Best Indoor Rowing Machines for Zero Impact Yet Intense AF Cardio

Remember the scenes in House of Cards when Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood goes into the basement to get some exercise and clear his head? That’s not just because a rowing machine looks good on camera.

These machines are a great piece of equipment in the home gym. If you use a stationary bike or treadmill the wrong way, you might end up with lower back problems. But a rower does no such damage. But before you get down to business, take a look at how it benefits your body.

house of cards rowing machine

What Muscles Do Indoor Rowers Work?

Rowing machines make way for some of the best cardio workouts. They are greatly useful in burning fat, metabolism and building strength. This workout will show results for your thighs and core muscles. And when you point your toes at the end of a back slide, you can work your calf muscles too.

If you have issues in the lower back, you must carefully do a lock and rock at the end of each stroke. When you pull the handle into your body, you get to exercise your upper arms. It is better than a treadmill because it does not put undue stress on your hips and knees.

When you sit with your legs pulled towards you, your body is leaning forward and your arms are extended. In this pose, you work your deltoids and triceps. The muscles in your upper back are also stretched and getting some exercise.

muscles used in rowing machine

Are Magnetic Rowers Any Good?

Of the many types of rowers in the market, these are perhaps the ones you spot quite often in gyms and health centers. They are also the most affordable ones. But are they the ones for you? Excellent question.

Magnetic rowers work on a braking system with models that have either manual or automatic resistance. They are very durable machines and don’t really demand a lot in terms of maintenance. They are smooth and have a gentle glide which is how you know they are good machines.

Water vs Magnetic Styles

Magnetic rowers have two strong magnets that move past each other to create resistance and avoid friction. So, the resistance you experience is consistent and smooth throughout your workout session. This makes exercising on these machines quite satisfactory.

The machines themselves are compact and don’t make noise which makes them great for a home gym. There is a spinning metal wheel called a flywheel that is attached to the inside of the handle’s housing through a chain. It has multiple levels of resistance on a digital console or mechanical sliders that range from easy to hard.

Water-resistant rowers, though, are a bit more popular if you’re not concerned with the cost of the machine. They are known for efficiency and the results they produce. These machines have blades that are suspended in a tank of water. This makes you feel like you are rowing outdoors on an actual water body. However, they are also very quiet and the splashing of water is pretty much all you will hear. Expensive as they are, experts really like this model and they do last for decades with little maintenance.

rowing vs running vs walking

In Terms of Cardio: Rowing vs Running vs Walking

Running and rowing are both low-impact workouts. They put less pressure and cause little wear and tear in your joints. This is a boon for those who suffer from problems like arthritis or generally have weak joints.

When you go for a run, you work out your lower body muscles like quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Your abs and biceps are only supporting muscles.

But when you row, the muscles in your upper and lower body are in use. You end up strengthening your abs and spinal muscles along with everything else that you work on during a run. Your deltoids, biceps and muscles in the elbows get toned when you pull the rowers and your forearms get a workout every time you hold the rower’s handle.

The same logic can be applied to walking. And the benefits are also subject to the pace and intensity.

Best Rowers for Home Use

While rowers are one of the best pieces of equipment for a home gym, you need to know which one suits your needs best. This often depends on your medical history and whether or not a particular machine gives you the settings you are looking for. Let’s check them out.

NordicTrack RW900 rower review

NordicTrack vs Concept2

NordicTrack has three different models of rowing machines—RW200, RW500 and RW900. Each of these models has two forms of resistance—magnetic and air. Both of them work in tandem to make sure your rowing routine is smooth and noise-free.

You can check the magnetic resistance on a digital SMR that can be controlled by a trainer if you are working with one and the air resistance can be adjusted to increase or decrease the intensity of the workout.

They are interactive rowing machines with several trainer-led workout programs. They have ergonomic seats and an adjustable console. The machines have 26 levels of resistance to match your trainer’s recommendations.

And when you’re done you can move them to a storage room thanks to the wheels and easily fold and put them away.

Concept2 rower review

Concept2, on the other hand, makes some of the best-selling indoor rowers in the world. These machines are even used by competitive rowers for training. They ensure great cardio workouts that tone your physique. They are expensive when compared to NordicTrack rowers but are engineered well and built to last a really long time.

Each rower comes with a performance monitor that helps you compare data for every session. You can store data on pace, watts, stroke rate and the calories you have burned. You can connect it to wireless equipment across devices and apps. There is a damper to control exertion and resistance. It is made to run smoothly and minimize noise. It has adjustable footrests and an ergonomic handle.

NordicTrack RW200 review

RW200 NordicTrack Rower vs Concept2

The RW200 is a specific model from NordicTrack which is a smart and well-built rower. The machine has a flywheel which is inertia enhanced and there is an adjustable Silent Magnetic Resistance (SMR) to move the intensity up and down.

The rower has 24 digital resistance revels and can take about 250 pounds of user weight. Speaking of comfort, there is an oversized steel seat rail and pivoting pedals There is an ergonomic seat and adjustable nylon foot straps.

It also supports Bluetooth technology and has an auxiliary music port with two digitally amplified speakers. And, to top it all, it is one of the most affordable machines out there.

The Concept2 machines are a bit different. They are relatively expensive but are also built to last for a really long time. These indoor rowers give you full control of exertion and resistance. That is made possible with a damper which allows you to adjust the airflow to the flywheel.

The design is such that there is maximum smoothness and minimum noise. These machines can handle up to 500 pounds of user weight.

WaterRower wood review

WaterRower vs Hydrow

WaterRower is another brand that has been making home rowing machines. It has almost a dozen models in a range of prices. The rowers are all made of premium but sustainable wood and a sleek aluminum monorail design.

All the machines are coated with Danish Oil. This gives luster and warmth to the wooden finish. The wood is also great with absorbing sound and vibration making your workout smooth and quiet. This is why it is a popular choice for their rowers.

They fold well and can be stored away easily. But if you want to leave them around, they are made to be lookers so that you don’t have to worry about destroying the look of your decor.

Hydrow rower review

Hydrow machines, on the other hand, are made of ultra-smooth electromagnetic, drag systems that can be controlled with a computer. They pride themselves on making machines that are the closest thing to being on water. They are strong on performance and built to last.

There is a 22-inch display with front-facing speakers that brings the water body to your workout session. The straps are industrial grade and make each stroke smooth and silent.

There are 10 rollers on the seat which make it ergonomically pleasing so that you can work out for a long time. And it has wheels on the bottom which make it convenient for you to move it from one room to another and store it with ease.

crossfit lifecore R100 review

Crossfit Rowing Machines

Crossfit is a form of high-intensity training made of functional movement to build strength. While they don’t know how to do real pushups, there’s no doubt that they go hard in the gym. And what better way to go hard on your cardio than to use a rower!

Apollo Pro II review

Apart from the brands above, there are a couple of other companies that make rowing machines that make rowing perfect for Crossfit training.

  • LifeCORE r100: If you can’t afford a Concept2 machine, this is a good choice. It is a magnetic rower with features that are favored by many athletes. These models have 16 levels of resistance and 15 pre-programmed options.
  • First Degree Fitness Water Rower Apollo Pro II: This machine uses a water-filled bowl for resistance and can be adjusted easily with the turn of a dial. It is a luxury machine that is quiet and smooth with ergonomics that will please you.

Rowing machines are a great piece of equipment when compared to your home treadmills and stationary bikes. They offer overall muscle development and all you need to do is sit down and work it out at a speed that is comfortable to you. Now pick a machine and get started. Good luck.

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