Why buy a rowing machine?
If you’re wondering which is the best exercise machine to buy first (or next) to give you the best all-round workout, a rowing machine is a great option.
Most exercise machines will give you heart and lungs a good workout and some, such as treadmills and bikes will exercise your lower body very well, but your upper body less so.
So if you want your exercise machine to give your whole body a thorough workout – cross trainers and rowing machines have the edge. A rowing machine exercises the legs, glutes, back, abdominals, arms and shoulders, as well as giving you a good cardio workout.
Find the Best Rowing Machine to Buy
I have divided the possibles into different budget groups and chosen what I think is the best one from each group.
Rowing machines under £100
The overall best-selling rower on Amazon.co.uk (at the time of writing, though this is subject to fairly frequent change), the Body Sculpture BR3010 increases its claim to give you a full workout by providing some of the benefits of a home gym as well!
For more versatility, numerous exercises can be performed by replacing the normal bar used for rowing by the supplied two separate handles, attached by D-shaped Carabiner clips. An instructional DVD is included to help you make the most of the rower.
As you would expect from a good rower, this machine has large, pivoting footplates,with a securing strap, and (limited) adjustable resistance.
The onboard computer displays Time, Stroke Count, Total Count, Calories and a Scan feature which displays all of the above in turn.
The icing on the cake is that crucially, for many, it also folds for storage, with a fairly small footprint of space necessary for storage.
(TIP: Be careful not to trap wires to the computer when folding it, as a couple of reviews imply that this may be an issue. One reviewer taped the slack into the box section.)
Assembly is fairly easy with the tools provided and can be completed in about 20 minutes.
The resistance is provided by pulling against 3 elasticated cables. Simple adjustment is provided by disconnecting 1 or 2 of the cables. This is a potential limitation as, if using all 3 straps does not provide enough resistance, there is no easy way to increase it. However, this does not seem to apply to most people.
- Weight: 16 Kg
- Max user weight: 17stone / 240lbs / 110kg
- Rowing machine dimensions: Height: 65 cm, Width: 43.5 cm, Length: 185 cm
- Folded dimensions: Height: 128 cm, Width: 43.5 cm, Length: 94 cm
- Max user height: aprox. 6’ 2”; 185 cm (estimated)
Other models to consider for less than £100
Rowing machines for around £200
The resistance for this machine is provided by more professional method of magnetic resistance, with 8 levels adjustable via a round knob, although it does not have any other home gym capability. Inertia is provided by a respectable 4Kg flywheel.
This makes it 10Kg heavier than the Body Sculpture BR3010, at 26Kg product weight, with most of that weight in the main body. The seat rail is aluminium, which makes it fairly light to lift for moving – there are transportation wheels on the front for this purpose.
The LCD computer screen displays Time, Speed, DIstance (to the nearest 0.1km), Stroke Count, Strokes per minute and Calories – i.e. the main things you would want to monitor.
TIP: It is easy to assemble by following the instructions, though several owners recommend one change, suggesting that it is easier if you fit the two foot rests to the cross bar before fitting the cross bar to the main frame.
The maximum recommended user weight is 17.3 stone / 242lbs / 110 Kg, and users report it to be stable and quiet – enough to be able to watch tv during use.
TIP: Make sure that the handle does not come out of the webbing – a couple of users have reported this happening with the result that, without the handle to prevent it, the webbing is drawn inside the machine.
Other than this, users report the Marcy rower to be well-made and stable.
For those on a budget but who want something a bit more professional, this is a great compromise.
To consider for around £200
To consider between £200 – £350
Rowing machines between £250 – £350
Most rowing machines simulate the rowing action by pulling a bar towards you against some kind of resistance. While this is perfectly adequate for the purposes of exercising various muscle groups, it does not accurately reproduce the real rowing action experienced in a boat.
The Cobra rowing machine from German company, Hammer, distinguishes itself from the others by having a more realistic rowing action, so if you love rowing more than exercise, this rower is probably a much better bet for you.
Furthermore, if you are a rower in training, this is likely to help you a lot more than the other type (though there is, of course, no real substitute for actually rowing on the water in the kind of boat you’ll be using).
It offers an above-average 12 levels of resistance, adjustable on each oar and the on-board computer displays the usual items, namely:
- No. of strokes
- Calorie consumption
- Stroke Frequency and
The Cobra also offers the following user settings:
- Training Distance
- Calorie consumption
- Rowing Strokes
The overall size in use is 125 cm (length) x 166 cm (width) x 44.5 cm. The arms fold in but this only affects the width – reducing it to 57 cm, so the Hammer Cobra can take up a fair amount of floor space. The height of the rail is adjustable to 1 of 3 positions.
The frame is made of aluminium keeping the overall weight down to 23Kg but the maximum user weight is up to 19 stone / 266lbs / 120Kg. This is partly due to the use of heavy gauge materials. The seat uses high quality ball bearing rollers.
Unlike some rowers, the foot position is also adjustable, making it suitable for taller users.
Feedback from owners suggests it can take a while to assemble but is very sturdy and reliable, even for regular, high intensity use.
The biggest criticism is that the display is not ideally positioned, but those critics said that should not put you off this otherwise very good, realistic rower.
Other mid-range end indoor rowing machines to consider
TOP MODEL – Upper Price Range
When comparing pieces of equipment at whatever level, I usually like to look at a top of the range model, not only to see what I’m missing by buying something less expensive, but it often gives an indication of what is considered important to serious users.
Is it basically the same but stuffed full of extra gadgets? Or is it just much better built? Or a combination of both?
The Concept 2 Indoor Rower is the world’s bestselling indoor rower and the industry standard rowing machine. It is the one they use for competitions, and by top athletes so you can expect it to be somewhat dearer than the top 10 sold on Amazon. But what do you get for your money? We are looking here at the Model E which is an upgrade on the famous Concept 2 Model D, which is a little cheaper.
As you would certainly expect at the very least, it is very well built with a whopping maximum user weight of 227Kg /500lbs / 35 stone. It has a 5-year frame warranty (2 years on the moving parts and PM5) but is designed to last a lifetime. It is quiet enough to use with the TV on and it splits into 2 parts for easy storage.
The Concept 2’s Performance Monitor 5 (PM5) offers a wealth of features: The backlit screen illuminates and starts up automatically when you start using the machine. It displays the usual Speed, Distance, Pace, Calories used and more unusually, Watts. A menu system allows you to manage preset workouts, games and multiple languages.
The display is mounted on an moveable arm and can be adjusted to a convenient position.
You get an included USB flash drive to transfer data to your computer and you can connect wirelessly to compatible Bluetooth heart-rate monitors. Wireless connectivity extends to computers, smartphones and machine-to-machine racing.
Clearly, this is a serious machine, both extremely well-built and with a wealth of features. For a really serious user, or someone wealthy enough that the price is not an issue, it’s probably the one to go for.
Other high end indoor rowers to consider
Conclusion – How much do you need to spend to buy a decent rowing machine?
While the worldwide sales machines like the Concept2 clearly show its advantages, such machines are meant for heavy use in commercial gyms and for competition use. Fundamentally, for personal use, an equally good workout can be provided by other, cheaper models described above, so if the Concept2 rower is a little out of your league, you’re still very well catered for even at the lower end of the market.