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Rowing Machine Reviews for 2018


Indoor rowing machines have come a long way and there are now a variety of sleek, highly-refined pieces of exercise equipment ready to get your cardio health on the upswing. Having a rower right there in your home can really be the push you need to get your muscles moving in a challenging yet comfortable way. Overall, rowing machines provide an outstanding way to increase fitness by burning calories and building muscle in a safe, low-impact way.

If you’re on the hunt for a rowing machine for home fitness, keep in mind that there are many different styles and features that you’re going to want to consider before choosing. As always, high quality comes with a price, but there are great, reliable rowers at lower prices as well. We’ll do our best to break down all the things you need to know below.  And we have included our top rower picks to help you find the best rowing machine for your needs.

Our Top Rowing Machine Picks

To get more specific, here are our top picks for the best rowing machines.  You can click through for more in-depth rowing machine reviews.

Rowing Machine Features to Consider

Type of Resistance

Rowing machines may all have similar designs, but where they can differ the most is in their form of providing resistance. This is where your workout is going to be the most effective. The types of resistance include:

  • water resistance
  • air resistance
  • magnetic resistance
  • piston/hydraulic resistance.

Each type of resistance has its benefits and unique rowing feel, so be sure to take that into consideration.

Comfort and Adjustability

The best rowers will have a comfortable seat, good foot pads, and some adjustability.

Noise Level

Some indoor rowing machines are noisier than others. But a silent machine isn’t necessarily for everyone. Some people appreciate the rushing noise as a kind of feedback that they’re working hard. Workout Space You’re going to need a good amount of dedicated floor space in your home to comfortably and safely place your rowing machine. Rower length varies, and they are usually rather narrow, but almost all have long footprints.

Rower Price

As with most pieces of exercise equipment, you’re going to find that the price will vary widely between the budget level and the high end row machines. Higher priced models are made to take a lot of use and last a long time, while cheaper models can get you working out now if you’re on a budget but may need more maintenance or replacement sooner.

Max User Weight

Rowing machines can usually handle higher weight than most other exercise machines. There are less moving parts to become stressed by heavier users.

Storage Features

Being able to easily store your rower is a huge plus. Make sure you investigate how well the machine stores, if it folds up or comes apart easily to be able to put it in your closet, or in other storage areas. As an example, the Concept2 Model D rowing machine folds up nicely by a simple pull pin located in the middle of the rower. Wheels on the bottom allow for easy moving.

Row Computer / Monitor

Most good rowing machines come with a handy computer that tells you information such as distance, time, and calories burned. Additionally, check to see if the rower you’re looking at has the option to connect to apps so you can upload data and be able to track your progress.

Ease of Assembly

You might only have to assemble your row machine one time, but you want that one time to not be a total nightmare. Do your due diligence and make sure you’re not getting some crazy puzzle instead of a piece of exercise equipment.


As always, you’re going to want a decent warranty that covers parts and frame.

Benefits of Rowing

Rowing is a great cardiovascular workout as well as a way to strengthen most major muscle groups of the body. It’s a low-impact exercise that can be just as challenging as any higher impact exercise. It burns calories and tones the body which, in conjunction with a healthy diet, can help you lose weight.

As with any fitness activity, it’s important to exercise with proper technique, however. The big muscles in the legs are where most of the workout action should be. Injury to the lower back can occur from bending too far forward in the row. It’s best to maintain a upright 90 degree angle to the rowing machine’s seat and slider bar. Using the legs for the motion rather than relying as heavily on the back or arms can help reduce the chance of muscle pulls or other related injuries. Always check with a physician before starting any new fitness regimen.

Rowing Machines and Weight Loss

Not only does rowing allow you to improve your cardiovascular fitness and build muscle, but when you put those together, you’ve just found yourself on the path to healthy weight loss. If shedding pounds of excess fat is your goal, a rower is a great tool to help you get there.

Comparing the rowing machine to the stationary bike, the rowing machine is superior in terms of calories burned. Yet, it’s important to note that the stationary bike is also easy on the joints and only includes the lower body. So, if you have any upper body problems then the stationary bike will be a much better choice. In 30 minutes of cycling 12-13 miles per hour, an 125lb individual will burn around 225-250 calories.

For Weight Loss, Intensity Is the Name of the Game

Here’s a secret, because the rowing machine provides an intense full body workout, the exercise burns a high amount of calories not only during the actual activity but also for a period after you’ve stopped. This is known as the “after-burn effect”. Essentially, you’ve worked your body so hard that it is forced to keep burning calories and fat even when you’re not rowing. The scientific jargon for this is “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or “EPOC” for short. But all you need to know is that if you’re doing an intense rowing workout, the benefits continue after you’re done. How great is that?

A 125-pound person moving at an average pace for 30 minutes on a treadmill will burn roughly 250 calories. However, they aren’t able to take advantage of this after-burn effect. The same person rowing vigorously will burn around to 250 calories but will have less stress placed upon their joints and continue to burn calories after the workout has ended. Rowing machines have been shown to burn on average 800 calories an hour if you work harder and are slightly heavier.

Rowing Machine HIIT

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a great style of training to burn fat, build toned muscle, and improve cardiovascular systems as the same time. Challenging HIIT workouts help you get to that state of EPOC and take advantage of the after-burn effect. The ability to change the resistance of the rowing machine at will means that the equipment is ideal for this method of exercise.

The beauty of a rowing machine HIIT is it offers an optimal workout in a minimal amount of time. It may sound too good to be true but you can really make a huge difference to your overall fitness in just 20-30 minutes.

Give this rowing machine HIIT sprints workout a try if you’re looking for a good fat burning workout. Remember to start off every workout with a 5-10 minute warm up and cool down.

HIIT Sprints

This workout will take a total of 26 minutes (not including the warm up or cool down).

1st Interval

  1. 30 second sprint
  2. 30 second rest
  3. Repeat for six rounds

2nd Interval

  1. 20 second sprint
  2. 10 second rest
  3. Repeat for four rounds

3rd Interval

  1. 15 second sprint
  2. 15 second rest
  3. 15 second air squats
  4. 15 second rest
  5. Repeat six rounds

4th Interval

  1. 20 second sprint
  2. 10 second rest
  3. Repeat for four rounds

5th Interval

  1. 30 second sprint
  2. 30 second rest
  3. Repeat for six rounds

Using Your Rower

Rowing Correctly

Rowing is primarily a cardio workout, but it’s also more than that. Your heart rate is absolutely going to be climbing, but unlike a jog in the park, you might also be sore the next day. The rower requires you use your legs more than anything, and as we know, your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings are the biggest, most powerful muscles in your body. But you’re also pulling with your arms, shoulders, abs and engaging your back. That said, you’re not pulling as hard as you might with, say, a seated cable row machine at the gym. You don’t want to hurt your back, but you can engage them and this will help you get those muscles toned.

Rowing Machine Technique Tips

    • Good posture and correct form while rowing are key to getting the best workout as well as avoiding injury.
    • Start with a low resistance level to make sure you’re comfortable, then increase resistance as needed.
    • Sit on the seat and secure your feet on the pads. For the “catch”, keep the back very straight with arms extended while holding the bar or handles of the rower.
    • For the “drive” phase, push off in a controlled motion, powering through your heels into the pads and straightening your legs. Pull the cable toward your chest, but don’t worry about pulling it all the way in.
    • At the “finish”, your legs are fully extended, shoulders back, and the bar pulled near the upper chest with wrists straight, not curled.
    • On the return or “recovery”, allow your arms to straighten and your knees to bend. The recovery is where your core muscles such as abs and lower back can get a good, safe workout so keep them engaged.

Other Rowing Machine Considerations

Workout Shoes

You don’t want to be rowing without shoes on.  It’s plain dangerous.  And, of course, this goes for any kind of workout on an exercise machine.  It can be sneakers, running shoes, or cross-trainers.  Just make sure you’re protecting your feet.  Flip flops and high-heels are not advised.  Think closed-toe, rubber bottoms, shoes.

Workout Clothes

On a rowing machine, you don’t want to be wearing clothes that are too baggy as the fabric can get caught between the seat and the beam it slides on.  It’s not a disaster if that happens, but it can get annoying if your shorts keep getting caught there while you’re trying to get a serious workout.   It’s better to wear shorter, tighter-fitting shorts (nothing ridiculous), but just enough to ensure it doesn’t the material doesn’t hang down.

Keep It Clean

Although some rowing machines are made of space-age, super-sweat-resistant metals, you still want to wipe off the equipment after a sweaty workout.  These machines are usually constructed with a lot of various materials and salty sweat can be very corrosive.  Keeping your rowing machine clean can go a long way toward extending its life, and its appearance.

Final Word on Rowing Machines

Fitness experts, as well as health professionals, agree that rowing machines provide one of the best workouts possible. Exercising on a rower will allow you to target the great majority of your muscle groups and give them as hard and challenging a workout as you feel like giving them. On the better rowing machine models, you’ll be able to track your progress and see how your splits are improving.

As previously discussed, the rowing machine’s big advantage is that it provides more than just a cardio workout. It can definitely help you build muscle and lose weight. Compared to a treadmill, the rowing machine works most of your body. It will really hit your shoulders, core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, arms and back effectively while being low impact thus reducing the stress on your joints. Bigger muscles need more energy and will burn fat to get it, which of course leads to healthy weight loss.

When starting your search for a rowing machine, you’re likely to be at a bit of a loss as to which way to go and which type rower to buy. But even if you’re well under way in your hunt, we hope this review helped you understand the wonderful world of rowing machines a little more clearly.

Overall, the most important thing is to get on a rowing machine and get rowing. The best rowing machine is the one that fits in your budget and fits your body.  Your heart, muscles, and mind will thank you!

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