Intro Just as Halloween is quickly approaching and the gyms are packed with people desperate to shed a few extra pounds, dieting and other weight-loss…
Why are at-home rowing machines so popular right now? Because they offer a full-body workout in one compact piece of equipment.
Just ask Nick Karwoski, a Hydrow athlete, and triathlete. “Using a rowing machine is one of the most efficient ways to get a cardiovascular and strength training workout in a short amount of time,” he says. “You can easily get a total-body workout in 20 minutes.”
What is a rowing machine, exactly?
A rowing machine mimics what it feels like to row a boat, so you get the same resistance of water on a machine, increasing your heart rate and building strength. What also makes rowing more appealing to those who dislike running and other high-impact exercises like HIIT, is that it’s a low-impact workout that goes easy on your joints.
While rowing might appear to be mostly an upper-body workout, your legs and glutes are actually the main muscles driving your stroke.
“Rowing is 80% legs and 20% upper body,” Karwoski says. “But it also forces you to engage your core and back, so you feel completely connected from your feet to your shoulders. We live in an ever-stressed world, where we’re constantly sitting and rounding our backs, but rowing helps correct this by engaging those lats and sitting upright.”
How to use a rowing machine
Before you hop on a rowing machine, keep these form tips in mind. In rowing, there are four positions you need to know about the stroke: the catch, drive, finish, and recovery. The stroke begins at the catch. When you sit on the rower, you want to get your butt as close to the edge of the seat closest to the handlebar, bending your knees. This forces you to sit up tall and elongate your spine. It also helps you recruit your core.
When you’re strapping your feet into the foot stretchers, you want the straps to be around the widest part of your foot. This allows you to put weight on your feet and press hard on your toes during the drive. The drive is when you move the handlebar quickly into your chest, engaging your back and core muscles. “Press and generate momentum from the legs, hinging at the hips,” Karwoski says.
As you finish, move your hands slowly back to the catch position, but be sure to keep your legs and knees straight until the handlebar goes over your knees. This step is crucial, Karwoski says. At the recovery, your body follows the handlebar and the seat slides forward until your knees are bent again at the catch.
Ready to row? We’ve curated the 10 best rowing machines for an at-home, full-body cardio and strength workout below:
NordicTrack has been making exercise equipment since 1975, and when it comes to at-home rowing machines, the RW900 is the one to beat. The ergonomic, molded seat is made for comfort, and the 22-inch touchscreen display is easy to read. A 1-year iFit membership is included with your rower for personalized training that aligns with 26 coach-controlled resistance levels built into your machine. Even as you’re sweating like crazy, the RW900 works quietly. When you’re done, its “SpaceSaver” design allows you to fold it up for easy storage on transport wheels.
Magnetic Rowing Machine with LCD
You won’t get the personalized training built into fancier options, but this model has all the essentials needed for a powerful at-home rowing workout. Because it uses a magnetic tension system (featuring eight levels of resistance), this rowing machine is nice ‘n’ quiet. It also comes with a large LCD console that displays your meters rowed, calorie count, and time. And the fully padded seat, non-slip foot pedals, and handlebars make it comfortable to row so you can go the distance.
Model D with PM5 Performance Monitor
If you’ve ever used a rowing machine at the gym, chances are it’s from Concept2. Gym owners love it almost as much as online reviewers; an astounding 96% of Amazon customers give it a perfect five stars. One says: “This machine rides like a Cadillac. We live in an apartment, and my mom’s first question was, ‘Won’t the neighbor’s hear it?’ Answer: no. The fan is the only source of the noise. I can also watch TV at just over normal volume and hear everything.” The Model D can also record your workout data, from the number of meters you’ve rowed to your split time and stroke rate. And thanks to its caster wheels, you can easily move it around your home.
Hydrow Rowing Machine
Reviewers call this premium model “the Peloton of rowers.” You’ll need to invest in an additional monthly membership fee, but its 22-inch touchscreen display allows you to access live broadcasts from locations like Miami and the Charles River, or try any of the 400 pre-recorded river and studio workouts, all of which work your entire body. Your instructors include athletes training for the U.S. National Rowing Team. Every component of the machine is a commercial grade, including a 10-roller smooth gliding seat, HiFi speakers, and an embedded 2-megapixel camera. After your first 60 rows, Hydrow will donate to Water.org in support of safe water access and sanitation for those in need. Hydrow also offers special financing between 6 and 24 months.
Water Rowing Machine Rower
Unlike other rowing machines on this list, the Sunny Health & Fitness rower has 16 fan blades enclosed in a water tank, creating the same feel and resistance you’d get while rowing on the water. The LCD monitor shows your stroke count, calories, and distance, so you can create the perfect training plan for you. You’ll notice that without a fan-resistance feature, you’ll get a super smooth stroke and the only sound you’ll hear is the water swishing inside the leak-proof case. Despite some Amazon customers saying they’ve had issues with the footrest, the majority say they’re happy with their rowing machine purchase due to its price, easy installation, and water tank resistance element.
RW200 Rowing Machine
Another top pick from NordicTrack, the RW200 offers 24 levels of resistance—just without the personalized guidance you get with the 900. Still, it’s almost as good with the 1-year iFit membership, 20 preset workouts, and Bluetooth compatibility to sync to its app. There’s an adjustable console that comes with two speakers and a music port for you to plug in headphones. On the console, you’ll also find buttons to easily adjust the resistance. Again, NordicTrack also offers special financing. Stay on top of the 18-month payment plan, and you won’t pay additional interest.
The Velocity Exercise indoor rowing machine combines both electric tension and drums magnetic control, delivering resistance that’s both challenging and worthwhile. This magnetic rowing machine will also provide you with smooth strokes. Made with a sturdy aluminum frame, it gives you a sense of security while tackling rows at an all-out pace. There are adjustable foot straps and a deep, ergonomic seat that allows you to row comfortably. It also has a compact, foldable design, so once you’re done, you can store it away easily.
12 Adjustable Resistance Rowing Machine
Looking for a no-frills, compact rowing machine? Try this simple, sliding rowing machine that’s designed with 12 adjustable resistance levels for a challenging workout. This effortlessly moves as you push off with your legs while also targeting the upper body muscles with a handlebar that moves back and forth to mimic rowing. Check up on your stats with a small forward-facing monitor that displays the time spent rowing and calorie count right on the handle. In full transparency, this won’t give you a high-intensity rush like our earlier picks, but if you’re searching for something that’ll just get you moving, this compact option is it.
Stamina Rowing Machine
Using air resistance, this no-frills rowing machine gives what you put out. The harder your row, the more resistance you’ll get. Like other rowers on this list, it also has an LCD monitor that shows your speed, distance, time, and calories burned. Plus, there’s a padded seat and adjustable footplates.