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Maybe you got a taste at a HIIT class like Eat the Frog or Orangetheory, you're a CrossFit devotee, or you just get in a rowing session when you hit Planet Fitness or another gym. Many people have a love-hate relationship with this particular piece of fitness equipment, so we applaud you if you're looking for a quality machine to add to your home gym!
You probably know all of the reasons to love rowing machines: few cardio workouts give you the total body focus that's achieved while rowing. Generally speaking, a rowing routine uses 65-75% legs and 25-35% of the upper body - strengthening legs, arms, and abs all at the same time. That's efficient!
Thursday, October 21st
Xterra Fitness has spent more than 30 years helping both amateur and professional athletes to reach the top of their performance. Every fitness product they sell has been designed to deliver an exceptionally comfortable workout, with advanced training programs and attention to the details that make a cardio machine fantastic.
Water, air, or magnetic
Xterra has the widest variety of options among rowing machines. Whether you prefer your resistance to be delivered in a water, air, or magnetic system, you'll find a rower to match.
16 resistance levels
The most expensive rowing machine sold by Xterra Fitness is the ERG700 - but still reasonably priced at $899.99. This rower combines air and magnetic resistance, and a 20" frame height makes it easier to get on and off (compared with models that sit almost flat on the floor). It has 16 resistance levels and 10 programmed rowing workouts. The display may be a little old-school, but it gives you a clear idea of your strokes per minute, total distance rowed and time elapsed, calories, watts, heart rate, and resistance level. Fold it up for quick storage when not in use. We were impressed by the customer reviews on this model: several users compared it to higher-priced competitor rowing machines and said that this one meets and beats expectations.
The most economical rower that Xterra carries is the ERG220. Even though the price is lower, you'll still get a decent set of features: magnetic manual resistance across 8 levels, a simplified console for tracking your workout data (including a built-in HR receiver), and a foldable design.
During our most recent visit to the Xterra site, there was a pop-up offer of a $50 discount for first-time visitors to the site. We had to enter our email address to get the code via email, and it was valid only for 48 hours and for orders of at least $799. There was also a promo featured at the top of the site offering a Total Fitness kit worth over $200 for free with the featured code. This kit included six popular fitness items, including a small foam roller, exercise ball, ab roller and jump rope. And, free shipping on all rowing machines makes this retailer even more appealing.
30 day returns
If you get your rower and decide you want to return it, you'll have 30 days from the date of delivery to request a Return Authorization number from Xterra's customer service team. Be aware that you'll have to pay a restocking fee of 10%, and you're responsible for the return freight shipping costs.
Xterra Fitness does an excellent job of putting well-constructed rowing machines within reach of most customers. Although their rowers don't have the most cutting-edge features you'll find with some rivals' machines, you'll get enough features to deliver a calorie-burning, muscle-building workout right at home. Xterra Fitness earns our top recommendation for rowing machines.
Concept2 may very well be the gold standard when it comes to rowing machines. In business for more than 40 years - and with an "A+" rating and accreditation by the BBB to match - this company manufactures the rowers that are used for submitting scores for recruiting purposes and even most indoor rowing competitions.
If you really want to know just how popular Concept2 rowers are, use their Indoor Rower Finder to see where they are near you. Our results list showed Concept2 machines at our local CrossFit, YMCA, Gold's Gym, F45, and even some schools! If you're looking to equip your home gym and are already comfortable on the Concept2, this is a great choice to reduce the learning curve and get right to your workouts.
The Concept2 series is also a good fit if you're the competitive type. The company offers rowing challenges, distance awards, and the ability to compare yourself with indoor rowing fanatics around the world. Your Online Logbook gives you the chance to connect with training partners, join a team ("affiliation"), and even use the open-platform Performance Monitor to connect with a wide variety of smartphone apps.
3 primary models
For home use, Concept2 comes in three primary models: D, E, and Dynamic. The Model D is their best-seller and is the most comparable to the feel of an on-water row; it's also the one used as the standard for rowing competitions like we mentioned. The Model E offers a higher frame/seat, making it easier to get on and off; this is a good option for people with limited mobility or knee/hip flexibility, or for users who will be transferring to the rower from a wheelchair. Both the D and E separate in the middle with a quick-release framelock, making it easier to store when not in use.
The Dynamic takes a very different approach, with a seat that is mostly stationary while the feet slide back and forth. Because more of the stroke length and coordination winds up under the control of the athlete, this model is particularly well-suited for those who want to more closely mimic the feel of a rowing shell. The Dynamic is also more compact than the D and E (76" vs. 96"), but it doesn't let you separate it for storage purposes.
Concept2 rowing machines provide air-based resistance through a flywheel and damper system. As you adjust the airflow to the flywheel, you control the feel of the stroke and add or decrease resistance. Plus, the Performance Monitor lets you decide between the automatic "Just Row" mode or to set up a range of workouts. You'll always be able to see your pace, watts, stroke rate and calories burned; data is stored in internal memory and can also be kept on an optional USB flash drive. All you'll need are two D batteries - just used as power backup when the monitor isn't being powered by the flywheel itself.
Easy to assemble
Another really positive thing about these rowing machines is how easy they are to assemble. With easy-to-follow instructions and just a few screws to put in place, you won't need to spend money on professional assembly. Plus, Concept2 has helpful reps at the ready via phone if you have any questions during the process.
5 year frame warranty
With all of Concept2's indoor rowers, you'll have 5 years of warranty coverage on most of the frame and its parts (flywheel axle, rails, seat and seat frame). The rest of the rower's parts are covered for 2 years. To keep the warranty in effect, you must lubricate the chain after every 50 hours of use, and daily cleaning of the monorail is recommended for reduced wear on the seat rollers.
Shipping costs vary
Your shipping costs will depend on the rowing machine you select and where you live. For example, the Model D costs $45 via UPS Ground within the lower 48 United States, or $130 if you live in Alaska or Hawaii (and kudos to Concept2 for being one of just a few rower retailers that actually ships there!). The Dynamic costs the most to ship, because it comes in two boxes; you'll pay anywhere from $85 to $355 for delivery.
Good return policy
Concept2 offers a good return policy. If you don't love your rowing machine for any reason, you can return it within 30 days of shipment. You'll be responsible for the return shipping costs, but the company won't deduct any restocking fees from your refund.
You might fall in love
Whether you choose the D, E, or Dynamic rowing machine, you might just fall in love. There's something really attractive about a rower that can stand up to day in, day out use by world-class athletes - but that is simple enough for a brand-new user to figure out too. Although they're not the least expensive in the industry, these rowing machines offer the features people want and are backed by decades of expertise. Especially for exercisers who are already used to this brand from use in fitness centers and rowing studios, Concept2 rowers are a perfect fit.
NordicTrack and home workouts are practically synonymous. For many years, thanks to the power of TV commercials, people have known that this brand gives people the ability to train both cardio and strength from the comfortable environment of their own space - no gym needed.
3 rowing machine options
Within the NordicTrack brand, you'll find 3 options for rowing machines: the RW200, RW500, and RW900.
Basic but feature rich
At the bottom of the price range is the RW200, sold for $699. Although it's the most basic of the three models offered by NordicTrack, it's still got plenty of features to catch your attention: 24 digital resistance levels (magnetic), Bluetooth-enabled, and 20 preset workout apps. The machine folds easily for storage at a height of 44" and a width of just over 37". Even the display is higher-end, allowing for setup of multiple user profiles, and the machine comes with a 1-year iFIT membership (more on that later). Shipping is free on this model.
New workouts added daily
In the middle, you'll find the RW500 for $999. Upgrade your rowing experience with a 10" tablet, 25 resistance levels - and interactive personal training. That last part comes through the iFIT membership (which is also included free for 12 months). Your on-demand workout actually controls the resistance digitally to match the various portions of the session, no need to fiddle with controls or set them yourself mid-exercise. New workouts are added daily for streaming whenever you want, or you can take a live class. Why haven't you heard of this before? Probably because rowing tends to be more specialized - you don't know you love it until you try it, maybe at a Live2Row studio or Orangetheory Fitness class.
At the top of the options is the RW900. At $1,599, you're likely wondering what you get for that extra $600 over the RW500 - a valid question. How about a 22" interactive HD touchscreen, 26 resistance levels... and, unfortunately, no free shipping. That will cost you $199. Everything else is essentially the same between the two models, so it's up to you if it's worth the extra cash for the bigger screen and 1 additional level of resistance.
How about reputation? Here's where things get a little confusing. NordicTrack and another company in our review are both brands of ICON Fitness. Across all of its brands, the parent company gets a LOT of complaints (we're talking thousands). And yet, the Better Business Bureau still gives them an "A+" rating, so they're clearly doing something right in the way they address those customer issues.
So, with essentially the same track record and high-tech features, why does NordicTrack score higher than their sister brand, ProForm? That's easy: we think customers would rather choose among 3 rowers instead of 2, and they'd rather pay a straightforward price for their machine instead of being told it's "free" and then be committed to 3 years of the iFIT service. Beyond that and the differences among the companies' rowers themselves, the two options are essentially equal.
For what it's worth, NordicTrack customers are pretty enthusiastic about the experience when using one of their rowing machines, especially with the trainer-led workouts. Rowing can feel like a bit of a slog, but with instructors pushing you to take it up a notch or encouraging you to keep at it for just a little longer, you'll probably get much more out of your fitness session than when you just row-and-go until you feel like stopping. NordicTrack doesn't offer any bargain-basement options for rowing machines, but they do give you a lot of value for the money spent. We think their iFIT-enabled rowers are definitely worth considering.
ProForm carries a wide range of in-home cardio equipment: treadmills, ellipticals, exercise bikes, and even HIIT trainers. When it comes to rowers, they offer two options: the 440R and 750R.
We thought it felt a little gimmicky that ProForm was advertising their 750R rower as being "free". Yes, but only technically: you'll have to pay a $39/month iFIT membership fee to get it. If you do the math, that means that the rower is actually about $1,403 (and the iFIT membership is free for the 3-year term). But really, if you like trainer-led workouts, that combo of rower + iFIT could feel like a bargain.
Resistance controlled remotely
The crazy part about an iFIT workout is that your resistance is controlled remotely to match the pace of the session. Plus, you can stream videos to "see the world while you row", or join a live studio class and row together. If you're the kind of person who wants some external motivation to get the most out of your workout, this is definitely worth considering.
24 levels of resistance
Other benefits of the 750R are the ability to access 24 levels of resistance, a space-saving "lift-and-fold" design, and a secure tablet holder if you want to follow your trainer-led workout on your iPad instead of your TV or other screen. Be aware that the weight capacity for the rower is only 250 pounds (while some competitors' machines have a capacity of 300-500 lbs.).
Entry level rower
The 440R is much more basic in comparison. Don't expect any of the electronic bells and whistles, but you'll still get 8 resistance levels, expanded strength training options with the ability to use the rower handle as a low pulley station, and an LCD monitor for watching your distance/time/calories/total strokes/strokes per minute. This model can also be easily folded and moved when not in use, and also has the 250 lb. weight limit.
ProForm (also known as ICON Fitness) has some mixed results when it comes to customer experiences. While the retailer had an "A+" rating from the BBB at the time of our most recent visit, we weren't thrilled to see that they had more than 500 complaints over the last 12 months - and over 1,200 closed in the last 3 years. The biggest source of frustration for customers seems to be warranty issues: getting replacement parts, refunds for defective equipment, etc. Their warranty is decent overall (5-10 years on the frame, up to a year on labor and parts), but that's not helpful if customers can't actually get service.
Expensive to return
On the other hand, getting a cutting-edge workout for $39/month (for 3 years, no interest fees) could be pretty attractive, especially when looking at other retailers who offer less at a higher cost. You can return your rower within 30 days if you wind up not liking it, though you'll pay shipping fees of $250 to send it back and lose 10% of your refund as a restocking fee. After seeing that, you may determine that it's not worth it to return it.
Could be right
ProForm gets our attention with their trainer-led classes, which are gaining steam across a variety of cardio machines on the market today. And spending under $40 per month could be a lot more affordable than what you're paying for that gym membership you aren't using. We recommend keeping an eye on things if you need customer service, but this retailer's flawless rating from the BBB means that they're doing fine despite the complaints they've received. ProForm could be the right rowing machine choice for many home fitness enthusiasts.
LifeSpan has the spectrum of at-home fitness equipment covered, from treadmills and other cardio machines to stretching machines and even treadmill desks!
2 rowing machine options
LifeSpan carries two rowing machines: the RW1000 and the RW7000. At a price point of just under $500, the RW1000 is a basic, easy-to-use model for "simplified rowing". You'll get 5 levels of magnetic resistance, making the machine almost silent when compared with air resistance rowers. The electronic display offers you basic data of distance, time, calories, stroke count and strokes-per-minute, and it's battery operated. This model folds and moves easily for storage. Out of 51 customer reviews on the LifeSpan site, the RW1000 earned 4.4 out of 5 stars, with most users saying this machine is reliable and priced well for what it delivers.
On the other hand, the RW7000 is a commercial model that delivers a workout similar to what you'd expect from equipment you find at a gym. You'll pay just under $1,200 for this model, which gives you a hybrid air/magnetic resistance system with 16 levels of difficulty. The console is much more advanced, with rowing modes that include manual, goal selection, race and HIIT workouts. The console is also blue backlit, so if you're rowing in low-light conditions you'll still be able to see your data. As far as we could tell, the black steel monorail of the RW7000 is not foldable or detachable for storage, so plan on a permanent location that gives you around 100" of floor space.
Most of LifeSpan's customer policies are solid. You can make returns within 30 days of delivery, but expect a restocking fee of 15%. Your warranty coverage depends on the model you select, with less coverage for the lower-priced rower: 5 years or lifetime on the frame, 2 or 5 years on parts, and 1-2 years on labor. You'll also get free shipping on either rowing machine.
Good track record
Overall, LifeSpan demonstrates a good track record of customer care. With over 25 years in operation, they have an "A+" and accreditation by the Better Business Bureau. And, over more than 450 independently-verified shopper reviews, LifeSpan earned an average of 4 out of 5 stars. We appreciated the responsiveness of their customer service team on those reviews that were less-than-satisfied; it's obvious that they don't sweep their customers' concerns under the rug.
You won't find lots of options for rowers at LifeSpan, but the two they offer are well-priced and come with a decent number of features for what you'll pay. Free shipping is a nice plus, and a reasonable return policy won't take too much cash from your pocket if you decide your rower needs to go back to the warehouse.
Over the last 30+ years, WaterRower has delivered handmade-in-the-USA craftsmanship in their rowing machines. Manufactured in Rhode Island and distributed to health clubs, boutique fitness studios and luxury hotels worldwide, these rowers not only work well but look amazing in your home.
Not just a pretty face
As you'd guess from the name, all of WaterRower's machines use water for resistance. For many users, this provides a smoother, more even rowing experience - and the aesthetic appeal of the water sound in the tank closely mimics outdoor rowing.
10 rowing machines to choose from
You'll have 10 different models to consider with WaterRower. At the lowest end of the price spectrum is the A1 at $895. This rower has a single-rail design, a simplified performance monitor, and an ash hardwood frame. On the other end of the range is the S1, priced at $2,500. A limited edition model, this rowing machine has a brushed stainless steel frame, an upgraded S4 performance monitor, and dual rail design.
Same as the studio
Are you coming to WaterRower as an Orangetheory Fitness addict wanting to replicate your run-to-row at home? You're looking for the M1 HiRise. No, you can't get it in OTF orange - you'll have to settle for silver - but everything else from the foot straps to the monitor is the exact same as what you've used at the studio.
Can't be folded
None of the rowing machines in this product line can be folded or disconnected in the middle for easy storage. But, they can be tipped on their end and stored upright (water tank end down). You'll need about 88" of room while in use (and that means 88" for upright storage), and a depth of just under 28" while stored.
No easy resistance change
You also don't have an easy way to change the resistance on a WaterRower machine. Yes, you could add or take away water from the tank, but that's definitely not something to be done mid-workout.
Shipping costs vary
What you spend on shipping depends on whether you choose a wooden or metal model and where you live. WaterRower does ship to Hawaii and Alaska, but you'll have to enter your zip code to find out your costs. Otherwise, for states east of the Mississippi, you'll pay either $69.95 (wooden) or $124.95 (metal), and for states west of the river you'll pay $79.95 or $134.95.
Returns allowed only if defective
The biggest drawback to buying a WaterRower is the lack of a return policy. Except for defective machines and warranty purposes, you're stuck with your rowing machine once it's been delivered. So, you'd better be absolutely certain that you prefer water-based resistance and that your machine is going to fit in the space you have in mind.
Customers are thrilled
On a positive note, customers who've taken the chance on these no-return rowers are almost uniformly thrilled with their purchase. People say that assembly is fairly basic, and the user experience is fantastic: quiet, smooth, and a killer workout. It doesn't hurt that these machines look great too - much more sleek and stylish than the average rower.
Pretty, but worth it?
Although we'd like to see an enhanced return policy, WaterRower still earns a decent rating for providing a wider range of options than many retailers of rowing machines. The company has an extremely loyal following, particularly with exercisers who fell in love with the rowers at the studio or gym and jumped at the chance to have one at home. But, higher prices for both the machines and the shipping could put WaterRower out of range for customers who don't have a particular affinity for the brand.
Starting out as the maker of the world's first electronic exercise bike, LifeFitness evolved into a global leader for cardio, strength and group training products. Designed to inspire healthier lives, products offered by this company can be spotted in public fitness facilities and home gyms around the world.
2 rowing machine options
LifeFitness has two rowing machines for private use: the Row HX and the Row GX.
The Row HX sits on the floor and has wood rails. Priced at $1,399, this is the less expensive of the two rowers sold by LifeFitness, but still a fairly hefty price tag compared with models sold by other retailers for under $1,000. You've got 4 resistance levels controlled by a dial, with no need to add or siphon water to access it. It can easily be stored upright for a smaller footprint. LifeFitness doesn't describe the information you'll get during your workout, but the image of the console makes it look like you can see your overall time, 500m split time, meters rowed, watts, calories burned, and a few other metrics.
Steep price tag
The Row GX is the upgrade, with a single center rail and a raised profile (making it easier for people to get on and off the machine, especially if they have bad knees or mobility challenges). You'd think with such a steep price tag ($2,265.10), the Row GX Trainer would provide a superior rowing workout experience. But, the handful of customer reviews were evenly split between love/hate. Especially when comparing this model to similar rowers on the market, the Row GX Trainer came up really short. This was the most obvious for the more competitive/experienced rowers, who said that the inability to track watts/splits/intervals was an absolute no-go for this machine. Looking at the images for the monitor, it seems to be the same as the Row HX, but LifeFitness didn't offer any details.
High shipping fees
Shipping fees for these two rowing machines are higher than almost every other retailer in our evaluation, at $199 to $214.
How about the warranty and return policy? You'll have 30 days to decide if you're keeping your rower; you'll pay a restocking fee of 25% if you opt to send it back. Your warranty covers the rower frame for 5 years, the tank and seals for 3, mechanical for 2, and a year on the console and labor.
Few customer complaints
And on another high note, LifeFitness gets an "A+" from the Better Business Bureau,, with very few complaints registered there over the last 3 years.
Trustworthy, but expensive
At the end of the day, LifeFitness is a trustworthy choice for buying workout equipment across the spectrum. But, when it comes to rowers, their options are limited and expensive - and they don't provide significant advantages like better technology or superior construction when compared with similar rowing machines.
Sole Fitness originally focused on hotel gyms for their fitness equipment, but their sales evolved into residential use as their machines grew in popularity.
Only 1 rowing machine
Sole Fitness has one rower model: the SR500, priced at $999.99. Resistance is delivered in an air/magnetic combination, giving you 16 levels to choose from. You'll need an outlet nearby, because unlike many rowing machines this one needs a 120V power source.
Folds for storage
The SR500 folds for easy storage, but plan on needing 94" of floor space when in use. Sole has an extraordinary return policy. You have 30 days to try out your rower and return it if you're unsatisfied for any reason. Unlike most of their competitors, Sole doesn't charge any restocking fees and they even cover your return shipping costs.
Reputation can be improved
Unfortunately, Sole's reputation leaves room for improvement. At the time of our most recent visit to the BBB website, Sole only had a "C+" rating. Some customers had a difficult time getting help from Sole representatives, especially when needing help or service with warranty claims.
We also had a few minor issues when using the website, especially when we didn't have the screen maximized on our laptop: the images jiggled all over the page, making it hard to click to get more information on the rower.
For many reasons, Sole Fitness' rowing machine leaves us with an impression that's just "so-so". We love their fantastic return policy, but we wish there was a wider range of rowers to choose from. Plus, to move up in our rankings, we'd definitely need to see a better customer response. If you absolutely love the SR500, go for it - but we think most customers prefer a wider range of rowing machines when making their purchase decision.
Net2Fitness considers itself to be a fitness equipment superstore. As a family-owned online discount retailer, they offer both home and commercial exercise equipment ranging from cardio machines to weights and other strength gear.
When it comes to rowers, you'll find 7 different options at this online store. Starting with the Body Track Glider Rower by Stamina ($249.99) and going up to the Kettler Coach E ($1,399.99), Net2Fitness carries a range of rowing machines that tend to be on the budget-friendly end of the spectrum. Shipping is free on every rower that they sell, and this company gladly offers price matching if you find your favorite machine at a lower price somewhere else.
10 days to decide
While we appreciate that Net2Fitness has a return policy, it's less than generous. You'll only have 10 days to make that decision, and you'll be on the hook for a 10% restocking fee and all return shipping expenses.
Where this retailer really loses us is when it comes to warranty coverage. Since they seem to be a distributor of other brands, Net2Fitness says you'll have to take it up with each individual manufacturer to determine any applicable warranties on your rowing machine. For something that can be a major purchase, customers probably don't want to have to chase down the answers with each individual brand before placing their order.
Lack of customer responses
We also had a hard time finding out what shoppers have to say about their experiences buying from this company. There was no BBB listing, no reviews on the retailer's social media channels - basically nothing to establish if they're failing or fantastic.
For all of these reasons, Net2Fitness doesn't come across as a retailer that we're able to give a strong recommendation. In the future, they may rank higher with a more obvious reputation (like a BBB listing or customer comments and reviews) - but for now, Net2Fitness isn't one of our top choices when shopping for rowing machines.
Another huge reason to take advantage of rowing is its low-impact style. There's no pounding on already-sensitive joints while using a rowing machine, just a push and a pull that glides back and forth with whatever amount of effort you choose to use.
What style of rowing machine is best? That largely depends on preference. Resistance comes in four ways: air (flywheel), magnetic, pistons or cylinders, and water. If you've used a machine at a fitness center, you're probably familiar with flywheel and water rowers already. Those styles also do the best job of imitating the feel (and the sound, for tank-base systems) of rowing in open water.
So, how can you tell which rowing machine is the right one for your home gym? Here are several criteria to keep in mind as you shop for a rower:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best rowing machines available today. We hope this information helps you pick the right rower to meet all your health and fitness goals!
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