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March 14, 2023
When it comes to getting a great cardiovascular workout, it's hard to beat the rowing machine. Rowing works more than 80% of the muscles of the body while also stimulating the heart and lungs. Furthermore, rowing is a closed-chain exercise that doesn't stress your lower body joints the way that most cardio exercises do.
Rowing machines range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. When you're looking at the lower end of the market, you need to do your homework to make sure you're getting a machine that is going to do the job you require.
There are plenty of substandard rowers under $500, but there are also some that represent great value and will give you a fantastic rowing workout.
In this article, I'll review the seven best rowing machines under $500 on the current market. I'll also provide you with a complete buyer's guide and spell out the reasons why rowing should be an integral part of your fitness program.
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As an in-home personal trainer, I am often asked to recommend budget rowing machines to my clients. Over the years, I've tested many machines in order to provide them with informed guidance. Lately, my main recommendation has been the Xterra Fitness Rower.
The Xterra Rower is available in a number of models. I love the ERG700, which combines air and magnetic resistance to provide a fluid rowing experience.
The combination of air and magnetic resistance allows you to set specific resistance levels while also experiencing the challenge of dynamic air resistance.
While many budget rowers compromise on the rail length, that is not the case here. You get a full 80.7 inches of travel length. That means that even people over 6 feet tall can get a non-compromise workout experience.
At 20 inches from the floor, the seat height is higher than the standard. This makes it easier for people with poor mobility to get on and off the machine.
The 5.5-inch backlit monitor is pretty basic but still provides you with all the training data you need, including program profile, elapsed time, stroke count, distance, calories, strokes/min, watts, resistance level, and heart rate.
You get ten built-in program modes on this rower, including distance, time, calories, 20/10 interval, 10/20 interval custom interval, fat burn, cardio, strength, game, and manual. Even my fittest clients have been able to get a challenging workout on this machine, especially when they follow the 10/20 interval training program.
I've been recommending Sunny Fitness home fitness equipment gear for more than a decade, having come to trust the company's quality and functionality of design. Their entry into the water rower market is impressive, with the Obsidian Surge providing the quality I've come to expect at an affordable price.
The Obsidian Surge's resistance is provided with the combination of a flywheel, water tank, and 16 fan blades that churn through the water as you pull on the rowing handle. These hydro blades mimic the action of rowing through the water, providing you with a smooth, jerk-free rowing action.
A standout of this rower is the molded padded seat to provide a comfortable experience for your butt. The seat is also higher than on many machines, just like the Xterra Rower, making it easier for those with mobility issues to get on and off the rower.
This rower is fitted with an R2 Fitness monitor that is designed to accurately track your workout data. This tracking includes total time, 500 M time, SPM, total strokes, calories, and ambient temperature.
The slide rail length is 42 inches with an in-seam of 38 inches, providing all but the tallest people with a full rowing experience.
The water tank holds up to 3 gallons, and Sunny provides you with a funnel and anti-algae tablets.
While not foldable, this rower can be easily and safely stored in an upright position.
The Stamina ATS rowing machine is a wind-resistance rower with a multi-function performance monitor. The air resistance provides you with a very smooth, natural resistance and a fluid rowing motion.
The oversized angled seat on this machine provides comfort while also facilitating an easy, jerk-free glide up and down the seat rail. You also get secure foot straps that keep you securely locked in, along with anti-slip foam grip handles to ensure that you don't lose your grip.
Antiskid floor protectors do a good job of keeping you securely grounded so that the rower doesn't slide around when you are giving it your all.
The frame of the Stamina ATS rowing machine is made from carbon steel and finished in a stylish black. The max user weight is 250 pounds, which is a little on the low side as, ideally, you want a 20-30 pound difference between your actual weight and the max user weight.
This rower folds for storage and comes with wheels for ease of transportation.
The Sunny SF-RW5515 is a magnetic tension rower with eight levels of resistance. The cushioned seat provides you with a very comfortable rowing experience. The large, textured safety pedals provide you with a very secure foothold while rowing.
A conveniently located tension knob allows you to adjust your resistance level easily. Your grip is assured with non-slip grip handlebars. You get a smooth, flowing rowing experience on this machine.
The rail length on this budget magnetic rower is 48 inches, with a 44-inch inseam length. Those are impressive numbers for a budget magnetic rower, ensuring that even people over 6 feet in height will be able to get a full rowing leg extension.
Textured non-slip foot pedals help to keep the machine securely in place as you are rowing so that you don't have to worry about lateral movement, especially when rowing at high resistance levels. Transportation wheels also help to move the rower around your workout space and to roll it away for storage.
You'll notice that there SF-RW5639 is the third appearance of Sunny Health & Fitness on this top 9 rowing machines under $500 list. That should tell you everything you need to know about the quality and value you get from this California-based company.
The SF-RW 5639 is a hydraulic rower. While hydraulic rowers are limited in their ability to provide a full, natural rowing experience, this Sunny model is about the best you'll get in the category.
It features 12 levels of adjustable resistance, from easy to pretty intense. Of all the hydraulic rowers I've tried, this one does the best job of minimizing jolting.
The max weight capacity of this indoor rowing machine is 350 lbs, which is very good for a budget hydraulic rower. The fully padded seat and non-slip handlebars enhance the comfort, and the LCD digital monitor display gives you a readout of your scan, time, count, calorie, and total count. Oversized footplates and adjustable straps provide you with a very secure foothold.
Sunny Health & Fitness cautions users not to row for more than 20 minutes on this machine. That is because hydraulic cylinders tend to overheat with prolonged use.
The Marcy Foldable Magnetic Resistance Rower features a centrally located central knob to make it easy to adjust your resistance level. There are eight levels of adjustable magnetic resistance on this machine.
You get a relatively smooth rowing experience, but a few online reviewers have mentioned some irregularity in the action.
The contour molded foam padded seat on this rower delivers a comfortable ride. Foam handles provide a non-slip grip on the bar. This is a compact machine that folds easily for convenient storage. Transport wheels make it a piece of cake to wheel the machine away once your workout is done.
The monitor display is pretty basic, providing you with a readout of your time, count, total count, and calories. You also get a tablet holder to allow for extra connectivity.
The Fitness Reality Dual Transmission Rower is a combination air and magnetic rowing machine. This allows you to choose between the two resistance systems.
In magnetic mode, you are able to choose between 14 resistance levels, while in air mode, you generate the resistance based on the speed of your row,
This rower features a 40-inch slide rail, ensuring that the vast majority of users will get a full, unencumbered leg extension while rowing. The 3.5-inch LCD monitor is fitted with Bluetooth and tracks your 500m Split Time, Distance, Calories, Stroke Count, and strokes per minute.
It is designed to work with the MyCloud Fitness App, which provides you with access to hundreds of on-demand classes in rowing, cycling, yoga, and bodyweight exercises.
This rower features a wide, comfortably padded seat and wider than-usual handlebars to provide a more comfortable grip.
Rowing machine workouts represent one of the most efficient, full-body-inclusive cardio workout options. Here are four key reasons to make rowing a regular part of your training program.
When working out on a rowing machine, you are working more than 80% of your body's muscles. In the upper body, you are directly working your latissimus dorsi muscles (upper back), biceps, deltoids, trapezius, and core muscles. The lower body muscles that are directly involved are the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.¹
Rowing is an aerobic activity that raises the heart rate and breathing rate, which can help to enhance cardiovascular fitness and endurance. Enhanced oxygen intake and respiratory system challenges provided by rowing can assist in increasing lung capacity.
Rowing also works a variety of body muscles, including the breathing muscles, which promotes the development of muscular endurance and increases stamina.
Rowing is a good exercise for interval training since it alternates high-intensity workouts with rest or low-intensity workouts. The body is forced to work harder and recover faster during interval training, which can help increase endurance and stamina.
In one study, males who were physically active were examined for the effects of rowing machine exercise on aerobic power indices and neuromuscular function of the lower limbs. The outcomes suggested that rowing is a useful activity for increasing stamina since it enhanced aerobic power indices and neuromuscular function of the lower limbs.
According to the authors, rowing machine workouts can be utilized to enhance both aerobic and anaerobic energy metabolism, which will increase a person's stamina and endurance when they are physically active.
Although this study primarily looks at how rowing machine training affects endurance in physically active men, it shows that rowing can be a useful approach for raising both aerobic and anaerobic endurance.²
Rowing is a high-intensity sport that may burn a lot of calories quickly, making it a good way to burn fat and drop a few pounds.
Rowing is a full-body workout that works a variety of muscle groups, which can assist overall calorie burn and encourage fat loss.
Frequent rowing workouts can aid in boosting metabolism, which can enable the body to burn more calories even when at rest.
One study looked at how both male and female university students' body composition and physical fitness changed after a 6-week rowing ergometer exercise program. The training program using a rowing ergometer considerably decreased both the body fat percentage of male and female participants, according to the results.³
The arms, shoulders, back, core, and quads are just a few of the muscles that rowing works, making it a full-body exercise that is helpful in promoting muscular growth.
Rowing is a low-impact activity that is easy on the joints, making it an excellent choice for people with joint problems or injuries who wish to gain muscle without overstressing their bodies.
As mentioned, rowing is a good exercise for interval training since it alternates high-intensity workouts with rest or low-intensity workouts. By putting the body under stress to work harder and recover, interval training can aid in muscular growth.
In a study, researchers looked at how different rowing drills affected muscular activation and strength for those who were physically active. All of the rowing workouts put to the test, including the seated row, standing row, and single-arm row, efficiently worked the muscles in the upper back, shoulders, and arms, according to the findings.⁴
You shouldn't expect a rowing machine under $500 to come with all the bells and whistles of a pricier rower. However, you can still get a very functional and comfortable rower for under that price. Here's what to expect:
Basic features: Rowing machines in this price category often offer basic features, including a straightforward monitor for distance, time, and stroke rate.
Low levels of resistance: Rowing machines priced under $500 could feature levels of resistance that aren't sufficiently difficult for experienced users.
Reduced weight capacity: Rowing machines in this price category may have a lesser weight capacity, which could affect their durability and stability.
Small size: Rowing machines for around $500 may be smaller in size, making them a fantastic option for people with limited room.
Lower quality componentry: Rowing machines in this price category could be constructed with lesser quality materials, which could shorten their lifespan.
Knowing what to look for when shopping for a rowing machine will help you to identify the machine that best meets your training goals, comfort level, budget, and space requirements. Here are the key things to look out for:
Look for a rowing machine with a strong, long-lasting frame made of materials like steel or aluminum. During your workout, the frame should be stable and able to hold your weight.
The weight capacity of the rower is a good indication of how strong the machine is. Look for a piece of equipment that has a max weight capacity of 300 lbs or higher.
Seat: The seat needs to be comfy, wide enough to cover your entire butt, and composed of sturdy materials that will hold up to repeated use. It should feature at least an inch and a half thick foam cushioning and be covered in a sweat-resistant material. The underside of the seat should have quality bearings to allow it to glide smoothly up and down the rail.
Footrests: The footrests should be secure, adjustable, and equipped with straps to hold your feet in place while you exercise.
Handlebar: The handlebar ought to be easy to hold and composed of sturdy materials that can sustain repeated use. Look for handles with some form of padding. Ideally, the handle should also have a central cut-out section to allow you to row with one hand.
Rail: the seat rail needs to be long enough to allow for a full range of motion when exercising. The rail should be as long as your inseam. Look for a rail that is made from durable materials like aluminum or steel. You also want a rail that allows for a smooth glide of the seat without getting stuck or stuttering.
Here are some features to look for in a rower under $500:
Adjustable resistance: Look for a rowing machine with adjustable levels of resistance so you can change the level of your workout's intensity as necessary.
Folding design: If you only have a small amount of storage space, a foldable rowing machine can be a smart choice.
Transport wheels: Moving your rowing machine from one place to another may be made simpler by using transport wheels.
Even though some rowing machines under $500 might have other features like drink holders, Bluetooth connectivity, or workout routines, these elements might not be as important as the fundamental ones mentioned above.
Do your homework and read reviews to select a machine that fits your demands and budget if you have particular requirements or preferences for additional features.
Rowing machines in this price category may have a basic display that provides the most important training information, such as distance traveled, time spent on each stroke, and calories burned.
Get a monitor with a simple-to-read screen so you can easily track your workout progress. Some monitors also include an adjustable angle that can help you view the display from various angles.
A user-friendly interface will allow for easy navigation through the many workout modes and settings. Some monitors can also record and preserve workout data, allowing you to keep track of your progress.
Rowing machines are broken into four main resistance types: air rowers, magnetic rowers, hydraulic rowers, and water rowers. Because they are often less expensive than air or water resistance systems, hydraulic and magnetic resistance systems are more prevalent in rowing machines under $500.
Look for a rowing machine with adjustable levels of resistance so you can change the level of your workout's intensity as necessary.
The resistance system on a rowing machine should feel natural and smooth, so there should not be any jerking or jarring in the resistance system's movement.
Take into account the kind of resistance as well as the number of potential resistance levels. Look for a rowing machine with a wide variety of resistance levels so you can tailor the resistance to your unique fitness level and goals.
A rowing machine's resistance system should be long-lasting and able to tolerate repeated use over time.
When looking for a rowing machine under $500, the weight capacity is an important factor to consider. Here are some things to look for:
Your weight: Make sure the rowing machine can hold your weight while you exercise by taking into account your personal weight. Look for a rowing machine that can support at least 20–30 pounds more weight than you do.
Durability: A rowing machine that can support more weight generally lasts longer and is more stable. Look for a rowing machine with a strong, long-lasting frame constructed of premium materials like steel or aluminum.
Stability: During your workout, the rowing machine shouldn't sway or shake. Look for a rowing machine with a solid foundation and a weight capacity that can accommodate your movements.
Multiple users: If there will be more than one rower, make sure the rowing machine can support everyone's weight by taking into account the heaviest user.
When shopping for a rower under $500, consider the reputation of the brand, as well as the features, sturdiness, build quality, and warranty conditions. The warranty should cover the frame and parts for at least one year.
The rowing machine should be easy to put together by a single person. It should come with a clear assembly instruction manual and include all the tools you need for assembly.
By reading user reviews, you can get a good impression of the durability and overall quality of the rowing machine. You'll be able to assess the functionality of the machine and whether it has any inherent problems.
Look for what users have to say about the smoothness of the rowing experience and the comfort level of the seat, as well as the ease of assembly.
A rowing machine can help to flatten your stomach as part of an overall weight loss strategy. To get a flat stomach, you need to create a caloric deficit so that your body burns calories for energy.
This can be achieved with a combination of eating fewer calories than your body requires for energy each day and burning calories through cardio exercise. Rowing is an excellent choice when it comes to calorie-burning cardio.
Whether or not rowing 15 minutes per day is enough depends on what your training goal is. If it is weight loss, then you should build up to around 30-40 minutes of rowing to burn a decent number of calories.
If you are training primarily for cardiovascular benefit, an intense 15-minute HIIT-style workout will get great results.
There is no single best type of rower. It really depends on your personal preferences. If you enjoy an on-the-water rowing type experience, then a water rower may be best for you. An air rower provides a smooth type of resistance where the intensity is determined by the speed of your rowing action.
If you want to be able to regulate the resistance level, then a magnetic resistance rower is the best option.
Yes, rowing machines are definitely worth it. A good rowing machine will provide a solution to all of your cardiovascular training needs.
Rowing is an excellent calorie burner for those trying to lose weight. It also works nearly all the muscles of the body without putting stress on the joints.
Investing in a rowing machine is a smart fitness investment that will benefit you for many years to come. When it comes to buying a rower under $500, you need to temper your expectations. There will be some compromises in terms of extra features and monitor functionality. However, you can still get a very good rower for less than $500.
The best rowing machine on the current market is the Xterra Fitness Rower, which uses a combination of air and magnetic resistance, provides you with an impressive 80.7 inches of travel length up and down the rail, and has a higher seat than standard to make it easy to get on and off the machine.
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