The Best Rowers for Resistance Training

Rowing is a great way for smart men and women to get their workouts. It helps you build both strength and stamina. Plus, it’s easy and safe to use, especially for beginners. People love using them for these reasons. Many people also prefer rowing machines over other types of exercise machines, such as ellipticals, cycles and treadmills.

To begin with, there are several different types of rowing machines, depending on the type of resistance they use. In this article we cover:

  • Concept2 uses Air Resistance
  • WaterRower uses Water Resistance
  • MaxKare, Serenelife, and Sunny Health and Fitness use Magnetic Resistance

 

The Concept2 is clearly the king of all rowing machines.. That’s because it offers men and women, young and old, good shape or out of shape, the best workouts for you to reach your fitness goals.  So when you shop for a rowing machine, a Concept2 machine air resistance rower is probably going to be your first pick, and we can’t blame you: it’s a solid, beautiful piece of machinery.

More Choices for Rowing Machines

Let’s face it, though, shelling out over a thousand bucks may not be realistic. So we’re including more of the best rowing machines found on Amazon. Here’s the list:

Best Overall
Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor, Black
WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 Monitor
Maxkare Magnetic Rower Rowing Machine 16 Level Tension Resistance Exercise for Whole Body with LCD Monitor for Home Use
SereneLife Rowing Machine – Air and Magnetic Rowing Machine – Rowing Exercise Machine for Gym or Home Use – Measures Time, Distance, Stride, Calories Burned – Rowing Machine Cardio Workout for Fitness
Sunny Health & Fitness Rowing Machine Rower Ergometer with Digital Monitor, Inclined Slide Rail, 220 LB Max Weight and Foldable - SF-RW5606
Our Rating
9.9
9.5
9.4
9.2
9.1
MSPR
$1,267.97
$1,560.00
$249.99
$299.99
$160.51
Size
25” x 33” x 54”
83” x 24” x 21”
76” x 19” x 16”
77” x 16” x 30”
38” x 14” x 43”
Weight
57 lbs
61.7 lbs
64 lbs
63 lbs
43 lbs
Foldable
Resistance Type
Magnetic
Water
Magnetic
Magnetic, air
Magnetic
Best Overall
Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor, Black
Our Rating
9.9
MSPR
$1,267.97
Size
25” x 33” x 54”
Weight
57 lbs
Foldable
Resistance Type
Magnetic
More Information
WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 Monitor
Our Rating
9.5
MSPR
$1,560.00
Size
83” x 24” x 21”
Weight
61.7 lbs
Foldable
Resistance Type
Water
More Information
Maxkare Magnetic Rower Rowing Machine 16 Level Tension Resistance Exercise for Whole Body with LCD Monitor for Home Use
Our Rating
9.4
MSPR
$249.99
Size
76” x 19” x 16”
Weight
64 lbs
Foldable
Resistance Type
Magnetic
More Information
SereneLife Rowing Machine – Air and Magnetic Rowing Machine – Rowing Exercise Machine for Gym or Home Use – Measures Time, Distance, Stride, Calories Burned – Rowing Machine Cardio Workout for Fitness
Our Rating
9.2
MSPR
$299.99
Size
77” x 16” x 30”
Weight
63 lbs
Foldable
Resistance Type
Magnetic, air
More Information
Sunny Health & Fitness Rowing Machine Rower Ergometer with Digital Monitor, Inclined Slide Rail, 220 LB Max Weight and Foldable - SF-RW5606
Our Rating
9.1
MSPR
$160.51
Size
38” x 14” x 43”
Weight
43 lbs
Foldable
Resistance Type
Magnetic
More Information

Last update on 2021-05-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Spoiler alert: the king of this list is a Concept2 Model D rower machine, because it’s arguably the best rowing machine money can buy, though there are lower priced choices. But because we don’t want them to be a monopoly on the rowing machine business, we’re also going to cover the alternatives available on Amazon. I think you’ll find one you like in this article.

Here, you’re going to learn all about rowing machines, what the top five have to offer, and just how much time and effort has gone into making a Concept2 rowing machine. It’s the reigning champion for a reason.

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine w/ PM5 Monitor–Get Connected to Great Apps!

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine w/ PM5 Monitor

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The Concept2 is the reigning champion, no doubt about it. You can do more with a Concept2 than you can with any other rowing machine out there, and a lot of it derives from the technological aspects behind this machine. Unlike the other indoor rowers reviewed here, the Model d makes use of an air resistance flywheel, rather than water resistance,  magnetic resistance or hydraulic cylinder resistance.

To start with the tech behind this, Concept2 includes a good app with their screen and design, but they actually encourage you to use third-party apps as well. They invite innovation, even if that means pushing their own stock app out of the way. We’ve made a full list of the the best six third-party apps, to measure things such as your heart rate you can use with your Concept 2 to take your experience to the next level.

Not only that, but once you own a Concept2, you’re not left on your own.  While it doesn’t have rowing classes per se, you can sign up to have a Training Partner or partners so that you can share the workout metrics of your rowing workout with others to stay motivated

Getting into the actual specs of the machine, you get a 500 lb weight limit, making this ideal for anyone trying to lose weight. That’s all thanks to the steel frame and support system.  Even with all that heavy metal included in the construction, this is still only 57 lbs in total. Not too bad, and it’s still easy to stand it up straight and store it somewhere else when not in use.

The Concept2 fails at one point, and that’s the seat distance. It caps out a bit early, and while that’s not bad, taller users are going to have a harder time using this without scrunching up their knees.  Concept2 doesn’t have a longer option, so you’ll have to either meet the requirements or consider another option.

But when it comes to a full body workout, rowing is about as close as you can get.

Rowing machines build a dozen different muscles in your body, and Concept2 has resistance levels to help you go from slender to toned like no other cardio machine can offer. But when it comes to a full body workout, rowing is about as close as you can get.

Assembly is… well, not going to be a fun time. Individually, these long pieces of metal are heavy because of the lack of leverage you have while assembling it. The magnetic rowing plate is extremely heavy, so you might have some difficulties assembling this part at first.

To wrap things up, I want to track back to the PM5 monitor that feeds information to your apps. It self-regulates based on the information you input and the speeds you use, so even if you exceed your goals and your workout times are all over the place, it self-regulates that information as it happens, all in real time.  In case you get bored, the lcd console even as a simple video game you can use to motive yourself while rowing.

But what’s the real reason to get a Concept2 over these alternatives? Noise reduction, smoothness on the coil, and an overall durable design that’s under a great warranty from a reputable company you can trust. Five years on the frame, two years on everything else—what more could you ask for?  To sum up::

  • Quiet
  • Easy to Use
  • Great Support
  • Durable

What’s not to like?

 

WaterRower Classic Water Rowing Machine

WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine

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Water rowing indoors isn’t an easy, nor an inexpensive thing. Emulating the same resistance levels you get from outdoor rowing on water is insanely difficult, which is why WaterRower is the only brand that’s really trusted to handle it properly.

This all-wood, water tank resistance style rowing machine comes in a beautiful walnut color, and because of how solid and durable the wood is, you actually have a better weight cap than any steel machines on the market.  It has a weight capacity of up to 1,000 lbs, which is just overkill – that’s power that you’re never going to need, but it’s there and it’s made tough.

Because of how this water rower works, rowing workouts can actually work up to 84% of your muscle mass. It just works differently than magnetic resistance types. Working with a water resistance tank isn’t easy though, and it’s going to come with a learning curve that you just don’t get with other resistance types.

Filling and emptying the water tank can not only going to get messy based on where it is, but setting everything back up so that you can actually row is going to be a pain as well.  There’s no knob or dial you can just slide around to toy with the resistance rating. Your first time on this is going to be a trial and error, filling and emptying the tank until you find a good resistance, and so on.

 

WaterRower has a solid tank, and the coil works like a charm. Because the wood here is painted but not treated, if you get the frame wet, you’re going to want to use a fan and dry it out immediately.

WaterRower has a solid tank, and the coil works like a charm. Because the wood here is painted but not treated, if you get the frame wet, you’re going to want to use a fan and dry it out immediately.

I would say that the LCD display is one of the best of other rowing machines out there. That’s because it not only displays a lot of workout metrics in a compact way, but the buttons are intuitive – you know exactly what you have to do just by looking at the dashboard, making it easy to track your progress. So you can really get a killer workout, based on how well it tracks your rowing workouts. This can add to your rowing experience.

So who should consider a water rowing machine?

Anyone who’s already used a rowing machine knows the ins and outs and understands how imperative it is for their overall health and fitness lifestyle.

Water rowers need more maintenance than magnetic and air rowers.  So this indoor rower may not be the best for beginners unless you’ve had experience with other workout machines. They also have a higher price point. If you know you like rowing and that it’s a long-term fitness strategy for you, that’s when you should consider a a water rower. And the brand WaterRower is the best of the water rower brands.

 

MaxKare Magnetic Rower Machine

MaxKare Magnetic Rower Machine

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Budgets. Everybody has one, and some people find themselves in the middle with no idea which one of the many rowing machines to choose from. The MaxKare indoor rower is that middle-of-the-road choice, with a good price point.and good characteristics.

The seat on the Maxkare fitness magnetic rowing machine is comfortable, the sliding motion on the frame is smooth, and the magnetic resistance flywheel works like a dream.

MaxKare excels in creating good quality rowing machines.

MaxKare excels in creating good quality rowing machines. You can basically put this in any home gym, any workout space, and you’re going to feel it fits  in with your current gym equipment.  That being said, it’s not a lightweight piece. It’s 64 lbs, which for a machine that has most of the weight in the flywheel, that’s actually pretty heavy.

It’s not going to be simple to stand upright and store, but it’s still possible if you get the right leverage on it. You have 16 magnetic resistance levels that you can toy with, as well as an LCD monitor that displays real-time information based on the input you’re giving into the machine.

You should never rely on your foot straps too much with any rowing machine. They can be a hindrance and mess with your form if you aren’t careful, and these oversized straps on the MaxKare are a perfect example of how and why.  I will say that the actual pedals themselves have good foot traction, you just have to be wary on the straps.

MaxKare doesn’t have the best customer service, though. You can get through to them to get your warranty fulfillment, but it’s not going to be the most fun time contacting them. It’s something to consider, though MaxKare does have a long history of delivering high-quality machinery without defects, so you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

 

SereneLife Rowing Machine

SereneLife Rowing Machine

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They keep it simple: that’s what I like about SereneLife.

This rowing machine comes with an air and magnetic resistance type, which makes it feel super unique whenever you pull back on the cord. Adjusting this flywheel can be a bit of a chore, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to customize your workout like nobody else possibly could to have a good rowing experience.

When it comes to the boots on the stands, they grab the carpet fairly well, which is certainly helpful if you’re on carpeting. I would recommend getting a mat for this if you plan on using it on hardwood in any capacity. There are no stabilizers on the bottom, so your motion rocks this back and forth if you don’t have stable footing.

Cardio workouts, strength training, and overall resistance training are all achievable on SereneLife

 

There’s decent glide on the seat, but you might have to WD-40 this in the future if it starts to feel a bit shifty. Cardio workouts, strength training, and overall resistance training are all achievable on SereneLife, especially when you work in the LCd screen that displays real-time information based on your input as you row.

You can track progress and extend that data to an app to build a profile of your overarching use of the rowing machine. It’s versatile and easy to use, however, SereneLife only includes a one-year warranty with your purchase.

This basically only covers you against manufacturer defects, which means that long-term damages aren’t going to be covered unless it can be directly linked to a problem during manufacturing. That’s going to be hard to do.Ideally, you won’t need to call on that warranty. Fortunately, you have a good customer service team behind SereneLife, so even if you do run into problems you’re good to go.

They’re a good brand to deal with and make an excellent machine, albeit a bit heavy and hard to store. Once this is built, you’re going to need leverage to tilt this up and store it vertically in the room.

 

Sunny Health & Fitness Elastic Cord Budget Rower

Sunny Health & Fitness Elastic Cord Rower

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We could all do with sticking to a budget, and when it comes to choosing a workout machine, since big costs come into play. One of those comes down to brand new rowing machines, which is why Sunny Health & Fitness budget rowing machine creates a lineup of inexpensive home gym equipment.  It’s a lot less expensive than the Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower, which costs 3X more.

 

The Sunny Health and Fitness is one of the best home rowing machines

The Sunny Health and Fitness is one of the best home rowing machines. Starting from the top down, this inexpensive design is made with lightweight construction. This entire fitness magnetic rowing machine weighs just 43 lbs, making it extremely simple to store in your home when you’re not using it. Position it upright, stow it in the closet; it’s easy enough to move based on the weight distribution. The heaviest part is going to be the resistance plating.

However, with a lightweight design comes a few disparities in the build. The maximum user weight limit here is only 220 lbs, which isn’t much at all. If you’re getting a rowing machine for weight loss, this might be a deal-breaker, because you really don’t want to exceed the maximum weight cap.  It also has just 4 resistance level. Which is good enough for most people, who aren’t in serious training.

Sunny Health & Fitness is better suited for maintaining an already trimmed body or just trying to maintain a good workout regimen with extremely low weight loss goals in mind.

The resistance type here is magnetic, which is exactly what you want to see. The only difference is that you’re using an elastic cord to row with instead of a more durable material. It’s built thick and sturdy, so you won’t run into tearing or major issues, but it’s still not the most comfortable thing to row with.

I don’t want to come down on Sunny Health & Fitness. They made a great budget-friendly rowing machine, and it comes with some awesome benefits. For one, there are performance stabilizers, which are designed to keep your rowing machine nice and rigid during use. Nothing is worse than everything rattling around while you’re just trying to bring up the intensity level of your workout.

Your resistance knob is easy to use, and the digital monitor is bright enough to be usable. The thing is, it doesn’t display a whole ton of information, so if you’re looking for trending info on your health to track your progress over time, you’re going to need a Garmin watch, FitBit, or some additional apps. That’s one of the main reasons that Concept2 tops this list—they give all of that to you.

 

Rowing Machine Buying Guide & FAQ

Is Rowing Good if You Have Bad Knees?

Is Rowing Good if You Have Bad Knees?

Everything is situational, of course. It depends on the user, it depends on health conditions, but generally rowing is actually good for your knees. Even though you are engaging your knees during rowing, you’re actually strengthening the muscles instead of wearing them down or damaging them.

Because a rowing workout uses about 70% arms and 30% legs, you’re starting out small with dynamic movements.  A rowing machine gives you about as close to a full body workout while also beiing low impact,so it’s easy on your joints.

It’s like working up from 10 lb dumbbells before you get to the 40 lb ones – your legs and knees endure low-level, low-stress engagement and build those critical muscles before you start engaging in other physical activities.

What Are the Main Benefits of Rowing Machines Compared to Other Cardio Machines?

Cardio in general is a good thing, but there’s a reason that other machines exist and that people have their preferences. Each cardio machine works out different muscles, and has a different maximum caloric burn on an hourly basis.

  • Minimal Joint Impact: Every dynamic movement you make reduces the impact on your joints, maximizing your overall effectiveness without degrading your body. Some exercises and other cardio machines put your joints through their paces and calcify certain areas, but with a rowing machine, you don’t have to worry about that intensity.
  • More Calories Burned: You might row for thirty minutes or struggle running on a treadmill for thirty minutes. The difference is in the dynamic movements: you’re burning calories in a completely different way, instead of solely focusing on just elevating your heart rate by running as fast as you can. Because you’re engaging more muscle zones—which we’re going to talk about in a minute—you burn more calories in a less stressful way.
  • Muscle Workout: It’s not just about cardio: the strength exercises means you can work out anywhere from ten to twelve muscles all at once,. If you only practice cardio on a treadmill, there’s less movement and less areas are being exercised and accessed. With a rowing machine, all that engagement helps to evenly burn calories across your entire body.
  • Compact Design: Treadmills aren’t convenient. With a magnetic rowing machine, you can easily pick it up from one side, stand it upright, and strap it to the wall or put it into your closet. It’s not a big deal. You can then put other workout equipment in its place, which is extremely helpful if you have a smaller home or available home gym area. You can even keep it in your living room.

Why is Rowing on the Machine Better Than Running on the Treadmill?

 

Why is Rowing on the Machine Better Than Running on the Treadmill?

 

Impact. Most of the reasons that people choose rowing machines over a treadmills.ellipticals or recumbent bikes is because of the impact on your joints. Rowing machines still require you to bend your knees, but like we talked about earlier, the pressure and tension is distributed elsewhere. It’s not all in your joints. Plus, because it simulates the rowing motion you experience on water, you get a killer workout even on an indoor row

With a rowing machine, you can get in excellent, core cardio without having to use your legs nearly as much as you would on a treadmill or bike. You have the ability to put more of the pressure in your arms, so long as you keep your legs positioned appropriately for sliding on the seat, you’ll have a good rowing experience.

Over time, stress on your joints can cause long-term pain that might impair your ability to exercise in the first place. That’s obviously the last thing that any of us want to happen, so it’s important to keep joint health in mind.

You can position yourself to mostly row with your arms, simply using your legs/knees to keep your form proper and mitigate the stress on them.

How Long Will a Concept2 Rower Last?

Concept2 is known as the most durable, long-lasting rower on the market, and for good reason: they’re not built cheap, they include state-of-the-art technology, and they include outstanding warranties (as well as replacement parts). Essentially, they’re the most durable piece of home gym equipment you could buy.

A Concept2 rower will last for ten to twenty years with moderate maintenance and levels of care.

You could easily get one of these to last for thirty years if you actually take care of it properly and get replacement parts directly from Concept2. I would not recommend using third-party aftermarket parts here, but otherwise, you’ll do okay.

Rowing to a Leaner You

Rowing is one of the best full-body workouts that you can possibly do

Rowing is one of the best full-body workouts that you can possibly do. While the Concept2 is still the best rowing machine out there, these alternatives still give you an excellent workout regardless of what your goals are. It doesn’t take a lot of money to get started with indoor rowing.

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