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Best Rowing Machine Reviews | The Ultimate Buying Guide


Whether you're a canoe enthusiast eager to keep those muscles strong throughout the winter, an athlete training for a rowing competition or simply a regular person trying to improve their fitness level, a high quality rowing machine could be one of the best investments you ever make.

But these machines typically cost a pretty penny, so how do you choose one? Reading online reviews seems like a good start, but there are thousands to go through and you don't want to read for that long.

We've compiled all the information you'll need to purchase the right rowing machine in this very article to save you hours of research.

1. Quality workouts: HomeFitnessTalk.com recommends a high quality rowing machine as one of the best workout machines you can invest in. Rowing machines provide a full body workout and regular use will dramatically increase your strength, especially your upper body strength.

2. Suitable for all ages: They're also great for obese and elderly exercisers as well as anyone with a serious health condition because you're sitting while you're working out, relieving pressure on your joints.

3. Safe: Rowing machines are far less likely to cause injury than many other exercise machines.

4. Simple: Rowing machines are also quite easy to use, making them an excellent first exercise machine.

The only drawback of rowing machines is that their length can sometimes take up quite a bit more space than other exercise machines.

Many of the best home models can be folded for easy storage but you'll still need a lot of space to set it down when you want to work out. If you're serious about improving your fitness and you have the space, a rowing machine is an excellent choice for a home exercise machine.

How to Find the Best Rowing Machine

Rowing machines use a variety of techniques to simulate the sensation of rowing: water resistance systems, magnetic resistance systems, systems that harness the air around you to create resistance and hydraulic resistance systems.

Typically water wheels are the best choice if you want a machine that closely simulates rowing in water, but if you're only concerned about effectiveness you can purchase a machine with any resistance system (after you research the machine itself, of course).

What to look for:

  • Ergonomic Design – A good rowing machine should take every precaution to reduce injury, with a comfortable seat, large and sturdy foot pads and some adjustability. The handle should be at an angle that encourages natural wrist and hand movements.
  • Info Monitor - The best rowing machines typically have a small computer which shows your workout stats like distance covered, time spent and calories burned. Some can connect to phone apps or a USB drive so you can track your progress.
  • Adjustable Resistance - If you're going to invest in an exercise machine you want one that will get you through several different levels of your fitness journey. The best machines have adjustable resistance levels suitable for different fitness levels. The user's manual will be able to tell you what level is appropriate for your current fitness.

Review of the 10 Best Rowing Machines for 2015-2016:

1. Concept2 Model D Rowing Machine

concept2 model d rowing machine

Source: www.concept2.com

This rowing machine is generally considered the best home rowing machine currently on the market. It uses an air resistance system which can be adjusted to suit your fitness level.

The handle is placed at the optimal height for natural arm movements and padded with a solid grip to prevent your hands from sliding off during a sweaty workout. The seat is also cushioned appropriately for optimal comfort, although some people find it too low to the ground.

The Concept2 Model D also comes with a personal monitor that tracks a variety of stats and stores the data history. You can plug a USB drive into this device to extract the data to see your progress over a long period of time. This is great for helping you reach your goals.

As for storage and cleaning, the Concept2 Model D is great there too. The aluminum frame is specially designed so you can clean it simply by wiping it with a wet cloth and it also folds so you can keep it in a closet or small storage room when you're not using it.

If you're willing to make a significant investment ($900 or more) in a rowing machine, the Concept 2 Model D is probably the one you want.

2. WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine

This is one of the more expensive rowing machines currently available, typically costing $1,300 or more, but if you have the money and you want to really feel like you're rowing in water this is the best machine for you. The water wheel system also makes it easy for you to adjust the resistance levels so you get your ideal workout.

The WaterRower won't fold up to fit comfortably in a closet, but the wooden frame and water wheel make it far more attractive than other rowing machines. The types of wood used also work to reduce vibrations and sound, making this a quiet enough workout that you can comfortably watch a movie or listen to music.

It also comes equipped with a small monitor that tracks and displays detailed workout stats so you can see your progress in real time.

If you do a lot of real rowing in the summer and you're willing to make a big investment in your fitness you will truly appreciate this class act of a rowing machine.

3. Stamina Air Rower Rowing Machine

This is the ideal rowing machine for someone who isn't prepared to make a big investment but still wants a high performance machine. The great thing about air resistance is that the resistance level is set based on how hard you're working out so you never have to touch the monitor. It feels less like rowing in real water but is the best resistance system for the average person who just wants to work out.

The Stamina Air Rower was definitely designed with comfort in mind. It features a heavily cushioned seat and the handle is specially padded with absorbent material so your hands will stay on steadily during even the most intense workout.

Another great thing about the Stamina Air Rower is that it can easily be folded up to fit in just about any closet. Unlike some other models it's also light enough for almost anyone to move comfortably.

If you're not able to spend a lot of money on your rowing machine the Stamina Air Rower is definitely one of your best options, typically sold for around $300.

4. Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower CHR-2001

Considered by many to be the best magnetic powered rowing machine currently available on the market, the Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower CHR-2001 features a variety of programs for people with different strength levels and a specially padded seat to keep you comfortable while you work out.

Along with the standard monitor for stats this machine comes with a heart rate monitor. This is great for people who are really focused on getting the best cardio workout possible and for people with existing heart conditions.

The Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower CHR-2001 is also designed for optimal comfort with a specially cushioned seat that will make you want to keep working out and padded handles.

Last but not least, the Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower CHR-2001 is remarkably easy to assemble and to fold up for storage between workouts. Sitting in the middle price range for rowing machines($600-800), this is one of the best machines in its class.

5. ProRower H20 Home Series Rowing Machine

The ProRower H20 Home Series Rowing Machine utilizes water wheel technology like the WaterRower and is noticeably more accessible to a regular family, typically sold for around $700-900. While the design is somewhat less sturdy, the ProRower H20 is just as comfortable, with a specially cushioned seat, an ergonomically placed handlebar and easily adjustable foot pedals.

This machine also features a larger computer display than many other machines so it can be comfortably read from a distance. The monitor tracks the usual stats such as distance covered, time spent and calories burned.

Customers have also reported that ProRower's technical staff and other customer support staff are incredibly prompt and helpful, miles ahead of many other exercise companies.

If you're looking for a machine that will help you simulate the real motion you make while rowing the ProRower H20 is an excellent choice.


6. ProForm Hybrid Rower/Recumbent Bike

The ProRower H20 Home Series Rowing Machine utilizes water wheel technology like the WaterRower and is noticeably more accessible to a regular family, typically sold for around $700-900. While the design is somewhat less sturdy, the ProRower H20 is just as comfortable, with a specially cushioned seat, an ergonomically placed handlebar and easily adjustable foot pedals.

As a recumbent bike this machine is really ideal for a comfortable workout with a padded back and head rest, and as a rowing machine the ProFrom Hybrid benefits from extra-wide foot pedals with adjustable straps as well as a cushioned seat.

The ProForm Hybrid Rower/Recumbent Bike is somewhat more complicated to put together than other machines on this list but comes with easy-to-follow illustrated set up instructions so it still won't take you much longer than an hour.

All in all, the ProForm Hybrid Rower/Recumbent Bike is great for somebody who wants the power of two different exercise machines but doesn't have the room or money for the separate machines. It's also a great choice for a family with varied fitness levels.

7. Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Rower

The Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Rower is a popular rowing machine with a particularly sturdy design, excellent for the person who likes their workouts intense. This machine makes it remarkably easy to change the resistance level simply by changing how you're working out and is far more responsive than many other magnetic rowing machines.

Another excellent feature of the Avari Programmable is the workout programs, including six cardio workouts, one heart rate program, one manual setting and four customizable programs. The In-Touch Fitness Monitor tracks all the usual stats and is backlit for ease of use. You also get a heart rate belt you can wear during workouts to more accurately track your heart rate.

This machine is also quite comfortable even for long workouts with a specially padded foam seat that's designed to mold to the shape of your butt while you work out.

All in all, this is a great rowing machine for somebody who wants to create their own workout programs.

8. LifeSpan Fitness RW1000

The LifeSpan Fitness RW1000 is one of the better magnetic resistance-based rowing machines currently available on the market. It offers five different levels of resistance for people at different fitness levels.

The LCD screen features oversized text and automatically turns off after four minutes without use. Unfortunately the LCD screen on this particular machine isn't backlit, which has been reported to cause problems for many customers.

If comfort is your primary concern this is definitely one of the better magnetic rowing machines on the market. The seat and handles are both heavily padded with foam to keep you comfortable even during long workouts. You'll also enjoy the foot pedals which swivel during your workout to enhance ease of movement and feature adjustable Velcro straps to fit every shoe size.

The LifeSpan Fitness RW1000 should definitely be one of the machines you consider if you're looking for a high quality rowing machine in the $500-700 range.

9. Stamina 1215 Orbital

This remarkably compact rowing machine is definitely one of the best options for people living in condos, small houses or apartments. While hydraulic resistance systems are typically fragile, this machine has been designed with long workouts in mind and has one of the sturdiest frames of any hydraulic rowing machine. And just in case it does break this machine comes with a five year warranty on the frame and a two year warranty on parts.

The Stamina 1215 Orbital features a thickly padded handlebar and seat along with pivoting foot pads to help you have a comfortable workout.

You'll love this machine if you're tall and looking to do long endurance workouts. Shorter users won't get much of a leg workout from the Stamina 1215 Orbital and should look into other machines on this list. Of course, the other group of people who will love this machine are people living in small spaces.

10. Sunny Health and Fitness Rowing Machine

This is definitely the most affordable machine on this list, frequently sold for $100 or even less, but it still offers 12 levels of resistance and a high level of performance for new exercisers and some intermediate exercisers.

While this machine doesn't come with many features it is quite comfortable even for somewhat longer workouts, with a thickly padded and well textured handlebar as well as a specially cushioned seat.

The Sunny Health and Fitness Rowing Machine is also compact and easy to fold, making it a great choice for people who live in small houses, condos or even apartments.

If you're looking for a starter machine to help you decide if you want to invest in a more expensive rowing machine the Sunny Health and Fitness Rowing Machine is an excellent choice.

Making the most out of your rowing machine

Once you've purchased your rowing machine make sure you follow these tips to get the most out of your workouts:

Wear good shoes. It might be in your house, but you should still always wear shoes when you're using an exercise machine. These can be relatively cheap shoes you keep in the house specifically for this purpose, but they should be comfortable running shoes.

Workout clothes. This is particularly important with something like a rowing machine or recumbent bike because baggy clothing can get caught in parts of the machine, causing damage to your clothes, your machine and potentially even to you. Wearing shorts that cover everything but don't hang down is ideal.

Good posture matters. Preventing injury starts with good posture and form. Keep your back as straight as possible and try to mimic the movements of real rowing as much as possible.

Related: Stamina body trac glider rowing machine review

Remember that the best way to choose a rowing machine is to go to local shops and test each rowing machine for a few minutes. While reviews are great, everybody has different needs and you should make sure the machine you purchase will fit yours. Any reputable shop that sells exercise machines will be willing to let you test them.


About the author

Tyler Cooper

Tyler was born and raised a vegetarian and has been a huge advocate of healthy living for as long as he can remember. When he's not writing on his health blog, you can probably find him working on his organic urban farm.