With temperatures dropping and gyms re-closing across the country, Americans are investing more in at-home gyms, among them cardio machines. Unsurprisingly, at-home fitness equipment purchases have grown about 170 percent since the initial Covid-19 lockdowns and so fitness brands and retailers have scrambled to keep up. Shoppers are shelling out for treadmills and stationary bikes — and we’re seeing an increasing demand for rowers. Rowers aren’t always top of mind for shoppers, said Brad McLam, the director of business development at exercise equipment retailer Gym Source. But there’s good reason to change that perception, he added. “They can truly give a really good workout for areas of the body that are very difficult to train in other ways, such as the hip and back. Both of those are very important for overall conditioning.”
SKIP AHEAD Expert guide to picking the right rower
If you’re looking for a rower to add to your home gym — alongside your dumbbells, kettlebells and suspension trainers — you’ve got a slate of options available online, many offering easy returns and trial periods. We consulted fitness experts on how to go about finding the best rowing machine and which are the best rowers available now.
Best rowers and rowing machines
This smart rower comes loaded with adjustable features to personalize your indoor rowing workout. The machine can be set to 32 resistance levels, which can be easily toggled from the handlebars. A standout feature of the Echelon is the screen, which can flip 180 degrees, to incorporate floor exercises to your workout.
Users get one month’s free access to Echelon’s fitness subscription, which includes dozens of rowing workouts and a library of classes including boxing, pilates, yoga and more. Subscriptions cost $40 per month after that. This rower is foldable and has built-in wheels for easy storage and needs to be plugged into the wall. This model is also much more affordable than other smart rowers, a good option for those who aren’t looking to splurge.
This smart rower is able to create fitness challenges based on the user’s fitness profile, gamifying the workout process. You’ll get access to both interval and HIIT workouts, goal-based workouts and individual races, via Ergatta’s app ($29 per month). Users can also join competitions and group challenges with other Ergatta rowers.
Ergatta, which must be plugged into the wall, uses water in its wheel for a smoother and quieter ride. It’s not Bluetooth enabled but will connect to Wi-Fi. Note that this rower is pricier than other smart models, though sports a stylish design and includes some high-end bells and whistles. If you aren’t quite sure if you’re ready to commit, Ergatta offers a 30-day free trial with free returns.
This affordable water-based rowing machine from Sunny Health & Fitness relies on a flywheel with 16 fan blades and boasts sweat-resistant handlebars. The brand highlights the height of the seat, as well, noting it’s designed with a high-profile.
A non-smart display tracks your workout metrics, including strokes, calories and more. Wheels at the end of the rower will help you move it and it’s designed for easy vertical storage.
This rower, priced similarly to the Proform, offers more interactive features. The RW200 is Bluetooth-enabled and includes 20 preset workout apps and 24 resistance levels. The model has built-in wheels and an adjustable console.
Rowers will also get access to NordicTrack’s iFit membership, a platform providing live classes, varied workouts and personalized coaching — you get one free year with purchase, after which membership will run you $180 annually. The RW200 also comes with two speakers so you can play your music out loud while you ride — as long as your household is on board.
5. Hydrow Rower
Hydrow’s large, high-definition screen helps give the illusion that you’re not in your living room as you ride, said Yasmin Farooq, a women’s rowing coach at the University of Washington. The rower is Bluetooth-enabled to allow health metrics to sync with your smartwatch or fitness tracker, and it includes a library of interactive workouts and landscape to row through via its membership, which costs $38 per month — there’s no complimentary membership period. Hydrow also offers live classes from Olympic and elite instructors
Similar to the Echelon, Hydrow lets users swivel the screen around and access yoga, pilates and other workouts to complement their rowing workouts. Keep in mind the Hydrow must be plugged into a wall, so you’ll need electric capabilities in your workout space. You can grab a 30-day risk-free home trial of the Hydrow and that includes free returns (including a free pick-up).