Best Rowing Machines for Exercise

Tamsen Butler
Couple on rowing machines

Rowing machines are a great way to get some low-impact cardio while building your upper body strength. If you're looking to purchase a rowing machine for your home, your best bet is to figure out what type of machine you want, then choose from among the best of those.

Rowing Machines With Pistons

The least expensive and easiest machine to store is a rowing machine which uses hydraulic pistons as resistance. The pistons are attached to the arms of the machine, which can make the rowing motion slightly choppy but fairly quiet. The following model are among the best piston-based rowing machines.

Best Durable Rower: Concept 2 Model D Rower

Rogue Fitness offers this popular rower that boasts reviewer designations of "best rower on the market" and "best addition to my home gym." The Concept 2 Model D Rower was named best home rowing machine by the Rowing Machine King website. Durable and ergonomically designed, this rower is a favorite in CrossFit gyms (boxes). The Garage Gyms website says the Concept 2 Model D's $900 retail price is impressive for a commercial-grade rower used at home.

Best Low Price Rower: Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050

Top Fitness Magazine calls the Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 one of the best, most affordable home rowing machines. Unlike other rowers that feature a bar attached to a cable for pulling, this machine has two bars that mimic the feel of using oars to row a boat. The compact size and low price of just over $100 at Walmart make it a good choice for someone who wants a starter piece of cardio equipment for a home gym.

Magnetic Rowing Machines

Magnetic rowers are silent; electromagnets control the amount of resistance on the wheel at the machine's front and make for an adjustable workout. Magnetic rowers are larger and bulkier than pistons. The best magnetic rowers include the following models.

Best Rowing Experience: NordicTrak RW900

Featuring silent magnetic resistance and a screen that allows you to enjoy virtual rides or join live streamed sessions with trainers, the NordicTrak RW900 Rowing Machine has been called the "Peloton of rowers." The best feature of this rower is the streamed sessions where a certified trainer takes you through a workout and remotely adjusts your settings, increasing or decreasing the intensity throughout the session. Available for around $1600, this rower is a good investment for an exerciser who needs an extra push and motivation from an outside source.

Best Affordable Magnetic Rower: Merax Indoor Magnetic Rower MS037153BAA

An excellent beginner rower for home use, the Merax Indoor Magnetic Rower MS037153BAA costs around $260. Best Fitness Equipment says this machine is one of the most affordable magnetic resistance rowers available. It features quiet operation and a built-in meter to track your workouts. Amazon reviewers praise the price, the lack of noise, and how compact the unit is, making it easily stored.

Air Rowers

The air resistance rowing machine is the one most often used by professional rowers in off seasons. The resistance becomes harder the faster you work, accurately duplicating the effect of rowing a boat through water. These machines can be very noisy. Some of the top models of air rowers include the following.

Best Low Cost Air Rower: Stamina X Air Rower

The Stamina X Air Rower is a wind resistance rower with multiple options. It monitors speed, distance, time and calories burned, while large footplates and an over-sized seat make for a comfortable ride. The rower folds easily for storage and can hold users up to 250 pounds. Customer reviews praise this machine for its low cost and durability and reviewers at Top Fitness Magazine calls the Stamina X Air Rower "tough and durable." Buy for around $400.

Best Quiet Air Rower: BodyCraft VR200 Pro Rower

The BodyCraft VR200 Pro Rower is a durable rower that will stand up to vigorous workouts. Available for just under $900, this machine gets high marks from Rowing Reviews, who praises the compact size of the unit - making this a good option for people who want an air rower for their home with limited space. Featuring six levels of resistance and surprisingly quiet operation for an air rower, customer reviews include ample mentions of the unit's durability.

Water Rowers

Similar to the air resistance rowing machine, a water rower's resistance increases the faster you pull. You also have the added ability with a water rower to further customize your workout by adding or removing water from the reservoir. The result is an endlessly customizable workout perfect for multiple users of all fitness levels. Top models include the following.

Best Water Rower: WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut

A beautiful unit, the WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine provides not only an excellent workout, but it is also attractive enough to stay on display in your home. Made from wood obtained from replenishable forests, this is one piece of cardio equipment that also serves as a conversation piece. Priced at around $1500, Amazon reviewers call the machine a "work of art" and mention wanting a unit after seeing it on HBO's series House of Cards. Reviews.com says this rower provides the best rowing experience available from a home rower.

Start Rowing

No matter what type of rower you end up using or purchasing, you'll be sure to get a great resistance, cardio and strength training workout in one. Give any of these rowing machines a shot the next time you're looking for a low impact exercise, and experience it for yourself.

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Best Rowing Machines for Exercise