Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed products and single out the most convincing ones. (You can learn more about our rating system and how we pick each item here.)
And while we’ve written about all sorts of home exercise equipment — including the best stationary bikes, ellipticals, and gym mats — here we’ve rounded up the best rowing machines, as praised by the most enthusiastic reviewers on Amazon.
Best-rated rowing machine
While the Concept2 Model D is quite expensive, reviewers think it’s well worth the investment for serious indoor rowers. As many point out, this is the model most often seen in gyms. “Really, you’re getting a professional gym quality machine,” writes one purchaser. It might not be the most compact option available, but it’s extremely well made and comfortable and will give you a great workout. Another reviewer advises, “If you are sitting there thinking to yourself — I NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT AND GET IN SHAPE — don’t hesitate. Buy this machine. Find 30-60 minutes a day a few times a week and add this movement to your fitness regiment. You will burn fat, up your cardio and chase new PRs all the time. I wish I started rowing YEARS AGO!” If sound is an issue, a third rower says, “This machine rides like a Cadillac. We live in an apartment, and my Mom’s first question was, ‘Won’t the neighbors hear it?’ Answer: No. This machine does not rumble. It is smooth and quiet. The fan is the only source of noise. The seat glides in near silence.” Many reviewers mention first trying out the Concept2 at a gym, including a rowing convert who says, “Well, this thing is my new best friend. I fell in love with it back in 2013 at a CrossFit Gym. My joints don’t hurt from the impact. I don’t feel like I need adult diapers to complete a workout. It’s just the burn in my chest from the workout and the fire in my muscles from the push and pull. YES … THIS … this is MY machine.”
Best-rated (less expensive) rowing machine
Reviewers say this rowing machine is a great value, and many actually prefer it to more expensive options because it’s lightweight and compact. “Absolutely blown away by the construction and durability of [this rowing machine],” writes one home rower. “It was easy to put together and does everything the more expensive rowing machines do. I love the fact that it takes so little space to house and the results are great!” A couple chose this machine for working out in their bedroom for similar reasons: “We were looking for both a rowing device and an elliptical for our bedroom. We saw some in a department store that has plenty of them — they were all good and had a number of additional features such as fans, entertainment screens, etc., but they were all VERY bulky. This device, on the other hand has just about half the dimensions of the rowers we saw, costs just a fraction, and works great.” As one reviewer puts it: “This is a great machine. Obviously not as robust as the Concept2, but it’s great if you want a lightweight rowing machine. Great to use while watching TV!”
And now, some micro-picks for every type of rowing machine you might be looking for.
Best air rowing machine
Although the Concept2 Model D rowing machine is our best-rated pick, some prefer the slightly upgraded — but very similar —Model E. One review explains: “I’m so glad that I not only purchased a Concept2, but that I opted to pay the extra cost for the Model E. Since the Model E is elevated to the same level as a regular chair, it’s much easier to get in and out of than the Model D. This is of particular importance if you have any issues with mobility or if you’re elderly. In my case, due to having had back surgery, it was essential that I purchased this model. It’s absolutely worth the extra cost.” Another rower describes choosing between the Concept2’s air-resistance method and the water-resistance method on another model, ultimately going with the Concept2 because “the drawback with water is it can leak and require some maintenance” and the Concept2 is “smooth and much quieter than expected. It doesn’t create any problems in our household.” One person mentions an unexpected benefit of using an air rowing machine: “I love the fan on this as it really keeps you cool while you’re rowing!”
Best magnetic rowing machine
“This rowing machine is the bee’s knees of home exercise equipment,” writes one reviewer. “I’ve been looking for a way to exercise that takes minimal effort (read: I don’t need to put on a sports bra for this) while getting maximum output (read: sweating like a sinner in church).” According to people who own this rower, one of the main reasons to opt for a magnetic rowing machine is noise reduction. One purchaser praises this machine’s low volume: “My cats hang out with me while I use it, and we all know how easily cats can be startled.” Another home exerciser is similarly struck: “One thing I noticed while in the middle of my short but effective workout was, that I didn’t have to adjust the volume on the TV. This thing is very quiet! I also have an exercise bike and when I use it, I have to crank up the volume on the TV.”
Best full-motion rowing machine
This rowing machine is designed to be “full motion,” which some prefer over the standard rowing machine’s “pull motion.” As one person writes: “I love this! It is light, inexpensive and easy to assembly. My favorite part is that it comes closest to an actual full rowing motion. For me, it’s much better than the typical chord/pull kind.” Fans of this one also feel the full-motion arms give them more of a “whole body” workout. One purchaser, a woman in her 60s, says, “It is a great workout for me. I need the low impact for past knee injuries. The full motion provides workout for the arms, abs, lower back and upper back. I can put it near the TV and watch a favorite Netflix show and get a full workout. My muscles are not sore after 30-45 minute workouts because multiple muscle groups are used with the full range rowing motion.”
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