What is it about rowing machines that gives them the edge over treadmills and bikes when it comes to CrossFit? CrossFit enthusiasts know that the program’s workouts are based around enhancing 10 areas of physical skill, listed by POPSUGAR Fitness as “cardiorespiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy”. Compared to a lot of the cardio equipment you’d find in a regular gym, like treadmills and weights, which typically work out just the upper or the lower body rather than giving you full-body workouts, rowing machines check off all our requirements in each of these categories in a much more holistic way.
The exercise has low impact on your joints and back while still working out over 80% of the muscles of the body, improving the heart and lung’s ability to pump oxygen-rich blood to your muscles quickly and in large volumes. This form of cardio has endless benefits, from muscle toning to core strengthening, and with rowing a major component of most CrossFit programs, we’ve rounded up our picks for the best rowing machines to get you started.
Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine
This commercial-grade workhorse is built to handle the punishment of rigorous workouts, and are a popular favorite in commercial gyms for their brilliant functionality combined with a reasonable price tag. Said price tag also makes this a great option for home use, the unit coming apart into two components for easier storage and, coupled with caster wheels, easier mobility too.
The specially designed flywheel is another reason this is a great unit for indoor and home use – it keeps operation whisper-quiet, ensuring the rowing motions are fluid and smooth. A spiral damper regulates the airflow to the flywheel, making the unit responsive to how hard and fast you’re rowing, so the resistance adapts in the same manner it would if you were actually rowing a boat.
With a 500 pound weight capacity, and 14-inch high seats, this unit is also a fantastic option for taller or heavier-set individuals to comfortably complete the rowing motions without difficulty. Adjustable foot-pedals with straps to secure your feet into place and adjustable, 10 degree bending ergonomic handles allowing your hands and arms to move naturally and fluidly when you’re rowing as well.
The unit comes fitted with the patented Performance Monitor 5, the adjustable arm making accessing it and reading the stats of your workout much easier. It also lets you save your workout data on a USB flash drive, great for charting your progress over time, and can be used to wirelessly track your heart rate, too.
KEN’S BUDGET PICK
Stamina 1402 ATS Air Rower
This unit’s a steal if you’re on the look-out for a home-unit – despite the reasonable price and basic, no-frills design, it’s nonetheless sturdy, rugged and durable and takes the beating of intense rowing sessions without breaking a sweat. The machine assembles easily and is pretty user-friendly to set up, not eating up too much space. A steel frame, metal chain and ball bearing rollers give this unit the same degree of rugged quality and longevity of higher end machines, all at an attractive price point.
With a weight capacity of 250 pounds and height capacity for individuals up to 6 feet tall, the unit operates via an Air Transfer System, each stroke causing the flywheel to spin and create air resistance. The variable resistance system means the amount of drag you experience varies depending on how hard or fast you’re rowing, the rugged build of the unit ensuring smooth rowing motions with adjustable workout intensity.
An electronic control monitor displays stats including speed, distance and time covered and calories burned so you can keep an eye on your progress and ensure you’re checking off your workout goals.
Concept2 Model E Indoor Rowing Machine
An ideal option for individuals taller than 6 feet, this unit combines many of the features we love in our top pick. With a 20-inch high seat and 500-pound weight capacity, the unit uses the same flywheel design and spiral damper system of our top pick to create variable resistance as you row, giving you the appropriate drag to moderate the intensity of your workout while still running quietly for indoor use. The machine disassembles into two components for easier storage, and features caster wheels for better maneuverability. The Performance Monitor 5 displays your workout stats, mounted on an adjustable arm you can move to where you need it, with a USB port to let you save your workout data to an external storage device, and optional heart rate sensors to chart data wirelessly.
WaterRower Club Rowing Machine
Unlike our previous options, this unit works with water resistance instead of air resistance – and, arguably, most closely simulates the experience of rowing a boat in water. The handcrafted unit has parts built out of premium hardwood sourced from sustainably managed forests, the flywheel enclosed inside a water tank to create the appropriate resistance depending on how hard or fast you row. This makes the unit’s operation whisper-quiet, the ash wood also absorbing noise and vibrations to keep this machine silent and smoothly operating. The solid build makes for stability, so you can rest assured this unit won’t grow unsteady or jerk around even during the most intense of rowing sessions.
With an impressive weight capacity of 1,000 pounds, this rugged and heavy-duty machine promises longevity and durability holding up against rigorous workouts and punishment. Thanks to the lack of electronically operated mechanisms and parts or components which can wear out over use, it also saves you a pretty penny in the long-run from the likelihood of expensive parts’ repairs and replacements. The frame can be flipped up for space-saving and storage when not in use.
The unit comes with the latest Series 4 monitor and control panel letting you keep an eye on workout stats like time and distance covered and calories burned, with the option of using a chest strap and receiver to track your heart rate for a better grasp on how to optimize or moderate your workout.
- POPSUGAR: https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/What-CrossFit-43683971
- Livestrong.com: https://www.livestrong.com/article/258087-rowing-machines-in-comparison-to-other-cardio/
- MedicineNet.com: https://www.medicinenet.com/aerobic_exercise/article.htm#aerobic_exercise_facts
- Harper’s Bazaar: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/beauty/diet-fitness/advice/a3549/rowing-fitness-trend-1014/