Looking to get a full-body workout at home? This is our guide to buying the best indoor rowing machines from $200 to $1,500
Even if you’ve never set foot on a boat or grasped an oar, having an indoor rowing machine at home is a great way to get fit.
As every single stroke uses nine major muscle groups, rowing machines provide a great way to increase fitness by burning calories and building muscle in a low-impact way that’s easy on the joints.
And best of all, you get to sit down while you’re doing it.
Here you’ll find the Buying Guide to the various types of rowing machines, as well as a quick overview of the key features that you’re going to want to consider before choosing.
Suppose you just want to take the plunge right away. In that case, you’ll find our rowing machine Best Buys below, but if you want to learn a little more, then read on.
Our buying guide will give you some insight into which features are most important, so you can choose a rowing machine that’s right for you.
Concept 2 Model D
Concept 2 has been defining the gold standard for gyms and serious home rowers for many years. The Model D is close to perfection. At £860, it’s certainly not the cheapest out there, but the overall quality is difficult to beat. Whether you’re just a super-keen beginner, or semi-pro oarsman looking to keep in shape, the Model D delivers.
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Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine
If your budget can’t quite stretch to the Concept 2, then the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine Rower with LCD Monitor is the one you’ll want to go for. It’s a basic model, but if you just want a simple, affordable rowing machine that’ll help kickstart your fitness regime, and aren’t experienced enough to need a rowing machine that can provide high resistance, then you can pick it up for $200.
How to buy the best rowing machine for you
What type of rowing machines are there?
The first and most important thing to consider when buying a rowing machine is what type of damper it uses to mimic the effect of dragging an oar through the water.
The four main types of machines use either air, water, hydraulic or magnetic designs to provide resistance.
These rowing machines are the most common type and generate resistance through a flywheel. In essence, with an air-based machine, the harder and faster you row, the higher the resistance will be.
Because workouts intensify as your effort intensifies, air rowers ensure that you maintain a higher level of expended effort. They can be noisy, however.
Water resistance models are designed to mimic real rowing experience and are intended for serious, experienced users. These use large water-filled tanks and internal paddles to create resistance as you row.
As well as being expensive, these models will also produce a lot of noise while rowing.
Hydraulic rowers, often referred to as piston rowing machines, are usually the most affordable and compact option. These machines use a pair of hydraulic pistons to generate resistance.
Not only are these machines usually the most budget-friendly option, but they also tend to be the most flexible in terms of storage. Most fold up for easy storage.
One of the most popular resistance types for home users is the magnetic rowing machine. One of its major benefits, as opposed to the other types, is that it’s very quiet.
These machines use magnets and a flywheel to adjust the resistance levels. You can increase or decrease the resistance either by adjusting a slider or through a digital console.
What other features should I look for?
Most rowers will come with an LCD display to show you how far and how fast you’ve rowed, but, naturally, some will provide more advanced metrics.
If you just want a rower to get a quick exercise fix, then there’s no need to choose a model that provides advanced workout data, but spend more.
You’ll be able to compare your performance between workouts to track your fitness gains.
More advanced models will include features like heart rate monitoring, calorie counters and allow you to race against a user-defined pace boat.
Others will include a USB port so you can export the data from your workouts to your laptop or computer and upload it to third-party fitness tracking apps.
It’s not unusual for the pricier rowing machines to be compatible with ANT+/Bluetooth smart wireless heart monitors, either. Splash out on a compatible wireless chest strap, which costs around $20 to $50, and you can track your heart rate whilst you row.
Top Rated Wireless Chest Straps
The best rowing machines to buy
1. Concept 2 Model D: The best rowing machine to buy
Whether you’re already a serious rower or have ambitions of becoming one, it doesn’t get much better than the Concept 2 Model D.
Designed to give you a complete full-body workout, the Concept 2 is virtually silent and exceptionally smooth when in use.
The technology included also sets this rower apart from the rest on the market. The Performance Monitor 5 really is a superb display that is unwaveringly accurate.
It’s backlit, so it can be easily read in dim or bright light and presents an array of data. You can calculate your distance, speed, pace, calories, and watts for each workout you do.
You can choose between five display options: all data, force curve, bar chart, large print, and having a pace boat/pacer. The USB flash drive port also means you can export all your workouts on to a Mac or PC. As well as all that the Model D can support ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart wireless heart rate monitoring.
The ergonomic handle makes this rower comfortable to use, while the adjustable footrests mean it’ll be right whatever your height.
When you’re finished with your workout, the Concept 2 Model D separates into two pieces for storage. If there is one issue with it, though, it is the size. At nearly 9 ft, its footprint is big, even for an indoor rower.
If you’ve got the required space, though, we have no hesitation in recommending the Concept 2 Model D.
- Dimensions when assembled: 8 ft x 2 ft (244 cm x 61 cm) With Clearance for Use: 9 ft x 4 ft (274 cm x 122 cm)
- Dimensions when stored: 25 in x 33 in x 54 in (63.5 cm x 83.8 cm x 137.2 cm).
- 14-inch seat height
- 500lb user capacity
- ANT+/Bluetooth support: Both
- USB workout upload: Yes
- Warranty: Two years
2. The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine: The best water resistance rower
This is as close to real rowing as you’ll get from an indoor piece of kit.
Handcrafted from ash wood, WaterRower’s Natural Rowing Machine is an absolute marvel to look at. It features a water flywheel and water tank, which mimic the actual feeling of rowing out on the river. The water itself provides resistance – the faster and harder you row, the harder your workout will be.
Smooth and quiet, the WaterRower is designed to absorb vibration and sound, so you can enjoy the feeling of real rowing without the hum of a noisy flywheel.
The Series 4 performance monitor accurately tracks your stroke count, heart rate, intensity, distance, although it doesn’t track calories burned. It is compatible with ANT+/Bluetooth heart rate chest straps, though these are sold separately.
With a weight capacity of over 660lbs, this rower can accommodate most users with ease. And in between workouts, the frame folds up to save space.
The LCD display is hard to see in bright light, though, and almost impossible in darker rooms. When you’re paying almost $1500 for a piece of gym kit, that’s disappointing.
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That said, though, if you’re looking for an indoor rower that accurately mimics the feeling of real water rowing, the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine is a good choice.
- Dimensions: 82in x 22in x 28in
- Weight: 114 Lbs (With Water)
- Storage Dimensions: 28in x 22in x 82in
- Weight Limit: 660lbs
- Ant+/Bluetooth support: ANT+
- USB workout upload: No
- Three years parts, five years frame
3. Stamina ATS Air Rower: The best rower for $300
Stamina ATS Air rower is, as numerous reviewers have noted, a sturdy, well-built air rowing machine that gives gym quality at a relatively reasonable price. This one also offers air and electromagnetic resistance – which gives a smooth, consistent workout.
The reinforced aluminum frame allows the unit to be sturdy yet lightweight. The 2-year in-home repair warranty certainly gives peace of mind.
The unit’s small footprint is also ideal for those whose space is at a premium. Users can fold the unit up and place it against the wall when it’s not in use to save space.
The backlit 6×8″ display tracks: speed, stroke, distance, time, revolutions, heart rate, and more. If you’re new to rowing, you can start your routine at a low resistance level and work through one of the easier training programs to enhance your fitness before moving through 16 increasingly difficult levels.
Naturally, being nearly $600 cheaper than the WaterRower and Concept 2, there aren’t quite as many functions – you can’t set a pace boat, for example.
But if you’re happy with that, this really is a great, affordable rowing machine for users of all fitness levels.
- Dimensions in use: 77” long x 18.75” wide x 22” tall
- Folded dimensions are 48” long x 18.75” wide x 28” tall 56cm
- Weight Limit: 250 lbs
- ANT+/Bluetooth support: No
- USB workout upload: No
- Warranty: Two years
4.XTERRA Fitness ERG200 Folding Magnetic Resistance Rower Machine: The best for under $200
This is a magnetic rowing machine, which is more in common with the mid-range models on this list than the top end. There are 8 resistance levels in total, although it should be noted that these may not provide enough of a challenge if you’re an experienced rower.
The XTERRA ERG200 is foldable (a must-have for rowers unless you have a lot of space) and has wheels to move it around. Its design looks and feels a lot more solid than many other budget models.
The pedals are large and designed for comfort – they do have a velcro strap. However, they do come loose after extended vigorous rowing.
You’ll get a 3.7 inch LCD display with seven features that you can scroll through one by one in terms of the monitor. This tracks the total count, calories burned, count per minute, distance traveled, and time.
A useful feature is the scan mode, which will flip between the main readings – so you do not need to press any buttons during your sessions. It should be noted that this display is not backlit, though, so it’s hard to read in dim or overly bright light.
For under $200, this is a sturdy, well-designed rower and effective, that although it doesn’t come with as many bells and whistles as other models, does a good job.
- Dimensions in use: Unfolded: 71.9” x 20.7” x 31.5”
- Folded: 36.4” x 20.7” x 47.3”
- Weight: 55.1 LBS
- Weight Limit: 250lbs
- Ant/Bluetooth support: No
- USB workout upload: No
- Warranty: One year
We hope you found this buying guide to be helpful, and that it’s helped clarify the various types of rowing machines on offer. As for what type is best for your needs, we’ll leave that up to you!
Last update on 2021-03-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API