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Best Rowing Machines of 2017: Best Rowers You Can Buy Right Now [UPDATED]

Over the last several years, indoor rowers have come from being the unpopular, dusty exercise machines that nobody at the gym wants to have anything to do with, to in demand exercise equipment that people want to bring home for themselves.

It’s not surprising at all. Rowing is a phenomenal exercise that provides a lot of benefits for the body and, dare we say, the soul. Whatever your fitness goals are, hopping on a rowing machine will help you in one way or another.

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Whether you want to melt off fat faster by burning a ton of calories, or whether you want to build muscle strength and endurance in conjunction with an excellent strength training program, exercising on an indoor rower is a great way to step closer to those goals in a low-impact, practically injury-free way.

How to Choose a Rowing Machine

​There are three different kinds of rowing machines, and each of these are more specifically suited to certain fitness goals. Below are the three most common kinds of indoor rowers based on their resistance type. 

  • Air Resistance Rowers - These operate with an air flywheel. 
  • Water Resistance Rowers - They are said to mimic real outdoor rowing. 
  • Magnetic Rowers - These machines provide resistance with the use of magnets. Under this category, we're also including hybrid air-magnetic rowing machines. 
  • Hydraulic Rowers - Also known as piston-type rowers because they use pistons to provide resistance. 

Aside from the type of resistance it provides, there are other many factors to consider when purchasing a rowing machine. However, the following are the four most important things you want to pay attention to. 

  • Durability - This is, of course, the most important. You want to invest your money in an exercise machine that you know will last longer than three months. 
  • Ergonomics - You want to look at the design of the machine. Although most rowing machines have the same basic components and work in essentially the same way, each brand and model of rower has its own distinctive design that will largely affect how you exercise
  • Price - Indoor rowers have a very wide price range from $100 to $1,500. And, as you can guess, the quality of each brand varies depending on how much it costs. Not that you won't be able to buy good rowing machines at a low price, but a lot of the more expensive and hyped products are definitely worth their price. 

Best Rowing Machines of 2017

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we finally get to the good stuff. After carefully and sometimes a little bit too fastidiously evaluating the huge variety of rowing machines on the market, we have finally been able to compile a list of the best rowers that rate well against our stringent standards.

Here are our top 10 most amazing rowers you can buy in 2017.

1. Concept2 Model D

concept2 rowing machine

Image: Concept2

Anyone who claims to be a rowing enthusiast must get their hands on a Concept2 Model D. If you can’t afford one right now, then at least go find a gym that has one and get on it! It simply is the best rower on the market and is the world’s gold standard in indoor rowing. It’s not surprising that this is what serious athletes and elite exercisers choose for their home gyms.

The Concept2 Model D is an air resistance rowing machine known for its topnotch quality and excellent customer service. It has an aluminum rail supporting the stainless steel track, a nickel-plated chain, and adjustable footrests to accommodate all foot sizes. It provides self-regulated resistance through an air flywheel, which means your strength levels will never outgrow this machine.

One of its highlights is the first-class Performance Monitor 5,  a robust portable computer that lets you monitor your exercise data, from basic stats to really advanced information such as drag factor. It also connects to your phone and computer and even lets you participate in virtual races online against other Concept2 owners.

Quality:

Design:

Monitor

Assembly, Storage & Maintenance: 

Resistance: Self-regulated air resistance

Max Load: 500 lbs. according to Concept2 and 300 lbs. according to the European Stationary Fitness Equipment Testing Standard

2. WaterRower Natural

waterrower natural

Image: WaterRower

The WaterRower Natural is the most elegant-looking exercise machine we have ever seen, and it comes a close second to the Concept2 Model D. It stands out as a hand-built machine made from sustainable ash and stained honey oak, yet it can hold a candle to Concept2 machines in terms of durability and ruggedness.

The wooden construction provides for peak sound and vibration absorption. This, combined with the sound of water sloshing around inside the water tank, provides simply the most unique and luxurious exercise experience you’ll ever have. Plus, it is hands down an attractive addition to your living room or office.

The WaterRower S4 monitor tracks basic rowing stats and gives you the ability to monitor your heart rate while you exercise. At the moment, WaterRower is developing software that will let you participate in virtual races in the future. The monitor is currently not robust as the Concept2 PM5, but it gives most people a lot of what you need to know to reach your fitness goal through rowing.

Bonus: Since we’re on the subject already, you might want to check out the rest of the wooden WaterRower models as well. All of them are practically identical, except for the type of wood used to build them.

WaterRower Club

This comes in solid rosewood-stained ash wood and black honey rails that prevent scuffs and marks from showing up. This is a great choice for people who want to place their rowers in a high-traffic area, such as the living room.

WaterRower Oxbridge

This is the WaterRower model used by none other than Kevin Spacey, aka Frank Underwood, himself. It is made from cherry wood, which develops a stately dark red hue over time.

WaterRower Classic

This is perhaps the fanciest of the bunch. The WaterRower Classic is made from American black walnut, which has a luscious chocolate brown color, sometimes with darker streaks. The wood is durable and extremely resistant to rot.

Quality

Design: 

Monitor: 

Assembly, Maintenance & Storage: 

Resistance: Self-regulated water resistance

Max Load: 700 lbs. and 600 lbs. if you use it with a HiRise extender

Check out more user reviews and the latest price of the WaterRower Natural, WaterRower Club, WaterRower Classic, and WaterRower Oxbridge

3. WaterRower GX

waterrower gx

Image: WaterRower

What do Bradley Cooper, Cameron Diaz, and Leann Rimes have in common? They all are fans of ShockWave, the high-intensity workout program that includes the WaterRower GX to build a Hollywood-worthy hot bod.

The WaterRower GX differs from the WaterRower Natural as it has a convex, aluminum single rail that makes it extremely durable but a bit less quiet than its big brother.

However, it shares the same high-quality craftsmanship from the folks at WaterRower and it’s easy as pie to keep it in tiptop shape. The lower center of gravity, the longer handles, and slightly smaller price tag also makes it very attractive for a lot of people.

It features a very basic monitor which tracks your intensity, which is really all you need to know anyway. There are no frills and thrills here, just the essentials.

Quality: 

Design:

Monitor: 

Assembly, Maintenance & Storage: 

Resistance: Self-regulated water resistance

Max Load: 325 lbs.

4. Bodycraft VR500

bodycraft vr500

Image: BodyCraft

The Bodycraft VR500 isn’t as popular as any of our top three, but it can certainly hold a candle to them. This machine uses a combination of air and magnetic resistance by taking advantage of eddy currents, the same technology you see in the braking systems of today’s high-speed trains. You get 32 levels of consistent, quiet resistance that you can easily adjust by pressing a button on the handlebar.

It has a heavy-duty monorail, a large contoured seat, a military-grade nylon webbing drive belt, and heavy seat roller bearings to ensure that this rower can withstand the most vigorous beating you can give it. Despite its size, this machine is a breeze to fold and store away and requires little maintenance to last.

The Bodycraft VR500 has a pretty LCD monitor with backlit keys that keeps track of all your important data. It comes with 12 preset workout program profiles that can help you get started with your rowing regimen, and four individual user profiles for every person in the family.

Quality: 

Design: 

Monitor: 

Assembly, Storage & Maintenance

Resistance: 32 levels, air and magnetic resistance

Max Load: 350 lbs.

5. Kettler Favorit

kettler favorit

Image: Kettler USA

Our favorite rowing machine in the midrange price level, the Kettler Favorit is a well-built piece of German equipment that uses hydraulic pistons to provide 50 levels of adjustable resistance. It also stands out as an outrigger-style rower, giving you more room for lateral movement.

This rower is compact and quiet, making it perfect for apartments with small spaces, yet it is built like a tank. The high-carbon powder-coated steel frame is protected by a lifetime warranty, so you’ll never have to worry about that again – not that you’ll even have to. (We predict you won’t.)

Underneath the seat are sealed ball bearings for zero-maintenance and smooth gliding, and above it is generous padding for comfortable rowing. The rail has a slight incline for increased leg resistance, and it is long enough to accommodate tall people.

The best part about the Kettler Favorit is it comes with a free earclip pulse monitor that lets you do heart rate control training workouts for better cardiovascular health.

Quality: 

Design: 

Monitor: 

Assembly, Maintenance & Storage: 

Resistance: 50 levels, hydraulic resistance provided by pistons

Max Load: 285 lbs.

6. Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Exercise Rower

stamina avari

Image: Stamina 

Here is another midrange rowing machine that made it to our list of best rowing machines. The Stamina Avari provides 12 levels of electromagnetic resistance that you can easily adjust simply by pressing a button. It is extremely quiet – perfect for those living with irritable neighbors. And it has a small footprint – good for people with not much space for a BodyCraft VR500.

The Stamina Avari has excellent build quality and will effortlessly stand its ground on cement, wood, or carpet, even when you’re on top of it doing a high-intensity interval workout. The InTouch Fitness Monitor will let you do that with its interval training profile and other preset workout programs. You’ll also be able to track all your basic rowing information and see them displayed in a large, backlit screen, good for night rowing.

Because of its compact build, the Stamina Avari does shave off a few inches from the rails, so taller people might want to look elsewhere. It does have an inclined rail for extra leg resistance, well-padded seat and handles, and pivoting pedals for a more natural movement.

Quality: 

Design: 

Monitor: 

Assembly, Storage & Maintenance: 

Resistance: 12 levels, electromagnetic resistance

Max load: 275 lbs.

7. Concept2 Model E

concept2 model e

Image: Concept2

In many respects, the Concept2 Model E is very similar to the Concept2 Model D. It shares the same world-class quality as its most popular brother and features the same first-rate fitness monitor fit for Olympic athletes.

So why did we put this one so low down the list? It’s simply because most people will do so well with the Concept2 Model D that they won’t look anywhere else. Plus, you have plenty of other choices we have mentioned above as well.

The Concept2 Model E is made for a specific user with specific needs. Namely, the 20-inch height of the seat makes it just about the height of a regular chair, so if you have issues bending down, this is the rowing machine for you.

Also, it has a one-leg welded steel design that increases stability. If you’re worried about the rower struggling under a lot of weight, the Concept2 Model E will erase all of those notions for you.

Quality: 

Design: 

Monitor: 

Assembly, Maintenance & Storage: 

Resistance: Self-regulated, air resistance

Max Load: 500 lbs. according to Concept2 and 300 lbs. according to the European Stationary Fitness Equipment Testing Standard

8. Lifecore R100

lifecore r100

Image: LIfeCore

The Lifecore R100 is a big, rugged indoor rower that will last through many years of intense workouts. It has a long, sturdy rail built from industrial-grade aluminum, a tough nylon belt that’s built like a car seat belt, and a low profile that adds to the stability of the machine.

Resistance is provided by an air flywheel on the first level but turns into magnetic resistance from levels 2 to 16. You’re not going to hear the sawing sounds of a metal chain here. The Lifecore R100 sounds like pure heaven to people who dislike a lot of noise.

The built-in monitor provides all your important rowing data, and even lets you compete with a pacer boat on the computer. You can also track your heart rate with an optional wireless heart rate monitor that you will have to buy separately.

For its price, however, we do think the Lifecore R100 lacks a huge lot when it comes to resistance. For anyone serious enough to lay down a huge chunk of cash for this machine, we predict it won’t be long before you outgrow all 16 levels.

Quality: 

Design: 

Monitor: 

Assembly, Storage & Maintenance: 

Resistance: 16 levels, air and magnetic resistance

Max Load: 600 lbs.

9. Stamina Air Rower

stamina air

Image: Stamina

The Stamina Air Rower is the ultimate rower for the exercise newbie. If you’ve never worked out a day in your life, this is for you. If you’re simply testing the waters and don’t want to spend hundreds on an exercise machine, this is also for you.

The Stamina Air Rower is simply the second best air resistance rowing machine next to the Concept2 models. There are no buttons or knobs or clamps to move around to change the resistance. You change the resistance yourself by rowing harder or slower.

Sure, this is obviously not a Concept2. The Stamina Air Rower may be louder than other machines, but it does have a strong steel frame, a generously upholstered large seat, and an angled rail for increased resistance for the legs. It also has a nylon belt, so it may not be so noisy after all.

The Stamina Air Rower also folds up easily for storage, and has a small footprint that makes it easy to fit in small homes.

The monitor is what we would say the most basic of all basic monitors. It tracks speed, distance, time, and calories burned, but we think it is enough for the purposes of a newbie exerciser.

Quality

Design: 

Monitor

Assembly, Storage & Maintenance: 

Resistance: Self-regulated air resistance

Max Load: 350 lbs.

10. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515

sunny rowing machine

Image: Sunny Health & Fitness

Here is another option that will not break the bank. If you don’t like the swooshing sound of air made by the Stamina Air Rower, the creatively named (not!) Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 could be the rower for you.

This is a magnetic rower that provides smooth, noise-free, and consistent resistance all throughout every stroke. The only downside is you only have eight levels of resistance to go through, so you can easily outgrow them if you are serious about getting strong on a rowing machine.

That said, it is a pretty cheap rower, so it’s not like you won’t get your money’s worth for it. It has a heavy-duty steel main frame that is stronger than you would expect for a rower at this price range. Plus, it has a comfortable seat, ergonomic handles, and adjustable foot plates – everything you’d find in a more expensive rowing machine.

As we expected, the monitor tracks the most basic exercise stats: time, stroke count, calories burned, and total number of strokes. It’s not much, but for a rower at this price, we’re happy that it does have a monitor with it.

Quality: 

Design

Monitor: 

Assembly, Storage & Maintenance: 

Resistance: 8 levels, magnetic resistance

Max Load: 250 lbs.

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