Rower machines are the best option if you want to to work on endurance, strength and cardio without leaving your home. If you like sports and hate going to the gym when it’s cold, rowing is the most complete physical activity you can practice from the comfort of your own home. Not only that, you’ll also burn through calories without even realizing it and as an added bonus, it’s a really fun physical activity.

Ergometers are in high demand thanks to the emergence of “Indoor Rowing”, i.e. ergometers in gymnasiums. It should be noted that official competitions for this modality of the sport are actually held in various countries. When it comes to domestic rowing machines on the other hand, their use tends to be aimed solely for personal training. As you will see throughout this article, they are in-fact some of the most well rounded pieces of equipment that allow you to get a full body work out in a single machine.

Key Facts

  • Professionally, rowing machines are also known as ergometers. The great thing about this equipment is that it allows you to work practically the entire musculature of the body without placing any impact on the joints.
  • These devices are currently classified by their flywheel resistance, which can be hydraulic, air, water or magnetic.
  • Modern rowing machines usually have magnetic resistance. Technological advancements have also touched rowing machines, new tech is constantly being incorporated into these machines.

Ranking: The five best rowing machines on the market

Here are the most popular rowing machines on the Canadian market. You can actually order them online and get the latest tech delivered right to your door. Whether it’s an ergo with an LCD screen or with a heart rate monitor, with this guide you’re sure to find the machine that is best for you. To facilitate your search, below we have gathered the 5 best machines available to you.

No. 1: Concept2 – Model D Indoor Rower

This model is specially designed for rowing at home and is a best seller in the Canadian market. It’s Flywheel design minimizes noise while providing a smooth feel. It includes the Performance Monitor 5 which gives you accurate and comparable data for every row.

This model easily separates into two pieces for storage; Caster wheels make it mobile. This model requires a footprint of 9 x 4 feet and it holds a maximum capacity of 500 pounds. This model comes with a 5-year frame warranty. Consumers especially like that this machine connects to a wide range of fitness apps, which serve to help them stay motivated.

No. 2: Sunny Health & Fitness – Magnetic Rower – SF-RW5515

This piece of equipment functions with a magnetic tension system and it has 8 levels of adjustable resistance. It comes with a large LCD console that shows data like time, count and calories, among others.

This machine has a fully padded seat and non-slip grip handlebars for optimal comfort. It has large anti-slip foot pedals with adjustable foot straps. The maximum weight capacity for this rower is 250 lb. It has a foldable design and built-in transportation wheels allow for easy storage.

No. 3: Stamina – Air Rower

This wind-resistance rowing machine comes with a multi-function performance monitor which displays speed, distance, time and calories burned. This rower was designed for efficiency and engineered to ensure a smooth and comfortable rowing work out at home.

Like any good domestic rower it folds for storage and comes with built in wheels for optimal portability. Nice extras worth mentioning are that it comes with floor protectors to prevent skidding and with a 3-year frame warranty and a 90-day parts warranty.

No. 4: First Degree – Apollo Pro2 Rower

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This is a high-quality rower that has been engineered with a steel head frame for lasting durability, withstanding years of high demand work out sessions. It is designed with an adjustable footplate and straps that provide an angled surface to support leg drive.

Built-in transit wheels make this unit easy to store when not in use. Its dimensions are: 84L x 22W x 21H and it weighs 70 lbs. This machine also includes a multi-level computer that shows time, distance, 500 meters split time, strokes per minute, calories burned per hour, watts and heart rate.

No. 5: WaterRower – Natural Rower

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This high-end rowing machine is handcrafted and its WaterFlywheel technology replicates an actual rowing feel. The Flywheel sits in an enclosed water tank, this provides smooth, quiet and self-regulated resistance. It comes with a series 4 performance monitor that tracks workout intensity, stroke rate, heart rate and more.

It’s solid ash and stained honey oak construction absorbs sound and vibration. This machine stores upright; measures 84W x 21H x 22D inches and weighs 117 pounds. It should be noted that this product has outstanding 5 star reviews from buyers on Amazon.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about rowing machines

There are countless models of rowing machines on the market. When making your selection, you should take into account their characteristics and how these support your goals. Your level of experience plays a role when choosing the best model for you. Your budget will also play an important role in determining which machine you choose. Next, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions regarding rowers.

Rowing Machine

Rowing is an excellent exercise for the shoulders and back.(Source: Rido: 77774250/123rf.com)

What is a rowing machine exactly and what are other names for it?

Rowing machines are also known as ergometers or rowers. For the purpose of training, these apparatuses simulate the traction created by the oars in the water. Both domestic and professional use rowers simulate traditional rowing, allowing anyone to train anywhere. This is particularly handy since practicing in a real boat on the water is not always possible.

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Did you know that today, there is still the sport discipline of traditional rowing? What’s more, there are multiple regattas held in lake towns during the summer. Rowing is also a popular sport among Canadian Universities.

What are resistance flywheels in reference to rowing machines?

Today’s rowing machines have resistors linked under the handlebars. They are called resistance flounces, or inertia, and are sometimes placed right in front of the handlebars. They allow the subject to exert force to pull “the oars”.

As you can see below, there are several kinds of resistance flyers, let’s look at their characteristics:

Hydraulic Resistance Water Resistance Air Resistance Magnetic Resistance
Uses hydraulic pistons. In these cases, the pistons determine the resistance and handlebars are fixed Uses closed water tanks to give the sensation of rowing in a natural environment and the resistance will depend on your “rowing” Works with a flywheel of inertia, the resistance is adjusted to suit your strength and tempo when rowing Uses electromagnets to create resistance, this are best suited for experienced rowers

What are the benefits of using a rowing machine at home?

Rowing is considered a truly well-rounded sport that hones overall endurance and strength. Because you work both lower and upper body at the same time you work the entire musculature while expanding cardiovascular capacity. Moreover, if you use the rowing machine correctly, you won’t risk any damage to your joints. As you can see in the following list, these machines have many benefits.

  • Ideal for muscle reconstruction. If you have had an injury, rowing will help you regenerate muscles and increase full body strength. It is usually recommended as rehabilitation to a plethora of injuries.
  • Great cardiovascular exercise. When you work so many muscles it also benefits your heart. The great thing about getting your cardiovascular workout this way is that it doesn’t require high intensity or high impact.
  • If you row competitively and its off season. An ergometer at home becomes the source to great complimentary training you can do without leaving your home.
  • No impact on joints. Which means you will not damage the hip or knee joints. This exercise also strengthens the bones, so it really does benefit practically the entire body.
Rowing Machine 2

Rowing as a sport, was born in the 17th century, when the English introduced it as a such.(Source: Kzenon: 105353843/123rf.com)

What muscles are worked when using a rowing machine?

Rowing machines offer comprehensive training. You work no less than 80 percent of your body’s muscles. With rowing you strengthen your cardiovascular capacity and burn lots of calories which usually translates to weight loss. This sport also helps reduce stress, all the while toning most muscles and the best part of it all, it involves no joint impact. In the following table we can see exactly which muscles are trained with these machines:

Arms Legs Abdomen Back
Biceps, triceps and deltoids (over the shoulders) Quadriceps, buttocks and hamstrings (located at the back of the upper leg) Abdominals, obliques and erectors of the rachis (found in the lower back) Romboids (between the shoulder blades and the spine), broad dorsal muscle and trapezius (located over the broad dorsal muscle)

How can we avoid injury when using rowing machines?

It is essential that you use the proper rowing technique when executing repetitive movements on these machines. Since you can work the entire body with these devices, it is advisable to pay special attention to the individual movements of the upper and lower body. Next, we describe the specific movement for each of the body hemispheres.

Upper body Lower body
1. When you sit, make sure to keep a slight bend on your knees, avoid reaching full extensions to prevent injury 1. If you want a little more challenge, sit with extended knees, extended elbows at sternum height, and lean slightly backward
2. First, place your upper body slightly back and make sure to refrain from flexing the thoracic, lumbar, and cervical areas. Think of “sticking the chest out”, this action helps prevent bringing tension to the spine 2. Second, use force to send the ankles, knees and hips forward. Remember to lift the heels away from the pedals to push with the balls of your feet
3. Look straight ahead and don’t lift the shoulders. Keep flexion in the elbows and the palms facing the sternum 3. For this part of the exercise, it is crucial that you exert force by flexing your lower body to propel it forward and backward. Don’t forget that the heels should not be attached to the pedals

Purchase Criteria

If you intend to buy a rowing machine for domestic use, there are a number of important things to consider. If you’re not very tall, you will be able to use any ergometer, that will not be the case if you’re taller than 1.80 cm. The same thing happens with weight. Let’s look at the most important criteria to consider before purchasing a device.

  • Weight and height
  • Space
  • Type of resistance
  • Inertia flywheel weight
  • Quality
  • Accessories
  • Intended use

Weight and height

As we mentioned at the beginning of this section, it is important to check the weight and height capacities for each device. Generally, all specifications include the maximum supported weight. In addition, if the rowing machine is going to be used by several users, it is essential that it has a great structure. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Space

Before you make the purchase make sure you have enough space to store your rowing machine. Most domestic devices fold into an L-shape for storage, but their dimensions are quite different when set up. Keep size in mind to make sure you don’t run into any unpleasant surprises when it arrives. Don’t worry, size doesn’t really affect the quality of the product.

Rowing Machine 3

Rowing initially served as a means of transportation, both in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece.(Source: Gstockstudio: 53664361/123rf.com)

Type of resistance

There are different types of rowing machines, generally classified by their resistance flywheels. There are magnetic, hydraulic, air and water steering wheels that create resistance, as if you were rowing in the water. To have a better understanding of what this means, take a closer look at their individual characteristics:

  • Hydraulic Resistance: It uses hydraulically shaped pistons and the pistons are the ones that determine the resistance. The handlebars are fixed, i.e. they are not adjustable.
  • Water Resistance: It uses closed water tanks to give the sensation of rowing in a natural environment. The resistance is adjusted as by the row, just like with air resistance. Incorporating a water tank adds a considerable amount of weight to the device.
  • Air Resistance:It uses a flywheel. The resistance adjusts according to your strength and tempo when paddling (or pulling the handlebars). You can’t adjust the resistance manually.
  • Magnetic Resistance: It uses electromagnets to create resistance. The resistance can be adjusted to your preferences and it can be measured through the LCD monitor.

Inertia flywheel weight (or resistance)

The weight of the endurance steering wheel is not a trivial matter. Keep in mind that this exercise will feel more like natural rowing the heavier this weight is. It is therefore important that the flywheel is strong and robust. To give you a point of reference, the flywheel of an acceptable rowing machine weighs between 6 and 9 kilograms (kg).

Quality

Make sure not to leave this criterion aside. Keep in mind the wear of a rowing machine is very high, so quality is a fundamental aspect. Parts can be very expensive and hard to come by, so investing in a trusted, quality product is better than regretting your purchase and wasting your money. Good finishes and quality materials are essential elements that must be considered when purchasing an ergometer.

Accessories

Today’s rowing machines include a number of accessories that can be of great use to you. Among them are heart rate monitors or pulse sensors. It’s also common to find yourself a model with a console or LCD screen. These accessories are meant to guide you and motivate you through your work-outs. In the following list we explain the benefits of each of these features:

  • Pulsometer: It measures your pulse in real time. This feature shows you the impact the exercise is having on your body so that you can adjust resistance programs according to your goals.
  • LCD screens: For example, they give you information such as calories burned, duration of exercise or number of rows, to name a few. Some consoles have training programs designed by professional trainers. They can be used to follow a specific workout, develop a muscle group or lose fat.
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Did you know that on high-end LCD screen devices you can even participate in Internet races with other users?

Intended use

Not all machines are made equal, and not all machines can handle intense use. If you need to train for being on the water, you will need a robust and stable rowing machine so that it does not deteriorate quickly. As a reference, keep in mind that sporadic use is between 3 to 7 hours a week, anything more and the durability of the device will be key.

Summary

Domestic rowing machines are the best way to train the whole body without leaving home. Thanks to technological advances, today we have a wide selection of high quality devices at affordable prices. Newer devices generally include modern LCD screens so that you can monitor the exercise and and even interact with other rowers.

There are several types of rowing machines, but magnetic rowing machines are undoubtedly the most advisable if you are looking to train assiduously. Your pocket will notice it in the short term, but with time you will realize that you have made a good investment. If you want to use it to exercise sporadically, opt for a hydraulics system. You won’t regret it.

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(Featured image source: Drobot: 75914146/123rf.com)

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