Best Rowing Machine for Home Use – Shape Junkie

Best Rowing Machine for Home Use

Best Rowing Machine For Home Use

When it comes to getting fit at home, you need to have at least one quality piece of cardiovascular training equipment. Cardio training allows you to optimize the efficiency of your heart and lungs, ensuring that your cardio-respiratory system is on point.

When it comes to choosing the type of cardio machine for your home gym, you can’t do much better than a rowing machine. This low impact cardio option provides you with a challenging aerobic workout while also delivering a hard-out challenge to the muscles of your upper body. At the same time, it works the muscles of your legs to provide a full body workout. Rowing is also a fantastic calorie burner, second only to cross country skiing in terms of the number of calories burned.

In this article, we wade through the many different rowers on the current market, to help you identify the best rower for you and your budget. We review the top 7 rowers across every price point. We also provide you with an in-depth buyer’s guide to help you make the right buying decision.

The 7 Best Rowing Machine To Get in 2019

Product Name

Preview

Type and Our Rating

Buying Options

1. Concept2 Model D

Concept2 Model D with PM5 Performance Monitor Indoor Rower Rowing Machine Black

Best All Around Rower

2. WaterRower Natural S4

Waterrower Rowing machine Ash

Best Premium Rower

3. Merax Water Rowing Machine

Merax Water Rowing Machine - Fitness Indoor Water Rower with LCD Monitor Home Gym Equipment (Black)

Best Mid-Range Rowing Machine

4. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515

Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine with LCD Display, 8 Resistance Levels, 44 Inch Rail Inseam and 250 LB Max Weight - SF-RW5515

Best Cheap Rowing Machine

5. Stamina 1333

Stamina 1333 Precision Rower

Best Compact Rowing Machine

6. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5864

Sunny Health & Fitness Full Motion Magnetic Rowing Machine Rower with Advanced LCD Display, Elevated Seat, 265 LB Max Weight and Foldable - SF-RW5864

Best Full Motion Rowing Machine

7. Stamina Conversion II

Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower

Best Multi Exercise Rower

1. Concept2 Model D


Concept2 Model D with PM5 Performance Monitor Indoor Rower Rowing Machine Black

Best All Around Rower

Key Specs:

  • Type: Air
  • Overall Length: 96 in (244 cm)
  • Weight Limit: 500 lbs.
  • Warranty: 2 Years

PROS:

  • Commercial build
  • Very natural rowing action
  • Excellent monitor
  • Top Rated
  • Air Damper
  • Low Profile

CONS:

  • Large footprint
  • Noisy fan
  • Handle grips not very comfortable

Features

The Concept 2 Rowing machine is the original home use rowing machine and has established itself as the industry standard. The Concept 2 Model D is their current stable leader and the most popular in their line-up.

This is a commercial level rower that delivers the sturdy frame construction and high spec parts that will ensure durability and reliability. A key feature of the Concept 2 Model D is its low profile, which more closely resembles what you get on the water. It also has a damper which allows you to regulate the air resistance.

The Concept 2 Model D features an extremely impressive monitor which is powered by PM5 technology. It provides you with precise diagnostic feedback on every rowing stroke. This includes comparable data so you can compare yourself with your previous workouts. The monitor is Bluetooth and ANT+ enabled to allow you to connect to fitness devices apps and online programs.

You also get adjustable footrests, an ergonomic design on the handles and an extremely smooth, natural rowing motion.

The quick release frame-lock mechanism on the Concept 2 allows you to quickly separate the rower into two pieces for ease of storage. Adjustable footrests also allow for customized and secure foot placement.

Summary

The Con​​cept 2 Model D indoor rowing machine has been the world’s most popular rowing machine for years. With its commercial quality build, low profile, excellent rowing action and high spec monitor is no surprise that so many turn to the Model D when they are looking for the best rower for their home. For the price, quality and performance, you simply cannot beat this product.

It should be noted that Concept have recently brought out a Model E Concept 2. The major difference is that the Concept E has a higher seat which makes it easier to get on and off. It also has one-piece steel legs that are more stable than the previous model.

2. WaterRower Natural S4


Waterrower Rowing machine Ash

Best Premium Rower

Key Specs:

  • Type: Water
  • Overall Length: 84 inches
  • Weight Limit: 1000 lbs.
  • Warranty: 5 years frame / 3 years parts

PROS:

  • Great on the water simulation
  • Quiet
  • Attractive looks

CONS:

  • Seat not overly reliable
  • Foot pedals uncomfortable

Features

The WaterRower provides you with a water flywheel made up of two paddles in the water tank of the machine that simulates the action of the paddles in the water when you’re out on the lake. This not only provides a unique and precise simulation of actually being on the water, it means that there are no moving parts that can wear out.

The WaterRower provides a natural resistance system which does not require a motor. To increase resistance, you simply row faster. This provides a very smooth, natural, jerk free action that is also extremely low impact.

The Series 4 performance monitor on this water rower provides six information and programming windows, six quick selection buttons and three navigation buttons. It displays your workout intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, zone bar, duration, and distance. It is also set up for a heart rate chest strap to precisely monitor your pulse, though you will have to purchase the chest strap separately.

The WaterRower is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. It is handcrafted from solid ash and stained honey oak. This is a premium hardwood that is extremely durable and very stable. This impressive machine also provides you with dual rails with four corner wheels to enhance seat stability. The frame can also be stored in an upright position.

Summary

The WaterRower is the best-looking rower we’ve come across. Beyond being an attractive furniture piece, it is also a great rower, with an on the water like experience, a high spec monitor and an impressive level of stability. Highly recommended!

3. Merax Water Rowing Machine


Merax Water Rowing Machine - Fitness Indoor Water Rower with LCD Monitor Home Gym Equipment (Black)

Best Mid-Range Rowing Machine

Key Specs:

  • Type: Water
  • Overall Length: 78 inches
  • Weight Limit: 330 lbs.
  • Warranty: Undisclosed

PROS:

  • Solid Frame
  • Quiet & Smooth
  • Transport Wheels
  • Large display

CONS:

  • Console not backlit

Features

The Merax Water Rower is an excellent mid-priced water rower. It combines the features that have made water rowers so popular, with a price point that opens it up to a whole new audience. This machine has a large multi-feature LCD screen that displays your current workout time, distance, calories and heart rate. The monitor includes a race mode and quick stop / start buttons.

The Merax Water Rower is compactly designed with a smaller footprint than most water rowers provide. The ergonomically designed handles are 20 inches in length to provide you with plenty of gripping options.

The rowing action on the Merax Water Rower provides you with an impressively smooth glide action. This machine is also quieter than many other water rowers.

Summary

The Merax Water Rower is a very well-priced water rower that delivers a very smooth, natural rowing action. It is sturdy, attractive and user friendly and comes with a good quality monitor. On top of all that it is compact and comes with transport wheels for ease of storage.

4. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine


Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine with LCD Display, 8 Resistance Levels, 44 Inch Rail Inseam and 250 LB Max Weight - SF-RW5515

Best Cheap Rowing Machine

Key Specs:

  • Type: Magnetic
  • Overall Length: 82 inches
  • Weight Limit: 250 lbs.
  • Resistance: 8 levels
  • Warranty: 1 Year

PROS:

  • 8 Resistance Levels
  • Solid Construction
  • Large LCD Display

CONS:

  • Sits a little too high off the ground

Features

The Sunny SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine is a solidly constructed magnetic rower that delivers a smooth, jerk free rowing experience. It provides you with 8 levels of adjustable resistance and a large easy to read display monitor. The LCD display provides you with a running record of your calories, time, rowing count, total count and scan.

You get a generously padded, comfortable seat, ergonomic handle design and sturdy pedals with adjustable plates. The heavy-duty stainless-steel frame ensures that the Sunny Magnetic Rowing Machine will handle many years of regular use.

The Sunny Magnetic Rowing Machine is an extremely quiet operating rower, making it ideal to use in a shared living space. Built-in transportation wheels and the compact design make this a very user-friendly home gym, especially if you are living in a confined environment.

Summary

The Sunny Magnetic Rowing Machine is one of the most impressive, low cost magnetic rowing machines that we have yet come cross. It provides a very smooth, quiet operation on a compact, solid frame. Highly recommended!

5. Stamina 1333 Precision Rowing Machine


Stamina 1333 Precision Rower

Best Compact Rowing Machine

Key Specs:

  • Type: Hydraulic
  • Overall Length: 34.25 inches
  • Weight Limit: 250 lbs.
  • Warranty: 12 months

PROS:

  • Solid beam
  • Compact
  • Padded Seat
  • Quite

CONS:

  • Limited movement ability
  • Some jerky motion
  • Limited Warranty

Features

The Stamina 1333 Hydraulic rowing machine provides you with 12 levels of resistance and a pretty decent monitor that provides you with readouts of your stroke count, strokes per minute, time, and calories burned. The hydraulic resistance of this machine provides you with a limited quality row, but this one is smoother than you usually find on a hydraulic machine. However, there is some jerkiness as you move between resistance levels.

You get limited range of motion with the Stamina 1333 hydraulic rower. This would be a problem for people over 5’ 11” who would struggle to get a full extension on each rowing stroke. You get a padded seat on this machine and is curved to provide you with greater lumbar support.

The Stamina 1333 Hydraulic Rowing Machine is very compact to accommodate even the most challenging workout space. It weighs just 55 pounds and can even be stored on its side if needed.

Summary

The Stamina 1333 Hydraulic Rowing Machine is a budget model hydraulic that provides a limited rowing experience, as with any hydraulic machine. If you are a newbie you may choose to start out on this machine and then keep it for a back up down the track so you advance to a magnetic, air or water rower.

6. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5864 Magnetic Rowing Machine


Sunny Health & Fitness Full Motion Magnetic Rowing Machine Rower with Advanced LCD Display, Elevated Seat, 265 LB Max Weight and Foldable - SF-RW5864

Best Full Motion Rowing Machine

Key Specs:

  • Type: Hydraulic
  • Overall Length: 51.5 inches
  • Weight Limit: 265 lb.
  • Resistance Levels: 8
  • Warranty: 3 years

PROS:

  • 8 Resistance levels
  • Padded seat
  • LCD monitor
  • 350-pound weight capacity
  • Solid frame

CONS:

  • Not foldable
  • Difficult to assemble

Features

The Sunny Health & Fitness Full Motion Magnetic Rowing Machine has an impressively solid frame designed to last a long time. Its weight capacity of 265 pounds is extremely unusual for a magnetic rower within this price range. It provides you with 8 adjustable resistance levels and delivers a reasonably quiet, vibration free rowing experience. The tension knob is conveniently located for ease of transition.

The key feature of this magnetic rower is the wide range rowing arms that mimic a real on the water rowing experience. These can be used individually or together. You get 8 levels of adjustable resistance with this rower, along with a good quality monitor that tells you your stroke count, calories burned and training duration.

The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5864 Magnetic Rowing Machine sits higher than most rowers to make it easier to get on and off the machine. This makes it especially beneficial for older folks and those with joint problems. Oversized foot pedals also ensure that you get a very secure foot hold. You also get 40-inch slide rail with a 41-inch seam to allow for a full, smooth range of motion.

Summary

The Sunny Health & Fitness Full Motion Magnetic Rowing Machine is an impressive mid-priced full motion rower to deliver the fullest rowing action possible. The higher seat makes it suitable for older people, but it is still capable of providing a quality, smooth workout experience.

7. Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower


Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower

Best Multi Exercise Rower

Key Specs:

  • Type: Magnetic
  • Overall Length: 45 inches
  • Weight Limit: 250 pounds
  • Resistance Levels: smooth, quiet, magnetic
  • Warranty: 3 years frame / 90 days parts

PROS:

  • Lumbar support
  • Pivoting pedals
  • Compact space
  • Two in One
  • Foldable

CONS:

  • Limited warranty
  • Unreliable pulse monitor

Features

The Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower provides you with both a rowing machine and recumbent exercise bike, allowing you to seamlessly transition between the two modes of cardio exercise. The combination provides a very effective overall body workout. The frame on this machine is a combination of steel and aluminum, making for a solid unit.

This hybrid machine has a space saving design. Even though you get two pieces in one, it is smaller than most stand-alone rowing machines. It can be folded for ease of storage and has a stored footprint of 35.5” x 20” x 56”. You get a decent quality monitor that includes all the date recording that you would expect, including distance, time, speed, calories and pulse.

The Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower provides you with a secure, slip resistant foot hold. The pedals are also able to pivot to allow for customized foot placement. This is a friction free rower, delivering a whisper quiet operation that will keep your housemates happy when you’re working out in the lounge room.

The recumbent bike feature of this hybrid cardio machine delivers a good ergonomic performance that is lower back friendly. It provides you with a generously padded seat and back support and comes with built-in transportation wheels. This machine can be stored in either a vertical or horizontal position.

Summary

The Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower is a unique machine in that it provides a hybrid of a rowing machine and an elliptical cycle without compromising the quality of either. You get a smooth magnetic resistance rowing experience that allows for full extension on the row thanks to the long rail length. The recumbent seat and back also provides plenty of support for people with back issues. You also get a quality cycling experience with this combination machine.

Rowing Machine Buyer’s Guide

A rowing machine is a major home gym investment. Here are 11 key considerations to help you to make the right choice:

  1. Decide at the outset what is important for you in a rowing machine and then set your budget accordingly. Prices vary from under $200 to more than $3000, but the top end models will include many features that the average person will probably never make use of. 
  2. Consider the noise level. When you are rowing at home, you do not want to be annoying others due to the noise that you generate with every stroke. The quietest machine types are those that are powered by magnetic resistance.
  3. Check the intensity potential. You need to be constantly challenged by your workout, so will want as wide a range of adjustable resistance levels as possible.
  4. How storage friendly is the machine? Is it foldable? Can it be stored in an upright position? You need to know the dimensions that you have available, including room to move.
  5. Know the max user weight. At a minimum you should ensure that the machine is 50 pounds heavier thn your body weight.
  6. Check the seat rail length. Look for a smooth metal-alloy rail that will allow you to get a full extension when you row.
  7. Consider the pulling drive system. The options are chain or belt? A belt system is quieter, yet is just as sturdy as a chain system.
  8. Look for a console that provides you with a display of your key training data, including overall time, strokes per minute, number of strokes, distance and pulse rate. Consider, too, how many built-in programs you need.
  9. Think about whether you will benefit from a hybrid type of machine that will allow you to do other things besides rowing, such as cycling.
  10. What seat height will best suit you? The Concept 2 Model D Sits lower than most, with others sitting at about the height of chair. If you have back or joint issues you may benefit from a higher seat position.
  11. Check the length of the warranty. We recommend 3-5 years if you will be using your rower every day.

What Are the Different Types of Rowing Machines?

Air Rowers

An air rower makes use of wind resistance to power you through your workout. This delivers a smooth rowing action that is second only to water rowers in terms of its realism. It features a flywheel with attached fan blades. The harder you pull, the greater the resistance you get.

Air rowers have a larger footprint than the other types of rowers. However, many of them can be folded. Air resistance machines are the most popular among serious trainers and professional athletes because of their smooth, natural motion and potential for intense resistance levels. 

Hydraulic rowers

Hydraulic rowing machines are the cheapest versions of a rower that you can buy. They operate by way of pistons that are built into the hydraulic rowing arms. The quality of rowing action is the least impressive of any version, typified by a jittery, stuttering motion that can feel quite disconcerting. Because you are pulling on two separate handles, you will also find it difficult to achieve a uniform rowing action.

Magnetic rowers

Magnetic rowing machines make use of a magnetic brake system for their resistance. The resistance is adjusted by moving the position of the magnets. These machines will not give you as powerful or as smooth a resistance as you get with a water or air and are usually used in budget priced models.

Water rowers

Water Rowers, once a novelty, have become increasingly popular as people come to appreciate that they provide the closest experience to actually rowing on water that you can get. They have an onboard water tank that contains paddles. Resistance is created when the paddles spin inside the tank. When you row the handles, the paddles spin to create the resistance. The harder you pull, the greater the resistance that is generated.

These machines provide a natural, on the water replicating experience, but they are the noisiest of the four versions.

Rowing Machine FAQ

Is a rowing machine bad for our lower back?

No, so long as you are using proper technique, rowing will not harm your lower back. People often round their back when rowing which can cause undue strain to the lower back muscles. You do not want to do this. Instead maintain an upright position with your abdominals tightly pulled in throughout the rowing movement. You should open up the chest which will bring the shoulder blades together, further reinforcing the upright back position.

When you use a rowing machine correctly you will actually strengthen your core, which will help to keep your lower back strong and pain free.

What muscles of the body are primarily used when rowing?

Rowing is quite unique as a cardiovascular exercise in that it works the entire body. It is an effective form of cardiovascular exercise that effectively works the heart and lungs. In term of the skeletal muscles, it hits the quadriceps and hamstrings along with the gluteus maximus. It also woks the core muscles, with a primary emphasis on the abdominals. In terms of the upper body, it also provides a challenging workout for the latissimus dorsi muscles of the upper back, along with the trapezius and rhomboids. The pulling motion also activates the triceps and anterior deltoids.

Can rowing machines be used by pregnant women?

If you are new to rowing, you should probably wait until after your baby is born to start. However, women who have been rowing for some time should be able to continue with this form of exercise, at least during the first trimester. Be sure, though, to check with your doctor before you begin. It is important that you maintain good form, with an upright back. If you are able to, it is also a good idea to adjust the foot pedals so that they are lower than normal. This will reduce the pressure on your tummy area. Be sure to keep your knees apart as you go through the rowing motion to provide plenty of room for your belly.

Is a rowing machine a good choice for weight loss?

Definitely. Weight loss is essentially a matter of maintaining a daily caloric deficit. So, the type of cardio that burns the most calories is going to be the best choice to help you reach your goals. Rowing is the best calorie burner after cross country skiing! Many rowers come with specific fat loss programs. Of course, you must couple your fat loss exercise with a sensible heathy eating plan in order to achieve consistent long-term fat loss results.

Can I use rowing as my only form of exercise?

In terms of cardio exercise, choosing rowing as your main form of exercise is a great choice. It burns more calories and involves more muscle than other forms of cardio. It is also the best form of cardio for full body training. However, it is always best to incorporate variety into your training. So, mixing rowing up with running, skipping and using an elliptical is the best way to go.

You should also include some form of resistance training to build, shape and strengthen your muscles.

Final Thoughts

A rowing machine is a smart choice when it comes to home gym cardio fitness. As well as burning a tone of calories for weight and maxing up your cardio fitness, it will also provide a full body muscular workout. The best overall rowing machine on the market is the Concept 2 Model D. If your budget allows, this machine will provide you with the closest thing to a commercial rowing experience in your home that exists.

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