Choosing the best rowing machine is no easy task. With so many types, models, and brands out there, all with their own good and bad points. Then you have the different price ranges to consider; it might make you want to pull your hair out, but don’t stress or give up yet because we have done all the hard work for you.
We have created this resource for people just like you that want to enjoy the amazing benefits of indoor rowers from the comfort of their own home. We have reviews of all the best machines and in depth guides to give you all the information you need to make the right purchase and get the most out of it.
Our Top 10 at a glance
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Things to consider when buying a Rowing Machine
To help make a good decision, you should first think about the reasons why you want to purchase an indoor rowing machine. Perhaps you are mostly wanting an effective and fun way to lose weight and exercise, then the chances are that you will be pretty satisfied with a lower cost option like a magnetic or hydraulic rower. On the other hand maybe you want a realistic way to practice actual rowing, in that case you should look at the premium rowers like the water and air machines. Don’t forget that just because one rower is cheaper than the rest, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is poor quality, the lower end of the market has a real purpose for those that just need something somewhat reliable to get into shape with.
The Different Types of Indoor Rowers
There are four different types of rowing machines out there, they differ in the way they create resistance and all have their own subtle differences which you have to think about.
Hydraulic Rowing Machine: These ones make use of hydraulic cylinders which are connected to the end of the handles. They are a particularly attractive choice for those who do not have much space in their home since they are often a bit smaller than other types. The biggest downside is they aren’t as realistic in their rowing action as a other types of machines. The reason for that is the seat and handles are in a fixed position and only allow a fixed hand movement back and forth, and no leg drive which is an important aspect of rowing.
The higher priced machines tend to use water, magnetic and air. They can offer a more realistic rowing experience as they don’t have fixed handles.
Magnetic Rowing Machine: This type is the quietest of the lot since it uses electromagnets to provide resistance. This sounds great but due to the nature of electromagnets the resistance cannot be adjusted. So despite being a bit more realistic, they are not without limitations.
Air Rowing Machine: If you are looking for a realistic rowing experience, you should be looking at the air models. They tend to be very authentic which is great for professionals and casual users who need something to practice actual rowing. These ones are good enough for world class athletes, so that is a testament to their design.
Water Rowing Machine: These are for the purists and seen by them as even more realistic than air since they create their resistance with an actual paddle moving around in a tank of water. They tend to be quite expensive but well worth it, and some of them are beautifully made.
Other things to think about
- Do you require a sophisticated performance monitor which tracks data such as rowing speed and more?
- Perhaps you want a rower that folds away in order to save space in your home?
- Are you planning on doing very intensive training and therefore need something which allows a high level of resistance?
- Are you more comfortable with an extensive warranty in case there are any issues?
What are the benefits of rowing machines?
The idea behind rowing machines is of course to mimic actual rowing, and some models do this better than others. These days though, they are used by many people who are just looking to get into shape so you don’t need to be interested in rowing to benefit. The reason for this is people are beginning to realise what a powerful workout they offer, both in terms of burning calories and for increasing fitness levels. They also cause very little stress for your joints and knees, meaning that you are able to get fit without causing problems for your body and injuring yourself.
So whether you are trying to shed some weight or you are serious about your fitness levels, it is a wise investment. You will be able to use it for many years, and keep getting that same powerful workout.
The Top Ten Rowing Machine Reviews
Model D by Concept2
The Model D is most popular rowing machine on the market, many people regard it as the best and it is used by professional rowers as well as fitness enthusiasts alike. Concept2, the manufacturer claims that it has been “engineered to last a lifetime”, whilst they offer a 5 year warranty for peace of mind. This air rower is full of features along with a top quality performance monitor that you can use to track your progress and even play games on. Yes it is quite a big investment but if you want the best and are serious about your fitness then it is more than worth it. If you don’t believe us then you just have to check out other reviews online where you can find many people raving about this rower.
H2O RX-750 Home Series by ProRower
The H2O RX-750 is one of the most reasonably priced water machines available on the market. You may be pleasantly surprised by it’s quality compared with more premium rivals. Those who want to have the feel of rowing on real water will love this one. It is very realistic, and if you want that super intense workout, you will just need to row faster and let the “natural adaptive resistance” of the water give you the challenge you desire. Alternatively if you are just in the mood for a gentle workout or a relaxing paddle then all you need to do is row a bit slower and enjoy the feeling of pushing against the water.
Model E by Concept2
This is the newest offering from Concept2 and is supposed to be an improved version of the Model D. It includes everything that made it great as well as the PM5 performance monitor as part of the standard package and a variety of other new features. They include a low maintenance chain, upgraded computer, a more comfortable and higher stance with the frame being 6 inches taller than the Concept2 Model D, and the monitor arm has been made longer. You may think these changes are not particularly groundbreaking and you are most likely right on that, but it is a tall order to fill to improve on what is already the most popular rowing machine in the world. If money isn’t an issue for you, and you want the absolute best then you will be very happy with this one.
Kadett Outrigger Style by Kettler
Kettler are a well know name and produce some of the best budget to mid range rowers and the Outrigger happens to be a very nice machine. It has a one of a kind design because it uses a circular movement that tries to mimic the actual rowing motion, something it implements very well. Since it is a piston machine, the resistance level must be set to a suitable setting for the user, like you would on a treadmill for example. Overall, this a very good mid range choice that comes at a nice price for those looking to buy their first rowing machine.
Favorit by Kettler
The Kadett Favorit is a very attractively priced machine. It is pretty simple but well made and sturdy, as you would expect with the manufacturer coming from Germany. This one is a great choice for those who aren’t too serious about rowing in general but want a reliable and effective piece of equipment to get fit. You can also have a pretty relaxing workout since it doesn’t make much noise. Bear in mind though that some owners have had an issue of the resistance level changing in the middle of their workouts which could be a bit of an annoyance.
RW1000 by LifeSpan Fitness
This rowing machine is quite similar in range to the Kettler Favorit, so you may be left with a choice between these two. They are both very solid machines with the RW1000 winning the 2008 Gear Awards Seal of Excellence. It’s proud boast of being smooth with a quiet system for the resistance is true and it is easy to store with it’s folding ability. Unfortunately, there have been some complains about the strength of the resistance and some tiny problems with the quality of build.
Trac Glider 1050 by Stamina Body
Just because the price of this rowing machine is in the low range of the market, does it mean that it is a poor quality? First off, there are some real plus points – it is compact, folds away for easy storage for those who have limited space and has a basic but functional performance monitor. The best feature though, is how it is able to mimic the rowing motion like the more expensive Kettler Kadett Outrigger. Although there have been complaints of feet slipping out of foot straps on the machine and that the resistance was not high enough. It is a great deal for those who have small budget, and there’s no reason why you can’t upgrade to a more higher end rowing machine in the future.
1205 Precision by Stamina
The 1205 is the big brother of the 1050 both in terms of quality, but it remains an affordable machine. Just like it’s predecessor it is highly compact, but it doesn’t fold up for easy storage. The rowing motion uses a traditional hydraulic style which may or may not be good depending on your preferences. There are plenty of good reviews around this product although its major drawback seems to be tight hydraulic shocks which do eventually loosen up with frequent use.
1215 Orbital by Stamina
The 1215 Oribital is a highly rated but very affordable. It attempts to simulate real water rowing with it’s smooth hydraulic cylinder as well as a full range of motion. There are only a few small complaints about this rower like those who seem to have issues with the general build quality. Though considering the price and what this machine attempts to do, there can be few complaints.
Magnetic Rower by Velocity Exercise
This rowing machine is very quiet when in use thanks to it’s magnetic resistance, you could even watch TV during your workout. For those who are serious about their training, it comes with heart rate monitor. The anodized aluminium body that you see is very beautiful and will look great sitting at home. It is certainly a solidly built machine that allows a fantastic workout. The true show of it’s quality is that some people even mention it as an alternative to the Concept 2 Model D. You could do a lot worse than purchasing this rower and it won’t break the bank either.
WaterRower Natural in Ash Wood
This is the king of water rowers and will connect you with the feeling of rowing on water like no other machine on the market. It doesn’t come cheap, it’s in the same range as the Concept2 Model E which means if you’re choosing between those two you would have a very tough choice on your hands. In the end, it would come down to personal preference and if you’re specifically looking for a water rowing machine then this would be your first choice, providing you can afford the price tag. One thing that makes this machine unique is it’s beautiful handcrafted ash wood design, something that will really get people’s attention, not unlike a beautiful sports car. It’s obviously incredibly well made and provides a smooth ride that will put a smile on your face, what’s more it also comes fitted with the fantastic S4 performance monitor.
Like it’s cousin above, the WaterRower Club edition is a beautiful handcrafted machine that will provide a countless rowing experience and not let you down. The difference between the two is this one is a little more rugged and has been designed with commercial gyms in mind or other areas where it may suffer a little more wear and tear. You can probably see from the picture that the wood and rails have been finished to prevent scuffing. You will probably also notice the design looks pretty cool too so despite it’s intention for gyms, it would also sit pretty nice in your home.
This is the second magnetic rower we review and it is a good once, priced slightly higher than other comparable machines. It’s made by big brand Stamina and is rated pretty highly, proving itself as a very solid option in the mid-range of the market. It’s very well made with sturdy aluminium rails and provides a pretty realistic rowing motion, what’s more it is quite compact as well making easy storage another benefit. Another thing that must be mentioned is it comes with a really great LCD performance monitor, something which wouldn’t be out of place in the more professional machines. The only possible drawback is the uncomfortable seat, go ahead and read our full review for more details.
Time to Decide
Now that you have read our introduction, it’s time to get stuck in and read the in-depth rowing machine reviews, they will help you with everything you need to make an informed choice to suit your needs.
We would love to hear from you, so if you have any feedback or want to ask us a question please don’t be shy. Check out our contact page.
you forgot the biorower. This is what national teams use.
You forgot the FIRST DEGREE E-520 and the FIRST DEGREE Vortex 3! They ARE easily the BEST on the market HANDS DOWN…REALLY!!
A couple weeks ago I purchased the WaterRower Natural. The quality is excellent, very quite, tranquil water sound while getting a great workout at your own pace. A great purchase.