Stamina ATS Air Rower 1405

Best Rowing Machines

What should you look for when buying a rowing machine?

The best rowing machine on the market today are undoubtedly made by either Concept2 or Waterrower.  My personal favorite is the Concept2 Model D as it comes closest to the real action of being in a scull on the river and that the monitor surpasses anything else on the market by a long way. It is self-calibrating, which means that it corrects itself against the machine’s true resistance. This can vary with air humidity or altitude! This is why there is a big online Concept2 rowing community, which hold races on the internet. How cool is that!

That being said, if you are not into all that and just want a high quality and beautiful looking machine, then one of Waterrowers range would be the way to go. It is virtually silent, has a very smooth action and can be easily stored just by standing it up on its end against the wall.

Other top rowing machines include the Lifecore Fitness R100 , which is a rower usually found in a gym. It is a very solidly built air/magnetic resistance rower with a big monitor. It performs well and allows you to control everything from the computer including the sixteen levels of resistance and the various training programs. The lifecore rower comes with a heart rate monitor.

The last one I have chosen in the beat rowing machines category is the Velocity Fitness Magnetic Rower. For starters its a few hundred dollars cheaper that the other two, but is built very well and will last a long time. As the name suggests, the resistance is generated using a magnetic system, which makes it feel different to the other rowers as there is no change in the impedance during the stroke.  This is irritating to a rower like myself, who is used to being on the water, but as pure fitness machine (as we all know nothing compares to rowing for that) it is a great choice, especially at that price.

 Concept2 Model D / E 

Best Rowing Machine - Concept2 Model DThe Concept2 Model D is a leader in it’s class. Used by the top rowers worldwide. The computer monitor is second to none. Read more…

The best price I found was on Amazon at $900


Best Rowing Machine - Waterrower NaturalThe Waterrower wins the prize for the most aesthetically pleasing machine.  A fantastic rower with a great action.

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Amazon price – $1095

Lifecore Rowing Machine

Best Rowing Machine - Lifecore R100Fitness center level machine.  Uses Air/Magnetic resistance. Quiet, has a large monitor with a number of training programs. Come with an HR monitor.

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Amazon price – $1299

Velocity Fitness Magnetic Rower


Best Rowing Machine - Velocity CHR-2001 Magnetic Rowing MachineSleek-looking anodized aluminium machine, which uses a Drum Magnetic Control System to provide resistance. Comes with a heart rate monitor that displays on the monitor. It is very quiet.

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Amazon Price – $630 (reduced from $799)

What should you look for when buying a rowing machine?

You cannot really say “what is the best rowing machine” as they vary so much according to budget and requirements. You have to decide whether you need an air, magnetic, water or hydraulic resistance. Is the accuracy of the computer important? How often will it be used? How much money do you have to spend? In order to help answer a few of these questions I have compiled a list of key rowing machine features to look for.

Rowing action

There is not a single rowing machine on the market that can 100% mimic the action of a scull (racing boat with two oars per oarsman) on the water. There are a couple of huge contraptions with outriggers and complex pulley systems that come close, but these are the exception rather that the rule and you would have trouble fitting them in your living room.

There are four parts to the rowing actionThe catch is where you are at the forward most part of the stroke and ‘catch’ the water in the oar blades. In a scull, at the moment of the catch, there is little resistance as the boat is moving. The drive is the period of pushing with your legs and pulling with your arms and back. The resistance increases during this phase and drops off again just before the finish, which is where you pull the blades out of the water. The recovery is the motion of moving forward for the next catch.

So if you are looking to simulate the rowing action as closely as possible, the Concept2 and the Waterrower come the closest.

The Seat

This may seem like a small point, but a comfortable seat is vital. Look for one that is firm but spongy.

The footrests

Many of the machines on the market have badly situated footrests, which can lead to an awkward rowing action and knee pain. You need to make sure that they are big enough for your feet and have heel rests that can lift away from the plate that you push against.

The computer

These vary enormously from machine to machine. Again, it depends what you’re looking for, but I would want one that gives me the most accurate and consistent readout of my workout as possible. When it comes to meters rowed or calories burned, many are just plain wrong. The most accurate on the market is the Concept2’s PM3 or PM4. Both are used in competitions as the can compensate for the change in resistance that occurs with changes in air conditions.


Air – This is where there is a big drum at the front of the rower with effectively a fan inside. You can adjust the resistance by opening or closing a baffle, that generates a vacuum inside the drum.

Magnetic – An electro magnet applies resistance to a steel flywheel. This is controlled by the computer and requires AC power.

Water – Patented by Waterrower, this is a system of blades spinning in a tank of water. Resistance increases when you pull harder and the base level is adjusted by varying the amount of water in the tank.

Hydraulic – Tends to be used with cheaper machines with outriggers. Does not simulate a rowing action on the water well.

See the Comparison Chart of all the reviewed rowing machines