Rowing machines provide an effective full-body workout. But which is the best rowing machine? And which should be avoided? Keep reading to find out.
An indoor rowing machine is one of the best ways to get in shape without paying for a gym membership. Aside from burning a large amount of calories, rowing works more muscle groups than a treadmill or exercise bike while also being low impact.
With hundreds of rowers on the market, it can be difficult to know which to choose. That's why we've created a simple guide to the best rowing machines in the UK. Each of these models provides an excellent workout and great value.
If you just want to know our top recommendations, check out the "Editor's Pick" box. But if you want more information, keep reading for a buyer's guide and our rowing machine reviews.
Best Rowing Machine:
We think the best rowing machine for a home gym is the outstanding Concept 2 Model D. It's not cheap, but provides a smooth workout with a range of advanced features. If you're looking for a gym-quality rower, the Model D is your best bet.
Best Budget Rowing Machine:
If you can't afford the Concept 2, the JLL R200 provides an excellent workout for a much lower cost. It doesn't have many advanced features, but the magnetic resistance provides a smooth workout that's suitable for beginners or intermediates.
Why Buy a Rowing Machine?
We've already mentioned that rowing uses more major muscle groups than other home gym equipment, but what are the other advantages of this type of exercise?
- Aerobic Exercise. Rowing is an effective cardiovascular workout. This type of exercise is vital for your health and releases endorphins that improve your mood. A rowing machine is often more effective at getting your heart rate up, as it works both the lower and upper body.
- Low Impact. If you have joint pain, running or other high impact activities can be problematic. Row machines, like exercise bikes, are great if your body struggles with other forms of cardio.
- Weight Loss. On average, an hour spent on a row machine burns 500-600 calories. If you're trying to lose weight, regularly using a rowing machine can speed up your progress.
- Upper and Lower Body Workout. Rowing machines are one of the only types of cardio gym equipment that provides a workout to both the lower and upper body. When rowing with correct form, you'll work the shoulders, upper back, lower back, grip, quadriceps, glutes and calves.
- (More) Enjoyable. As rowing is a full-body activity, many people find it more enjoyable than stationary bike riding or indoor running.
- Affordable. There are plenty of premium rowing machines on the market, but you don't need to spend a lot to get a basic model - especially if you're a beginner. Buying a home rowing machine can also save money on gym membership fees.
While there are a number of advantages to a rowing machine, it's vital to use them correctly. Rowers are great if you have knee or other joint problems, but incorrect form can cause pain and overuse injuries. Here's a quick video showing you how to properly use a rowing machine:
How to Choose a Rowing Machine
While rowing machines can provide a great workout, it's vital to find a model that matches your fitness goals. Here are some of the most important things to look for.
There are four types of resistance used by rowers. The type of resistance has a big effect on the feel and price of the machine.
- Air Rowers. Air rowers are probably the most popular type in the UK, as they provide a great workout regardless of level. As the name suggests, they use air resistance to increase workout difficulty, which means the harder you row the more difficult it becomes. While air rowers are noisy, they are a great choice if you want a machine that provides almost unlimited potential for improvement.
- Magnetic Rowers. A magnetic rower uses magnets to increase or decrease resistance. As there isn't any friction or air resistance involved, magnetic rowers are the quietest type (which is great if you want to watch TV while working out).
- Hydraulic Rowers. If you're looking for a cheap rowing machine, it'll probably have hydraulic resistance. Many hydraulic rowers also have a folding design. The downside is that the "feel" of a hydraulic rower is less realistic than other types.
- Water Rowers. For serious training, a water-resistance rowing machine is the best option. These mimic outdoor rowing by using a tank filled with water. As you can imagine, this generates a lot of noise, but is the best way to get a realistic feel.
Even cheap rowing machines come with a basic console. These show statistics such as distance, speed and sometimes calories burned. For most people, a simple LCD console is all that's needed from a rowing machine.
More expensive models often have advanced features though. These can include heart rate monitoring, "race" modes (where you compete with a virtual boat) and the ability to connect to third-party apps. Some can also sync with heart rate straps, although these need to be bought separately.
Row machines are usually compact - especially compared to treadmills or other gym equipment. Even so, make sure the rower fits where you want to place it, as there can be variation between different models. Some rowing machines have a folding design to help save space when not in use.
Another often-overlooked feature of a rowing machine is its maximum user weight. Cheaper models tend to have lower maximums of around 100kg. If you or someone in your household is heavier than this, you won't be able to use the rower safely.
Rowing machines can also be heavy. Heavier exercise equipment tends to feel more stable when in use, but is more difficult to move.
Before you even start looking for a row machine, you should know how much you're willing to spend. Rowing machines can range from £200 up to £2000+ for the most expensive water rowers, although the majority are in the £200-£1000 range.
To make finding a rower in your price range easier, we've divided our list of the best rowing machines into three categories - budget, mid-range and premium. While every model on this list provides great value, the mid-range and premium options have more advanced features.
Which are the Best Rowing Machines in 2020?
|Name||Price Range||Resistance Type||Max User Weight||View Price|
|JLL R200 Luxury Home||BUDGET||Magnetic||100kg||View Price|
|Body Sculpture BR3010||BUDGET||Band||110kg||View Price|
|XS Sports R010|
|JTX Freedom Air Rower||MID-RANGE||Magnetic/Air||130kg||View Price|
|V-Fit Tornado Air Rower||MID-RANGE||Air||115kg||View Price|
|Spirit Fitness R800 Air Magnetic||PREMIUM||Magnetic/Air||159kg||View Price|
|Concept 2 Model D||PREMIUM||Air||227kg||View Price|
|FluidRower Viking 2 V||PREMIUM||Water||150kg||View Price|
Best Budget Rowing Machines
If you're looking for the best rowing machine under £250 (please note: price can vary so we make no guarantees as to the current price of any rower), the budget category is the best place to start. While these machines don't have the advanced features or durability of more expensive rowers, they can still provide an excellent workout.
1. JLL R200 Luxury Home Rowing Machine (Best Rowing Machine Under £250)
One of the best budget home rowing machines is the JLL R200 Luxury. With an RRP of £250 it provides outstanding value due to its magnetic resistance system, LCD monitor and foldable design.
As the R200 is a magnetic rowing machine, it's smoother and quieter than rowers that rely on friction or air resistance. There are 10 resistance levels to adjust the difficulty of your workout, but it's important to point out that the highest level probably isn't difficult enough for advanced rowers.
Like most cheap rowing machines, the R200 has a basic LCD monitor. This shows statistics like calories burned, distance and total time. There's a "Scan" option, which causes the monitor to cycle through the various settings as you work out. It's also built with a foldable design, to save you space when not in use, and has a maximum user weight of 100kg. Despite the price, it feels like a solid and reliable machine.
The JLL R200 doesn't have many advanced features, but provides a quiet and effective cardio workout for a great price. Considering the price, we think it's by far the best budget rowing machine on the market. The only reason not to buy this model if your budget is limited to around £250 is if the 100kg weight limit is too low.
2. Body Sculpture BR3010
If you're looking for a rowing machine that costs even less than the JLL, the Body Sculpture BR3010 could be a good option. It's one of the most basic row machines on the market, but can still provide a decent workout for a highly affordable price.
The BR3010 uses a simple band resistance system. This means it only provides three resistance levels, and the highest is certainly not enough to challenge advanced rowers. Even so, it can still provide enough difficulty for beginner or light workouts.
It's a foldable rowing machine with pivoting footplates and a steel frame. This design, combined with the relatively small footprint, makes it an option to consider if you're looking for a compact rowing machine.
One of the most interesting things about the BR3010 is that it can also function as a home gym. It comes with two handles that allow you to use it in a similar way to a cable system at a gym (although with less resistance and versatility). While most people probably won't use this feature, it's a welcome bonus.
As you would expect from a budget rowing machine, the on-board computer is very basic. It shows statistics such as time, stroke count and calories, but lacks the advanced features found on more expensive models.
If you're looking for a simple machine for a daily workout, the Body Sculpture BR3010 is a great option. It doesn't provide the resistance or features to challenge intermediate or advanced rowers, but for beginners it's one of the best value rowers. It's also the cheapest model on this list by a considerable amount.
3. XS Sports R010
Another budget rowing machine that provides great value is the XS Sports R010. While we wouldn't recommend it above the JLL R200 for most people, it shares many of the same features and is available for a similar price.
The R010 is a simple rower that's built with a magnetic resistance system and 4kg flywheel. There are 10 resistance levels, making it suitable for light or moderate workouts.
For high-intensity rowing, however, you'll need a more expensive option with a heavier flywheel. While the highest resistance is challenging enough to build-up a sweat, experienced rowers may find it too light for a serious workout.
Aside from the resistance system, the XS Sports R010 has a folding design, quiet belt-drive system and padded handlebars. There's also a simple LED display showing statistics such as time, calories burned, speed and distance.
If you're a beginner rower who wants a basic workout without spending too much money, the XS Sports R010 could be a good option. It's quiet, easy to assemble and is smooth when in use - all for a brilliant price. Just don't expect it to match more expensive rowing machines when it comes to resistance levels.
Best Mid-Range Rowing Machines
Rowing machines in the mid-range category often have more advanced features, a higher maximum resistance (for more intense workouts) and a more durable design. They are also suitable for intermediate or advanced workouts. For this category, we've tried to include rowers that usually sell for £200-£700. Prices vary on a daily basis though, so we can't guarantee a rower is always sold in this price range.
4. JTX Freedom Air Rower (Best Rowing Machine Under £700)
One of the best rowing machines under £700 is the excellent JTX Freedom Air Rower. It's a massive step up from budget models and comes with a range of useful features. If you're looking for a gym-level workout for a fraction of the cost of commercial rowers, the JTX is a great option.
The first thing to note about the JTX is that it uses a combination of magnetic and air resistance. This provides a smooth workout and allows you to adjust the resistance with 16 settings. There's also the option of changing resistance based on your heart rate via the included chest trap.
As you would expect from a rower in this price range, it's a durable model that looks great. It has a high build quality that is designed to last a long time. The aluminium frame allows for a maximum user weight of 130kg, while the foldable design takes up less space when you're not using it.
The backlit LCD screen is also more advanced than budget models. In addition to basic statistics, it shows 500m split time, torque, heart rate and revolutions, along with the option of using pre-set programmes. You can also adjust the height of the screen so it's easier to see.
We think the JTX Freedom Air Rower is one of the best rowing machines on the market. It provides enough resistance to challenge even advanced rowers, which isn't the case with cheaper models, and the heart-rate programme is a useful feature (although it doesn't come with a pace boat mode like some premium models). The combination of magnetic and air resistance also provides a smooth workout. If you want an affordable rowing machine that provides a great workout at all levels, the Freedom Air Rower is our top recommendation.
5. V-Fit Tornado Air Rower
The V-Fit Tornado is an air rower that provides excellent value. It's not the most advanced rowing machine on the market, but provides an efficient workout and a durable design.
With a pure air resistance system, the V-Fit Tornado is able to provide an intense workout that will challenge rowers of any level. As you row faster, the resistance also increases, leading to a near-infinite difficulty that scales with your fitness. V-Fit calls it a "club-style" rower for this reason.
One thing to note about this type of air rower is that you can't adjust the resistance manually. You get more resistance the harder you work, but there's no way to change the resistance other than to row faster.
Despite being considerably cheaper than the JTX Freedom, the Tornado is built with a durable steel frame and aluminium rail. The rail itself is designed to provide a smooth action, while the large foot plates and toe straps help maintain an ergonomic rowing position. It does have a relatively basic computer though - only distance, calories, stroke and stroke rate modes are included.
The Tornado doesn't provide the advanced features of more expensive models. But if you're looking for a simple machine that can provide an effective workout for a fraction of the cost, it's a great option.
Best Premium Rowing Machines
Premium rowing machines are the pinnacle in terms of features, durability and resistance. They often include advanced computer with functions not found on cheaper models. The best premium rowers also have a high build quality, sturdy design and provide high resistance for intensive workouts. For this category, we considered rowing machines with a price greater than £700.
6. Spirit Fitness R800 Air Rower
The Spirit Fitness R800 is an air magnetic rowing machine that's great for rowers of any fitness level. With its sturdy design and relatively advanced console, it can provide an effective cardiovascular workout that rivals rowers found in gyms. It also has a decent stroke length to help improve endurance and ensure optimum form.
With 16 levels of magnetic resistance (via the electronic control panel), you can quickly adjust the difficulty of your workout. The highest level also provides plenty of scope for improvement and will challenge all but the most advanced rowers.
The on-board console is more advanced than those found on cheaper models. While it displays many of the same statistics, such as distance, Watts, oar strokes and SPM, it can also integrate with a heart rate receiver (via the included chest strap). Additionally, there's a heart rate control program, Watt program, and a personal option to create your own workout.
If you're looking for an air magnetic rowing machine that can take your training to the next level, the Spirit Fitness R800 is a great choice. It can challenge rowers of any fitness, while the on-board computer makes it easy to tailor a workout to your current level.
7. Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rower (Best Home Rowing Machine)
The undisputed king of the rowing machine world (at least in our eyes) is the Concept 2 Model D. It's one of the best-selling rowing machines across the world, and provides a great workout for everyone from beginners to professional athletes.
But what makes the Model D such a special rower? Firstly, it provides a smooth and comfortable workout regardless of your height. The adjustable footrests, low seat and comfortable handle make it a pleasure to use - even for extended workout sessions.
It's an air rowing machine, although you can adjust the level of resistance via a damper. This allows for a high level of resistance - difficulty increases as you row faster - but with some of the adjustable options provided by magnetic or hydraulic machines.
The Concept 2 Model D also has a great on-board computer (called the PM5 Console). This provides a backlit display that tracks your rowing over time and provides a variety of useful stats. There are also games, a pace boat option, pre-set workouts and the ability to download your workout data to your PC (this allows you to track workouts via Concept 2's virtual logbook software).
Another reason why the Model D is so popular is its highly durable design. All Concept 2 rowing machines are built to last, which is why the Model D is the choice of professional athletes. It's also relatively easy to put together.
One thing to note about the Model D is that it's not a folding rowing machine. While the frame can be quickly separated into two parts for storage, it takes up quite a lot of space when in use. There are castor wheels at the front though.
We think the Concept 2 Model D is the best rowing machine on the market at the moment. It's not the cheapest, but is worth the money if you want a highly effective workout and a machine that will last a long time.
8. FluidRower Viking 2 V (Best Water Rowing Machine)
When it comes to mimicking the feel of real rowing, nothing beats a water rowing machine. These models use water resistance to provide an efficient workout for all fitness levels. Our favourite water rower is the excellent FluidRower Viking 2 V.
The first thing that stands out about the Viking 2 V is its stylish American Ash frame. The fine wood appearance is a world away from the functional metal designs of most rowing machines, so it's much less of an eyesore in your home. This doesn't mean it's not durable though - the wood exterior is combined with metal fixtures and a long-lasting belt for a low-maintenance, sturdy rowing machine.
Unlike cheaper water rowing machines, the Viking 2 V has a resistance setting via the new Plus V tank. This allows you to adjust the difficulty of your workout without ruining the fluid feel and motion of the rower. The redesigned tank also delivers a highly realistic rowing feel and a higher maximum resistance than the previous Viking 2 AR. As you would expect from a premium row machine, it has an ergonomic handle and adjustable footplates.
The Viking 2 V comes with a basic onboard computer. This displays statistics such as strokes per minute, time, calories burned and 500m split. There's no advanced connectivity or programmes, such as those found on regular rowing machines, but the realistic feel of the Plus V tank makes up for this. It's also relatively quiet when in use.
If you're looking for the best water rowing machine, the FluidRower Viking 2 V is our top recommendation. It provides an outstanding rowing action and a great workout for all fitness levels - plus the water resistance feels fluid and satisfying compared to magnetic or hydraulic.
The best rowing machines provide an excellent way to get fit from your own home. Rowing is a low-impact activity that offers a full-body workout, so you can burn more calories with less strain on your joints.
In our opinion, there's little debate that the Concept 2 Model D is the best rowing machine available at the moment. It provides an excellent workout regardless of your fitness level, is highly durable and has a range of workout settings. If you're looking for a cheaper rowing machine, however, the JLL R200 is a great choice.
Do you have any questions about choosing a rowing machine? Let us know in the comments!