Purchasing any piece of exercise equipment is going to be a major investment. When it comes to cardiovascular equipment, the price is always going to be a factor. After years of experience, we know that there is a fine balance to finding the best rowing machine in your price range. When you don’t have money to spend frivolously, the last thing you want to do is buy a rowing machine that will sit and collect dust in the corner.
Our Top Rowers at a Glance
Concept2 Model D
Kettler Kadett Outrigger
Stamina Air Rower
LifeSpan Fitness RW1000
1. Want a Closer Look at some Models? – Read our Reviews
2. Looking for Some Quick Recommendations?
3. First Time Buyer? – Start Here
4. What are the Benefits Compared to Other Exercises?
Our Top 5 Rowing Machine Reviews
Buying an indoor rower is an investment in your health. That’s why it’s important to choose a model that will help you reach your health and fitness goals.
Arguably the best model on the market is the Concept 2 model D, however in terms of value for money we believe there are other machines that give it a run for its money.
Below you will find what we believe to be the best models on the market that will deliver a great workout while offering durability, ease of use and comfort.
For serious rowers, it doesn’t get much better than the Concept 2 Model D. Designed to give you a complete full-body workout, the Concept 2 is very quiet and exceptionally smooth when in use.
The included Performance Monitor 5 sets this rower apart from others due to its unmatched accuracy. The backlit monitor is easy to read, and the included USB flash drive port allows you to export and store your data. It also allows you to wirelessly monitor your heart rate during your workouts.
You’ll also love the fact that you can adjust the monitor’s position for easy viewing.
The ergonomic handle and 14” seat height makes this rower comfortable to use, while the adjustable footrests allow you to find a fit that’s just right for you and doesn’t loosen over the duration of your workout.
When you’re finished with your workout, the Concept 2 Model D separates into two pieces for easy storage. The front caster wheels make it easy to push the machine into your desired position.
With unmatched monitoring, quiet operation, easy storage and the power to deliver a challenging workout, the Concept 2 Model D is arguably the best rower on the market.
The WaterRower delivers a workout that’s as close to real water rowing as you can get.
Handcrafted with ash wood, this rower features a water flywheel and water tank, which mimic the actual feeling of rowing out on the water. The water itself provides resistance – the faster and harder you row, the harder your workout will be.
Smooth and quiet, it is designed to absorb vibration and sound, so you enjoy a quieter, more pleasant workout. The swishing noise from the water resistance is almost serene to listen to as you row.
The Series 4 performance monitor accurately tracks your stroke rate, heart rate, duration, distance, intensity and “zone bar”. The heart rate monitor is an optional extra but well worth getting.
The monitor also comes equipped with a number of workouts programmed into the unit, helping to take your workouts to the next level. You can also create your own workouts and save them to the monitor.
With the USB functionality, you can connect to Netathlon where you may row against other people over the internet on a virtual river. You can also race against an avatar of your best time to try and beat it. I find this feature brings an extra dimension to the workouts with the fun of a live race.
With a weight capacity of 1,000 pounds, this rower can accommodate most users with ease. And in between workouts, the frame folds up to save space.
If you’re looking for an indoor rower that accurately mimics the feeling of real water rowing, this Machine is an excellent choice.
#3. Stamina Avari
The Stamina Avari is one of the top magnetic rowers on the market today. With multiple resistance levels, this rower is ideal for users of all fitness levels.
Magnetic resistance ensures quiet, smooth rowing action, while the built-in workout programs allow you to vary your workouts with ease. The included fitness monitor offers 12 workout programs in total: 6 cardio, 1 manual, 4 custom and 1 heart rate.
The backlit monitor also tracks important stats, like calories burned, distance, time, count, pulse and strokes per minute. Resistance and time can be adjusted with the touch of a button for easy adjustments on the fly.
Unlike other indoor rowers, the Stamina Avari comes with a chest strap, so you can monitor your heart rate with each workout.
With a folding design, this rower can be stored away to save space in between your workout sessions.
The Stamina Avari is the ideal indoor rower for anyone looking for a quiet machine that delivers a great workout no matter their fitness level.
The Stamina 35-1405 is affordable, easy to use, and doesn’t compromise on quality. Using the power of air resistance, this indoor rower delivers a great quality workout, whether you’re a beginner or advanced user.
The built-in electronic performance monitor tracks your distance, speed, calories burned and time, so you can maximize your workout results.
In the comfort department, the 35-1405 offers a comfortable foam padded seat. The seat glides smoothly on ball bearing rollers along the chrome seat rail.
When you’re done working up a sweat, you can fold this rower up and store it away. The built-in wheels make it easy to move this rower into a corner or another room in between workouts.
For users who want a budget-friendly, quality air rower with a simple design, the Stamina 35-1405 is a smart choice.
This was the first rower that I ever got and I still use it today. Even after all the sprint sessions I have done on it, it is still going strong today.
#5. Kettler Favorit
While the Kettler Favorit cannot be compared to the high end rowers, it has rightfully earned its place in our top 5. Kettler are quickly becoming one of the leading brands for providing afforadble rowers full to the brim with features that rival other brands in the same price range.
The Kettler Favorit is fitted with rowing arms to mimic the position and action of real water rowing. And with two hydraulic cylinders, this rower offers continuous resistance throughout your entire workout.
The ergonomically-designed seat is comfortable to sit on even during long workouts and the mounted running rollers allows for smooth movement with each stroke.
The included training computer tracks your strokes, speed, distance, pulse rate and energy consumption, so you can keep a watchful eye on your progress.
The pulse reader is included with this model, which is always a nice extra. The reader connects to your ear lobe, make sure that the it isn’t in direct sunlight as you are rowing or it may give you some inaccurate readings.
With a 250-pound weight limit, this rower can accommodate nearly all users with ease.
We love the build quality that you get with all kettler models. You feel confident that your rower is going to give you many years of great workouts.
First Time Buyer? : Read This First
Not all models are created using the same technology. In fact, workouts are drastically different when using a machine that utilizes water-resistance flywheels or a machine that uses hydraulic-resistance rowers or an air flywheel.
Prices will also be significantly different as well. For the typical user, water-resistance flywheels may be too expensive. Water-resistance models are ideal for more advanced rowers and may not be suitable for most peoples budget.
The following resistance types are available.
- Magnetic-resistance: Quiet and smooth. Magnetic rowing machines are ideal for precise measuring of a workout and provides very accurate resistance. The downfall of these models is that they are often heavier and larger than other resistance-types. Some of the cheaper magnetic models often don’t have the level of resistance that you may be expecting but they do still give you a great cardiovascular workout.
- Air-resistance: Air rowing machines use a flywheel to push as you are rowing, some models may come with a resistance tension option to make a workout more difficult by altering the amount of air allowed to pass into the flywheel. The downfall with this resistance type is usually a lack of adjustable resistance and high noise production. However, even the basic air rowers produce enough resistance for intense workouts like sprint training.
- Water-resistance: As close to real rowing as an indoor rowing machine can get. Using water as resistance, these models simulate rowing in actual water. There is a lack of resistance adjustment as you have to alter the water level in order to produce more drag. However, this is the case with all water-resistance rowers, but rowing faster will produce further resistance. These models are often heavy due to the water tank and they are often very expensive.
- Hydraulic-resistance: Hydraulic-resistance often includes handlebars that provide that provides a nice rowing movement. Resistance adjustment is an option with hydraulic-resistance, and these models are often able to be folded for further space-saving benefits. The downside is that hydraulic-resistance provides less range of motion, however if you are looking for a cheap rowing machine, this is most likely the type of resistance you will want.
As you can see, all of the resistance types have their own benefits and their downsides. Now lets look at an equally important factor – maintenance!
Maintenance will allow you to get the most out of your rower and extend its lifespan as a result. The model that you choose may or may not come with a regular maintenance schedule and outline that needs to be followed.
A general maintenance checklist will be:
- Examining and tightening any loose screws or bolts monthly
- Lubricating the chain (attached to the rowing handle) on some models
- Wiping down your machine
- Tightening the seat to ensure it is secure
- If you own a water resistance rower, changing the water weekly will ensure no algae growth occurs
You will also need to check for any wear and tear of movable parts. Seat cushions often need to be replaced or hydraulic pistons may exhibit signs of wear.
What are the Benefits Compared to Other Exercises?
Rowing has been on the rise in recent years. Not only is this exercise great for burning fat, but it’s also easy on your joints and can be done no matter your age or fitness level. Because you’re seated while you row, there is little chance of you falling or becoming injured. With immense safety benefits seen over the likes of a treadmill or elliptical, rowing is starting to be the preferred method of cardio and exercise.
The benefits of rowing do not stop here. Let’s take a look at what you can expect when rowing on a regular basis.
It is no coincidence that reviews are full of people stating that they have lost weight after rowing regularly. Users can expect different amounts of calories to be burned based on their weight and the intensity of the workout.
Studies show that, on average, rowing will burn 11 calories per minute. This equates to 660 calories burned in just 60 minutes or over 300 calories burned in just a half hour. Compared to other pieces of equipment, rowing is on par or ahead of the competition. The best part about rowing is that you will be utilizing all of your major muscle groups, resulting in a full body workout.
Understanding what muscles are needed to row properly will require you to know the two phases of rowing: The catch and drive.
- Catch: The catch takes place when you are starting a row and your knees are fully bent into an almost-squat position.
- Drive: The drive is the movement needed to go from the catch into a fully extended position where your legs are straight and your arms have moved the rowing oars.
The catch phase will engage the following muscles:
- Upper and lower back muscles
During the drive phase, the following muscles will also be used:
- Gluteus Maximus
- Forearm extenders
When done correctly, a proper rowing motion will utilize all of these muscles providing a full body workout. Various other smaller muscles will also need to engage during rowing exercises.
Indoor Rowers vs Other Equipment
Compared to other equipment, there are a variety of benefits that indoor rowing will provide. These benefits include:
- Full body workout
- Muscle toning and strengthening
- Cardiovascular workout
- Minimal stress on knees and joints
- Little space required
Many rowers are light enough to be moved from one room to another, and some even fold up for easy storage purposes. If you live in a small space, this is ideal because you don’t need to occupy your living room with a large, clunky piece of exercise equipment.
With no excuse not to workout, you can row and get a full body workout that will keep you in tip-top shape without needing to step foot in the gym. For the stay-at-home mom that needs to watch her kids all day or the business executive that has little time to spare, rowing is the ideal choice.