Indoor rowing doesn’t have the distinctive charm of being on a skiff on a river (sigh, if only), but the best rowing machine will still give you an excellent workout. Between smart rowers like Hydrow and Peloton, and industry stalwarts like Concept2, there are plenty of top-notch rowing machine options on the market. We spoke with fitness experts to learn more about how to find the right rowing machine for you.
How to choose the best indoor rowing machine
When it comes to choosing the right rower for your home gym, there are a few important points of comparison worth noting. “When selecting a rower, I think it’s important to identify what your rowing goals are upfront,” Dani Hansen, a Paralympian and Hydrow coach, tells SELF. “Are you a beginner looking for guidance? Will rowing be your primary fitness activity or a part of your overall training plan? Where in your home will your rower be placed? What types of workouts are you looking for?” Beyond those key questions, the trainers and coaches we spoke to also mentioned looking at rowing resistance and machine durability.
There are different mechanisms used by rowers to provide resistance, Ben Walker, CPT, owner of Anywhere Fitness in Dublin, tells SELF. Those generally include air, water, magnetic, and hydraulic resistance. There’s no right or wrong resistance mechanism; it all depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for, SELF previously reported.
If noise is an issue, you may want to stay away from air rowers with fans, as they tend to be louder. If price or maintenance is an issue, you may want to opt for an air-based or magnetic rower, which tend to be more affordable and easier to maintain than water rowers. Like other features, though, it tends to come down to personal preference in terms of how much you like the feel of the rower.
Consider looking for companies that have had time to perfect their rowing design and have good reviews in terms of durability and maintenance, suggests former elite rower Maria Brezler. Quality isn’t just about financial investment, she adds; it can change how you feel when you’re doing a workout. You can get on one machine and it feels like you’re riding in an old beat-up car, she says, while another will feel like driving the luxury version.
Additional Rowing Features
Are you happy with the motion of rowing and the ability to change resistance levels, or do you also want to see your data, like speed, stroke rate, heart rate, and distance? That’s where you might look for one with an LCD screen that shows important metrics. Beyond that, consider whether you’re interested in higher-tech models with built-in HD screens, gamified rides that allow you to compete with others, virtual form assisting, and the option to take live rowing classes led by instructors.
“Only you will know what it will take to become more competitive with yourself and what fuels your motivation,” Brezler says. If you’re just starting out, you might want more nudges like those live classes and leaderboards. But if you’re using an indoor rower only as a fill-in machine until you can get back on the water, you may prefer a more stripped-down version.
The best indoor rowing machines
When it comes to specific brands, favorites can vary as much as they do among treadmills or exercise bikes, but we’ve talked to coaches and certified trainers, looked to our own SELF Certified rower reviews, and researched top-rated models from retailers like Amazon and NordicTrack to find excellent home rowers that mimic the feeling of being on the water. “At the end of the day, the best rowing machine for you is the one that keeps you coming back for more,” Hansen says. Read on to find 11 of the best rowing machines that will—fingers crossed—do just that.
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