Which Rowing Machine Is Best for You?

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The Stamina 1215 Orbital Rower, With Free Motion Arms, $350; staminaproducts.com
If space is tight—like galley-kitchen tight—this two-handled job is for you. Compact and foldable, it can easily slide under the bed. Drawbacks are many, though. Because the handles dip forward by your ankles, you often start the drive backward hunched over, which can wrench your back and neck. And the fixed handles force you to begin your pull at the start of the drive, not at the end. While more work sounds like a better workout, premature pulling (i.e., butt behind the hands) attacks the lower back. Be careful.

Concept 2 Model E (PM4), $1,260; concept2.com
The best dry rower on the market. It's ergonomically sound (there are no handles to reach down for), and the pulley action is silky smooth—it moves when you do, with no catching or delayed pauses. The flywheel is a fan, so you're moving air, ultimately. The manufacturer claims the flywheel is engineered to be quiet, and it is—for a fan. Still, assuming your walls aren't paper-thin, the sound is a plus: the louder the whir, the harder you're working.

WaterRower A1 Home, $895; waterrower.com
Designed by U.S. National Team rower John Duke, this machine is made from blonde Appalachian hardwood and has a horizontal water tank for a flywheel (fill-up not included), providing pure on-the-water pulls that no fan can ever match. This water-pull system is making it the rower of choice in the fitness world. (Equinox is stocking its gyms with WaterRower's similar Indo-Row model.) Rightly proud of the craftsmanship, the company calls its rowers "fitness furniture." While we don't recommend keeping it in your living room, it is the sharpest scull machine on the market.

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