The success of rowing machines in sports halls is not surprising. It is a very good device for developing physical, respiratory and cardiovascular capacities . What to give yourself an athlete's body without leaving home...
If you're looking for the best rowing machine to equip yourself at home, it absolutely must have a few key features:
- Allow to have quality and varied training sessions
- Be built to last according to its use (weekly, regular or intensive)
Top-of-the-line rowers come with durable frames and heavy-duty components that can withstand crazy sessions and heavy use for many years.
No matter what type of rowing machine you're interested in, it's important to know what features and specifications you need. We will therefore help you find the machines that can do exactly what you expect with the best value for money.
Come on, let's go for our selection of the best current rowers. This choice is regularly updated.
Best Indoor Rower: Our Pick
Excellent water rower
The most versatile
The most professional
According to water level
According to water level
Thousands with iFit
Type of resistance
Air + electromagnetic
Max user weight
Air + Magnetic
10' HD screen
Why buy a rowing machine?
Everyone can benefit from a good home rower. Indeed, intense cardio with intervals (HIIT) is perfect for burning fat, improving endurance and having more toned muscles . A rowing session can burn up to 700 Calories per hour!
However, you must understand that the best exercise is the one you do regularly. To maintain good physical condition, you must do at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio or 75 minutes of intensive cardio per week.
If your goal is primarily to lose weight, aim for an average of 30 minutes of intensive training per day. A rower with a motivating program like iFit from NordicTrack or ProForm is probably the best choice.
However, while rowing is enough to tone up and lose weight , it doesn't add much muscle. strength training exercises .
Details on our best rowers
Note on iFit fitness programs
We believe streaming fitness programs are the future of home equipment. And the one offered by NordicTrack and ProForm is undoubtedly the absolute reference today. It contains at the time of this writing more than 16000 videos.
Having quality training led by world-class coaches, when and where you need it, gives so much flexibility that it saves a lot of time and money in the long run. This is even more true if several members of the family benefit from it!
It's not just rowing programs, but a collection of fitness exercises, HIIT and strength training to do at home.
Note that this program is currently available in 10 languages.
How to choose the best rowing machine for home?
When choosing your rowing machine, a good design can be deceiving. This is absolutely not what should hold your attention to select the best rower. Well, if it is both beautiful and a solid device that meets its criteria, it's perfect. But do not buy on purely aesthetic criteria.
Instead, read on to learn the essentials for choosing the best rowing machine .
Determine type of resistance and center pull to choose the best rowing machine
This is undoubtedly the most important element, the one that will have the greatest impact on the quality of the sessions. High-end machines offer different levels of resistance to spice up your workout.
Here are the 5 main resistance techniques used:
1. Hydraulic resistance
We say it bluntly, it is the means of braking that we must avoid...
Old school rowers almost always used hydraulic resistance. A modern device with this system is usually cheap and much less pleasant to use than other resistance methods. Because the handles inevitably move in an arc rather than a straight line, the rowing motion is very unnatural , even uncomfortable unlike a center-pull rower.
They often offer levels of resistance by friction, but it is fragile in use. Hydraulic resistance rowers are lightweight, portable, and easy to store for storage, but are generally not suitable for serious training .
2. Magnetic Resistance
These machines provide magnetic resistance through the use of a metal disc and magnets. The hardness of the central draw is increased or decreased by moving the magnets closer or further from the disc, either with a manual control or by electronic control.
The biggest advantage here is that these machines provide consistent resistance , no matter how fast (or hard) you pull. In addition, with this silent magnetic braking system, other occupants of the house or neighbors are less disturbed.
However, the feeling is not as realistic as with air or water rowers. In particular the water models, since like a real rowing machine, they are subjected to the resistance of the water with each pull on the handles.
Some believe the resistance isn't as intense either, which makes sense considering there's no limit to the resistance an air rower can provide.
However, this does not change the effectiveness of these rowers to do crazy cardio sessions. In addition, this type of resistance is the one that best accommodates predefined programs since they can vary the intensity of the magnetic braking without user intervention.
3. Water brake
Water or water resistance rowers are equipped with a flywheel that spins in the water. In fact, it is his own energy which will increase the resistance. The more you want to accelerate, the stronger you have to be.
They offer the closest experience to rowing on a body of water. This is why rowing pros often prefer these quality devices with unparalleled fluidity. Water rowers are defined as the best rowers according to athletes. In addition, the sound of water is soothing.
But beware, these models tend to be a bit more expensive. Especially since some are made with a wooden frame. It's great for refined design, but it can hurt the wallet...
The weak point of water rowers is that the resistance is defined by the amount of water in the tank . It must therefore be filled or emptied according to the desired resistance. This is a constraint that other braking systems do not have.
4. Air brake
In these machines, the resistance is provided by a large fan.
When the handle is pulled, the flywheel with fan rotates. The harder you pull, the more resistance it offers. Air rowers are very popular and are even used in indoor rowing competitions as they can provide unlimited resistance. Also, the rendering is quite similar to rowing on water.
The only real downside to an air rower is that it is quite loud.
5. Mixed magnetic/air resistance
On this type of rower, the braking system combines electromagnetic resistance and an air brake. It's kind of the best of both worlds . The magnetic resistance is managed electronically, while the air resistance is adjusted manually.
We therefore benefit from the strong points of electromagnetic braking, which can vary the resistance without intervention, and from the power of air braking.
This system is basically found on the best high-end rowing machines from NordicTrack.
Judge the movable seat and comfort to choose the best rowing machine
Of course, a rowing machine is not a lounge chair. But it's still important to have a comfortable seat for ease of use.
In addition, this seat must be very stable on its mobile support. This is why most devices are equipped with a wide rail or 2 rails and the seat has ball bearings.
A poorly designed rowing machine can be uncomfortable for a session lasting more than 20 minutes. Make sure that the model chosen is long enough, has a good seat and a handle wide enough for a good grip. The best rower in the world is a waste of money if it's uncomfortable.
Determine frequency of use and number of users
If the rowing machine is to be used by a large number of people or heavily used by a single user, choose a machine designed for regular or heavy use .
Some models are designed only for occasional users and are suitable for light use, but are not up to intensive and constant use.
Also think about the fact that if 4 people use it at home, even only 2 times a week each, it can represent a relatively heavy use in the end. This is why these criteria must be taken into account in order to select the best rower.
Measure size and bulk
This specification is important because drive space and housing size can play a big role in this choice.
It's a good idea to know exactly where to install the rowing machine before buying it. If space is limited, take a tape measure to measure the length and width of the space used during the session. A rowing machine can take up a lot of space in action.
The best rowers can occupy 2.75m X 1.20m, although there is a difference between the models.
Then, we must ask ourselves if the rower will stay in the same place all the time or if it will have to be put away between each session. This leads to the next point…
Take care of the folding system and storage
If space in your apartment is an issue, a large water rower may not be the best option as these models are usually quite heavy and bulky. It is true that some are foldable, but they remain more invasive than models with electromagnetic resistance. So make sure you know the dimensions of your storage space before buying a rowing machine.
Magnetic, hydraulic, and some air rowers have a collapsible design that saves space. Most also feature wheels to easily move them around the corner of a room or closet when not in use.
Take into account the height and weight of the user
Seat rail length is a concern for tall users. Before buying a rowing machine, check that it has a long enough rail for you or anyone else who will be using it. There is nothing worse than constantly reaching the seat stop at the end of leg extension. In addition, this may damage the device during use.
Weight capacity is also important. The best rower should easily support their own weight and that of other users. Even if it is relatively light, a large load capacity is an additional sign of quality and great stability of the chosen rower.
Machines that can handle the heaviest users have more durable frames and bearings.
Most quality rowers support people over 250 lbs.
Check rower screen and features
The features included vary a lot from rower to rower and the price plays a big role. You might not be surprised to learn that the more expensive models usually come with more features.
That being said, rowing machines are often technologically simpler than other types of fitness equipment, although that is starting to change.
Most come with a monitor or screen . A basic monitor will display time, distance, stroke count and rowing speed.
More advanced features include the calculation of calories consumed during the session, the power developed in watts as well as training programs.
Rowing machines with HD touch screens have appeared on the market. They are capable of streaming workouts and streaming rowing videos, depending on the model. ProForm and NordickTrack also offer a really great coaching system, but involving the payment of a monthly subscription beyond the first free month. However, these devices are perfectly usable without a subscription.
Some of the best rowers can save your stats and allow you to fight against yourself. You can even race against another stimulation oar. These are fun and motivating features , but maybe not necessary for you.
Some rowers come with a heart rate monitor or are compatible with existing heart rate monitors. Others have a USB port for storing workout data or are compatible with workout apps that make it easy to record and view workout stats.
Sometimes the only reason one machine costs a few hundred dollars more than another is the amount of features that come with the console. If it's not essential for you, you can save on the purchase of hardware without compromising on quality.
Finding the best rowing machine: at what price?
The last point to consider, and not the least, is the price. We talk about price last, but let's face it, most readers are going to look at price first. Hey, that's normal! One has to find the best rowing machine that fits his budget .
Setting your budget in advance is essential. This will help to concentrate in his research. One should never feel compelled to spend beyond one's financial capabilities.
But it really depends on what you need and how often you plan to use it.
If it helps, know that the rowing machine most used by professional athletes costs around 1500 €. This is Concept 2 in the list.
What muscles are used during a rowing exercise?
Like the elliptical , the rowing machine has the ability to work 85% of the body's muscles in a single movement.
List of muscles worked
Here are the main muscles used:
- Quadriceps (the front of the thighs)
- Hamstrings or crural biceps (back of the thighs)
- Back (latissimus dorsi, quadratus loins, spinal erectors)
- Shoulders (posterior deltoids, rhomboids, trapezius, teres major, posterior rotator cuff muscles)
- Abdominal strap
Of course, many other muscles work at the same time, but force less. Without forgetting that the cardiovascular system is also very stressed... and that the heart is an essential muscle!
What are the best brands of rowing machines?
Present in the fitness market since 2015, this German company offers good quality and innovative fitness machines. In general, its material offers excellent value for money.
Sportstech offers a 5 year warranty on their equipment.
This brand has been around for 25 years and is part of the same group as ProForm. It offers unique and innovative rather high-end rowers. Their iFit program offers a very motivating user experience, but unfortunately this comes at a cost due to the monthly subscription.
That being said, their cardio machines are often benchmarks on the market.
This other home fitness specialist created in the 80s offers innovative products that are still easy to use. It's the same company as NordicTrack offering a slightly cheaper range.
In addition to being compatible with the iFit app, the best ProForm rowers are designed to keep motivation intact in every session.
It is the leader in home fitness in France. The brand offers reliable and innovative fitness equipment suitable for all levels. Their devices are designed for home fitness, rehabilitation, gyms and all kinds of businesses that need equipment such as hotels, communities, etc.
Care Fitness has several brands: Intensive line, CARE, CARE First Line, MediCARE, BodyCARE, STRIALE and IxoSport.
Established in 1999, MAXXUS is a direct distributor of home fitness equipment. This company specializes in rather high-end cardio and strength training machines.
In 1981, Dick and Pete Dreissigacker created the best-selling Concept 2 indoor rower that quickly became the world's best-selling rower.
Today, several models later, it is used every day by Olympic athletes, cardiac rehabilitation patients, home users and rowers of all skill levels.
Skandika is a German company specializing in high-end and professional camping equipment, hiking backpacks and cardio equipment.
It has been offering quality, practical and reliable products for 20 years. Maybe you will find the best rower at Skandika?
No, it's a joke, they only make moldy cars 🤣
How to use an indoor rower?
Improper use of a rowing machine can cause pain and injury, especially to the lower back. It is therefore very important to learn how to do the movement correctly from the start.
As it is better than thousands of explanations, you can follow this very good video on a Concept 2 which details the 4 phases of the movement:
Why not buy a used rowing machine?
It all depends on whether your objective is simply to pay as little as possible or to have a good ratio between price and quality. But you have to be careful, because most people sell for the wrong reasons. Don't forget that you don't live in Care Bear country 😆
Often, those who sell their rowing machine do so for these reasons:
- Dissatisfied with their purchase because their material is of poor quality
- Aging and worn out equipment that they want to replace with a new one
- Hidden defect that makes it almost unusable
- Unknown brand model impossible to maintain or repair
And we must not forget that the prices asked are often excessive.
When should you buy second-hand?
Although exceptional, it can happen that we come across a real bargain. But we must be very careful to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Check the following points before deciding:
- Price not exceeding 50 or 60% of the equivalent new price;
- Your selection criteria are respected, particularly in terms of quality, programs and maximum user weight;
- The seller allows you to try it out to check that everything works perfectly and without suspicious noise;
- It was bought on a whim, but it has never or rarely been used;
- The rower didn't stay long in a damp room or in an uninsulated garage.
Choosing the best rowing machine: what to remember
Rowing machines are impressive in that they can offer total body muscle building and cardio training . They can have a place of choice in a home gym. They can be used as a warm-up or on rest days in strength training .
Before choosing the best rowing machine, decide on the features of the rowing machine you are looking for. This will make the whole process of the final choice much easier.
All styles of rowing machines have advantages and disadvantages. The key is to determine which one will work best for the intended use:
- Hydraulics: They take up little space, but are of little interest today.
- Magnetic: They are also very quiet and offer constant resistance regardless of the speed of movement.
- Air-powered: These are nice because they offer most of the benefits of a water-powered rower, but without having to worry about the water tank.
- Water-powered: They offer the most realistic rowing experience because they use water to provide resistance, but they are usually a bit more expensive.
- magnetic/air models offer the best of both worlds, but are rather in a high price range.
Once you know which rower will be the best, it's all about comparing features, warranties, and prices to find the model that offers the best combination.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can use an indoor rower?
As this equipment works 85% of the muscles at the same time, anyone who wants to improve their endurance, strengthen and tone their muscles or even accelerate their weight loss can benefit from it.
Being a low-impact exercise for the joints, women and men of all ages without heart problems can use it.
What is the best rowing machine for moderate use?
Even in this case, it is better to choose a resistant model with pre-recorded programs for your motivation and the quality of your sessions. In this regard, the NordicTrack RW300 is arguably the best option, and its price remains tight.
How to choose your home rower?
Analyze the data in this comparison of the best rowers carefully before deciding.
In fact, it all depends on your ability to motivate yourself and your budget. But below €350, it's not even worth looking for. Then, depending on the chosen technology, the 3 best are:
Sportstech WRX700 air rowers
NordicTrack RW900 water rowers for an electromagnetic hi-tech rower
How many times to row a week?
To be effective, you must do at least 3 sessions of 30 minutes per week if they are intense, or one hour if your training is moderate.
The ideal is to manage to do 5 weekly sports sessions in total, whether it is intensive cardio, strength strength training or another physical activity.
Can you lose weight by rowing?
Yes, if you combine the regular and intense practice of a sport with a balanced diet .
On the other hand, you won't be able to burn all the body fat if you continue to eat more than you burn. Remember that 80% of results depend on what you eat, not your sports training. The proof, look at the sumos!
Can you build muscle with an indoor rower?
To some extent, yes. But don't expect to bulk up like you do with dumbbell or resistance bands .
However, you will tone your muscles and obtain a nice well-defined musculature if your sessions are intense and your diet adapted. On the other hand, if you alternate rowing and muscle building, you will get fabulous results!
Are the rowers delivered fully assembled?
No, you will generally have to assemble it yourself using the assembly manual supplied with it.
Take your time so you don't make mistakes. However, rest assured, they do not arrive in spare parts. These are just a few items that need to be assembled, not the complete device. Most models require little more than 30 minutes to an hour of unpacking and assembly.
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