Best Rowing Machines 2016 – Reviews and Guides
After a full analysis of every serious rowing machine out this year, the overall winner is undoubtedly the Concept2 Model D. Used by Olympic-level athletes, this is the obvious choice if you want the very best.
A deserving winner of our value award is the Stamina Air Rower. This is a very capable machine that gets you the most bang-for-your-buck.
Read on for details on the rest of the contenders, testing criteria, tips and advice.
Best Rowing Machines 2016 – Our Top Picks
Best Rowing Machines Under $500
- Stamina Air Rower – 377 Customer Reviews
- KettlerFavorit Rowing Machine – 105 Customer Reviews
- Xterra ERG400 WaterRower Natural rowing Machine – 76 Customer Reviews
Best Rowing Machines Above $500
- Velocity Fitness CHR-2001 Programmable Magnetic Rowing Machine – 147 Customer Reviews
- Stamina Avari Magnetic Rower – 63 Customer Reviews
- ProRower H2O RX-750 Home Series Rowing Machine – 62 Customer Reviews
- Concept 2 Model D With PM5 – 664 Customer Reviews
- Lifecore R100 Commercial Rowing Machine – 38 Customer Reviews
Getting into shape is one of the top new year’s resolutions. Yet, many people aren’t quite sure about how to go about it. If that’s something you find vaguely familiar to your own condition, you should definitely consider the hottest new trend of the season: rowing machines. What’s so great about them? Well, for starters, you can get a complete work-out from the comfort of your home. The best rowing machines can give you the optimum workout by working on your core, arm strength and cardio all at once. If you’re looking for the best rowing machine to gift yourself or a loved one, you’ve come to the right place. We are going to explore the top 10 rowing machines for the year in just about every price range. So whether you’re an amateur or an expert, hop on for the ride and we’ll guide you the whole way!
Introduction to Rowing Machines, Types, and Availability
Did you get the memo on how rowing machines were the gym favorite of the year? If you didn’t, let us give you a heads up on what rowing machines are and how they work. They are machines that give you a workout that is akin to rowing on a river, something that has been known for a long time to be beneficial to a person’s overall health. Now, the basic premise is that a rowing machine will give you a sliding seat and oar-like fixtures, through which you can exercise and develop the muscles in your body. Ever envied the rippling muscular arms of your celebrity super hero? Now’s your chance to build them up! Now, basically there are four different kinds of rowing machines: air resistance rowing machines, piston resistance rowing machines, water resistance rowing machines and magnetic resistance rowing machines. We find the magnetic resistance machines to work best in our fitness regime.
Why Should You Get a Rowing Machine?
Rowing machines are particularly great whether you’re at the gym or at home (assuming your living space isn’t as cramped up as a college dorm, and even there, we have options: read on to find more). They put such little strain on your muscles that they can let you exercise without feeling the burn, and that’s a huge plus if you want to continue working in a regular way . Some benefits of using a rowing machine include:
- Cardiovascular Improvements: Because of the nature of your workout, heart functions are increased during the session and that improves the utilization of carbohydrate. Rowing machines can help you reach a certain low resistance maintenance of aerobic states, which in turn helps to improve the condition of the lung, circulation system and your heart too.
- Loss of weight: This is a huge advantage of working out on a rowing machine since it’s often a chief priority for most users. Suppose you weigh 185 pounds: in that case, if you work out vigorously for about 30mins, you can burn as many as 378 calories! Incredibly effective, right?
- Toning of Muscles: Yep, as promised before, rowing machines can give you the perfect muscles you’d always dreamt of. This is the full body muscle training workout you’d always wanted, especially since it works out in such a low resistance mode as well. Trunk and core engagement helps to work on your legs, buttocks and hips in every single stroke. Plus, a higher resistance setting can help you build muscles faster than anywhere else too.
- Reduction in Stress levels: We’re not just stating this to give you some confidence: it has been established by reports that physical activity such as rowing helps to stimulate the centers in your brain responsible for pleasure giving endorphins. That means, you can work out in front of the TV and spontaneously reduce stress and feelings of anxiety or depression – as well as your weight!
What to Look for When Buying a Rowing Machine
- Types of Resistance: This affects the kind of experience you get from your rowing machine.
- Comfort and Adjustments: Being able to adjust the settings also gives you a better workout.
- Levels of Noise: This is an important factor, especially if you plan to work out at home.
- Price Factor: This might just be a clincher for you, but we have the best value-for-money options available.
- Movability/Storage Factor: If you want a rowing machine for a gym, then this may not be a big factor, but for home gym owners it is essential to consider how easily an indoor machine can be stored. Look out for wheels, etc.
- Maximum User Weight: This is a concern especially if you’re running upwards of 200 pounds as most machines will only support a limited upper weight boundary.
- Digital Monitoring: This is a factor that you need to consider: can you keep track of your daily workout or do you want a machine to do it? We find machines with digial monitors to be significantly more motivational.
Top Best Rowing Machines in the Market
Design & Build Quality: It is designed to be practical with light engineering and durability for heavy training. It is simple and fuss free. It’s got a low profile of around 14 inches (35.6cm) seat height. There are also adjustable footrests and ergonomic handles with the Model D. The Nickle Coating can give you a longer period of freedom from oiling: the maintenance factor is thus reduced with it.
Digital Monitor: There are some pretty neat features with the Concept 2 Model D, especially the performance monitor that lets it be a class apart from most other training machines in this range. The advanced monitor is entitled PM5 and is made to ensure accurate data that can be compared between every strokes. The backlit device has good visibility features and can even be configured with USB pen drives to that you can use the data you collect from it. Plus, the monitor is adjustable and the device itself can wirelessly monitor heart rates.
Comfort and adjustments: These indoor rowers are able to respond adequately to every stroke and gives absolute control over the exertion and resistances through adjustable airflow. The design itself minimizes the noise levels from the machine. Ergonomic Handles and Adjustable Footrests: Control of the seating and positions are important to your comfort levels when using the machine, and with the 10 degree bend of the handle alongside the adjustale footrests, this machine might just be the best in this category.
Warranty: Limited, 2 years of warranty.
Design: It’s a small and convenient machine to use for a vigorous work-out, especially since it’s a hydraulic type of rowing machine. It is comfortable as long as you’re under 6ft or so, otherwise it might be a bit too small for you. This however makes it convenient to store away in the house. Thickly padded seating gives better comfort.
Maximum User Weight: As long as you’re 250 pounds or under, you should be fine with this machine.
Digital Monitor: The Monitor on the Kettler Favirit is quite simple to read and understand and provides info on distance, time of the session, strokes accumulated, number of calories spent, speed of movement and heart rate. You have the option of setting time, stroke rate and distance for the targeted workout: letting the console alert you once you reach the finish line. A plug-in ear clip can help the console to monitor the heart rate, though a chest strap and wrist monitor can do the same for you.
Warranty: Lifetime warranty comes with the frame, otherwise its three years for parts and digital feature.
Adjustments and comfort: Resistance levels on the Kettler can be adjusted through repositioning knurl marks provided on each of the rower oars, and set between 50 knurls or more. Seats do not need to be lubricated because they are built with sealed ball bearings.
Design: This commercial rowing machine is made to operate smoothly whether at a commercial or home environment, and is designed to provide optimal support for both these places. The build quality is great with a black, semi-gloss coating of paint and aluminum frame with solid steel for support system.
Resistance Type: There are two resistance types included in the machine, air and magnetic. Depending on the intensity of the workout, these can be changed. The only problem with this is that it can be a little noisy during intensive sessions.
Digital Monitor: The monitor is quite a multifunctional addition with its big distinct LCD backlit screen and various tracking features such as strokes per minute, watts, time, total strokes, pulse rate, meters rowed, calories, etc. There’s also an option to select resistance level, workout plan and user profile from the same monitor so as to enable multi-user usability.
Comfort Factors: there are industrial grade nylon straps and seats with the machine that can take in a lot of intensive workouts, and the cinch foot straps can help keep the feet in position. The footrests are angled and platforms made of steel, with heel support thrown in for added measure. Handles feel thin enough and give a good grip.
Weight Capacity: This is one of the most heavy duty machines we’ve seen, capable of accommodating weight of up to 600 pounds, and height of up to 1.92 m (over 6.4”).
Warranty: Lifetime warranty on the frame, labor warranty of 1 year and parts warranty of 5 years (residential warranty).
Design & Build Quality: This is a water resistance machine that works on the basis of a suspension tank for the paddles, which provides resistance through an innovational hydro-powered drive system. Frame fields durable, the water tank is made of polycarbonate, and the entire machine feels commercial-grade.
Weight: The weight capacity is of around 76.2 pounds for the Pro Rower which is good news for many people.
Resistance Type: Because of its nature of functioning, this machine is more within the domains of a variable resistance system that depends on the intensity of your own workout.
Comfort: There’s ergonomic seating for users and that makes it a very comfortable rowing machine to use. The handle with padding also gives users a good, secure grip. At the same time, the footrest with its pivot design gives a natural feel when rowing, especially thanks to the heel support.
Digital Monitor: The ProRower comes with a digital monitor that can keep track of your time of exercise, heart rate, calories, distance, strokes per minute, and also gives you the option to see the statistical figures individually or scanned in one place with the “scan” feature. The display has adjustable viewing angles.
Wheels: This comes with “flip over” storage systems and dual caster wheels so that it can be stored easily in most homes.
Warranty: Lifetime guarantee on the frame, polycarbonate tank and seats get a 3 years warranty, other mechanical components get 2 years of warranty coverage.
Design and Build Quality: This wind-resistance machine comes with upholstered seats, large foot plates, and feels neat and compact for using at home. It even folds for storage minimizing is footprint by 50%, despite the strong frame of solid-steel that is totally sturdy to use.
Digital Monitor: This comes with a digital, multi-fnction and single-button monitor that can display all the basics including calories consumed, duration of workout, and distance covered, with speed remaining as a constant and other data displayed one at a time through the Mode button.
Comfort Features: The padded and upholstered seat is good for sliding up and down smoothly on the rail, and this design makes it good for long workout sessions. The seat is generaly comfortable even for users over 6ft in height, and theh handles give a good grip. Footrests are okay to go for most shoe sizes, there are nylon straps for better foot management, and there’s a solid foot base for better efficiency.
Weight: The air-rower can easily be used by users with a maximum weight of 250 pounds, which is less than some other machines featured on our review here and yet quite standard for the price range.
Warranty: There’s a three years warranty on the frame and a ninety day part warranty for users.
Design & Build Quality: The Avari Magnetic Rower is a machine that comes with magnetic resistance systems for a smooth braking system, noiseless operation, and controlled resistance levels. The rower comes with a solid steel frame and aluminum beams, pulleys made of durable nylon, and feels quite well built. It is fully foldable and can be kept away conveniently, especially because there are wheels for added mobility.
Digital Monitor: the console with the Avari Magnetic Rower is great, with 12 pre-set programs and a heart rate monitoring program that can be strapped on to the chest to alter resistance levels from monitoring pulse rates and helping you stay in the optimum calorie burner zone. Control panel is easy with distance, time, stroke rate, pulse and calorie monitoring available with it.
Comfort: The seats are molded, though some more cushioning may have been beneficial for this one. The footrests come with long lasting Velcro straps and can give a very natural motion for pivoting, with a handle that is padded for comfortable touch and good grip.
Weight: The Stamina Avari rower can support a weight limit of about 275 lbs, and users as tall as 6 feet 4 inches can use the machine with no trouble at all.
Warranty: There’s a three year warranty on the frame which comes with the Avira magnetic Rower, but other than that there’s only a short 90 day parts warranty available.
Design and Build Quality: The Velocity Fitness Magnetic Rower CHR-2001 comes with a magnetic resistance system that gives it a characteristic design element, while its design element makes it versatile to use. There are double bearings that make the Magnetic Rower extra-smooth and quiet. In terms of storage facilities, this is foldable and can fit easily into a closet.
Resistance: There are eight different levels of resistance on the Velocity Fitness and it can allow for more variety in terms of a fitness regime.
Digital Monitor: The Velocity Fitness comes with a fitness monitor that can keep track of multiple exercise data including all of the basics: time, stroke count, distance, calories burnt, strokes per minute and rate of heart beat. The heart rate is monitored with a chest strap that wirelessly connects to the system and provides helpful data.
Comfort Features: There are large, no-slip footrests on the Velocity Magnetic Rower that gives it an easy grip and comfortable seating positions. The handles are padded to prevent blistering and give a better grip. The seat, too, is quite frictionless because of the padding and it can thus glide along easily along the strip.
Weight: It can support a weight of up to 275 lbs and a height of around 6ft or slightly more, which is pretty standard by the book for rowing machines.
Warranty: This machine comes only with a limited one year warranty which might be one of its few cons, but then again, for the price it’s quite a good deal.
Design and Build Quality: The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine comes with a handcrafted design, water flywheel, upright storage options and a self-regulated resistance system. Oh, and unlike all the other options here, this one comes with a wooden rail system of solid ash and stained honey oak models. It feels quite durable and efficient.
Digital Monitoring: The digital monitor on the WaterRower comes with a great deal of feature including a time counter and all the usual exercise metrics including distance, time rowed, intensity and speed, rate of the strokes, and an alarm. There’s also a built-in feature to connect USB devices to the rower and download the data that can then be plugged in. There’s also a virtual training system and online community for users.
Comfort Features: The flywheel comes enclosed in water to provide a realistic natural resistance, and the footrest on this model enables a snug and comfortable positioning with the straps. The resistance depends on the intensity of your push and pull, while the seat slides smoothly on the wooden rail. Handle bars are really nice and padded for a good comfortable grip.
Weight: This series of WaterRower rowing machines can support up to 700lbs of weight.
Warranty: One year warranty on frame and componenets, with a free upgrade upon registration to include full, five years on the wooden frame and unrestricted three year warranty on all other components.
Top 6 mistakes to avoid during rowing machine workouts
- Damper Settings: A lot of beginners go through a whole phase where they never adjust the damper (FYI: it’s the lever located to the side of air-resistant flywheels). High settings can make the machine more difficult to work with and keep you from a more effective workout. The method to fix this is to take conscious note of the setting and keep it between 3 and 5 for newcomers.
- Arm Technique: Now it might seem that you need to row only with your arms, but with a rowing machine that’s not at all the case. In fact, the secret to a full body workout is in fact dependent on your ability to use your arms and your legs for the workout process. Now, you need to ensure that you spend 60% power through leg push methods, 20% from your cores, and then the rest through your arms.
- Order of operations: Okay, so you also think that you need to do one swift movement and synchronize a leg plus hand movement which goes together in the same moment. That’s so not it! In fact, this can drain you out much faster than required. The best way to work out is to graduate the process of rowing; think of it as a 3-stage thing where you first push with your legs, then pivot backwards with your hips (shoulders will be passing your pelvis at this point), and then you should be pulling in your arms to the chest.
- Hunching back: This is a strict no-no right from the get go because it can severely affect your body during the workout. When you sit down at the rower machine, you have to sit up straight and focus on tightening the abdominal muscles while relaxing the shoulders.
- Rushing: One of the more difficult things to control when rowing is how your body keeps sliding forwards, the seat slamming harder into the front of the rower than you had thought possible. This can be solved easily, though, if you take count of your strokes and engage a ratio of 1:2 for the two halves of it (the drive where your legs push and arms pull frantically is the first half, and the second half is while you’re resuming position calmly).
- Jerky Motion: A related point to the previous issue is that sometimes, if your legs push too quickly, your butt might just shoot off ahead of you and you might be jerked forward through inertia. This whole adjustment for body jerking happens to make these strokes less effective and/or may even be the cause of injury. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, you need to maintain a firm and controlled posture – here, engaging your cores is the key for proper body control.
Rowing Machine Workouts that Work Out Best
Rowing machines can be quite easy to master in just a few days, but the transition from beginner to advance pro levels can be quite embarrassing: especially if you’re working out at the gym. In such cases, your best bet is to take in a visit to the pro trainer…or go through a list of things you can follow to be really good at it.
- Speed Is Complicated: If you thought that if you pull far really hard and with short brisk strokes, you would have better chances of success, you’re probably not going to get too far with that. The best thing you can do for yourself is take longer strokes that can help you become more powerful gradually and also improve your technique. Your best bet is to watch some Youtube videos.
- The legs are the center of your Focus: You may not underestimate your legs when you learn how important they are to perfecting your technique. The best option is to use all the power from your gluts and let the movement be driven through your legs once you hop onto the rower machine. Think of it like a squat: the movement is actually through the movement of the hips and legs, not the arms at all.
- The pulling technique is important: Now comes the really hard part: the pulling technique for handling the handle of your rower, which most people tend to get wrong. The trick is to finish up with a stroke and locate it somewhere just under the pec (and close by your sternum). Going higher may make you look better on the digital monitor but it’s just not the right technique according to most professional rowers.
- Music is actually effective: You may not know this, but aforementioned professional rowers actually use music choreography when they’re working as a group for some championships. You can easily implement that at your home or at the gym. A playlist with a good tempo and upbeat rhythm can let you change between fast high-intensity workouts and relaxed long sessions.
- Other endurance sports go well with it: Now, we know rowing is a really great training for your muscles, but you might want to compliment it with a few other beneficiaries including cycling, running, endurance sports, bench pulls, deadlifts, and other such exercises. This gives you a more rounded workout than with just an indoor rowing machine and can help you get better control of your body for when you train on the rower as well.
- Group motivation systems work: In keeping up with any training schedule, a little motivation can often be very necessary. Indeed, many people have found the benefits of rowing to increase when they’ve used motivational guides for consistent workout. The important thing is that working out as a group can let you race each other towards some imaginary finish line, which in turn can motivate you to work harder and put in your best moves. The competition can be a hugely effective thing if you want to motivate yourself a little bit more!
- Switch up routines: Now, generally people like some short and quick indoor rowing machine workout sessions because that seems perfectly logical, and especially since its possible with only a tiny three to five minutes of workout. However, the benefit of a twenty minute session can be manifold: improving your technique, fitness levels, and more. Training time should be mixed up for the best results, but we also found it effective to switch around with the targets (such as, when aiming for a certain speed and maintaining it, or reaching this particular distance in a particular time): essential for keeping yourself engaged in the long run!
Wrap-up: Rowing Machine
Now that you know all about different methods of working out, the mistakes to avoid when working out, and the best machines in every price category, go out there and enjoy your new rowing machine! If you choose from one of our selection of the top ten best rowing machines, we’re sure you are never going to regret this. Just make sure that you follow our guidelines and you shall have as pleasurable a workout as you ever had: throw in some music, invite your buddies, and get in perfect shape.