Treadmill warriors are familiar with the ProForm brand, and they have nothing but praises for the company’s running machines. If you’re reading this, you’re also probably aware that the company makes rowing machines as well.
The ProForm 440R is being marketed as an at-home rowing machine that’s designed for beginners and people with a low budget. If you’ve been rowing for quite some time now, and if you have a bit of money to spend on an indoor rower, then we suggest you go check out the Concept2 Model D or some of the wooden WaterRower models. They are the bestselling rowers for a reason – they’re the best in their categories.
However, if you’re short on cash and you would like to invest in an exercise machine that gives you a total-body workout, you might be considering the ProForm 440R.
This review will help you make a decision. Here, we talk about how the ProForm rowing machine uses magnetic resistance and if the resistance levels will be enough for you to reach your fitness goal. We also discuss whether it is strong and durable enough for your needs, and what design considerations you need to make before you lay your money down for it.
We’re also going to talk about the accompanying monitor, which gauges your performance and fitness level, as well as various issues with assembly and storage. We hope that, by the end of this review, you’ll have a very clear idea of whether the ProForm rowing machine is right for you.
If you’re pressed for time and only want to check out certain parts of this review, you can browse the Table of Contents below and click on the link you’re interested in. Otherwise, let’s proceed.
In a Nutshell...
What We Liked:
- Constant resistance levels perfect for beginners
- Very quiet because of magnetic resistance
- Resistance can be adjusted with the push of a button
- Seat slides smoothly and quietly
- Rail can accommodate up to 6 feet, 4 inches
- Has comfortable, molded seat
- Has a small footprint; will fit easily in a tiny apartment
What We Didn't Like:
- Only has 8 resistance levels; not enough for intermediate or advanced exerciser
- Needs a PVC mat to keep it stable
- Bungee rope prone to snapping and fraying
- Has straight handles that can make your arms feel sore after some time
- Very difficult to assemble as nothing comes pre-assembled
ProForm 440R Magnetic Resistance
Like plenty of mid-range rowing machines, such as the Stamina Avari, the ProForm 440R uses magnetic resistance to provide difficulty to your exercise. This works by using a C magnet that regulates the rower’s flywheel to increase or decrease resistance.
Unlike more expensive rowing machines that use air or water resistance, the biggest benefit of using a magnetic indoor rower is that it’s perfectly quiet. You won’t bother anybody with the noise that a clanging exercise machine will make, which is a good thing if you live in a small apartment complex and you don’t want your neighbors to be calling you out on all your racket.
You also get completely constant levels of resistance, so that you’re forced to work against the same amount of force in every stroke. This also means there’s fewer chances of you allowing momentum to take over (thus reducing the amount of work you have to do). This isn’t really a problem if you’ve got your form and technique perfect, but if you’re new to rowing, consistent levels of resistance could be helpful.
Which brings us to the next point. The ProForm 440R is an indoor rower designed for rowing newbies. If you’ve spent quite some time at an ergometer at the gym and you believe you’re ready to take on the level by bringing a rower home, we suggest you check out other brands, such as the Concept2 or WaterRower, or even the Bodycraft VR500.
The ProForm 440R has eight resistance levels that even intermediate rowers will feel they can quickly go through. If you’ve never exercised at all, or if you spend a good amount of time sitting on the couch and munching on M&M’s while staring blankly at whatever’s on TV, then this could be a good, fairly inexpensive tool to finally start turning your life around.
Everyone else who has exercised regularly in the last month or so should probably check out other indoor rowers, mostly because you’ll likely breeze through the eight resistance levels in no time. And then you’ll quickly find that this piece of metal sitting on your living room floor is suddenly of no use to you at all.
However, like we said, if you’ve never lifted a pair of weights before, or if you consider exercise as standing up from the couch to get some more M&M’s, then the ProForm 440R’s eight resistance levels could be just right for you. You can start on level 1, and when you’re ready, you can climb up the levels simply by turning a big, red knob.
ProForm also throws in there what it calls a low pulley station, which is basically the bungee rope that you can use like a resistance band. You can use it to perform resistance training exercises for your upper body, such as bicep curls, upright rows, and tricep extensions. This is a good way to supplement the cardio and lower body leg work that you are doing with the rowing machine.
Resistance training is a great way to grow stronger muscles. While high-intensity cardio will help you lose fat faster, resistance exercises will build muscle faster, thus pushing your fat-burning ability to the limit. Combining resistance training and cardio will help get you fitter and healthier faster than doing those two types of exercises on their own.
ProForm 440R Quality and Durabiilty
Unfortunately, the ProForm 440R is not made with the same eye for quality as the treadmills from the same company. If you’re asking about whether this rowing machine will last years into the future, it is probably going to kick the bucket earlier than that.
Many people have complained about the ProForm 440R not being strong enough to stand on most surfaces. If you’re planning to put it on a hard floor, keep a mat underneath it to prevent it from shifting around (and making skid marks across your floors!). We recommend that Supermats PVC Mat. And don’t even think about getting it to stand upright on a carpet flooring. We don’t think it’s safe for you to row on this machine on carpet.
ProForm says the aluminum rail is able to accommodate up to 250 lbs. in maximum user weight, which is just 25 lbs. less than the maximum user weight of the Stamina Avari. However, many people have criticized the machine’s flimsy-looking rail. For what it’s worth though, the ProForm 440R does have a seat that glides smoothly and quietly down the rail, and it can nicely accommodate around up to 6 ft., 4 in. in height.
The bungee rope is also another problem for a lot of people. When you look at the rope closely, you will see that it is simply inserted through a hole in the middle of the handle and tied in place with a knot. We don’t think this is a very high-quality way to do this. The rope could easily untie itself and snap back, causing injuries and a lot of broken hearts.
Sure enough, people have confirmed in a lot of other ProForm reviews that the bungee rope is prone to snapping and, in less severe cases, fraying. Sometimes, it would not retract fully back into the machine, which prevents you from doing the exercise properly.
The warranty for the ProForm 440R is five years for the frame and a measly 90 days for other parts and labor. Unfortunately for some people, the bungee cord tends to start showing signs of damage just right after the parts warranty has expired. And from what we hear, it’s not exactly very cheap to get the bungee cord repaired.
(In one case, we hear getting the seat and rail replaced would cost three times as much as the original rower! Just get a Concept2 Model D then, if you’re going to spend that amount of money anyway. Better get an expensive high-quality rower than an expensive seat and rail replacement that’s not as good.)
ProForm 440R Design and Ergonomics
The best thing about the design of the ProForm 440R would have to be the adjustable molded seat. Not a lot of indoor rowers can brag about a comfortable seat for their users, so that’s saying a lot for this midrange model. However, the seat on this rower could be a bit small for some people. If this is your main concern, the Bodycraft VR500 has one of the best seats for a rowing machine that will accommodate the biggest sizes.
That said, that’s about the best thing we can say about the design of this machine. The pivoting foot pedals are decent enough. If you have trouble staying upright – and you have to stay upright if you want to perform the rowing exercise properly – the pivoting pedals can help you do that.
You’ll have to strap in your feet using Velcro straps though. And that’s not always a very good thing since Velcro doesn’t last very long, especially if you have sweat and dust and dirt sticking to it all the time. We can’t say if ProForm has replacement straps for when the Velcro loses its stickiness, but you can always buy Velcro strips from the nearest hardware store and sew them in yourself.
The handle is also a bit tricky, since even though ProForm calls it a “soft-touch ergonomic handle,” it’s actually more of a thin, straight bar covered with some padding and plastic. Now, the arms weren’t positioned for you to be gripping a straight bar all the time. Other rowers have a 10-degree bend on their handles for a reason.
You might find your arms or wrists feeling numb or sore after several minutes on the ProForm 440R because of the rod-straight handle. And if you have some kind of wrist or forearm problem such as carpal tunnel syndrome, this might be a problem for you.
ProForm 440R Fitness Monitor
The ProForm 440R has a very, very basic monitor that we think is good enough for the extreme beginner. Keep in mind this rower has resistance levels designed for the person who has never exercised before or in such a long time, so a monitor with only the most essential features is to be expected.
The fitness monitor has a large LCD display, which makes it a lot easier for you to look at it. It doesn’t have a backlight – a problem that a lot of rowers, even the high-end ones, seem to have.
You can track fitness stats, including strokes per minute, total strokes, total time, total distance, and calories burned. There is no option for tracking your pace, also known as split time, which is how most rowing enthusiasts gauge their progress. We’re guessing that if you’re considering the ProForm 440R though, things such as split time or even tracking your improvement isn’t a very important thing to you at the moment.
The biggest drawback on the monitor for us is the lack of preset workout programs. If you’re an absolute beginner and don’t know where to begin, preset workouts can help you launch into your own fitness program without you having to figure these things out on your own.
Other midrange rowers such as the Stamina Avari and Kettler Favorit do offer a variety of preset programs that you can easily follow. They also provide the option for heart rate training, which the ProForm 440R doesn’t. Heart rate training can help you vastly improve your cardiovascular health by keeping track of your heart rate before, during, and after exercise.
But again, if you’re not into checking out your numbers and just going by whether you’re starting to feel stronger and healthier, this isn’t really a huge problem. However, if you intend to do some serious rowing in the future – and we think you should if you plan to incorporate fitness into your lifestyle and have big fitness goals in mind – you might want to consider other machines that offer more options.
How to Assemble and Store the ProForm 440R
Rowing machines are one of the few exercise machines that require very little assembly. A lot of them come pre-assembled and you simply have to put together the bigger pieces in a few minutes. Sadly, the ProForm 440R is the exception.
Many people have griped about this rower coming in a box with a few missing pieces, and that’s just the beginning. Our biggest grip is that none of the parts of this rower come pre-assembled at all. You have to put every single thing together. And although the manual is quite clear and full of pictures, it’s still a huge challenge, especially for people who have no experience putting mechanical stuff together.
Overall, people with some experience might take up to 45 minutes tops to put the ProForm 440R together. But if your experience is limited to assembling Ikea furniture together, you’re bound to take at least two hours to put this thing together.
The good thing is that you’ll have almost all of the necessary tools in the shipment box, though you’ll have to scramble around in your garage for a Philips screwdriver to install the two AA batteries into the fitness monitor.
Once assembled, the rowing machine takes up a pretty small amount of space compared to other rowers. Specifically, its dimensions are 38.3 in. x 20.5 in. x 76.6 in. That’s a pretty small footprint, which is good if you don’t have a lot of space for your exercise machine.
As with plenty of other rowers, storing the ProForm 440R is also easy. The company attributes it to what it calls its SpaceSaver design, but you’ll find it in other rowers as well. You simply need to remove a safety pin, pull the rail upright, and then reinsert the pin to keep the rail in place. Once folded, the rower will take up way much less space. You can also move it around on its transport wheels, making it easy to put it anywhere you want it to go.
Unfortunately, for a lot of people, the holes do not align properly, preventing them from reinserting the pin to keep the rail in place. Although the rower will remain upright, we imagine this can cause all sorts of problems when you have rowdy children running around, curious at every single thing they see. It’s only going to take a short while before one inquisitive kid pokes around at the rower and causes the rail to come crashing down on him. Not a good scenario at all!
Verdict: Is the ProForm 440R Right for You?
To be extremely honest, we do not recommend the ProForm 440R for several reasons. But first, let’s take a look at the reasons why anyone would buy this rowing machine.
The biggest benefit you would get from this rower is its being an all-around exercise machine. You can get a bit of resistance training in there along with the cardio that you’re getting from the actual rowing.
But if you ask us, it’s actually more gimmicky more than anything else. After all, you can do plenty of resistance training exercises with a pair of dumbbells you can get for cheap. Or you can even do them with just your bodyweight, no equipment needed.
Also, if you’re an extreme beginner and you don’t see yourself progressing much in the future, you could probably buy this machine. Provided you are not rough with it, it will probably live long enough.
Lastly, the ProForm 440R is on the lower side of the price spectrum. If you have a small budget, this is easily one of the most accessible rowers for you.
However, there are other rowing machines that have better quality and are available for around the same price as the ProForm 440R. We’re talking about the Kettler Favorit, a sculling-type rower that uses hydraulic pistons to provide resistance. The Kettler Favorit is much more well-built than the ProForm 440R and, although this machine does have its flaws, we think it will give you way more value for your money than the ProForm 440R.
It has a better design that is pretty attractive to people who are after the outrigger type of rowing, plus it has a more advanced fitness monitor that lets you exercise with preset workouts. It even has a free (wired) heart rate monitor for heart rate training. If you’re curious about the Kettler Favorit, check out our comprehensive review here.