Best rowing machine for 2021 – CNET

A rowing machine could be a smart and efficient choice for anyone looking to start a home gym or give an existing space a boost. This one piece of equipment offers enjoyable, full body aerobic workouts, and our picks for the best rowing machine survey a number of the leading styles on the market.

Before you shop, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each type of rowing machine.

Air rowers

  • Pro: Less expensive
  • Con: Noisier than other types

Hydraulic rowers

  • Pro: More space-efficient
  • Con: The rowing motion isn’t as smooth

Magnetic and water rowers

  • Pro: Quietest and smoothest types
  • Con: Usually more expensive

Every rower’s sensibilities will vary, but there’s undoubtedly a machine that can offer you the rowing experience you’re looking for. Here, we’ve selected our picks for the best rowing machine options, whether you’re totally new to rowing machines or well beyond beginner level, space-conscious, data-driven or looking for something pretty. 

Note that some of these picks for the best rowing machine options may be sold out or back-ordered due to production and shipping issues. Prices for the exercise equipment can change frequently online, but the below prices are accurate at the time of publishing. We’ll update this list periodically.

Vanessa Salas/CNET

The Hydrow is a rowing machine, antagonist workout class, personal trainer and AR experience all rolled into one. It provides a near-silent, ultrasmooth row thanks to its nylon pull and electromagnetic resistance, while its display shows your strokes-per-minute rate, calories burned and heart rate. (Although the Hydrow works with heart rate monitors, it isn’t compatible with wearables or smart watches.) If you make use of the display screen’s Live Outdoor Reality, you can feel as if you’re actually out on the water when you’re rowing. 

Aside from the indoor rowing experience itself, Hydrow’s rowing workout appeal comes from the variety of streamable class videos available through its class membership service. Rowing classes range in length from 10 to 45 minutes, while yoga, pilates and other full body workout options can run between 5 and 20 minutes. The only thing is, as you can see from the price, all of these additional features don’t exactly come cheap — not to mention that a one-year class membership ($456) and Hydrow’s vertical storage kit ($69) are both sold separately.

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Concept2

Members of Reddit’s fitness and home gym communities have been singing the praises of Concept2 in general and the brand’s Model D for a while now, and it’s fair to see why. At $900, it’s an investment piece that doesn’t feel like a splurge — and it helps that it’s designed to last. It’s durable, easy to maintain (its nickel-plated chain requires less frequent oiling than other rowing machines) and equipped with a smooth, quiet air-resistance flywheel. 

With such a dependable construction, it’s the perfect pick for a lifelong rower. At the same time, it offers enough bells and whistles to be more than a utilitarian machine. Chief among these features is the performance monitor, which tracks calories burned, pace, speed, distance and watts, and offers five different display options, including games to make your indoor rowing machine workout more fun.

Sunny Health and Fitness

With magnetic resistance (of which it offers eight levels) and an LCD display that shows your time, count and calories, among other stats, Sunny’s rowing machine checks all the essential boxes. In other words, it’s nothing fancy. Some reviewers pointed out that this budget rowing machine’s chain is pretty loud and its small display screen could be bigger and clearer. 

It has more than enough, however, to make a beginner into a rowing devotee. If you’re planning to store your rowing machine out of the way part of the time, it should be noted that, although this magnetic resistance indoor rowing model is foldable, some Amazon reviewers say this budget rower can be difficult to break down.

Stamina Body

At about 52 inches long, the Stamina Body 1050 rower is pocket-size in comparison with the other machines on our list. But we’d argue that’s this hydraulic rowing machine’s biggest draw — if you’re an apartment dweller or someone who doesn’t have the space for more than a couple of hand weights in your home gym, this should be your No. 1 indoor rowing machine pick. 

And just because you’re sacrificing size doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on a solid workout with this indoor rower: This chainless hydraulic rower model offers a wider range of motion when rowing, and its hydraulic piston system can be adjusted with 12 levels of hydraulic resistance. Meanwhile, its (admittedly pretty small) display monitors workout time, stroke count, calories burned and total number of accumulated strokes.

WaterRower

This rower lives up to its “natural” title with its solid wood design and water-based resistance, which allows smooth rowing strokes and gives a more realistic rowing experience. Plus, the WaterRower is designed to be quieter than conventional rowers, as wood tends to absorb more sound than, say, metal. 

As much as the WaterRower aims to create a realistic water rowing machine experience, you won’t miss out on your workout metrics, thanks to the performance monitor that tracks speed, intensity, time, distance, stroke rate and heart rate (if, that is, you buy WaterRower’s heart rate monitor kit as well). If you ask us, it’s easily the most aesthetically pleasing rower on this list. However, that sleek wood construction also means that, while it can be stored vertically, it can’t fold up to save space.

ProForm

This rower from ProForm boasts Stamina’s compact foldability, as well as Hydrow’s high-tech perks (with a lower price tag). The rower comes free when you sign up for a three-year family membership to iFit Coach, at $39 per month, for a total of $1,403. iFit Coach is a tablet-enabled app with a vast library of rowing workout videos and classes, plus helpful performance info like speed and heart rate, if you buy a separate iFit heart rate monitor ($75). 

The rower itself is equipped with a secure tablet holder above its metric console. Speaking of metrics, ProForm logs distance, time, calories burned, strokes and resistance stats. With 24 levels of magnetic resistance for a light or intense workout and iFit’s various classes available, this magnetic rower is great both for beginners and for more experienced rowers looking to level up.

Xebex

Often mentioned in the same breath as the Concept2, this rower is similarly high-quality without being too expensive. Its 10 levels of air resistance allow for great indoor rowing variability and its heavily padded seat keep longer workouts comfortable, but the difference-maker with the Xebex’s air rower is the extent to which it monitors your performance and improvement as a rower. 

For starters, it tracks your basic metrics like time, distance, strokes per minute, calories burned, watts, total strokes and heart rate (if you connect the rower to a heart rate monitor). But beyond those helpful stats, this rower also charts such measurements as average number of meters per stroke, average and max watts, max heart rate, and calories burned per hour. The Xebex makes it easy to stay up to date on your progress. It’s currently out of stock, but you can sign up for the retailer to let you know when it becomes available again.

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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