Image credits: muscleandfitness.com
If you’ve ever looked at a rower, you’ve noticed how they are some of the fittest athletes on earth. Not only are they lean and muscular they have the endurance that even high level athletes can’t compete with.
There are many options for cardiovascular equipment but a rowing machine may be one of the best choices if you’re looking to get as fit, strong, and lean as possible.
A treadmill can be good but you’re limited by the size. If you don’t have a lot of space where you live it can be tough to fit a decent sized one in. And then if you have to go with a smaller option it can be tougher to run on it and you’re limited to walking. Also, if you experience any joint or knee pain, this might not be the best option for you because of the constant pounding of the exercise.
A stationary bike may be a great option as it will eliminate that aspect of force on the joints but you may not feel you’re getting a full-body workout with one.
This is where rowing may be the ultimate exercise tool for you. When using a rowing machine you are working every muscle in the body. The legs have to drive you backward and your upper body is pulling to complete the motion. It is one of the ultimate back exercises but you are also using your arms, shoulders and core along with muscles in your legs. You’re even working your forearms and wrists during the motion.
Rowing also perfectly combines cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance. You will improve your heart health due to the high demands it puts on your cardiovascular system. Rowing will also boost your muscular endurance as your muscles will be constantly engaged and working. If you’ve ever rowed before you know what a good burn it is muscle wise.
One of the great things about a rowing machine is the ability to go at your own pace. You control the intensity depending on how hard, or softly, you row. This is great because you can always adjust your workout depending on how you felt that day.
So now that you see what a great exercise rowing is what are some top rowing machines you should consider? Here is a review of 5 of the best you may be interested in to get fit and healthy:
1. WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine – (Editor’s Choice)
This is like the Cadillac of rowing machines. The Water Rower is handcrafted in solid ash wood and features a honey oak stain finished in Danish oil. But it isn’t just about looking good (which it does) this rower is a high-end machine.
You may wonder why they use wood and it’s because it’s the perfect material for a rower like this. Wood can absorb sound and vibration and this enhances the smooth and quiet operation of the WaterRower.
A water rower like this one uses a patented Water flywheel technology, and this replicates the feel and resistance of actually rowing through the water.
Here are the dimensions of the WaterRower:
- Length 82.5”
- Width 22.25”
- Height 20”
- Depth 20”
- Weight 66.5 lbs dry and 103.5 lb with water
It also contains the S4 Performance Monitor. This is a very user friendly control monitor that has an advanced functionality. The monitor will display things like time, distance, speed/intensity, stroke rate, and heart rate. If you’re looking for a high end rower this is it.
- Water fly wheel that actually gives users that realistic rowing experience
- The whoosh of the water as you row – it’s also very quiet.
- Made out of solid ash that can absorb sound and vibration
- Console can be plugged into your PC for additional features.
- Very comfortable seat – probably the best we’ve tried so far.
2. Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine – (Top Pick)
This is a great compact rower that should fit in any living situation. The flywheel they make it with helps contribute to a smooth and very quiet sound while exercising.
The Concept 2 has a great 14 inch seat height that should be able to accommodate most size people. They also make it with a nickel-plated chain for more durability and longer lasting life. It has adjustable foot rests to ensure proper stability along with an ergonomic handle for more comfort during exercise.
This is a great unit if you need to get it out of the way as it can be separated into two different pieces for easy storage. It is lightweight but still solid coming in at 25.9 kg.
On the tech side, the Concept 2 has the Performance Motor 5. This is great for giving you accurate data of your row so you can track your workouts. It will indicate distance, speed, watts, and calories burned during your workout. This is one of the best selling indoor rowers in the world and is engineered to last a lifetime.
- Folds up effortlessly for storage in your home. Wheels make it mobile and easy to move
- Same rower many gyms use, buying one can save you a monthly gym membership
- Low noise level allows user to watch TV, Movies, or use without disturbing others
- Adjustable footrests accommodate a wide range of shoe sizes.
- Ergonomic handle for natural position.
3. Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower
Here we have a great hybrid machine that can give you two different forms of cardio in one. You get the benefits of biking but with an added rowing component mixed together.
This design also cuts down on size making it a great compact unit. You can also easily switch between biking and rowing to add variation to your workouts and change the cardiovascular stimulus. It is a very comfortable machine with a padded seat, pivoting footplates, and textured bike pedals to make you feel secure but comfortable.
Another great feature is the oversized aluminum rail which gives it a very smooth row and glides during your workout. This is a taller unit at 26 inches high but is also just 10 inches wide and 45.5 inches long.
The Stamina Conversion II has an adjustable resistance so you can always increase, or decrease, the intensity of your workouts. You can also track your workout with a multi-function monitor which will inform you of your speed, distance, time, calories burned, and also your pulse making this a great combination machine to reach your fitness goals.
- Magnetic-resistance rowing machine with multi-function performance monitor
- 2-in-1 design great for biking and rowing
- Durable steel construction for longer life
- 8-levels of adjustable magnetic resistance
4. Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine – (Best in Budget)
Water rowing machines have become popular in the last few years and this is the second waterrower on this list. You will get that great water performance feel with this rower creating a very smooth, and realistic, rowing experience.
The design is very sturdy but lightweight which will give you great performance but long lasting durability. The construction includes 3 hydro blades and they are what will mimic the dynamic movements that come from rowing in water.
Even though this machine mimics competitive rowing, it is still very comfortable with a padded seat which is designed higher up in order for you to get on and off it much easier.
This is another great compact unit that has non-marking wheels for easier movement. When you’re not using it, this rower can be easily stored upright and against a wall.
On the tech side you’ve got the R2 Fitness Meter, which gives you a very accurate tracking experience. You’ll have access to some great data including time, strokes per minute, total strokes, calories, heart rate, and even the temperature of the room. This is a great unit that will meet all your fitness demands.
- Water resistance gives a smooth & firm rowing experience
- Durable lightweight sturdy steel construction
- Adjustable pivoting footrests with Nylon straps
- Easy to move, thanks to Transportation Wheels
5. Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Exercise Rower
Finishing our list is a great entry from Stamina Avari. This is a great option that is budget friendly but will still give you a great full-body workout. It has a compact design but still uses a longer rowing beam to create a very smooth rowing motion.
This tower is built for comfort with a padded seat and foam padded rowing handle to make your workout even more pleasurable. You’ll be kept securely in place with large foot plates allowing you to be fully engaged in your workout.
Size wise it has great dimensions at 53 inches high, 20 inches wide, and only 36 inches long. Tech wise you still get some great features on this magnetic exercise rower. It has a back-lit LCD screen for everything you need to track such as time, distance, strokes per minute, pulse, watts, and calories burned.
A great addition with this rower is that it comes with a chest strap heart rate monitor to let you easily track your target heart rate during workouts.
Last but not least this machine has 12 different workout programs to offer you varying workouts and different intensities. Some of these workouts include:
- Rolling hills mode
- Valley mode
- Fat burn mode
- Ramp mode
- Mountain mode
- Interval mode
- Target heart rate mode
This is a great rowing machine that will easily meet all your fitness needs and for an affordable price.
- InTouch Fitness Monitor to track activity & adjusting resistance
- 12 workout programs creates magnetic tension according to your heart rate
- Comfortable foam-padded seat helps in longer workout sessions
- Durable steel construction following with aluminum rowing beam
Things to Consider Before Buying a Rowing Machine
You’ve seen this list of the top 5 best home rowing machines but it’s also important to be an informed consumer. When it comes to rowing machines, there are certain things you need to know to find the best machine for your needs. Here are a quick rowing machine buyers guide to help get your up to speed.
1. Figure Out Your Budget
This will be priority one for most people but you need to look at the money spent on equipment as an investment in your health. Before you shop around, you need to come up with a maximum amount you will be comfortable spending. This way you know what machines you can consider and which you need to just move past. If you think of other ways you can save money, including not paying for a gym membership, you may be able to increase your budget.
2. What Type Of Resistance Do You want?
Rowing machines take research because there are some various forms of resistance that will provide the intensity in each specific rower. Here’s a quick rundown on the different types of resistance:
Air/Fan resistance– This is a classic resistance in a rowing machine as it involves the use of a spinning fan flywheel. When you pull the handle on the rower it causes the flywheel to spin and create wind. This can be great as you can slow down, or speed up, your rowing pace while you’re working out without having to adjust any settings.
Water- we’ve covered this in the two reviews but when it comes to rowing machines water resistance will best replicate the sensation of rowing out on a lake or river.
Magnetic- These rowers use a magnetic break in the flywheel to generate the resistance. The magnets are built in and then you choose the resistance you are wanting on that workout. This makes for very smooth, and quiet, rowing.
Hydraulic- This is a more simple system and rowing machines that use this type of resistance are usually more affordable. They are also smaller and quieter. The resistance is achieved by pistons that are attached to the handles and you pull against the air, or fluid, that are inside the pistons. Some say this is the least effective form of rowing but it will still give you a good workout.
3. Rower, Seat, And Sliding Track
This will help you find the balance between comfort and performance. A higher end rower that provides great intensity might not be the most comfortable to use. The experience of real water rowing in a boat isn’t always the most comfortable, so it depends how close you want to replicate that.
You also have the option of padded seats and foam handles to make it a more luxurious experience. If you have back problems, you may want to opt for the more comfortable padded seat. If you want a more athletic rowing experience, you might opt for a standard style seat that stresses performance over comfort.
The sliding track length will be important for a full rowing range of motion and also will depend on your height. Most average sized people will be fine on standard rowers but if you are on the taller side, you will need a longer sliding track to accommodate the stride length of your rowing motion. And the bigger and wider the sliding track the more stable and comfortable the row will be.
4. Check Your Space
If you live in a large house with a lot of open space, you won’t need to worry about the size of your rower. But if space is at a premium you need to look for a smaller rower. You need to remember it’s not just the length and width of the rower but how much space you will take up when you consider your own width and how far back you will be rowing.
It’s important to leave space between the front, and back, of the rower and the surrounding walls. If you are in a tiny cramped room, you might have to go for a smaller hydraulic based rower to accommodate the size.
The Bottom Line
No matter what rowing machine you decide to go with you can feel safe knowing you will be getting one of the great forms of exercise there is. Rowing is not only great for building a lean muscular body but is one of the best exercises out there to improve your heart health and overall fitness.
This review should give you a good starting point on the best rowers that are out there. The rowing machine buying guide will also inform you on the features, and components, you need to know about in order to purchase the best rowing machine for your needs.