Ultimate Home Gym Guide: 10 Best Rowing Machines 2018

Rowing machines for the home market have grown up in the last couple of decades. The flimsy hydraulic arm machines of the 1990’s have given way to a range of near commercial quality rowers that provide an accurate simulation of the real thing. Still, there is a huge fluctuation in quality in the market-place. In this article, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know to make the right rowing machine choice for your home gym.

Types of Rowing Machines

Rowing Machines are categorized according to the type of resistance that they provide. There are four resistance types as follows:

💨 Air – the rower generates air resistance by way of fan blades at the front of the machine. Air resistance provides a very smooth rowing experience, though they can be quite noisy.

🌊 Water – The rowing resistance is provided by a water tank, providing the closest replica of actually rowing on a lake that you can get. You have control of the resistance level by the intensity of each stroke. This is identical to an air resistance rower, except that the air is replaced by water.

You can control the level of resistance by the amount of water in the tank. The more water, the harder it is to row. Water rowers are pretty noisy, but many people actually find the sound, which further replicates the on-water experience, to be quite soothing.

💪 Hydraulic – the lowest priced rowers on the market generally feature hydraulic resistance provided by pistons that are situated in the separate rowing arms of the machine. They provide the least realistic rowing action and often result in a jerky motion.

⚡ Magnetic – a magnetic braking system is attached to the rowing machine’s flywheel, resulting in a smooth, quiet rowing action. However, you are not able to generate as much resistance as you can on an air or water rower.

Essential Know How

What to look for when buying a rowing machine:

Resistance type

We’ve already identified the different resistance types, so which one is best? The answer depends on what is most important to you.

If you are primarily concerned with getting the most realistic simulation of rowing on the water, you will want to go for a water resistance machine. These are, however, the most expensive, with some coming in at more than $2,000.

For a quieter rowing experience that comes close to the water rower in terms of a realistic rowing experience, go for an air resistance rower.

Both water and air rowers are variable resistance machines, meaning that you can change the resistance level mid stroke simply by adjusting the speed and strength of your pull. This is great if you are going to be doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) that requires very quick resistance adjustments.

If you are wanting a smooth, fluid rower that is whisper quiet, then you should go for a magnetic rower. These are designed for the average fitness user, not the hardcore HIIT or CrossFit trainer. They are about the third of the price of an air rower.

Dimensions

Air rowers and water rowers take up the largest footprint. The longer the length of the rowing rail, the better the rowing motion and the greater your muscular stimulation. So, provided you’ve got the room, the longer the rowing rail the better. The rail of magnetic rowers are usually about three quarters the length of a water and air rower. You will want a rail that is made from smooth metal-alloy.

Pull Drive System

The pull drive of a rower is generally in the form of a chain or a belt that is made from the same material as a car seat-belt. The seat belt type drive will provide you with a quieter operation and a slightly smoother action.

Performance Monitor

The monitor of your rowing machine needs to provide you with a large, clear LCD readout. You should be able to monitor your performance as you’re rowing. Make sure that it includes the following diagnostics as a minimum; heart rate, time, overall strokes, rpm, strokes per minute, and time over 500 meters.

You will want a console that includes at least half a dozen built-in programs to provide you with training variety.

Foot Plates

Of all of the parts of a rowing machine, the foot plates receive the most pressure as a result of constantly pushing down with your legs. That is why they need to be strong and durable. Look for metal plates over plastic.

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Best Rowing Machine Brands

  • Concept2
  • Stamina
  • WaterRower
  • Velocity Exercise
  • H2O Fitness
  • Kettler Favorit
  • LifeSpan Fitness

..and more!  If you know of any rowers we left out or you want to see reviewed let us know in the comments below!  Now on to the rowing machines:

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Best Air Rowing Machine

Concept2 Model D with PM5 Performance Monitor Indoor Rower Rowing Machine Black or Gray

Free shipping
Last update was in: August 21, 2019 10:17 pm
$945.00

Concept2 Model D

Concept2 are the original innovators of home indoor rowing machines and their Concept2 rower has stood the test of time as the most popular air rower on the market. It has gone through a number of iterations, with the Model D being the current performer.

The Concept2 is a commercial grade rower that you can have in your home gym for around a thousand dollars. That represents very good value for a machine that has the durable construction and streamlined appeal that has made the Concept D so popular in gyms and rowing clubs around the world. The low profile of this rower provides a more natural rowing position, with the damper allowing you to adjust the airflow.

The monitor is another strength of the Concept2, featuring PM5 technology which delivers accurate comparable data on every row, allowing you to compare your performances. Adjustable footrests, an ergonomic handle and the quick-release frame-lock mechanism for ease of storage are other highlights of this impressive rower.

9.3Expert Score
Concept2 Model D

How we rate this rowing machine . . .

Design
10
Comfort
9.5
Row Smoothness
9.5
Custom Adjustability
9.5
Value for Money
8.5
Monitor
9
PROS
  • Very durable
  • Low profile
  • Air damper
  • PM5 technology enhanced monitor
CONS
  • Air resistance generates quite a bit of noise
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Best Budget Rowing Machine Under $300

Stamina X ATS Air Rowing Machine

Free shipping
Last update was in: August 21, 2019 10:17 pm

Stamina X ATS

The Stamina Black Chrome air rower is the best quality air rower under $500 that we have come across. The rowing motion is jerk free and the glide motion over the rail is very smooth, providing you with a full range of motion. The angled seat provides for an easy return. An upholstered, padded seat means that you can train for extended periods without ending up with a pain in the butt.

The multi-function monitor on the Stamina rower provides you with the basic feedback that you need, including time, speed, distance and calories burned – and the digits are nice and large so you can see them as you are rowing.

9.3Expert Score
Stamina X ATS

How we rate this rowing machine . . .

Design
10
Comfort
9.5
Row Smoothness
9.5
Custom Adjustability
9.5
Value for Money
8.5
Monitor
9
PROS
  • Great price
  • Durable
  • Natural, smooth motion
CONS
  • Limited resistance potential
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Best Water Rowing Machine

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine in Ash Wood with S4 Monitor

Last update was in: August 21, 2019 10:17 pm
$1,160.00

WaterRower Natural

The WaterRower company produce a range of premium rowing machines that are handcrafted in natural timbers. They provide the most stylish, functional and realistic rowing experience that you will find off the water. Their ‘Natural’ rower is made from solid ash, which not only looks great, it totally absorbs any vibration and noise from the rowing action.

Rowing against a water resistance is easier on the knees than air resistance and allows for variable resistance. To give yourself more of a challenge, simply add water to the tank. An additional benefit of the WaterRower is that it can be stored in an upright position.

The WaterRower Natural will cost you around $2000. For that investment you’ll get a piece of gear that you’ll be proud to display, whether in your garage or your lounge, and that will last for many years to come.

9.3Expert Score
WaterRower Natural

How we rate this rowing machine . . .

Design
10
Comfort
9.5
Row Smoothness
9.5
Custom Adjustability
9.5
Value for Money
8.5
Monitor
9
PROS
  • Best on the water simulation
  • Looks great
  • Whisper quiet
CONS
  • Seat may tilt
  • Foot supports not very comfortable
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Best Magnetic Rowing Machine

Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower

Free shipping
Last update was in: August 21, 2019 10:17 pm
$449.00

Velocity CHR-2001 Programmable Magnetic

The Velocity Fitness CHR-2001 Programmable Magnetic rowing machine provides you with eight levels of adjustable resistance. This is a solidly made unit with high grade steel framing and a smooth, natural slide motion. Secure foot stirrups keep you firmly in position and the seat is ergonomically constructed for comfort.

The monitor of the CHR-2001 has 5 buttons, a decent sized screen and clear digits which give you readouts of your training distance, time, rep count, and strokes. The LCD screen is backlit for easier viewing.

This rower has a max user capacity of 275 pounds, which attests to its stability. You can also fold up the rower when your workout is over so you can store it away. The CHR-2001 is a smooth, fluid magnetic resistance rower that will give you a smooth, natural workout.

8.8Expert Score
Velocity CHR-2001

How we rate this rowing machine . . .

Design
9
Comfort
8.5
Row Smoothness
9
Custom Adjustability
9
Value for Money
8.5
Monitor
9
PROS
  • Adjustable resistance
  • Quiet
  • Smooth and fluid
  • Foldable
CONS
  • Relatively short warranty period
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Best Crossfit Rowing Machine

HCI Fitness Prorower RX-750 Prorower Indoor Water Rowing Machine

Last update was in: August 21, 2019 10:17 pm
$749.00

Pro Rower H20 Rx-750 Home Series

The Pro Rower H20 Rx-750 Home Series rower is a water based rowing machine that gives you a very close simulation to actually rowing on the water, which is great for both crossfit and real life rowing training due to the natural resistance of real water. This is a well-built machine, as attested to by the fact that it can take users up to 350 pounds in body weight. It has been ergonomically designed for efficient movement and, consequently, feels very natural when you row.

The water tank of this rower is made from polycarbonate fiber and is fitted with an internal paddle system that ensures a close simulation of the way a paddle moves through the water. The monitor is functional, providing all of the diagnostics that exercisers need to know.

This is a very well-priced water rower. While not as aesthetically appealing as the rowers from the WaterRower it will provide you with a near comparable rowing experience at a great price.

9.3Expert Score
Pro Rower H20 Rx-750

How we rate this rowing machine . . .

Design
10
Comfort
9.5
Row Smoothness
9.5
Custom Adjustability
9.5
Value for Money
8.5
Monitor
9
PROS
  • 350-pound max weight
  • Fluid motion
  • Great price
CONS
  • Noisy
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Best Compact Rowing Machine

Stamina 35-1215 Orbital Rowing Machine with Free Motion Arms

1 used from $186.14
Free shipping
Last update was in: August 21, 2019 10:17 pm
$258.34

Stamina 1215 Orbital Rowing Machine

The Stamina 1215 Orbital Rowing machine is a compact hydraulic arm machine that won’t stutter, jerk or stall. Unlike most hydraulic arm rowers, it provides you with a smooth rowing experience. This is thanks to the large precision engineered master cylinder and piston that are central to the rowing action.

The free-flowing arms of this rower allow you to work each side unilaterally. This is a great way to ensure that you get balanced development. The compactness of the machine is a huge plus. At its maximum height it is only 8 inches from the ground with a length of just 4 feet. Even though it only weighs in at 50 pounds it can handle five times that weight.

The Stamina 1215 is not built to be as durable as the more expensive machines on the market. But you can expect at least 12 months of solid regular use out of this machine. This is a good choice for beginners or those who are wanting a rower for intermittent HIIT training.

8.8Expert Score
Stamina 35-1215

How we rate this rowing machine . . .

Design
8.5
Comfort
9
Row Smoothness
9
Custom Adjustability
8
Value for Money
9.5
Monitor
8.5
PROS
  • Smooth, jerk-free motion
  • Master cylinder and piston
  • Very compact
CONS
  • Not overly durable
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Best Foldable Rowing Machine

Stamina ATS Air Rower 1399

Free shipping
Last update was in: August 21, 2019 10:17 pm
$281.08

Stamina Air Rower

The Stamina Air Rower is an air resistance rower that is no where near as noisy as most of its competitors. The slide mechanism of this unit is a standout, with a full, smooth range of movement, thanks to a series of high spec ball bearings. The rowing arms of the Stamina Rower give you a jerk free movement that feels much like rowing on the water.

The footplates on this rower are extendable and fully adjustable so as to accommodate people of all sizes. Secure foot straps allow you to lock in your positioning. The monitor on the Stamina Air Rower provides a clear, real time updated readout of your workout times, distance covered, calories burned and speed.

This rower comes with foot protectors and wheels to make it easy for you to move around your home.

9.3Expert Score
Stamina ATS Air Rower 1399

How we rate this rowing machine . . .

Design
10
Comfort
9.5
Row Smoothness
9.5
Custom Adjustability
9.5
Value for Money
8.5
Monitor
9
PROS
  • Quiet operation
  • Smooth, jerk free rowing arms
  • Secure foot straps
CONS
  • Max weight limited to 250 pounds
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Best Hydraulic Rowing Machine

Kettler Home Exercise/Fitness Equipment: Favorit Rowing Machine

Free shipping
Last update was in: August 21, 2019 10:17 pm
$377.47

Kettler Favorit

The Kettler Favorit is a dual hydraulic cylinder rower that provides you with unilateral resistance in a smooth, jerk free rowing action. The monitor on this machine is a standout, including built-in workouts and ongoing readouts of all of the important training data that you could ever want. The large LCD screen also tracks your progress from workout to workout.

A unique aspect of the Kettler Favorit is that it includes an earlobe heart rate monitor to give you a very accurate pulse readout. The footplates are completely adjustable for different users and come with foot straps to keep you locked in. This is a very compact rower that assembles easily and comes equipped with floor protectors to protect your environment.

9.3Expert Score
Kettler Favorit

How we rate this rowing machine . . .

Design
10
Comfort
9.5
Row Smoothness
9.5
Custom Adjustability
9.5
Value for Money
8.5
Monitor
9
PROS
  • Unilateral rowing arms
  • Advanced feature monitor
  • Earlobe heart-rate monitor
CONS
  • Limited stride length
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Best Rowing Machine for Tall Person

Stamina 15-9003 Deluxe Conversion II Recumbent / Rower

Free shipping
Last update was in: August 21, 2019 10:17 pm
$799.00

Stamina 15-9003 Deluxe Conversion II Recumbent Rower

The Stamina 15-9003 Deluxe Conversion II Recumbent Rower provides you with a two-pronged cardio assault, acting as both a rowing machine and a recumbent exercise bike. Both actions work off the same flywheel and the necessity of meeting dual needs inevitably means that it does not perform maximally on either action.

This is a good exercise choice for beginner or intermediate level exercisers who are challenged for space. It is also a smart choice for people who have lower back issues, as the recumbent seating support provides a measure of relief in both exercise formats.

This machine has been ergonomically designed for comfort. It is easy to get in and out of and the seat design and pedal placement makes it friendly on the knees. However, the price is a little on the steep side, even when you factor in that you’re getting two machines for the price of one.

8.6Expert Score
Stamina 15-9003 Deluxe Conversion II

How we rate this rowing machine . . .

Design
9
Comfort
9
Row Smoothness
8
Custom Adjustability
10
Value for Money
7.5
Monitor
8
PROS
  • Rower + Bike
  • Good back support
  • Ergonomically designed for comfort
CONS
  • A bit expensive
  • Dual functionality limits effectiveness of each mode
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Best Rowing Machine Under $500

LifeSpan RW1000 Indoor Rowing Machine

Last update was in: August 21, 2019 10:17 pm
$495.00 $499.99

LifeSpan RW1000

The LifeSpan RW1000 is a flywheel powered rower that utilizes a rowing strap that is connected to the handles. It provides a good, but not great, rowing action that is not as smooth as an air or water rower, but is free of jerkiness and stuttering nevertheless. Due to its simplicity this design is relatively problem free and is surprisingly quiet to operate.

The cloth strap that is used on the LifeSpan RW1000 could be a potential problem, due to its constant contact with the flywheel which could result in reduced machine lifespan – or at least having to get a replacement strap after a year or so of use.

8.2Expert Score
LifeSpan RW1000

How we rate this rowing machine . . .

Design
8
Comfort
8
Row Smoothness
8
Custom Adjustability
8
Value for Money
9
Monitor
8
PROS
  • Quiet operation
  • 5 year frame warranty
  • Smooth, reliable action
CONS
  • *Cloth strap may need replacing after a year

Well, we hope you were able to pick a great rowing machine that is best for your workout needs and space.  Let us know in the comments below which one you chose and any fitness results!

Top 10 Rowing Machines at a Glance:

 

Ideas, suggestions, or questions? Let us know in the comments below

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