If you only have space for one piece of gym equipment at your house, it’s very difficult to make a case for anything other than the rowing machine, which delivers a full-body workout as well as improving your cardiovascular fitness.
The other advantage of opting for a rower over a treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical is that you can pick up the very best machines on the market for under £1,000. Yes, for less than a grand you can use the same rowers that Olympians train on, which should hopefully put paid to those “the machine’s shoddy” excuses that help you to skip sessions when Bake Off’s on.
Of course you don’t have to buy the best on the market – you can pick up excellent rowing machines for under £500 and there are even are solid options available for less than £250. We’ve got them all in this round-up of the best budget, mid-range and top-end rowing machines to buy in 2017.
The Best Budget Rowing Machines
Expect no frills, bells, whistles or any other indication of fanciness on these machines, which are best reserved for those looking to do a little light cardio, rather than cranking out serious sessions at high levels of resistance.
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Thrillingly cheap at under £100, this bare-bones option even doubles up on the workouts it offers by allowing you to replace the rowing handle with two grips which you can use a bit like a cable machine. The display is incredibly basic and it’s not the sturdiest – if you’re tall or plan on really ripping into some intense rowing sessions, it probably won’t be robust enough – but if you’re looking for a bargain and are just getting started with this fitness lark, this will suit just fine. £96.03, buy on amazon.co.uk
JLL R200 Luxury Home Rowing Machine
“Luxury” is pushing it – quite a lot really – but this is a solid machine for well under £200. There are ten levels of magnetic resistance, a decent display that shows calories, distance and time, and it folds upright for storage. The resistance won’t be that strenuous even on the higher settings, but it’s perfectly adequate for light cardio workouts. £164.98, buy on amazon.co.uk
V-fit Tornado Air Rower
Air resistance rowers do a good job of replicating the feel of rowing on water, and tend to provide a sterner test at higher resistance levels than magnetic machines (although the latter are usually quieter). The V-fit Tornado is the best air rower available for under £300, with the resistance it provides proportional to the amount of force you pull the handles with, meaning that users of all fitness levels can get a good workout. £229.99, buy on amazon.co.uk
The Best Mid-Range Rowing Machines
If you’re able to spend around £500 on a rower you’ll get a far more advanced machine, with adjustable air resistance and built-in workout programmes. The extra money will also see a corresponding rise in build quality – welcome news for heavier users and those planning on spending a lot of time rowing at a high resistance. For most users a mid-range rower will be more than enough to fulfil all your rowing needs, unless you want the “real” feel of a water-resistance rower.
Reebok Z Jet 400 Rower
With 12 preset workout programmes that use the 16 levels of resistance available, the Z Jet 400 rower has enough versatility to keep even the most committed home user occupied for a long time. The rail hinges to vertical, allowing you to store the unit in a cupboard, and the rower is sturdy enough for people who weigh up to 120kg. £399, buy on powerhouse-fitness.co.uk
JTX Freedom Air Rower
With 16 levels of air resistance, eight training programmes (including heart rate-based plans that link with the chest strap provided) and an impressive back-lit display, this machine wouldn’t look out of place in a gym. The JTX Freedom also folds upright to make storing it easier, and comes with a two-year in-home parts and labour repair warranty, so feel free to go all-out on your intervals. £495, buy on amazon.co.uk
Bodymax Infiniti R100 Super Rowing Machine
Another excellent machine that brings a gym-level experience to your home, the Bodymax Infiniti is large and robust enough to accommodate rowers over 6ft (1.8m) and up to 130kg. It offers 12 workout programmes and a range of resistance to keep your training varied, plus a recent update to the machine allows you to adjust the resistance via controls on the handlebar. Handy, that. £699, buy on amazon.co.uk
The Best Top-End Rowing Machines
Even when shopping in the upper reaches of the rowing machine market you don’t need to spend over £1,000. At this price you can try your hand at rowing with a water resistance machine or pick up an elite-standard air resistance rower. Of course, if you do want to spend over £1,000, you can do that and get a rowing machine that has more training programmes and works with more sophisticated apps.
Concept 2 Model D
The best-selling rowing machine in the world, and with good reason. The Concept2 Model D is built to handle multiple intense workouts every day for years on end (that’s why every gym has them) and the PM5 console connects with a smartphone to upload all your workout data so you can pore over it later. If you’re really into your indoor rowing, you’ll have spent most of your time on a Concept2 Model D, and it’s the obvious top pick for a home gym if you have the moolah. £859.99, buy on amazon.co.uk
WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine
WaterRower machines are the go-to option for anyone who wants a rower that mimics the feel of pulling against old-fashioned H20, and they’re available in pretty much every type of wood you could desire, this ash version being the cheapest. It looks fantastic – especially if you match the wood to your rest of your furniture – and the sound of the water swooshing with each pull makes for a better experience than the more industrial noise produced by an air rower. Though it might make you need to pee. £949, buy on amazon.co.uk
You’re more likely to find the SkillRow in a commercial gym than in someone’s front room, but if you have the cash and want to make a big investment in your rowing it’s one of the best machines you can buy. Technogym has labelled the resistance provided by the SkillRow “Aquafeel” because of its realistic approximation of what it’s like to row on the water, a feature that will help improve your technique if you do row outdoors – and also apparently reduces the strain on the lower back. The SkillRow connects to your smartphone, which can be attached to the machine just above the console, to show workouts to follow and give immediate feedback on your rowing technique through the SkillRow app. It’s a very impressive set-up and complete overkill for the vast majority of home users, but it’s undoubtedly a unique machine. £3,490, buy on technogym.com