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Best Rowing Machines Reviews 2017 and Comparison Chart

Rowers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They all offer basically the same type of workout. But depending on their construction, resistance system and several other factors, the overall feel and impact of the workout may be different. There are many types of rowers that you can choose from, and not just about any model may fit to your home, or workout that you require.

Therefore, this page brings forth several of the best rowing machines for 2017, it aims to make sure that a rower is exactly the machine that you need by pointing out several important aspects regarding these machines, and finally we’ll make a few recommendations to fit to just about any budget. But before we get to that, here are 10 of the best rowers at the moment.

Top 10 Best Rowers

UnitUnit
dimensions
Maximum
user
weight
Unit
weight
FrameResistanceConsoleWarranty
FDF Newport
first degree fitness newport challenge water rowing machine
read-review-button-03
L:77.8"
W:20.9"
H:20.1"
300 lbs60 lbsAnodized
aluminum,
Non-folding
Water,
Adjustable
Distance,
Calories/hour,
Strokes per minute,
Wattage,
Time,
500M time,
Pulse,
PC connectivity.
Frame: 5 years
Tank: 3 years
Seals: 3 years
Mechanical: 2 years
Parts: 1 year
Concept2 Model D
concept2 model d rowing machine
read-review-button-03
L:96"
W:24"
H:14"
500 lbs57"Aluminum
and steel,
Folding.
Air,
Adjustable,
10 levels
Speed,
Distance,
Pace,
Calories,
Watts,
Pulse,
Games,
PC connectivity
Frame: 5 years
Parts: 2 years
Console: 2 years
Stamina Avari Magnetic
stamina avari magnetic rowing machine
read-review-button-03
L:81"
W:20"
H:24.5"
275 lbs88 lbsAluminium
and steel,
Folding
Magnetic,
Adjustable,
12 levels
Time,
Distance, Strokes/min, Calories,
Watts,
Pulse,
12 workouts
Frame: 3 years
Parts: 90 days
Labor: 90 days
WaterRower Natural
waterrower natural rowing machine
read-review-button-03
L:82.25"
W:22.25"
H:20"
700 lbs66.5 lbsWood (Ash),
Non-folding.
Water
Time,
Distance, Strokes/min, Calories,
Watts,
Pulse,
9 workouts,
PC connectivity.
Frame: 5 years
Parts: 3 years
Sole SR500
sole-sr500-rower-01-feat
read-review-button-03
L:94"
W:18"
H:46"
515 lbs115 lbsAluminum,
Folding
Eddy current
& Air,
Adjustable,
16 levels.
Time,
Speed,
Distance,
Strokes per minute, Total of strokes, Calories burned, Pulse,
14 workouts.
Frame: lifetime
Parts: 3 year
Electronics: 3 years
Labor: 1 year
Marcy NS-6050RE
marcy ns-6050re - turbine air and magnetic rower
read-review-button-03
L:86"
W:20.5"
H:36"
300 lbs85 lbsSteel,
Aluminum
Air,
Magnetic
Time,
Speed,
Calories,
Count,
Distance,
RPM
Unspecified
WaterRower M1 HiRise
hirise-m1-waterrower-01-feat
read-review-button-03
L:88"
W:22.25"
H:27.6"
700 lbs120 lbsSteel,
Non-folding
WaterTime,
Distance, Strokes/min, Calories,
Watts,
Pulse,
9 workouts,
PC connectivity.
Frame: lifetime
Tank: 3 years
Mechanical: 2 years
Parts: 2 years
Sunny SF-RW5623
sunny sf-rw5623 air magnetic rower
read-review-button-03
L:86"
W:19"
H:28"
300 lbs59.5 lbsSteel,
Aluminum
Air,
Magnetic
Time,
Count,
Total
count,
Calories,
SCAN
Frame: 1 year
Parts: 90 days
Kettler Favorit
kettler favorit rower
read-review-button-03
L:52"
W:32"
H:10"
285 lbs44 lbsCarbon-steelHydraulic,
50 levels
Time,
Distance,
Speed,
Strokes per minute,
Watts,
Pulse.
Frame: lifetime
Parts: 3 years
FDF Viking 2 AR
first degree fitness viking 2 ar
read-review-button-03
L:84"
W:22"
H:21"
330 lbs72 lbsAsh
wood
Water,
Adjustable,
4 levels
Time,
Distance,
SPM,
Watts,
Cal/H,
500m split,
Pulse,
Frame: 5 years
Parts: 3 years
Wear: 2 years

Why Should You Buy a Rowing Machine?

To make this clearer, we’ll start with the few downsides related to rowing. First of all, due to the seated position, a prolonged rowing session can lead to numbness of the buttocks. And second of all, this type of exercise does put some stress on the lower back. Especially users new to this may experience lower back soreness and even pain after several few sessions, until their body adapts to this kind of workout. That’s why, due to the stress on the lower back, a rowing machine may not be exactly the best choice for users with problems of the lumbar area.

But on the other hand, there are quite many positive aspects related to this type of cardio training and to these machines in particular.

Rowing comes with a wide array of benefits. Whether you’re rowing an actual boat or a indoor rower, it basically has the same effects on your physique and cardiovascular system. It’s pretty obvious the the workout posture promoted by either a rowboat or a rowing machine eliminates an important part of the impact on the leg joints of the user, as the upper body weight rests on a seat. The workout involves multiple groups of muscles in the torso, arms and especially legs, and therefore results in a really consistent aerobic workout. Due to this fact, you don’t even have to pull extremely hard, in order to obtain a rich cardiovascular workout. That’s why a rowing machine is an excellent choice for users who are no longer young and age has already taken its toll on their bodies. But nonetheless, these are machines for users of all ages.

Since rowers interest multiple groups of muscles, they’re great machines for boosting strength and stamina. And due to the low impact on the leg joints, they’re actually great machines for overweight users, who are just trying to get back into shape. In this case though, it’s important to underline that if you want a rower machine to use at home, it’s best to check and double check its maximum user capacity, to make sure you end up with a solid machine, not one that will fall apart under your weight.

velocity-vantage-rower-01-model

As opposed to a treadmill which requires quite a bit of focus when running, a rowing machine will actually help you disconnect. Especially if you use a water resistance rower machine, which resembles closely the motion of rowing a real boat, a workout of this sort will actually help you relieve stress and calm your nerves after a busy day at work.

Since most rowers come with at least a basic console, it’s easy to track your progress or quantify your workout. Even more, some models feature online connectivity, giving you the possibility to compete with other users world wide.

Last but not least, a rowing machine gives you the possibility to row in the absence of a boat, and/or in the absence of a body of water. You can also undergo your training in the comfort and safety of your home. Differently put, can watch TV or watch your favorite online streams during your workout, without being exposed to most of risk factors related to being out in open water.

Variable Resistance vs Constant Resistance

There are four main resistance systems featured by rowing machines: water-based, air-based, magnetic and hydraulic. Evidently, each type of resistance has its own specifics, but as a general idea, water and air rowers feature a “naturally variable” resistance. In other words, if you exercise on a water or air rower machine, the harder you stroke, the more resistance you should experience.

Conversely, a rower featuring magnetic or hydraulic tension system cannot render this “naturally variable” feel. Even if they do feature multiple levels of resistance, for each setting the resistance will be constant, and it is not conditioned by the strength you put into your stroke.

Now, regardless of type, just about any rower should provide a consistent cardiovascular workout. If this is what you’re looking for, you can basically go with any type. However, if you want to train on a professional level, or train for rowing an actual boat, the natural “feel” of the stroke may be necessary. That’s because a rower with constant resistance may affect your technique, or enable you to develop bad habits. Therefore, in this case it’s best to opt for a water or air rower.

Differences Between Commercial Grade vs Home-Use Rowers

There are actually several differences between rowing machines made for home use, and the commercial grade ones. The two main indicators are maximum user capacity and price. It’s pretty obvious that a rowing machine which is supposed to be used by a wide array of users, within the premises of a gym or club, should be able to withstand even the heaviest users. Thus, most gym-grade rowers have a maximum user capacity of 500 or even 700 lbs. A sturdier build, a higher quality tension mechanism, and a more advanced performance tracking console also lead to a higher price. Also, most rowers you’ll find in gyms feature water or air resistance.

On the other hand, there are rowers designed for home use, which usually feature a lower weight capacity, typically up to 300 lbs., a basic design and console, and in general, a folding frame to save space. Most of these models feature hydraulic or magnetic resistance, but you can also find models up to $500 that feature air resistance. Most of these models focus on providing a light to medium intensity rowing training, while most of the ones in gyms can provide the training setting and workout tracking required by professional athletes.

Our Best Recommendations by Price

Now, the price of a fitness machine (not necessarily a rower) can be misleading. Price doesn’t always indicate quality. There are actually many excellent rowing machines under $500 that can supply just about everything that you would expect from one. And on the other hand, you’ll find expensive rowers, which feature a construction and array of features that doesn’t stand up to their price.

Depending on price, rowing machines can be classified by three major categories:

  • under $500 – this category usually includes magnetic rowers, hydraulic rowers or even air rowers, but with a basic or close to medium array of features and functions.
  • between $500 and $1,000 – this category includes rowers with all types of resistance; most of them include a rich array of features an functions, and some of them even have the construction required for gym use;
  • over $1,000 – rowers with a solid build, high user capacity, made to function 24/7 within the premises of a gym.

Therefore, here are a few quality rowers for each price interval.

Price: Under $500

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5623

sunny sf-rw5623 air magnetic rowerThe SF-RW5623 is one of the newest rowing machines from Sunny Health & Fitness. It’s a model that combines air and magnetic elements for its resistance system. It’s similar in specs with other, more expensive models, but costs less than $350 (at least for now).

This Sunny Health & Fitness rower features a steel frame, but its main beam is aluminium-made. It’s beam is not 100% horizontal. It’s set at a soft angle, being a bit higher at the rear than at the front. This means the recovery motion is a notch faster, and the workout for the legs is slightly more challenging than for a rower with a completely horizontal rail.  The frame is space-saving, as its frame has a folding design. It has a decent weight capacity for this spec range, being able to support users up to 300 lbs. Also, it’s equipped with a basic fitness meter… Read Full Review.

Kettler Favorit

kettler favorit rowerOne of the best aspects regarding most rowers with a hydraulic resistance / drive system, is that they do not occupy a lot of space. Some have a fixed seat which basically limits the workout possibilities, but the Kettler Favorit is actually one of the best rated models with a gliding seat. Just as in most models with hydraulic resistance, this Kettler model offers adjustable resistance, but each setting offers a constant tension. In other words, resistance doesn’t vary with how hard you pull, as in water or air rowers.

“German quality” is present in all Kettler products, and this rower doesn’t make an exception. Features a solid carbon-steel frame, molded seat for maximum comfort, and 50 levels of resistance. The tension adjustment is done manually, not from the console of the machine. And speaking of the console, this models comes with a basic one… Read Full Review.

Marcy Turbine NS-6050RE

marcy ns-6050re - turbine air and magnetic rowerThe Turbine NS-6050RE is one of the newest rowing machines from Marcy Fitness, and so far has gathered an important amount of positive (4.5-stars+) on various fitness websites. Just like the Sunny SF-RW5623, it has a resistance system part air, part magnetic. It features a frame construction quite similar to various commercial rowers, such as Concept2 Model E for example. Even though it’s specified maximum user capacity is 300 lbs (136 kg), various users have confirmed that it can support at least 20-30 lbs more.

The seat supplied with this rower is quite a bit wider than for other models. It’s padded and contoured, offering excellent ergonomics, and reducing a bit of the stress on the lower back. Also, a fitness meter a bit more than basic is provided with the machine. This unit features a 7-panel view, and can track time, speed, distance, stroke count… Read Full Review.

Price: $500 – $1,000

Stamina Avari

stamina avari magnetic rowing machineThe Stamina Avari rower is a model designed for home use. Although it’s an older model, it’s still one of the best to this day, as it continues to benefit from 5-star reviews from users world-wide. It’s a more inclusive model than the ATS 1399. It also features magnetic resistance, which doesn’t vary with the intensity you pull, but does vary with each setting on the console. This machine actually offers 12 resistance settings, and 12 distinctive workout programs, aimed at helping you bolster stamina and strength, for interval training, or cardio-focused training.

The Avari model features pivoting footrests, which is quite a plus, as sometimes the fixed angle of a certain rower simply doesn’t feel comfortable for all users. Being able to adjust this angle increases the versatility of the machine.

The frame can be folded, the seat rail folding to vertical position, giving you more options for storage… Read Full Review.

First Degree Fitness Newport

first degree fitness newport challenge water rowing machineThis is definitely one of the best water-based rowers that you can find on the market at the moment. In fact, when compared to the models from WaterRower, it actually has a superior price/quality ratio. First of all, it’s under the mark of $900, while most models from WaterRower cost more than $1,100. And second of all, this particular model not only has water resistance, which offers variable tension depending on the force behind each stroke, the water level in the tank is adjustable, so you can actually change the levels of resistance. Many other rowers featuring water system don’t have any resistance settings, just the natural resistance supplied by water.

The only downside of the FDF Newport model is that it’s not a top capacity rower. It can only support users up to 300 lbs. This may or may not be accepted by any gym. However, it does make an outstanding piece of equipment for home use… Read Full Review.

Concept2 Model D

concept2 model d rowing machineNot only this is currently one of the top rated air rower out there, the Concept2 Model D is actually considered one of the best rowing machines on the market. It’s a rower that you’ll see in many gyms, but also a rower that it’s not exactly one of the most expensive out there. It’s still priced under $1,000, not the most affordable, but far from being a super expensive unit.

Even though the this Concept2 model features a folding frame, it’s still a commercial grade one, as it can hold users up to 500 lbs. Not only that, but it’s also a pretty long machine, the standard length of the gliding rail being able to accommodate tall users, with an inseam of 38″. Even more, there’s the possibility to opt for a longer rail, in case you’re a really tall person. This machine comes with a console… Read Full Review.

Price: Over $1,000

Sole SR500 Rower

sole-sr500-rower-01-featSole is a fitness equipment brand popular for its high-quality standards in their fitness machines of all sorts. They currently offer only two rowing machines, both featuring a combination of air and magnetic resistance. The Sole SR500 is the most inclusive one, and even though the price is currently set just a bit over the mark of $1,000, there will most definitely be a decrease in its price, as a newer model will be released.

Without a doubt, the SR500 model from Sole Fitness is a commercial grade one, as it can support users up to 515 lbs. It features a long frame to accommodate tall users, but it’s also foldable, just as the Concept2 Model D. It features air resistance, but the intensity of your workout can also be adjusted via an eddy current brake… Read Full Review.

WaterRower Natural

waterrower natural rowing machineWaterRower not only that offers top-quality rowing machines, but all of them feature a water resistance system, which is known to provide the most natural rowing feel. Also, most of their models feature a very stylish design, with a warm, wooden frame.

The WaterRower Natural is one of the models present in many gyms, in the water-based rower section, as it’s one of the models that offers just about everything one would expect from a rowing machine. To begin with, it has a very solid frame, being able to support users up to 700 lbs. The seat is made to resemble perfectly the seat of an actual boat. It’s padded but not cushioned, supplying the optimal comfort that any user should benefit from when using a rowing machine. The console supplies several workout programs, also being PC interface capable… Read Full Review.

WaterRower M1 HiRise

hirise-m1-waterrower-01-featNot surprisingly, another recommendation here is also from WaterRower, simply because they offer superlative quality with their products. As opposed to the Natural model, the M1 HiRise features a steel frame, with an extremely solid construction, also with a high user capacity. One of the best parts regarding this model is that it offers the user an elevation of approx. 20″ from the floor level, due to its higher bases. This particular aspect makes the rower a better choice for elderly users, or physically impaired users, making the mount / dismount much easier.

Needless to say, it’s a model that offers water resistance, and a rowing sensation extremely close the rowing of an actual boat. In other words, resistance varies with the amount of strength you put behind each pull. This machine comes with the S4 monitor, which includes several advanced workout programs, and can be connected to PC, for extra options… Read Full Review.

Our Final Pick: Best Rowing Machine For Home Use

We’ve debated a lot whether our final recommendation should be the FDF Newport or the Concept2 Model D, but we finally decided on the latter, due to several reasons. Even though the Newport rower is a water-based model, offering the most natural rowing feel, and a top-notch design, it can concept2 d roweronly support users up to 300 lbs. It’s average rating is also only 4.5, while the Concept2 model is a clean 5 stars product on many websites. On top of that, this Concept2 rowing machine has been around for several years, yet still continues to receive an astonishing amount of positive reviews from all users.

It features a much higher capacity than the Newport, being able to hold users up to 500 lbs. On top of that, even though it’s an air rower, it simply offers just about everything a professional athlete would expect from a rowing machine. It has a long, solid frame, offering a posture, comfort and feel pretty much similar to rowing an actual boat. Although air resistance is similar to water resistance up to a certain point, as it is adaptive on its own depending on how much power you put into your stroke, this air rower also features a damper, which can control the amount of air that enters the fan’s case, adding or removing some of the overall tension.

This rowing machine actually has 10 settings on the damper, and when used on the 8-10 settings, the resistance it provides is considerably high, supplying a high-intensity workout.

The machine comes with a performance monitor which not only can track the most important data, such as speed, distance, pace, watts, and calories, it also features several games, which can help you kill the boredom of a long rowing session… Read Full Review.

Final Word

Exercising daily is necessary, and when it comes to this, there are many machines that can supply you with an excellent training setting. But if you’re looking for one that can offer a superior aerobic training, build stamina and strength, and tone multiple muscle groups, all with a minimal impact on the leg joints, a rower is the perfect choice. All the rowers mentioned here were minutiously analyzed, all of them featuring a solid price/quality ratio. Thus, this page should serve as a good starting point for choosing a model perfectly fit for your budget and home-gym.