In this article we will be going over our picks for 5 different rowing machines that will suit you no matter what your level of experience is! Each rowing machine has it’s positives and negatives, but will serve you well, whatever your budget!
Most people, when they think about rowing machines, think about going to the gym and slogging it out, but I can assure you that equipped with the correct machinery you will be surprised at how much of a full body workout you can get by simply picking the correct machine for you and getting in long sessions with the correct technique.
It’s never good enough just sitting down on an erg at the gym and rowing for 30-60 minutes. Without the correct settings and efficient technique, more often than not you will be causing yourself more harm than good.
I will be outlining 5 rowing machines that are used by both the general public and also by the most elite athletes across the world. I will include a budget friendly option, a mid-range option, an expensive option, a stylish but practical option, and an option that is most preferred by athletes everywhere, and you’ll be surprised at just how common this machine really is.
Body Sculpture BR1000
First on our list is the BR1000. This lightweight rowing machine is perfect for getting your technique down and grabbing hold of the very fundamentals of rowing. Weighing in at exactly 11KG you will find that this erg will meet your very basic needs as someone first starting out in a home gym. While this is a starting model you will find that it is equipped with a single hydraulic piston that you can adjust to 12 different resistance levels providing you with multitudes of workouts that you can do whenever you feel like burning a few calories.
You’ll find there is not much difference between setting 1 and setting 12, so you may find it better for your cardio training to use the incline method which is perfect for building your base stamina rather than focusing on your strength needs. As somebody first starting out I cannot stress enough the importance of getting your technique correct and building your core to properly place yourself on a machine or even a boat later on down the line.
The screen, whilst lacking a lot of detail that more expensive rowing machines come equipped with, will count the time that you have worked out for and also the number of strokes you have taken, with options for approximate calorie burn and strokes per minute too.
Personally I have never liked hydraulic ergs, but for somebody who is first starting out with a very basic set up, this will provide you with exactly what you need to give you that extra push to work out and potentially purchase a different model down the line.
V-fit Tornado Air Rower
Next up is the V-fit Tornado. Weighing in at 19.5KG this rowing machine really packs a lot into it’s features. Coming equipped with an air resistance fan and a pull chain this is a perfect rival to some of the more expensive options listed below. Whilst you can’t change the resistance on this one it is worth noting that this sits in at a firm 6/7 resistance comparative to a Concept rower which is slightly less than ideal when looking at it in terms of mimicking water resistance but still enough to provide a decent workout.
As sturdy as it is lightweight this rowing machine boasts being made from high quality alloy steel and aluminium which makes it perfect for thorough workouts whilst still maintaining it’s integrity. The seat is made from a high quality rubber which is perfectly moulded for comfortable long sessions. The feet pads are adjustable too which means that it will be comfortable for taller people (like myself) to use this machine.
In terms of screens this rowing machine has three! Which means that all of your data can be tracked accurately, measuring time, strokes per minute, stroke counter, distance, speed, and an approximate calorie burn display.
Of all the rowing machines that I have ever used, fan-based ergs are by far my favourite to use. There’s something about the noise that one of these produces that is just ingrained in my mind. I know that for the rest of my days I will always be able to hear the sound of 10 fans going at the same time and that provides such a sense of inspiration in me. It will always remind me of the hours and hours I spent in my boathouses gym racing to beat the times and speeds that my fellow teammates were putting out.
Nordictrack Rower RW700 and RW900
The last of our price-based picks is the Nordictrack Rower RW700 and RW900. This erg has everything that you would ever need from a rowing machine and more. This bit of it is the absolute pinnacle of rowing technology. There are some features that I would say are absolute necessities on a machine and others that I would say you could live without.
This erg really has it all. 26 magnetic resistance levels and 10 adjustable air levels really makes this machine a powerhouse. The pedals are also adjustable which means that it is suitable for all styles of rowing that you might need. Going back to the magnetic resistance, these are completely silent. The only thing that you’re going to be hearing coming from this technological masterpiece is the sound of the fan whirring around and the sound coming from the speakers on the screen. You also have the ability to pair your Bluetooth headphones to it so that you can hear your personal trainer easily.
Coming in at just under £1200 at the time of writing this, you will find that if you are motivated by others pushing you to go harder and faster this would be the right machine for you. It comes with a 14-inch incredibly responsive touchscreen where you will be able to access live workouts via the iFIT membership. When you buy this it comes with a free 30 day trial of the membership and after that you will have to pay £11 a month for an individual membership with prices going up to £29.60 a month for the family plan where you can add up to 5 users (at the time of writing this). For a whole personal training package like that, it’s plain to see that for a user who would thrive off being told exactly what to do and how to do it, it would be beneficial.
There is something bad to be said about this however. Whilst this rowing machine does come with that massive screen you are limited in how you can use it. If you have the membership you will have more than enough to do when you follow the live and on-demand workouts, however you will find that you can’t use any streaming apps on it as it is purely used for the iFIT membership. If you do choose to discontinue your iFIT membership you can still use it as normal, but just without any of the trainer-lead workouts.
I personally found that when I was working out I always trained harder when I had someone to compete against and I was always more motivated when I had a coach screaming at me to push myself harder. I feel like this is perfect for the type of person who would benefit from having that motivational voice in your ears to actually do the workout. There are plenty of machines out there that will give you all the readouts you need but this one comes with your own personal trainer for only £11 a month. Seems like a good deal to me.
Stylish but Practical
Topiom Rowing Machine
I think if you’re a professional rower and you’ve ever had the chance to use one of these rowing machines you would have been amazed the first time you ever saw one. This machine is both stylish and practical for home and club use. It uses water as a natural resistance on each stroke and automatically adjusts to how hard you use it. It makes it the perfect ergometer for use if you find that a regular rowing machine just isn’t meeting your water resistance needs.
First off, it should be said that for style points it gets a 10/10. It’s sleek, folds away easily and will impress anyone that comes to see it in your home gym. There are a couple of features that aren’t the best for professional use however. The screen is rather basic and leaves a lot to be desired. It will show you all the information that you’re going to need, but if you’re used to measuring your splits per 500M you’ll likely be disappointed. The second feature that doesn’t leave a lot to be wanted for is the pull chain, or rather a lack of a chain. The rower uses a fiber recoil belt as the way you take a stroke and for me they’ve never been the best for use. Not to say that this will break, but I’ve always preferred a metal chain.
As it’s made from wood, this has plenty of points where you could mount an external phone or tablet holder to use in conjunction with your workout. Whether it’s a motivational video on Youtube, your favourite series on netflix, or a video of the view from a boat as you’re travelling through the water ,this is an excellent little side addition that you could add to tailor your use of this machine.
Cleanup on this machine is fairly easy too. All you need to do is add in a chlorine tablet to the tank and pull for a few strokes and it should easily clean the tank in mere minutes. It should also be said that a lot of users found that adding a little bit of water soluble, non-staining dye really helped to customize their experience while using this nifty little rower.
I had the chance to test out one of these water based rowing machines when they first came out and it was unlike any off water rowing experience I have ever had. The fact that the machine uses the waters natural resistance to mimic being on water is truly an experience that you shouldn’t forget. They really are unique machines and would definitely fit inside any modern or classic room layout.
The Athletes Option
Concept 2 Model D
I told you that this would sound familiar. If you have ever been to a gym or even peeked inside a gym you would see at least one of these. They are by far one of the most common rowing machines out there. It’s the machine that most athletes prefer to use and has every conceivable feature that you will need on a machine.
These aren’t cheap. I will say that. At the time of writing this a Model D is £860, but it is by far the best companion that you could have if you needed to buy a sturdy, reliable machine. The technology inside them is incomparable to other machines. Bluetooth compatibility allows you to connect your smart device directly to the machine so you can track all of your sessions in the app, and ANT+ compatibility means that you can connect it to a heart rate monitor to better track your workout. You even get a phone clip included with the machine so you can clip your phone to the top of the screen to watch anything you like on it.
The screen has been vastly improved on these machines in recent years. The old model had a green screen which would sometimes seem quite dull in comparison to the outside world, but the newer models have a backlit screen that is a pleasure to look at while you’re training. A 2k sprint never seemed so appealing!
There’s not much bad to be said about these rowing machines either. Being backed by multiple Olympic rowers for daily use means that the machine that you are getting is going to be tested to the extreme for heavy duty use. The customer service is impeccable too meaning that if anything were to go wrong with your ergometer you could easily get a replacement part sent out to you relatively quickly. With over 10,000 reviews and a 4.9 out of 5 star rating on Amazon, it really speaks for itself.
When I was training, I was sometimes using models that were easily 10 years old at the time, and they were performing almost as well as the newer models. That being said I would strongly recommend using one of the newer models as they have been able to iron out a few kinks in the software. I cant tell you how many hours I’ve spent on one of these machines, and in the hundreds of thousands of kilometers I have travelled on one I only ever saw one break once, and that was my own fault. Even then it was a very easy fix and it was back up and running again in no time like it had never happened. I will always look on these machines with fondness, and be reminded of those days where anything was achievable with enough hard work.
Check out our review of the Concept 2 rowing machine
That’s it, that’s the end of the list. I will say that there’s only one clear winner to me here and that’s the Concept 2 Model D. Whilst it is quite expensive, it’s one of the only rowing machines that you’ll ever need. The instructions for use are very intuitive and I think that’s the reason that most gyms use them. They are used by complete beginners and absolute professionals, and it’s very rare that you see a machine with such versatility.
Have a good one.