If you are looking to improve your cardiovascular health and get a full-body workout in one exercise, buying a rowing machine should be your first consideration.
Rowing machines offer a practical in-home training solution, and they are affordable and easy to use. In this article, we look at the best rowing machines under $500. We will also take a look at buying considerations and frequently asked questions about this form of exercise.
Top 6 Rowing Machines Under $500
XTERRA Fitness ERG600W
- Excellent value for money
- Durable design withstands users up to 300 lbs.
- 5.5-inch monitor with useful features
- Easy assembly
- A comfortable and ergonomic rowing position
- Vertical storage option to save space
- Seat slide is a little noisy
- There are no preset heart rate programs
The XTERRA Fitness ERG600W is a water rower with several high-end features that you wouldn't expect in this price category. This model has a durable steel frame that is steady at a high stroke, and that supports user weights of up to 300 pounds. A long rail also makes this model suitable for users of all heights.
Comfort is another high-value feature of the ERG600W. The contoured seat is relatively wide, and it is elevated for knee support. The handle has padding, and the footrests are long and wide with secure straps.
The ERG600W has blades that spin against water in the tank, which provides the rowing resistance. By adjusting the water level in the tank, you can select between six different resistance levels. A height-adjustable 5.5-inch LCD screen displays workout data that include countdowns for time, distance, calories, and strokes. Buy it here
Marcy Turbine NS-6050RE
- Durable frame that supports users up to 300 lbs.
- Eight resistance levels
- Ergonomic rowing position
- Easy assembly
- Fitness computer with LCD included
- Air and magnetic hybrid resistance system
- The display is not backlit
- The footrests are not angle-adjustable
The Marcy Turbine NS-6050RE is a relatively new model from Marcy Fitness and features both air and magnetic resistance. The air component of this hybrid resistance system offers an authentic rowing experience, while the magnetic part allows for complete adjustability.
Even though this model is not suitable for commercial settings, it has a durable steel frame that closely resembles that of a gym-grade rower. Users weighing up to 300 pounds can put the NS-6050RE through its paces without the risk of structural defects. This rower's seat is also relatively wide, and it has an ergonomic rowing position to alleviate strain on the lower back and knees.
The NS-6050RE features a relatively basic fitness computer with a small display and only one button to carry out all functions. You can see all values at a glance, including time, distance, stroke count, speed, RPM, and calories burned. Buy it here
Stamina 1402 ATS Air Rower
- Air Transfer System matches resistance to your rowing speed
- Durable steel construction with aluminum slide rail
- Adjustable nylon foot straps
- Foldable frame for easy storage
- Wheels for easy portability
- User weight is limited to 250 lbs.
- Limited console functionality
The Stamina 1402 ATS is an air rower with an Air Transfer System (ATS) to adjust resistance according to your rowing speed. Air is a real resistance system that is similar to the water system. As you row harder, the resistance increases, and you can create a resistance that matches your fitness level.
This model features an aluminum seat rail with a smooth, low-noise sliding action, a textured handle, and oversized foot pedals. The result is a comfortable and stable rowing position.
One drawback of the 1402 ATS is the limited functionality of the computer console. The unit measures speed, time, distance, strokes, and calories, but there are no workout programs or data downloadability. Buy it here
Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian SF-RW5713
- Smooth and quiet rowing
- Adjustable water level to change resistance
- Easy assembly
- Upright storage to save space
- Maximum weight capacity between 250 and 300 lbs.
- No monitor backlight
- Foot pedal quality and design can be improved
- The chest strap monitor is not included
The Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian SF-RW5713 is a water resistance rower with a smooth, realistic rowing stroke. This model’s water-resistance system consists of stainless-steel hydro blades in a water tank, and it is suitable for all fitness levels.
In terms of build quality, the SF-RW5713 offers long-lasting value. The machine features a lightweight steel frame and durable polycarbonate plastic water tank that is resistant to cracks and the formation of mold.
According to the machine specifications, it has a maximum weight capacity of 250 pounds. However, there is a sticker on the machine that lists a weight capacity of 300 pounds. According to buyer reviews, the 250-pound capacity may be on the conservative end.
The SF-RW comes with an R2 fitness meter that tracks and displays fitness metrics such as total strokes, strokes per minute, time, distance, calories, and heart rate. The computer also comes with a race feature, and it can calculate your fitness level with the heart rate monitor. Buy it here
GoPlus Water Rowing Machine
- Smooth and quiet rowing with the water-resistance system
- Features an LCD and app compatibility for workout tracking
- Lightweight design and wheels for easy portability
- Includes chest strap for heart rate monitoring
- Low weight capacity
- Placing a device on the media shelf can block the LCD monitor
- No wattage tracking
The GoPlus Water Rowing Machine features a water flywheel and leak-resistant tank to create a quiet, realistic rowing experience. You can choose from six resistance settings to match your fitness level and achieve a personalized workout.
Comfort features of the GoPlus include a padded seat and a high-rise frame. The latter makes it easy to get on and off the seat. The positioning of the seat in relation to the foot pedals also allows for an ergonomic rowing position.
The GoPlus is not the best option in terms of frame durability. This model has a maximum weight capacity of only 220 pounds, and it is not entirely stable at high stroke rates. However, because of the machine's light weight, it is popular among small-framed users who value portability.
You can connect the GoPlus’s fitness monitor to an Android or iOS device using the GoPlus app. This monitor provides full workout tracking and features a backlit LCD monitor and holder for your tablet or phone. Buy it here
- Compact, foldable, and portable rowing machine
- Great value for money
- Quiet and smooth rowing
- Eight levels of magnetic resistance
- The tension level is constant
- The seat is too low to the ground
- Low maximum weight capacity
The Tunturi R30 features a manual magnetic resistance system that consists of a metallic flywheel and a magnetic brake. The latter has a connection with the tension dial at the front of the machine, and you can adjust the resistance level by turning the dial.
You can choose from eight levels of resistance. The first level has no magnetic resistance, and it only applies the weight of the flywheel, which is 15.4 pounds. There are no air or water components in the system, which means your stroke rate does not affect the tension level.
The Tunturi R30's frame construction consists of steel and aluminum components and weighs only 57.3 pounds. The frame can support a user weight of up to 242 pounds, and the rail has a slight incline to the front.
The exercise meter features an LCD that shows time, strokes per minute, total strokes, and calories. There is no pulse reading function, and you can only adjust the resistance level with the tension dial. Buy it here
What to Look for in a Rowing Machine Under $500
Rowing machine resistance types include water, air, magnetic, and hydraulic piston. Water and air resistance types are the most popular as they offer the best realism. With water and air systems, your rowing intensity also determines the resistance level.
Magnetic systems are not as popular, but they are affordable, durable, and easy to maintain. These systems are also quieter than water and air systems.
Hydraulic systems work with hydraulic pistons to create resistance. The benefits of these systems include quiet operation and a low price tag.
Your rowing machine's frame construction determines its maximum weight capacity, rowing position, and longevity. High-end models have a lightweight, durable steel frame with an elevated seat and aluminum slide rail.
An LCD monitor provides feedback on your workout. Essential information your monitor should display includes workout time, the distance you rowed, rowing speed, and the calories you burned. Other information includes your stroke rate per minute, total strokes, and heart rate.
High-end rowing machines have additional features such as a cushioned seat, rubberized grips, and flexible foot pads with adjustable straps. Bottle holders and media shelves for your tablet or phone are also handy accessories.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Resistance Type is Better?
Air and water resistance systems generally offer a better workout experience than magnetic or hydraulic systems. Air and water systems work on the same mechanism, and the harder you row, the higher the rowing resistance.
There are several differences between water and air resistance systems, and the one that is best for you depends on your requirements. Water rowers are heavier than air rowers, they are more expensive, and their monitors are not as accurate. However, water rowers have a more realistic row action than air rowers, they look better, and they are quieter.
If you are looking for a row machine that is portable, easy to store, and more affordable, an air rower is a better resistance system for you.
Which is Better – a Rowing Machine or Treadmill?
A rowing machine works your entire body, while a treadmill only targets your lower body. However, a treadmill burns more calories per hour than a rower does. You can burn the same number of calories on a rowing machine as on a treadmill, but you have to row at a high resistance setting to achieve this goal.
Another difference between rowing machines and treadmills is that you can use the latter for both low- and high-impact exercise. With a rowing machine, however, you only get low-impact exercise, regardless of the resistance level.
When choosing between a treadmill and rowing machine, consider your fitness goals. If you want to burn calories, a treadmill is your best option.
However, if you can't handle high-impact workouts, a rowing machine is the better option for you. A rowing machine is also the better alternative if you want to build muscle, as it works the muscles in your upper as well as your lower body.
How Often Should I Use My Rowing Machine?
How often you should use your rowing machine depends on your fitness level and goals. Rowing may be a low-impact workout, but it can put a lot of strain on your knees and lower back. If you are new to rowing, stick to short 10- to 20-minute sessions every other day.
As your fitness level increases, you can start rowing every day and increase the length of your rowing sessions. Rowing is an excellent form of cardio, but it also ideal for full-body muscle activation. Your goal should be to reach a point where you can row every day without experiencing discomfort or muscle pain.
Warm up properly before you get on your rowing machine, and use the correct rowing technique to alleviate fatigue and muscle pain.
Does a Rowing Machine Build Muscle?
Rowing is primarily an exercise that engages the legs and core. The pulling motion of the arms and legs is a secondary workout. As far as burning calories is concerned, rowing is one of the most popular exercises.
Rowing is an endurance exercise that can condition muscles, especially slow-twitch fibers. However, it is not the type of training that can build muscle as effectively as exercises like cable rows or dead lifts.
That said, rowing is one of the best exercises if you want to develop the practical strength of your legs, core, shoulders, chest, and upper back. You can use rowing to support your goal-based weight training or as a warm-up exercise for back or leg day.
If you want to burn fat and live a healthy lifestyle, rowing is ideal as a primary form of exercise.