Best Rowing Machine
For thousands of years, we’ve known that rowing a watercraft is one of the best ways to exercise. It’s not only fun and exhilarating but also does wonders for cardiovascular health.
Rowing is such good exercise, that as far back as the 4th century B.C. admirals were using primitive rowing machines for military training. By the mid-1800s, we figured out that mechanical rowing machines were an ingenious invention – all the benefits of rowing exercise, but no need to build a craft or even get wet from thrashing ocean waves!
Now, the market is flooded with rowing machines, each one offering slightly different experiences to the buyer hoping to get in shape. But how do you begin to sort through all the different models and choose the “best” product?
In this guide, we’re going to review the top 15 rowing machines in detail and then consider what the best buy is for a few different categories.
Best Overall Rowing Machines
It’s challenging to pick just one model since the competition is tough. But one rowing machine seemed to appear on everyone’s list for its nearly flawless design and ease of use.
This model was clearly the top rowing machine having earned positive reviews online, and also gaining a solid reputation with its air-resistance technology. Let’s start out by taking a look at our favorite pick overall.
Our Top Pick: Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5
The Model D is an excellent cardio workout unit that remains low impact and yet actively trains all major muscle groups. It is currently the top-selling rowing machine in the world and is a favorite choice for competitive athletes and gyms, as well as consumers.
The rowing machine is accessible to all ages and works out a user’s arms, legs, and core body. The motions are smooth and easy to try, given the machine’s adjustable footrests and an ergonomic handle.
You can control the difficulty of the workout thanks to an air-resistance flywheel and damper levels of 1-10. The motion is smooth and silent, recreating the feeling of rowing on the water.
The Performance Monitor 5 (part of the complete package) updates your progress in real-time via an LCD backlit display, delivering data on every stroke. Get stats on time, distance traveled, and intervals. Record your numbers and compare later or even play some games.
The system also connects to other devices, such as a USB flash drive for computer or tablet compatibility, wireless Bluetooth, and even ANT+ access for health monitoring. If the competitive spirit motivates you, join a contest online against another challenger, and compare rankings to other users.
The machine is also easy to assemble, with only eight screws and caster wheels allowing for smooth transport of its 57-pound body. If you decide to move or store the machine, it separates into two pieces.
The steel chain requires oil maintenance every forty hours, but the quality remains consistent. The front legs are made from aluminum and the back legs steel. This commercial-grade system is Concept2’s number one selling rowing machine and has been for forty years and counting.
Top Fitness Magazine focused on the exquisite details, relating that the Model D PM5 monitor even “calculates drag, making sure you get a true measure of your workout…even if there’s damper resistance or a breeze.”
- The strong commercial grade system on the market because of air-resistance
- Easy to perform rows, yet challenging as you keep going and speed up
- Adjustable levels of intensity, from 1-10
- Rated up to 500 pounds
- Easy to assemble, according to mostly positive reviews
- Some users complain the package is heavy when it first arrives
- Sometimes “wobbles”
- Occasionally error codes appear on the PM5
Runner Up: Most Interactive-The Hydrow Live Outdoor Reality Rower
Interactivity is important not only for keeping the user’s attention but also for lasting motivation. According to a study in the Journal of Social Sciences, participants gravitate towards the physical habits of their peers.
Another study quoted in Obesity found that overweight subjects lose more weight in a group, particularly if they spend more time with fit friends.
No wonder that interactive training video is a growing trend in the industry, because it gives you the feeling of a group dynamic. Trainers talk to you and keep you motivated to finish specific tasks. In terms of imagination and available interactive content, Hydrow’s rower proved to be the most imaginative choice.
They call the Hydrow Rower a “virtual landscape” and with good reason. The Hydrow team designed the system as an accurate simulation of rowing on the water, recreating the fluidity of motion and an immersive environment.
The company’s interactive approach involves a 22-inch touchscreen component that takes you into the experience. The screen, which is also sweat and dust-resistant, displays visuals of an athlete rowing in a boat in real-time as they give you instructions.
Feel the waves and splashes as you watch a trainer complete each stroke along with you. Front-facing speakers complement the display, letting you play catchy music for a beat. It’s a fun way to exercise, even when you’re the only one working up a sweat.
Resistance happens by an electromagnetic response and adjusts 240 times a second as you row. You can also adjust your resistance at any time by simply swiping with your fingers using the screen.
The entire workout is smooth, thanks to an ergonomic design, which reduces friction and noise. The cushioned seat has a comfortable feel, while a 10-roller system keeps the operation smooth. The vitals parts, however, are commercial-grade aluminum.
You can get some help with motivation using the Training Camp six-week program, with three levels of difficulty: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Each program has four sessions lasting 20-45 minutes. Measure your progress and receive personalized emails reporting on all your hard work.
You can choose interactive videos prerecorded or live. The subscription is the selling point, and best of all, you don’t have to sign up. The Hydrow model has the training camp built-in into the system. You can also use certain heart-rate monitors via Bluetooth, for example, Scosche rhythm, Wahoo Tickr, and Polar H7.
If you want a trainer shouting feel-good motivation at you, helping you finish the task, then you can’t go wrong with Hydrow’s interactive rower.
- An advanced electromagnetic system, creating a lifelike rowing experience
- Ideal for newcomers who crave the interactive experience and easy settings
- 30-day risk-free home trial
- The company says it will soon release pilates and strength-training programs in the future
- High-intensity but low impact, with a workout that targets most of your muscles
- Online content does require an extra membership charge
- You cannot play your own music using the audio/visual component
- Occasionally streaming problems get reported, especially for live content
The Most Quiet: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 uses magnetic rowing technology, meaning it’s extra smooth and quiet, beyond the average rowing machine. By nature, these models operate quietly compared to air and water-based systems, since magnetism power the resistance.
The machine’s quiet performance doesn’t startle pets, nor does it overpower the noise of a medium-volume television. The SF-RW5515’s magnetic tension system has eight adjustable levels of resistance, meaning you can gradually increase the challenge as you progress.
The new LCD console keeps track of your progress, details time, calories burned, instant stroke count, and total stroke count. The LCD screen runs on batteries apart from the system.
You feel protected thanks to non-slip handlebars, which have foam grips, as well as a padded seat. Protect your feet with anti-slip foot pedals, saddled in for comfort and snug so that you won’t lose your balance even when rowing for dear life.
The slide rail is 48 inches and 44 inches inseam length, above average, making it ideal for users of varying sizes. The steel mainframe ensures durability. The best way to train on the rower is by changing the tension knob, which directly changes the resistance level, giving you a new workout every time.
If you decide to move the unit, simply unscrew one bolt, take out a pin and fold the bulky system. The fold and store process takes less than a minute. When it comes time to transport the system, use the built-in wheels for an easy roll-out.
If noise around the house has been a problem in the past, the electromagnetic design lets you work out while others in the house sleep or watch TV..
Our favorite “quiet” magnetic rower makes an ideal purchase for someone who wants a peaceful environment.
- Effective workout targeting all major muscle groups
- Adjustable resistance, according to your own comfort
- Magnetic technology makes your workout quiet and smooth
- Large slide rail for taller users
- The unit is small and does not take up much space in a room
- Can hold up to 250 pounds, which is less than other models
- Affordable compared to other machines, indicating limited lifespan
- May not be as strong as air-resistance models
Best Rowing Machines By Type
The debate between air-resistance, magnetic resistance, and water-resistance has evolved quite a bit since rowing machines modernized. Many manufacturers, like LifeCore models, discontinued best selling products.
Some older products even had warning labels by their names, according to the Proposition 65 controversy, which suggests certain chemicals may cause birth defects or fertility problems. Some technologies combined, melding air-resistance and magnetic resistance.
Still, the top names in the market continue to dominate even into 2020. Consider some of the best-reviewed products according to each technology.
Best Water Rowing Machines
Water-based rowing systems generate “resistance” using a revolving paddle in a tank of water. Depending on the mass and drag, as well as the unique construction of each model, each level of resistance feels different.
Some claim this is the most realistic approach to indoor rowing since it simulates actual water rowing with water. Others, however, still prefer modern methods.
These three machines stood out for style and smooth operation.
The Stamina brand makes many models of rowing machines, but their X Water Rower, in particular, is on nearly everyone’s top 5 list. The Stamina Rower stands out with a striking red steel frame, while the water tank is located underneath the seat and slide rail.
This feature allows for a smaller system, at least in terms of size. You can fit the powerful unit in almost any room. The water-based system allows for smoother operation and a realistic water rowing feeling.
The resistance system changes when you add more water to the tank. You can also remove water to decrease resistance. The frame itself ensures stable operation and full strokes, just like the easy burn when you use oars on a lake.
You’re in for a comfortable ride, given the molded seat, padded handle, and textured footplates. The footplates also have a quick-release function for your protection.
The LCD Multi-Function Monitor records track data, like calories burned, stroke count, pulse, total distance and time. There is also a scan option that lets you see all the different modes.
Included with the machine is a wireless heart rate monitor transmitter, which fits on your body via nylon strap. Monitor your heart rate and stay safe while also taking on an intense workout.
The device holder tray makes it easy to store a phone or small device as you row, even if you want to listen to music or watch videos.
When it’s time to transport the system, use the built-in wheels to maneuver it around, store it in a closet, or set up the unit in a different room. Despite steel construction, the system is compact and saves space, though coming in at 96 pounds, it’s a big one.
At an affordable price and with quality design, this is one of the better water-based models.
- Not much assembly required, easy to transport and set up
- Quiet and smooth thanks to natural water-resistance
- Sturdy and built with a heavy base
- Heart monitor ideal for performance feedback and for monitoring your health in real-time
- Quality design; it will last a long time even after heavy use
- Footpad straps aren’t as durable as other components
- The media shelf works best with a phone, not a larger tablet which may block the screen
- Basic LCD display, compared to other models
The WaterRower Club Rowing Machine well represents the company and its commitment to making beautiful equipment, better than gym quality, and from American replenishable hardwood sources.
According to the company, the mechanism works by the rule of cubes. You power the system with the amount of work you put into the workout, and also dictate the speed and the resistance. The harder you exert yourself, the more resistance and drag you overcome.
No wonder the company and users describe the experience with words like “instant resistance”, “no jerking or jarring” and “even strokes.”
The model has two basic components that make for a very smooth feel: water tank-based resistance and a wooden frame. The end result is a smooth ride with little noise, a comfortable seat, and an ergonomic approach to good exercise.
You can take it slow and light or with double the tension for a more challenging workout. The stained rosewood and black walnut wood give it a very unique look that many users enjoy. The primary use of wood, however, is to help absorb sound and vibration, even if you’re in a gym or crowded room.
The Club water rowing machine can last for years since its water tank-design protects against wear and tear. The machine’s parts do not require lubricating and there is no motor. For that matter, the WaterRower Club even made sure the little pieces were durable.
Dual black rails resist scuffing, while quality wood protects against common soiling. The wood is hand-finished with Danish oil and urethane to preserve the “club” quality look.
The Series 4 Monitor helps you keep track of your success by reporting on your stroke rate, total strokes, workout intensity, duration, zone bar, and distance in miles/kilometers. Track your progress by MPS (miles-per-second), MPH (miles per hour), 500 meter split time, two-kilometer split time, calories per hour, or watts.
The heart rate strap and receiver is another optional component if your goal is to increase your heart rate to a specific BPM. The user interface is simple, with six windows, six quick select buttons, and three navigational windows. Flip the frame up for storage. You can elevate or lower the height of the rower with hi-rise attachment parts if you have problems squatting.
The WaterRower Club Rowing Machine may well be the luxury shopper’s choice, particularly if you want to impress your friends with the look.
- Like other water rowers, works 84 percent of muscle mass but is low impact, removing body weight from your limbs and joints
- You can choose higher exertion by going faster and harder
- Wooden frame makes the unit solid and stable
- High weight capacity, comparable to the gold standard Concept2 models
- Four corner wheels on the rails that make the seat stable and reduce sweat buildup
- Weighs 117 pounds, slightly heavier than average
- Not as quiet as other non-water models, though the noise is low enough to watch TV at normal volume
- Some users reported problems assembling the machine
The Life Fitness Row HX Trainer offers total body cardio and fluid technology, with the company touting its “Natural Feel”, easy adjustability, and attention to the detail, including fine wood.
The water resistance technology does allow fluid performance, commercial-grade power, while still built for a compact design. The natural wood frame, along with tempered steel, ensures a sturdy system, though it measures about seven feet long.
The “small footprint” model, made to fit practically any room, has four levels of adjustment. Unlike other water tank rowers, however, you can change the resistance level automatically. Turn the red dial at the top of the tank to adjust the feel, without the need for refilling or siphoning water in the tank.
One reason the company included the auto-adjustment feature is to customize experiences for multiple users. Readjust the system for your family members at different stages of their workout routine, from beginner to advanced.
The seat is comfortable, despite the steel frame with wooden accents. It weighs 108 pounds with water but transporting the machine is not too difficult since it has transport wheels.
The console for this Life Fitness model is actually more advanced than some other competing machines. The LCD display reports on time, distance, speed, and if you choose to wear a wireless chest strap, a heart rate monitor.
The natural wood frame makes the Row HX an attractive gym-quality machine, one that is elegant and durable. While the system is not difficult to assemble, the moderately challenging process may require expert assembly, which costs extra.
Whereas other water-tank rowing systems require manual adjustment, this is a unique system ready to customize. Life Fitness has sold high-quality exercise equipment since 1977 and it remains a solid competitor with a trusted brand name.
- Fluid technology resistance but with a unique automatic adjustment function
- Low impact workout that still works out most muscles for core strength
- An elegant design that matches most interior decor setups
- The unit only weighs 71 pounds without water making storage or moving easy
- Warranty is longer than average, five years for the frame, three years on tanks and seals, two years on mechanical parts and function, one year for console and labor
- Can hold up to 330 pounds, not as much weight as competing models
- The heart monitor strap is not included in the package
- A high-end model, compared to affordable competing brands
Best Air Rowing Machines
Air-rowing machines either “nail it”, and constantly get featured as the best in the industry, or do it wrong and are never heard from again! Many air-resistance machines have dropped off the market only to become magnetic-air resistance hybrids.
Still, air-only machines tend to bring power to the user, operating with greater resistance than magnetic or water options. Using vanes of the flywheel, the “braking” function creates resistance and the faster the wheel spins, the more resistance increases.
Usually, an adjustable vent controls the multiple levels of resistance, with larger vents resulting in more powerful resistance.
While the Model D from Concept2 is an air-rowing machine and could easily win this contest again because of its overall excellence, three other models also stand out.
The MaxKare Rowing Machine features a dual belt and dynamic air resistance system and is unique in the sense that it’s only powered by air resistance.
The MaxKare company makes a variety of other products, from bikes to kitchen appliances, and even a magnetic-resistance rowing machine. With this model in particular, there’s a Twin Drive Belt System, which offers a higher resistance quality than most magnetic-powered rowing machines.
Using progressive air-resistance provides a gentle breeze, as wind comes in and out of the system, which some Amazon users describe as “huge”. The full exposure design looks and sounds like a fan, but the resistance is solid.
You instantly feel the difference, as the harder you pull, the tougher the resistance gets from the fan. The unit is large and extends to 71 inches, weighing 58.5 pounds. Its steel body gives it durability, letting it hold 264 pounds on its angled structure.
The pulley system makes it smooth to move. Fold the long system up when you want to store it or save space, with easy to use wheels.
Work out hard while also protecting your shoulder joints, vertebra joints, ankles, knees, and elbows. The ergonomic design allows for easy handling, with a durable nylon rowing strap, a seat made from a polyurethane material, and non-skid large footplates for all shoe sizes.
The digital monitor reports on basics like count, time, calories burned, distance, and other numbers, including a scan option, which shows everything. In case you want to watch videos or listen to music, the iPad holder is conveniently located in front.
Convenient, powerful, and in the words of the company, “simple wellness.”
- Air-based dynamic air resistance with twin drive belt – meaning hard resistance that increases as you push yourself harder
- Easy to assemble and takes no more than 45 minutes
- Harder resistance compared to magnetic-powered models, as most reviewers agree
- Supports your iPad or Smartphone for motivation
- Easy to transport, fold and store thanks to a pulley system
- The full exposure air-based system is louder than all other models
- There is no automatic or manual resistance adjustment, it moves according to your effort
- Some reviewers complain the system is too difficult and is better for resistance training, not cardio
Marcy has quite a catalog of cardio exercise units, gym accessories, weight training machines, and even cutting-edge cycles. The Marcy Foldable Turbine Rowing Machine, in contrast, is an air-based system that looks simple, huge, and a little intimidating, given the top-heavy design.
This model is all about intensity – starting with a low impact training setting and then increasing the resistance up to eight levels. You can feel the burn of a full-body rowing workout, not just light cardio, but realistic and challenging air resistance powered by a turbine system.
You change the level of resistance with a simple lever design. While Marcy makes magnetic and water-based rowing machines as well, this is their largest model in seat and product dimensions.
Marcy’s ergonomic shape reduces muscle fatigue letting you work harder and longer without highly strenuous activity. The turbine system cools you down the more you work out, while the high-quality design protects against wear even after extended use.
The foam handle prevents slipping and protects your hands from vigorous pulling. The injection-molded seat lets you sit and burn calories without discomfort, while the adjustable foot straps keep you stable.
Transporting the system is easy thanks to transport wheels and a foldable design for storage. The system is relatively small and doesn’t require a lot of floor space. Yet, holding 300 pounds makes it stronger than average. Remember, with these systems, you must move faster and with greater force to feel the resistance.
Some users complained about a lack of resistance, but you feel the change once you use the turbine system as recommended. The computer display helps you monitor important stats like speed, time, calories, distance, and revolutions-per-minute.
Fittingly, the company Marcy has a background story in fitness. It’s part of the IMPEX brand, established in 1982. However, Marcy’s origins go back to the 1940s when Walter Marcyan, a weight lifting champion, and Vaudeville strongman, founded his own gymnasium equipment company.
His patents for machines were ahead of their time and helped shape the modern industry. The Marcy line remains impressive today and with this model, you get better control over the tougher air-resistance.
- Eight adjustable settings, no manual process required
- Built-in computer display placed in front of the turbine system for easy viewing
- A solid steel frame ensures longevity
- Affordable but not cheap, quality construction
- Easy assembly and transport
- The air-based system produces more noise than other models
- Fairly heavy at nearly 90 pounds and requiring about 86 inches of room-length
- Can only support 300 pounds, which falls short of some other non-turbine models
The Stamina ATS Air Rower is one of the top-ranked indoor rowing machines that exclusively uses wind resistance, and in the words of the Stamina company, “It’s time to achieve the body you want.”
The air-based rowing resistance allows for a smooth, comfortable and low-impact workout routine. If you want to work nice and easy, the resistance is easy and won’t strain. If you want to row faster and harder, you instantly feel the resistance.
The wind resistance makes for a smooth rowing stroke, while the ergonomically created pieces keep you comfortable even past the hour mark. The machine’s sliding seat rail, oversized seat, upholstered seat, and even textured hand grips help you stay focused and in top form.
Your upper and lower body get a full workout while the large and pivoting footplates (sealed by Velcro) make sure your feet stay in place even when you do row faster.
The LCD workout monitor is easy to read and shares information about your track speed, distance rowed (in miles), time, and calories burned.
The best feature of the Stamina Air Rower is its aerobic-focused workout that goes easy on your joints. The design of the seat, grip, and footplates reduces the pounding and injurious movements of most extreme workouts from weightlifting machines.
The steel frame renders the unit sturdy but also foldable if you remove the pins on the frame. Transport it into another room with ease using wheels on the front bar. At 77 inches long it can hold a person over six feet tall and with a weight capacity of 250 points.
The Stamina Company offers a three-year warranty on the frame and a one-year warranty on other parts. With a sleek silver and blue style, it brings the gym experience home with you. Not quite wood quality, but at a good price.
- The air rowing technology works out most muscle groups, from arms to legs, glutes, and abs – all according to your pace
- Easy and fast setup, within 30 minutes according to most users
- Affordable price by comparison to other models
- Most of the parts are steel, rendering it strong and durable
- Ideal for newcomers who want a low-impact and comfortable full-body workout
- Air-based resistance make considerable noise
- A somewhat basic display and tracking system – batteries not included
- Only handles up to 250 pounds, less than other models
Best Magnetic Rowing Machines
Right away it’s easy to declare that magnetic machines have an advantage over air and possibly even water systems – they’re quiet and efficient. Magnetic performance is quiet because there is no fan or water movement.
On the other hand, some users claim magnetic machines lack the resistance-strength of air and water systems.
Magnetic resistance happens when non-magnetic but electrical conducting metal cuts through a magnetic field of a magnet or electromagnet, causing opposing energy forces.
Resistance increases or decreases by changing the position of the magnet and the conducting element, and each company brings a unique approach to this design.
Let’s consider three top-ranked magnetic or magnetic/air models to discuss the pros and cons.
As you can guess from the title, the interactive experience is the selling point here and it’s even comparable to the Hydrow Live Outdoor Rower we covered earlier.
Not that the Nordic Track RW900 is ordinary – this system comes loaded with features, starting with SMR technology. Silent Magnetic Resistance offers realistic rowing in a watercraft type feeling that’s not based on the old water-in-a-tank design.
You get a fast and high-intensity workout with 26 different resistance levels. Adjust them with the push of a button. After that, however, you get another “push” from manual adjustable air resistance.
You auto adjust the 26 touch-screen resistance levels by way of the Interactive Personal Training feature. Your virtual coach makes adjustments according to your needs, which mimics water resistance. Naturally, you also control resistance levels according to your own customized level of fitness and your future goals.
The HD touchscreen display is 22 inches, allowing for a more immersive experience with your iFit personal trainer. The trainer talks to you and leads you through exciting and challenging classes, all the while changing your resistance levels according to the task.
The inertia-enhanced flywheel not only makes the simulation feel real but also ensures the operation is quiet and energy-efficient.
One of the best features is the vault of training options, which includes not only multiple trainers, but also different disciplines like yoga, full-body sculpting, boot camp, cross-training, and calorie-burning.
There’s even an “around-the-world” simulation if you want to see lovely scenery as motivation to keep going. With your purchase, you get a one-year iFit membership, with its collection of elite trainers, a large library of workouts, live shows, and daily workout challenges.
You can check stat tracking, add multiple users, and have some fun with Google Maps, as you can “row” all across the world using Google’s cameras. Hey, it beats surfing with a mouse!
The system is not cheap but it’s one of the most enticing in imagination.
- Interactive content that automatically adjusts 26 levels of resistance
- Also has manual air resistance
- Easy fold up for storage or transporting with front-mounted wheels
- SpaceSaver design makes sure it doesn’t take up too much of your room
- One of the quietest high-end systems because of Silent Magnetic Resistance
- Not Bluetooth compatible
- Not completely quiet unless the manual air setting is all the way down
- The touch-screen display is the only source of information for your workouts
The Stamina Avari Rower is the second Stamina system to make our list and it’s because their magnetic-based rowing system is arguably better than the X WaterRower, depending on your own preferences for water vs. magnetic operation.
Magnetic systems offer more resistance levels than water tank systems and the Avari has an impressive 12 workout programs to choose from in your own routine.
Seven of the twelve programs adjust the magnetic tension, introducing you to different challenges as you maximize your cardio workout. A nice feature too, considering many users don’t like having to interrupt their training sessions to adjust the resistance levels.
Each program includes six cardio profiles, one manual, four customized programs, and one heart rate program. The LCD backlit monitor tracks time, calories, distance, pulse, watts and strokes per minute. Using the touchscreen monitor, click the up and down buttons to adjust resistance and workout time.
The device is comfortable thanks to a foam padded handle with a soft grip, a molded seat, and footplates with adjustable straps. Like other models, it has an electronic chest strap to monitor your heart’s response and record how each program affects your heart rate.
Even better, you auto-program the system to adjust magnetic tension according to your changing heart rate. Meet goals and stay safe.
This low-impact aerobic exercise system measures 81-inches in length (over six feet) and has an 88-pound frame. You can count on a sturdy system, made from aluminum, and comparable to a commercial-grade rower.
The Stamina Avari unit lets you feel a three-phase stroke, from beginning to end, which is excellent for boosting metabolism and fat burning. The highly flexible system quite literally “keeps quiet” about its advantages, since it has an edge over noisier air rowers.
- A programmable LCD screen that lets you adjust resistance levels with the touch of a button
- Twelve workout programs and four custom user programs
- Magnetic resistance, which is quieter than water or air
- Easy setup and easy to fold for transport
- Not too big in terms of size, not too expensive compared to other brands
- Not as much resistance as air or water systems, particularly since the programs directly control the level for you
- Over-tightening some parts could cause problems when folding the unit
- Better for beginners than Crossfit vets, at least according to some reviews
The XTERRA Fitness ERG700 Rower welcomes you to your journey with evocative words: “Without ambition, there would be no adventure.”
XTERRA knows adventure, selling not only rowers but treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, and steppers. Still, its ERG700 Rower is an impressive achievement, since it combines air and magnetic resistance for one great cardio workout.
Avoid injury and joint pain while also doing plenty of muscle-toning workouts, thanks to sixteen levels of resistance and 10 preset programs.
The durable unit and strong steel frame can hold up to 350 pounds while the 97-inch beam ensures a durable system that will last for years on end. The system’s 20-inch height makes working out easy, regardless of age.
Ten built-in fitness programs will keep you busy from a beginning-to-advanced stage. While air is loud and magnetic resistance tends to be weak, the dual resistance system gives you the best of both worlds – top performance, which is also quiet.
The aluminum rail system keeps the action smooth, while the contoured handle straps feel soft for gripping. Adjust the flex pedals as needed for balance and stability.
The LCD blue backlit screen has easy access buttons and adjusts for better viewing angles. Keep track of your time, distance, calories burned, custom or preset intervals, watts, strokes-per-minute, and other information.
Adjust resistance levels automatically by pushing the LCD display buttons. User-controlled rowing resistance lets you take it easy if you’re a beginner or struggle with physical ailments.
The faster you move, the harder it gets, but you’re never pushed beyond your boundaries. The system is rather large but also foldable and wheeled for simple relocation.
Upon purchase, you get a five-year warranty for major parts but a lifetime warranty from the manufacturer for the frame itself.
The XTERRA company has three decades of experience making home and commercial fitness equipment and prides itself on its high quality blue backlit screens, advanced training programs included with the machines, and the stylish design of each model.
- A powerful and sturdy system with 16 resistance settings
- Quiet and yet smooth thanks to its magnetic and air hybrid system
- A good compromise between affordable but high-quality parts
- Foot pedals pivot and flex for better form
- Try ten different workouts with different goals
- There is no chest strap monitoring
- A larger-than-average system which does make it difficult to move at times
- Cannot hold more than 350 pounds, good but not great for weight capacity
3 More Great Home Rowers
While we discussed many of the technically-best models already, it wouldn’t be fair to forget to name some other models that came close – and also excelled when it came to targeted demographics. Namely, for users that need a little extra help getting started because of weight, age or medical issues, as well as inexperience.
Best for Heavy People Over 300 lbs
Many models we reviewed only carried up to 250 pounds. This doesn’t suggest that 300 pounds and up is too much for a rowing machine. Rather, affordable materials and frames tend to hold less weight than commercial-grade. This is precisely why some companies build stronger units made for 300 pounds and over.
While some models like the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5639 Full Motion Rowing Machine ranked well, few approached the stellar reputation of our top choice.
The Concept2 Model D was already ranked as our number one pick, but just as many users prefer the newer and updated version – which can also hold up to 500 pounds.
The Model E has comparable durability as the D, but with more luxurious details. The nickel-plated chain double powder coat protects the machine against scratches and reduces the need for regular oil maintenance.
Performance is the same, a full-body but low impact workout that lets you feel the real pull of indoor rowing. Because of the fly-wheel and damper design, you get resistance and response to every single stroke.
You maintain control over the resistance by your own exertion. The spiral damper lets you adjust the airflow coming to the flywheel while still keeping the operation smooth and almost noiseless. As you build speed, resistance increases and rowing becomes more challenging.
The system has an inseam length capacity of 38 inches. The Model E differs from the Model D in chain housing as well as a higher seat. The chair-height, or 20-inch standard, works for users that cannot easily bend their knees. The size also allows easier wheelchair access.
The Performance Monitor 5 is Bluetooth and ANT+ ready. The backlit screen is easy to read, while the USB flash drive compatibility makes storage and connectivity with other devices easy and fast.
You can also compare results with other users online. Save your daily performance and track your results, including your heart rate courtesy of an included wireless receiver and strap.
Concept2 Models D and E are frequently mentioned as the top indoor rowers in the world, built for people of all sizes to get back into shape.
- Powerful monitor and online connectivity, offering interactive guidance and performance tracking
- Higher seat, nickel-plated superior quality chain
- Caster wheels and easy separation for transport and storage
- Five-year frame warranty
- Battery-powered (2 D cells) though it also gets additional power from the spinning flywheel
- Slightly more expensive than the other Model D
- Not as quiet as an electromagnetic model because of the flywheel’s spinning
- Is more cardio-focused than strength-training users may need
Best for Seniors
Many seniors do buy indoor rowing machines, as it remains one of the most diverse full-body workouts, and yet ensures maximum safety. Seniors, and others struggling with medical issues, often find that their joints, knees, ankles, and elbows feel sensitive before and after a workout.
Finding an indoor rowing machine that minimizes direct impact is important. Fortunately, one model stands out in this regard, not only for its safety features but also for diversity.
The Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Magnetic Rowing Machine is an ideal choice for seniors because of its low-impact design. The system works out all the major muscles evenly and with even more exercises than just classic rowing.
As a senior, you’re likely shopping for a one-time investment, which is why variety is just as important as performance. Front stabilizing footpads enable you to use the device for more activity besides classic rowing. The Fitness Reality 1000 includes additional exercises such as curls, upright rows, shrugs, front raises, shoulder presses, and more.
The MyCloudFitness app, free with purchase and compatible with iOS/Android, tracks and accesses your performance from any location. Receiving feedback on distance, split time, speed, calories, strokes-per-minute, and other performance data.
A World Tour Solo option is coming soon, which lets you try out trails and routes all over the world, ideal for world-traveling seniors that can’t wait for the next vacation.
The BlueTooth-compatible app gives you access to more workouts beyond rowing. However, the 3.5-inch LCD screen only tracks your statistics, not connectivity. Still, some users prefer this approach, as they complain about models that only have one central system. Separating stats and app features might work best.
The extra-wide foam handlebar gives you a comfortable grip, not to mention a large cushioned seat to make your routine comfortable. The system is also, coming in at 63 pounds and is foldable and reaching a length of 88.5 inches.
For seniors, this is one of the gentlest workouts on the market that still delivers dramatic results when used.
- Multiple exercises, low-impact aerobics but full body concentration
- Bluetooth compatibility, better for tracking workouts and accessing new features
- Magnetic tension resistance system keeps operation quiet and challenging
- Space-saving design, folding, and wheeled, ideal for storage and transport
- 14 different levels of resistance for newcomers and experienced users
- A weight limit of 250 pounds
- Magnetic systems don’t have as much strong resistance as air or water
- The app-based exercise challenges are not for all tastes
Best for Beginners
As you read reviews online, you might notice some users get discouraged when they aim too high too soon. Success not only depends on a quality rowing machine but also one that’s appropriate for your skill level.
Beginning rowers tend to be lighter, easier to use, and not too difficult in terms of resistance. As you advance and gain more muscle, you may find it useful to upgrade to a higher quality machine that challenges you with higher resistance and or different training programs.
One model stood out for its adjustability and ease of use.
The First Degree Fitness Newport Rower has Adjustable Resistance technology, meaning you can change the resistant power from extremely light and easy to Olympian-level hard.
The water-tank system is ideal for smoothness and consistency, which is precisely what you want if you’re just starting to use a rowing machine. The triple-bladed impeller and tank design create the feeling of “instant catch”, suggesting better resistance but no straining or waiting.
With every stroke, you get a full workout, and thanks to the advanced system, no dead spots or too many load points.
The fluid resistance tank works quietly, meaning it’s much less distracting than air models and even some air-magnetic models. The tank itself is high-quality, made of polycarbonate shell and triple-bladed paddle. Adjust the water volume for small to heavy resistance.
The seat rides on precision bearings and rollers, which ensures you will have a smooth ride. The footboard even has heel support to protect your joints, as too much impact too soon, may leave a novice sore. There’s no need to worry about soft hands since the handle has a foam grip to reduce stress.
Although you do fill the tank with water for operation, you can also adjust the resistance level by simply switching from MIN to MAX on the dial. Novices will appreciate this feature, as it’s much easier than manually changing water levels in some other water-resistance systems.
The unit weighs 68 pounds and is 20.1 inches high, which means it’s not a huge system, nor is it difficult to set up. Guide the machine easily into another room with the transit wheels and its foldable parts.
The computer monitor is small but conveniently located. From here, you can read feedback about your performance including time, strokes, 500m split time, calories-per-hour, watts, interval training, and other performance-based data.
Another advantage: when you buy from Wal-Mart you can choose home delivery or pick it up in the store.
Your journey may start somewhere simple, like Wal-Mart, but it never ends, so as long as you continue on with a health-conscious lifestyle. You will upgrade when the time comes, but for now, enjoy making your new workout regimen a habit.
- Variable resistance settings, unlike other air and water systems
- More consistent resistance thanks to its unique design
- Stronger than other magnetic systems
- Quiet operation and high-end parts that last for years (three-year warranty included)
- Export data with a USB port or explore new options with other fitness apps
- The heart monitor strap is available but not included
- The owner’s manual is a must-read and sometimes light maintenance is necessary for maximum performance
- Some users say it can slide backward after repeated used, especially on a smooth floor
Frequently Asked Questions About Indoor Rowing Machines
Got more questions? Fancy that we have some answers! Here are some questions commonly asked by first-time buyers.
Is There Anything Special I Should Know About Getting Started With This Contraption?
Yes, actually. Many first-timer users approach rowing machines with the wrong attitude and physical stance.
According to a report by The Telegraph, improving your performance requires remembering a few basics about rowing movement. Read more about technique at the Telegraph or remember these tips:
- Slow down to speed up, because longer and deliberate strokes challenge you without wearing you out too soon
- Row with your legs not merely your arms
- Put your back into your stroke
- Do more core exercises for more efficient training
Why Is Rowing Such a Thing, Anyway? Who Rows? Who Kayaks?
Rowing while white water rafting is preferable. But just in case you can’t make it to the river wild this weekend (since rafting is usually found in a resort or coast city) the indoor rowing machine is the next best thing.
Indoor rafting is one of the best aerobic exercises for cardiovascular health. Pumping oxygenated blood is healthy and stimulates both your heart rate and breathing rate. If you’ve ever been rafting, you may notice that you work out constantly by moving yourself on the water and yet don’t feel exhausted.
It’s too fun to be strenuous. Strenuous exercise is also called anaerobic training and it will rob you of breath, energy, the will to live, and so on. Aerobic exercise improves fitness with low to high-intensity workouts, enjoyable for first-time users.
In the words of Medicine.Net, aerobic exercise also “improves fitness and helps prevent cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.”
Why Do I Lose My Breath So Easily When I Workout?
It’s fairly common for the out-of-shape population to experience some breathing problems, though indoor rowing is still easy compared to other forms of exercise. Learning better control over your breathing will help you to work out longer and not gasp quite so often.
Ideally, the proper breathing rhythm should match the rhythm of your stroke. When you begin with one long stroke, it’s easy to keep your breathing in sync. However, learning how to take shorter breaths as you row harder is the challenge.
According to Concept2, makers of the D and E Indoor Rowing Machines, the secret lies in learning to exhale gradually on the drive, get rid of all the rest of the air at the finish, but then inhale on the recovery.
Find your own personal pattern that seems to work for you. The more oxygen you breathe in, the more intense and yet manageable the workout becomes.
Which Is Best? Air, Water or Magnet-Powered Resistance?
As you might expect, there is no definite answer here – only what you personally choose, based on your workout needs. In building an ideal gym environment, what’s most important to you?
If you want to watch TV or chat on the phone, then magnetic resistance is quiet and smooth. The air-resistance systems, like the Concept2 models, tend to have exciting interactive options, but they also make more noise.
Some users say air-resistance is too strong for a novice. Others say magnetic resistance is too weak. The air-magnetic combo machines seem to address this, but in terms of popularity and the highest rating for performance, they don’t shoot as high as the air-resistance models.
Water-resistance models sell for less but only some models offer easy manual adjustments. Others require replacing water or turning a dial, which could be a distraction. Then again, some feel that water tank models simulate an actual rafting experience naturally, in ways artificial machinery and software can’t.
The best interactive systems have neat features but the centralized system is a distraction for users more interested in live tracking and fast performance.
One solution would be for you to sample different types of rowing machines at a public gym after buying a guest membership. Compare each system and see how you like the feeling. Best of all, unlike people at Wal-Mart, no one stares at you at the gym for trying out the equipment!
Remember Your New Year’s Resolution – Get in Shape
New Year’s Resolutions have come and gone by now but there’s still time to accomplish your goal and get back in shape. Buying an indoor rowing machine is one of the best investments for long-term health and losing weight.
It’s not exhausting like doing pushups and situps. Indoor rowing is fun, interactive, affordable, and as we learned from our top 15 list, loaded with options and variety.
Whether you’re a senior, trying to lose weight, or a first-time user, this is a healthy new hobby that you will never regret turning into a habit.
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