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Did you know that poor respiratory and cardiovascular health is closely linked to the symptoms of asthma? It’s true, which makes improving your respiratory and cardiovascular health a top priority for all asthmatics.

Did also you know that indoor rowing is one of the most effective exercises to improve cardiovascular and respiratory health? It is, and it’s why as an asthmatic I’m an avid indoor rower. It’s the core of my daily exercise routine, and I believe it should be part of yours’ as well.

I started to research the best rowing machines out there when I decided I needed to get physically active to treat my asthma.

And I’m happy to say that I’ve now used my rowing machine to effectively manage my asthma. In fact, regular home exercise plus other healthy lifestyle choices has helped me quit my regular ventolin use

So I’m a big fan of rowing, and I’ve learned that rowing is an awesome, total-body exercise, and that the best rowing machines are all easily available for regular consumers (ie, you don’t need to be a fancy gym owner to buy them). 

It’s true – having an indoor rowing machine is like having your own personal gym. Why? Because rowing is a safe, low-impact way to workout every part of your body, every day of the week.

So are you interested in finding the best rowing machines available in 2019?

If so, you’ve got lots to consider, such as size, price, quality and resistance type. It can be a bit daunting.

What turned out to be the best rowing machine for me (I’ll cut right to the chase: I chose the Concept2 Model D) might not be the best one for you.

Now I’m a bit of a data junkie. I spent months and months doing research, even scoping out local gyms to check out different models. Not everyone has that kind of time. 

That’s why I wrote this article: I want share what I’ve learned so you can have all the information you need to make the best decision, all in one place.

I’ve chosen what are widely regarded as the best rowing machines on the market, ranging in price from under to $200 to around $2000. Every machine listed here is well made and well reviewed. 

I’ve included a helpful breakdown table, so you can compare all the best rowing machines at a glance (jump to it here). 

Of course, I’ll also give you lots more information about each machine, too (jump to the comprehensive rowing machine reviews here). 

And before I get into the rowing machine reviews, I also give you some helpful info on what you need to consider before making your decision (told you this guide was comprehensive!).

Still on the fence about rowing machines? I’ll also go over some of the key factors that make this home alternative so appealing – plus some tips on how to use your machine when you finally get it home. 

There are so many great rowing machines on the market today. I’d be delighted to think my research can help you make the right choice, so that rowing can make your health and life better, too (and find my story about how rowing has helped me quit ventolin here). 

 

Best Rowing Machines Compared Infographic

The Best Rowing Machines 2019: Jump To The Reviews

 

I’ve jam-packed this article to make it the ultimate guide on how and why to find the best rowing machine for you. I’m passionate about rowing machines, because rowing helped to practically cure my asthma

But if you want to dive right in to find my reviews of the top models on the market (and don’t worry, I cover some budget options, too), then please jump right!

Skip to the comparison table here

Skip to all the best rowing machine reviews here:

Already know a model you might be interested in? Skip to these specific reviews:
Concept2 Model D
Concept2 Model E
WaterRower
Stamina Conversion II
Newport AR Rower
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine 
Harvil Hydraulic Rowing Machine

We’re going to cover a lot of information in this rowing machine guide. Bookmark this page now or email it to yourself so you can come back later if you need to! 

Introduction to Home Rowing Machines

 

So why I am obsessed with indoor rowers? Simply put, they are amazing machines.

Like the name suggests, home rowing machines simulate the strength and conditioning needed for rowing a boat though the water, which is a very strenuous activity. They’re great for world class level gyms, as well as your own living room or office.

Rowing is a low impact exercise, meaning it won’t strain your joints or leave your knees feeling sore the next day (big win).

Plus, while burning calories, rowing also makes your muscles stronger and improves your cardiovascular health. It’s a total body workout.

Everyone be a home rower, because the best rowing machines today are readily available and at a wide range of price points. 

Rowing machines aren’t all created equally, though, and they all require a bit of learning in order to use them most effectively (but don’t worry, it’s not too hard – jump to my section on how to use a rowing machine here). 

Different models of rowing machines will come with different price tags, use different technology to create resistance, and ultimately provide different results for different people. That’s why you need to know exactly what you’re looking for and what to expect before making your purchase. 

buying-a-home-rowing-machine-protip-graphic

What You Must Consider When Buying A Rowing Machine

 

woman using a rowing machineThere are 5 key things to consider when choosing the best indoor rowing machine for you:

 

Noise:

Do you live with your family or roommates? Would you like to workout late at night when others are sleeping? Or trying to watch tv or do homework? Rowing machines can be noisy. If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you might want to consider one of the quieter options (like the SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine ) that don’t use air resistance.

Space:

How big is your workout area? You’ll need space for your machine, plus need enough room to complete all parts of the stroke cycle (ie, you’ll need to be able to move your elbows out to the side of the machine).

Imagine a small row-boat in your living room and you’ll get an idea of what kind of space is required. There are smaller options (like the Harvil Hydraulic Rowing Machine), and the Concept2 Model D and Model E many can fold up when not in use.

Be sure to measure the free space in the room you’ll be using and check it against the dimensions in the table below

Storage:

Can you keep your home rower in the same place at all times, or will you need to store it away when not in use? If you’re in a small apartment, for example, you’ll need to know if and how easily your desired rowing machine comes apart for storage, like the Concept2 Model D.

Resistance Type:

What kind of rowing experience do you want? Are you practicing at home for a rowing team or just simply looking to get fit? Are you looking for a rowing machine that will simulate gliding through water or one that simply gives the best workout? Magnetic, air, water and hydraulic resistance options offer different features for different people – I discuss them more here.

Price:

I know this is the most important factor for many people. How much are you looking to spend and can you get the rower you desire with the features you need for that price?

Remember that a home rower works your whole body, and it’s low impact, meaning in theory you can row every day. If you get a high quality machine, you’re going to get a lot of use – and a lot of workouts – out of it. If rowing is your main exercise and you row daily (or even multiple times a week), then it’s a good investment – and probably cheaper than a gym membership in the long run

I’ve also made sure to include some budget friendly but still well regarded machines like the Harvil Hydraulic Rowing Machine.

Think you’ve got it down and are ready to jump to the reviews? Find them here

What Different Types of Rowing Machines Are Available?

 

Whether you’re a couch potato or a pro-athlete, rowing is the perfect workout (learn more about what makes rowing such great total body exercise here).

But all rowing machines are not created equally – there are big differences between models that affect your rowing experience.

Which home rowing machine is best for you comes down to your current fitness level, workout goals, and space and budget (as discussed above). I’ve reviewed the best rowing machines (jump to the reviews now!), but different features will appeal to different people.

The most important feature to understand before making your decision is resistance-type. 

Rowing machines mimic the movements of rowing through water. This is what makes it a fun and easy total body exercise that works the core, and strengthens the muscles and heart.

To mimic rowing, most indoor rowers have a seat that slides back and forth, along with grips to pull that simulate pulling oars.

It’s how each machine generates resistance when you pull the ‘oars’ that differentiates one rower and the next. There are four key types.

Magnetic-Resistance:

Magnetic rowing machines use magnets to provide the resistance for your workout. The SF-RW5515 (reviewed in more detail below) is a popular magnetic rower.

Magnets are heavy, so magnetic-resistance rowers tend to be heavier. Cheaper magnetic rower options may be lighter, but they may not provide adequate resistance for those with higher fitness levels.

The benefit to a magnet rower, however, is that they are almost completely silent, making them a great options for those concerned with noise. 

Air-Resistance:

Air-resistance rowing machines use what is called a “flywheel” to generate resistance using air. Basically, as you pull the handles of your rower, the flywheel spins in the air, like a fan, generating resistance.

The harder and faster you row, the more resistance you generate, therefore getting a more strenuous workout. You’re in the rower’s seat, so to speak, when it comes to how hard your workout is.

With air-resistance machines, everyone gets a workout that’s best for them, based on their fitness level, even though they’re using the same equipment. These rowers are therefore great if more than one person will be using it. 

Plus, as you get better, your workout will get harder, so it can grow with you. This is one of the main reasons why air rowers are among the most popular for home users and gyms alike.

Many of these rowers have dampers that can be adjusted to allow more or less air into the flywheel, so you can adjust the difficulty as needed on a day-to-day basis. The Concept2 Model D is considered the gold standard in rowing machines, and it is an air-resistance machineine with this feature. I review the Model D more fully below.

Water-Resistance:

Water resistance works exactly like an actual row boat. Its mechanisms pass through water, which provides the resistance that powers the workout. The WaterRower is a well made, very popular example. 

Similar to air resistance, water resistance increases and decreases the harder or softer you row, making this a good choice for different fitness levels. The water level can also be altered to adjust the intensity of your workout. 

Due to the weight of the water itself, water rowers can be quite heavy, which is an important consideration if you will have to move your machine when not in use. 

Hydraulic-Resistance:

Hydraulic rowers use mechanical pistons to provide the resistance for the workout. Because these hydraulic pistons are usually smaller than a water tank or a flywheel, they generally take up less space, which is nice if you’re working with a small space.

Note that hydraulic rowing machines limit the motion you will use while rowing, so they do not exactly replicate the stroke of actual rowing like air and water rowers do. They’re still great if you’re looking for an overall good workout, but they’re not the best choice for actual water-rowers looking to supplement their on-water rowing. 

Hydraulic-resistance rowers tend to be cheaper than other rowers, making machines like the Harvil Hydraulic Rowing Machine a good option for those on a limited budget.

The Best Rowing Machines At A Glance

 

Because I’ve already purchased a rowing machine, I’ve done the work and put in the research for you. After months of scouring gyms and Google, here’s the best reviewed rowing machines, considered by experts and home users to be the best (and yes, don’t worry – I’ve included some machines at lower price points, too). 

Keep reading to find more detailed breakdowns of these beauties. Here’s what you need to know at a glance.  

Model Resistance Dimensions Noise Level* Digital Display Storage Method
Concept2 Model D Air 96 x 24 x 44.5 inches Loud Yes Comes Apart Easily, Can Stand Upright
Concept2 Model E Air 96 x 24 x 20 inches Loud Yes Comes Apart Easily, Can Stand Upright
WaterRower Water 83 x 24 x 21 inches Quiet Yes Can Stand Upright
Stamina Conversion II Air 75.5 x 20 x 27 inches Loud Yes Can Stand Upright
Newport AR Rower Water 38 x 23 x 22 inches Quiet Yes Can Stand Upright
SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine Magnetic 82 x 19 x 23 inches Silent Yes Small Footprint
Harvil  Hydraulic Rowing Machine Hydraulic 50 x 36.2 x 20 inches Silent Yes Folds Upright – Small Footprint

*Don’t be too scared of going with a louder machine. ‘Loud’ for a rowing machine means it sounds like a loud fan. This is really only a concern for people using a shared space and/or who might be rowing at night. I use a ‘loud’ Concept2 Model D daily with no issue.

Choose YOUR Best Rowing Machine: The Reviews

 

Hopefully by now, you understand that there is no one best rowing machine that suits everyone. What works best for my ability, space, needs and budget might not suit you, and vice versa.

I knew I wanted to start rowing, because I have exercise-induced asthma and just didn’t want to get wheezy in a gym. I wanted something I could use at home to get a complete, full body workout (see how rowing helped me beat my asthma here).

So I spent several months researching the best options, and I’m sharing my top choices for the best rowing machines on the market. Ultimately, I went with the Concept2 Model D (a very, very popular option), but depending on your needs, all the machines below are generally well regarded in their fields. 

concept2-model-d-rowing-machine-graphic

96 x 24 x 44.5 inches

Air Resistance (Loud)

Minimal Assembly

Comes Apart Easily For Storage

Commercial Grade Quality – made of aluminum front legs and steel rear legs

Digital Display Included – connects wirelessly to heart belts and apps

Countless High Quality Features

Best Selling Rowing Machine in the World

Check Price & More Reviews on Amazon

The Concept2 Model D is the best selling rowing machine on the market. It’s widely considered the gold standard of rowing machines, and with good reason.

Definitely one of the best rowing machines out there, the Model D comes from Concept2, a fitness manufacturing company with a great reputation worldwide. It’s got lots of great features and uses high quality materials built to last. 

Overall, the Concept2 is designed for durability. In fact it’s so well made that it’s used for indoor rowing competitions and for submitting scores for recruiting rowing teams. It’s also quite popular with on-water rowers looking to enhance their practice at home. 

96 inches (ie 8 feet) long and 24 inches wide, it’s pretty big and accommodates most people, while being able to fold up to save space when not in use. It also has some handy wheels that make using it really easy. 

It’s an air-resistance rower, so it’s a bit noisy – one of the only drawbacks. That said, the flywheel on the Concept2 D is quite smooth – meaning it’s pretty quiet for an air-rower. 

One of the most popular features of the Model D is the PM5, the advanced digital monitor that tracks your performance. Accurate and user-friendly, the PM5 is USB-compatible. You can use a flash device to store your performance data or even monitor your heart rate wirelessly. Concept2 also offers lots of online features you can sign up for to make your workouts more challenging and exciting. 

The PM5 is backlit, features ergonomic buttons, can be adjusted for viewing, and collects power from the flywheel, extending the battery. Clearly, the manufacturers of the Concept2 Model D pay close attention to detail, in a way that makes this machine a joy to use.  

The ‘oar’ simulating handle of this rowing machine is also ergonomic, and its 14″ seat height make it comfortable to use. The footrest is secure and adjustable, making for a comfortable workout. 

Finally, because this is an air-resistance machine, you are in control of how hard you work. And, importantly, you can adjust the damper on the flywheel of this machine, making your workout harder or easier depending on your needs for the day. 

Plus, assembly is super simple – I’d guess it took me less than 4 minutes to get mine into place. The whole machine is simple and easy to use, so you can pretty much start rowing right out of the box (although I still recommend you learn about proper form first).

 

Concept2 Model E vs Concept2 Model D

 

As we just explored, the Concept2 Model D is one of the best rowing machines on the market. I also wanted to include the similar Concept2 Model E in this review, because it is a good choice if you need a higher seat height.  

As mentioned, the seat on the Concept2 Model D is 14 inches high, whereas the Model E is 20 inches high. 

The point of raising the seat is to make it easier to get on and off the rower. This can be an important feature if you have issues with your knees or hips, if you have limited flexibility or struggle with balance, or if you use a wheelchair. 

Otherwise, these two rowing machines offer the same high standards and quality. The Concept2 Model E is just as jam-packed with great features, including that great digital performance monitoring system. Their appearance is slightly different which may also affect your decision making process. 

 

WaterRower

waterrower rowing machine graphic

83 x 24 x 21 inches

Water (Quiet)

Stands Upright For Storage

Made from premium hardwood; Designed with rowers

Smooth, natural feel; Beautiful construction

Check Price & More Reviews on Amazon

If you’d like to replicate the feeling of rowing in water without actually, you know, getting your feet wet, then you’re looking for a hydraulic-resistance rowing machine. And hydraulic rowing machines don’t really come more highly regarded than the WaterRower Natural.

Designed with professional rowers, the WaterRower is all about giving you a lifelike experience while you row at home. 

 When you pull on your ‘oars,’ two paddles move through the water flywheel (basically, a small tank with water). This movement creates water resistance, which in turn fuels your workout. 

Importantly, the water flywheel on the WaterRower lets you adjust your difficulty based on your skill level (or just how you’re feeling on any given day).

Since your paddles are creating the drag, pulling harder creates more water resistance, and your workout gets harder. Essentially your WaterRower can get harder for you as you get better, ensuring that you always have a challenging, effective workout. 

Made with Ash Wood this machine is quite beautiful and offers a smooth workout. It’s not only elegantly crafted, but also high quality and durable, making it great for your home. It also comes with the S4 Performance Monitor, which will track and organize your workouts.

It’s not hard to see why this smooth, easy ride is popular. A final selling point is that it is very quiet, making this a great option for anyone working out in a shared space. It can be stored upright to make extra space, looks beautiful in your room,and is long lasting, making it a great choice for newbies and pros alike.

Also, please note that WaterRower offers a wide range of water rowers, some cheaper, some in stunning black walnut, and more. Any machine from this company’s line should be high quality and worth a second look if you’re interested in a water resistance rowing machine. 

 

Newport AR Rower

 

 

newport-ar-rower-rowing-machine-graphic

38 x 23 x 22 inches

Water Resistance (Quiet)

Easy Vertical Storage

Powder coated high quality steel frame

Adjustable resistance up to ‘Olympic sprint’ levels

Holds up to 300lbs

Check Price & More Reviews on Amazon

If you’re looking for a high quality, smooth alternative to the WaterRower, then the Newport AR Rower might be your best rowing machine. 

Designed for compact storage, this shiny red rowing machine is well made, well reviewed, and attractive. People especially like the smooth strokes of this water rower – and that you can adjust the resistance levels with a dial. 

People who choose water rowing machines do so because they find it a more true-to-rowing experience – especially professional rowers. First Degree Fitness’ patented Fluid Technology is designed to enhance this experience even more, replicating the sensation, sight, and sound of real on-water rowing captured in the private setting of your own home. 

The water will require a bit of extra maintenance. Nothing too complicated – you’ll just need to apply water treatment from time to time to prevent algae buildup. The water tank is made from solid polycarbonate material, and it’s recommended you keep it filled to its 17 litres (4.5 gallon) maximum. 

Like other high quality rowers, the Newport AR comes with a computer monitor that tracks your workout.

This device can also hold up to 300 pounds, more than many of the other rowers listed here. 

The Newport AR does require some assembly, but most users say it’s pretty easy. It has wheels to make moving it simple, and it can stand upright for storage.  

And finally, First Degree Fitness (the makers of the Newport AR) offers a variety of rowers using the same Fluid Technology, at different price points. I suggest you check out the Apollo 2 and the Viking to get a feel of what’s best for you. 

 

Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower

 

stamina-ats-air-rower-rowing-machine-graphic

75.5 x 20 x 27 inches

Air Resistance (Loud)

Sturdy steel construction; Much cheaper air rower than the Concept2

Two in one design great for rowing and biking

Check Price & More Reviews on Amazon

If you’re looking for an air rower that isn’t quite as expensive and high grade as the Concept2 but that is still well reviewed, then check out the Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower.  

It might not get quite as high accolades as the Concept2 and WaterRower, but it’s almost half the price. It’s also a two-in-one machine, meaning you can use this machine for more than just rowing – pretty cool if you like to switch up your workouts. 

So not only can you row with your Stamina ATS, you can also bike on it. You can also retract the top handle to perform bicep curls, triceps kickbacks and more upper body strength exercises. 

While the parts of this machine move quietly offering a seamless rowing experience, this is an air-resistance machine, and it’s not super quiet. The harder you row, the louder it will become. And again, the noise here is akin to a loud fan. 

The resistance on this machine might not be what you’d find at a gym, but that it’s still challenging enough for a home workout. This coupled with the fact that the machine offers other uses does make this a nice choice for would-be rowers on a budget. I’ve included it in my review of the best rowing machines because it’s well made, offers a comfortable seat, is uniquely flexible in its usage, and is relatively inexpensive.

 

SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine

 

sunny-health-and-fitness-magnetic-rowing-machine-graphic

82 x 19 x 23 inches

Magnetic Resistance (Silent)

8 Levels of Resistance

Very Affordable

Check Price & More Reviews on Amazon

I’ve included the SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rower from Sunny Health and Fitness in my list of the best rowing machines because it’s very reasonable in price, while still being sturdy, stable and well-reviewed. At the time of writing this article, it is retailing for just over $200. So if you’re on a budget, consider this one. 

The SF-RW5515 uses a magnetic tension system with 8 levels of resistance you can adjust. Note that one of the downsides of this machine is that even with the adjustable resistance, elite rowers may not be able to get enough resistance to challenge themselves. 

That said, if you’re just starting out, this affordable machine should do the trick.  

One of the key selling points if you’re someone sharing a space is that this rowing machine is practically silent and has a minimal space footprint. 

Despite it’s low price, this rowing machine still features adjustable foot straps, large, sturdy pedals, a cushioned seat and foam padded handles. It has a LCD console display to measure your workout, although it is pretty small, and doesn’t keep track of your progress like some of the other models listed here. 

It’s relatively easy to assemble, but will still take you about 30 minutes to do so (unlike say the Concept2 which is pretty much ready to go out of the box). 

The SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine is still a well reviewed little machine that can be good starter for anyone new to the field. And because you’re rowing, you’re still ensuring you get a great, total body workout. 

Finally, note that Sunny Health and Fitness has a few more moderately priced rowers, all with different features. Go with the SF-RW1205 if you’d like to go super cheap, or the SF-RW5612 if you’d like your rowing machine to do a little more (this dual function rower lets you also perform multiple arm and shoulder exercises).

 

Harvil Hydraulic Rowing Machine

harvil-hydraulic-rowing-machine

50 x 36.2 x 20 inches

Hydraulic Resistance (Silent)

Compact Design & Small Footprint – great for small apartments

Very Affordable

Check Price & More Reviews on Amazon

I’m ending my best rowing machine reviews with the handy Harvil Hydraulic Rowing Machine, another budget-friendly machine. The Harvil Hydraulic is a space-saving rowing machine perfect for rowers with space limitations. 

Like the name suggests, this rowing machine uses hydraulic resistance – which means it won’t make any noise. It offers a control knob that lets you customize your workout, plus an easy-to-read LCD monitor for tracking, an ergonomic, molded seat and pivoting footplates. 

What people seem to love the most about the Harvil is its small size. Its arms can be folded in for upright storage, right behind your couch. 

Some assembly is required, but that’s probably worth the much lower price tag. Like the SF-RW5515, this machine is a great option for anyone ready to row but looking to really minimize cost.

Why Use A Rowing Machine?

using a rowing machine with asthma

As I’ve mentioned, I starting researching the best rowing machines because I decided that a home solution to exercise was the only way to beat my exercise-induced asthma – I just didn’t want to embarrass myself at a sweaty gym.  And I chose indoor rowing because you just can’t beat it. Here’s why. 

Full Body Workout

Most people don’t have time to focus on exercising each individual part of their body. That’s why rowing machines are such a brilliant option. Rowing is a full-body workout with every stroke. You’ll get toned and improve your cardio all at the same time.

Low Impact

Rowing machines are popular with all age groups, and there’s a good reason for that. They’re extremely low impact, which makes them a great choice for just about everybody.  What this means is that rowing is not going to leave you with aching joints or a limp the next day. This is particularly important for older exercisers and those with disabilities. The Concept2 Model E, in fact, is meant especially for people with mobility concerns – it has a higher seat which makes it easier to get on and off of. 

Comfort Of Home

The best rowing machines available have really improved, and there are lots of safe saving options. So rowing isn’t just for the gym anymore. You don’t need to leave your house, and spend more time away from family, just to get in an awesome workout. Think about it: no time spent commuting back and forth from the gym, and when you’re done you can jump in your own private bathroom to clean off (I can’t lie – this is one of my favorite features). 

Burn Calories & Lose Weight

It’s been proven that mild aerobic exercises, like walking and casually riding a bike, have very little impact on significant weight loss. If you want to lose weight, you need to try HIIT exercise, and rowing machines are perfect for this. However, HIIT often uses hard and heavy-on-the-joints jumping. You can cut that out, and instead row as hard and as fast as you need for your given HIIT interval. All in one spot and with little risk of injury.

Cardiovascular Health

Rowing machines improve the flow of blood throughout the body, while strengthening the heart and all of its functions. There really is nothing better than a good rowing workout to achieve and maintain total body health and wellness.

Clearly, I’m on the rowing bandwagon. But of course you don’t have to take my word for it! Here’s some articles from more experts, on what makes rowing so great.

Of course, exercise is also a personal journey. That’s why one of my ‘find the best rowing machine’ protips is to head to your local gym to try out their machines, and see if they work for you. I bet you’ll be hooked. 

And finally, in case you missed it, here’s how home rowing helped me overcome exercise-induced asthma. If rowing helped this wheezy asthmatic, imagine what it could do for you! 🙂

What Are The Health Benefits Of Indoor Rowing Machines?

Rowing and rowing machines have started to become really popular, with good reason. And it’s not just at home gyms or among amateurs. The best athletes in the world are also getting in on it – Conor McGregor anyone? 

 

And notice he’s on a Concept2!

Or how about Hugh Jackman, a rowing machine advocate who uses this routine to get fit for his roles – here’s the 7 minute rowing workout he does when he’s crunched for time. 

And notice he’s ALSO on a Concept2 … noticing a trend here?

Thankfully, because the best rowing machines can be found at multiple price points, this fat-burning workout can be enjoyed by everyone, from action movie stars and pro-athletes to regular people on a budget (even if they need to overcome exercise-induced asthma!)

If you’re looking to get in shape, whether you have asthma or not, you should consider adding rowing to your routine. 

As we’ve already explored, it’s low impact and easy on your joints, unlike running on a treadmill, say. Because a rower is lower to the ground, you’re also less likely to fall and become injured – making it again, a better option than other indoor equipment. 

And rowing is appropriate for any age or fitness level. This alone makes it superior to many other workout options. Plus, as you get better, rowing will get more challenging, so your machine will grow with you. 

If you’re strictly concerned about calories burned, than indoor rowing again fares well against its competition. Rowing burns 11 calories per minute, on average. That’s 300 calories burned in a half hour of exercise, 600 in an hour.

Or you can use your rowing machine for HIIT workouts, and really bump up the calorie burn during and even up to 24 hours after your workout. 

And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: rowing is a full body workout. You’re working all the muscles in your body dynamically. For my dollar, there’s just nothing I can do at home that can beat it. 

feet-strapped-into-home-rowing-machine

How To Use Your Rowing Machine

So you’ve chosen the best rowing machine for you and your lifestyle. You get it delivered, you’ve got it set up … now what?

(Word to the wise – bookmark this page! You’ll want to ensure you use your machine properly when it gets there). 

Rowing isn’t a complicated movement, but you do want to make sure you’re doing it correctly. Don’t worry – you should get the hang of it pretty quickly. 

The best way to get a handle on rowing is to understand the motion and the different positions. Rowing uses three distinct positions – The Catch, The Drive and The Finish.

The Catch is how your begin. Sit down and get comfortable. Then with your knees bent, reach for the oars in front of you. Keep your weight on the balls of your feet (pro-tip: always keep your weight on the balls of your feet when rowing).

Push back using your legs only. Use your core to keep your back nice and straight. If your back hurts after the workout, then you’re doing it wrong.

And keep your arms fully extended for the whole catch. 

The Drive comes next. This when you’ve pushed your legs back back as far as you can go. Keeping your core tight and your back straight, hinge at your hips to about a 45 degree angle. 

Only now do you use your arms! Again, with your back straight but now at an angle, pull your arms into your body, not super high. They should be a few inches above your belly button. 

The Finish is, as you might expect, how you finish! Using your core to keep your back straight (noticing a trend here?), start moving back to the starting position. First your legs come back, then your upper back, keeping your arms at your chest.  Finally, release your arms while your bend your knees and end up in your original position. 

It sounds easy, but I highly recommend you check out some more complete guides and some videos. Here’s some recommendations:

You’ll also want to note some key metrics for understanding your workout:

  • Strokes Per Minute. Experts say to keep this under 30 or less, to ensure you’re using proper form and focusing on power. 
  • Split Time, or how long it takes you to row 500 meters. Shoot for 2 minutes or less – but only if you can do it using the power of your legs. 

(Note that measuring and tracking metrics like these are why having a good digital recording device, like the Concept2’s, is considered so important for dedicated rowers.)

Finally, while yes, rowing is a total body workout, a lot of your power comes from your lower body – your glutes, hamstring and quads. Go for power first before you start to build up speed. 

Flex Your Rowing Muscles

Don’t believe me when I saw rowing is ‘total body’? Here’s muscles that come into play during each motion of your indoor rowing machine.

During The Catch, you’ll use:

Triceps
Hamstrings
Deltoids
Upper and lower back muscles
Trapezoids
Abs
Calves

During The Drive, you’ll use:

Calves
Gluteus Maximus
Quadriceps
Deltoids
Trapezoids
Hamstrings
Biceps
Pectorals
Forearm extenders
Abs

During The Finish, you’ll use:

Trapezoids
Deltoids
Biceps
Forearms
Lats
Glutes
Quads
Abdonimals
Triceps
Hamstrings

And I’m sure I’m missing a few!

This also doesn’t take into account all the smaller muscles that will be working to stabilize you from start to finish. Or that your heart is going to be pumping throughout. Total body indeed! 

Common Mistakes Made On Indoor Rowing Machines

Finally, I’ve been saying that rowing is easy and it is – you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

But no ‘Best Rowing Machines Guide’ would be complete without exploring some of the common mistakes people making on these machines. Knowing what to look out can help ensure you’re using your machine properly and getting the great workout promised. 

(This is also why I recommend you bookmark this page – you’ll want to come back when you’re ready to start rowing!)

First, keep your back straight. Can’t emphasize this one enough. We spend so much time sitting with our backs hunched over, that it’s natural to use your rower with you back hunched too. Don’t. 

Your back should stay straight through all the rowing motions. You do this by keeping your abdominals engaged and your shoulders relaxed. Remember: if your back hurts after the workout, this is the sign you’re doing it wrong. 

Second, don’t focus on your arms. It might seem instinctive to let your arms being the driving force of your rowing. But remember that your power in rowing comes from your lower body. 

A good rule of thumb is to let your legs and lower body do about 60% of the workout, while your abs and your arms do about 20% each. Keep this in mind and keep your weight pushing through your heels, and you should be good to go. 

Third, follow the right order of movements. Take your time to learn the motions. Go really slowly at first. Remember that it’s your legs pushing back first, then your hips pivoting to angle your back, then your arms pulling, then releasing. Legs, hips, back, arms, release. 

Fourth, check your settings. Most of the machines I’ve included in this rowing machine review allow you to adjust the resistance settings. If you’re a newbie, don’t be afraid to turn the settings down so you can work your way up. Gradually increase it as you get better. 

Finally, take your time! It’s way more important to get the motion down before you start to build up speed. And remember that power will always the focus, not speed.

According to rowing instructor Melody Davi, your strokes should always be under 30 a minutes, no matter how good you get. Any more and you’re likely using sloppy form. Your form should be nice and smooth – try to avoid jerky motion.

And don’t get frustrated if you start off slowly. Stick with it, and soon you’ll be pumping out meters and sweat in no time. 

In Conclusion ….

In conclusion, I hope that finding your best rowing machine will help you live your best life, whether you have asthma or not. I know it has for me.

Some disclaimers. Obviously, I am not a doctor, or even a fitness instructor. You should consult with your doctor anytime you start a new fitness regimen. 

I’ve also done my best to include accurate and up-to-date information on all the rowing machines listed above. Please be sure to double check the company listings before you make your final purchase. 

I’m not associated with any of the companies listed above (although I am an Amazon associate, to help me cover the costs of this website). This guide is the result of several months of personal research to find the best rowing machines. Ultimately, like I’ve discussed, and like Conor McGregor, Hugh Jackman and thousands of other happy customers, I chose the Concept2 Model D. It’s changed my life and I could not be happier. 

So I wish you the absolute best of luck in finding your best rowing machine!

And please let me know in the comments: do you have a favorite machine? Is there one I’ve missed?

And, more importantly, if you have asthma, what do you use to exercise? We love hearing from fellow asthmatics so we can help each other start to breathe (and live!) better. 

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