistance like air, hydraulics, and yes, even water. In this piece, we’ll show you some of the best rowing machines for the money today.

GOAT PICK

Water Rower Classic

Marcy Foldable Turbine

BEST VALUE

Fitness SF-RW1410 Rowing Machine

XTERRA Fitness ERG200

XTERRA Fitness ERG400

WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 Monitor
Marcy Foldable Turbine Rowing Machine Rower with 8 Resistance Setting and Transport Wheels NS-6050RE
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1410 Rowing Machine Rower with Full Motion Arms and LCD Monitor
XTERRA Fitness ERG200 Folding Magnetic Resistance Rower
XTERRA Fitness ERG400 Air & Magnetic Resistance Folding Rower
TLDR
The natural, real-feel perks of a water rower placed into a beautiful, handcrafted wood design. Will satisfy your most serious rowing needs.
An appealing design along with ergonomic and digital features that soar above the average air rower.
Some of the best, most affordable comfort features on the market, 12 adjustable resistance settings, and the lowest price on this list.
The natural, friction-free smoothness of magnetic rowers fused with super user-friendly features. Built for easy operation.
The combination of air and magnetic resistance is great for quiet operation. A wide range of resistance makes the ERG400 super versatile.
Pros
The handcrafted black walnut frame absorbs sounds and vibrations. The enclosed water tank provides the smooth resistance of real water.
The Turbine’s super-durable mould-injected seat is the nicest on the market. An onboard monitor keeps track of unique stats like calories and RPM.
An extra-padded seat and super grippy handles will keep you comfortable throughout the entire workout. Makes for a streamlined rowing motion.
Aluminum slide rails keep this machine straight and smooth. The largest, most user-friendly monitor on the market makes viewing stats mid-workout a breeze.
Combines the best benefits of air and magnetic resistance. An unmatched 16 levels of resistance makes this an intuitive choice, with a decent monitor to boot.
Cons
The wood frame doesn’t fold and will require more assembly time during set-up.
An average handle may prove less comfortable than others if you’re concerned about your grip strength and stability.
A lack of foldability and portability features mean this one requires more effort to transport. Somewhat weak resistance overall, even at high settings.
Its lack of wheels makes moving the machine around the house difficult. Below-average resistance levels could prove problematic if you’re going for heavy reps.
The monitor, while pretty in-depth with stats like watts, calories, and strokes/min, is small and hard to read.
GOAT PICK

Water Rower Classic

WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 Monitor
TLDR
The natural, real-feel perks of a water rower placed into a beautiful, handcrafted wood design. Will satisfy your most serious rowing needs.
Pros
The handcrafted black walnut frame absorbs sounds and vibrations. The enclosed water tank provides the smooth resistance of real water.
Cons
The wood frame doesn’t fold and will require more assembly time during set-up.

Marcy Foldable Turbine

Marcy Foldable Turbine Rowing Machine Rower with 8 Resistance Setting and Transport Wheels NS-6050RE
TLDR
An appealing design along with ergonomic and digital features that soar above the average air rower.
Pros
The Turbine’s super-durable mould-injected seat is the nicest on the market. An onboard monitor keeps track of unique stats like calories and RPM.
Cons
An average handle may prove less comfortable than others if you’re concerned about your grip strength and stability.
BEST VALUE

Fitness SF-RW1410 Rowing Machine

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1410 Rowing Machine Rower with Full Motion Arms and LCD Monitor
TLDR
Some of the best, most affordable comfort features on the market, 12 adjustable resistance settings, and the lowest price on this list.
Pros
An extra-padded seat and super grippy handles will keep you comfortable throughout the entire workout. Makes for a streamlined rowing motion.
Cons
A lack of foldability and portability features mean this one requires more effort to transport. Somewhat weak resistance overall, even at high settings.

XTERRA Fitness ERG200

XTERRA Fitness ERG200 Folding Magnetic Resistance Rower
TLDR
The natural, friction-free smoothness of magnetic rowers fused with super user-friendly features. Built for easy operation.
Pros
Aluminum slide rails keep this machine straight and smooth. The largest, most user-friendly monitor on the market makes viewing stats mid-workout a breeze.
Cons
Its lack of wheels makes moving the machine around the house difficult. Below-average resistance levels could prove problematic if you’re going for heavy reps.

XTERRA Fitness ERG400

XTERRA Fitness ERG400 Air & Magnetic Resistance Folding Rower
TLDR
The combination of air and magnetic resistance is great for quiet operation. A wide range of resistance makes the ERG400 super versatile.
Pros
Combines the best benefits of air and magnetic resistance. An unmatched 16 levels of resistance makes this an intuitive choice, with a decent monitor to boot.
Cons
The monitor, while pretty in-depth with stats like watts, calories, and strokes/min, is small and hard to read.
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Why Buy a Rowing Machine?

  • Stellar aerobics. Rowing works your cardiovascular system, strengthening your heart and lungs. This type of exercise torches some serious calories: about 600 per hour!
  • Total muscle conditioning. The motion of rowing works for several different muscle groups throughout your upper and lower body. An incredibly efficient way to build muscle, from the hamstrings to the deltoids.
  • Low impact on joints. No forceful movements or impacts with hard surfaces like the ground. This creates a joint-friendly workout and is practical if you’re dealing with injuries or sensitive joints.
  • High-intensity magic. Switch between calm lows and intense highs to give your body a better workout. It’s easy to maximize your exercise if you’re looking to get into HIIT with a personal rowing machine.
  • Smaller than traditional equipment. Rowing machines are smaller than most other workout gear. They also take up less space than rowboat rigs.

Types of Rowing Machines

Residential

These user-friendly machines are designed with home use in mind. The machines tend to have smaller footprints to fit into cramped spaces. They usually use air or hydraulic resistance.

Commercial

These are professional models that can stand up to heavy and consistent use. Designed for use in professional gyms, they are usually larger, sturdier, and bulkier than home models.

Folding and Non-Folding

Some rowers feature a built-in mechanism to fold the frame for storage. Others will have a solid frame, keeping their footprint the same unless disassembled.

Compact

Any machine designed with saving space in mind, usually in the form of a smaller frame, footprint, or folding mechanism. Compact rowers are great if you’re planning to put your rower in a smaller or more high-trafficked area.

Dual-Action

These machines go above and beyond the traditional rowing experience, combining rowing movements with other exercises. This can increase your machine’s versatility and give you more bang for the space your rower takes up.

Top Rowing Machine Brands

Stamina

Known for their Body Trac Glider, InMotion, and ATS air rowers since 1987. This Springfield, MO company is among the most versatile rower brands.

Sunny Health & Fitness

Established in Los Angeles in 2002, Sunny Health & Fitness has garnered some clout for their SF-RW1205 and SF-RW1410 rowers.

Concept 2

Rowers like the Model D and Model E have made Concept2, founded in 1976 in Morrisville, VT, one of the best brands in indoor rowing for more than 40 years.

Water Rower

Based out of Warren, RI since 1988, Water Rower has established itself with handcrafted, wooden rowers like the Classic and the Natural.

Schwinn

Even though you may know them for the bikes, Schwinn, founded in 1895 in Vancouver, WA, has made a name in the rowing machine game. It’s done this with models like the Crewmaster.

Rowing Machine Pricing

Prices for rowing machines largely depend on the resistance system (hydraulic being the cheapest, and water being the most expensive), the compactness, and factors like high-tech features.

  • $500 and under: Mostly hydraulic options and some cheaper air rowers. Mainly compact budget options that lack top-of-the-line features.
  • $500-$1000: Common air and magnetic rowers. Feature options vary here, but this price range usually includes a few premium features like workout trackers.
  • $1000-$1500: High-end rowing machines and magnetic rowers. More luxury and durability with better construction and more high-tech features.
  • $1500 and above: Mostly water rowers that include top features, such as in-depth fitness tracking and unparalleled comfort and construction.

Key Features

Resistance

The main thing that delivers a stellar workout. Hydraulic machines use pistons that resist compression. Air rowers, on the other hand, use a flywheel that displaces air. Similarly, magnetic rowers use a flywheel with a magnetic brake. Finally, water machines utilize spinning paddles in a water-filled tank. Some models, called hybrid rowers, use more than one resistance type (i.e. air for lower speeds and magnets for higher speeds).

Handles

The size and shape of the handles on a machine affect the overall feel of the workout, with teardrop-style bars offering the most comfort. They attach to a chain (durable, but requires maintenance), cable (round and narrow), or strap (most quiet), depending on the model. Hydraulic machines use handle levers attached to the pistons and tend to be less realistic in feel.

Monitor Controls

Many machines include an LCD monitor to track workout information. Generally, the larger the monitor, the better. Budget machines may have smaller or more basic monitors or exclude them entirely. Higher-end rowers will likely have more comprehensive monitors.

Air Conditioning

Some of the best air rowers include vents that direct the flywheel’s air movement backward. This provides natural cooling with each stroke.

Other Considerations

  • Size: Rowers are very space-friendly machines and offer a lot of impact on the space they take up. However, the size will vary. Water rowers tend to be larger due to the nature of their design (i.e. room for water tanks, etc). Foldable frames and other storage features are common as well. It is important to make sure your machine fits you and your space comfortably.
  • Comfort: The design of the seat and the handles will affect the overall comfort of the machine the most. Look for models that offer ample padding. A grippy surface on the handles is also important to prevent slippage and failed reps.
  • Adjustability: The more adjustable the machine is, the more it will cater to your specific body type. Look for an adjustable seat and track for a good, ergonomic fit. Proper adjustments can go a long way towards preventing strain and injury.
  • Shipping and assembly: The complexity of the shipping and assembly process depends on the type and size of the rower. Expect multiple packages and an assembly time of around 30-45 minutes.
  • Warranties: Look for models that offer a warranty of at least two years, with lifetime guarantees on frames if possible. Parts are generally covered for three to five years. In general, expect higher-end and commercial models to include longer and more extensive warranties.

Best Rowing Machines Reviews & Recommendations 2018

Best Water Rowing Machine Overall: Water Rower Classic

WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 Monitor
  • Handcrafted rowing machine with "water flywheel" that...
  • Flywheel sits in enclosed water tank to provide smooth,...
  • Series 4 performance monitor tracks workout intensity,...
  • Solid black walnut construction absorbs sound and...
  • Stores upright; measures 84 x 21 x 22 inches (W x H x...

It’s hard to argue with water rowers being the best in the game. The WaterRower Classic gives you all the benefits of water resistance in a compact, beautiful model. All this comes with some of the quietest rowing on the market, due to the enclosed tank and sound-absorbing wood.

The handcrafted black walnut frame not only has a timeless look, but the quiet operation gives you the freedom to work out where you choose. The onboard monitor keeps track of advanced stats like heart and stroke rate. The enclosed water tank provides smooth, natural resistance.

Drawbacks of this rower include its lack of foldability and some extra assembly required from the wooden frame. This is something to consider if you’re looking to transport and store your machine often.


Best Value for the Money / Best Hydraulic Rowing Machine: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1410

Sale
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1410 Rowing Machine Rower with Full Motion Arms and LCD Monitor
  • The Rowing Machine with Full Motion Arms allows full...
  • Fully thick-padded seat, non-slip grip handlebars and...
  • Full-Motion Arms targets all major muscle groups such...
  • Built-in LCD displays your time, count, calories, and...
  • Sleek, solid steel frame provides optimal support and...

The SF-RW1410 has almost all of the features you could want in a hydraulic rower and comes with the lowest price on this list. It also doesn’t skimp on comfort, with extra padding on the seat, ergonomic handles, and anti-slip pedals.

This model is incredibly compact due to the slick, appealing profile of the solid-steel frame. It offers 12 levels of adjustable resistance. The large onboard monitor tracks all of your basic stats like time and rep count, designed to be read easily mid-workout.

Tradeoffs of this model are a lack of foldability and reports of a loss of difficulty from the higher resistance settings. This lowers its potential for muscle conditioning workouts.


Best Air Rowing Machine: Marcy Turbine

Marcy Foldable Turbine Rowing Machine Rower with 8 Resistance Setting and Transport Wheels NS-6050RE
  • 8 RESISTANCE SETTINGS - The Marcy Turbine Rowing...
  • INCLUDES COMPUTER DISPLAY PANEL - This Turbine Rowing...
  • DURABLE MOULD-INJECTED SEAT - The Marcy Turbine Rowing...
  • ADJUSTABLE FOOT STRAPS - This exercise machine comes...
  • HIGH-QUALITY CONSTRUCTION - This training machine is...

On top of being one of the best-looking picks on this list, the Turbine packs in features that go above and beyond the call of duty of an air rower. Adjustable resistance in a pure air rower is a unique quality that helps it stand above the rest.

It also has impressive ergonomics like a super-durable mold-injected seat that allows for maximum comfort and adjustable foot platforms and straps to keep you stable. The easy-to-read monitor tracks speed, distance, time, calories burned, and RPM.

Some drawbacks include a lack of portability features (although it folds, it has no wheels). This makes it good for storage but difficult to transfer between workout locations. The handle is small, so expect some hassle if you need to move it.


Best Magnetic Rowing Machine: XTERRA Fitness ERG200

Sale
XTERRA Fitness ERG200 Folding Magnetic Resistance Rower
  • Compact frame design folds up for easy storage or...
  • Dual extruded aluminum seat slide rails mounted to a...
  • Large 3.7 inch LCD monitor features an easy-to-read...
  • 8 levels of magnetic resistance is accessed through a...
  • Magnetic resistance System is friction-free for smooth,...

Great portability, a solid design, and one of the most user-friendly monitors on the market make the ERG200 one of our best portable rowing machines and our best magnetic rower overall. On top of this, you can expect some of the smoothest strokes out there, even among other frictionless magnetic rowers.

Aluminum slide rails create a fluid motion, working through eight levels of adjustable resistance. The large and easy-to-read monitor comes with a 3.7-inch LCD screen and big, simple-to-use buttons.

Disadvantages of this machine are its lack of wheels and reports of weak resistance at certain levels. Again, if you’re looking for a heavier, muscle-driven workout, you may want to look elsewhere.


Best Hybrid Rowing Machine: XTERRA Fitness ERG400

XTERRA Fitness ERG400 Air & Magnetic Resistance Folding Rower
  • Extruded aluminum seat slide rail with steel supports...
  • Monitor features easy-to-read adjustable angle LCD...
  • Innovative frame design folds up for easy storage when...
  • 16 levels of electronic resistance for a variety of...
  • Magnetic and air resistance system is friction-free for...

This machine provides the best of two worlds of resistance, combining air and magnets for a smoother and quieter experience that still has a natural feel.

Along with its unique feel, you also get an adjustable performance monitor for stats like watts and strokes/min, 16 levels of electronic resistance, and a folding frame for easy storage.

The monitor appears small and hard to read, which can be a hassle mid-workout. You may also find the air/magnetic resistance to feel awkward at first as you get used to the experience of this hybrid approach.

Rowing Machine Tips

While rowing is a natural motion that most people pick up quickly, there are several things you can do to make sure your workout is as safe and efficient as possible:

  • Make sure you always pull the handle back into your chest to about pec height.
  • Study the four stages of a proper stroke (catch, drive, finish, and recovery) to help you stay on top of your form from beginning to end.
  • Maintain as close to a 90-degree angle with the frame as possible and keep your back straight throughout the whole rep to prevent strain.

Rowing Machine FAQs

Q: How do I master the proper rowing technique?

A: Indoor rowing technique has its nuances. Be sure to study the form of indoor rowing in particular. This piece from britishrowing.org is a great one to check out that breaks down the cycles of the motion.

Q: Can a rowing machine be used as a main form of exercise?

A: Incorporating rowing into your regular routine is a great way to get many benefits from one workout. Rowing offers a combination of cardio benefits and muscle conditioning, making it a great recurring exercise. These benefits are both great ways to become stronger and healthier.

Q: How long does it take to start burning fat?

A: As with all exercises, results aren’t always guaranteed. A great way to gauge your fat loss/burn is to stay on top of your BMI figures (which can be calculated through various online resources like this) and track your progress from week to week.

Q: How often should I exercise on my rower?

A: This boils down to how much you enjoy rowing! In general, you should shoot for about 150 to 300 minutes of cardio per week. If you find that rowing is something you enjoy, you can dial it up in your cardio routine. Make sure this isn’t your only form of exercise, however, as variation is key to better health.

Final Thoughts

Rowing machines are a great way to get an incredibly efficient workout at home. Different types of machines will offer a different feel and benefits.

Overall, for the best, most realistic at-home experience, the Water Rower Classic is our top dog. The SF-RW1410 also provides an incredible value at a budget price.

Do you row at home? Think we put together a good rowing machine buyer’s guide? Let us know in the comments down below!


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