Best Rowing Machine Reviews Guide
What’s the Best Rowing Machine?
If you’re looking for a terrific all-around full-body workout, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better rowing machine than the .. We researched five rowers for more than 10 hours, tested the top four options with a panel of five fitness enthusiasts, and performed a head-to-head challenge between our top two picks, and we found the Model D to be the best overall rowing machine out there today. It’s simple to use, provides an incredible workout, and burns a lot of calories.
⇢ THE BEST ROWING MACHINE REVIEWS
Advantages of Using a Rowing Machine
I’ve been working out with a rowing machine for about five years now, after I bit the bullet and invested in the Concept2 Model D. I have found it to be truly one of the best pieces of exercise equipment to improve your overall health.
Recommended by doctors and personal trainers alike, a good rowing machine will accomplish a few things for you:
1) it provides an all-body workout, exercising multiple muscle groups in your body
2) it’s a “fun” and engaging exercise to do, which means you won’t suffer as much “fatigue” (i.e. boredom)
As you might on a treadmill or another piece of equipment; and 3) it will help you to both lose fat, and build muscle, which makes for a pretty good combination when it comes to exercise equipment.
Here are some more detailed advantages:
- It burns calories — a lot. Did you know that a 50-minute rowing session can burn nearly 1,200 calories? That’s twice as many calories burned that you’d get from a spinning class.
- It’s an all-body workout. When you use a rowing machine, you’re really getting a workout for your entire body: lats, upper back, deltoids, triceps, calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, abs, obliques, pecs, and biceps. When I’m working on my rower, and I can feel all these different muscles working.
- Elevated heart rate. Everyone knows that when you’re getting a good workout, your heart rate will be elevated — and that’s certainly a good thing. This is no different than when you’re doing rowing machine exercises, as you’re effectively doing a leg press, dead lift, and a row with every single rep of the machine.
Types of Rowing Machines
When you’re shopping for a rowing machine, it all comes down to the resistance type. The resistance of the machine accomplishes two things:
1) the more resistance you have, obviously, the more intense the workout is; and
2) with more resistance, your “experience” on the rower will be more realistic as you try to mimic the sensation of actually rowing across water.
Let’s quickly go over the four most common resistance types:
- Air resistant. These are the most popular types of rowing machine, and probably the ones you’ve seen at your local gym. It’s also the resistant type found on the Concept2 Model D. When you pull the handle toward you on the machine, the spinning flywheel is activated into motion, which is where the machine draws its force from. So the harder you pull on that handle, the greater the resistances becomes, as the more wind is activated. The best thing about this type of resistance type is that you are in control of your own workout. If you want an intense workout, then pull that handle as hard as you can. If you’re looking to take it a little lighter, then ease up a bit. It’s all up to you. Whether you’re an intermediate or advanced rower, an air resistant model is perfect for you.
- Water resistant. A water resistant rower is designed of course to mimic the actual motion of rowing over water. Water resistant machines are usually reserved for the more advanced rowers, as they can be on the difficult end of the intensity spectrum. The harder you pull the handle, the harder the resistance. There’s an audible feature to these models as well, as when you pull the handle, the machine makes a wave-like motion as if you are rowing over water.
- Piston resistant. These types of rowers are generally reserved for those without a lot of rowing experience. They are on the smaller (easier to store) and cheaper side, though they still provide a great workout. A piston resistant rower has two hydraulic pistons attached to each oar. This design is intended to allow the user to achieve a balanced upper-body workout as well. Both Stamina models that we recommend use piston resistance.
- Magnetic resistant. A magnetic rower is the most basic of all the rower types on the market. These are inexpensive, small, simple machines with a long seat and a break system. A magnetic rower doesn’t make a lot of noise, but also doesn’t offer up a lot in the way of friction, meaning that you may not get in quite as good of a workout as you would with the other types.
Other Things to Consider
- Space. Some rowers are much bulkier than others, so be sure to check the size specs on whichever unit you’re considering. The Concept2 Model 2, for example, measures about 8’0” x 2’0” x 2’4” and weighs around 57 pounds. Some folks can be surprised by just how much space a rowing machine can take up in their home, so be sure to measure everything out ahead of time.
- Skill level. As mentioned above, different types of rowers are built for different types of advanced skills. Don’t buy an advanced rower if you’re not ready, as you’ll only become frustrated that you aren’t able to effectively use the machine. On the other hand, if your skill level is pretty good, don’t buy a beginner’s rower, as the workout will be too easy for you. As always, be sure to check out our reviews, as well as the customer reviews on Amazon.
- Price. Last, but certainly not least. Everyone wants to find a rower in their budget, of course. Luckily, there is a pretty wide budget gap with today’s rowers, ranging anywhere from under $100, to nearly $1,000.
A Quick Word About Mats
If you’re going to have a 50+ pound rowing machine on the floors of your home, chances are you’ll also want to invest in a mat of some sort. Make sure to pick a sturdy and durable one.
Concept2 Model D Review
The Concept2 Model is our pick as the runaway best-in-class rowing machine available today. The Model D is beloved by fitness buffs and professional rowers alike, as you are likely to find it in nearly every hometown gym across America.
Amazon reviewers seem to agree, as this machine has an average rating of 4.9 stars out of 5 out of more than 900 customer reviews (when you factor in reviews of the previous model).
The Concept2 Model D immediately stands out with its build quality and versatility. What’s nice about this machine is the even rowing and smooth sliding seat motion – this allows your upper and lower body to efficiently work their muscles at the same time.
Our testers commented on just how natural the whole rowing motion feels. Next, the adjustable footrests: we found that they accommodate for any variety of different shape shoes or sizes, and are quite comfortable to slip into.
What about the handle? Well, it’s ergonomically designed to deliver a firm, secure grip throughout your exercise routine.
My hands get particularly sweaty when I workout, and I had no issues with grip. As for storing the Model D, the unit features a quick-release, no tools required frame lock, making it quite easy to separate into two separate pieces for storage or transport.
I personally store mine in my basement closet when I need to move it for when we have guests over, and I can do it on my own without any help from my husband.
What’s also nice are the durable caster wheels on the bottom of the unit, so you can roll the Model D to different locations in your home without issue.
The Model D has a 500 pound capacity and comes with a 5 year warranty on the frame.
I could list the pros of this machine all day, but we’ll stick with the basics here: the Model D is extremely well-made.
It has an aluminum monorail frame that’s capped with high grade stainless steel – this design and materials ensures the smooth, gliding motion that makes this unit famous.
The flywheel design also provides a smooth motion while minimizing noise during your workout; the rower really is quiet when in use, which is nice when you’re trying to watch a game or TV show while you’re working out.
Another nice touch is the spiral damper which allows adjustment of the airflow to the flywheel, helping to easily find the right setting for any session.
The Model D ships with a “performance monitor” screen that’s bolted to the machine; the monitor provides easy to see, accurate data during every second of your time spent rowing.
And then there’s the seat: a 14 inch low profile seat that’s both extremely comfortable and quite stable while exercising, and which our testers singled out as one of their favorite design features on the machine.
Personally speaking, I’ve used the Model D as my at-home rowing machine for more than five years now. I’ve never had a single issue with it and it’s the best indoor rowing machine I’ve ever used.
More than that, it’s an absolute joy to use. Typically, I use the Model D about three times per week, for around 45 minutes per session. I find it to be a challenging workout, and our testers agreed.
I’m in pretty good shape, yet I’ve always felt challenged using it – there are enough resistance levels to please everyone here, even beginners, so don’t be intimidated if this is your first machine.
Just as important, I’ve also never gotten bored using this rower – which is a big thing when you’re talking about a piece of fitness equipment, since boredom is often a problem that leads to people stop exercising.
I always feel engaged and excited for my next workout.
As I mentioned, the first thing you’ll notice about the Model D is how impressively well-built it is; you can tell right out of the box that this machine was designed to last you for years.
The build-quality is second to none. A lot of people get startled at the $900 price tag – me included, when I was first shopping for a machine – but if it lasts you 5-10 years, then it starts to become an investment of sorts.
Because once you start using it, you’ll see how durable and comfortable it is.
I mentioned the “personal monitor” before – it displays all kinds of detailed information for how your workout is going.
The monitor has a nice resolution (160 x 160 pixels) so you can clearly see your progress, and best of all, it stores your workout history on a USB card that you can then upload onto MyFitnessPal, which is a pretty killer feature.
Our testers specifically pointed out this feature as a great way to build and maintain momentum while exercising; keeping track of your goals and progress is vital to sustaining the motivation needed to stay fit, so we definitely recommend utilizing this feature.
Next, the Model D is known for its ease of use, and it does not disappoint. You can adjust the cord resistance to whichever level you feel comfortable, and the machine will provide the necessary amount of friction to work nearly every muscle in the body.
Another thing to mention is the seat – a part of the machine this is often overlooked – because the seat on the Model D is shaped to enhance your comfort as you sit on the machine, and is perfectly positioned so that you can watch TV if you like during your workouts.
With this machine, you can expect to lose up to 1,000 calories per hour, depending on your fitness level, age, gender, and a couple of other factors.
So it’s a fun workout that you can do in the comfort of your own home – while watching TV – while burning a ton of calories and working nearly every muscle in your body.
The Model D is a terrific machine, but it’s not without its flaws. There were some consumers on Amazon who reported this unit taking up more space within their home than expected, so be sure you measured out your space where you plan on putting it before you actually buy it.
Other customers also expressed a desire for better instructions for assembling the product, and we tend to agree. While it wasn’t difficult per se to assemble, it was a bit of a chore, and it would have been made easier with more detailed, clearer instructions
And of course, depending on your budget, $900 could simply make this unit too expensive.
WaterRower Natural Review
If the Concept2 Model D has any competition as the market as the standout rowing machine, it surely comes from the WaterRower.
Having a specially designed flywheel situated within an enclosed water tank, I find the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine provides an instinctive and realistic workout session for me every time.
The use of water inside the tank for the resistance pressure delivers an authentic “on the water” rowing experience during my workout.
I like the series 4 performance monitor with it’s ability to track the intensity level, stroke rate and other statistics throughout my exercise session. The S4 gives me accurate feedback on my heart rate, stroke rate, workout intensity, duration and distance rowed.
With the S4 monitor I receive an accurate reading of my heart rate and other statistics throughout my workout even when there is a lot of forceful movement that can cause other monitors to provide less than accurate feedback.
Likewise with the ability to track my zone and stroke rate I can precisely control the effectiveness of my exercise session every time.
Having a heavy duty wood frame construction, the WaterRower Natural Machine Ash S4 can handle my lengthy and rugged workouts.
The meticulously designed solid ash, stained honey oak construction helps to diminish noise and vibration in my environment during my training.
The WaterRower with S4 is 84 inches wide x 21 inches high x 22 inches deep and weighs 117 pounds. It comes with a 1 year warranty on the frame and components.
The warranty can be upgraded to a full 5 years on the frame and 3 years on the components by simply completing the registration form.
I enjoyed the ability to set the WaterRower to the resistance I desire by simply adding to or removing water from the tank.
This gave me time to adjust to the machine and learn the unique movements required without pushing myself to the limit with the highest resistance when first using machine.
As I became more accustomed to the WaterRower, I gradually increased the amount of water in the tank for each workout session.
This not only allowed the muscles and ligaments of my body time to adjust, but eventually enabled me to achieve my current goal of peak performance.
Another thing I really like about the WaterRower is the comfortable padded seat that comes with the product. I have used other rowers where the seat was quite uncomfortable especially during intense workouts.
The seat is well designed to allow free movement with no restraint yet padded enough to prevent any discomfort throughout long workout sessions.
With it’s maximum weight capacity of 1,000 pounds, the WaterRower with S4 monitor can handle my most intense workouts. The sturdy dual rail construction of the WaterRower provide a stable workout for me even during intense portions of my routine.
The design also makes it simple to store the WaterRower by simply flipping it upright into a corner of the room. The innovative 4 corner wheels of the seat increase the strength and stability when using the device.
Concept2 Model D vs WaterRower
I like the WaterRower Natural Machine S4 for it’s durability and precision. Over the years I have had the opportunity to use and test many different rowing machines which has left me with an unshakeable preference for one particular machine.
It was a close decision, yet for me, the Concept 2 is a rowing machine that is slightly better in a few areas than the WaterRower S4. Honestly I find the 2 machines to be nearly equal with features and advantages.
However, there are certain characteristics that I find are a little better with the Concept 2 rowing machine.
One of the features that causes me to slightly prefer the Concept 2 rower is the actual design and function of the rowing mechanism.
The Concept 2 uses an actual chain for the torque and pull against the flywheel while the WaterRower S4 uses a strap to move the mechanism when rowing.
While the Concept 2 does make more noise when rowing, for me it is a more secure experience and feel during my workouts.
I find the louder sound made by the Concept 2 actually gives me something to gauge how intensely I am pushing myself with each stroke. I like having this audible feedback especially during the most intense portion of my workout.
Since I spend a lot of time exercising on the machine, the better sound feedback feature is moderately important to me for feeling like I am getting the most out of my workouts.
Though not as much the feeling of actually rowing on water like the WaterRower, I guess you could say I slightly prefer the strength and durability of the Concept 2 over that of the WaterRower S4 machine.
The Concept 2 has an overall design I like a little better than the WaterRower. The Concept 2 is minutely tilted forward giving me the feel of a real rowing experience. Having a slightly forward leaning position while exercising provides a more intense workout for my legs than the WaterRower machine.
I find this provides a more realistic rowing experience while strengthening my legs more efficiently at the same time.
In a word: cost. The WaterRower is definitely on the expensive side, which is out of range for a lot of folks. We also felt a small issue with the foot rest, which felt not the best quality of materials.
The other feature we were slightly disappointed with was regarding the computer monitor, which is not as advanced on the one on the Concept2.
Stamina 1205 Review
The Stamina 1205 is another terrific option on the rowing machine market, and is our pick as the best “value” rower out there today. It’s not an air-resistant rower but it still gets the job done quite well.
The Precision Rower has some nice features working in its favor: a smooth hydraulic cylinder action, with adjustable tension control, and a deluxe ball-bearing system are a few that check the boxes off the bat.
The Precision Rower also has a multifunction fitness monitor which allows easy viewing and tracking of speed, distance, stroke count, and more during your work out time.
What about the seat? Well, it’s a thick padded seat that our testers found to be quite comfortable and sturdy, while I found the pivoting footplates to be both versatile and comfortable during my workout.
The 1205 weighs 47 pounds and has a 5 year warranty on the frame and a 90 day warranty on parts.
Let’s talk positives first: the Precision Rower runs on a precision ball-bearing system; our testers found this to have a smooth motion and a dependably stable workout nearly every time.
Also, the foam covered grips and adjustable hydraulic cylinders really did make for a comfortable and realistic rowing motion – our testers felt like they were really going through a real “rowing” action, which makes for an enjoyable experience.
We mentioned the multifunction fitness monitor, which keeps accurate track of your distance, speed, time, stroke count and calories burned; this allows users to set attainable goals for their routine and keep track of their progress, which, as we mentioned previously, is crucial in being able to maintain the motivation necessary to become physically fit.
Our testers also believe that this machine is well-constructed, as the heavy-duty aluminum beam and silver steel frame deliver a secure and dependable foundation for intense training. And the whisper quiet pistons provide a silent session every time, which is always a plus.
I personally used this rower for about three weeks during my testing period, and came away extremely impressed. First off, you simply cannot beat the value proposition here — under $225 for this rower is a pretty great deal, and makes for a great option for those shoppers in this price range.
Best of all, it really does provide an excellent workout, and even though I’m in pretty good shape, I was breathing hard after my first 30 minutes were up. The build quality of this machine really stands out as well — not as good as the Concept2, mind you — but solid, stable, and it stays in place when you’re moving on it.
What’s nice about the Precision Rower is that it’s a very quiet rower; you can watch TV at normal volume while using it no problem.
Another great feature is the seat on this machine — you can get in a full session and never feel any discomfort, which is a huge selling point. I feel this rower is also a good choice for a variety of skill-levels, as it offers many different adjustment levels in power, from beginner to expert.
Now, will you get as smooth a workout as you would on the Concept2 model? No, probably not — but that’s the nearly $700 difference right there.
As is the case with most machines that you have to put together yourself, there were reports by some Amazon consumers of minor difficulty assembling the device alone.
There also were some owners who stated the rower takes up more space than expected inside their home, so again, that’s certainly something to be aware of.
While not a “con” per se, this Stamina rower – and the unit directly below – are piston-resistant machines, which are perfectly fine, but don’t’ quite provide the same experience as an air-resistant model.
Stamina 1050 Review
The Stamina 1050 is our choice for those in the market for a rowing machine under $150— it’s an excellent bang for your buck and can get the job done. The Body Trac Glider is one of the best-selling machines on the market.
The Body Trac Glider is similar to the Precision Rower in that it’s a piston-resistant rowing machine, with the added option of adjustable gas-shock resistance which our testers noted provided an even and smooth workout.
What we really liked about this machine was the durable heavy-duty steel frame construction, so although this unit is on the inexpensive side, it should last you a while.
The Precision Rower also comes with an attached monitor which keeps track of a variety of details including time, stroke count and calories burned during your routine. This rower isn’t on the larger side, so it’s simple to fold for easy storage or transport.
It measures 46 inches long x 23.5 inches wide and weighs 39 pounds. The Precision Rower comes with a one year warranty on the frame of the unit, and a 90 day warranty on parts.
Our testers really liked the multifunction fitness monitor, which makes it simple to know how far to push your workouts, which is a great feature.
Displaying the sum in a rotating fashion for six seconds each, this unit tracks time, total machine stroke count, stroke count during your current workout and calories burned during your exercise routine, to name a few.
Other things our testers liked about the Precision Rower was the contoured padded seat, heavy-duty frame, and 250 pound capability.
My sister actually owns this machine, so I’ve gotten great use out of it when I go over to her house. She’s not into fitness quite as much as I am, so she didn’t see the need to spend a ton of money on the Concept2, and the Precision Rower suits her needs quite nicely.
And I can see why — this unit really does everything you’d expect it to when it comes to a rowing machine.
It’s extremely easy to use, and is suitable for beginner or intermediate users. The way that you actually use the machine couldn’t be any simpler — you just sit on the seat, strap in your feet, and start moving your arms back and forth in a rowing motion.
Another important “pro” with the Precision Rower is the seat — it’s incredibly comfortable. When you’re going to be sitting on a machine for 30-45 minutes per session, this becomes awfully important.
The monitor on this machine is also a nice touch, helping you to keep track of your progress by tracking things like calories burned, overall time, resistance setting, and number of rowing strokes.
What’s nice about the monitor is that it updates on its own, every six seconds — this feature allows you to be constantly aware of your progress and how you’re doing.
There were reports from a few consumers of a minor squeaking sound coming from the Precision Rower when first using the device. A small number of owners also reported a need of better workout instructions for beginners, while a few Amazon users wrote that they felt it wasn’t quite challenging enough for them.
The Kettler Favorite is another machine that our testers felt held up quite well. This rower has two hydraulic cylinders which create a smooth and dependable operation with consistent resistance during your workout.
The built in training computer supplies continuous information on time, number of strokes, speed, distance covered and more. The computer can be programmed for desired distance and stroke speed with visual and audio signaling to alert the user during workout time.
The ergonomically designed seat allows you to remain focused on your workout without discomfort while exercising. The Favorit weighs 52 pounds and has a manufacturer’s warranty provided.
The circular rowing design of the Favorit provides an even workout during use. The rowing handles offer a maximum 45 degree tilt to achieve the right fit for any user.
The smooth-operating seat rollers ensure a trouble-free performance throughout your routine, which are testers were quite impressed with.
The anti-slip floor protectors prevent movement or sliding when the device is used on hard floor surfaces, which is a good safety precaution.
The pivoting foot plates with heavy-duty straps ensure a secure workout routine without interruption, and our testers felt this was one of the more impressive features of the machine.
An added touch is the ear lobe clip which provides accurate and continuous monitoring of your heart rate during your workout.
The heavy-duty steel framework of this unit has a 285 pound capacity and will provide years of dependable service during intense workouts.
There have been a few consumer complaints expressing difficulty assembling the device alone without help. There were also owners who reported minor problems learning to use the training feature on the built in computer.
Stamina Air Rower
The Stamina Air Rower rounds up our list for the best rowing machines on the market. This unit offers smooth and silent operation with an eddy current drive system consisting of a 16.5 pound flywheel.
The heavy-duty solid steel frame delivers a secure and durable construction with a 300 pound capacity for any routine, while the three screen LCD console provides continuous information on distance covered, calories burned, session time, number of strokes, strokes per minute and workout feedback during your routine.
This unit has a 5 year warranty on the frame, a 2 year warranty on parts and a 1 year warranty on labor. The RW1000 folds for easy storage and weighs 25 pounds.
Other nice features of the RW 1000 include the foam padded hand grips and pivoting foot plates which provide versatility and comfort for long sessions on the machine.
Some consumers expressed trouble changing the battery for the LCD display for the device. Also, some owners stated they had minor difficulty folding the unit for storage or transport.
Wrapping it Up
The Natural Water Rower gets our nod as the best rowing machine on the market today. Its ease of use, sleek design, unmatched performance, and admiration amongst fitness enthusiasts make it the run-away winner.
It will set you back a pretty penny, though, so if that’s above your budget, we recommend the ., which is an excellent choice in the lower price range.
We also like the Concept2 Model D for you budget-conscious shoppers who are still looking for a machine that will provide you with a great workout.
(C) Copyright Jane’s Best Fitness, 2016
Product Images Sourced From Amazon.com