Best Budget Rowing Machines

Anyone that wants to take their home workouts to the next level should consider investing in a rowing machine. This extremely useful piece of equipment, also known as an ergometer, provides a full body workout with one fluid yet challenging motion. This necessary addition to any home gym simulates the action of rowing a watercraft with the help of a handle/chain, foot stretcher, seat and rail.

Top 10 Home Rower

Concept2 Model D

It’s one of the highest rated rowing machine in Amazon. Weighted just 55 lbs, the Concept2 Model D rower is extremely sturdy. It will surely exceed your expectation with its smooth slide and comfortable rubber seat. This is the best indoor rower for any home, if you are willing to spend $900.

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

This hugely popular compact home rowing machine has thousands to review on Amazon. One of the main reason for its popularity is the price (Under $130). We are ranking it number 2, because of its budget price, real rowing action, build quality, easy assembly and compact footprint.

ProRower H2O RX-750 Home Rowing Machine

We are ranking it over the WaterRower is mainly for being $400 cheaper. This extremely satisfying rower makes a comforting wooshing sound at every row. You can infinitely adjust the resistance by adding or reducing water from the tank. This commercial grade rower is supported by H2O Fitness’s two-year warranty.

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine

Price under $1200, this one is the most expensive rower in our list. But everything about this rower screams quality. This handcrafted rowing machine with water flywheel is built to last a lifetime. If we had to rank rowers solely based on quality, this one would have been number one. This beautiful piece of equipment ensures a fulfilling workout at every session.

Kettler Favorit Rowing Machine

The German made Kettler Favorit Rowing Machine has a circular rowing motion that is perfect for training at home or in the office. This rower features an adjustable tilt of up to a 45-degree angle, folding oar levers with a continuous force adjustment and extra thick hand grips, and two hydraulic cylinders to control resistance, of which there are 50 adjustable levels.

Sunny Health and Fitness Rowing Machine

The Sunny Health and Fitness Rowing Machine is a valuable addition to any home gym or office setting. Compact, portable, basic, and affordable, this rower is great for anyone new to the rowing workout regime, or to exercising in general.

Stamina 1215 Orbital Rowing Machine

The Stamina 1215 Orbital Rowing Machine with Free Motion Arms is a compact and budget-friendly rower that is designed to make you feel as if you were actually rowing through water. The Free Motion Arms target your upper body, putting emphasis on toning and strengthening your arms, shoulders, core, and back, while the seat rests on a ball-bearing track this is perfect for working out your lower body.

Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower

The Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower allows its users to get a highly effective workout in the comfort of their own home. Featuring a Drum Magnetic Control System, or DMC for short, an electronic tension control, and a foldable frame that makes it convenient for storage when not in use, this rower is great for both novices and enthusiasts alike.

Stamina Air Rower

The Stamina Air Rower is designed to give its user a smooth, solid, and comfortable rowing workout at home. 66% cheaper than the higher end rowers you see in the gym, this machine is definitely worth every penny, and is perfect for a low-impact and full-body workout. By using wind for its rowing resistance, the Air Rower allows the user to determine the resistance..

HCI Fitness Sprint Outrigger Scull Rowing Machine

The HCI Fitness Sprint Outrigger Scull Rowing Machine is a hydraulic piston rower that gives the user the genuine feeling of rowing on water in a compact and sturdy steel design. This rower uses two pistons; one on each arm.

Rowing is a great addition to any fitness plan. As stated previously, it is able to provide a full body workout. Many think that only the upper body is targeted when in fact rowing machines work the arms, shoulders, back, abdominals, engages the core, quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings. In addition to recruiting numerous muscle fibers to assist in the development of lean muscle mass, rowers are on the top of the list in terms of calorie burn. Experts have discovered that using an ergometer burns 10-15% more calories than other forms of cardio. Ergometers also increase stamina and endurance with regular workouts. The key to reaping all the benefit of this essential piece of home gym equipment is proper use. To start, position yourself onto the seat with knees bent. Once the lower body is bent, maintain a neutral spine with arms and shoulders reaching forward. After achieving the correct catch or starting position, initiate the rowing movement by driving the feet into the machine’s platform, pull the chain/handle towards the chest while slightly leaning backwards. Along with proper form, each movement must be fluid just like rowing a boat.

A rowing machine is a home gym must have mainly because of its effectiveness and ease of use. Although it offers a very intense full body workout, rowers can be used by anyone whether they are a beginner or an athlete. The motion involved is pretty straightforward. Along with effectiveness and ease of use, rowers reduce the chance of experiencing an exercise related injury. Workouts not only increase flexibility but are considered low impact. Yes rowing is intense and targets several muscles but it is very gentle on joints, especially the knees. This means users can train hard without running the risk of injury all while enjoying high impact cardiovascular exercise. A variety of models are available to fit almost any budget. Some have a water resistance system while others offer magnetic resistance and include features like a foldable design, adjustable foot rests and a large, easy to read monitor for progress tracking.

Types of Rowing Machines

Rowing machines, also known as ergometers, are exercise machines used to simulate the movement of watercraft rowing. They feature a sliding seat, resistance mechanism and chain/handle although the specific layout does vary. Those considering investing in a rowing machine or individuals tempted to try one at the gym will benefit from knowing the four types of rowers out there. The major difference between each type is the resistance mechanism. The four types are air resistance rowing machines, magnetic resistance rowing machines, water resistance rowing machines and piston resistance machines.

Air Resistance Machines

Air resistance rowing machines feature a flywheel, similar to the ones found on elliptical trainers, with a fan blade. The blade connects to and is controlled by the handle. As the user glides the seat and pulls on the handle, he/she creates wind resistance. The level of resistance is determined by how hard and fast the user rows. Faster, more powerful motions increase the resistance by causing the blades to move more quickly while slower, gentler rows generate less resistance. Depending on the model, users may also be able to adjust resistance with a damper lever. Although noisier than other types, the air generated by the flywheel emits a cooling breeze.

Magnetic Rowing Machines

Magnetic rowing machines are smooth and quiet. Resistance is created by a magnetic break system that slows the flywheel thus promoting a higher work output. These magnets are located inside the flywheel. Unlike air resistance rowers, the resistance level is set prior to starting a workout rather than being determined by work output. Users simply adjust the resistance level, take a seat, grab the handle and start rowing.

Water Resistance Rowers

Water resistance rowers best simulate actually being out on the water. Not only is the water element present but so is the relaxing sound. The enclosed water tank on this type of machine houses paddles and when the user pulls on the handle, the paddles move which moves the water inside the tank.  The water and paddles create natural resistance so the harder and faster the user pulls, the greater the level of resistance. Although they are not very portable, water rowers are exceptionally built. They are constructed of wood, often sourced sustainably, are very quiet (aside from the gentle noise of the water) and offers a lot of workout variety since resistance is determined by work output.

Piston Resistance Machines

Piston rowers are the affordable and more compact type of rowing machine. Hydraulic pistons connected to separate handlebars with attached cylinders provide resistance that can be manually adjusted by the user, although some do not offer variable resistance. As the user rows and pulls back on the handles, air builds in the cylinders to create resistance. Due to their portability and compactness, most models have a fixed seat and limited range of motion making workouts upper body specific. Depending on specific needs, this may be a fair trade since most piston resistance rowing machines can easily fold for convenient storage.

How to Use a Rowing Machine

Everyone can benefit from knowing how to properly use a rowing machine. Knowledge is the only way to reap the benefits without risking injury. Operating a rowing machine is pretty straightforward. It is a manual machine that gives the user complete control but that amount of control requires that the user knows what he or she is doing. The way to do that is perfecting form and technique.

The Basics: Step by Step

Those who have never used a rowing machine might look at one and say, “Ok, what’s next?” The first thing you want to do, aside from adjusting the resistance, is sit on the seat with your body facing the resistance mechanism located at the front. Once you are comfortable, place your feet on the foot pads and strap them in (most rowing machines have straps). When strapping your feet in, make sure that the strap sits across your foot bed. As for the tightness of the strap, you want it tight enough to secure your feet in place but not so tight that it cuts off circulation.

Next is the catch. This is when you grab hold of the handlebar. To do this, bring your knees up and slightly bend your torso towards your legs as you reach and grasp the handlebar. During the catch be mindful of the alignment of your spine. After grabbing the handlebar, start rowing by using the legs to push off the footplate (this is the drive). Straighten the legs and engage the core as you pull the bar towards your chest which will also engage the arm muscles. Once the handlebar lightly grazes the chest, you want to keep the shoulder blades together as you finish the movement and allow the handle to retract as you bend the knees to glide the seat forward. After the rowing motion is complete, return to the catch and repeat. This is also known as the recovery phase. The only difference is not having to grab hold of the handle.

What Not To Do

Don’t Neglect the Legs

Many get on a rowing machine and solely work their arms when in fact 60 percent of the work done on a rower should be from the legs. To use the machine properly, users much push with the legs, pull with the arms and use the core for stabilization.

Don’t Hunch

As previously said, posture is crucial in preventing strain and injury on a rowing machine. Users should keep their spine straight. You always want to avoid rounding your back.

Don’t Rush

Rushing will only compromise form. Before you know it the seat of the machine will be hitting the heels of your feet and your upper body will be awkwardly jerked around as a result.

Don’t Mess with the Order

To reap the full body benefits of rowing, don’t mess with the order. Push with the legs, engage your core, start to lean back and pull with the arms. It is that simple.

Don’t Set the Resistance Too High Too Quickly

Start low and increase resistance gradually so you can perfect your form and technique.

Benefits of Rowing Machines

Rowing machines offer an excellent full body workout that is easy on the knees. The hamstrings get stronger with every push, the core is engaged as you stroke and the arms are put to work with each pull. The best part is the fact that rowing delivers all this with little impact on the joints. Every motion (when done right) is smooth yet challenging. The full body benefits alone are enough to encourage everyone to start rowing but they don’t stop there. Below are the benefits of using a rowing machine.

Ease

To row the right way all you have to remember is catch, drive, finish and recover. Using a rowing machine is very easy and anybody can do it. Fitness level does not matter. All users have to do is sit on the machine, get used to the flow of the rowing motion and complete the workout. It is really that simple.

Delivers Heart Pumping Cardio Exercise

Rowing is an endurance workout that strengthens the heart by improving heart function. With every stroke, heart rate increases, the body is working harder, that organ is becoming stronger and eventually the body adapts to performing at a more advanced level. To give you a better understanding, cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart by keeping the arteries open. While rowing, arteries expand and contract more which increases blood flow along with elasticity. In addition to benefiting the heart, the cardio delivered by rowing machines improves the respiratory system by increasing lung capacity. If cardiovascular exercise is what you’re after, keep resistance low and up the speed without compromising technique.

Weight loss

Rowing machines deliver a great cardiovascular workout and builds lean muscle mass so of course it helps with weight loss. Rowing significantly increases a person’s calorie burn since the entire body is engaged, multiple muscle groups are engaged and heart rate is increased considerably. Remember, you have to burn more calories than you consume to lose the pounds.

Muscle Mass

If you are after muscle mass, rowing can help. Just increase the resistance to build lean mass. Almost every muscle in the body is put to work with rowing. The legs, core and arms have been mentioned but rowing also assists in developing the quads, glutes, shoulders, back and the abdominal muscles. With a challenging resistance level, rowing can be compared to weight training with cardio thrown into the mix. Who wouldn’t want to benefit from that? The presence of lean muscle increases resting metabolism meaning the body burns additional calories at rest. Yes, you can burn calories doing absolutely nothing.

Stress/Tension Relief

If overcome by stress, you had a tough day at work or just need to blow off some steam, row the stress and tension away. Rowing does this by triggering the pituitary gland, a small structure located at the base of the brain, to release endorphins. Once released into the body, these hormones boost mood and make you feel better physiologically. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers after all.

Tips for Buying a Rowing Machine

Having a rowing machine available for home use is a great way to get or stay in shape. All you have to do is find the right one for you. To do that, consider your needs as well as your fitness goals and the amount of space you’re working with. In addition to the mentioned considerations, it is important to go in as an educated shopper to make a smart purchase. Here are a few tips for buying a rowing machine.

Set a Budget

It is obvious why this is first on the list. When you want to buy a rowing machine, you can only spend as much as your budget allows. When setting this budget, keep in mind that it’s better to spend a little more for a quality product made with durable materials than go with an inexpensive machine that isn’t going to last very long. In the end, a higher budget will save a lot of money. As for price range, low end models range from $200 to $400 while some of the best on the market can be anywhere from $800 to $2,500.

What Type Do You Want?

After setting a budget, consider the type of rowing machine you want. As you know, the type of resistance is the most distinguishable characteristic of rowing machines. Air resistance machines use a fan and blade to give users control over the resistance level with speed and power, magnetic ergometers feature a magnetic break system while water rowing machines have a water and paddle tank which produce a very realistic user experience and piston resistance rowing machines use hydraulic pistons attached to cylinders to increase or decrease resistance level. All are more than capable of delivering an excellent workout and are available at a variety of price points.

Consider Your Space

It is highly recommended that you measure the space you have available so you can compare it to the dimensions of the models being considered. Rowing machines are longer than other exercise machines but those with limited space do have the option of a foldable, easy to store rower.

Think About the User or Users

If you have long legs or simply want a machine that people of different heights can use, look for machines with seat rails of an adequate length. Those with a need for more length can rule out compact rowing machines.

Check It Out In Person

A rowing machine is not something you want to buy online. Even if you make the actual purchase online, go check it out in person first. When it is in front of you, look at the materials. In addition to assessing durability and overall quality of construction, make sure the handlebar has good grip, ensure that the seat glides smoothly and try it out. You have to like it before you buy it.

Watch Out for Warranties

Any rowing machine should come with a minimum 1-year warranty but higher end models offer 2-3 years. Warranties are important because they cover parts and labor if a maintenance issue arises.

Rowing Machine Workouts

Rowing machines will add a lot of variety to your fitness plan. With an ergometer you can improve your cardiovascular fitness, build muscle, burn fat and much more. To take advantage of all that these amazing machines have to offer, you need a few workouts to try. Below you will find one high intensity rowing workout, one that focuses on muscle and the third is all about endurance building and stress relief.

HIIT Rowing Workout

A rowing machine makes it easy to get a great cardio workout that promotes heart health, boosts lung function and assists in weight loss. A great way to reap these benefits quickly is high intensity interval training. Below is an amazing workout that will get you towards your goals in half the time.

You will need: Rowing machine

The Workout

Total Duration: 15 minutes* Complete the following circuit 3-8 times depending on your physical fitness level.

  • Warm up – 3 minutes at a comfortable pace
  • Row – 1 minute at 25-30 strokes per minute with RPE at 8-9
  • Recover – 1 minute with RPE at 2-3
  • Row – 1 minute at 25-30 strokes per minute with RPE at 8-9
  • Rest – 30 seconds
  • Recover –  1 minute with RPE at 2-3
  • Row – 1 minute at 25-30 strokes per minute with RPE at 8-9
  • Rest – 30 seconds
  • Row – 1 minute at 25-30 strokes per minute with RPE at 8-9
  • Cool down – 5 minutes

Muscle Building Rowing Workout

People hear rowing machine workout and think they solely have to use the rower. They allow users to build lean muscle mass but to really confuse your muscles and achieve the mass you want, consider mixing rowing with other muscle building exercises. For this workout you row then get off of the machine to perform both body weight and weighted moves, return to the machine and repeat.

You will need:

  • Rowing machine
  • Exercise mat
  • Set of dumbbells

The Workout

Total Duration: 20 minutes

  • Warm up – 5 minutes at 20 strokes per minute with RPE at 4
  • Row – 2 minutes at 25-30 strokes per minute with RPE at 8
  • Jump Squats – 1 minute with RPE at 5-6
  • Row – 2 minutes at 25-30 strokes per minute with RPE at 8
  • Weighted Russian Twist (hold one dumbbell) – 1 minute with RPE at 5-6
  • Row – 1 minute at 25-40 strokes per minute with RPE at 8-9
  • Bicep Curls – 2 minutes with RPE at 5-6
  • Rest – 30 seconds
  • Plank – Hold for 30 seconds
  • Cool down – 5 minutes

The Stress Reliever

If you are looking to blow off some steam and increase your endurance, try this workout. It is intense and will dramatically increase your performance over time. With this workout you are going to cover 1000 meters after a nice warm up. A cool down will follow and then you’re done! Check it out.

You will need: Rowing machine

The Workout

Total Duration: varies

  • Warm up – 5-10 minutes with RPE at 4
  • Row – 1000 meters at 24-28 strokes per minute at 4-6 RPEOnce your body adjusts to this workout, up the intensity and /or the distance. If looking for something more advanced, give this one a try:
  • Warm up – 5-10 minutes with RPE at 4
  • Row – 1000 meters at 24-28 strokes per minute at 4-6 RPE
  • Recover – 5 minutes with RPE at 2-3
  • Row – 1000 meters at 24-28 strokes per minute at 4-6 RPE
  • Recover – 5 minutes with RPE at 2-3
  • Row – 1000 meters at 24-28 strokes per minute with 4-6 RPE
  • Cool down – 5-10 minutes with RPE at 4

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