The Sunny Health Fitness SF-RW5515 Rowing Machine is our best rowing machine, which is very convenient due to the magnetic tension system that makes it easy to row. Its portability also lets you place it anywhere in your personal space or home. You can increase or decrease magnetic resistance depending on your skill level.
Our step-up pick is the Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine and the rowing machine can give you a full body workout and it has a seat height of 14 inches for the best comfort during a low impact workout. It has caster wheels so you can move it anywhere. The chain is nickel plated for rust resistance and it is a 2-piece construction to make it portable.
The budget pick is the Stamina Body TracGlider 1050 Rowing Machine and if you have limited space then this at-home rowing machine only measures 46 x 23 1/2 inches for most small rooms. It strengthens your muscles at the back, arms and legs when you use it regularly, increasing your metabolism. It is a spacing-saving rowing machine that uses gas shock (hydraulic) resistance, which is adjustable for your skill level.
- A Little Background
- How We Picked
- Our Pick
- Flaws but Not Dealbrakers
- Step-up Pick
- Budget Pick
- Best Rowing Machine for Home Use
- Best Rowing Machine that has a Folding Option
- Best Rowing Machine with a Magnetic Mechanism
- Best Rowing Machine with a Wood and Steel Frame Construction
- Best Rowing Machine with an LCD Monitor
- Best Rowing Machine with Bi-Directional Rowing
- Best Rowing Machine for Outdoor Use
- The Competition
- Other Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping It Up
A Little Background
A rowing machine is a kind of training machine that lets you simulate rowing on a boat, kayak or canoe. It is a kind of gym or exercise machine that is mainly used by those who compete in water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, dragon boat racing and the like. Boat rowing is a really harsh task and physical activity for your arms but it does build arm strength and helps you burn fat and/or build muscles in no time.
As an upper body exercise machine, the rowing machine can be found on most gyms, but not all gyms may have them. Consequently, some schools and training centers and even naval bases have rowing machines to train their sailors to row boats without getting tired during an emergency. Rowing a boat requires a lot of skill, endurance and incredible arm strength. Therefore, you can train yourself ahead with a rowing machine before moving on to the real boat rowing challenge.
Rowing a boat can help save lives. When you know how to row a boat for days before you get rescue from a nearby ship, you will be able to save yourself and those around you if you ever get stranded from a shipwreck. Rowing a boat is one of the key skills that a sailor must possess, or anyone, for that matter, much like swimming, since it has the ability to get you closer to the shore or land.
Much like an indoor bicycle, indoor rowing machines can be used to train even when you’re not on an actual boat. If you live in an area that is far away from the sea, lake or any kind of body of water, you can invest in an indoor rowing machine to help you practice rowing. Even those who aren’t dragon boat race athletes or naval corps can go with a rowing machine to enhance their arm strength.
How We Picked
For the best rowing machine, you should have the following:
Weight capacity: from 100 to 600 lbs, you can have a rowing machine that will meet your expectations. Selecting the right weight capacity is important if you want to set up a home gym or commercial gym so that nearly anyone can use the rowing machine with great ease. It is also important so that you do not break the machine with excessive user weight.
Ease of setup: do consider a rowing machine that is relatively easy to set up. This will speed up the time that you can get to your workout. This is also important if you need to set it up by yourself at home so you can make sure that there are no loose parts. Additionally, a good set of instructions for putting the rowing machine together should be helpful.
Price: because it is an exercise equipment or machine, the usual price of a rowing machine is usually high like treadmills and elliptical machines, hence you should have a prepared budget for it. Nonetheless, a good rowing machine with a higher price tends to have more features and add-ons such as an electronic monitor.
Durability: the durability of the rowing machine is important, since it will be repeatedly used either at home or at the gym. The materials used for the rowing machine should be of high quality so that it will not easily rust or fall apart from frequent use so that you can be able to use it for the many years to come.
Comfortable seat: having a comfortable seat for the rowing machine is important because you could strain your hips if you do not have a good seat in your rowing machine. This also puts less stress on your hips for those periods that you want to use the rowing machine longer to get more effects of muscle toning and weight loss.
Monitor: do consider a rowing machine that has a fitness monitor. This will help keep you motivated as it will show your different statistics such as the number of rows you make and your current total workout time. The rowing machine’s display of your current stats is a good sign that it us concerned about your fitness goals, so that you can pursue goals and challenge yourself further.
Adjustment of resistance: most rowing machines do have an adjustment portion so that you can be able to work with the rowing machine depending on your skill level. Resistance training is important for athletes who want to train themselves for strength and endurance so they can practice well for upcoming games or challenges ahead.
You can feel of an outdoor rowing experience with this rowing machine and you get about 8 levels of adjustable resistance. It works all major muscle groups and gives you optimal comfort due to the large LCD console that is easy to read to maintain your wellness goals.
The rowing machine fits any user’s skill level and can give you a full body exercise in no time. The LCD screen can display your total time, stroke count and calories burned. You can also use the adjustable foot straps for various users as a home fitness equipment.
With a fully padded seat to keep you comfortable, the rowing machine has transportation wheels to make it portable as well. You can get stronger with the regular use of this rowing machine while the non-slip grip handlebars keep you balanced and focused. The perfect grip of the handlebars will help you to stay right on track and is great for long sessions without hurting your hands, so you can work out with great ease.
Flaws but Not Dealbrakers
The only short con but not a deal breaker to say about the Sunny Health Fitness SF-RW5515 Rowing Machine is that it is only ideal for home use. If you want something that is commercially acceptable due to its really good durability (and high price), our step-up pick below might be the one for you.
You can increase your fitness level with this rowing machine as it can withstand the abuse of heavy training in any gym. Available in either light gray or black colors, the rowing machine has a warranty of 5 years for the frame.
Great for your cardiovascular endurance and total body workout needs, the rowing machine is a good consideration for those with limited budget and needs of a good rowing exercise machine. It has a durable aluminum rowing beam and can take up to 250 lbs of weight. With pivoting foot plates that support you, it can be a low-impact aerobic exercise at home.
Best Rowing Machine for Home Use
If you want a rowing machine that can fit in the comfort of your own home then this is a good choice due to the small footprint. You can exercise at your own pace with its design while the rowing machine and it has a handlebar grip that is also padded to keep you comfortable.
The rubber feet keep your flooring protected and the Velcro foot straps are good for keeping you in place when you are rowing. It is backed by a warranty of 3 years as a home exercise equipment.
Best Rowing Machine that has a Folding Option
What’s more, the seat is fully padded to keep you comfortable while its info screen displays your stroke count, total time, calories and many more. You get up to 10 levels of adjustment for its magnetic resistance design. This rowing machine has wheels to allow you to move it from place to place.
Best Rowing Machine with a Magnetic Mechanism
With a total of 8 tension settings, it fits most skill levels due to the customizability. It is great for a home setting or a gym and is easy to move anywhere due to the wheels for transport. It has a foldable design so you can take it anywhere you want.
Best Rowing Machine with a Wood and Steel Frame Construction
It uses a water tank system for the flywheel for a better resistance training for your rowing machine. It has a monitor tracker and can be stored upright when not in use. The water flywheel makes it super quiet compared to other flywheel systems out there.
Best Rowing Machine with an LCD Monitor
It has a total of 12 levels of tension with foot securing straps to keep you in place. Its LCD screen helps you keep track of your stats and has a rail length of 38 inches. With a not-so-loud hydraulic cylinder for the flywheel tension, the textured foot pedals make it easy to pedal. It has a 3-year warranty.
Best Rowing Machine with Bi-Directional Rowing
It has compatibility with heart rate straps and the flywheel weighs 28 lbs and moves smoothly. It is great for strength training and for moving all of your muscles. It is quite sturdy and is great for a home gym to have for its design.
Best Rowing Machine for Outdoor Use
Other rowing machines were not fit for our list because they lacked durability and proper user instructions on how to set them up. In any rowing machine, there should be ease of setup plus the comfort factor when you sit for hours or minutes using the rowing machine in working out.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the health benefits of a rowing exercise?
A: Rowing is a kind of physical activity that involves mostly the upper body muscle, such as your arms. Here are the main benefits of going for a rowing exercise:
It burns a lot of fat and calories. You can be burning more than 600 calories per hour with a good rowing machine or an actual boat. Rowing is a great exercise that involves both your arms to exert a lot of strength and effort to row the oars or paddles of a boat or a rowing machine. Since you are exerting a lot of effort, it can easily burn fat and calories, which is essential for weight loss.
It is a lower impact exercise. Because you only work with your arms, it does not impact your joints at all. This kind of exercise can be done with only your back and arm muscles functioning and is not very tiring when you get used to it. Rowing has been an ancient sport and there is no reason that you shouldn’t get into rowing today even with a rowing machine.
Rowing does the cardiovascular and respiratory system good. For a healthier heart health and a better endurance for breathing and the like, you can use a rowing machine or a real boat to help train your cardiovascular system as well as your respiratory system. You will stay away from most heart diseases if you train with rowing exercises and you can potentially live longer with such a form of physical activity.
You can use rowing for your high intensity interval training. People who get engaged in HIIT can use rowing as a form of exercise. You can start off with low strokes or paddles and then go for higher amounts per minute then go lower. In this way, you are conditioned better for endurance. You can go for 10 minutes of HITT or you can just go for 30 minutes of regular rowing.
Rowing is great for strength building as well. Aside from building muscles, you also get greater strength when you row a boat or use a rowing machine. The pressure on the body of water, if you are in a boat, can play a part into you exerting more effort to row the boat. In the same way, the rowing machine also has some sort of pressure or resistance that makes it more challenging for strength building.
Your heart health and endurance will be enhanced. Like with what we mentioned above, heart health is one of the key benefits of a rowing machine. It is good not just for athletes or those who want to compete in rowing sports, but it is also good for anyone who wants to stay fit, live longer and live healthier. Even seniors who go fishing can practice rowing as a good exercise.
It helps you take away stress, as with all physical activities. One of the good reasons why seniors get into fishing is that the rowing action can help them take away stress and boredom. In the same way, rowing machines are a great way for gym people to help take out their stress after a hard day’s work or when they feel the need to get moving after days of boredom.
Muscle building is easy with rowing. Your quadriceps as well as your arm and back muscles can work well with the frequent use of a boat or a rowing machine. It really helps people who want to tone their body other than to lose fat if they go with a rowing exercise on a regular basis.
Rowing is a good stabilizer for balancing yourself. People who seem to have a lot of balance issues can benefit from the rowing machine or even a regular boat, kayak or canoe. Rowing can help you achieve a sense of balance because it helps your muscles to workout in all the same intensity plus the muscles that keep you steady and balanced are also enhanced with rowing.
Rowing is good for your joints and muscles. If you experience a lot of joint pains and muscle pains then you can improve your joints with the use of a rowing machine or a boat. It puts less impact on your joints but strengthens your muscles in the long run, so this makes it good for seniors as well.
When done with a lower body exercise, rowing can give you a full body exercise benefit. Most rowing machines can also be converted into cycling machines or indoor bicycles or even elliptical machines. If you combine these workouts then you get a full body workout and a well balanced body.
Q: Why do I need to buy a rowing machine? Is it worth it?
A: The rowing machine is a kind of machine that lets you row like you are rowing on a boat. There are many benefits as to why you can invest in a rowing machine at home or in your personal gym:
Rowing machines can be as cheap as $200 and below. You don’t have to spend a fortune on expensive gym equipment (usually $1,000 or more) or gym memberships to stay fit – a rowing machine is usually cheaper than most gym equipment and exercise machines out there due to the very simple mechanism that they have.
A rowing machine does not take a lot of space due to its compact design. The slim and compact design of a rowing machine makes it applicable for home use and even for apartments. Therefore, nearly anyone can use a rowing machine at their own pace and in their own personal space with no limits.
You can enhance your endurance with a rowing machine. For those who want to enhance their strength and endurance, you can count on a rowing machine to do just that. The pressure of the rowing machine is enough for making a good session of resistance training.
Rowing is a fun activity you can do with your family and friends. In addition to being a workout at home or in a gym, rowing is a great and pleasing activity that simulates rowing a boat. It can be done by anyone – even your kids – with proper supervision, and will help everyone in the family to stay fit.
A rowing machine’s mechanism is very easy to learn. Once you get the hang of the basic rowing back and forth, you are on your way to using the rowing machine for your daily needs of exercise or workout. Rowing machines are very easy to use and easy to learn for most people.
For a cardio exercise, rowing machines give you less impact but more calories burned. If you are looking for an exercise that gives you cardiovascular benefits but is a low impact, you can definitely count on a rowing machine to do just that. It will help you tone your body shape but not get you very tired.
For those who want both upper and lower body workout, rowing machines are good. A rowing machine can enhance your arm and back muscles as well as your core because of the rowing action. In the same way, a rowing machine can also help tone your lower body such as calf muscles, buttocks (glutes), legs and thigh muscles. Thus, you get a full body workout with the use of a rowing machine.
Losing weight on a rowing machine is easy with constant practice. As we mentioned above, rowing can burn a lot of calories in just one session so it is really engaging to use the rowing machine to help burn fat and calories so that you can stay in shape in any season of the year – even when it’s not the time to row the boat outdoors.
Rowing is a good form of aerobic exercise that can help you stay healthy. Since it is an aerobic activity, it can help release endorphins a.k.a. the happy elements that make you feel “in the zone” and also help with reducing stress levels. As a physical activity, rowing gives you more endorphins to negate out stress, anxiety, depression and the like so you can sleep peacefully at night.
Q: Which muscles benefit from a rowing machine?
A: The major muscles in the body that work from a full workout routine from a rowing machine include the following:
Core and midsection muscles, such as your abdominals and the like, are enhanced with a rowing machine. This is helpful if you want to keep a better balance because rowing helps to tone your body and at the same time, keep your body into a state of stability or balance to prevent injuries on your back.
Your leg muscles, thigh muscles, glutes, and hamstrings all benefit from rowing. It may not seem like it, but when you incorporate rowing with proper lower body positions, you can also gain strength and muscle mass with your lower body, making rowing activities not just for the upper body but also for the lower body due to your leg having to push to lean.
Arm muscles and other upper body muscles connected to it, such as the triceps, biceps, chest muscles and the like, can all benefit well from the workout you can get from a rowing machine. Your arms and chest muscles do most of the work when rowing and making a stroke. Upper body workout is one of the best benefits of a rowing machine, but it does not necessarily mean that it’s only the upper body it works on.
Shoulder and upper back muscles also get enhanced with the use of a rowing machine. This is because when you complete a stroke, the shoulder blades and your upper back also get the muscles contracted and expanded, causing muscle mass. Shoulder and upper back muscles go hand in hand with your arm muscle movements.
Hip muscles, much like the leg muscles, can also get enhanced with the use of a rowing machine. Because of your actions with your upper body and your lower body, your hips also get better contraction and expansion due to the hamstrings and the like.
Q: How does a rowing machine compare with other machines when it comes down to its impact and effectiveness of workout?
A: The rowing machine can be compared to a variety of machines out there when it comes down to effectiveness of the workout and the overall exercise impact, such as what is stated in the chart below:
|Criteria of Workout||Type of Exercise Machine|
|Rowing Machine||Recumbent Bike||Treadmill||Elliptical|
|Lower Body Workout||Best||Best||Best||Best|
|Upper Body Workout||Best||N/A||N/A||Good|
|Full Range of Motion||Best||Good||Better||Better|
As you can see from the chart above, the rowing machine is basically good on all workout criteria but is low on impact, as compared to other exercise machines.
Q: What possible mistakes am I making with a rowing machine?
A: The rowing machine can sometimes be frustrating for a beginner so here are some tips and mistakes that you are probably making that are getting in the way of your workout.
First, you need to row with your whole body and not just with your arms and upper body. The reason why the rowing machine is a full body workout is because you also need to use your legs in order to make a full rowing stroke without getting too much damage and strain to your upper body and arms.
You also need to check the damper setting of the rowing machine. Don’t set it too high when you are not an expert yet and only go for a lower level so that it will not cause stress to your muscles when you use the rowing machine. Always check the damper setting before you go on a rowing machine.
Make sure you have a proper form and the correct posture much like when you are doing other exercises so that you can not only enhance your core strength but you can also decrease the likelihood of bone and joint problems as well as posture problems for when you get older.
You should also not go with your entire body at once and take it gradually per body part. For instance, go with your leg movement first and then focus on your hips and shoulders and then your arms. It makes the rowing exercise less painful and more effective.
Don’t row the machine too hard because this can cause your seat and hips to be unstable. The pushing and pulling on a rowing machine should be timed with a right rhythm that is calm and collected. Rowing too hard will only get you exhausted easier.
Q: How do I make my rowing machine routine less boring and more challenging?
A: You can add difficulty to your rowing machine with the following:
You can beat your previous record for distance. This is when you should try to look at the metrics given in the rowing machine’s LCD screen so that you will know how much you have rowed in one session, and then try to beat that by the next day or so in the gym. Beating your personal best is always a motivational challenge.
Sprint sections can also help with making the rowing machine more challenging. Interval training for low to high intensity and vice versa can help you not to get bored with the use of a rowing machine and it will also make it more interesting for those who are into HIIT.
Q: Can seniors also use a rowing machine?
A: Yes, a rowing machine is a low impact exercise and this is why even seniors can greatly benefit from it. Having a rowing machine at home or in the gym can help seniors to stay in shape even when they cannot go outside. If your grandpa or grandma can’t go to the lake to go fishing or canoeing, they can use a rowing machine at home.
Q: How is a rowing machine compared with a cycling machine or indoor bike?
A: The rowing machine has major differences with the indoor bike or indoor bicycle. Here is a helpful chart to compare the two indoor machines for your gym or at home workout:
|Fitness Machine||Calories burned on the average||Range of motion||Used muscles||Availability||Exercise Impact|
|Indoor bike||498||Good||Lower body only||Indoor bikes are in almost every gym||Low impact|
|Rowing machine||606||Best||Lower and upper body except the chest||Rowing machines can be rare to find in most gyms||Low impact|
As you can see, both indoor bikes and rowing machines are low impact activities but rowing machines do more than just the lower body. It is also significantly higher for the average calories burned and has better range of motion than that of an indoor bike.
Q: What should I watch for when I’m using a rowing machine?
A: The rowing machine should be used in a safe way and with the right body position so that you don’t get a lot of knee sensitivity when you use the front plate. Make sure you don’t row the machine too hard and don’t use just one body part when using the rowing machine, and take it easy with frequent breaks.
Q: How do I row the rowing machine in the right way?
A: There are three steps to achieving the perfect row in the rowing machine:
First, do some leg isolation exercises. Practice with your legs first on extending and contracting them and give less emphasis on your arms (we’ll work on that later). This ensures that your legs are properly trained when you do it with your arms.
Next, do some arm isolation exercises by pulling and pushing your arms in a similar manner with your leg isolation muscles, but in this time, don’t move your legs and keep them straight so as to practice your arms instead.
After you have mastered both of the isolation exercises, you can now combine the two moves to row with a perfect form on the rowing machine. The technique is to integrate the arm and leg exercises to make that ideal rowing position.
Q: What is the ideal length of time that I should row?
A: The rowing time that you can spend with a rowing machine can be depending on whether you go for low intensity and high intensity workout:
For low intensity workout: a good time is up to 20 minutes of rowing, which can use from 60 to 70 percent of your VO2 max.
For high intensity workout: you can go for up to 40 minutes or more of rowing in the rowing machine, which can give you 80 to 100 percent of your VO2 max.
Q: What is the ideal distance for indoor rowing?
A: The distance for using a rowing machine can be a little bit frustrating. That depends on your rowing skills and your physical fitness level:
• For a low intensity workout, you can go for 500 to 1,000 meters.
• For a higher intensity workout, you can go for up to 3,000 meters or more.
Q: Can background music help you with indoor rowing?
A: Yes, indoor rowing can be supplemented with a good song along with your indoor rowing for your workout routine. Here’s how you do it.
• First, pick a song or playlist that has mostly high tempos from 150 to 180 BPM (beats per minute) such as dance songs and rock songs.
• Next, warm up with the first part of the song.
• Row up to 30 strokes per minute when the chorus or the highest point of the song comes (e.g. the breakdown part in an EDM song).
• Rest a little when the verses come so you have more power to do the next chorus or breakdown part.
• Finish off the song or playlist and then rest. Reward yourself with a pat on the back!
Q: Why should I look at the monitor’s stats in a rowing machine?
A: The stats in a rowing machine is an important thing for beginners and experts alike. Knowing about these numbers is important for setting goals in your workout. If you really want to get serious with the rowing machine, setting a goal is important.
The monitor’s stats can display your current strokes per minute, total number of strokes and your distance. Some more advanced designs of rowing machines can also detect your heart rate so you can also work until you reach your target heart rate.
Q: Can a fitness tracker track the number of rows you make on a rowing machine?
A: That depends on the functionality of your fitness machines. Wearing a fitness watch while at the gym can be a good thing to track how many calories you have burned but it depends on whether your fitness watch is capable of detecting rowing machine stats.
Some fitness trackers do have a rowing machine log that lets you enter data from the rowing machine, such as your total strokes per minute and your total distance in one section. However, results may vary because not everyone will go with the same intensity and proper form, hence everyone can burn different amounts of calories anyway.
Q: What misconceptions do most people make when it comes down to rowing machines?
A: There are many misconceptions that people often make with rowing machines, such as the following:
|The level 10 damper setting is the best setting for the rowing machine.||The ideal setting is at least 3 to 5 so that you do not tire yourself with too much resistance, especially if you are a beginner.|
|Higher SPM (strokes per minute) values means you work out better.||Your SPM has little to nothing to do with how much you burn calories, since it’s all about the pulling mechanism when you row with a rowing machine that counts.|
|Indoor rowers are not ideal for high intensity interval training or workouts.||It can be high intensity if you add difficulty such as pulling harder than you ever did before, to create a more challenging workout with the rowing machine.|
Q: Does split time or total time cleared have anything to do with your stroke rate?
A: Your stroke rate can be different but what’s important is that you reach the split time you are going for at the distance you are hoping for.
Your stroke rate affects your performance. Going for up to 30 spm is hard because you will tend to row faster and then slower later on because you will be starting to lose breathing. At 18 spm, you will row slower but on a more constant pace. It is really up to your style of changes in stroke rate whether you pull of a split time of your desire or not.
Q: How many percent of your upper body and lower body should use power when rowing in a rowing machine?
A: A rowing machine can be fueled by your upper and lower body, and is designated by the following percentages:
|Part of the Body||Percentage of Power|
|Lower body (legs, thighs and hips)||60 percent|
|Upper body (arms and back)||20 percent|
|Core muscles||20 percent|
Q: Why is having a strong core important with a rowing machine?
A: The rowing machine will get you to use your core once in a while so it is important to have a strong core by engaging into core strengthening exercises beforehand. Sit-ups and the like are great for abdominal strength.
Q: What exactly is stroke efficiency?
A: Stroke efficiency is how far each stroke went through and is affected by changes in speed when you perform the catch. Stroke efficiency can also get affected by your acceleration and your velocity. Acceleration is usually opposite of stroke efficiency while velocity goes a little bit in line with stroke efficiency.
Wrapping It Up
Overall, the Sunny Health Fitness SF-RW5515 Rowing Machine is our best rowing machine with its padded seat, LCD console and portable design.