8 Best Rowing Machine Manufacturers in 2023
Rowing is one of the best full body, cardio-intensive workouts available. Period. Rowing works almost all of the major muscle groups, including the quadriceps, glutes, deltoids, lats, and abdominals. It is an incredible cardiovascular workout, with some of the world’s top athletes (as well as fittest amateurs) being rowers.
But joining a water-based club won’t be for everyone. Having access to a river and taking the time for those early morning sessions is only going to appeal to a certain percentage of the population. As a result, rowing machines (A.K.A ergometers, rowers, ergs, ergos, etc.) will be the way in which most people experience the joys (and the pains!) of rowing. There are a number of different great rowing machine brands available for personal and gym use, and this article will run through eight of the best rowing machine manufacturers out there.
My experience with rowing goes back over ten years. I have coached and competed at a high level and have personally tried many popular rowing machine makers out there. I’m speaking from personal experience with the below list and will give you my take on the brand, highlight which specific make of rower is considered the flagship for each brand and some pros and cons of each machine. Before buying, you should also consider reading my rowing machine buying guide where I explain step-by-step how to pick the best rowing machine.
Top 8 Rowing Machine Brands:
No. 1 Concept2
Concept2 are perhaps the best-know brand of rowing machine in the world. Gyms across the globe are filled with Concept2 machines and a majority of top university and national teams use Concept2 as their rowing brand of choice.
They produce reliable, solid rowers which, with proper maintenance will last for years, even when used regularly. The Model D is the flagship “RowErg” from Concept2 which uses air resistance, meaning it has a smooth action which will get close to replicating the feel of water. No matter how hard you pull, it will be able to match your strength!
The build of the Model D and Concept2 Model E which is the newest version is incredibly solid and will endue years of hard use without a problem. The rowing position (i.e. the position you sit in when rowing) is comfortable and something you can stay in, even for long sessions. I know many people who have opted for a more budget rower and who have felt disappointed because it didn’t compare to the smooth feel of a Concept2 Model D and Model E.
- The comfortable rowing position,
- The durability,
- The output metrics,
- The quality and finish
- The air resistance fan can be noisy for a domestic setting
- The price is representative of the quality
- The seat may need changing if you are on the larger side.
No. 2 RP3
RP3 is probably the one brand of rowing machine which offers any kind of serious competition to Concept2, when it comes to using by Olympic athletes. I have known a few teams who have preferred the RP3 to Concept2.
One of the big differences between the RP3 flagship, the Model T and the Concept2 Model D, is that the Model 3 is what’s called a Dynamic Rowing Machine. This means that whereas on the Model D, you as the user move up and down the slider, with the Model T you stay pretty much stationary and instead the flywheel moves up and down the slider (search for a video on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean!). This movement more closely imitates the feeling of being in a boat, hence being preferred by a sizable group of top-flight rowers.
The durability and comfortability of the ride is comparable to Concept2 with the colour screen being larger and giving slightly more detail than the Model D PM5 does. All in all this is a quality brand and piece of rowing kit which is probably aimed at the top-level athlete based on the whopping $3,600 price tag!
- Dymanic movement mimics rowing on water,
- Two screen on the machine gives lots of real-time feedback,
- Built for quality and to last
- The air resistance fan can be noisy for a domestic setting,
- Cannot engage in Concept2 online community,
- The price!
No. 3 WaterRower
As made famous by the characters of Frank and Claire Underwood on House of Cards, WaterRower is distinct from Concept2 and RP3 by being the first product in my list which uses water, rather than air, as its source of resistance.
I have a confession to make, when I first saw a WaterRower, I thought that it was gimmicky. I was a Concept2 devotee and didn’t think that something as stylish as the WaterRower could be anywhere near as effective. I was wrong! The feel of the machine takes some getting used to if you are someone like me who’s spent most of the time rowing on a Concept2.
But there is something incredibly soothing and satisfying both about the feel of the rowing stroke, but also the sound! Instead of the noise of the Concept2 (or RP3) and air rushing everywhere, you have a very relaxing sound of water which does put you (at least psychologically) on the water.
There are currently 12 models of WaterRower including the popular Gronk M1, Club Rower, and Blanc Rower, ranging from about $1160 to $2,735, depending on the styling and functionality that you’re looking for. The water resistance rowers are a great option for the home setting and something you should consider if noise reduction is an important consideration for you.
- Stylish design
- Virtually silent
- Feels closer to rowing on water
- Doesn’t have the performance metrics of other brands
- Feet can come loose during long sessions
No. 4 Ergatta
Similar in styling to the WaterRower and using the same water-based resistance as the WaterRower, one could be forgiven for wondering if there was any kind of major difference between the two. The answer is the huge colour screen which can be used to play scenic water videos or to “gamify” your rowing experience.
Ergatta is designed with people who need a little motivation to get their rowing workout in mind and is manufactured by WaterRower in the United States. I’ve used the Ergatta a couple of times and as a rowing purist, I have my reservations, but even I cannot deny how fun it is! In addition to adding scenic workout videos, the screen can be programmed to produce metrics for goal-driven workouts as well as game-like workouts.
This level of tech doesn’t come cheap and with a price tag of over $2,000 (and a requirement of ongoing, Pelaton-like members to access all features), you need to be sure this is something you are going to use before making the purchase. There is also another very similar rowing machine built by WaterRower. It’s named Cityrow Go Max. You can read more about the differences of these two rowing machines in our Ergatta vs Cityrow Go Max comparison.
- Engaging games, feedback and other perks on the large colour screen
- Similar feel to the WaterRower, mimicking the feel of rowing on water.
- Ongoing membership costs if you want to access all features.
- Large! This machine will take up quite a bit of space if you are using it in a domestic setting
No. 5 Hydrow
Hydrow is the first rowing brand in our list which uses magnetic resistance. Rowing machines with magnetic resistance us a strong magnet is placed within the machine next to a metal flywheel and it is this which creates the resistance. Whether or not you enjoy the feel of this kind of resistance is going to be a very personal choice but one thing which is undeniable is the effect this has on the sound the machine makes while you’re working out – it’s silent!
This rowing machine brand has been likened to at least a couple of other luxury brands. Porsche for it’s sleek, designer looks and Peloton, due to the fact that there is a monthly membership cost which gives you access to a huge library of rowing workouts.
Unlike most other rowing machines, it’s not possible to simply input the number of meters or the time you want to row into the Hydrow and get started. This is a workout-based machine that requires you to select from a pre-set list.
This is going to provide structure to some (perhaps less-experienced) people but may be a source of frustration to others. Either way, if you’re looking for a near-silent machine which is incredibly good looking and smooth to workout on, give Hydrow some thought!
- Almost silent!
- Huge library of workouts to choose from
- No simple way to “just row”
- Cost – $2,245 with a monthly membership of $38
No. 6 First Degree Fitness
First degree fitness make a range of fascinating-looking machines to workout on, all of which are powered by their adjustable water-resistance systems. Arm cycles, skiergs, climbers and others are all available, but we will be focusing on their rowing machine range.
First Degree Fitness has a huge range of 24 (yes, you read that correctly!) rowers, all of which are slightly different to one another and are geared toward people’s specific needs. Depending on your budget, mobility requirements and whether the rower is going to be used in a commercial or domestic setting, First Degree Fitness is going to offer a machine which is suited for you.
First Degree Fitness do offer a number of premium machines such as Apollo II, Viking II, and Newport AR, but would probably be considered a slightly more affordable brand, giving you the opportunity of owning and using a water-based machine for slightly less than you’d be spending on a WaterRower or an Ergatta. Definitly one to consider.
- Slightly easier on the wallet
- Huge range to select from
- Not as well-known as other brands
- Can look a bit industrial
- No pre-set rowing programmes
No. 7 Echelon Fitness
Echelon Fitness makes the S model, which is a serious piece of rowing kit and seen by some as the primary contender to the ever-popular NordicTrack RW900. It’s easy to see why when you consider just how much you get for your money.
Firstly, this is the second fully magnetic resistance rowing machine maker in the list with a foldable frame so it’s great if you don’t have much floor space. The range of resistance will cater for all needs, allowing for people to do high-intensity bursts (best for muscle gain) but also slower, lower resistance but longer pieces (best for cardiovascular gains).
I’ve seen people of all sizes use this machine and feel comfortable on it, which is sometimes a complaint levied against Concept2 (from people who are either on the v small or v large end of the spectrum).
- Silent resistance system
- Comfortable for almost all sizes and shape user
- The price + subscription (this was retailing at almost $1,000 at the time of writing)
No. 8 BodyCraft
The final rowing machine model that I’ll discuss is BodyCraft. Perhaps less well-known than the other brands mentioned, BodyCraft nonetheless produces a range of quality machines such as VR500 Rower that should be considered, if you’re looking to invest in either a commercial or domestic setting.
They produce an air-resistance based range of machines that have positive elements from a number of other brands. The seat is comfortable enough to use for long sessions, the feedback from the screen is good and your feet won’t become unstuck from the stirrups – a positive for anyone who’s spent any time of a rowing machine!
There is nothing particularly standout about BodyCraft machines, but as I previously mentioned, they are well-built, and reasonably priced and therefore should be considered if you are looking to make an informed choice before purchasing a rowing machine.
- Budget options available
- Well-built and comfortable to use
- No unique features
- Noise issues associated with air-resistance rowers.