Best Rowing Machines For Beginners

With competition getting tougher by the day, manufacturers wishing to showcase their products as the best rowing machines put in a huge number of features. Apart from complex terminology, such addition of features produces confusion in the minds of those who are just learning the basics of rowing. It is therefore easy to be misguided into buying a product with features that make sense to a professional rower, but are of no use to an amateur exercise enthusiast. This is not to say that products that offer the least features are the most preferable since many of the top notch machines cater to both amateurs and pros equally. Instead, one should focus on some core features that are useful to the novice user. To make the choice easier, we have listed the vital features to look for, and based on them, reviewed products which come across as the best rowing machines for beginners.

Factors To Consider

  1. Type of Resistance – Water resistance, which rises and falls according to the effort applied by the user may be vital to the professional seeking to hone his/her stroke, the beginner may find that he/she is unable to maintain an adequate stroke speed. Hence, for beginners, it is better to choose an air, magnetic or piston resistance machine. These offer exact resistance levels (or approximately exact), thus bringing out the same amount of strength per stroke from the user. He/she is thus trained in one of the cardinal features of correct rowing machine technique maintaining uniform stroke strength/intensity.
  2. Ease to use – The beginner’s limbs and muscles are not accustomed to rowing. Hence, it is important that there be padding on the seat and handle/s, such that hard rowing does not cause discomfiture and/or blisters. Further, the seat should slide smoothly without the need for oiling and maintenance, as these may be beyond the ability of the amateur. Lastly, the machine should be smooth and adhere to resistance levels with moderate to high precision, so that the user’s rowing skills can be uniformly tested and improved over time.
  3. Basic in designBeginners need a simple rower design and equally simple console layout so they can hone their method without wasting time in figuring out the complexities of the rowing machine. This, however, does not mean that the product has to be the standard single handle and cord design – it can be orbital/outrigger in design and include other modifications.
  4. Budget – Given that beginners should try out air resistance units, hydraulic piston rowing machines or magnetic rowers, the price bracket for the best rowing machines for beginners should normally be quite low (since water resistance units are costlier). Though magnetic and piston resistance models do retail for $500+ prices, it is better to keep $500 as the threshold. That way, if for whatever reason a certain product does not match an individual’s needs (even when the product itself is not at fault) or he/she has to quit rowing for whatever reason, the monetary loss will not be significant.

Our Recommendation

1. Stamina Air Rower

Stamina Air RowerA definite candidate for being considered as one of the best cheap rowing machines, this air resistance rowing machine comes with a sturdy steel angled frame that is capable of supporting user weight of up to 250 pounds. Further, unlike most cheap air rowers, the flywheel resistance assembly is smooth and produces minimal noise during workout. Along with the well padded seat and the highly accommodative yet secure footrests, these ensure a highly comfortable and fulfilling rowing experience.

Such structural brilliance is complemented by a large display that is capable of showing time, distance, calories burned and speed in large and uncluttered digits. Last but not least, it enjoys Stamina’s standard warranty of 3 years on frame and 90 days on parts.

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2. Kettler Favorit Rowing Machine

Kettler Favorit
Benefiting from the excellence of German engineering, the Kettler Favorit comes with a simple and light yet sturdy body made of high quality powder coated steel. Indeed, while 250 pounds is the limit for most rowing machines under $500, Kettler allows users weighing up to 285 pounds to use this machine with ease. The rowing mechanism is equally innovative, consisting of the outrigger style twin arms. Each arm comes with a piston that has 50 resistance levels, allowing the beginner a wide range of resistance levels to start with and then move up (as his/her capacity improves). The comfort factor is taken care of by the well padded seat and handle, while the footrests with their pivoting function allow for natural movement of feet during workout.

The display is quite large for the price range, and shows a number of metrics in a legible format. Yet the icing on the cake is surely the lifetime warranty on the frame, unrivalled in the sub-$1,000 price bracket.

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3. Stamina Stamina Avari Easy Glide

Stamina Avari Easy GlideSurely one of the cheapest rowing machines available, this Stamina product nevertheless manages to offer a durable oversized aluminum frame capable of handling up to 250 pounds of user weight. The piston resistance is divided into 12 levels, which should be more than adequate for the beginner. Coupled with the well padded seat, ergonomic handle and the footrests with tough nylon straps, these make this affordable rower a pleasure to use.

Adding more value to this rower is a multifunction monitor capable of displaying most metrics shown on high end rowing machines. Lastly, this product comes with a 3 year manufacturer warranty on frame, which is excellent in the price bracket.

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4. LifeSpan Fitness RW1000

 LifeSpan Fitness RW1000The first LifeSpan Fitness product on our list, this rowing machine offers a solid steel body that is capable of working smoothly even when burdened with 300 pounds of user weight. The magnetic resistance offers a quiet and smooth workout. Adding to this ease of use are the padded seat and handles and the ergonomically designed footrests.

The display, interestingly, comprises of 3 LCDs, thus providing greater visibility for the numerous metrics that the console measures.When considered along with the fact that LifeSpan provides this product with a warranty of 5 years on frame, 3 years on parts and 1 year on labor, it is not surprising to learn that the RW1000 is the recipient of the 2008 Gear Awards Seal of Excellence.

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5. ProForm 440R Rower

ProForm 440R RowerBusting the myth that an affordable rower has to look plain, this stylish looking air rower comes with a aluminum frame that is capable of supporting users weighing up to 250 pounds. Furthermore, unlike most air resistance products, the 440R comes with 8 discrete resistance levels, thereby helping the beginner acclimatize himself to the rowing process using a wide range of precise resistance levels. In addition, the product supports strength training exercises. Coupled with pivoting footplates, a well designed and equally well padded handle and a molded and padded seat, these allow the ProForm 440R to provide the novice fitness enthusiast with a rewarding rowing experience.

This experience is enhanced by the clear rendition of useful metrics like total distance covered, speed, strokes count, etc. by the large LCD monitor. Equally impressive is the 5 year warranty on frame, while the 90 day warranty on parts matches the industry standard.

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As the above reviews show, the advantages of a home rowing machine can be shared equally by beginners and by professionals. The needs and wants of the two are different, and so the best rowing machines for beginners would of course differ from those preferred by the veterans. Keeping these needs and wants in mind, we have seen that the prices of the products ideal for beginners is also lower, thereby destroying the myth that indoor rowing is a cost-intensive activity. Indeed, by following the above guide, the beginner can not only reap the benefits, but also undertake the long but fulfilling journey towards becoming a professional rower without putting his body or his bank balance under undue duress.