IF you’re serious about trying to recreate your gym experience at home, then a must-have piece of equipment is a rowing machine.
A staple of any gym’s cardio area – alongside a treadmill and exercise bike – a rowing machine provides you with a full-body workout, combining cardio with muscle-building strength work.
Unlike other cardio equipment though, rowing machines are a great form of cross-training as they work out multiple muscle zones – arms, legs and core – across the body.
They are also low-impact, so are ideal for all ages and are perfect for rehabilitation after an injury.
Rowing machines aren’t just for committed gym bunnies or fitness newbies looking to get in shape, either. They are also great practise for the real thing, and are used by professional and amateur rowers alike alongside their on-water training.
For those looking for the best rowing machine for their home gyms, there are a number of factors to consider. Firstly, it’s worth deciding which type of machine is right for you, with air, water or magnetic resistance the most common choices.
Air machines have a wide range of resistances but can be noisy, water is the most realistic but are also most expensive, while magnetic is the furthest from the real thing but also the quietest.
Whatever your preference, the below list should include the best rowing machine to suit your budget.
1. Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine PM5 Black
- Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rower, £1,350 from eBay – buy here
With a slew of five-star reviews, the Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine is top of the range, using air resistance to give you a full-body cardio workout – with a smooth action.
The flywheel design means that, even though it’s air, it's not noisy, and it comes with a PM5 monitor so you can track your progress with data and programme options.
In terms of quality, it's regarded as the best: reviewers call it the 'gold standard' and 'king of rowers'. It's used in gyms, by personal trainers and by athletes looking to stay in shape at home.
It's also extremely easy to assemble and use, and personal trainer fans recommend it as the one essential piece of kit for someone looking to get into shape.
2. WaterRower Rowing Machine with S4 Performance Monitor
- WaterRower Rowing Machine with S4 Performance Monitor, £999 from Best Gym Equipment – pre-order here
Water rowers use water and paddles to create resistance, resulting in a quiet, smooth action and a striking workout machine that wins points for style as much as for its training capabilities (this design is handcrafted in the US from solid oak, harvested in replenishable forests). The faster you go, the greater the resistance you'll face.
WaterRower is the go-to brand for anyone looking for a water-powered rower, and it simulates the rowing-on-water experience for those most keen to do that – you'll even hear a pleasing 'whoosh' as you would on the river.
The machine includes an S4 monitor kitted out with WaterRower's We-Row app – ideal for storing data, racing against others, and beating your previous times.
Although currently out of stock, it is possible to pre-order and you should receive your order within 10-12 weeks.
3. JLL Ventus 2 Air Resistance Home Rowing Machine
- JLL Ventus 2 rowing machine, £449.99 from Amazon – buy here
Combining air and magnetic resistance (there are eight levels to choose from), this rowing machine from JLL will get increasingly tougher as you get stronger.
A beautifully designed machine, it fits into any space and folds compactly, plus it features ergonomic handlebars, an inbuilt, self-generating fan and a padded foam seat, as well as an LCD monitor.
Although a fraction of the price of the Concept 2 and WaterRower options above, don’t let that put you off. The Ventus 2 is the ideal rowing machine for those looking for an affordable way to keep in shape.
4. NordicTrack RX800 Folding Rower
- NordicTrack RX800 Folding rowing machine, £499.00 from Fitness Inn – buy here
Another fold-up rowing machine, this piece of kit from Nordic Track is perfect for those who want to get fit but have limited space to do it in.
The air resistance gets tougher the stronger you get, and the use of an inertia-enhanced flywheel keeps things feeling smooth and natural throughout the full motion of your stroke.
A clear LED display provides you with all the information you could need – including watts, strokes per minute and total strokes.
And if you’re not sure where to start in your indoor rowing journey, there are 20 built-in workouts to follow – whether you want to up your watts or burn calories.
Finally, the ability to fold-up would mean nothing if it wasn’t transportable too. A couple of wheels at the base of the machine make it easy to move when in its compact state.
5. JTX Freedom Air Rowing Machine
- JTX Freedom Air Rowing Machine, £525 from JTX – pre-order here
Another rowing machine that uses a combination of air and magnetic resistance, this piece of equipment from JTX Freedom packs 16 levels of difficulty into a user-friendly package.
Its ergonomic design ensures you have perfect posture throughout your stroke, and the ability to adjust the pedals and screen height should keep your form on point.
Like the NordicTrack offering above, this too includes a number of workouts out of the box, although the inclusion of two heart rate controlled programmes is great for those who have a compatible monitor and want to train using heart rate zones.
It too can be folded up for space-saving reasons – reducing to just 112cm in length – while the inclusion of a two-year in-home repair warranty should help give you peace of mind.
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