The best rowing machine of 2020

Allen Foster

A proper rowing stroke is comprised of a moment of exertion (the drive) and a moment of relaxing (the recovery). Flowing effortlessly between the two moments, so it looks like one smooth cycle, is the goal.

Have you ever noticed how even those seemingly fit, diehard gym-going types are gasping for breath just a few minutes into a workout on a rowing machine? A rowing machine provides such an excellent whole-body workout that just 15 minutes of vigorous activity each day may be all some individuals need.

Each year, as the mechanics of the body are better understood, exercise equipment adapts to become more efficient and safer. In this article, we considered tradition and innovation to find the top rowing machines of 2020.

Best rowing machines of 2020

Here is our short list of favorite rowing machines. Jump to the bottom of this article for more information on each model.

    1. Hydrow Rower
Grabbing our top spot for the first time, this sleekly designed piece of equipment sits at the summit of technology for its peerless engineering.

    2. NordicTrack RW500 Rower
This remarkably adaptable rowing machine allows you to have a complete cross-training gym in one piece of home equipment. NordicTrack is a longtime favorite of ours.

    3. Mr. Rudolf Water Rowing Machine
Classic design meets modern technology to offer a water rowing machine that is suitable for individuals of all experience levels. This one is a new entry on our list.

What you need to know before buying a rowing machine

There is a wide variety of options available when shopping for a rowing machine. You can purchase a model that is only $100, or you can spend over $2,000, if you desire. The build quality is of primary concern at any price level, because you want a model that moves smoothly and is rugged enough to last for many years. Some of the bargain models may not provide the best user experience or be able to endure daily usage.

There are several types of resistance to choose from as well. Hydraulic resistance can feel unnatural, while machines with magnetic resistance can offer a smoother operation. If you'd like a more authentic experience, flywheel models or rowing machines featuring a water-filled tank are the best way to go.

Rowing machines are a one-size-fits-all piece of equipment. Unless you are exceptionally tall, size shouldn't be an issue while working out. It can, however, create storage problems. If you are tight on space, look for a model that quickly folds or stands on end for easy storage.

One area that might not seem of much concern to a beginner but will become increasingly important as you train is a console or some way to accurately monitor your progress. Without adequate feedback, you may either train in vain (not bettering yourself) or lose interest because you can't see any growth.

Lastly on the list of considerations, but still extremely important, is comfort. The rowing machine you purchase needs to be adjustable to secure your feet and provide an ergonomic grip. The seat may not seem to matter at first, but after repeated use, if the seat is inferior, you may find your tailbone area developing painful abrasions.


Q. How long does a rowing machine last?

A. The answer to that question comes down to care and quality. Rowing machines have moving parts that, depending on the model, may need to be greased. They also must be kept cleaned and not abused. Additionally, higher-priced models are typically built to be more durable. If you abuse your budget model, it may only last a few years. If you take care of your high-end model, it could last up to 15 years.

Q. How do I measure my improvement on a rowing machine?

A. If your model has a console, the efficiency of each and every stroke is measured so you can see exactly how you are progressing. Without a console, it can be tricky because rowing is about a balance of power and speed -- rowing faster often means you are not working as hard. In that instance, you will need to rely on how fatigued you feel after a workout, which is a flawed strategy, but it's all you'll have without a console.

In-depth recommendations for rowing machines

Best of the best: Hydrow Rower

What we like: The design of this model is beautiful. It features computer-controlled resistance for a fully customized experience. The unit employs a multisensory approach that helps take you from your home gym and puts you out on the water.

What we dislike: The price is higher than other models, but luxury does cost more.

Best bang for your buck: NordicTrack RW500 Rower

What we like: This model features 26 resistance levels that incorporate both airflow and magnetic resistance. It is highly adaptable to allow you to perform a variety of exercises. A 10-inch  tablet is included for interactive training sessions, and it folds in half for convenient storage.

What we dislike: The RW500 is packed with bells and whistles and bonus extras, making it an excellent value. However, if you're looking for a basic model, this might not be the choice for you.

Choice 3: Mr. Rudolf Water Rowing Machine

What we like: This rower looks more like an elegant piece of handcrafted furniture than an exercise machine. It features adjustable footplates and a comfortable seat along with an ergonomic handle to make your workout as comfortable as possible. If you need to store the model, you can tip it up on end so it takes up less space.

What we dislike: The monitor is rather small. Depending on your eyesight, you may need to pause your workout to check your stats.

Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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