- 1 Best Rowing Machines – Our Top Picks 2017!
- 2 Rowing Machine Reviews – Top Rowers Compared
- 3 What are the types of rowing machines?
- 4 Advantages of Using Rowing Machines
- 5 Factors to Consider for the Best Rowing Machine
- 6 Conclusion
Rowing machines are not just about cardio, rowing is a full body workout and the right piece of equipment will let you engage 70-85% of your total muscle mass.
There are hundreds of rowing machines available in the market from various fitness brands. If you choose any random rowing machine from the market, there are chances that you’ll face injuries such as lower back pain, knee pain etc.
That’s why we’ve spent our 7 months, testing all these rowing machines and for the matter of fact, most of them sucked. But still, we have found some of the best rowing machines, which are suitable for any beginner or expert out there.
Best Rowing Machines – Our Top Picks 2017!
High-End Pick – Concept2 Rower
There’s a reason why the model D, despite its price, is the world’s best-selling indoor rower. That reason is that it’s very, very good. An Olympic-level athlete wouldn’t feel out of place on one of these and indeed, many of them use rowers like these to keep fit in the off-season.
Rowing Machine Reviews – Top Rowers Compared
Sunny Health and Fitness have a penchant for making fitness equipment of incredible value and the SF-RW5515 magnetic rowing machine is no different. For just a little over $200, this machine packs all the essentials needed for a good workout experience.
So what do you get for your money? The short answer is; a lot! The rower utilizes a sturdy steel frame, 8 levels of magnetic resistance and an easy to read LCD display. While looks are subjective, we think this is a pretty nice looking piece of equipment and it takes up very little space.
Thanks to the magnetic resistance, the machine is very quiet. In fact, the actual rowing motion makes next to no noise, most of it comes from the seat being pulled back. Unlike rowers with air resistance, the tension doesn’t increase as you perform faster repetitions. This leads to a smooth and predictable motion regardless of intensity level.
Let’s talk about the all-important contact points. The cushioned seat and comfortable posture make it very easy to focus on the workout and not worry about anything else. The same can be said for the large, sturdy, non-slip pedals with toe straps that secure your feet to the machine no matter the intensity of exercise.
Overall, this is a rower that does the job without breaking the bank.
There’s a reason why the model D, despite its price, is the world’s best selling indoor rower. That reason is that it’s very, very good.
An Olympic-level athlete wouldn’t feel out of place on one of these and indeed, many of them use rowers like these to keep fit in the off-season. That being said, you don’t need to be an elite athlete to take advantage of its capabilities.
Available in light gray or black, the Model D is all business. While the design is simple and practical, one can tell within minutes that this is a very high-quality machine.
A big part of what makes this thing great is the smooth and dependable motor, which through a combination of a flywheel and damper keeps the motion/resistance challenging and yet you feel in total control through each stage of the movement. The chain Is coated with nickel which adds to the smoothness and reduces maintenance.
Okay, so the motor is awesome. What really matters, however, is the human interaction with the machine. This is done via the contact points, namely the seat, handle and footrest; all of which are designed ergonomically. The footrests are large enough for bigfoot to get his paws into and the handle is bent at a 10-degree angle to let you row along in a nice and natural position.
What about portability then? It’s hard to expect gym level equipment to be portable but surprisingly, that’s exactly what the model D is. The frame features a quick-release lock that lets machine separate into two parts for easy storage. Even when fully assembled, transport wheels make it easy to move/roll the machine into position.
Lastly, we come to the Concept2 party piece, the high-tech Performance Monitor 5 or PM5 for short. This adjustable, accurate and incredibly well-made monitor tracks workout data, allows you to transfer It via USB and wirelessly accepts heart rate information from a number of ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart sensors. The PM5 can be connected to smartphones, computers and even other Concept2 rowers for some machine-to-machine racing!
The Concept2 Model D has a 14-inch seat height. If you prefer a taller sitting position, there’s the near identical Model E with a 20-inch seat height. Both these excellent rowers are built to last a lifetime.
Moving on from one high-end rowing machine to another, we were fortunate enough to finally try out one of these famed and fabled rowers and compare it to the commercial-grade, industry standard Concept2.
Immediately, there’s a big difference between the two. WaterRowers are absolutely beautiful, handcrafted pieces of art in stark contrast to the industrial-looking and businesslike Concept2 machines. But it does not form over function and we’re happy to report that they’re just as capable.
We can talk about specs and build quality but the thing that they really bring to the table is an unmatched user experience. First and foremost, this rower has no motor. Instead, it has a ‘water flywheel’ with paddles that come as close as possible to mimic the feel of rowing a real boat. This also provides smooth resistance that increases the faster you paddle, just as it would in an open water body. Even the best rowing machines have occasional jerks and judders across their range of motion but WaterRowers remain smooth and sublime.
The WaterRower Club is made out of an ash hardwood which, apart from being beautiful, incredibly strong and durable, also has sound dampening properties. This, along with the water flywheel makes for an incredibly quiet and pleasant workout experience. The only sound you really hear the calm, soothing notes of water swishing around.
The attention to detail and an emphasis on user experience rather than outright features or performance is continued with the excellent Series 4 performance monitor. Unlike the PM5 on the Concept2 machines, it doesn’t inundate you with workout data but still covers all the bases. Just like the rest of the machine, a bit of sophistication has found itself into this monitor. The screen displays your workout intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, zone bar, duration, and distance and the monitor is compatible with an optional chest heart rate strap. Even the target monitor politely beeps when you are in the correct intensity zone so that you can focus on enjoying your workout and listening to the pleasant sounds of water as you row.
The WaterRower Club uses a stained wood with a darker color that’s suited for home as well as commercial gyms/studios. It features dual black rails have been styled to prevent scuffing and as such is suitable for heavy and rough usage. There is the option of a natural finish for those who prefer it. The Club version, however, is finished in an attractive rosewood which is much more resistant to soiling.
Lastly, the frame flips upright so that it can be stored in an unbelievably small footprint. If you still have any doubt left about the quality of construction, it supports a user weight of 1000 pounds! These things will last forever and look great while doing it. You owe it to yourself to check one out in person.
And now for something a little different; The Stamina Air Rower. Unlike the rowers, we’ve reviewed so far that rely on magnetic resistance, this one uses air as the name suggests.
An air rower has advantages of its own. The rowing experience is generally more intuitive when compared to standard magnetic machines and the effort increases progressively as you get faster. Now I know that some of you may be thinking; ‘this thing is probably loud as a result!’. In reality, however, it’s not as loud as you would expect.
The oversized seat rail is set at an angle for smooth operation and comfort. The seat itself is nicely upholstered so that you don’t end up walking funny after a hard session. There’s a performance monitor, wheels for portability, the ability to fold for storage and an overall solid construction that should last a long, long time.
Simple is good sometimes and that’s exactly what the Stamina Air Rower is; a simple and highly effective machine offers plenty of value for money.
If you’re new to rowing and not yet sure if you want to make invest big bucks into a pricey machine, the Stamina Body Trac Glider might persuade you with its eminently affordable price tag.
It’s hard to find a rower for around a 100 dollars and especially one that doesn’t completely suck. Based on our own experience and an overwhelming amount of mostly-positive reviews from thousands of users, we feel okay with putting this thing on our top 5.
The Trac Glider 1500 isn’t trying to be anything it’s not. It may be a budget machine but it still gets you the impressive exercise benefits of rowing and does so at an accessible point of entry.
Resistance is provided via a gas-cylinder system. This resistance is adjustable via a knob, so that’s a plus. You also get a frame that is reasonably sturdy, a basic monitor that displays the essentials. It folds for storage and even when fully assembled, fits into a very small footprint of only 23.5 inches wide by 46 inches long. We also couldn’t really fault the molded, well-padded seat.
The Body Trac Glider is one of the few budget products that we can recommend without reservation. As long as you don’t expect the world of it, it will pleasantly surprise you.
What are the types of rowing machines?
When you think of rowing, you think of water. Naturally, water-based rowers are often the best kinds. The resistance is progressive and suitable for advanced users. They also tend to last for ages if properly cared for.
On the flip side, water rowers can be heavy since they have a tank onboard. Apart from being heavy, it’s very likely that they’ll take up more space than most (some can be stored upright, however). They also often have to use some sort of water filtration/purification method to ensure the mechanical integrity of the parts that come into contact with the wet stuff. WaterRower, for example, supplies users with their own purification tablets; we recommend you stick to your rower’s manufacturer’s advice on this.
Arguably the biggest thing water rowers have going for them is that they mimic the feel of rowing in a real boat and offer the best user experience overall.
Air resistance is also progressive but generally louder than water. Good air rowers can sometimes mitigate this drawback. A well-made air rower can be very competent and not at all a bad option for a commercial space such as a gym or studio.
Overall, air rowers are the simplest with the least number of things that can go wrong. So long as you’ve checked the noise levels, they’re a good option.
Rowers that use magnetic resistance are popular for good reason. First, they offer a linear resistance with many levels of adjustment. This is great for people who need a predictable and constant resistance throughout their workout.
The use of magnets also enables quieter operation and reduced part maintenance. These units can also be somewhat heavy.
In terms of feel, magnetic rowers offer a smooth experience.
Hydraulic rowers are often the lightest and cheapest models available. They’re usually sufficient for beginners but some may find the maximum resistance a bit on the softer side. They’re also unlikely to offer variable resistance.
That being said, they’re still among the most affordable rowers available and will usually fit into a very small footprint.
Advantages of Using Rowing Machines
With all the resources and selection of products we have gathered above, you will be able to choose the best rowing machine for your purpose. However, some of you may still be wondering about the real advantages of using a rowing machine for exercises. If we are going to create a complete list, it’s going to be really huge. So, for the time being, let’s have a look at the most notable advantages of using rowing machines for a full-body workout experience.
Effective and Equal Emphasis on Upper Body and Lower Body Workouts
The level of hardness might be your choice, but rowing machines are supposed to give you an equally superb experience of upper-body and lower-body workout. This is something you cannot find in most of other types of exercises. As far as the upper body is concerned, a continuous rowing machine usage will give you benefits of the stronger back while dealing with the issues of back pain. If you ask those who have survived serious issues of back pain, rowing would have been an integral part of their exercise.
Nevertheless, it needs to be noted that its impacts aren’t limited to back but extends to the areas like biceps, hands, wrists, and abs. In fact, given that you are using one of the best rowing machines from the market, your body strength is going to be enhanced like never before. Coming to the lower body parts, the impact of rowing machines is something diverse. It is enhancing the strength and flexibility of your body, especially your leg muscles and thighs.
Convenience and Affordability
Obviously, we are comparing the rowing-machine experience with that of actual rowing. If you are someone who loves the presence of water and enjoys the feel of it, you may not really get this point. However, if you are looking for the benefits of exercise, Rowing Machines are going to be the epitome of convenience and affordability. To use a machine, you don’t have to go to a store, get a boat or start rowing. Everything will be happening in a calm side of your home — probably some place that gives you relief and a calm mind.
Coming to the aspect of affordability, you can find a rowing machine under almost every budget. It has just been noted that the best, customizable and effective machines cost a bit more — which can still be reasoned by most of the buyers. Even in the above list, you can find machines that belong to the different categories of personal and professional budgets. If this does not make sense, just think of the expenses of having a kind of rowing place and the required equipment. We’re sure that you’ll find the resort in rowing machines.
Easy to Use and Low Impact
In the world of fitness, you can find a wide variety of fitness machines, including the tough ones. As a matter of fact, not many of those machines are completely easy to use. In most cases, you need the help of a well-trained professional to get started with the devices. The case of rowing machines is a bit different because they are perhaps the easiest to use fitness machines you’d find right now. The best part is that no matter which kind of exercise you are doing, these machines offer the best level of safety too.
Another point of concern is the impact a rowing machine has on your body. We already mentioned that the rowing exercises are best as far as effectiveness is concerned. It needs to be noted, however, that they don’t affect your joints. If you are looking for some rehabilitation purposes, rowing machine would be the superb companion, given the minimal impact. You can also get rid of back pain, it can be fixed by following a proper and healthy posture while rowing.
In addition to these common advantages, there are some specific too. For instance, some studies do show that the use of rowing machines causes the release of endorphins, which are hormones that make you so good. It’s pretty great, right? You are spending a lot of calories while making yourself feel less stressed.
Factors to Consider for the Best Rowing Machine
The concept of the ‘best rowing machine’ varies according to the person and requirements. Still, given that you need a machine that you can depend upon, there is something you need to understand. So, here are a few things you should take into account before purchasing or shortlisting rowing machines for you.
Quality of Build
To put things simply, the rowing machine should be powerful enough to support your body. Also, almost all the areas of the machine should be flexible and powerful to deal with the diverse exercises you may try out in the long run. As for the build, you can pick anything like solid steel, wooden materials and obviously aluminum.
The best option is to talk to people who can relate to your weight and have been using rowing machines for a long while. Another important advice is to keep yourself away from all sorts of plastic-made machines. In this section, you should give importance to the minimal sets of accessories as well.
Of course, you will be having a particular budget for purchasing a rowing machine for your home. As we said earlier, these machines are noted for the affordable pricing tags. Even if you have a look at the products we have mentioned above, you can find machines that suit the extreme budgets of yours.
If you ask us, however, there’s another aspect of the budget as far as rowing machines are concerned. Even in a worst case, you are going to use the machine for a reasonably-well amount of time. So, it wouldn’t be a bad decision to invest some money on a high-quality machine instead of purchasing the products again and again.
Storage and Maintenance
One of the major benefits of having a rowing machine was its convenience of use and easy storage. So, just before you check out the product, make sure that it would fit in your bedroom — or wherever you are going to use for exercise. It’s best to keep the machine as small as possible, unless, of course, it interferes with the actual exercise acts.
You should also take into account the aspect of maintenance, which is surely something important. Indeed, you have many ways to keep the machine intact and powerful in the course of time. That having said, it’s an extra layer of safety if the machine comes with a notable warranty. All these are somewhat unnecessary if you are purchasing a rowing machine from a renowned brand.
Noise Level, Comfort, and Resistance
Are you looking for a super-silent environment for your rowing experience? In that case, you should consider how much sound the machine is producing on average. It basically depends upon many things, including the type of resistance and building material. The easiest option is to consult experienced users.
Comfort should not be ignored no matter how much you are spending on the machine. First of all, make sure that the device comes with the well-padded sitting space and handles. Otherwise, even when the rowing is not doing any harm, you may face issues regarding handling and all.
Last but not least, you should consider the available options of resistance. The idea is to make sure that your machine can grow with your varying levels of requirements. If you are someone who sets fitness goals in the life, you need to pick a rowing machine that has an extensive range of resistance levels.
We hope these factors will help you choose the best machine for you. There are a few additional set of factors to be considered, such as the control monitor. Basically, you get to know what’s happening to your body through these workouts. Isn’t that great, folks?
You’ve reached the end of our list of the absolute best rowing machines on the market today. Even though there’s a recommendation to cover every level and price-point, all the machines can handle a user weight of at least 250 pounds (and some can take many times that). In other words, we’re confident that they are up to the task.