The Best Rowing Machine for Beginners in 2021: Reviews and Buying Guide

Rowing machines are perfect for upper body workouts. They define your muscles by resisting your efforts to move the handle and seat. The more resistance provided, the harder and more challenging the workout becomes.  

Since the onset of the pandemic, people are now taking home exercises more seriously. If you’re interested in creating a home gym and would like to know what rowing machine to get to give your body a defined look, then this buying guide is for you!

We have compiled a list of the best rowing machine for beginners in 2021 to help you make your decision. But first, there are some things you need to know about rowing machines before you make your purchase.

All You Need to Know About Rowing Machines

There are many types of rowing machines on the market. They’re categorized based on their resistance mechanism. The four options available are as follows.

  • Magnetic
  • Hydraulic
  • Water
  • Air

Since they all have their pros and cons, your first choice as a buyer will be to determine the mechanism your rowing machine should have.

Magnetic Rowing Machines

These are the most common type of rowing machines, especially in home gyms. One reason is that the magnetic resistance provided makes them the quietest of all the types of machines available.

That combined with their more compact build makes them perfect for home use, where noise generated from your workouts might be an issue. 

Some models of magnetic rowing machines are foldable. If you don’t have enough space in your home for a dedicated gym, you can just fold them up after you’ve finished exercising and store them easily until your next use.

How Magnetic Rowing Machines Work

Magnetic rowers use a magnetic brake system (as shown in this video) to create resistance. As the distance between the spinning metal flywheel and the magnets change, it adjusts the resistance provided accordingly.

The level of resistance provided can be adjusted either digitally via console controls or by mechanical sliders. 

Pros

  • Quiet
  • Compact design
  • Requires little maintenance
  • Numerous resistance levels to choose from

Cons

  • Doesn’t simulate actual water rowing

Hydraulic Rowing Machine

Although hydraulic rowing machines are becoming less popular, they’re still the most budget-friendly of all types. 

Unlike magnetic rowers that use a flying wheel and magnet, a hydraulic rowing machine uses pistons to provide resistance. Unfortunately, they don’t give the comfortable, smooth and easy feel that a flywheel does. 

How Do Hydraulic Rowers Work?

A hydraulic piston is attached to the handles. Once you pull them, they apply pressure on the cylinder. The hydraulic cylinder contains pressurized air or fluid that provides resistance to the pressure you apply on the handles.

Depending on the model, hydraulic rowers can have one or two pistons. Those with 2 pistons can allow each handle to operate independently of the other, while those with 1 piston  cannot. This makes them perfect for people in physical therapy.

You can adjust the resistance level on the rowers by turning a lever or knob on the piston. This, in turn, adjusts the amount of air or fluid that moves in and out of the piston. The level of resistance provided by a hydraulic rower ranges from 1 to 8.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Small size

Cons

  • Level of resistance isn’t constant
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • Lacks smooth, comfortable feel

Water Rowing Machines

Of all the types of rowing machines, the water rowers are the closest in principle and action to rowboats. As such, most people prefer them because they give the impression that they are out rowing on a lake, rather than working out their muscles.

In addition to their realistic feel, they also have the smoothest and quietest movements, no matter how fast you’re going!

How Do Water Rowing Machines Work?

Like a rowboat, a water rower gets its resistance from handles connected to paddles suspended inside a tank of water. When you pull the handle, the paddles turn in the water, churning it as they move.

The moving water creates a current that drags against the paddles and creates resistance. This model means that the resistance produced by a water rowing machine heavily depends on the intensity at which you row.

The more force you apply to the handle, the faster the paddles turn and the more drag they produce. This means you feel more resistance when you pull the handles harder.

Also, you can adjust the water level inside the tank to improve your rowing experience. However, this will not impact the amount of resistance produced.

Pros

  • Quiet and smooth
  • Requires little maintenance
  • Consistent resistance

Cons

  • Quite pricey
  • Bulky

Air Rowing Machines

These are arguably the best type of rowers. They’re very popular among professional rowers and are sometimes called ergometers (also known as ergos) because they’re the perfect standard for indoor rowing.

In a rowboat, the water provides resistance to the paddles. Air rowers replicate this by using other means to create an opposing force.

How Do Air Rowers Work?

Air rowing machines use a spinning flywheel to generate resistance. The flywheel is connected by a chain to the handle and spins as you pull on them. The faster you pull the rowing handle, the faster the flywheel spins and the more resistance it generates. 

This means that, like water rowing machines, air rowers have variable resistance that depends on how you row. Some models even use dampers to change the airflow.

Pros

  • Multiple levels of resistance
  • Smooth row action
  • Resistance adjusts to your stroke
  • Requires little maintenance

Cons

  • Very noisy

Things to Consider Before Buying Your First Rowing Machine

  • Resistance
  • Budget
  • Size
  • Fitness Goals

Resistance

Depending on the type of resistance provided, there are different types of rowing machines. Air and water rowers have the largest range of resistance and are highly variable.

Water and magnetic rowers provide the smoothest and quietest ride. Watch out for that before choosing the type of machine you want to buy.

Budget

Rowing machines come in a wide range of prices. Typically, hydraulic rowers are the cheapest. Put your budget into consideration before settling for one. 

Size

Depending on the kind of space you have, the size and the storage capability of the rowing machine can play a huge role. If you have a smaller space, it’s smarter to go for models with compact sizes or foldable designs.

Fitness Goals

The kind of rowing machine that a competitive rower will buy is different from one a regular bodybuilder would. The former would prefer water resistance machines because it helps them replicate water rowing, the latter has more flexible options to choose from.

1. ADVENOR Magnetic Rowing Machine - Best Overall

The ADVENOR Magnetic Rowing Machine has a heart-shaped, well-cushioned seat that is made from polyfoam materials for extra comfort. The seat rests on a rail long enough to accommodate rowers as tall as 6’3”. 

The pedals are wide with an anti-slip design, heel guards, and adjustable foot straps to keep your feet secure.

This machine requires very little maintenance and is easy to set up and manage. It also has a foldable design, so you can pack it up and keep it in storage until you have to use it again.

It has 8 levels of resistance that can be adjusted using a knob beneath the console. The console also houses an LCD screen that tracks basic workout stats like stroke count, stroke rate, and time.

The scan mode function allows you to see your stats in intervals. A single button, also on the console, will help you navigate the functions of the rower. 

Pros

  • Requires little maintenance
  • Sturdy frame
  • 8 resistance levels
  • Front transport wheels for movement
  • Small build

Cons

  • Display has no backlight

The ADVENOR is our overall best rowing machine for beginners because it’s a great way to get introduced to the world of indoor rowing without having to break the bank.

2. Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine - Best Budget

The Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine uses magnets and a flywheel to provide resistance. It has an adequate range in resistance with its 8-level range which can easily be changed using a knob under the display.

Yes, this rowing machine has an LCD screen that displays information such as calories burned, hours per workout, and a knob that adjusts the magnetic resistance. It’s the perfect low-cost option for newbie rowers to experiment with.

If you’re worried about its ability to accommodate your height, it comes with extra-long side rails. It also has non-slip foot pedals and foot straps for extra safety while exercising.

Pros

  • Easy to assemble
  • 8-level resistance
  • Wheels for mobility

Cons

  • Hard seat
  • Noisy beam slide

The Sunny Health & Fitness machine is our choice for the best budget because it’s one of the most affordable rowing machines currently on the market.

3. ECHANFIT Rowing Machine - Best Foldable Design

The ECHANFIT Rowing Machine is a quiet, simple, but effective rowing machine. Since it’s a magnetic rower, the machine is extremely quiet, so you don’t have to worry about the noise disturbing your entire neighborhood.

Although the LCD monitor is quite small, it’s still easy to read. On it, you’ll find basic information about your workout, including the time you’ve spent on your workout, distance rowed, estimated number of calories burned, and your strokes per minute.

One good thing about this rowing machine is that it provides up to 16 levels of resistance which you can easily adjust by using a knob on the console. As a beginner, the level of resistance may provide the right amount of challenge for you. However, more experienced rowers may find it less so. 

If your space is tight, the ECHANFIT has a safety folding design that allows you to fold up your equipment for storage until your next use. It also has front wheels for easy transportation between rooms.

Pros

  • Quiet and stylish
  • 16 resistance levels
  • Foldable
  • Battery-powered

Cons

  • Difficult for rowers above 6 feet to manage
  • No pre-set programs included

The ENCHANFIT magnetic rowing machine is our best foldable rower because it folds nicely into a smaller shape and is perfect for people with very little space.

4. Fitness Reality 1000 Magnetic Rowing Rower - Best Bluetooth

The Fitness Reality 1000 Magnetic Rowing Rower is quiet, easy to assemble, and requires minimal technical skills.

This rowing machine has a very stable frame, which is quite unusual for rowing machines within this price range. It has a well-padded, wide handle for good grip, as well as wide footrests with thick velcro bands that can safely grip any sized foot. The seat is also decent-sized and comfortable. 

This machine provides up to 14 different levels of resistance that can be adjusted on a knob under the LCD display. The screen displays your workout time, distance rowed, stroke count, stroke rate, as well as the total number of calories burned.

The very helpful Bluetooth connectivity allows you to connect the rowing machine to MyCloudFitness to have better access to your information. Don’t worry about your phone falling off mid-row, there’s a bracket included on the machine to hold it safely.

If you have a chest strap, you can also have access to additional information like your heart rate.

Pros

  • 14 levels of resistance
  • Compatible with MyCloudFitness app
  • Extra long beam
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Easy to assemble

Cons

  • Bluetooth functionality might be quite limited

The Fitness Reality is our best Bluetooth rowing machine for beginners because it’s affordable, yet provides big value for your money.

5. JOROTO Magnetic Rower Rowing Machine - Best for Small Spaces

The first thing you’ll notice when you get on the JOROTO Magnetic Rower Rowing Machine is the comfortable, yet firm cushion. The second thing you’ll notice is that the seat is narrow, so you have to be careful while sitting. The handle also has a very nice grip and is curved and well-padded, so it can rest secure in your hands.

The footrests are comfortable and wide, with thick Velcro straps to hold your feet in place. You can choose between leaving your footrest to spin or locking them in place with a bar.

You can choose from one of the 10 resistance levels by adjusting a knob on the console. The display is easy to read and shows basic information about your exercise. You can also use a scan mode to see all your information in 5 second intervals.

The unit has a small build, so when you’re done with your workout, you can store it vertically in order to save space.

Pros

  • Sturdy and durable
  • 10 levels of resistance
  • Comfortable seat
  • Adjustable footrest
  • Saves space

Cons

  • Doesn’t track distance
  • Narrow seat

The JOROTO is our best space-saving rower for beginners because it has a small footprint and can be tucked securely in one corner of the room between each use.

Conclusion

There are several factors to consider before choosing the best rowing machine for beginners. With this guide, we have covered all of them in detail in order to help you get the best value for your money.

However, if we had to settle for one, it would be the ADVENOR Magnetic Rowing Machine because it combines all the best qualities of magnetic resistance and is super affordable for any beginner interested in indoor rowing exercises!

If you’re interested in reading other buying guides or reviews, please feel free to keep exploring our site!

 

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