The Best Rowing Machine
Table of Contents
11 Best Rowing Machines in 2023
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Rowing Machines Buying Guide
Whether you’re gym owners or fitness junkies looking to add an indoor rower to your home exercise routine.
We’ve put together a comprehensive buying guide to assist you with the key things you should screen for before making your purchase.
Leaving you to simply set up your cool rower and start rowing asap!
A rowing machine also referred to as an indoor rower, is a machine designed to simulate the motion of rowing in the water enabling low-impact cardio exercise.
If you plan to use an indoor rowing machine at least three times a week, it will most likely cost much less than a monthly gym membership, plus you get to work out in the privacy of your own home.
Benefits of a Rowing Machine
Rowing comes with a real meditative and harmonious quality, often triggered by the rhythm of motion which allows your mind to be focused on the task at hand and helps to reduce stress levels.
Whatever your fitness goals are, whether it's weight loss, or to improve your cardio or endurance, or to promote muscle growth, or simply to improve your rowing technique, rowing offers a total body workout.
One full rowing stroke uses your legs, arms, your abs, and your back all at the same time. A rower can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour, as rowing consumes more calories over a wide range of muscles.
Features of Best Rowing Machines
One of the most important facts that you should focus on when buying a rowing machine is the type of resistance the machine has. Most rowers have 4 main resistance types:
Air is the most common resistance type. It uses a fan to create resistance. The resistance level is regulated by a user’s rowing intensity.
The faster you row, the more the resistance increases. The slower you row, the less resistance there will be.
Air resistance is ideal if you want to be in control of your workout as you are determining the level of intensity through your rowing.
On the other hand, air resistance, rowing machines can be quite noisy and they can be bulkier and more difficult to store.
Piston / Hydraulic Resistance
Hydraulic cylinders are connected to the arms of the rowing machine creating resistance. It’s possible to adjust resistance and the hydraulic pistons that are used to create the resistance are super quiet.
As a model, these rowing machines are more compact and less expensive. So if you are on a budget and want something quiet for your home a piston/hydraulic type would be a good option.
If however, you’re seeking accurate rowing motion and a smooth rowing experience, then the piston/hydraulic rowing machine may not be your top choice.
These rowers are probably the closest thing to a true-to-life rowing experience outdoors.
Resistance comes from a water tank and the resistance increases as your pace of rowing increases. You can adjust resistance and pressure by adding or removing water from the tank.
Water-resistance models are the second noisiest rowing machines after air resistance models. However, some find the noise of water quite soothing and tranquil.
From a price point perspective, they are the highest-priced rowing machines on the market.
Rowers with water resistance are a good option if you are seeking to have greater control over your workout, want the flexibility to modify resistance and pressure, and the rowing experience is smooth without any jerkiness.
If however, you are looking for a rower that is portable and compact and the gushing sound of water is a nuisance to you, then a water resistance model is probably not for you.
The magnetic braking system used to provide resistance creates little to no noise. Resulting in a quiet and smooth rowing experience.
Rowing machines that are magnetic are very durable, with very little maintenance required. Ideal if you are living in small apartments like in New York City.
If you’re a beginner-level rower or lead a busy lifestyle you may not have the time to create your own workouts.
If you prefer preset workouts, which allow you to plug and play, then look for higher-end models that have a good range of preset workouts to choose from.
Are you training with a specific goal in mind or just trying to get low-impact cardio under your belt?
What metrics do you want to see displayed? Time, distance, speed/intensity, heart rate, and finally the rate of your stroke.
Cheaper rowing machines may show only the bare basics. If you want more detailed metrics, you’ll have to opt for an upper-end rowing machine.
If you want to stream something on a smart device during your workout, you want it to be in a safe and secure position, preferably at eye level, so that you are not straining your neck and head.
Will you have a fixed location for the rowing machine, or are you looking for something to fold and store after usage?
A foldable rowing machine enables you to fold up the lengthy side rail of the rower, saving you storage space.
If you do opt for a foldable rowing machine, you want a model that you can move with ease to fold and store and unfold and use.
Models that have wheels make it much easier to move around and store.
You want to make sure that you have a comfortable seat that you are not fidgeting in, allowing you to work out for extended periods of time.
A comfortable seat will also help you maintain proper form and technique and allow you to focus solely on executing your workout.
Adjustable Foot Straps
You want to ensure that the rowing machine you select offers the flexibility to adjust the snugness or looseness of the feet pads so that your feet are strapped in with the right comfort.
Especially if more than one user is using the machine and will constantly be adjusting straps.
For some people, working out is a chore and they welcome the distraction via smart features.
Do you want to have streaming capabilities? Bluetooth connectivity? WiFi? The capability to connect with third-party apps allowing your workout to fly by?
Every rowing machine comprises the handlebars you pull and the thing that creates resistance. The two most common mechanisms that connect these two different components are:
- Belt - A belt is quiet and cheap, and overtime experiences wear and tear. Well-engineered belts offer a smoother experience.
- Chain - A chain is more expensive than a belt and durable, however, it is noisy.
If you live in an apartment building or house with other people, you want to be mindful of how noisy the rowing machine you’re using is.
If you live in a building where noise carries easily, you may be disturbing your neighbors.
On the other hand, if you live on a sprawling estate with no one to annoy, go forth and buy any rower.
The average rower comes in the same size, and they take up quite a bit of space when being used.
Unless you have a dedicated gym in your home or a fixed spot for the rowing machine, you may want to opt for a rower that gives you the option to fold up the slide rail and offers compact storage.
You want to get something that is sturdy in build and will last and offers a smooth rowing experience.
The type of resistance the rower has as well as the features it has will all contribute to the overall quality.
Strive for the highest quality rower you can buy for the budget you have.
How much you are able to spend willingly spend is key to the final rower you’ll end up with.
An average rowing machine can cost as little as $200 and go as high as $2,600. If you are on a mid-range budget opt to pick up a rower around the $1,000 - $1,200 mark.
If money is no object, then opt for a water rower. Alternatively, if you are on a shoestring budget, then go for a magnetic resistance rower which is cheaper.
Trials & Returns & Warranties
Is there a trial period? Does the model come with money-back guarantees?
Many brands will offer a 28-day money-back guarantee providing you return the treadmill in its original packing and you pick up the tab for return costs.
Read the fine print and be clear who the warranty is with. Typically the warranty is with the original manufacturer. What duration is the warranty for?
Does the warranty cover in-home repairs during your warranty period? Does this include both labor and parts for the repair?
Is there an opportunity to extend the warranty? Do your homework.
Rowing Machines FAQ
How long should I work out on a rowing machine?
This depends on your weekly schedule, your fitness goals, and what other workouts you plan to do in conjunction with your rowing.
As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to work out at a moderate intensity for a duration of 30-minutes at least 5 days a week, or for a duration of 15 minutes at high intensity 5 days a week.
Many rowing machines have numerous preset workouts built-in which makes it easier for you to work out for the appropriate duration at the right intensity level, without you having to figure this out.
What is the proper rowing machine form?
It is key that you work out safely and with the correct technique to yield all the physical benefits a rowing machine has to offer, to avoid injuries.
There is a multitude of good videos on YouTube, which demonstrate step-by-step the correct rowing technique.
What is the best rowing machine for your home?
If you live in a building where noise carries easily or you need to be mindful of neighbors adjacent to you or living below, then you should avoid getting rowing machines that make a loud noise and vibrate a lot, such as air rowing machines.
Should I wear rowing gloves with a rowing machine?
This depends on your personal preference. Many rowers dislike wearing full mittens when using a rowing machine and over time they get used to the blisters and calluses.
On the other hand, for some users having half mittens that protect your hands from blisters, allowing your grip to remain firm is a huge help in staying comfortable and being able to row for longer durations.
Workout gloves are not a must. If you prefer them, opt for the half-mitten workout glove style.
Rowing Machines Sources
- A Physiological and Kinematic Comparison of two Different Lean Back Positions During Stationary Rowing on a Concept II Machine – PubMed
- Strength and Power Determinants of Rowing Performance – Research Gate
- The Effects of Concurrent Endurance and Resistance Training on 2,000-m Rowing Ergometer Times in Collegiate Male Rowers – PubMed
- Monitoring of Performance and Training in Rowing – UCLA
- From Survival of the Fittest to Staying Fit Just to Survive: Scientists Probe the Benefits of Exercise and the Dangers of Sloth – Harvard Magazine
- Intervals, Thresholds, and Long Slow Distance: the Role of Intensity and Duration in Endurance Training – Sports Science