Your heart– the surprisingly small, pear-sized, muscular organ that’s located in the center of your chest– is responsible for circulating blood throughout your body. It’s not an easy task. According to The National Geographic, if you were to unravel all your body’s blood vessels and arrange them in a straight line, the total distance would measure roughly 60,000 miles!
However, if your heart’s not in good shape, it won’t be able to perform its main task effectively. Regular exercise is the best way to maintain good heart health. Unfortunately, the comforts of modern life have encouraged many to adopt sedentary lifestyles. As a result, heart disease has become the leading cause of death worldwide. According to the peer-reviewed journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, inactivity is linked to cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, stroke, certain cancers, osteoporosis, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.
A rowing machine can help you get the exercise you need to stay healthy. Modern rowing machines simulate the feel of rowing a real boat– and they’re not as expensive or as large as you might initially assume. Many rowing machines can be folded up when not in use. Some come equipped with sound-dampening features that prevent you from disturbing your next door neighbors and loved ones when you exercise.
Here are the best rowing machine you can buy:
- The Concept2 Model D is durable, stylish and supports both ANT+ and Bluetooth.
- With its 20-inch-high seat, the Concept2 Model E is the ideal choice for those that have difficulty mounting and dismounting standard rowing machines.
- The best thing about the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus is that it’s more than just a rowing machine and can be used to do a variety of different arm exercises.
- Competitive rowers will appreciate the WaterRower Rowing Machine, which uses a water tank to emulate a realistic rowing experience.
- If you often find yourself in need of motivation in the middle of your workout, you may want to check out the Nordic Track RW900. It integrates with a virtual training app called iFit.
The best value rowing machine
Concept2 Model D
Concept2 says that their Concept2 Model D has been the world’s best selling rowing machine for nearly half a century. While its affordable price tag relative to the competition may have helped give it an edge, its features are also quite robust. For example, it can send your workout statistics to your smart phone and/or fitness device via ANT+ or Bluetooth.
- Excellent value. You won’t be able to find a more compelling mix of features at this price range.
- The world’s best selling rowing machine for over 40 years. Concept2 claims that this model has been the industry’s best seller for over four decades.
- Robust construction. The aluminum and steel frame is sturdy and won’t break easily.
- Supports both ANT+ and Bluetooth. The Concept 2 Model D can connect to just about any type of fitness device that supports wireless connections.
- Collapsible design. You can easily fold it up, which saves space when it’s not in use.
- Two different color options. Both available colors– gray and black– blend in well just about anywhere.
- 30-day money-back guarantee with a comprehensive 2-year warranty. A 5-year warranty covers some parts, like the seat frame, caster wheels, monorail and others.
- The no-frills LCD display could use an update. The display seems easy enough to navigate, but the fact that it’s monochrome makes it look out-of-date.
- The seat could use some extra cushioning. The seat sports an ergonomic design, but it may be a bit too stiff for some.
In a nutshell
Have you recently taken an interest in rowing but you’re not sure you’ll stick with it? If your answer was yes, the Concept2 Model D makes a lot of sense. It costs roughly half as much as some rowing machines, yet its durable enough to stand the test of time.
The best rowing machine for people with mobility issues
Concept2 Model E
The Concept2 Model E’s main appeal is its tall seat, which stands 20 inches off the ground. This added elevation makes for a more comfortable experience and may be especially helpful for people who are handicapped, overweight or have other types of mobility issues. Another nice thing about this rowing machine is its two-piece design, which makes it easy to set up and disassemble for storage.
- Easy to mount and dismount. The Concept2’s Model E’s seat stands 20 inches off the ground, which is about the same height as an ordinary chair.
- Welded steel frame. Its sturdy frame can support up to 500 pounds of weight.
- Luxurious looks. The glossy finish adds a classy touch to this rowing machine’s design.
- Easy to put together. You can assemble all the components yourself in about 30 minutes.
- ANT+ and Bluetooth compatibility. Whichever fitness device you use, you’ll probably be able to connect it to your Concept2 Model E.
- Two-piece design. The Model E is easy to store because you can quickly and easily disassemble it.
- Send it back if you’re not fully satisfied. Along with the 30-day guarantee, you get a comprehensive 2-year warranty.
- Primitive-looking display. The monochrome LCD screen makes the Model E look dated. You can connect it to a smartphone as a workaround, though.
- Heavy compared to standard rowing machines. It weighs 85 pounds, which is about 15 pounds heavier than the average rowing machine.
In a nutshell
If you want to exercise but you find ordinary rowing machines to be awkward or uncomfortable, the Concept Model E may be your best bet. Its extra tall seat makes it easier to use, while the frame’s glossy finish adds some extra aesthetic appeal.
The most versatile rowing machine
Fitness Reality 1000 Plus
The Fitness Reality 1000 Plus is unique among rowing machines in that it can be used for a variety of different exercises in addition to traditional rowing. Stabilizers located at the front of the machine give you the option to do tricep extensions, arm curls and other similar arm workouts. The free MyCloudFitness app lets you automatically download your workout stats to the cloud.
- Excellent versatility. This rowing machine can also be used to do tricep extensions, arm curls, front raises and many other exercises.
- Intense workout mode. Switch to dual transition mode when you want more resistance for an intense workout.
- Save your stats to the cloud. If you download the MyCloudFitness app, you can opt to save your workout stats to the internet automatically.
- Large, full color display. The 3.5 inch, full-color screen sports an intuitive interface that’s easy to use.
- Convenient storage. When folded up, the 1000 Plus is only 39.5 inches long, 53.5 inches tall and 21.5 inches wide.
- Optional heart rate monitor. This rowing machine is fully compatible with MyCloudFitness’s Heart Rate Chest Belt.
- Quiet operation. Since it relies on magnets for resistance, it doesn’t make much noise at all when you use it.
- Frame capacity maxes out at 250 pounds. If you weigh more than 250 pounds, this rowing machine is not for you.
- Inaccurate calorie tracking. The calorie metric only provides a ballpark estimate of how many calories that you’ve burned during your session.
In a nutshell
Given this rowing machine’s somewhat low frame capacity, it may not be the best choice for an overweight person whose main goal is weight loss. However, if you’re already in decent shape and you want to sculpt your arms, it may be worth a closer look.
The best water resistance rowing machine
WaterRower Rowing Machine
Fans of Netflix’s House of Cards may already be familiar with the WaterRower Rowing Machine. It’s the same piece of equipment that Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) used throughout the dramatic series. Most rowing machines provide resistance via magnets or air, but this one feels more natural. The wooden frame adds additional aesthetic appeal.
- Water resistance provides a realistic rowing experience. Instead of air or magnetic resistance, you row against actual water.
- Transport wheels. Wheels located on the side of the rower make it easy to move around.
- You can stand it up when you store it. Just empty the tank and flip it vertically to save horizontal space.
- Wooden frame. The solid oak frame lends this rower a rustic, outdoorsy look.
- Heavy duty weight capacity. It is built to support up to 1000 pounds.
- Basic digital performance monitor. The monitor is easy to use and displays basic statistics about your rowing workouts.
- One-year warranty. You can get additional years of warranty coverage if you’re willing to purchase the warranty upgrade.
- The tank tends to wear out over time. Depending on how often you row, you may have to periodically buy a new tank or purchase WaterRower’s tank glue kit.
- Doesn’t sync with fitness devices. Since there’s no support for Bluetooth or ANT+, there’s no way to export your workout statistics.
In a nutshell
If you’re a former competitive rower and you’re trying to get back in shape, the WaterRower may be worth checking out. Magnetic and air rowers are equally good for burning some calories and getting some exercise in, but the feel of the actual workout just isn’t the same.
The best rowing machine with an interactive trainer feature
Nordic Track RW900
The Nordic Track RW900 caters specifically to people who like the idea of rowing their way to better health, but often find themselves getting bored during their actual workouts. Various interactive exercises– some of which give you the feeling of rowing around the world– are accessible through the RW900’s screen via iFit. You get a one-year subscription to iFit with your purchase.
- Interactive, on-demand training. The RW900 comes with a one-year subscription to iFit, which provides rowing visualizations, targeted workouts and other rowing activities.
- Comprehensive, full-body workouts. Other exercises that are a part of iFit involve yoga, cross training, dumbbells, kettlebells, bodyweight exercises and more.
- Large, 22-inch touchscreen display. The smart screen lets you flip through various stats and access iFit programs.
- Folds up for storage. The RW900 folds in half, which makes it easy to store.
- Easy to install. Putting the pre-assembled components together takes about 30 minutes.
- Prevents you from getting bored during workouts. The sheer variety of different rowing programs will keep your mind engaged as you work out your body.
- Excellent warranty. The frame comes with a 15 year warranty, while the parts are guaranteed for five years. A two-year warranty covers labor costs.
- No Bluetooth support. You can plug wired headphones into the display, but it doesn’t support Bluetooth.
- Core features require an iFit subscription. You can use the RW900 without iFit, but nearly all the smart features require a subscription.
In a nutshell
Boredom can be a challenging obstacle to overcome on the way to getting fit. The RW900’s built-in screen comes in handy here, delivering interesting exercise sessions from iFit. The annual subscription may be worth it, especially for those that have trouble staying mentally focused during their workout sessions.
Buying guide for rowing machines
If you don’t have room for your rowing machine in your home or apartment, you’ll have to send it back and pay a hefty shipping fee. Measure out the area where you intend to use your rowing machine before you start shopping so that you’ll be able to identify and avoid models that won’t fit.
Most modern rowing machines are equipped with on-board computers, which are designed to track your rowing stats and send your workout data to your fitness devices. Others come with built-in full-color screens and can connect you to virtual personal trainer services.
If there’s a specific health statistic you’d like to track– like heart rate, for example– make sure that your prospective rowing machine’s computer is capable of analyzing it before you buy.
ANT+ vs. Bluetooth compatibility
Most smart fitness devices are Bluetooth compatible, but some only work with the ANT+ protocol. If you have devices that only work with ANT+, make sure that your rowing machine supports it before you commit. Many rowing machines support both ANT+ and Bluetooth.
Magnetic rowing machines tend to feel less natural than rowing machines that use water resistance. On the other hand, magnetic rowing machines offer more resistance.
If your body weight is at or near your rowing machine’s weight limit, you’ll be putting yourself at risk each time you use it. Entry-level rowing machines have basic aluminum frames that can only handle 250-300 pounds, but more expensive, professional-grade rowing machines can support as much as 1000 pounds.
Most rowing machines are designed for one purpose only: to simulate the experience of rowing a boat. However, some brands have added additional features to their rowing machines that let their users perform a variety of other types of workouts.
Seat design and cushioning
Let’s face it: if your rowing machine’s seat is too stiff for your liking, you’ll quickly become an expert at finding creative reasons to skip your rowing workouts. Rowing machines that feature contoured, ergonomic seats tend to be the most comfortable.
Ease of use
Another make-or-break consideration is the interface. Smart features can add a new dimension to a rowing workout, but nobody wants to click through several different menus each time they exercise.
Some rowing machines are easier to put together than others. Some rowing machine manufacturers provide their own branded assembly service, while others assemble most of the parts for you at the factory. Amazon has an assembly service you can hire, as well.
You can find good quality rowing machines that cost around $300. They don’t have the carrying capacity of mid-range and high-end rowing machines, and their on-board computers are comparatively simplistic as well.
Rowing machines that cost around $1000 are a bit more durable and have more connectivity features. Some mid-range rowing machines are compatible with both Bluetooth and ANT+ enabled fitness devices, for example.
Luxury rowing machines typically cost $1500 or more. At this price range, you’ll find features like realistic water-based resistance systems, interactive virtual exploration apps, built-in touch screen displays and other bells and whistles.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Every time I try to use a rowing machine at the gym I end up with a backache. What am I doing wrong?
A: The most common cause of rowing-related back pain is improper form. Be sure to keep your back straight as you row. Strengthening your surrounding muscles may help you maintain a proper rowing posture. The classic plank exercise is one of many exercises that can help strengthen your back and core.
Q: Which muscle groups does rowing activate?
A: Rowing is an excellent way to engage your quadriceps, hamstrings, thighs and hips. Back muscles like the trapezius and rhomboids also participate in the rowing motion. You can expect to see improvements in the triceps and deltoid muscles in your arm as well.
Q: Can rowing burn as many calories as running?
A: Yes. The average person will burn about 1000 calories per hour on a rowing machine. That’s about the same amount of energy burned from running for 60 minutes.
- Use the proper progression throughout your row stroke. First push off with your legs, then activate your core and finally pull back with your arms. Attempting to do all three motions at the same time can throw off your posture and increase your injury risk.
- Check your chain periodically to make sure that it’s lubricated. If you notice any squeaking or other chain-related issues, it could be time to apply a new coat of oil. Use a clean paper towel to apply the chain oil. Look in your machine’s manual to see what kind of oil it needs.
- Aim for consistency rather than speed. Beginner rowers often row too quickly. To improve, don’t worry about how fast you’re moving and instead focus on precision. Try to put as much extension and power into each stroke as you can.