The best rowing machines of 2021 for your home gym

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  • At-home rowing machines deliver high-cardio, low-impact workouts that strengthen muscles and burn calories.
  • Rowers come in four resistance varieties: Water, air, magnetic, and hydraulic, each with their own benefits.
  • Our top pick, Concept2’s Model D, is durably built, is comfortable to use, and has smooth-running air resistance.

There are few machines capable of delivering the same kind of calorie-burning, full-body workout as an at-home rower. In the span of just 30 minutes, you’re able to enjoy a low-impact, high-cardio exercise that’s fit for people of any age or fitness level. As long as you know how to properly row, this versatile workout not only serves as a quality complement to a pre-existing routine but it can also stand on its own as a prime source of weekly exercise.

It’s because of that effectiveness, and the fact many people prefer working out at home, that rowing machines are more popular now than ever – and are increasingly becoming staples in people’s home gyms. If you don’t like running on a treadmill or aren’t particularly fond of stationary bikes, a rower is the next best thing – and to some, it’s regarded as an even better form of exercise.

I tend to agree. There’s just something wholly different about finishing up a grueling 45-minute rowing workout that feels far more taxing and exhausting than a run on a treadmill or a streamed Peloton class. Those two do deliver tiring workouts, no doubt, but I walk away from a row routine truly noticing its full-body results.

But while all rowers deliver similar cardio benefits, not all are designed the same. In addition to a range of resistance types and rower sizes, there are models that are easily stowable, as well as a new crop of smart rowers touchscreens and access to on-demand, streamable classes. In other words, there’s plenty of variety.

To find the best currently available, I tested a number of machines that span every use case, resistance type, and price point. My goal was to find rowers that delivered a serious cardio workout while proving to be a valuable addition to a home gym setup – and I came away with a strong list of favorites.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a rower, answers to a series of FAQs, and a rundown of the testing methodology I used in deciding which rowers made the cut.

Here are the best rowing machines:

Our testing methodology

Ergatta rowing machine

Each rower featured in this guide went through a testing process to gauge how well it performed across these four categories: Ease of use, experience, reliability, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into which rowers ultimately made this guide.

Ease of use: Row machines have a naturally low learning curve — the general idea is to just sit down and row. But we know there’s more to it than that. Ease of use also refers to the process of setting up the machine set up in your home, how easy it is to get started, whether there’s a companion app, and if that learning curve (however steep) dramatically impacts the following category: your experience.

Experience: Working out for fun may seem like an oxymoron but it is important to at least somewhat enjoy the sweat your breaking. Since a row machine delivers a full-body workout, you want one that won’t feel like some sort of grueling game of tug of war. Ideally, a proper row machine offers smooth operation, an engaging platform (whether that means it offers digital feedback or is just fluid to use), and is comfortable to use. 

Reliability: If the rowing machine you invest in doesn’t last longer than a few months, you’ll likely be cursing whatever inclination you had to want to buy it. Put plainly, at-home workout machines aren’t cheap and the one you ultimately end up spending a large chunk of money on should work and work often. 

Value: Value is a mixture of the categories that came before it, as well as some attention to its actual sticker price — but this doesn’t mean that more expensive models should be ignored. It’s better to spend more money once on a machine that’s reliable, easy to use, and delivers a fun workout than to struggle with a different cumbersome budget model every few months. 

The best row machine overall

Concept2 Model Indoor Rowing Machine

The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine brings the gym to your home with its sturdy build, smooth gliding action, comfortable design, and superb quality.

Pros: Smooth gliding operation, ease of assembly, large size to accommodate tall people

Cons: Pricey and requires a bit of space (9 feet by 4 feet) but worth it

The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine features solid aluminum front legs, steel rear legs, a flywheel with air resistance, and a maximum user weight capacity of 500 pounds, making it our top pick. 

Essential for executing powerful and uninterrupted strokes, the Model D ‘s flywheel has a damper for adjusting its air resistance, granting you complete control of the resistance yourself. The harder and faster you row, the more wind the flywheel generates and the more drag you’ll feel.

With an air resistance rowing machine, you’d expect a bit of noise, however, the Model D runs fairly quiet. Although not completely silent, it’s quiet enough for rowers to listen to music or watch television at a normal volume during workouts.

The easy-to-read performance monitor (PM5) tracks stroke rate, calories expended, distance, pace, and watts. It has several built-in programmable workouts and games to motivate you during a workout. The rower’ also quick and easy to assemble and disassemble, and can be taken apart and rolled for storage.

Although the Model D isn’t inexpensive, it’s a worthwhile investment in your health and comes with limited five- and two-year warranties. — Helen Mao

The best budget rowing machine

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

At a very reasonable price, the Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine offers a versatile workout with its independently moving arms and smooth hydraulic resistance for continuous rowing action.

Pros: Low price, independent arms for a full range of movement, and ease of assembly and folding

Cons: Resistance declines as piston heats up during long rowing sessions; short warranty (90 days for parts/one year for frame) 

The Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine is small but mighty — and an excellent value at $120. Although it’s compact and quiet, this hydraulic resistance rowing machine provides a big workout with a smooth-gliding padded seat and separate arms for a full-body workout.

What makes the BodyTrac Glider so special is its versatility in arm movements. Unlike many models where you pull a single handle attached to a chain or cord, this erg has two arms that allow for a full range of motion and mimic real boat-rowing movements.

This means you can row forward or backward, move your arms in circular directions, pull the handles close together for a conventional stroke, or hold the grips apart to exercise different arm, shoulder, and upper back muscles. Because the arms operate independently of each other, you’re able to focus a workout on each arm individually. 

Sturdy with a steel frame and aluminum center beam, the BodyTrac Glider supports up to 250 pounds. It assembles easily and folds up for storage, as well. The single hydraulic piston/cylinder is located under the unit for convenient adjustment with a manual control dial.

The machine is able to maintain a variety of consistent levels of resistance for roughly 30 minutes of hard rowing. As with most hydraulic rowers, fluid in the hydraulic piston heats up, which decreases resistance. When this happens, you’ll need to pause and increase the resistance setting. Always make sure you turn the control dial itself and not the heated piston/cylinder. Another downside to hydraulic resistance models is the chance of the piston leaking oil.

The BodyTrac Glider also has a simple and easy-to-use monitor, which features more functions than you’d expect on a machine this affordable. — Helen Mao

The best interactive rowing machine

Ergatta Digital Rower

The Ergatta Connected Rower combines the rush of video game racing with the fitness benefits of a full-body exercise to deliver one of the most interactive rowing machines available. 

Pros: Motivating video game-inspired workout platform, beautiful design, features a folding design for easy stowing

Cons: Expensive 

Like similar smart fitness equipment from brands such as Peloton or NordicTrack, the Ergatta Connected Rower utilizes a giant on-board screen to display its on-demand workouts and exercises. But unlike its aforementioned peers, the workouts aren’t led by an instructor belting out the next movement or exercise but are instead comprised of a series of video game-inspired routines that prove just as motivating as those high-energy classes.

What this means is that the Connected Rower pits you against the machine for its goal-based plans and interval workouts, while also allowing you to compete against other Ergatta users in simulated races. Regardless of the event, the software delivers an addictive experience that drives you to want to continuously do better. Fitness trackers found a way to gamify daily fitness and the Connected Rower follows the same path. 

The physical rower is an aesthetic wonder, too. Made of Cherry wood and featuring a traditional water rowing mechanism, Ergatta clearly intended for the rower to be more than just a means for getting fit — it wanted the rower to also pleasing both in terms of look and feel. The water rowers soothing swoosh of water adds to an already enjoyable experience, as well.

Perhaps its one downside is the fact the rower’s not cheap. But since few interactive workout machines like are, this isn’t entirely surprising. After an initial $2,199 price tag for the machine (and a $199 shipping cost), there’s a recurring $27 fee for access to the library of on-demand classes (which is also par for the smart workout machine course). 

In all, the Ergatta Connected Rower delivers a full-body workout disguised as an interactive gaming experience — and it’s one of the most enjoyable we’ve tested.

Check out our review of the Ergatta Connected Rower here

The best smart rowing machine

Hydrow

The Hydrow Rowing Machine aims to be the Peloton of at-home rowers with an immersive content experience that delivers a complete, full-body workout.

Pros: Extensive library of motivating classes and rowing events, delivers a full-body workout, features quiet, electromagnetic resistance

Cons: Expensive

Connected fitness equipment continues to grow in popularity — and for good reason. Not only does it provide an interactive method for keeping fit but the classes and streamed content itself serve as powerful motivation to push on. In the rowing space, one of the best to deliver the kind of connected content fans of NordicTrack and Peloton have come to love is Hydrow and its aptly named rower, the Hydrow Rowing Machine

Built with an aluminum and steel frame on a flat, anthracite polymer body, the Hydrow is a durable and sturdy rower. Attached to the front of the machine is an HD touchscreen where you’re able to access its library of interactive workouts. These workouts include everything from on-demand routines, open swim-style free rows, whole body-specific workouts, and live classes.

The machine also comes with the ability to read your heart rate via an included monitor and features a whisper-quiet electromagnetic resistance. Hydrow does well to not only provide classes that highly motivate you to finish a row but it also creates a competitive environment where you can see how you rank with other global users or anyone else using your machine. 

With a sticker price of $2,245 and a recurring monthly fee of $38 for access to the classes, it’s certainly not cheap — but few connected fitness machines of this caliber ever are. It’s worth the investment.

Read our full review of the Hydrow Rowing Machine

The best digital-resistance rowing machine

Screen Shot 2020 07 09 at 4.16.00 PM

NordicTrack’s RW900 combines the stimulation of instructor-led courses with the versatility of both air and digital resistance to offer one of the best at-home rowing experiences. 

Pros: Interactive workouts, easily folds up, utilizes a dual resistance design

Cons: Expensive, iFit membership costs $39 per month (after the first free year)

Though NordicTrack may be more well known for its stationary bikes and treadmills, the company’s offered high-quality row machines for quite some time — and its RW900 is the brand’s crown jewel. Featuring a 22-inch HD touchscreen display, a library of interactive workout classes led by real trainers, and a fold-up design, this rower is worth every bit of its $1,699 price tag.

What makes the rower particularly impressive is its dual resistance. So, while rowing away during a class, an instructor has the ability to digitally adjust the resistance based on how they want you to row. But if it’s either too much or you want to kick your workout up a few notches, there’s the ability to manually adjust the air resistance. An easy-to-use air control is located on the wheel which allows for quick adjustments, even between strokes. 

Like any workout machine with a massive touchscreen attached to it, the RW900 shines with what it offers in terms of workouts via its iFit interactive platform. Be it in studio routines from its roster of iFit trainers or more calming sessions in real locations around the world, the options are incredibly versatile. There are even yoga and cross-training courses to mix things up a bit.

The rower also offers stat tracking which tells you how long you row each week along with calories burned and row wattage and allows for up to four different users on the same iFit profile. All new purchases also come with a free year of iFit (which is typically $468 per year or $39 per month), so you won’t have to worry about a monthly recurring charge for access to the library of content for at least the first year.

The best water resistance rowing machine

Man rowing on a WaterRower at-home row machine

The elegant WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine uses water resistance to make you feel like you’re truly sculling on the open water.

Pros: Gorgeous appearance, meditative whooshing sounds, and simulation of open-water rowing sensations 

Cons: Expensive, included monitor is fine but limited

If the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine looks familiar, that’s because it’s the base unit used by Ergatta for its Connected Rower (our pick above for the best interactive row machine).

For an indoor rowing machine, the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine comes closest to recreating the sensation of actual outdoor rowing as it features a flywheel that pushes through water in a heavy-duty tank. It even delivers soft and soothing swooshing sounds of water while rowing, too. 

In addition to controlling resistance through your strokes — the harder and faster you row, the greater drag the flywheel encounters — you can increase resistance by adding water to the tank. In essence, the more water there is, the heavier the drag on the flywheel, and the harder your workout.

Maintenance of the machine is easy, too. Just fill the tank using the included siphon pump and drop in a chlorine tablet every six months. There’s no need to empty the tank, even before storing it. Although the machine doesn’t fold up, it’s easy to store upright and the weight of the water stabilizes the erg in an upright position.

You can assemble the frame without any tools, and the instructions come on an included DVD. Because wood expands and contracts due to environmental conditions, you may need to tighten the bolts every once in a while.

With a comfortable, stable seat that rolls smoothly along dual rails, you’ll experience an excellent workout where you can keep track of distance, time, and calories burned as displayed on the S4 monitor. The rower comes with a three-year warranty on its parts, as well as a five-year warranty on the frame.

The best rowing machine for beginners

Sunny Health Fitness SF RW5515

Quiet, smooth, and stable, the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine provides varying magnetic resistance levels for a wide range of workouts. 

Pros: Economical with eight levels of resistance, easy to fold and store

Cons: Only okay cord quality, rail might be too short for tall people

The reasonably priced Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine offers quite a few convenient features: a comfortable, cushioned seat; anti-grip handles; an LCD monitor that tracks stroke counts, time, and calories burned; and eight levels of knob-adjusted magnetic resistance for various intensities.

Level two is good for warming up before progressing to levels three and four for a more vigorous workout. Levels five and higher are more intense, perfect for long cardio-building rowing sessions. Level seven is for endurance and all-out sprints while level eight offers the greatest resistance (and hardest workout).

Able to support up to 250 pounds, the Sunny’s Magnetic Rowing Machine has a 48-inch-long rail in which the padded seat rolls smoothly and quietly. The rower is able to easily fold up for convenient storage and even has built-in wheels. It’s easy to assemble and relatively compact, taking up minimal space when folded up and very little square footage when open. — Helen Mao

FAQs

Is rowing better than running? 

According to a study done by Dr. Cameron Nichol, who is a former Olympic rower, rowing activates more muscle groups than just running. In addition to activating roughly 85% of your body’s muscles and upwards of nine different muscle groups, rowing also helps strengthen your back, tone your arms, and benefit both your upper and lower body.

Ramon Castillon, president of the boutique studio, Row House, told Insider that “rowing is the perfect answer to [finding the most effective workout] because it’s extremely accessible” to both beginners and advanced rowers. 


Can you row every day?

In short, yes. But like any workout routine, it’s important to not overdo it or consistently push yourself over your limit. Personal trainer, Irving “Zeus” Hyppolite, told Insider that people tend to try to do too much and that there’s an actual limit on how much your body can handle.

Hyppolite says three to five days a week of exercising from 45 minutes to an hour (including warm-up and cooldown) is a good standard. Once you start doing more than that, you’ll be expending the same amount of energy for more minimal benefits, he added. 

Personal trainer, Bryan Goldberg, previously shared with Insider that too much exercise can impede any progress you’re making, despite how beneficial it may seem in the short term. 

Though both Hyppolite and Goldberg referenced exercise in general, this can be used as a rule of thumb for rowing. As long as you’re not rowing to utter exhaustion every day of the week, it’s fine to jump on daily. However, it’s likely more useful to give yourself some days off to rest.


Can you lose weight by using a rowing machine?

Consistent exercise is just one component of being able to manage your weight, so it’s irresponsible to say that a rower can be singularly able to help you lose weight. Caley Crawford, NASM CPT, and Director of Education for Row House, told Insider that “it’s crucial that you partner a strong and healthy diet with your exercise routine.” 

Crawford added that full-body strengthening (like that which rowers can offer) does have its benefits in regards to fat loss. But keep in mind, that it’s not the only thing you should focus on. Weight training, proper rest, and a well-rounded diet are vital, as well. 

How to shop for a rowing machine

With so many different kinds of rowers, it’s important to examine each model to choose one that best fits your needs and keeps you motivated and injury-free. You’ll want to consider features like:

Resistance: Different types of resistance include magnetic (electromagnets slow the erg’s metal flywheel), air (wind from the spinning flywheel creates drag), hydraulic (resistance is created by hydraulic fluid in a piston or two connected to the erg’s handles), and water (the flywheel pushes against water in a tank).

Size: The machine should be large enough for you to straighten your legs and maintain proper rowing form, yet small enough to fit into your workout space.

Maximum user weight capacity: Models vary in how much they support but many accommodate 220 to 265 pounds or more.

Foldability: Some machines (usually magnetic and hydraulic resistance) fold up for easy storage, while others (often air and water resistance) don’t. 

Monitor: A monitor or computer tracks information like distance, duration, speed, and/or calories burned while rowing.

Seat: It should be contoured and large enough to keep your backside comfortable while allowing you to maintain proper form.

How to row with good form

To get the most out of your workouts and avoid injury, remember that proper rowing form consists of an initial drive phase followed by a recovery phase. Here’s how to execute it: 

  • For the drive, start first with your legs and once those are extended and your back is vertical, use your arms to pull the handle into your body. Your finished position should be your legs fully extended, the rower’s handle pulled into your body with your wrists in line with your forearms. From here, you’ll move onto recovery.
  • The first step of recovery is to straighten your arms and pivot your body from your hips, making sure to avoid hunching forward or bending backward. This fluid motion will then have your legs flexing in until your shins are completely vertical.

Finally, don’t think of this exercise as a race. Focus on perfecting your form, not on how fast you can row.

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Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best treadmills for your home gym

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  • Adding a treadmill to your home gym is an excellent way to increase your routine cardio and keep fit.
  • The most important qualities to look for in a treadmill are power, reliability, and comfort.
  • Our top pick, the ProForm Pro 2000, features iFit workouts, has a cushioned tread, and folds up easily.

Editor’s note: Due to high demand, some of the selections are either limited in stock or back-ordered. We will update this piece with new picks or purchase options as best we can.

Few exercise machines have endured the changing landscape of at-home fitness quite like the treadmill. They’re great for maintaining cardio fitness, preparing for road races like 2-milers or 5Ks, or serving as a complement to a weekly workout routine – especially for anyone who doesn’t have time to run outside.

Treadmills are also incredibly simple to use. You just run or walk on the belt, and a motor moves it under your feet at whatever speed you select. Some even offer a variety of different features, including touchscreen displays and live-streamed classes, that’ll help you gain exactly the kinds of training and health benefits you need.

As a frequent gym-goer (prior to the pandemic, of course) and current fitness editor, I’ve run my fair share of miles on treadmills advanced, basic, or otherwise. For every mile logged on something like NordicTrack’s Commercial 2950 or ProForm’s Pro 2000, I’ve logged an equal amount (if not many more) on treadmills without an interactive screen attached to them and those a bit more typical of a standard fitness center or gym.

This experience proved vital when combing through and testing the allotment of treadmills currently available – and helped me better understand why someone may prefer a certain model over another. The following guide features a range of treadmill types at various price points in hopes of helping you find the best option for your fitness needs.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a treadmill as well as insight into the testing methodology used for deciding which made the cut.

Here are the best treadmills:

The best treadmill overall

treadmill

The ProForm Pro 2000 Treadmill is a race-trainers dream that’s versatile enough for the casual runner, too. 

Pros: Good motor, large running belt of 22 by 60 inches, includes both an incline and a decline setting, offers good interval training features, has access to iFit workouts

Cons: Customer service may be disappointing if you have problems, very heavy treadmill

Runners looking for a treadmill with good all-around training capabilities and a host of useful features will like the reasonably-priced ProForm Pro 2000 Treadmill

It has a 3.5-horsepower motor, which allows it to stand up to daily use, and it boasts a belt deck that measures 22 by 60 inches, which is perfect for most runners. When you’re training for races with hills, you’ll appreciate this treadmill’s ability to reach a 15% incline and a 3% decline, which better simulates hills than most other treadmills — it’s easy to adjust it both up and down, too, even while running. 

The ProForm Pro 2000 also has a number of techy features, including a 7-inch screen that’s compatible with iFit’s wide range of interactive workouts, a music port for iPods, and a built-in fan that works well to keep you somewhat cool while using it. Its tread features what the brand calls ProShox Cushioning, which is designed to lessen the impact on your feet and knees while running. Though a true, long-term test of this would better judge its viability, even a handful of runs on it showed that this made a difference (even if it was minimal). 

What truly makes this treadmill stand out is its inclusion of the above-mentioned iFit workouts. Not only are these excellent ways to keep motivated, but the platform offers some genuinely unique workouts. One day you could be running through France and the next through Vietnam. The globe-spanning locales add a level of quality to the workouts you’d have a hard time finding elsewhere.

Another perk of the iFit workouts is how the trainers leading the runs entirely control the incline, decline, and speed, allowing you to focus strictly on running. This is something that’s incredibly welcome as fumbling with a treadmill’s controls while in a full stride isn’t always the most fun (and can easily mess with your cadence). The ProForm Pro 2000 comes with one free year of iFit, too, so you won’t have to worry about shelling out a monthly payment for at least 12 months.

Its price is also in the range of what you’d expect to pay for a full-featured treadmill. Most interactive workout machines run in the $2,000 range, and the fact this undercuts that average by a few hundred dollars, makes it an appealing choice for anyone looking to add a treadmill to their home gym. It can easily support any fitness routine, whether it’s the centerpiece of your weekly workouts or a supplement to a more comprehensive plan.

The best smart treadmill

2950Nordic

NordicTrack’s Commercial 2950 is a highly versatile treadmill that offers automatic incline control, an HD 22-inch touchscreen, and a deep library of interactive classes from iFit. 

Pros: Now features automatically adjusting resistance and speed, the iFit library offers a wide range of in-studio classes and runs through real-world locales, offers Bluetooth connectivity and WiFi support

Cons: Expensive

The Commercial 2950 treadmill from NordicTrack is one of the most full-featured machines I’ve tested, coming with everything from automatic incline control and Bluetooth connectivity to Google Maps integration and personalized workout stats. My favorite feature, however, is its access to iFit’s expansive library of interactive workouts. 

With iFit, you’re able to run essentially anywhere, yet still from the comfort of your home. The service’s roster of trainers offers a wide range of run types that aren’t just confined to a studio or their home (where they do film some of the classes). Rather, you could be running through real-world locales that quite literally offer a breath of fresh air from standard treadmill routines. I found this to be a welcome deviation from the tediousness of normal running. Though iFit does cost $39 per month, a free year of the service comes standard with the purchase of all new treadmills (and bikes, too, for that matter). 

In addition to those workouts, the rest of the 2950 is a highly premium product. The automatically adjusting resistance feature mentioned above is a game-changer, and, as the name suggests, allows the trainers to fully control the incline, decline, and speed of the treadmill as you run along. All you have to worry about is just running — which does well to keep you focused and motivated instead of worrying about fumbling with controls. 

One nitpick could be that the iFit interface can be a little clunky and slow to use sometimes, and the service occasionally crashed mid-workout (though did tend to load right back up in the exact same spot I was running). This didn’t happen enough to be concerning, nor did it detract from my overall experience. 

The 2950 certainly isn’t cheap but few treadmills with this much to offer both in terms of features and available workouts will necessarily be “affordable.” Still, it’s worth the investment for those who want access to a huge library of interactive classes and a premium-built treadmill. 

The best budget treadmill

treadmill

Compared to other budget fold-up treadmills, the Horizon Fitness T101-04 Treadmill has nice features and good performance.

Pros: Very good price point for an entry-level treadmill, will save space with a fold-up design, runs quieter than most budget-priced treadmills, works better for walkers and light runners

Cons: Only a 55-inch belt length, not really made for high-end running workouts, longevity is questionable

Saving space with a fold-up treadmill is a great idea for a lot of people. However, most fold-up treadmills don’t offer a lot of power.

With those natural limitations of fold-up treadmills in mind, you’ll like the Horizon Fitness T101-04 Treadmill, which works well for walkers and anyone on a budget (and isn’t really made for runners looking for high-end workouts). Think of it as like an entry-level treadmill, or something that can be a complement to a wider range of at-home equipment. 

It has a 55-inch belt length, a maximum 10 mph speed, and a 2.25-horsepower motor. The T101-04 treadmill is easy to fold up for storage, which is great for anyone with minimal space in their home or apartment.

You can’t beat the value, too. If you want something simple, straightforward, and cost-effective that has the basic features necessary for just running and walking, the T101-04 from Horizon Fitness is the treadmill you need.

The best upright folding treadmill

treadmill

The LifeSpan TR3000i uses an extensive shock absorption system to take some pressure off your joints while running.

Pros: Good price for a mid-range treadmill, unit folds up to save storage space, extensive shock absorption system, good feature set versus other models in this price range

Cons: Not really designed for high-end workouts, build quality of treadmill is questionable

Some people dislike working out on a treadmill because of the pressure it places on their joints. The LifeSpan TR3000i attempts to alleviate some of this pressure by using a shock absorption system in the treadmill’s deck.

It has a 20 x 56-inch running surface, 15 incline levels, and a 6-inch LCD screen that shows your time, calories, distance covered, steps, heart rate, speed, and incline. The eight shock absorber elements in the deck ensure that it remains both stable and comfortable to run on. As mentioned on other models, long-term testing would be a better indicator of just how well the shock-absorbing works, but it’s easy to notice the difference in the TR3000i compared to others. If you at all have foot, knee, or joint issues, you’ll want to at least consider this one when shopping.

Beyond its shock-absorbing capabilities, the TR3000i has a number of fun features to give you variety in your workouts, too, including a tablet holder, a USB charging port, and compatibility with iPods. It also has built-in speakers, folds up for easy storage, and physical console buttons that are sometimes easier to use when making adjustments than only relying on the touchscreen.

The best compact treadmill

Cubii1

The Cubii Pro is an easy-to-use, under desk exercise machine that’s more of an elliptical than a treadmill but still allows you to log some quality cardio no matter if you’re sitting down for lunch or powering through a backlog of emails. 

Pros: Small, easy-to-use machine that delivers an effective cardio workout, has up to eight different resistance settings, offers companion app support

Cons: Not strictly a treadmill, might not be as intense for hardcore fitness buffs

Though the Cubii Pro isn’t exactly a treadmill in the traditional sense (and is more of an elliptical style machine than anything else), its unobtrusive nature makes it a convenient addition to anyone’s home gym. The machine simply sits on the floor, be it under a desk, next to a coffee table, or literally anywhere around the house, and lets you pedal away for as long as you like. 

The machine delivers low-impact cardio that may benefit those unable to run on a treadmill due to sore joints, and its quiet operation even allows it to be used while watching TV, talking on the phone, or listening to music. With eight different levels of resistance, it affords as easy or as difficult a workout as you like, too. 

A companion smartphone application lets you keep track of all your logged workouts and lets you set weekly and monthly goals or share your progress with friends. The app is also compatible with services like Fitbit or Apple HealthKit, so if you prefer the interface of those, all workout data can easily sync to them.

At $349, it’s certainly not a drop in the bucket but it is far cheaper than even the budget model on this list. For convenient, low-impact cardio exercise, the Cubii Pro is as versatile and easy to use as it gets. 

The best treadmill for quiet workouts

treadmill

The 3G Cardio Elite Runner Treadmill delivers excellent performance and runs quieter than most treadmills.

Pros: Strong steel frame that will support a lot of weight, unit runs quieter than most treadmills, large treadmill belt area for tall runners, includes a large motor to compare favorably to gym treadmills

Cons: Extremely high price point, very heavy equipment that is difficult to move around

Few treadmills made for use at home will deliver the kind of quiet performance that the 3G Cardio Elite Runner Treadmill delivers. It’s made for tall or heavy runners looking a tough workout, but you’ll pay more than $3,000 for the kind of quality that this 3G Cardio unit delivers.

It has an Ortho Flex Shock suspension system to minimize the stress of impact for runners, and the 22 by 62-inch platform is perfect for running.

The 3G Cardio comes with many pre-programmed workouts and a fitness level test. You have access to speed and elevation settings, heart rate control, and workout customization.  This treadmill also has a 4.0 horsepower motor and 3-inch rollers for great performance.

As you would expect with a treadmill with such a high price point, the 3G Cardio Elite consists of thick steel tubing in the frame. It’s also rather expensive, so this is really only for serious runners who want a treadmill that will last a lifetime.

Treadmill FAQ

 

Basic

The most basic type of treadmill only works for walkers. They will have simple tracking features, such as speed, distance, and time. Most basic units will have a short bed that works better for a walker’s stride than for running.

And you’ll find limited shock absorption features here, which isn’t great for runners. Such treadmills will fold up for easy storage (although some more expensive treadmills also can fold up for storage).

Mid-range

These treadmills will work for walkers or runners. For walkers, a mid-range treadmill should have longer support arms, allowing you to balance yourself easier. The belt bed will be a bit longer than the basic treadmill, but those with long running strides may still struggle.

You’ll see better tech features in this price range, including a heart rate monitor worn on the chest or pre-set training programs.

Top-end:

The highest quality of treadmills will contain long belt beds with good shock absorption, making them perfect for runners. To gain these features, such treadmills rarely will fold up for storage, meaning they require a lot of free space. They will deliver greater maximum speed levels and greater levels of incline, too.

These treadmills consist of the highest-quality materials. You’ll receive Wi-Fi connectivity and extensive pre-set exercise programs with these models.

Key treadmill features and terms

As treadmills evolved, companies began adding a suite of high-tech features. However, don’t focus entirely on the bells and whistles of expensive treadmills. Pay attention to its physical parts, too, to find the best possible unit for your needs.

Exercise programs

Treadmills may have pre-programmed workouts that can help you with weight loss, cardiovascular performance, speed workouts, or hills training. These programs will allow you to set the length of exercise time, but they will automatically change the speed of the treadmill and the incline to match the parameters of the pre-programmed workout.

Horsepower

Any treadmill motor with a continuous duty measurement of at least 2.0 should be sufficient for most people. Smaller motors work better for walkers and larger motors work better for runners.

Incline and decline

To help with training for running on hills or for additional calorie burn, the treadmill needs to offer an incline. Most treadmills can reach at least a 12% incline grade. Some treadmills even give you a simulation of running downhill with a decline grade of around 3%.

Length

Runners need a treadmill belt bed of roughly 55-60 inches long, while walkers can use one closer to 45-50 inches long. Taller people will need an even longer belt bed. Remember that the length of the treadmill isn’t the same as the length of the bed.

The treadmill length (and width, for that matter) must accommodate the base portion of the unit that doesn’t move, as well as the bed’s motor housing at the front of the unit.

Safety line

Treadmills will contain a safety line that hooks into the unit. You’ll clip the safety line to your shirt. Should you stumble, the safety line will disconnect from the treadmill, causing it to shut down immediately. This is a nice safety feature, and it prevents those common TV and movie gags where the person using the treadmill falls and gets launched into a wall.

Speed

The speed with which the bed rotates on the treadmill is measured in miles per hour. Most people don’t need anything over 10 mph, but those seeking heavy-duty interval workouts can find speeds up to 15 mph in a top-end treadmill.

Support rails

A treadmill made for walkers, especially elderly walkers, should have long support rails on the sides that you can grip while using the treadmill to steady yourself.

Touch screen controls

You should be able to adjust the incline, speed, and program in use through the touchscreen monitor. The screen also gives you information on the time elapsed, calories burned, distance traveled, your heart rate, and more. 

Weight limit

Based on the size of the motor and the shock absorption capabilities, a treadmill may give you a maximum user weight recommendation. You should be able to find this listed in its online user’s manual or listed on its specifications sheet. 

Wi-Fi connection

Through a Wi-Fi connection, you can gain access to simulated video workouts. Or you can play streaming movies on the display screen, giving you some entertainment as you’re workout out on the treadmill.

Width

A treadmill belt bed should be at least 22 inches wide for runners which provides plenty of space in case you have a misstep. Walkers can successfully use a narrower bed than runners, such as 18 or 20 inches.

How we test treadmills

Each treadmill featured in this guide went through a series of extensive tests (i.e. we ran on them, a lot) to see how well they compared across these four categories: Performance, features, quality, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into which treadmills ended up making this guide:

Performance: How a treadmill performs comes down to a few basic aspects, including how comfortable it is to run on (and how shock absorbing it is), if it’s able to avoid sounding like you’re loudly pounding the ground with each step, what its tread feels like underfoot, and how wide the running area is. Though not all treadmills reliably check each of these boxes, a healthy combination of at least three of those often translates to high quality. 

Features: Some modern treadmills, like those from NordicTrack or ProForm, feature a built-in interactive screen that streams workouts, tracks output metrics, and improves the treadmill’s performance. For models that don’t have a screen, we looked at how intuitive it was to increase and decrease the treadmill’s speed and whether it offered an incline or decline mode. Even those that aren’t decked out with the ability to stream workouts are still feature-heavy enough to warrant a spot in your home gym.

Quality: If used often, treadmills can take a consistent beating, mostly due to a runner pounding on it step after step after step. This means the best treadmills should feature a sturdy and durable tread, a high-quality design that won’t become compromised even after a full year or more of use, and that feature an interface or series of buttons and dials that can avoid popping off or being unusable. 

Value: The value of a treadmill is less about its sticker price and more so the combination of the three categories above compared to its initial (and sometimes recurring) investment. We factored in everything when selecting treadmills across each featured category and often feel that it’s worth it to spend a little more money on a product that’s designed to last than to spend less, more often on something inferior. 

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The best pull-up bars

  • A proper at-home pull-up bar should be easy to install and able to support your weight without wobbling or bowing – and is a great addition to anyone’s home gym setup
  • Adding a pull-up routine to your weekly workouts helps strengthen your upper body, builds muscle, and improves your grip strength – so long as you’re using the right bar. 
  • We spoke to New York City-based personal trainer, Brad Baldwin, about how to pick out the right pull-up bar, the benefits of doing the workout, and how adding it to your fitness routine can have a major impact. 
  • Our top pick, the Garren Fitness Maximiza pull-up Bar, features comfortable foam grips and unobtrusively fits in any standard doorframe. 

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Pull-ups aren’t for the faint of heart. I remember the days of easily cranking out a dozen or so pull-ups while hardly breaking a sweat. But after years of cheeseburgers and sitting at a computer, easy pull-ups are harder to come by. Fortunately, there are a number of pull-up bars on the market that fit the needs of anyone looking for a new addition to their home gym.

But first, I highly recommend first consulting with a physician before starting any exercise program. I learned this the hard way when I tried to rattle off some pull-ups after years of sedentary living, and quickly tore a muscle in my shoulder. Don’t be like me. 

Why you should start doing pull-ups 

The benefits of incorporating pull-ups into your weekly routine are many. From improving upper body strength to building muscle, pull-ups can have a significant impact on your fitness goals. According to the New York City-based personal trainer, Brad Baldwin, pull-ups are “the king of back exercises.”

“[Pull-ups] force you to work at a higher intensity,” Baldwin told Insider. “They’re great for creating that coveted V-shaped torso and for getting stronger.” 

For anyone looking to begin strength training, it’s smart to start with dips and push-ups on your way to performing a pull-up. You might also try mounting your pull-up bar lower or standing on a box. Pull yourself up to the bar with your feet on the ground at an increasingly difficult angle. Thankfully, the bars I included in this guide are versatile enough to help you work up to your goals. 

At the bottom of this guide, I’ve included some helpful tips on how to shop for an at-home pull-up bar and what to consider, as well as some insight into the testing methodology.

Here are the best pull-up bars:

Updated on 12/15/2020 by Rick Stella: Updated the section on why you should start doing pull-ups, added more to our testing methodology and how to shop for a pull-up bar, checked the availability of all recommended picks, and updated the prices where necessary. 

Best pull-up bar overall

pull up bar 1

The Garren Fitness Maximiza Pull Up Bar is easy on your hands, installs effortlessly, and is made of long-lasting chrome steel.

The Garren Fitness Maximiza Pull Up Bar is made of chrome steel and comes with three sets of mounting hardware, two of which support up to 300 pounds of weight. The medium-duty door mount supports 150 pounds and isn’t recommended for use above waist height.

You can also use the bar without door mounts for sit-up foot support and other light exercises. The bar is adjustable and fits doorways between 26 and 36 inches wide, and can be installed so that a door is still able to close. 

The bar features non-slip, extra-long foam grips. Garren Fitness cautions against using the Maximiza for gymnastics, and they suggest applying your weight cautiously during the first few exercises to ensure the bar is safely installed (a smart practice with any pull up bar.) Garren Fitness provides a full satisfaction guarantee, so you can get a no-questions-asked full refund if you’re not satisfied for any reason.

Pros: Comfortable foam grips, unobtrusive, solidly built

Cons: Installation requires drilling into door jamb, foam grips may wear from heavy-duty use

Best ceiling-mounted pull-up bar

pull up bar 2

If you are interested in doing a variety of pull-ups and you don’t want to use your door frame, the Ultimate Body Press Ceiling Mounted Pull Up Bar is your best bet.

Pros: Three padded gripping positions, easy installation, sturdy construction

Cons: Some complaints of manufacturer defects

The Ceiling Mounted Pull Up Bar from Ultimate Body Press has three high-density foam grip positions for standard, wide-grip, and 20-inch parallel-grip pull-ups or chin-ups. This model has a powder-coat finish for added durability. The 14-inch reversible risers are designed to fit either 16- or 24-inch joists.

The mounting kit comes with instructions, a template, and mounting hardware. You will need a drill, tape or pencil, and a step ladder. Ultimate Body Press offers a fairly nebulous 100% satisfaction guarantee with this product. The fact the bars aren’t welded to the mounting brackets could affect long-term durability (though perhaps the satisfaction guarantee would cover it). 

Best pull-up bar for beginners

pull up bar

If you are interested in doing pull-ups but don’t want to spend a lot of money, the Iron Gym Pull Up Bar is an excellent solution for beginners.

Pros: Inexpensive, versatile, easy to mount and remove, 300-pound capacity

Cons: Contains plastic parts

The Iron Gym Pull Up Bar works much like the Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym. It hangs on a doorframe and stays in place through leverage. You can also remove the pull-up bar to perform sit-ups, push-ups, and dips.

The bar is made of a combination of plastic and steel, and it comes with everything you need to assemble the unit, including a hex open wrench. There are foam grips for standard and wide pull-ups. However, the parallel grip handles are fairly small and awkwardly positioned. Lastly, this model comes with a comprehensive workout and nutrition guide.

Best doorframe pull-up bar

pullup bar 4

If you are looking for a pull-up bar that you can effortlessly attach to your doorframe and take down when you’re done, the Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym Doorway Pull Up Bar will serve you well.

Pros: Three grip locations, 300-pound capacity, unlikely to damage your doorframe

Cons: Wide grip may be too wide for some, recent quality concerns, doesn’t fit all doorframes

The Perfect Fitness Multi-Gym Doorway Pull Up Bar has three padded grip positions for hammer grip, close grip, and normal grip pull-ups. The 300-pound weight capacity makes it so you can use this model with a weight vest. There is some assembly required, and all of the tools needed are included with the bar.

The Multi-Gym Pro adjusts for height and works with doorframes that are up to 6 inches deep and 33 inches wide. The bar can be placed on the floor to assist with push-ups and sit-ups. And, Perfect Fitness stands behind the quality of this model with a one-year warranty.

Best budget pull-up bar

SunnyHealthBar

At under $30, the Sunny Health & Fitness Doorway Pull-Up Bar is not only a bargain but a quality pull-up bar that’s easy to install and won’t hinder being able to open or close your door. 

Pros: Securely installs into a doorframe and allows the door to still shut completely, costs less than $30, features padded grips

Cons: Only supports weight up to 220 pounds

The Sunny Health & Fitness Doorway Pull-Up Bar may not have many bells and whistles, but it’s basic nature (and wallet-friendly price tag) is what makes this product so attractive. Installing the bar requires drilling a couple of brackets into either side of the doorframe you wish to use it on, then the bar’s telescoping arm extends to fit snugly into place.

Brackets may seem like overkill but they work wonders in making sure you don’t end up slamming into the ground should the bar come loose. Even with the brackets and bar installed, any door is still able to fully shut without being interfered with — which adds even more to this bar’s ease of use. 

It’s worth pointing out that the bar only supports weight up to 220 pounds, and its position on the door could create a situation where hit the top of your head on the doorframe if you’re not careful. With a price tag south of $30, however, these are minor drawbacks to an otherwise impressive budget pull-up bar.

Best freestanding pull-up bar

stamina pull up bar

The Stamina 1690 Power Tower allows you to perform platform push-ups, sit-ups, knee and leg raises, dips, pull-ups, and more.

Pros: Wide range of exercises, easy to assemble — no drilling or door frame needed

Cons: Issues with wobbling, expensive compared to traditional bars, takes up a lot of space

The Stamina 1690 Power Tower is a free-standing full-body workout unit made of durable steel and fitted with padded foam in five sets of grip locations. The overall size of the assembled tower is 49 inches long by 42.5 inches wide by 81 inches high. The base of the tower features no-slip endcaps.

Stamina states that the capacity is 250 pounds, but as noted below, it’s closer to 200 pounds in practice. In addition to pull-ups and chin-ups, this model is designed for tricep dips, sit-ups, push-ups, and leg raises, though there is no backrest to assist with the leg raises.

How to shop for an at-home pull-up bar

At-home pull-up bars aren’t a one-design-fits-all market, as there are several different styles to choose from, each with its own advantages. Here’s a quick breakdown of the most common at-home pull-up bar type:

  • Cantilever: One of the most popular pull-up bar variations is the cantilever-style, molding-mounted bars. They don’t require permanent alteration to your home and are easy to install and remove. They feature several grip options, too. However, when shopping for these doorframe pull-up bars, pay attention to the dimensions of the bar and what size frames they work on to ensure you get the proper fit.
  • Mounted: Then there’s a class of pull-up bar that requires drilling and mounting of the unit. We included ceiling-mounted and door-mounted options in our guide. They tend to be rated for heavier weights but are less portable. Wall-mounted bars are also available but we didn’t find any models worth recommending.
  • Power towers: The final group of pull-bars is called power towers. These are freestanding units that do not require drilling and are often compatible with a wide array of exercises. However, power towers typically cost more, have a large footprint, and many models have problems with wobbling when heavier individuals are performing intense workouts.

How we test pull-up bars

Each pull-up bar featured in this guide went through an array of tests to see how well it compared across these four categories: Ease of installation, build quality, versatility, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into which pull-up bars made this guide:

Ease of installation: How easy an at-home pull-up bar is to install is a vital feature as you not only want to avoid fumbling with a confusing setup, but you also want to be confident that once it’s installed (and installed correctly) that it’ll keep in place. It’s reasonable to doubt the reliability of a pull-up bar that sits precariously in your doorway, so this was one of the first things we assessed when testing. 

Build quality: Relying on a pull-up bar to hold your weight comes down not just to the above category but to its build quality, as well. If it’s susceptible to being easily bent or its components are shoddily built-on and likely to fall off, the pull-up bar will be far less comfortable, and safe, to use.

Versatility: A pull-up bar’s versatility is sort of an extension of its ease of installation as most will require you to take them off if you intend to shut the door whose door frame it resides in. There are some, however, (like our top pick) that allow you to still close the door even after they’re installed. This category also refers to the actual build design and if it allows for multiple grip positions or not.

Value: A pull-up bar’s value comes down to a combination of the three categories above, as well as how much it actually costs. It’s not always about spending the most money to get the best pull-up bar, though it is better to shop for a premium, well-built product. While it may be expensive at first, it does save you the hassle of having to buy several, cheaper options more often. 

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