Indoor rowing machines are a bit more complicated than ordinary home gym equipment, like power racks or dumbbell sets. Decades ago, they used to be little more than a gliding seat and rope handle attached to a water-filled flywheel. But today’s best rowing machines are a lot more high-tech and sophisticated.
The most connected models—from the likes of Peloton and Hydrow—pair with your smartphone via Bluetooth to stream music, while their touchscreens connect you with professional rowers on the other side of the world for personalized, guided training sessions. That’s all to say that shopping for a new rower can be a challenge, and finding the best indoor rowing machine for you is especially difficult. We’re here to help with the most important specs, features, and essentials to consider before forking over your hard owned money
Durability and quality: If you’re dropping $1,000 or more on a complicated piece of gym equipment, you want to know that it can go the distance. That’s why it pays (literally) to buy from a company that you trust and that offers a solid, reputable product with a decent warranty. Don’t settle for a bargain-priced Amazon model from a brand you’ve never heard of just because it seems like a steal. In the world of fitness equipment, you almost always get what you pay for. If you’re planning to row on a regular basis and to keep your rowing machine for the foreseeable future, consider investing good money into a model that will last.
Resistance mechanism: At the heart of every rowing machine is some sort of resistance mechanism. There are four main types including hydraulic, flywheel, water-based, and magnetic resistance-based. Hydraulic resistance relies on air or fluid compressed into a cylinder and is almost always the cheapest. Flywheels rely on air resistance; these will require the most nuanced timing of your rowing pattern. The downside: They’re often noisy. Water-based and magnetic resistance models often deliver a near-silent experience, although they can be pricey.
Storage: By their nature, rowing machines are big, bulky, and often heavy. If you have the real estate in your home, non-folding models are typically sturdier and more convenient when it comes time to work out. They’re always set up and ready to go—er, row. If you’re a city dweller or are just short on space, however, a folding model might be the best way to go. Some rowers fold neatly in half or offer vertical storage to minimize wasted floor space. Look for models with transport wheels too, so you can easily move yours around by yourself.
Warranty: With the best rowing machines priced north of $1,000, buying one is a serious investment. So, it’s important to purchase from a manufacturer that offers a clear, comprehensive warranty. They vary widely across the industry, with the most budget-forward brands offering just 90 days on some parts, and others boasting generous 10-year warranties on everything. Again, the more you spend upfront, the better the warranty is likely to be. And, if there’s anything that isn’t clear to you about the stated warranty, be sure to ask. It’s your money, after all.
Budget: Depending on your situation, price might be the most important consideration. Indoor rowing machines are a substantial investment that can run into the thousands. Know that, if price is an issue, you can absolutely land a decent mid-range model for under $1,000 and even a solid budget model (like the Bluetooth Rower by Men’s Health x Women’s Health) for less than $550 delivered.
Other rowing machine features: The most basic rowing machine design has changed little in decades, and you can still find a “classic”-style model for a reasonable price. But, if you’re looking for a more connected experience, look at smart rowers like the Hydrow Wave or the Peloton Row. These offer touchscreens with built-in apps that connect you to professional trainers who can motivate and work with you to better achieve your personal goals. The rowing machines with these features are, of course, more expensive upfront. But, know that many also require ongoing monthly subscriptions to take full advantage of those “smart” connected features.