How We Decided
We tested the most popular models which were purchased by our own funds.
Table of Contents
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Choosing the Best Rowing Machine for You
- 3 Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515
- 4 Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Exercise Rower
- 5 Concept2 Model E
- 6 Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205
- 7 Concept2 Model D
- 8 Water Rower Club Rowing Machine
- 9 First Degree Fitness Newport Water Rower Exercise Machine
- 10 Stamina ATS Air Rower
- 11 Kettler Favorit Rowing Machine
- 12 Lifecore R100 Commercial Rowing Machine
- 13 Home Rowing Machine – Health Benefits of Rowing
- 14 Rowing Machines and Weight Loss
- 15 Types of Rowing Machines
- 16 Exercises for Beginners
- 17 Rowing Machine HIIT
- 18 Winner: Concept2 Model D
Exercise is an activity that people either love or hate. No matter what your feelings are on the subject, you likely want to make the most out of your time in the gym or working out at home so you can go on with your day. Continue reading to find out more about the history and benefits of rowing as well as some home rowing machine reviews to help you find the ideal one for your home and goals.
Rowing is one of those exercises that can help minimize the time you spend working out while also giving you an optimized workout. The best part is that you can purchase a rowing machine and keep it in your home so you can workout when it is convenient for you.
Choosing the Best Rowing Machine for You
Rowing as a modern day sport originated in England sometime in the late 17th to early 18th century, but it origins can be traced back all the way to Ancient Egyptian times. Following the advent of the rowing teams at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, rowing gained popularity through Europe and eventually crossed the pond to America.
Here is is popular in many areas and even more people use it as a form of exercise both on and off the water. Rowing provides an excellent total body workout encompassing everything from targeting upper and lower body areas to solid cardiovascular conditioning, leading to the advent of the modern day rowing machine. Because of this total body workout, it has become increasingly popular. Rowing machines, also refereed to as ergometers (ergometers are devices that measure the amount of exercise denoted as time, calories burned, or distance traveled), are a type of indoor equipment used to stimulate watercraft rowing for exercise and training.
Rowing machines provide a mode for exercise which can be utilized by people of any fitness level encompassing all, beginners to experts, from the very own comforts of their home.
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 is a magnetic rowing machine. It is available in a standard black and grey color scheme. The rower has a maximum capacity for a 250 pound individual and has eight adjustable settings for resistance.
The rower comes with an LCD screen which provides basic information such as time spent on the workout and calories burned during the session. The monitor does not show distances meaning you are not able to do time trials. These time trials are a great indicator of your progress in regards to your fitness level and could be a potential deal breaker.
The rower is originally priced at 399 dollars but can be found for around 200 to 250 dollars online via various sources. For the price point, a magnetic rower is a steal. However, at this price point, the machine comes with a few cons in the overall quality of frame. This frame is not sturdy and the seat is hard. The seat may require a seat cushion.
Additionally, you only get a 3 month warranty which is a very short time period compared to other options available on the market.
Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Exercise Rower
The Stamina Avari rowing machine is a magnetic rower that comes in a black and silver color scheme. The dimensions for the rower are 80 inches long by 20 inches wide by 25 inches high. These dimensions make it a medium sized rowing machine. The rower resistance settings can be adjusted electronically via the monitor or display.
This machine comes with 12 different resistance levels. The monitor is full of built-in and useful programs. Some of these programs include heart hate training and the ability to save workouts that you have designed at varying resistance levels.
The rower also comes with a wireless heart rate monitor chest strap which normally retails at about 99 dollars. This is a nice added bonus. The rower is easy to assemble and requires no more them 30 to 45 minutes of guided work. Once assembled, it can be separated into two parts for easy storage.
Some areas of concern with this particular unit are the weight capacity at 275 pounds, the seat is rather uncomfortable and hard, and the back light on the monitor is not very bright. The warranty for the frame work is for 5 years but there is only a 90 day warranty on the Avari monitor and magnets in the flywheel.
Before the first use of this product, please read this USER MANUAL very carefully. This user manual has been designed to instruct you as to the proper manner in which to assemble, maintain, store, and most importantly, how to operate the rowing machine in a safe and efficient manner.
Concept2 Model E
The Concept2 Model E is an air flywheel rower available in a steel frame. It is available in light gray with blue-gray accents. The Concept2 Model E is a heavy duty rower meant to withstand a lot of abuse. The rower also comes with the PM5 monitor which is one of the best available options in the market when it comes to monitors. Furthermore, the unit includes a heart rate monitor strap which retails at 99 dollars.
It even comes with Bluetooth and wireless capabilities and is fully compatible with the PM5. The data collected by the PM5 can be stored on a flash drive and transferred to other devices or apps if you ever choose to get a new rower and want to keep all of your fitness data. The rower comes with rail extensions if needed and can be separated into two part for easy storage.
It has a weight capacity of 500 pounds. Across the board, this particular rower is considered one of the best in the industry by both users and experts. It even comes with a five year warranty on the frame and two year warranty on the monitor and parts. The only drawback for this rowing machine is the large footprint that comes with it. It requires 9 feet by 4 feet of space. The extremely durable frame and top of the line programming come with a top of the line price point range of 1160 dollars and higher.
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205
The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW1205 is a hydraulic rower built with affordability and compactness in mind. The rower comes partially assembled and may require no more the 10 to 15 minutes to complete the rest of the assembly. The rower is one of the most compact and space conscious machines on the market with a minimal footprint allowing for easy storage and even travel if needed.
The rower has a smooth motion and easy glide seating. It is also very silent compared to other air and water rowers. The rower is one of the few options on the market of a price point of less than 100 dollars. This makes it a great investment for beginners looking to purchase their first rower and for those with budget constraints. With the price being less than 100 dollars, there are bound to be some drawbacks with the rower.]
The display is very basic and does not indicate calories burned or monitor your pulse. With the compact size of the machine, users will not be able to get a full body workout like other rowers. Also the resistance provided can vary over time, especially during longer periods of use due to heat build on the pistons.
Concept2 Model D
The Concept2 Model D is an air flywheel type of rowing machine that is available in two standard colors: black and grey. This rower has a capacity for use for an individual up to 500 pounds. The recommended space for use of the machine with clearance is 9 feet by 4 feet, with the total weight coming in at 57 pounds.
The rower comes with a PM5 monitor with Bluetooth and wireless capabilities. The PM5 monitor is considered as one of the best available monitors on the market. The price point for this particular rower is not low but it will be a great investment. The Concept2 Model D is one of the highest rated rowing machines both by users and industry experts due to smooth motion, low noise output, and durability.
The machine is easy to assemble with only eight total screws required and can be separated into two pieces for easy storage, and comes with a 5-year frame warranty and 2-year warranty of the monitor and parts.
Before the first use of this product, please read this USER MANUAL very carefully. This user manual has been designed to instruct you as to the proper manner in which to assemble, maintain, store, and most importantly, how to operate the rowing machine in a safe and efficient manner.
Water Rower Club Rowing Machine
The Water Rower Club Rower is a water flywheel operated system where the water provides variable resistance levels for the user. Water rowers as a whole provide the closest in feel to rowing on actual water and sound water rowers make can be quite rhythmic and soothing.
This particular rower is made from Appalachian Ash wood which can be very durable for long periods of time. This water rower looks drastically different than all air, hydraulic, and magnetic rowers which tend to all have the same color schemes and look. It is the wooden frame that sets it apart. The Ash frame also makes this unit quite heavy at 117 pounds and the unit as a whole has a footprint that is on the larger size.
The rower comes with an S4 monitor which comes with six pre-programmed workouts. It also provides advanced readings in categories such as calories per hour, meters per seconds, miles or kms per hour, and pulse rate and heart rate. The S4 can be setup in different languages and can be used to set up HIIT workouts. Data can be transferred from the S4 to other apps and programs. The rower also has a 1000 pound user capacity which is the highest you can find on any rower on the market. The only cons for this rower would be the price and the large footprint it takes up.
First Degree Fitness Newport Water Rower Exercise Machine
The First Degree Fitness Newport AR Rower is a water rower that comes in an attractive red and black metal frame. The rower has dimensions that come in at 78 inches long and 21 inches wide with a weight of 68 pounds. These dimensions place this rower in the medium footprint category.
The rower comes with a five-year warranty for the frame, a 3-year warranty for tank and non- mechanical parts, and a one-year parts warranty. The rower has a weight capacity for 330 pounds and it comes with a built-in digital monitor. The monitor can measure heart rate, calories burned, 500 meter splits, strokes per minute, watts, and also comes with pre-set interval training workouts and USB access so you can transfer other data to it.
This rower is not cheap but for the money, it is a solid buy with no obvious drawbacks.
Stamina ATS Air Rower
The Stamina ATS Air Rower is a variety of variable resistance rowers which can be found in all black, red and black, and gray and black color schemes. The rower comes in at a weight of 54 pounds when assembled and is reviewed by users as easy to assemble.
The footprint for the rower is 78.5 inches long and 19.75 inches wide. The unit comes with wheels attached for easy storage and movement. It also has a weight capacity for 250 pounds for the user. The monitor with this unit is very basic and does not provide the user with heart rate reading and also has no preset workouts.
This particular unit comes with a very durable frame unlike many other rowers at this price point and is an excellent option as a starter unit. The warranty on the frame is for 3 years but the parts and monitor only have a 90-day warranty. All in all, at the lower price point, this is one of the most durable units on the market.
Kettler Favorit Rowing Machine
The Kettler Favorit Rowing Machine is a hydraulic rower that comes in a black and light gray color scheme. The Favorit is lowest end rower made by the Kettler brand. It is also the most compact rower they offer with the dimensions coming in at 52 inches by 32 inches by 10 inches. The rower only weighs a mere 44 pounds but amazingly has a user weight capacity of 285 pounds.
This rower comes with basic monitor which can display frequency, strokes per minute, pulse rate, time, distance, and calories burned. One of the unique features this unit has is the cardio wellness grading system with a 1-6 rating measured via 60 second recovery interval after intense exercise. This allows the user to see where they rank in terms of their workout and know when they are improving.
It also comes with various resistance levels which can be changed on the handlebars for increased intensity during workouts and leveling workouts. The first of which is the assembly. The rowers are manufactured in Germany and the instructions provided are in German only so that could be an issue for people who do not speak or read the language. Another issue with the unit is that the bolts require adjusting frequently and the unit squeaks during use. Lastly, the monitor can be inaccurate.
Lifecore R100 Commercial Rowing Machine
The Lifecore R100 is a top-end, heavy duty, magnetic rower made to compete with the very best rowers in the market. The rower comes with 16 levels of adjustable resistance controlled by a knob that is easily accessible on the machine. At the lowest level, there is only air resistance to provide for the lower level strength training. At higher levels, the magnetic resistance kicks in for a more intense workout.
The rower does require either access to an electrical outlet or must be powered by batteries, which can be a drawback based on the location someone wants to place the rower or how much they are willing to spend on batteries to power it all the time. It comes with an industry leading 5-year parts warranty and a lifetime frame warranty. The rower does come with a large footprint, unfortunately, at 92 inches by 19 inches by 36 inches. It offers users a weight capacity of 600 pounds.
The display on the unit comes pre-programmed with 11 workouts and 4 heart rate control programs so users can get started immediately upon setup if they want a guided workout. On the monitor, it will also show things like 500-meter times, strokes per minute, calories burned, speed, distance, heart rate, and pulse rate. This rower is well built and meant to last while also providing the user with many different pre-programmed workouts and reading. The only concern we have with this rowing machine is the price making it the most expansive rower on this list.
However, once you take a look at all of the benefits and how it stands up against others, that price point may be worth it. Add in the lifetime warranty and for some it may be a no-brainer decision.
Home Rowing Machine – Health Benefits of Rowing
One of the hardest things about exercise is making the actual time for it. Most people would love to go to the gym 3 to 4 times a week and get a workout in. However, the reality is that carving out of block of time multiple times a week may seem impossible in may cases. Not to mention the monthly or yearly financial commitment a gym membership costs which comes out of your bank account even when you don’t use the gym facilities for months at a time.
Moreover, lets not get into the headache that is associated with trying to cancel a gym membership. The solution to this conundrum comes in the form of an in-home rowing machine. The most obvious benefit of a rowing machine is the mere convenience it provides. You can exercise whenever you want for however long you want which makes it much harder to come up with excuses for not exercising.
So, here are the main benefits.
The rowing motion is a highly effective aerobic exercise (it increases breathing and heart rate by stimulating the pumping of oxygenated blood to transport oxygen to working muscles), which prompts cardiovascular health in the heart and lungs.
The amount of calories burned by the rowing motion is matched by very few exercises. Rowing is also one of the few exercises that stimulate both weight loss and strength training at the same time. It is a combo that many people look for but rarely find.
Rowing provides multidirectional resistance which helps in strengthening and toning of all major muscle groups in the body, all with one exercise.
The exercise is low impact on the body meaning there is less chance for injury while working out. The low impact motion provides an excellent exercise option for elderly and people with any joint damage.
It prompts increased flexibility and range of motion with increased use.
It provides an overall efficiency by allowing users to burn more calories in less time which, in turn, also promotes weight loss.
Its also effective as a tool for the cross-fit aficionados.
Rowing Machines and Weight Loss
Weight loss is accomplished by the burning of calories in your body, the process of which is known as the metabolic rate. Someone who takes in 3000 calories a day and burns 3000 calories a day will stay at the same weight. There are three distinct ways the body burns calories for fuel.
BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) – The body uses an energy to essentially keep you alive in the form of generating heat and facilitating breathing. This accounts for roughly 60 percent of daily calories burned.
DIT (Dietary thermogenesis) – Calories burned in the process of breaking down the food you eat. This form accounts for approximately 10 percent of your daily calories burned.
Direct action or activities performed daily – Simple things such as walking or washing the dishes. This form of caloric burning accounts for approximately 30 percent of your daily calories burned. Additionally, it is important to note that this varies from person to person widely because there are people on both ends of the spectrum working out a lot and not at all.
Direct action or activity is the main focus for weight loss during exercise as BMR and DIT are mostly passive actions that occur naturally in your body. During this activity phase, certain factors can help facilitate the burning of calories at a much more aggressive rate. Two of the most important factors are muscle gain and aerobic exercise.
For example, on average, every pound of muscle gained can require up to 50 calories of fuel burned daily. This means that the more muscle someone has, the more calories they are burning every day without putting in an additional aerobic effort. As we listed above in the benefits of rowing machines, rowing is one of the few exercises out there that can stimulate both weight loss and muscle gain at the same time.
Meaning a rowing machine provides the two things millions upon millions of people go to the gym for in the form of one machine from the comfort of your home. This is what makes it a very popular exercise when people know about the benefits because it will result in more passive calorie burn even when the individual is not actively working out that day.
What most people don’t realize is that rowing machines provide a total body workout all from one machine. A rowing motion unlike traditional cardio machines such as treadmills and exercise bikes is compromised of roughly 25 to 35 percent upper-body work and roughly 65 to 75 percent lower body work.
Types of Rowing Machines
Indoor rowing machines can be categorized into 4 different main types and also broken down further the form of many types of makes and models. Let’s have a look at the four distinct types of rowing machines.
The Water Rower
The water rower is an innovative, patented design in the form of a water flywheel which mimics the motion of a row boat moving through the water. This type of rower will provide you with an experience that is the closest to actually rowing a boat on the water. This effect is achieved via the water flywheel tank which is filled with water.
The tank has paddles in it which are attached to the straps. As the straps are pulled, the paddles rotate in the water flywheel providing resistance against the pull of the user. This concept provides for variable resistance as there are no resistance settings on this machine. Essentially the harder or faster you pull, the more resistance you will feel.
You can also change the water level in the tank which basically amounts to the weight the user is trying to move. The amount of water present in the tank has no barring on the resistance level. One of the unique features associated with a water rower is a reduced noise level due to the use of a row strap instead of a chain other types of rowers use. The machine still emits a sounds but it is that of water sloshing around in the machine, which many people find soothing.
The aesthetics of wooden framed water rower can be pleasing to the eye. Many users place the rower in areas such as the living room as opposed to hidden away in the basement. The water rowers also come with upright storage feature where the water tank helps with balance, making the whole thing very stable while standing upright. Water rowers can be great for high intensity interval training (HIIT) because you can control the intensity of the workout by simply speeding up or slowing down. Water rowers as a whole are going to fall in the highest price bracket of all available rowing machines.
Hydraulic Rowing Machine
The hydraulic rowing machine is the most compact and economical type of rower available in the market. The resistance is provided by either fluid or air compressed via hydraulic cylinders or pistons attached to the handle bars. As the handle bars are pulled back the the fluid or air in the cylinder resists the force the user excretes on the handle bars.
The compact size and very minimal noise make this type of rower ideal for people living in apartments and people otherwise pressed for space. As the lowest costing rower type on the market, this version is very popular with the money conscious. It can also be a great option for people who are not quite sure if they want to spend a lot on a rower without knowing if it is the right exercise equipment for them. You can try one of this type out without spending a lot of money.
The size and price of hydraulic rowers come with drawbacks in other areas when compared to other rower types. As with most things in life, with lower cost comes less innovative technology and quality overall. Hydraulic rowers are fixed seat machines meaning there is real work out for the legs. The motion of the hydraulic rower is the least fluid when encompassing all rower types.
Furthermore, there is no form of resistance adjustment on most model of hydraulic rowers limiting the intensity of workouts. This means you are stuck with the standard resistance and cannot increase this over time as you become more fit using the machine.
Air Rowing Machine
The air or flywheel rowing machine is another variant of rowers that simulates the motion of rowing on the water. The resistance competent operates on the same principals as the water rowers. Whereas water rowers use water for resistance flywheel rowers use air in a similar way.
Flywheel rowers also offer variable resistance to where the effort you exert on the straps directly impacts the resistance you feel. The harder you work it results in it working your body harder as well. The air rowers come with some of the best monitors in the industry. They tend to be more technology driven and very accurately measure things such a spilt times at various distances, heart rates, watts, distance, and calories burned.
These features make the air rowers the go-to for training for many professional athletes around the world. The air rowing machines makes a much more pronounced whooshing sound making it harder to hear your television or music during workouts, which is a drawback for many people looking to distract themselves or motivate themselves with this type of entertainment during a workout.
Air rowers are also great for high intensity interval training because you can control the intensity of the workout by simply speeding up or slowing down your personal tempo. The air rowers come at varying price points from low to high making it a option for any budget, as long as you are willing to do a bit of shopping around.
Magnetic Rowing Machine
The magnetic rowing machine uses magnets in the flywheel as the mechanism that provides resistance. The magnets in the flywheel can be adjusted by moving them closer or further away from the flywheel to increase or decrease resistance. The further away the magnet from the flywheel, the less resistance the mechanism offers the user.
Once the resistance is set at a level, the resistance stays the same no matter how fast you row. But the beauty of this is that you can change it at any time. Magnetic rowers are the quietest rowers available for purchase in the market making them a popular choice for many people as well. They are also the heaviest rowers on the market due to the weight of the magnetic mechanism in the flywheel. Some models of magnetic rowers also require the user to plug them into an electric outlet.
Magnetic rowers can be found at various price points depending on the make and model.
Exercises for Beginners
The best workouts are the ones that keep you interested and keep bringing you back. The same applies to a rowing machine workout program. The first thing anyone who purchases a rowing machine should focus on is the proper technique for the rowing stroke.
We recommend watching videos online for the basic understanding of the rowing stroke. The rowing stroke can be broken down in to four parts: the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery. For the catch you will want shoulders level to arms and straight and your head in a neutral position, not leaning to either side.
To start the motion, you will want your upper body leaning forward where your shoulders are positioned in front of the hips, with your shin angled as close to 90 degrees as possible. For the drive, begin with pushing with your legs, followed by swinging your back to the vertical position.
You will want to add in the arm pull while keeping your hands in a straight line as much as possible. Remember to keep your shoulders relaxed during this step. For the finish, your upper body should being back beyond the starting position with a slight lean backwards with support from the core muscles. Ensure your shoulders are low with a relaxed grip on the handle with straight wrists and that your legs are extended. The last step for the stroke will be the recovery where you will extend towards the flywheel until your arms are straight while leaning from the hips. After your hands are past the knees, bend the knees and slide forward. Once the entire stroke is completed, return to the catch position then repeat until you have finished your reps.
Working out is a results oriented business. The better results we see ,the more interested and motivated we are to continue putting in time and effort. The best way to get results for beginners and to keep them engaged and not lose interest will be a two fold process. Following heart rate training programs and varying workouts so they do not become monotonous, by changing workouts in regards to time, distance, strokes per minutes, intensity and resistance levels is key. Heart rate training programs are designed to keep your heart pumping at the fat burning sweet spot which is between 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. A very simple way to calculate your maximum heart rate is the subtract your age from 220 and try to operate within the 60 to 80 percent range thereafter.
Rowing Machine HIIT
HIIT is high-intensity interval training where short bursts of high-intensity activity (anaerobic exercise) are followed by periods of less intensity recovery activity in blocks of 30 to 40-minute sessions. Most HIIT training sessions try to get in 6 to 8 bursts of high-intensity exercise in between the recovery portion of the training. The bursts, depending on your fitness level, can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Some of the benefits of HIIT of training sessions can be:
After examining ten different options on the market for our home rowing machine reviews, we have come to our final recommendation. In our opinion, the Concept2 Model D is the clear winner. The reason the Concept2 Model D is the winner is because it stands at the top or near the top in all the major categories.
For our review purpose, we choose to eliminate the really compact rowers because they don’t provide full body workouts. This is something that is a must when considering purchasing a rower. The entire reason to purchase a rowing machine is that they provide a full body workout so the ones that do not miss the mark.
The next criteria we used for elimination purposes was the resistance type. Variable resistance offers the most bang for your buck. Due to the fact that there is no cap on the resistance, it was a clear winner. The faster you pull, the more the resistance you will encounter with this machine. In terms of warranties, other than the R100, the model D has the best warranty with 5 years for the frame and 2 years for the parts.
Considering that the R100 is meant mainly for gym use, the warranty they offer makes sense. With monitors, the PM5 is by far the best monitor or display available in the market by any retailer at this time. One of the biggest things in favor of the Model D is the fact that this is the preferred training rower for Olympic athletes. Because of this, it is the rower that will provide the type of results you are looking for without breaking the bank to get it.
The team that worked on this review