The 8 Best Rowing Machines to Buy in 2018

Stay in shape with one of the best cardio machines around

You’d be hard pressed to find a cardio machine that works your body harder than a rower — it targets the upper and lower body muscle groups while getting your heart rate up for improved cardiovascular fitness. Stationary rowing also burns tons of calories — Harvard Medical School says even moderate exercise on a rowing machine for 30 minutes can burn up to 316 calories in a 155-pound individual. Not sure which one to buy? We stroked the best rowing machines for your home gym, no coxswain required.

The key to this commercial-grade rower is the combination of air and magnetic flywheel resistance. Together, they allow the machine to smoothly adjust resistance as it follows preset programs or manually through 16 levels of magnetic resistance. Use the strap on the included heart rate monitor to track your heart rate, and the on-board computer automatically adjusts the resistance based on your heart rate level. The LifeCore R100’s sturdy extruded aluminum frame with steel supports and an integrated silent drive system make for a quiet row, and the R100’s quick-release frame lock system allows you to easily fold the rower for storage.

This is the best price you’re going to find on a magnetic resistance machine. The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5515 is one of the latest entries to the market, a sub-$400 rower with a magnetic tension system for eight levels of adjustable resistance. Magnetic tension resistance makes this one of the quietest machines around, expertly engineered seat rails deliver a smooth slide with each stroke and the steel frame supports users up to 250 pounds. The basic LCD computer displays time, stroke count and calories burned. The machine’s footprint is minimal — 51-inches long by 10 inches wide — it weighs just 59 pounds, and it folds up for easy storage. 

If you’re just getting started with rowing, looking to add the occasional rows to your workout, or looking for the best calorie burn for the buck, check out the new Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5606. This machine uses an elastic cord resistance system with four levels of adjustable tension. Large anti-slip foot pedals keep your workout on track, while the oversized angled seat and nonslip handles make for a comfortable row. A basic LCD console displays time, stroke count and calories burned. The sturdy steel frame supports up to 220 pounds and folds up for simple storage.

The Concept2 Model E is perfect for at-home rowing, and its magnetic fly wheel puts you in control of the exertion and resistance. A spiral damper system allows for quick adjustment of the airflow to the fly wheel to put you in control of the stroke feel while also minimizing noise. Concept2’s PM5 Performance Monitor is backlit, compatible with USB flash drives and facilitates wireless heart rate monitoring with Garmin and Polar products (sold separately). This machine’s 20-inch seat height is chair-level, making it easy on knees while the nickel-plated chain and housing minimize maintenance requirements.

Craving a row on Boston’s Charles River or Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River? If you love rowing but are landlocked, check out the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine for the best boat simulating workout possible. The machine’s water flywheel puts two paddles in an enclosed tank of water for a smooth, quiet stroke. There are no moving parts, so the machine can hold up for the long haul; you won’t even have to lubricate or maintain the recoil belt and pullies. WaterRower’s water flywheel is a self-regulating resistance system: paddle faster and increased drag provides more resistance, paddle slower and the resistance is less intense. According to WaterRower, the Natural works 84 percent of your muscle mass and remains low impact while moving your limbs and joints through the full range of motion. The on-board monitor displays your workout intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, zone bar, duration and distance, and it also is compatible with third-party heart rate monitors.

Air resistance rowers provide a realistic rowing experience at a fraction of the cost of the hydraulic systems, making this one of the best pieces of equipment you can add to your home gym for under $400. With Stamina’s X Air Rower, the harder you row, the more intense the workout. The steel frame is strong enough to hold up to 250 pounds, but also is versatile enough to fold up for easy storage. A basic on-board monitor tracks distance, calories burned, speed, time, number of strokes and strokes per minute.

With a footprint of just 32.5 inches by 48 inches and weighing only 47 pounds, this workout is worth the precious square feet it takes up in your apartment, and it easily stores in a closet or corner. The Stamina 1205 is a hydraulic cylinder action rower with a ball bearing roller system for a smooth stroke and a quiet workout that won’t enrage your neighbor or roommate. A simple, single-button monitor displays speed, distance, time, stroke count, calories burned and miles rowed. 

Make fitness fun for your children with the Redmon for Kids Fun and Fitness Multifunction Rower. This simple, pint-sized hydraulic rowing machine is perfect for kids that need to burn off energy or drop a few pounds. A sturdy steel frame keeps the machine safe, and the handles are padded for extra security. Best of all, it’s easy for mom and dad to assemble, and comes with all the tools required to put it together.


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