Best Rowing Machine Reviews

An increasing number of people have begun to realize the benefits of using a rowing machine and its definitely getting more popular over the years. Hence, it would not be all that surprising if you are  looking for the best rowing machine for your money.

A rowing machine is really one of those extremely effective cardio machines that can give you a full body workout. It is  also one of the best alternatives to jogging, as it spares you from the agony of runner’s knees because it does not put any pressure on your joints.

A quick comparison and overview of the products that we`ll discuss today!

The Concept2 Model D is the most popular of all the rowing machines, as it’s excellent in just about every category. It will work well for a very long time, and you can enjoy the ton of online materials about how to use it properly.

The Concept2 Model E is basically the same as the Model D, except that the seat is higher. This makes it more suitable for those with mobility or knee-bending issues.

The BodyCraft VF500 is a truly commercial grade model, and the price reflects the quality. You also have lots of preset programs to work with.

The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine with S4 Monitor is made of hardwood and using a water flywheel, this is the most beautiful and the most realistic of the lot. It’s also huge, but then it can accommodate your weight no matter how heavy you are.

The Stamina ATS Air Rower 1399 is the most affordable and the most compact, but it offers you everything you really need in a rowing machine.

Since these machines are not really expensive for most models, it would even make sense to buy yourself the best rowing machine for home. You just have to make sure that you have the space to put it (especially length-wise) so you can use it properly.

There are many types of rowing machines at a wide price range, some being really affordable (less than $200) while others more pricey (more than $1,000).

Reviews of the Best Rowing Machines

This is hands down the most popular rowing machine of them all.


Check the rowing machine in any gym in your city, and it’s a safe bet that you’ll find the Concept2 Model D nestled there. It’s also undoubtedly one of the most popular for home use, too.

Just about everyone who’s bought or used one consider it as the best indoor rowing machine you can get for your money. Thousands of reviews and comments on this machine is telling.

Sure, it is expensive, but you will be paying for quality, high-tech, comfort, and durability. Some other models may in fact cost more than the Model D, but it’ll be difficult to argue that they offer a better value for your money.

Everything you’ll ever really need in a rowing machine is right here. It’s very strong so it can accommodate up to 500 pounds, and the frame comes with a 5-year warranty.

It comes with an adjustable performance monitor that can monitor your heart rate wirelessly, comes with a backlight for better visibility, and is compatible with USB flash drives so you can save your workout data.

It uses air resistance, and you can adjust the airflow to the fly wheel to change the feel of the stroke. The flywheel design offers a very smooth feel, and it also minimizes the noise it makes.

The foot rests are adjustable for all shoe sizes, and the handle is ergonomic and comes with a 10-degree bend so you have a more natural hand and arm position.

It has caster wheels so you can wheel it into place easily once you’ve assembled it. It’s also easy to store, since the quick-release mechanism separates it into 2 pieces for storage.


  • Since it’s so popular, you can find a ton of articles and YouTube videos on the exercises you can do with it.
  • It’s very heavy duty, and it can accommodate your weight without problem.
  • The performance monitor can show you a wealth of data, which you can save on a USB flash drive.


  • It’s a bit on the expensive side.
  • If you have mobility issues, you may have some trouble with the low height of the seat.

Ready to buy?

Everything you love about the Model D is here, with some improvements (at a higher price).

If you like the Model D, then you’ll like this too. That’s because in all the basic features, they’re one and the same such as the performance monitor and the quality of the build.

The hardy materials and designs are the same, so again it can handle a weight of up to 500 pounds while the warranty for the frame is for 5 years. The storage features are the same too.

It also uses air resistance and you can adjust the airflow. The noise is minimal and the feeling for the stroke is very smooth.

The main difference here is that the seat in the Model E is 20 inches high, so basically it’s at the height of most chairs. This is a big deal for many older users who don’t want to go jogging anymore because their knees can’t take the constant pounding.

With the Model E, the higher seat is much better if you’re getting on it from a wheelchair, or even if your knees just don’t bend as much as they used to in your youth.

Of course, the new design is a bit more expensive. But for quite a lot of older folks (and even younger ones who hate rolling on the ground when they get off), the extra expense is worth it.


  • It’s just like the Model D in quality. It will last for a long time.
  • Storage isn’t a problem, and you can move it from one spot to the next easily.
  • The high seat is a much more comfy design, especially for those whose knees aren’t as bendy anymore.


  • Just for a higher seat, you pay an extra couple of hundred dollars.

Ready to buy?

If there’s one rowing machine model that can match the quality of the Concept2 Model D, it’s this one.


The BodyCraft VR500 is marketed as a commercial rowing machine, and in fact it’s one of the main rivals of Concept2 in gyms around the country. The price is actually normal for a commercial gym machine, but for home use it really does command a premium price.

Still, many feel that the price is worth it since so many have brought it home to use. It can accommodate up to 350 pounds and a height of up to 6 feet 6 inches.

It also uses both air and magnetic resistance so you get the best of both worlds. The air resistance offers greater resistance as you pull harder, while the magnetic resistance enables you to change the resistance level at any time.

In fact, changing the resistance level doesn’t mean resting for a while. That’s because you can use the buttons on the handle to change the resistance level.

It also comes with 12 preset programs, such as heart rate programs that can help you lose weight and race boat programs that can let you compete against another boat. You can also save up to 4 user profiles, which is great if the whole family is using it.

However, there’s one missing piece and that’s the chest strap to monitor your heart rate. Unbelievably, this is an extra purchase.


  • This is sturdy and commercial grade.
  • It offers a handy way to change the resistance level.
  • The seat is comfortably high.
  • You also have preset programs for weight loss and for competing against other boats.


  • It is expensive, as it is a commercial-grade product.
  • It is big. Therefore you’ll need a lot of space (at least lengthwise).
  • The chest strap is an additional purchase

Ready to buy?

If you want a realistic feeling when rowing, this is what you should get.


Some people just love the feel of the oar in the water, so for actual rowers the feel air or magnetic resistance is just too different. But the water rowing machine reviews for the WaterRower confirm that the water flywheel design is really very realistic, much more so than even the air flywheel.

The feeling is really like having the oar in the water, and if you’re putting this in the office then there is no air to bother your papers. It’s also the most quiet rowing machine on this list.

Part of that quiet operation is because it is handcrafted in solid ash and stained honey oak, and the wood was chosen for its ability to absorb sound and vibration. Also, you have to admit that it’s a beauty, so there’s’ really no need for you to stash it away when not in use.

It’s strong too and it can accommodate you no matter how big you are. That’s because its weight capacity is 1,000.


  • This works extremely well, and the feeling while rowing is very authentic because it uses a water flywheel.
  • It’s very beautiful to look at, so you can just leave it be if you want when you’re not using it.
  • It’s very quiet.
  • You also have the performance monitor, as well as DVDs for workouts and proper use.


  • You need to make sure you use the chlorine pills for the water, and you may need mats to protect the floor.
  • The monitor is a bit basic, and it doesn’t even have a backlight.
  • The heart rate chest strap and receiver are both extra purchases.

Ready to buy?

This is the most affordable rowing machine on this list.


Who says you have to spend close to (or even more than) a thousand bucks for a good-quality rowing machine? Obviously not Stamina, as their Air Rower 1399 offers the basic features you need in a rowing machine.

It uses air resistance, the seating is comfy, it comes with floor protectors and wheels, plus there’s an LCD display for your workout data.

Also, it’s one of the most compact rowing machine models as it only measures 28 by 18 by 48 inches when folded. When you’re using it, it’s only 77 inches long.

It does have some limitations, such as the shorter warranty (especially for parts) and it can carry you as long as you’re not over 250 pounds.

Of course, even the best rated rowing machines won’t really do you much good if you don’t use one properly. You may even injure yourself if you’re not careful.


  • It’s very affordable.
  • It comes with a LCD display.
  • It’s compact.


  • The warranty for the parts is only for 90 days, compared to the 2 or 3-year warranty you’ll find in the other rowing machines on this list.
  • It can carry only 250 pounds.
  • It’s a bit noisier than the other rowing machines.

Ready to buy?

So here are some common mistakes committed by many beginners, and sometimes even by more experienced rowing machine fans. Avoid these mistakes, and take note of the recommended corrections.

Common Mistakes Made By Many Beginners

The Feet Aren’t Strapped in Correctly

When you place your feet on the foot stands, you have to strap it in properly. That means you need to adjust the strap so that it lies at the base of your big toes.

When you do this right, you’ll then be able to bend your toes as you do your strokes. You’ll be able to actually push off with the balls of your feet.

Ignoring the Damper Setting

Using a rowing machine isn’t just a matter of sitting in and strapping in. You have to find the lever on the side of the flywheel so you can change the damper setting.If you sit down and go to work immediately, the damper setting may be on a setting that’s too high. So it will feel like you’re trying to row a heavy boat, and that’s not a good thing for the start of your workout.

Instead, put the damper setting anywhere from 3 to 5, if you’re a beginner. This can help you familiarize yourself with the rowing movements first.

Then after a month or so when you’re already experienced, you can begin your workouts at a setting of 4 to 6. You still have to start slow, so that you don’t tire put your muscles right away before you’ve put in a solid workout.

You have a Killer Grip on the Handle

While a secure grip is important, there’s really no need for a death grip. There’s a good chance that a grip like that may be putting some unnecessary tension in your forearms.

Instead, use just the 3 middle fingers on each hand for your grip. Rest your thumbs on top of the handle and float your pinky fingers off the ends of the handle.

To minimize the pressure on your hands, use your upper back when you pull up. Don’t rely on your biceps and shoulders.

Using Only Your Arms

This isn’t like doing pull-ups. When you use only your arms when you use the rowing machine, you can do serious injury to yourself because you’re putting too much pressure on your arms, back, and shoulders.

You have to get most of your force from your legs, at about 60%. Bracing your core gives you another 20% of the force needed, while the last 20% comes from pulling with your arms.

Using your Arms and Legs Together

The rowing stroke requires 3 distinct movements in succession:

  1. First you push with your legs.
  2. Then you pivot at the hips so that you’re leaning back slightly at about 12 degrees.
  3. Then you pull the oar to your chest.

You’re Hunching Your Back

That’s probably because you’re doing this when you’re working at your desk. Naturally, your back does the same thing when you sit on the rowing machine.

Instead, focus on engaging your core while you sit tall. Your spine should be in neutral and your shoulders should be relaxed.

House of Cards: Frank Underwood’s Rowing Machine

**Note: Feel free to skip this section if you are not a House of Cards or Kevin Spacey fan.

We could not help but notice Frank Underwood’s rowing machine from House of Cards. We noticed immediately that he has chosen a fantastic rower.

He is using one of our recommended rowers, the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine.

This rower is not only beautiful but also realistic and suitable for users of all fitness levels.

If you have not watched Frank Underwood’s rowing yet, you can check out the beautiful House of Cards rowing machine (and Kevin Spacey) in the video below.

Our Best Rowing Machine Recommendations

So if you know how to use a rowing machine, which one should you get? The truth of the matter is that each model listed here is great, so your own needs and preferences will decide matters.

If you want something truly reliable, you could consider the Concept2 Model D.

But if you have knee problems or hate the low seat of Model D, the Concept2 Model E has all the advantages of Model D with a better seat.

However, if you are thinking of setting up a commercial grade home gym (and have the budget for it), look no further. The BodyCraft VR500 provides you with the features and durability that you would want.​

If you have been rowing and want that natural rowing feel right in your own home, the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine is your best bet. ​It is not only realistic but beautiful and quiet.

If you want a basic rowing machine at an affordable price, the Stamina Air Rower is a great addition to your home gym.​

If you’re still unsure at this point, just get the Model E as it offers probably the best value for money. It’s as great as the popular and reliable Model D, but you won’t hurt your knees getting on and off.

While the Model E is expensive, save for it anyway. It’s durable enough to last for many years, so even when your knees aren’t as bendy anymore you can still use it.

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