How To Find the Best Home Rowing Machine

You should have a basic understanding of how home rowing machines operate before you go shopping for an indoor rower. This will help you choose the appropriate style of machine when you’re ready to buy. A good understanding of how rowers operate can also help you get the most from your workout while minimizing the risk of an injury.

The Common Elements

All rowing machines have a few things in common. They use flywheels to supply movement; they have handlebars which are held by the rower and pulled back on to mimic the motion of rowing a boat with oars. The flywheel is attached to a braking system or energy damper.

You can learn more about the different braking systems used in indoor rowing machines right here on this site. The most common are air or pneumatic brakes, hydraulic brakes, or magnetic brakes (sometimes called magnetic damping).

A chain or rope runs from the flywheel over a pulley to the handlebars. Pushing on the foot stretcher and pulling on the handlebars activates the flywheel, setting it in motion. As the flywheel rotates, either the seat or the foot stretcher will move along the rails and away from the flywheel, whereas in some designs both the seat and the foot stretcher slide on the rail.

Some Differences

Home Rowing Machines

Not all home rowing machines are the same. There are some basic differences that affect the operation of the equipment. The most common system is called a fixed flywheel system. Both the flywheel itself and the stretcher on these rowing machines are stationary at all times. When the handlebars are pulled back, the seat moves back and forth along rails. This was the earliest version of machine on the market for in home use.

Two more modern versions of home rowing machines include the fixed seat and the floating seat and stretcher models. With a fixed seat rowing machine, the seat is stationary at all times, but the foot stretcher glides away from the rower with each stroke. The floating seat and feet models allow both the foot stretcher and the seat to move along the system’s rails. This is closest to the feeling of rowing in a moving boat.

How to Use an Indoor Rower

The seated rower pulls on the handlebars as though rowing a boat, pulling back with elbows bent. At the same time, he pushes against the stretcher with his feet, causing him to slide back and forth along the rails.

The braking system will slow the flywheel down at a steady rate, slowing movement as the handlebars and stretcher move farther apart toward the end of each stroke, when the arms are fully extended.

The best home rowing machine will provide an excellent cardiovascular workout and will help tone the arms and legs. They are often used during interval training or when an individual wants to exercise indoors during inclement weather.

Choosing the Best Home Rower

WaterRower Natural - One of the Best Home Rowing Machines

When it comes to selecting the best home rowing machine, there are several different approaches you can take.  The easiest would probably be reading through our expert's top picks and choosing the model that most appeals to you.

This comprehensive list is broken down by overall best as well as different types and price levels, so you can take a look through there and definitely find a great machine for your home gym.

You should figure out what type of machine you want, as well as your relative budget, to help you make a smarter decision.  Our main rowing machine reviews page has a brief description of all types, but here is a quick overview for you.

Basic hydraulic rowers will be the least expensive, similar to those machines you might have used in your basement in the 70s and 80s.

Moving up you have the air and magnetic rowers, that are more advanced and will give you a more natural feel.

At the top you have the water rowers, which are the most expensive but are the closest you will get to the feel of actually rowing out on the water.

Your budget will definitely be a determining factor when choosing the best home rowing machine for your particular needs.  If you only have a few hundred to spend, then you're options include piston/hydraulic rowers and lower quality air rowers.

Once you get above $500 or so you'll be looking at more advanced air rowers and magnetic rowers.  Water rowers, which as we mentioned are the most expensive, will typically cost $1000 or more.

Keep in mind that even if you can afford a water rower, these are very heavy/bulky machines, so it might not be the best home rowing machine for you, especially if space is limited.  As such you might be better served with one of the higher end air or magnetic rowers, like the popular Concept2 Model D.  

It's a bit cheaper than a water rower and much lighter and more space friendly.

If you're looking under $500 or even under $300, you can still find some decent machines...just don't expect all the bells and whistles that you get with some of the more advanced models.

The Bottom Line on Home Rowers

Choosing the ideal rower for your home gym doesn't have to be difficult at all.  Try to come up with a budget for your machine, keeping in mind that you'll probably be happier with a better quality rowing machine if you can afford it.

Once you have a rough range in mind, take a look at the various types that fit your budget and see if they have what you need.  If your budget is on the lower side, you won't have as many options, but you can still find yourself a decent machine that will give you a good cardio workout.

If your budget is open, you'll have a little more freedom as far as what type you can afford, so read the pros and cons of all of the different types: hydraulic, air, magnetic and water, and decide which one suits your needs.

Some additional considerations for you to note during the process:  quality of the construction, resistance options, monitor/workout feedback, manufacturer warranty and size/weight of the machine.

We hope this primer helps you during the buying process...if you need help deciding which is the best home rowing machine for your just contact us and we'll point you in the right direction.

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UPDATE: Summer Rowing Machine Sales are going strong!


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Hydrow Rower


An incredible rowing machine with innovative technology and unique live and on-demand workouts.

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