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Best Rowing Machines of 2017: Comparison and Reviews

By Tory Reiss / July 18, 2016

Best Rowing Machine Reviewslast updated: July 27th 2016

Want to build your home gym but not sure where to start? Try our Home Gym equipment guide

Interested in buying a Rowing Machine? Read our honest expert reviews and comparisons and find out what is the best rowing machine for your personal needs.

Rowing machines provide a comprehensive workout that produces significant results in a short period of time. Designed to simulate the motion of outdoor rowing, these machines use a moveable seat and hand pulls to achieve their desired effect. If you are considering the purchase of a rowing machine, there are many things that you should first think about. The purpose of this article is to outline the reasons for purchasing a machine, pre-purchase considerations to make, and the most popular machines at various price points.

Top 10 Best Rowing Machines of 2016 Comparison

Rowing MachineFull ReviewDimensionsResistance TypeWeight CapacityPriceRating
Concept2 Model D
Concept2 Model D

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96 x 24 x 28Air500 lbs.$$$4.8 / 5
Stamina Air
Stamina Air

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77 x 18 x 22Air250 lbs.$4.1 / 5
Concept2 Model E
Concept2 Model E

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57 x 24 x 28Air500 lbs.$$$$4.9 / 5
Lifecore R88
Lifecore R88

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53 x 24 x 33Air / Magnetic300 lbs.$$4.2/ 5
BodyCraft VR100
BodyCraft VR100

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68 x 17 x 22Air / Magnetic250 lbs.$$4.1 / 5
Kettler Coach E
Kettler Coach E

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77 x 21 x 23Magnetic285 lbs.$$$$4.9 / 5
LifeSpan RW1000
LifeSpan RW1000

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90 x 18.5 x 23Hydraulic300 lbs.$$4.1/ 5
Lifecore R100
Lifecore R100


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92 x 19 x 36Magnetic600 lbs.$$$4.4 / 5
WaterRower A1
WaterRower A1

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84 x 21 x 22Water275 lbs.$$$4.7/ 5
Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050
Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050

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58 x 42 x 18Hydraulic250 lbs$4.0 / 5

Why Buy a Rowing Machine

  • Convenient

There is something to be said about being able to complete your workout in the privacy and comfort of your own home. Owning a rowing machine will enable you to achieve the results you crave in a convenient manner. It is easy to talk yourself out of a workout if you have to drive to your local gym but if your gym is in the next room it is easier to stay motivated until your exercise is complete.

  • Affordable

Why Buy a Rowing MachineGym memberships can be pricey and purchasing a piece of equipment instead of paying those expensive membership fees makes smart financial sense. Though you will pay more up front, the machine will pay for itself in the long run if you replace your daily gym workout with a routine including an indoor rower. With a wide variety of price ranges to choose from, you are bound to find a rowing machine that will fit your budget.

  • Fast Results

When coupled with a sensible diet, it is possible that you will see results much faster than with another type of exercise equipment. This is due to the fact that rowers combine a cardio workout with strength training which blasts calories at a much higher level than competing exercise equipment. If you stick to a regular exercise routine including a rowing machine you are sure to see the results you want in a short amount of time.

  • Total Body Workout

Rowing is one of the only exercises that works your legs, arms, back, and abdominals simultaneously. This results in a total body workout that is unmatched by many other forms of exercise. If you are just starting your home gym you don’t need to worry about purchasing several different types of cardio and strength machines. By purchasing a rower you will have all of these exercises in one all-inclusive machine.

  • Test of Time

Rowing machines have been around for a very long time, since the 4th century BCE. The Greeks introduced these devices as supplementary military training aides to train inexperienced oarsmen. Since that time, they have grown in popularity and became a popular piece of exercise equipment beginning in the mid 1960s. Rowing primarily focuses on cardiovascular training while also strengthening your abdominals, back, legs, and arms. Interval training has become very popular with this type of machine and helps to increase the performance of many top athletes.

Types of Rowing Machines

When considering the purchase of a rowing machine, there are several different types of equipment to consider. Piston, water, and magnetic resistance machines all offer great workouts but with slight variations. Make sure to choose the correct type of rower for your fitness needs.

Air Resistance

Rowing Machine TypesThis type of machine is guided by an attached flywheel that generates the resistance. The amount of resistance depends on the strength with which you pull on the handlebars, therefore turning the flywheel. The fast the flywheel goes, the more resistance is added to your workout. One of the benefits of this type of rower is the fact that the flywheel acts as a fan for when your workout gets tough.

Hydraulic Piston Resistance

Rowing machines that feature piston resistance are generally considered to be the most affordable. Hydraulic pistons are connected to the rower handlebars and are manually adjustable for different levels of resistance. Another advantage to this type of rower is the fact that they are generally more foldable and easy to store than other models.

Water Resistance

For athletes who want the most realistic feel of their rowers, water models are the best choice. This type of machine includes an enclosed water tank with paddles suspended inside. As you pull on the handlebars, the paddles move in the water creating the resistance for the workout. It is important to note, however, that these models are significantly heavier than others due to the amount of water needed to operate the machine.

Magnetic Resistance

Models that feature magnetic resistance use electromagnets to slow down the main flywheel. The slower that the flywheel operates equates to the more resistance that is felt when you are using the machine. These are the quietest of the types of rowers; however they are larger and less portable than other models. Make sure that you have ample space to use this machine if you decide to purchase a magnetic rower.

 

Pre-Purchase Considerations

Before purchasing a rower, there are several key items that you should consider. Making an informed decision will not only help you get the most affordable rower, but it will also ensure that you purchase a machine that is appropriate for your level of fitness. Considering the items listed below will help you to make the most educated decision possible.

Size

Rower ConsiderationsSize is an important factor when considering what rowing machine to purchase. Consider the amount of space that you have to store your rower. If it is a compact area, you should choose a simple piston resistance rower that folds easily and can be stored in a closet when not in use. If space isn’t an issue, you can likely purchase a rower with more features since it doesn’t have to be stored to conserve space. Make sure to measure the dimensions of the room that you plan to place the rower in so that when you make your final decision you are certain that the piece of equipment will fit in its designated location.

Cost

Be sure to keep price in mind when considering what rower to choose. Though it would be nice to purchase a machine with all of the bells and whistles of an expensive model, it might not be a wise financial decision. Look at your monthly budget and determine which type of rower is an affordable option for you. Rowers range in price from $200 to more than $1000, so be sure to keep that price range in mind when making your decision.

Resistance Type

As mentioned above, there are four types of resistance that you can choose from when selecting a rowing machine. Water, piston, air, or magnetic resistance rowers all offer different features and benefits. While a water resistance rower might be attractive because of its natural feel, for example, it might be too large and bulky to fit in a compact area. Piston resistance rowers are much more compact but are harder to adjust the resistance as you see fit. Air rowers adjust resistance naturally as you pull the handles, but are the noisiest of the bunch. Magnetic rowers are the quietest types but are less portable. Carefully read the descriptions of each type of resistance before making your final decision.

Noise

The amount of noise that the rowing machine makes should be at the forefront of your list of considerations before making a purchase. Though you might think that noise doesn’t matter, it will make a huge difference in the motivation that you have to use the machine. A loud machine is going to be less desirable to use, especially if you live in close quarters or have young children. Make sure to test out the rower before you make your final purchase to hear firsthand how it sounds while in use.

Rowing Type

There are three main types of rowing machines that are on the market. The first centers on machines where the foot stretcher and flywheel is fixed and the only moveable part is the sliding seat. The second option involves both the seat and the foot stretcher moving on a sliding rail in tandem. Finally, the third motion option for rowers is a fixed seat with sliding foot pedals. In addition, any of these combinations can also include pivoting handlebars to simulate the action of rowing. It is important to test out all types of rowing motions to ensure that you find the one that you are most comfortable doing. If you pick a machine with a rowing type that is not your favorite, you will be less inclined to use that machine on a regular basis.

Workout Effectiveness

Choosing a rower that provides you with the most effective workout is another major pre-purchase consideration. Research the models that have user testimonials as to the results that were obtained. Though everyone is different, if many users say that a specific aspect of a machine caused it to be ineffective, that is important to take into consideration. Similarly, if a feature on a rowing machine caused it to be very effective for many people, then it might be worth keeping that particular model in mind as a contender for your final purchase.

Weight Capacity

Finally, make sure to consider the weight capacity of the rower that you intend to purchase before making your final decision. Many compact rowers have a weight limit of just 300 pounds, which may not be enough for some individuals. Purchasing a rower that has too low of a weight capacity risks damage to the machine and injury to you. If you need a higher weight limit on a machine than is considered average, make sure to ask an expert for higher capacity models. You may have to compromise on the size of the machine, but it will be worth it to ensure your safety.

Reviews: Best Rowing Machines by Price

After you analyze the pre-purchase considerations for buying a rower, it is time to pick the model that is right for you. Cost is a huge factor in making a smart decision but you also want to make sure that the rower has the amenities that you desire in a piece of exercise equipment. The rowers below are listed by price and have thorough reviews of their features, advantages, and possible disadvantages.

Under $200

Stamina Avari Easy Glide Rowing Machine

Stamina Avari Easy GlideThe Stamina Avari Easy Glide rowing machine is an affordable solution to your workout needs. This product combines design, durability, and effectiveness to provide a total body workout that is achievable in the comfort of your own home.

Features: The Stamina Avari Easy Glide rower has many features that make it a desirable and effective rower for your home. There are many features to this machine including tough, nylon rowing straps and a padded, molded seat for comfort. In addition, it includes 12 levels of shock resistance that can be easily adjusted depending on your desired level of workout. Priced at $199, this product has a 250 pound weight capacity, weighs approximately 35 pounds, and folds for easy storage when not in use.

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Pros: There are several advantages to this type of rowing machine. Due to its lightweight design, it is perfect for small spaces or compact living situations. It stands upright for easy storage while offering a full range of motion sliding bar when in use. Another advantage to this product is its comprehensive display monitor that indicates stroke count, total strokes, and calories burned among other statistics. A final pro to owning this product is the fact that it comes with a manufacturer’s warranty to protect against any unwarranted damage when using the product.

Cons: Though there are many advantages to the Stamina Avari Easy Glide rowing machine, there are a few disadvantages that are worth mentioning. First, several customers have mentioned that the resistance settings on this rower are too intense, even on the lowest setting. This might pose a potential problem for someone newer to a rowing regimen who needs a less intense workout. Another possible downfall to this machine is the fact that several customers reported that the hand rope frayed and broke after heavy use. If you plan to use this machine heavily, you may want to consider purchasing a brand that uses more heavy duty materials.

The Verdict: Overall, this rowing machine could provide an effective workout for many people at a price that is very reasonable. Its compact size and light weight make it easy to transport while its monitor offers the statistics that you crave during a workout. Though its resistance might be too intense for some, it will provide you will a total body workout that is both effective and convenient.

See this product on Amazon | Read Our Full Stamina Avari Easy Glide Review

Under $500

LifeSpan Fitness RW1000 Rowing Machine

Lifespan Fitness RW1000 RowerThe LifeSpan Fitness RW1000 rowing machine is a great choice if you have a slightly larger budget for your exercise equipment. Priced at $451 this rower has many features that put it above other options.

Features: First, the LifeSpan Fitness rower features a solid steel frame and a 16.5 pound flywheel. Measuring at 90 x 18.5 x 23 inches this compact machine folds for easy storage and has as 300 pound user weight capacity. Furthermore, this machine was the recipient of the 2008 Gear Awards Seal of Excellence.

Pros: This model of rowing machine offers many benefits to its users. First, it has an extremely quiet functioning flywheel. Due to the fact that it is a magnetic rower, this machine does not have a loud flywheel as is experienced with similar air resistance models. In addition, it includes an easy to read LCD console that projects statistics such as distance, time, calories burned, strokes per minute, and overall strokes. Finally, an advantage to this model can be found in its padded hand grips and swivel foot pedals which add to the comfort and convenience of this piece of equipment.

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Cons: There are a few drawbacks to this model that should be noted. Some users mentioned that the assembly time is longer than they expected. On average, it took users 30-45 minutes to assemble this rower. Make sure to block out ample time to put this piece of equipment together to avoid this type of frustration. Another con of this rowing machine is that many users found the resistance to be too little for a total body workout. If you have been rowing for awhile you may want to investigate models that offer stronger resistance options to get your best workout possible.

The Verdict: It is apparent that the LifeSpan Fitness RW1000 rowing machine has many features that make it a great addition to your home gym. If you can afford the $451 price tag, this machine boasts several more features that will make your workouts more enjoyable. Though the resistance may be too light for some, it does offer many features that make it an adequate rower for the average individual looking for a total body workout.

See this product on Amazon | Read Our Full LifeSpan Fitness RW1000 Review

Under $1000

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

Concept2 Model D RowerIf price is no option, it would make sense to purchase the rowing machine that is going to offer the highest quality and most features. The Concept2 Model D rowing machine is that piece of equipment. With many features that set it apart from the competition, this brand is known for its incredible quality of products and high level of customer service.

Features: The Concept2 Model D rower features a sliding seat and smooth flywheel for comprehensive workouts. It has many features including a compact design, quiet mode of operation, 5 year manufacturer’s warranty, and adjustable foot pedals. In addition, it features a comprehensive performance monitor, a durable combination of aluminum and steel parts, and an overall machine weight of 57 pounds.

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Pros: As expected, this type of rowing machine offers many more features than the other models mentioned. One of the advantages to purchasing this rower is the fact that it has a 500 pound weight capacity. While other models only hold between 250-300 pounds, the Concept2 is designed to allow individuals with higher weights to safely use the product. Additionally, has a sliding rail that accommodates individuals with 36″ inseams, with extendable rails available. If you are tall you may need the extra inches that this rower provides to get the best workout possible. Finally, the Concept2 Model D rower easily separates into two pieces for easy storage. Gone are the days of having to keep your rower in the corner of your living room when it’s not in use. Simply detach the pieces with a quick release lever and use the caster wheels to roll it into the nearest closet.

Cons: Though this machine boasts many advantages, there are a few disadvantages that were noted by users. The most common complaint about this machine was its overall weight. 57 pounds might be too heavy to conveniently move this item up a flight of stairs, so make sure that you consider where you are going to place this rower before you make the purchase. Another disadvantage to this machine is that though the foot pedals are adjustable for length, they are not adjustable for different foot widths. This makes rowing somewhat uncomfortable for individuals with wider than average feet.

The Verdict: It is obvious that you will get what you pay for if you dive in and purchase the $900 Concept2 Model D rowing machine. Boasting a durable frame, 5 year warranty, and easy storage this rower is one of the premier brands on the market. Though it is heavy and may not be completely adjustable to everyone’s needs, it is a top of the line rower with many features that will make working out both enjoyable and effective.

See this product on Amazon | Click Here to Read Our Full Concept2 Model D Review

 

Best Indoor Rowing Machine Overall

Concept2 Model E

Concept2 Model E RowerIf you are looking for the premier exercise rower for your home, look no further than the Concept2 Model E rowing machine. This machine is similar to the abovementioned Model D but with several key features that put it over the top in terms of design, durability, and convenience.

Features: Priced at $1,260, the Concept2 Model E indoor rower includes many features that put it above its competition. This model has features that include a compact design that separates into two pieces, a 20 inch frame height, and a mix of aluminum and stainless steel parts. In addition, this model features a 500 pound weight capacity, high tech monitor, and an included heart rate monitor. Finally, this model features a Logcard that stores your personal preferences and workout data so that you can track your progress as you use the machine.

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Pros: There are many advantages to purchasing the Concept2 Model E indoor rowing machine for your home gym. Even though all Concept2 rowers are considered to be first rate, the Model E has a 20″ seat height which is six inches higher than other Concept2 models. This makes it much easier to get on and off and help individuals with balance problems be able to still use the machine. In addition, the inclusion of a heart rate monitor with this rowing machine allows you to track crucial physical data as you work out. A final advantage to purchasing this rowing machine is the fact that the built in monitor includes settings to help enhance your workout goals. For example, you can row against your previous time or against a pace boat to increase your speed. Then save your data using the Logcard to compare with the next time that you work out. All of these advantages help to make the Concept2 Model E rowing machine the best indoor rower for home use.

Cons: Though there aren’t very many, the few disadvantages that customers found with this product should be mentioned. First, a few customers said that the seat was uncomfortable after a long period of use. If you plan to row for an extended period of time, it might be wise to take short breaks or invest in padded shorts to aide in your comfort. Another disadvantage to this rower centers on its price. $1,299 might make this rowing machine unaffordable for the average person. Even though the Model E boasts many great features, if you can’t afford the price tag it might be wise to choose the less expensive Model D.

The Verdict: Overall, the Concept2 Model E rowing machine is the best indoor rower for home use that you can purchase. Due to its increased seat height, included heart rate monitoring system, and programmable workouts this machine will assist you greatly in reaching all of your fitness goals. If you can afford this investment it will definitely be worth your money in the long run.

See this product on Amazon | Read Our Full Concept2 Model E Review

Conclusion

In conclusion, a rowing machine can offer many benefits as an addition to your home gym. They are convenient, affordable, effective, and offer a total body workout that is unmatched by other pieces of equipment. You can purchase a wide variety of rowing machines that are different based on the type of resistance they offer. Before you purchase any machine, however, you should consider several key factors in making your final decision.

There are many of variables to consider when purchasing a rowing machine. Being confident in the machine that you are buying is essential when you are investing a significant amount of money into a rower. Make sure to ask several pre-purchase questions including queries about the size, weight, price, and effectiveness of the machine you are considering. There are many rowers at various price points that will fit your needs and finding one it a matter of doing a significant amount of research as well as testing a wide variety of models until you find the perfect fit.

About the author

Tory Reiss

Hi! I'm Tory Reiss. I built this blog to share my fitness quest and provide informative reviews of fitness equipment, gadgets, and supplements that you can use to help reach your health goals. Hope you enjoy it!