Rowing is one of the best forms of exercises you can do. It’s great for burning calories and weight loss, toning and building muscles as well as increasing stamina and fitness. It’s a full-body workout too, using several major muscle groups in both your upper and lower body at the same time.
Being a serious aerobic workout, rowing helps release endorphins improving your mood, reducing stress and improving sleep quality. It’s also low-impact and is probably the most efficient in terms of time to health benefit ratio, so perfect for a high benefit a morning or evening workout when you’re pushed for time.
There’s a multitude of options out there, and what you go for will depend on your experience, how often you intend on using it, whether you need to be stowing it away after each use and of course, budget. Do keep an eye out for weight restrictions too; some cheaper models will have a maximum user weight, albeit still at least 100kg.
What are the different types of rowing machines?
Rowing machines work by using resistance and broadly speaking these are categorised into four different types.
The first and most popular is air resistance - this offers a smooth rowing stroke, is highly adjustable and required little or zero maintenance.
Magnetic resistance which can offer a higher resistance for a more strength orientated workout and it also very quiet.
Water resistance - again these are quiet and can look very cool but tend to be expensive and larger in size.
Hydraulic which are super low cost and space saving but less reliable
Below we have compiled the best home rowing machines to suit all possible criteria.
Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rower
Exceptionally well built, totally proven and at a relatively affordable price point, the Concept 2 has been at the forefront of indoor rowing since 1981. The Concept 2 uses air resistance which offers a very smooth rowing action - couple this with a reliable data screen and easy stowability you can pivot on its end and stand against a wall, or dismantle and throw in your car within minutes.
The Concept 2 is the global standard and benchmark for indoor rowing enthusiasts - so you’ll be able to compare your times and performance against friends, competitors and the world’s best (including Guinness Book of Records) safe in the knowledge you’re on a level playing field. Despite numerous attempts by competitor brands in a similar design, the Concept 2 is still the best all round option.
Price compare the Concept 2 on Amazon here.
This long established Italian fitness equipment brand launched a new flagship rowing machine last year, and it is pushing new boundaries in many ways. One of it’s biggest differentiators is that as well as having the more traditional fan wheel technology for regular rowing (akin to rowing on water), it has a power setting which uses magnets, allowing you to do higher resistance strength training.
It is huge on data too - equipped with a big monitor providing loads of metrics, connectivity to a smartphone app to track and analyse your training, as well as a neat smart phone holder so you can watch a video etc as you train. It looks great, is superbly and thoughtfully designed, well built and is spearheading the next gen of indoor rowers. Do consider however it is considerably heavier (than the Concept 2 for example), and less easy to stow given this weight, but these are minor points if you can leave it out, have a big budget and you like the latest and greatest, this is this the one for you.
A thing of beauty, isn't it? Aside from winning the good looks award, the WaterRower is also one of the best performing rowing machines on the market. This particular version is hand crafted in solid ash and finished with Danish oil. Although offered in a wide range of beautiful wood types, it's not all just for aesthetic value. A top grade hardwood such as ash actually works to absorb some of the sound as you row, with only the soft shushing of the water present (no vibrating metal bits) we found the whole experience of the WaterRower to be nothing short of meditative.
The flywheel paddles in the tank create more of a personalised resistance depending on how hard you want to go at it and the S4 performance monitor has all the bells and whistles of the bigger gym-only rowers but is designed to be much easier to read and understand. One of the best things about the WaterRower is its super slim, fold up design that can be stored under a bed or stood vertically off in a corner somewhere - although we admit when left out on it's own it looks more like a fancy art object.
Assembly is straight forward and easy, but if you're nervous you can pay a £50 white glove fee and someone will come over and set it up with a smile for you.
This is great choice for both the experienced and the novices - well build, beautifully designed and an absolute pleasure to use.
See the full range from WaterRower here.
JTX Freedom Air Rowing Machine
A more affordable comparable to the Concept 2, this is a great option that comes in the sub £500 level. Equipped with a chain pull system, an aluminium construction and good adjustability, this near gym quality machine is the best you’ll get at this price. It uses an air resistance and magnetic resistance system - 16 levels - with a good data screen that links up to the included heart rate monitor, comfortable seat and good foot plates.
A huge benefit too is it’s super easy to pack up and move around, folding in half in seconds, so it won’t dominate the room. This is a durable, smooth and affordable machine that’s perfect for the amateur or occasional rower or those on a budget.
The RP3 is a serious piece of kit, designed for the more experienced rower who is highly analytical about their rowing and technique.
Its software is second to none as you’re fed detailed data on the power curve of each and every stroke, along with a host of other data. Certainly one of the best in terms of replicating that on water rowing sensation, it’s a dynamic rowing machine, meaning that both the seat and - uniquely - the machine body move up and down the horizontal slider.
It takes up a little more space, is slightly louder than other options and has a more garish aesthetic, but it’s lightweight, well built, can be stowed on its head complete with wheels, and if you’re wanting to keep fit as well as improve your rowing technique in the off season, this is your option.
JLL R200 Rowing Machine
The most affordable home rowing machine you’ll find that’s still a good piece of kit, this is super compact and also a quieter option as it uses magnetic resistance. It also very easily folds up and has wheels so you can move it to a corner of the room out of the way. Its LCD data monitor is basic however gives key stats such as calories, time rowed, strokes and distance. You can adjust it on 10 different resistance levels, and it has a smooth rowing action. Although not super high specification (and maximum user weight of 100kg), this is an entry level machine that’ll offer you all the health benefits of rowing, quietly in relative peace (compared to air resistance machines), will stow easily and at a very affordable price.
Price compare the JLLR200 on Amazon here.
V-fit Tornado Air Rowing Machine
If you want to try rowing in your home for the first time, this is a great option at an affordable price. You’ll be getting a piece of kit that’s reliable - it’s well built, made of a steel and aluminium with a chain drive akin to the Concept 2. It doesn’t have varied resistance settings as this is determined according to how hard you row. The maximum user weight is 115kg so keep this in mind, and the data screen is more basic but still giving you key data for a work out, and it folds up very easily.
If you live in a stylish property and have a beautifully curated gym, the grateful WaterRower is without question your option. If you’re on a budget, the JTX Freedom rower will deliver quality service and offer you all those health benefits of rowing. However when considering price, reliability and the best all round package, the Concept 2 is our top pick.