We picked the brains of rowing coaches, fitness experts, and physical therapists to learn what features make for an exceptional rower. Based on their input, we searched the market for air and water resistance rowing machines, then tested the best for ride feel and design. We found one model of each type — air resistance and water resistance — that felt truly superior to the others.

Here’s a secret, because the rowing machine provides an intense full body workout, the exercise burns a high amount of calories not only during the actual activity but also for a period after you’ve stopped. This is known as the “after-burn effect”. Essentially, you’ve worked your body so hard that it is forced to keep burning calories and fat even when you’re not rowing. The scientific jargon for this is “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or “EPOC” for short. But all you need to know is that if you’re doing an intense rowing workout, the benefits continue after you’re done. How great is that?

The resistance of your rowing machine impacts how it moves. Select from hydraulic and magnetic rowing resistance. Hydraulic rowers are typically more compact in size, while magnetic machines make little noise as they operate. Details like easy-to-reach tension knobs or buttons allow you to increase or decrease the intensity of your resistance as you train.

The Concept2 Model D is the ultra-popular air rower that you’ll see at most gyms. It is one of the best home indoor rowers you can buy period. Expertly constructed and ergonomically unequaled, this rowing machine looks great and rows smoothly without so much as a jarring catch. As an air rower, the Concept2 employs air baffles to create the resistance. A nickel-plated chain pulls the flywheel and you get your workout by pulling against the increasingly higher air pressure that the fan is creating.

If you’re on the hunt for a rowing machine for home fitness, keep in mind that there are many different styles and features that you’re going to want to consider before choosing. As always, high quality comes with a price, but there are great, reliable rowers at lower prices as well. We’ll do our best to break down all the things you need to know below.  And we have included our top rower picks to help you find the best rowing machine for your needs.
The Classic Rowing Machine is designed is extremely easy to use. Additionally, it has a lot of comfort features in its design. It has an ergonomically shaped handle and padded heel rests that accommodate nearly everyone. Everything on the machine can be adjusted quickly. Because there are no movement parts, maintenance is minimal. Even the computer has a lot of one button operations, so the minute you have the rower assembled, you can get to work.
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Both the air rower and water rower machines are very popular choices of rowing equipment, particularly the former type. They have been around in the 80s, and many consumers and those that have tried them in gyms consider the equipment to be the best type ever. These air resistance equipment, often regarded as Ergometers, is the standard base model for indoor rowing sport.
 The amount of water in the tank simulates the weight of the boat and crew, the more water in the tank the heavier the boat and crew. The standard Calibration Level is Level 17. If the user is lighter in weight, Level 15-16 can be used. If the user is heavier in weight, level 18-19 can be used. The maximum level to fill the tank is Level 19. DO NOT fill above the maximum level – this could void the warranty.
The model E’s seat stands 6 inches higher. And while the model D’s monitor rests on an adjustable arm, the E’s sits on unbending metal. These few technical differences do nothing to impact ride feel. We recommend the $200-cheaper model D as the best buy, but the Concept 2 E will appeal to anyone who values a higher seat and more solid construction.
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Instead of air or hydraulic resistance, the Elite Wave Water Rowing Machine emulates actual rowing with lifelike water resistance. The paddles glide through the water housed in the reservoir, making the rowing stroke smooth from start to finish, and like rowing on a body of water, the resistance increases infinitely the faster you row. Not only does this feel like rowing on water, it sounds like water. Different stroke speeds and intensities vary water motion, resulting in realistic water resonance.
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Bring the experience and benefits of rowing on water with this professionally-built Stamina water rower machine. The incorporated water resistance in this exercise machine offers smoother and more consistent rowing but more importantly, just like rowing in an actual body of water, this workout machine is built to provide infinite resistance--harder and faster rowing motions cause increased resistance. To tailor the resistance according to your fitness goals, simply increase or decrease water level using the siphon included in the package. Moreover, the steel frame construction and rowing beam ensure durability for years while the sturdy, pivoting footplates with straps offer comfort and security. To help you keep track of your fitness progress, this home gym machine is also equipped with a multi-function monitor that tracks total strokes, strokes per minute, distance, time, and calories burned. Other features include: wide molded seat, textured and padded handles for better and comfort
If you’re interested in using a rowing machine for focused training — whether for outdoor rowing, an indoor competition, or as part of a larger fitness program — you’ll want air resistance. If you’re drawn to rowers for the enjoyability (alongside the full-body, cardio-plus-strength training efficacy) of a rowing workout, consider a machine with water resistance.
There is some minor maintenance. Because it's made out of wood, which can expand and contract, the bolts need tightening every few months or so. It's easy and takes only a couple of minutes. That, and putting in a fresh water purification tablet every six to twelve months, are about it for regular maintenance. The only problem I've had with the rower (the reason for 4 stars instead of 5) was a squeak that developed after about 6 weeks. It took me some time to determine the source of the squeak, which was a metal bracket connecting the footrest board to the horizontal boards above the drum. I had to partially disassemble the top section and tighten four bolts, but that fixed the problem and it's been quiet ever since.