Our top ten chart highlighting the best rowing machines on the market was in need of a little attention!
We therefore gave things a reshuffle, removing four older models and replacing them with more appropriate rowers. These additions included the state-of-the-art Hydrow Magnetic Rower, the popular Merax Water Rowing Machine, the hydraulic Kettler Kadett Rower, and the affordable Fitness Reality 1000 Plus.
The benefits of rowing are too hard to ignore, with full-body muscle activation and calorie annihilation available to those willing to put in the hard work.
Table of Contents
Thankfully, to enjoy these benefits, no longer must you head out on open water to row, nor must you visit a gym. This is because a staggering choice of at-home rowing machines are available at surprisingly good prices.
In this article we are highlighting ten of the best rowing machines on the market, able to deliver a solid rowing workout at home. We feature high-end, midrange and entry-level options to suit every budget, as well as all kinds of resistance style – from hydraulic rowers to water rowers.
After the chart, check out our complete guide to buying a rowing machine for your home. We offer all you need to know before making a purchase, as well as covering a few questions you may have in our FAQ section.
Enough talking, it’s time to dive into these rowers!
Resistance Type: Magnetic
Resistance Levels: Computer controlled
Weight Capacity: 375lbs
Features: Two forms of resistance, inertia-enhanced flywheel, SpaceSaver design, quick-adjust pedals, SoftTouch ergonomic handle, 5” LCD screen, built-in speakers, 10” Portal 10i tablet, built-in workout programs, iFit compatibility
While it’s not the most premium rowing machine on the market, the RW500 from NordicTrack offers everything a top pick rower should – high performance, good versatility, useful features and great value.
In terms of versatility, the RW500 knocks it out of the park, offering both air resistance and magnetic resistance (the latter with 26 levels to choose). This makes it ideal for both HIIT sessions and steady-state cardio.
This rower also features a SpaceSaver design, so you can fold the rail upwards to reclaim a little floor space when you aren’t exercising. Meanwhile, the RW500 is well-stocked with a 5” backlit display screen and integrated speakers, while also being bundled with a 10” Portal 10i tablet to watch iFit videos as you work out!
Resistance Type: Water
Resistance Levels: None
Features: Sustainable ash/honey oak frame, Xeno Muller signature on side rails, ergonomic seat, 17” handle, S4 Performance Monitor, online workout library
Next, a popular water rower brought to us by both a trusted rowing brand and a respected rowing athlete – it’s the WaterRower Xeno Muller Signature Edition.
As the name suggests, this rower was designed in collaboration with the record-breaking US Olympian. It features a stable frame made from ash and honey oak, with Xeno’s signature on the side rails! Noticeable additions include both a wider handle and lower footrests for an unrivalled range of motion.
In action it’s as smooth and responsive as you’d expect from a high-end WaterRower unit, with the water resistance offering a quiet and consistent performance. It also comes with a good quality S4 Performance Monitor, as well as access to an online rowing workout library.
Resistance Type: Air
Resistance Levels: 10 levels
Features: Steel/aluminum frame, nickel-plated steel chain, commercial-grade seat, backlit LCD monitor, built-in workout programs, built-in games, transportation wheels, 500lb weight capacity
Next on this list is an absolute titan in the rowing industry – and the fitness industry in general. This Concept2 Model D is a mainstay of gyms around the world and is the ideal air rower for home users serious about their fitness.
It’s certainly not the most attractive or compact unit on this list, yet it is built like a rock with a gym-grade performance. It is smooth and responsive, with ten levels of drag available thanks to a drag slider placed near the fan wheel.
It also comes with a good backlit LCD monitor featuring a range of workout metrics, as well as several preset workout programs and even some games. Heart rate monitoring comes courtesy of both Bluetooth and ANT+ compatibility. Surprisingly good price tag to boot!
Resistance Type: Water
Resistance Levels: 4 levels
Features: Natural wood and tempered steel frame, Fluid resistance adjustment dial, adjustable footboard and pedals, upright storage, LCD monitor, transportation wheels, 330lb weight capacity
Truth be told, there are several high-end water rowers on the market that could have fit in this spot on our chart, although there is something inherently cool about the Row HX from Life Fitness – another big-name brand.
This rowing machine makes use of a compact frame crafted from natural wood and tempered steel, for a mix of strength and elegance. It’s a very functional machine with a smooth and consistent performance and authentic feel.
Notably, this water rower features a very convenient resistance adjustment dial – no need to add or siphon off water every time. Up top, you will find a solid LCD screen offering everything you need in terms of workout feedback and exercise programs.
Resistance Type: Water
Resistance Levels: None
Features: American ash and aluminum frame, fixed footplate, upright storage, LCD monitor, transportation wheels, 330lb weight capacity
The A1 is another popular WaterRower machine, although one of the more compact high-end water rowers on the market, with a length of just under 7ft.
WaterRower makes use of durable and sustainable American ash along with black powder-coated aluminum to craft a strong frame that copes with users up to 330lb. The comfortable seat wheels along two rails for a smooth performance, complemented by the water adding authentic resistance.
There is no easily-adjustable resistance dial as you may find on other high-end rowers, yet you can fill the tank to different levels to suit your ability and goals. The built-in LCD screen offers a wide range of metrics, including time, watts, intensity, speed, 500m time and calories.
Resistance Type: Water
Resistance Levels: 6 levels
Weight Capacity: 330lbs
Features: Compact design, inclined water drum, steel frame, large contoured seat, 20” ergonomic handle, built-in LCD screen, competitive race mode, transportation wheels
The Merax water rowing machine is another very popular rower that sits in the mid-range market. One of its biggest selling points is how compact it is both in use, as well as afterwards – tip it onto its end and store upright to reclaim your floorspace!
When in use, you can’t tell that it’s a compact model as the action is smooth and natural. This water rower makes use of an angled water tank for plenty of resistance, although you can tailor this to your liking depending on the level to which it is filled (six to choose from).
Using the Merax water rower is comfortable and sturdy, taking users up to 330lbs, thanks to its strong steel frame, long ergonomic handle and large contoured seat. A great choice for smaller homes.
Resistance Type: Hydraulic
Resistance Levels: 12
Weight Capacity: 287lbs
Features: Powder-coated high-carbon steel frame, industrial-strength hydraulic pistons, thick padded seat, non-slip rotating handlebars, biomechanically-correct footplates, high-resolution LCD screen, infrared earlobe clip sensor
While hydraulic rowers tend to be seen as entry-level rowing machines reserved for beginners and people on a budget, the Kadett from Kettler is one that obliterates this stereotype.
The Kadett justifies its mid-range price tag with its build quality – it’s made in Germany to a high standard and to take a considerable weight (287lbs). This compact and foldable rower features quality components, such as a powder-coated high-carbon steel frame, with two industrial-strength hydraulic pistons.
These pistons are adjustable to 12 positions, giving you some versatility as you row. With two independent rowing arms, using the Kadett is pleasant and natural. A small high-resolution LCD screen and an infrared earlobe clip for measuring heart rate completes this popular rower.
Resistance Type: Magnetic
Resistance Levels: 14 levels
Weight Capacity: 250lbs
Features: 39” slide rail, nylon rowing belt, large ergonomic seat, foam-padded handlebar, anti-slip pivot foot pedals, 3.5” LCD screen, Bluetooth connectivity, transportation wheels
One of the stars in the entry-level rower market is the 1000 Plus from Fitness Reality. In addition to being a solid machine, it allows you to connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone app to track your workouts and reach goals – a nice touch.
For the sub-$300 price tag, the rower itself ticks a lot of boxes. There’s a steel frame with a 39” slide rail to accommodate users over 6ft and up to 250lbs. The twist dial at the front allows you to choose between 14 levels of magnetic resistance.
In addition to standard rowing, the 1000 Plus features front foot pedals – stand on these, grab the padded handle, and you can perform a range of upper-body movements such as bicep curls, lateral raises and overhead presses. This versatility certainly increases the value of this one!
Resistance Type: Magnetic
Resistance Levels: 8 levels
Features: Lightweight build, double padded seat, large LCD readout, downward-tilted seat design, tension knob, transportation wheels, 264lb weight capacity
This popular and stylish magnetic rower from Merax indicates the start of the more affordable section of this chart, coming in at around three hundred bucks. However, low price doesn’t mean low quality, as it offers a solid at-home rowing workout.
This is thanks to a sturdy build that holds users up to 264lbs, while remaining lightweight (at 74lbs). It also folds and wheels away, so is a worthy consideration for smaller homes. The Merax rower offers eight levels of magnetic resistance, for a smooth, quiet and consistent performance.
Of course, secondary features are naturally a little limited, yet it sports an LCD screen that offers a couple of workout metrics – although no built-in programs. Still, for the price, it’s hard to beat!
Resistance Type: Hydraulic
Resistance Levels: 12 levels
Features: Steel frame, ball bearing rolling system, aluminum slide rail, multi-function LCD monitor, 250lb weight capacity
While hydraulic resistance may be the least popular rowing machine resistance system, rowers such as the Stamina BodyTrack Glider 1050 fly the flag high for piston power.
At under $150, it’s an incredibly cost-effective rower, although is still built to last, with a 250lb weight capacity – the sturdy steel frame takes care of this. It features one hydraulic cylinder attached to separate rowing arms, with a 12-level resistance selector for surprising variety.
In use, it does the job – of course, it’s nothing compared to the high-end rowers we feature, but for a fraction of the price it’s pretty smooth and quiet. It also includes a clear LCD monitor to give you a glimpse at your workout stats, including time, stroke count and total strokes.
As you will have seen from our top ten chart, no two rowing machines are identical – in fact, some are incredibly different from others. This is usually down to two things: the price range and the resistance style.
Whatever your reason for rowing, you may want to only shop for one specific style. Maybe you saw that cool machine on House of Cards (it’s a unit from WaterRower by the way) and had to have it. Maybe you are shopping on a tight budget and can’t go higher than $300.
We hear you. This is why we have categorized a range of the best rowing machines into their own separate sections, allowing you to browse the markets you care about in more depth. Let’s take a look…
Hydraulic Rowing Machines
We start with hydraulic rowers – the least glamourous and least popular style in the rowing world, but one that still gets the job done.
This system makes use of one or two hydraulic cylinders for a smooth and cost-effective – if not entirely consistent – rowing workout. If you are looking for a silent machine that is compact, lightweight and very affordable, then a hydraulic rower may be your best bet.
Magnetic Rowing Machines
Magnetic rowers represent the majority of home rowers on the market and are seen in all price categories.
Rowers with magnetic resistance are easy to produce and therefore pretty affordable to buy. Yet, they are more popular than hydraulic rowers as they are more consistent and versatile – thanks to easily adjustable resistance levels – while remaining as smooth and quiet in action.
Water Rowing Machines
Along with air rowers, water rowers are the most popular rowing machine on the market – although they come in at a much higher price. You can certainly find some in the midrange market, yet for the most popular models you need to open your wallet a bit further.
Water rowers use a tank of water acting on a fan wheel to offer a realistic resistance feel and sound which can be quite therapeutic! If you like smooth and challenging resistance – and are partial to a stylish wooden frame – water rowers may be the way to go.
In addition to resistance styles, we have also sorted rowers into price categories. We start with this budget section, which includes rowing machines costing up to $300.
Despite the entry-level price tag, you can find some very good machines that will have you questioning why anyone would spend more. While water rowers are out of the question, this section is mainly full of machines using hydraulic resistance and magnetic resistance, with one or two air rowers dotted around.
Increasing your budget to around $500 gives you even more options, while remaining very reasonably priced. If your budget allows, this is a great place to start as the rowers are more advanced, with sturdier frames and more versatility.
You will still find magnetic rowers, with a few more air rowers available. If you are interested in water rowers, you will also first start to see them in this range.
If you can afford to spend up to $1,000 on a rower, then you can enjoy a serious machine built for daily use. Of course, you can spend well over this amount for a more premium machine, but one grand is about all most of us will ever want to spend.
This range is dominated by water rowers and air rowers, although other styles are still around. You will come across more advanced features, with bigger LCD screens, built-in workout programs and heart rate monitor connectivity.
Now you’ve seen some of the best rowers on the market and are aware of the different ways you can categorize these machines. So, how do you determine which is the best rowing machine for you?
In the following sections, we walk you through the key points and features you will come across when shopping online for a rowing machine, including the design, resistance systems and extras.
By the end, if you pay attention, you’ll be sure that the machine you are buying will be the right one!
While the individual manufacturer, price range and resistance system will determine the final look of the machine, the majority of rowers will feature a familiar design.
There will be a long slide rail on which your seat slides back and forth. When sitting on the seat, your feet will be strapped into pedals at the front, and your hands will hold onto a handlebar (or, in the case of some, two separate rowing arms). At the front of the machine is where your resistance will be – a magnetic flywheel or a water tank, for example.
As we mention, the resistance system and price will largely determine any of the variations on this theme. For example, most basic rowers have a steel frame, while more advanced units will incorporate aluminum to keep the machine strong but lighter in weight. Meanwhile, expensive water rowers use visually appealing wooden frames.
There is plenty of aesthetic variety out there and, if you have the cash, you can choose the model that best suits your tastes and living room!
More importantly than visual appeal, is whether or not the rowing machine will fit in your home and accommodate you.
Fitting Your Home
You could buy the best rowing machine ever made, but if you live in a studio apartment and it doesn’t fit, it’s not going to be much use!
Therefore, the first thing you should do is measure the space where you intend to use the rower, then check this with the measurements listed by the manufacturer or marketplace.
Sometimes these measurements are not listed – in this case, you need to make an assumption. Know that an average rowing machine is around 8ft long and 2ft wide. Work off this basis. It’s better to have too much space than too little.
Also be aware of whether you plan to leave the rower on permanent display, or want to store it when not in use – either in a closet or in the corner.
For example, if you have a high-end water rower with a beautiful wooden frame, then you will almost certainly want to leave it out for everyone to see. If, however, you have purchased a budget model with a steel frame and plastic components, you may not want it on display all the time – neither may you have the room for it.
If this is the case, the good news is that many rowers have folding frames, where the slide rail folds vertically, reducing the overall footprint and making it easier to store. Even if it doesn’t fold, some machines can be turned 90-degrees, so you can store them upright. Again, this reduces the amount of floorspace drastically.
Fitting Your Body
Fitting you house is one thing – now you need to ensure the rowing machine fits you. Again, you will require the measuring tape along with a weighing scale.
Unfortunately, not every manufacturer highlights the height range of their units, but some will state the ‘inseam length’. This measurement is the length of the inside of your leg. Measure yourself, then check that length against what the manufacturer or marketplace states, if this information is available.
If this information is not available, you have two further options. Firstly, check out some user reviews on places like Amazon. This will allow you to gauge whether or not the machine is appropriate for someone of your height.
For example, if five people are saying that it feels a bit cramped, you can probably assume that somebody over 6ft 2” is not going to have the best experience.
If there are no user reviews, assume that if you are between around 5ft and 6ft in height you will be fine. Thankfully, most midrange to high-end machines in particular are very accommodating of multiple heights. Be more cautious in the budget zones.
After height, be sure to check your weight against the weight capacity of the machine. Luckily, this is a stat that is almost always listed by the manufacturer. For example, if you are around 300lbs, you don’t want to buy a machine with a weight capacity of 250lbs – so be aware.
Stick to the right side of the weight capacity and you will not stress your machine too much, resulting in a smoother and more stable ride.
Having seen our category breakdown above you will know that there are several styles of resistance available on rowing machines – even more than you’d find on other fitness equipment like an exercise bike.
Let’s break down the kinds of resistance you may come across when shopping, along with a few of their pros and cons.
First up, don’t get too used to seeing machines with incline resistance. These are very rare, but still worth mentioning. These basic rowers make use of your bodyweight as the resistance, moving you around as you row.
These machines are very simple, which makes them both cheap to purchase and easy to put together. They certainly can deliver a substantial workout if you use them correctly and for long enough, although more advanced users will outgrow them very quickly.
Of course, the disadvantage is that they don’t deliver the smooth rowing experience of a more traditional rower. They are also not particularly versatile. Still, if you are on a severe budget, incline rowers are worth checking out – if you can find them. The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5720 is a good place to start.
Another lesser-seen resistance style is hydraulic resistance – also known as piston resistance. These machines tend to use either one or two hydraulic cylinders attached to individual rowing arms, with pressure from the air and oil inside acting against you as you row.
The advantages of hydraulics are that these tend to be very quiet units, while they are also very affordable. Because the rowing arms work independently of each other, they can be used to address muscle imbalances in either arm or for rehab work.
There are issues with this resistance style. One of these is that they never feel as natural or smooth in use as air, water or magnetic resistance.
Another is that, as the workout goes on and the oil inside the cylinder warms up, it becomes too fluid and loses some of its resistance. This can be a problem, as it means the start of a workout can feel a lot different the end of a workout.
Of the entry-level and midrange price categories, rowers using magnetic resistance are perhaps the most common.
They feature a metal flywheel at the front of the unit, with magnets poised nearby ready to slow the wheel and create resistance. The closer the magnets move to the wheel, the tougher the resistance feels.
Magnetic resistance delivers a very smooth and quiet experience, which is perfect if you enjoy rowing late at night or while watching TV. These machines also offer varying levels of resistance, so you can set your level and it will stay at a consistent intensity until you change it.
Of course, this is also a perceived problem with magnetic resistance – the consistency. These preset rigid levels do not feel as natural as more dynamic systems, such as water or air.
If you want to go from a slow row to a high-intensity sprint, you have to manually adjust the resistance, which can disrupt your flow. They are therefore great for a steady row, but not ideal for HIIT.
Air resistance is seen as one of the best resistance systems for rowers, used by everyone from fitness beginners right up to professional athletes. They are also the most common style found in commercial gyms around the world.
These machines feature a fan wheel housed in a cage or case, which spins as you row to deliver a smooth and authentic rowing experience.
Unlike magnetic resistance, there are no set levels – you determine the intensity. The harder you row, the faster the air hits the fan and the tougher the rowing feels. This makes air resistance a very dynamic system and perfect for HIIT sessions, as you can accelerate and decelerate naturally.
Some more expensive rowers will feature a damper/drag slider, which determines how much air can actually hit the fan, giving you some manual adjustability.
The caveat is that air resistance can be much noisier than something like magnetic or hydraulic resistance. A good air resistance rower is also typically more expensive than a good magnetic rower. Other than that, they are an excellent choice!
Rowing machines using water resistance are also seen as one of the best systems to use, although are certainly more of a feature in home gyms and living rooms than commercial gyms. These rowers use a fan wheel submerged in a tank of water to create the resistance as you row.
Like air resistance, water is smooth and natural in its feel. Of course, as you are literally moving water when you row, it’s the closest you will come to actual rowing without renting a boat and heading to the lake!
These machines are certainly noisier than their magnetic counterparts, although the sound of water swishing around the tank as you work out can be very pleasant.
Aside from the noise, the only real disadvantage of a water rowing machine is that they are considerably more expensive in general. You can find affordable versions at around $500, yet for the best rowers you are looking at more like $1,000-plus.
Pretty much every rowing machine spanning all price ranges will have a small computer of sorts. On a budget machine, this may be as basic as a tiny LCD strip offering a scan of your key workout statistics, like your time, speed, distance and estimated calories burned.
If you spend more on your rower, you are entitled to expect something more substantial – perhaps a 5.5” backlit monitor with workout feedback and a range of preset programs. Additional data on these machines may include things like strokes per minute, total strokes, 500m time, RPM, room temperature, and heart rate.
Preset programs are often only available on midrange rowers and above. These may include workout programs for interval training (such as 20/10 or 10/10); targets (such as meeting set times or distances); or goals (like fat burning).
As for heart rate, rowing machines typically do not include a built-in heart rate monitor, even on higher end machines. You may notice that equipment like a budget elliptical or midrange treadmill offer pulse pads in the handlebars, but rowing machines are a little different.
From the midrange and above you will find some rowers include the option to connect to an external heart rate monitor, such as a chest strap or a fitness tracker watch. This will usually be via Bluetooth or ANT+, with your data readout displayed on the screen.
On a rowing machine, we define secondary features as those things that make the whole experience more comfortable and convenient.
Starting with the comfort side of things, you are connected to the rowing machine by your hands, your feet and your butt. Regardless of the price or resistance style, all three points of contact should feel secure and comfortable as you row.
Look for a rower with a padded seat – these are not difficult to find. Of course, shopping in the higher-end of the market will result in a wide, durable and nicely-contoured seat, while in the entry-level range you are often lucky if the seat is even padded.
Your feet should rest on footplates, secured by either plastic or Velcro straps. Some of these plates will be flexible and pivot, while others will be fixed firmly to a board – as is usually the case on water rowers.
Finally, regardless of whether your machine has a traditional T-bar or a pair of independently moving arms, the handles should offer some sort of non-slip grip to keep your hands in place throughout the workout.
On the convenience side of things, rowers are pretty limited – and don’t go expecting much in the way of entertainment, such as touchscreen TVs or built-in speakers!
However, occasionally a rower will offer something like a media shelf. Here, you can rest your smart device and follow rowing workouts on an iPad or watch a movie on NetFlix – providing you have headphones or your rower isn’t too loud!
Water bottles holders are also occasionally a feature, but not having one isn’t a deal-breaker. Ultimately you are close enough to the ground to leave your drink nearby without too much inconvenience.
Have you taken a look at our top ten chart above? Some of the very best rowing machines for home use are listed there, from high-end commercial-grade units to budget rowers.
You may be tempted to look at the top of that list and say, ‘Ah, so that’s the best rower!’ then go and immediately buy it. But not so fast!
While a premium air or water rowing machine may be the most desirable rower, it’s up to you to decide whether or not it is the best machine for you.
Space and price are both very important factors in determining the best rower for your home.
For example, would such a rower actually fit in your home? If you live in a smaller home, an apartment, a dorm or a condo, having an 8ft rower that doesn’t fold or move away certainly won’t be the most practical of units – even if you use it every day.
Price is as important. If you have a small budget, you need to shop in the relevant price categories for you. If you have a big budget, you should always invest in a higher-end machine – going for an entry-level model may not give you the performance you deserve.
Your goals are also worth paying attention to. Are you planning to use the machine as your sole fitness activity? Or are you planning on just having a weekly session when you can’t get to the gym?
If you are planning to use the machine every day, investing in a higher-priced and more durable (not to mention feature-rich) rower will serve you better in the long run than opting for an entry-level model.
Ultimately, there is no right answer. You must factor in your budget, space requirements and goals to determine which category to shop in – then go shopping!
It’s no secret that spinning has reigned supreme in fitness studios around the world over the past decade. However, rowing is starting to gain as much of a following, with rowing studios regularly opening across the country.
This brings up the question of which cardio activity is better – spinning or rowing?
Both are very different in the way they position and activate your body, although they share some similarities.
In particular, the way they can both build up your cardiovascular endurance and leave even the fittest of people drenched in sweat by the end of a high-intensity session!
Both spinning and rowing are also low-impact and non-weight bearing activities, which makes them ideal for people with poor joint health.
Which one is better for you will depend on your goals. If you are looking to lose weight, for example, a session on both a good spin bike and a rowing machine will burn significant calories.
While it largely depends on your intensity and current weight, you are likely to burn around 400 to 600 calories with an hour of spinning and around 600 to 800 calories rowing for the same time. So, rowing may be slightly better in this instance.
This may come down to the fact that rowing is a full-body workout; recruiting your arms, back, legs and core throughout the motion. Spinning certainly involves your core and stabilizing muscles, although it is more certainly a lower-body exercise.
However, spinning may be easier for beginners to get to grips with, as rowing requires more discipline when it comes to using correct form. The entire body needs to work in unison to correctly catch, drive and finish, when compared to simply pedaling on a spin bike.
If you are considering buying one of these machines for your own home, we also need to look at the cost and space each takes up. The value is around the same, with a midrange indoor bike comparing similarly to a midrange rower in terms of quality.
When it comes to space, spinning bikes are more convenient as they take up a considerably less space than a typical rower.
If possible, we advise trying to incorporate both spinning and rowing into your exercise routine – there is room for both!
Using a rowing machine is a popular way to work out – just ask the likes of Hollywood icons Jason Statham and Zac Efron, who are both famous fans of the familiar cardio machine.
However, whether or not it will get you in shape depends largely on what you class as ‘in shape’. Do you mean muscular? Or having ripped abs? Or increasing your endurance and boosting your cardiovascular health?
Either way, using a rowing machine can help with all these fitness goals. However, using a rowing machine alone probably won’t get you the results you desire.
To elaborate, if you are looking for ripped abs, you need to lower your bodyfat percentage to around 10% or below. If you are up in the 20% and 30% ranges and nursing a substantial belly, rowing alone will not be enough to see abs.
Ultimately, you need to combine the calorie-burning potential of rowing (around 600 to 800 calories per hour, depending on your intensity and weight) with a good diet that puts you in a caloric deficit. You need to do this consistently – not just for a few days or a week, but for a few months.
You can burn around 1lb of fat per week by being in a 500-calorie deficit every day, so – providing you stick to a good diet and incorporate some rowing – you can torch a belly in a few months. The fact that rowing also helps develop your core does not harm your six-pack when those abs are eventually revealed!
If you want to build muscle, then a rowing machine can help to some extent. A rowing machine uses around 85% of the muscles in your body, including those in your arms, legs, back and core.
With little to no weightlifting experience, you may find the resistance on a rower is enough to challenge you and spark your muscles into growth. However, soon enough the resistance on a rower will become too low for hypertrophy (building muscle), which is when you must turn to traditional weightlifting or calisthenics.
If bigger muscle is what you are looking for, then investing in a good pair of dumbbells or a decent home gym – or even just using your gym membership – will serve you better in the long run when compared to using a rowing machine.
How fast you should row will come down to your goals. For example, the pace you would use when building strength is different from the pace you would use during a HIIT session.
In general, slower stokes require more strength, while faster strokes demand more endurance over a longer period.
If you are aiming to build your rowing strength, focus on slow strokes – around 17 to 20 strokes per minute. If you are aiming for a general steady-state cardio workout, then around 24 to 28 strokes per minute is ideal.
If your goal is to build more stamina, a sprint stroke of anywhere between 30 to 36 strokes per minute will be desirable – although you will struggle to keep this up for long. That’s why higher stroke rates are perfect for high-intensity training.
Most good rowing machines will offer an LCD monitor offering you a readout on your strokes per minute. This is a great way to judge if your pace is correct for your goals.
Regardless of how slow or fast you row, keep in mind that for any of it to be effective you must follow good rowing form. There are countless online guides and videos offering the correct rowing technique, so be sure to check them out. If in doubt, consult a personal trainer or one of the staff at your local gym.
Rowing machines are quickly becoming seen as one of the most effective forms of cardio, with a total-body workout and huge calorie burn the reward for anyone who can stomach a high-intensity session.
As our chart will have shown, the marketplace is full of quality rowing machines spanning all kinds of price range, resistance style and size, meaning you can enjoy a good row in the comfort of your own home – wherever you live.
This is just the beginning. Take the information in our guide and go for a good browse. You may find something you really like that isn’t covered on our charts.
Good luck with whatever rowing machine you end up with!