Rowing Machine Buyers Guide


Choosing the correct rowing machine for your needs maybe one of the most daunting tasks in getting a head start on your New Year’s resolution. In fact, the idea of selecting and taking out the perfect unit may actually be one of the largest deterrents to beginning a workout that involves a home rowing machine.

Luckily, grasping the concept of just two specific features of home rowers will leave you infinitely better equipped to select the perfect product for your needs and this short briefing will shed light on some of the most important considerations that potential home rowing machine customer.


Hand’s down, the most important advantage of any rowing machine is that they are, after core, a resistance based activity. The efficacy of rowing as a means to build muscle mass, losing weight, and meeting your health goals is solely dependent of this one primary feature.

In general degree the greater the resistance, the greater the opportunity to build muscle mass and reduced fat. It is essential to understand the basic mechanics of the different types of resistance machines before selecting your perfect growing equipment.

Luckily, understanding the basic dynamics of the resistance types is also the most important thing your need to understand about purchasing your rower.

Resistance Settings

There are four basic types of resistance systems used for modern rowing machines.
Resistance is generally provided by either;

• Air
• Magnets
• Water
• Hydraulics

Grasping the basics of how these resistance types function is your most important tool in selecting your ideal product.

It is essential to purchase the correct right machine for your ultimate goals if your wish to meet them. You can expect lower resistance machines to provide you a better cardiovascular workout, with the ultimate goal in moving the rowing orders faster rather than harder.

If you are looking for an anaerobic activity to build muscle mass, you will want to select a machine with higher resistance values and operate the handles at a slower rate to build muscle.

Most machines offer at least five or six customizable resistance settings and you should ensure your selection offers at least 5. Other models, in particular the higher-end machines, may offer as many as sixteen distinct resistance settings.

In general, you can assume that the greater the range of resistance, the greater the flexibility and adaptability your machine will have in assisting you in progressively building your muscle mass.

Hydraulic Rowers

Hydraulic rowers use pistons, not unlike you would find in the car. As you pull the handles back, the mechanism pulls against the air or hydraulic fluid contained inside the cylinder. You pull back and increase the pressure.

Hydraulic rowers tend to have a lower price point, be smaller in size, and quieter than the air flywheel models, but not as quiet as the hydraulic magnetic resistance unit.

These systems are very competitively priced because they do not offer the smooth rowing action of their competitors, occasionally they heat up within the cylinder and the model does require regular maintenance. Hydraulic pistons are generally snubbed by modern rowers.

Magnetic Rowers

Magnet rowing machines are the quietest of the resistance mechanisms.
In the market, these machines provide resistance by creating a variable distance between at set of strong magnets and a spinning wheel.

The spinning wheel is attached to the handle chain and as the handle is pulled the levels are altered in one of two ways. They either utilize mechanical sliders or are controlled digitally.

These Rowers offer smooth rowing action, they’re nearly silent. Often you will experience a wider range of resistance level. They tend to be more compact then other rowers and are relatively easy to maintain.

You won’t have the feeling that you’re moving through water, but the other advantages of the magnetic system outweigh this loss. Many of the rowers of this class are incredibly space efficient and fold up for compact storage.

Air Resistance Rowers

Air resistance machines are by far the most common choice for in-home rowing machines. Air rowing machines create effective resistance by pushing airflow through an internal flywheel.
The flywheel is connected to the chain and as you row, you turn the flywheel. The faster you row the more rigorous your cardiovascular workout will be. These systems are like Fords, simple in design, hard to break, and easy to fix.

Water Rowers

Water resistance machines are newer to the market in the traditional air flywheel base designs. They function very similarly to the air design, except they use a water flywheel that is set within a tank of water rather than simply left in the air.

As you operate the oar mechanism, the movement will power the interior paddle, the paddle actually spins inside the water contained within the reservoir.

This model is a favorite of serious rowers as it does an excellent job of replicating both feel and the body mechanics of water rowing.

A water rowing resistance machine is also significantly quieter then the air resistance rower. The water is reminiscent of the actual sport of rowing. This rower requires very little maintenance. However, these units tend to be severely larger than other types resistance machines and sometimes not foldable or easily stored.

Performance monitors

After you select the perfect type of resistance for your rowing needs. The next decision that you’ll have to make is to determine what type of performance monitor you would like on your unit.

Like just about everything these days, rowing machines are equipped with the staggering number of options and configurations. They are plenty of gizmos and gadgets to meet your every technological need.

Determining what types of capabilities, you would like a unit to have, and selecting the rowing machine with the metrics that you require will be a huge factor in determining budget and choice selection.

Keep in mind, using an inexpensive rowing machine without any added, enhanced technological features will be your best action if you’re on a budget. Machines commonly come with a minimum of a row counter, timer, and possibly a calorie burn measurement.

Other fairly standard metrics that you’re likely to see on home rowing machine include Digital controls, LED digital display, heart rate monitor, and other types of analytics that you expected see in the professional gym.

For the truly savvy buyer who wants all the bells and whistles, you can even find rowing machines featuring built-in television screens and iPad docs, some rowers such as the Concept2, allow you to compete online with other Concept2 owners.

If you have discretionary income to support these bells and whistles, it might be a fun option for you. The best recommendation for the rest of us is to select whichever options are most important before you begin the buying process.

It is best to decide this before beginning the buying process. In your excitement, it’s easier to think that we need gadgets and gizmos that we may well do without and they will at substantial cost to your alternate price point.


This is the stage that is most people’s least favorite. Now that you have considered what resistance types might be best for your particular machine, it might be the ideal time to pursue various pricing options among the rowers that are commercially available.

The two biggest factors in determining your price point on rowing machines are going to be the type of resistance that you have selected and any additional performance features that you want on the unit you end up buying.

Obviously, the more features you add into a performance monitor, the higher end to alternate cost would be.

Deciding what elements are absolutely necessary is best done before you actually start looking for units but keep in mind, the more toys the more bucks.

Hydraulic Recommendations

Hydraulic piston rowing machines be your most cost-effective type of rowing machine. Hydraulics tends to be considered outdated or outmoded in the market and have fallen out of favor.

You can pick up the bare bones are hydraulic rowing machine for roughly $200-$600.

If you’re looking for a base model, bare bones rowing machine at a killer price, the Rowing Machine Workout Home Gym Exerciser by Leopold may be the perfect option for you.

At a rock bottom price of $89, including free shipping, this rowing machine is the least costly option on the market.

It is rated fairly high (4.4/5.0) on Amazon. Keep in mind that it lacks a lot of the features that you will find on more expensive models.

For a mid-range model, both the Stamina 1215 or Orbital Rowing Machine with Free Motion Arms and the Stamina Precision Rower are highly rated options in the middle price range of hydraulic piston rovers. Averaging between $230 and $300 dollars, these units will offer some of the performance monitor features you may be looking for.

For a high end product, you may wish to consider Kettler’s Favorite Rowing Machine. With a price tag between $400 and $780 it is on the high end for the hydraulics.

It lacks some of the great features of the other two and a much higher price. It’s interesting to note that the other three rowers are more highly rated, this is expensive model, which may be out priced for his class.

Magnetic Recommendations

There is a similar bare-bones, featureless, but very highly rated magnetic rower by the name of Sunny Health and Fitness Rowing Machine that is extraordinarily cost-efficient at around $100.

Don’t expect much from this unit, except for very solid, high quality rower with no added features.

A midrange rower that will set you back about $300 more than the hydraulic piston units but with some of the same features as the highest rated rower is the stamina of Avari Programmable Magnetic Exerciser.

This product is likely your absolute best bet in all categories. It exquisitely balances affordability and functionality. It comes loaded with all the accessories you can imagine, while providing a very solid high-quality product.

This product prices anywhere between $500 and $1000 on Amazon. It is by far the best value for your money

One interesting rower that you may wish to consider in this category is a Recumbent Convertible Rower. Stamina offers a Recumbent Rower for around $800 that is rated highly on Amazon.

Air Recommendations

Air resistance rowers, by far the most popular type of rower, are most likely to offer you the best possible flexibility in terms of rower selection. You will likely find a wider range of price differentials, as well as different combinations of accessories.

The best possible option for a budget air rower is the Stamina 1402 ATS Air Rower, it outpaces competitors in terms of rating and averages $380 to $500.

This Sole SR 500 is great midrange model that retails between $900 and $1400. It is extremely highly rated and well received by customers.

For this price range, it doesn’t seem to have’s many of the extras as you might expect. The craftsmanship and quality of the unit, will likely compensate.

If you’re looking for the best model in this class, the Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine is hands down the best option in this resistance category. It is the highest rated rower of any currently available unit.

It comes fully equipped with all the accessories you would expect in high-end model, and boasts a stellar, flawless rating with Amazon customers. This model can be picked up for anywhere from $ 900 to $1500.

Water Recommendations

As mentioned earlier, the water resistant rowing machines are going to be the most expensive machines available.

That being said, they’re also the highest rated most well received by customers willing to fork over the extra $800 to $2,000 for these units.

All of the available water rowers are very highly rated, But the water rower Oxbridge Rowing Machine has unsurpassed customer ratings and is exceedingly well appointed.

Most of the water rowers clock in at about the same price point. The water row Oxbridge is exactly in the middle in terms of cost and is clearly is well-suited for any home rower need.


Starting a new year’s resolution is a cherished, and begrudged American tradition. These resolutions rarely persist beyond the first 14 days. One of the biggest reasons for this is lack of preparation.

Preparing for your new healthy lifestyle is the single best step you can take to be successful this year. While purchasing the perfect home rower might seem overwhelming at first blush, understanding the four basic types of resistance and available performance features is the single most important thing you can understand in making educated choice. Best of luck with your new home rower and your health goals.