Updated: Aug 16
Arguably one of the most efficient pieces of gym equipment that you can own, a rowing machine has been shown to produce gains in endurance and strength without impacting knees or joints. Unlike ellipticals and treadmills, rowing machines are relatively easy to set up and use – users can simply sit down, adjust the foot straps and literally row themselves to much better health with hardly any risk of injuries. They are perfect for any individual suffering from joint or lower back pains as they provide an easy but effective workout which engages most of the major muscle groups in the body. More importantly, a rowing machine can burn anything between 300 to 800 calories in an hour, depending of course, on the resistance type as well as the user’s age, weight, gender, fitness capacity.
There are dozens of rowing machine options which are designed to suit all budgets and health levels. Such a wide variety of choice can certainly be confusing to inexperienced athletes. This buying guide will help you identify the right machine for you.
Analyze Your Needs
The first thing you need to do before embarking on a search for the perfect rowing machine is to understand your fitness goal. Users should ask themselves whether they want to purchase a machine to lose weight or to occasionally work out. It’s also important to consider how many people are going to use the machine in your household: some rowers have a low user weight threshold and are not designed to sustain heavy-duty use. Along with your needs, be sure to analyze your budget as well: to avoid impulse purchases, it’s recommended to plan your budget beforehand and stick firmly to it, no matter how tempted you are by other models.
To help you choose the best rower within your budget range we prepared the next listing with our top choices by price.
$50-200 - Sunny SF-RW1205
$200-400 - Stamina 1215 Orbital
$400-600 - LifeSpan Fitness RW1000
$600-800 - Avari Programmable Rower
$800-1000 - Concept2 Model D
$1000+ - Concept2 Model E
Another important factor to consider is the number of years that you intend on using the machine. An all-too-common scenario is to get hyped up at the thought of working out, consequently invest in an expensive rower, use it for a few months and then stow it in a corner where it will gather dust and rust for decades to come. So, users who are looking for a quick and temporary fix to the holiday pounds, for example, can certainly invest in a lower quality albeit much more affordable machine. On the other hand, someone who is diligent about working out can undoubtedly afford to invest more in a solid and reliable model that will probably last for decades.
Resistance type is one of the main factors effecting rowing machine performance. Rowers normally come in four main resistant types including:
Air: The original and most common resistance type. Air resistance is quite advantageous to new and inexperienced users because the tension level is automatically adjusted to your pace and stroke intensity. Air-resistant rowers are normally equipped with fan blades which provide quite a smooth rowing motion. On the other hand, these types of machines are not exactly silent and can produce a fair deal of noise, which is detrimental to those who like to listen to music during training.
Magnetic: Often found in gym and health centers, Magnetic machines are an affordable choice. They operate through a braking system which provides manual or automatic resistance, depending on the model. These machines are known for being extremely durable and virtually maintenance free. Like air rowers, they are also quite smooth and provide an extremely fluid glide.
Hydraulic: Hydraulic Piston machines are the cheapest on the market and normally provide a very silent workout. Less durable than other resistance levels, these types of rowers are adjustable and extremely easy to store away. Very often, Hydraulic Piston rowers boast of two oars on either side of the body, instead of just one handle in the front of the machine. These models are quite suited to individuals who want to indulge in a more engaging arm workout since the pistons can often be independently adjusted to each arm.
Water: According to some experts, water-resistant rowers are the most efficient and effective design. They usually operate through blades that have been suspended in a tank of water to provide an extremely realistic sensation of rowing outdoors, across an actual stretch of water. These machines are also extremely quiet. Most of the time, the only noise which users have to face is the gentle splashing of water as they pull on the handle, but this only serves to enhance the realistic outdoors rowing sensation. Water resistant rowers do tend to be more expensive than other models, but, on the other hand, they are also designed to last for decades- if not a lifetime- with minimal maintenance.
The Right Choice Can Last for Years
Users should take the time to carefully consider their choices, weigh the pros and the cons and analyze their personal needs as well as the different types of resistance to make sure that they find the perfect rower. It’s also recommended to acquaint yourself with the different features of each machine by reading up on product reviews and comparisons.
Several studies have pointed towards the advantageous effects of rowing on an athlete’s cardiovascular and lung capacities as well. Best of all, the right rowing machine can undoubtedly lead just about any athlete- experienced or not- towards good health, but with minimal efforts.