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Best Air Rowing Machines

Air rowers are popular for both commercial gyms and for home use. They aren’t the most expensive rowing machines available, but they’re preferred by trainees of various skill levels including competitive athletes. These fitness machines create a satisfying on-the-water sensation, but cost less and are easier to maintain than water rowing machines. People also love that they deliver a cooling breeze with every stroke. The biggest name in the air rowing machine space is Concept2. Their most popular rowing machine is the Model D, making it our top air rower on the market. Check out our top 3 air rowing machines below, and scroll down to learn more about rowers in this category.

Best Overall

Concept2 Model D Rower

Rating: 95%

Our Top Three Air Rowing Machines

Model

Rating

Resistance Type

Weight Capacity

Folding

Resistance Levels

Pricing

Reviews

Train Like A Professional
Concept2 Model D Rower
Concept2 Model D Rower
Commercial Grade
Concept2 Model E Rower
Concept 2 Model E Rower
Great For Taller Rowers
BodyCraft VR500 Rower
BodyCraft VR500 Rower

95%

Air

500 Lbs

Yes

10

92%

Air

500 Lbs

Yes

10

83%

Air

350 Lbs

Yes

32

Air Rowers—What To Expect

It may come as a surprise that air rowers offer a fluid, real-rowing feel. Like water rowers, they are more complex to build and tend to be more durable than cheaper magnetic and hydraulic rowing machines. And again like water rowers, the primary form of resistance is user effort. Simply put, the faster the trainee rows, the more challenging the resistance. A sort of ‘infinite resistance’ comes into play, so it’s hard to outgrow an air rower. If you’re looking for a real-rowing feel without the water, an air rower is your best bet. These days, air rowers often fuse the primary air resistance level with various levels of magnetic resistance to add additional challenge and control. Just keep in mind that air rowers can be quite large machines, partly due to their fan cages. Another downside of air rowers in general is that they tend to be quite noisy. The noise from the fan will hum with every stroke. That said, this stroke also delivers a cooling breeze which many trainees love.

 

How Do Air Rowers Work?

Air rowers have sliding seats to support full-body aerobic workouts. Their resistance systems are fan-like flywheels. When the rower handlebar is pulled, it makes the fan blades spin and resist the surrounding air. If the fan flywheel is uncovered, then riders get a breeze to keep them cool.

 

How Powerful Is The Resistance?

Resistance on air rowers adjusts naturally to fit every trainee. It is tied to user effort. The more powerfully a trainee rows, the more air is displaced. Some air rowers also have dampers to adjust the airflow. A possible drawback of an air rower is the fan’s sound. Air and magnetic rowing machines such as the Sole SR500 augment air resistance with magnetic resistance for a quieter ride.

 

Which Brands Are Best?

Concept2 leads the air rower industry in terms of ergonomics and durability. Its stroke feels very similar to water rowing and Concept2 units can be combined for team training. At the other end of the spectrum are cheap air rowing machines by Stamina Products. Medium-quality options come from several brands such as NordicTrack, BodyCraft, and Horizon.

Pros

User-Controlled Resistance
Realistic Rowing Feel
Cooling Breeze

Cons

Noisy
Large
Some Maintenance

1. Concept2 Model D Rower

The Concept2 Model D is a popular machine because it provides durability, unlimited resistance, and engaging programming at a manageable price point. It features an American-made steel frame and variable air resistance. The benefit of an air resistance system is that resistance increases with the rower’s intensity—a feature that makes the Model D suitable for athletes at all training levels. The Model D makes our list of best rowing machines pretty much every year. The Concept2 Model D is available in two powdercoat colors: light gray and black, selling for a sticker price that’s typically just a touch under $1,000.

Read the Full Concept2 Model D Rower Review

Pros

Easy Assembly & Storage
Air Resistance
Wireless Heart-Rate Data

Cons

Size
Some Maintenance Needed
Plastic Monitor Arm

2. Concept 2 Model E Rower

The Concept2 Model E rower is one of two top-ranked rowers from the brand, known for their solid construction and great overall quality. These are the some of the most popular rowers in the marked, and odds are that if you’ve used a rowing machine in your local gym, it comes from Concept2. These rowers aren’t loaded with tech wizardry like we see in the exercise bike and treadmill markets, but instead the focus is quality construction, durability, and a rowing feel that’s closer to that ‘out on the water’ rowing experience. Believe it or not, most olympic rowers prefer the air resistance of a Concept2 over water resistance rowers.

Read the Full Concept 2 Model E Rower Review

Pros

Easy Assembly & Storage
Air Resistance
Wireless Heart-Rate Data

Cons

Size

3. BodyCraft VR500 Rower

The VR500 is BodyCraft’s top-of-the-line indoor rowing machine. It fuses essentially unlimited air resistance with 32 levels of magnetic resistance. Highlights include a smooth aluminum track, 12 preset workouts and wireless heart-rate control. The VR500’s 19″ seat level makes it easier to access than low profile rowing machines, so it can accommodate a wider variety of trainees. And with 38.5″ of seat travel, the VR500 can accommodate users up to 6’8″. Although it has a relatively large footprint when assembled, its easily foldable design makes it suitable for most home gyms as you can pack it away after use.

Read the Full BodyCraft VR500 Rower Review

Pros

Programs
Easy Folding
Resistance

Cons

Nylon Belt
Large