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.
The best rowing machines to buy
1. Concept 2 Model D: The best rowing machine to buy
- Space Recommendations: 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) For Storage: 25 in x 33 in x 54 in (63.5 cm x 83.8 cm x 137.2 cm)
- Designed to fit most users: 14-inch seat height, 500lb user capacity, adjustable footrests and ergonomic handle. Users with an inseam of 38 inches (96.5 cm) or more may require an extra-long monorail.
- Low impact workout that engages all major muscle groups; work legs, core and arms with a smooth, high calorie-burning motion.
- Track your progress with real-time reliable data; the Performance Monitor 5 (included) self-calibrates for comparable results; connect wirelessly to heart rate belts and apps (not included).
- Separates easily into two pieces for storage; caster wheels make it mobile; easy to assemble with only eight screws.
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
- WaterRower Dimensions: 82in x 22in x 28in / Weight: 114 Lbs (With Water) / Storage Dimensions: 28in x 22in x 82in (Easily Store It On End)
- Built For Home Use and Practically Maintenance Free, Rowing Machine Targets All Major Muscle Groups (84 percent Of Total Muscle Mass) W/ Excellent Adjustable Resistance Levels
- Made Of Kiln Dried Harwood For Better Wood Strength and Performance; Has Honey Oak Finish That Goes Well W/ Other Home Furniture
- Boasts A Patented Water Flywheel That Mimics The Natural Dynamics Of Rowing Yet Suitable For Users W/ Joint Concerns (Chlorine Tablet Is Available Free Of Charge)
- Enjoy 1 Year Manufacturers Warranty (Upgradeable To 3-Year Parts While 5-Year Frame Is Free Of Charge W/ Registration)
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.
More: Best Fitness Trackers
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
- EFFECTIVE, PROVEN RESULTS: Provides a nearly unsurpassed aerobic workout without the relentless pounding to your joints. Quickly improve your fitness while drastically reducing injury risks. This low impact, full body workout targets all major muscle groups and pushes your heart rate to levels that increase your metabolism so you can burn calories and fat more efficiently. Supports all body types and frequent use. Feel secure and safe while rowing your way to a stronger, tighter, healthier body.
- DYNAMIC AIR RESISTANCE: One of the main benefits of air resistance is that it always matches your pace. Row harder if you desire more resistance and ease off if you want less. The air transfer system constantly adjusts to match your rowing speed. Designed for rigorous use, The Stamina 1403 provides an efficient, smooth rowing stroke and the intensity of your workout is up to you.
- LCD WORKOUT MONITOR: During your routine, track speed, distance, time and calories burned and adjust accordingly with the large, easy-to-read LCD display.
- EASY ASSEMBLY AND STORAGE: Once assembled the rower is 77” long x 18.75” wide x 22” tall. Folded dimensions are 48” x 18.75” x 28”. The Stamina 1403 Air Rower folds to a compact size with built-in wheels for easy storage. Assembled weight: 54 lbs. Weight Capacity: 250 lbs.
- WARRANTY INCLUDED: The Stamina 35-1403 air rower rowing machine comes with a 3-year frame warranty, 90-day parts warranty. Guaranteed support for parts, repair or replacement at no cost. Customer satisfaction is our priority.
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
- Compact frame design folds up for easy storage or transport when not in use
- Durable dual extruded aluminum seat slide rails mounted to a steel frame
- Large adjustable 3.7” LCD monitor clearly displays elapsed time, stroke count, calories, total count, and scan
- 8 levels of magnetic resistance are accessed through a dial resistance knob
- Magnetic resistance system is friction-free for smooth, quiet, and maintenance-free operation
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
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of rowing?
Rowing is a low-impact workout that brings big results. It works for all the major muscle groups, helping to increase cardiovascular fitness, build muscle (in particular, your quads, glutes, and core), strengthening joints, and improving flexibility.
There’s also evidence it can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. And because you use so many large muscles at once, it’s one of the most efficient ways to create a movement for everyone, from elite athletes right through to older adults who need an easy way to get moving.
What are the different types of rowing machines?
There are five main classes of rowing machines: air resistance, magnetic resistance, hydraulic resistance (water), fluid resistance/Dynamic Indoor Rower (that’s Staminus’ category), and ski ergometers. You can check out our reviews for each type here.
Low-end models generally use air/hydraulic resistance, whereas high-end devices tend to go with magnetic or water systems.
How much should I spend on a rowing machine?
If you want an effective workout that you can do at home, expect to pay between $200 and $1,500. A low-end machine under $200 might seem like a good idea. Still, usually, these devices use air resistance and don’t provide the range of resistance or workout intensities you’d get if you spent more.
What about rowing machines for home gyms?
There are two main types: standard rowing machines (for anchoring to the floor) and dynamic rowing machines (that attach to a frame on wheels). Both work for building muscle and toning up, but we prefer stationary models because they take up less space and let you engage your core while you’re working out.
Who should use rowing machines at home?
Everyone! Rowing is perfect for busy people who need to find an alternative form of low-impact exercise and easy on the joints.
Who shouldn’t use rowing machines at home?
If you’ve got existing joint pain, osteoarthritis, or another medical condition, make sure to check with your GP before using a rowing machine at home. It’s also worth noting that some people may not like the experience (due to noise, movement, etc.), so if this is you, then consider an alternative piece of equipment.
Where should I put my indoor rowing machine in my house?
We suggest placing it near your TV or computer for two reasons: First, because it means less time traveling between your workout space and where you want to watch Netflix/use social media/etc.; Second because seeing other people using the machine on TV or online can provide motivation.
Are there any alternatives to rowing?
Yes! Instead of getting a rower, you could go for an elliptical, stationary bike, or treadmill. You could also take up swimming or water running if the water’s available near you.
What else should I know about indoor rowing machines?
Proper technique is important when it comes to getting the most out of your workout on a rower. Some things you’ll want to think about are keeping your back straight while leaning slightly forward at the hips, keeping your legs fairly bent with almost no bend in your knee, and rotating slowly from your waist rather than jerking upright after each pull. That said, it’s important to remember rowing is a full-body workout, so also be sure to work the upper body and core.
How much time should I spend on a rowing machine?
It depends on your fitness level. If you’re new to the machine, it could be five minutes, but if you want to build up your capacity for staying in the saddle for longer, then 30-60 minutes tends to be standard. Extra low-intensity training can help endurance athletes avoid overtraining and reduce injuries.
What happens if I spend too long on an indoor rowing machine?
Easy peasy! Just stop before you’re completely exhausted. Listen to your body, take regular breaks, time yourself, or set a goal (e.g., 1000ft in five minutes).
Do I need any extra equipment for my indoor rowing machine?
You can buy after-market water bottle holders for most machines (except the Staminus Rower), which is handy since it means you don’t have to leave your exercise space just to hydrate. You can also invest in performance monitors or wearables that connect with certain types of training equipment, though these are often sold separately.
How much should I drink during my workout?
It’s best not to drink too much before a workout, but we’d also recommend not drinking anything at all unless you need to. It’s best to listen to your body and only hydrate when you feel like you need it (however long that is after the session).
How should I warm up for rowing?
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends low-intensity aerobic exercise such as walking for five minutes before performing high-intensity anaerobic training such as sprinting. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow and perspiration levels, while anerobics get your muscles ready for action.
How long should I rest between sets?
It depends. If you’re after a circuit training type workout (e.g., 5-10 exercises), then aim for 1-2 minutes of rest between each set, but if your goal is to build strength, then take at least three minutes off. If you’re using heavy weights that require more recovery time, increase the period according to how strenuous this feels (e.g., four rounds of 30 seconds on, three minutes off).
What’s the best way to use an indoor rowing machine in my own routine/home workouts?
Due to its total body nature, rowing can be incorporated into almost any exercise routine! It works well in low-impact aerobic routines. It provides steady cardio or high-intensity interval routines where it helps the body recover between each more strenuous bout.
Rowing can also be used as a complete strength training workout on its own. However, many people choose to combine it with upper body resistance work for an all-around workout.
What are some common mistakes beginners make on an indoor rowing machine?
This goes without saying, really, but avoid hunching your back when pulling! Keep your spine straight, don’t strain it when leaning forward, and avoid jerking the handle in this way. And whatever you do, no cheating by using your arms to pull the machine towards you.
Can I row with bad knees?
It’s best to check with your doctor first before taking up any exercise program. This includes rowing. It’s important to warm up properly and avoid overdoing it if pain occurs (and again, this is where listening to your body comes into play). If you’re feeling any sharp or chronic pain, then reduce the intensity of the workout or stop entirely until speaking with a medical professional.
How can I get more out of every rowing session?
You’ll find that as you gain more experience with rowing, your technique and form will improve. This means that you’ll be able to work harder for longer and experience a greater development in strength and endurance.
How long will a rowing machine last?
It’s a good idea to check your machine’s warranty before purchasing just in case there are any specific issues or you aren’t satisfied with it after purchase. That being said, rowing machines work well for a long time, and you won’t have to replace them too regularly due to how sturdy they’re meant to be. If you want to keep yours running for years, then follow the care instructions provided by your manufacturer.
Do rowing machines wear out?
Rowing machines are meant to be extremely durable and last for many years with regular use. It’s best not to leave the machine idle, though, as this can lead to corrosion of any metal parts. If left dormant, it will increase your chances of rusting up the inside of the flywheel chamber – especially if you live in a humid environment.
How do I clean my rowing machine?
The manual that comes with your rower is where you should look first. Still, generally speaking, you’ll want to wipe down each part after every workout with a damp cloth (and avoid using anything too harsh on the finish). This also goes for how much sweat builds up from other activities, such as other workouts. Be sure to read the instruction manuals on how to clean each different piece.
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!
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Last update on 2022-06-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API