Echelon Row-S Smart Rowing Machine Review

No longer a neglected machine next to gym treadmills and ellipticals, the steadfast rowing machine is enjoying a renaissance. With the proliferation of sleeker, connected rowers designed specifically for exercising at home, more and more people are discovering that rowing is a powerful full-body workout. One of these home options is the Echelon Row-S Smart Rowing Machine, which at $1,599 is considerably less expensive than other popular rowers on the market (including the Aviron Rower; $2,199; the Peloton Row; $3,195 and the Hydrow; $2,495).

Like its pricier sibling (and most home gym alternatives these days), the Echelon Row-S requires a paid subscription to access a full library of on-demand classes in multiple formats, as well as daily live workouts and scenic rows, making things Make it fun. Plus, you can rotate the screen to incorporate any of its many floor workouts into your workout routine. The required premium membership is $35 per month, but you can choose to pay for one or two years at a time, which drops to $33 and $29 per month, respectively.

If you’re looking for a more logical entry into the world of boat racing, here’s what you should know before you invest in the Echelon Row-S.

The Echelon Row-S is a well-designed rowing machine that offers a variety of challenging and fun workouts.

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Echelon Row-S has been carefully designed. Rowing is smooth and quiet (the seat moves up and down the slide, and the straps slide in and out of the flywheel while rowing), and the padded seat is exceptionally comfortable. My favorite part is the button in the middle of the handlebar that allows you to adjust the resistance (from 1 to 32) simply and easily. As a former varsity rower, this made it more fun and interactive, and not like the ergometer I remember – my heart rate shot up and the coxswain urging me to run faster quick.

The rotating HD touch screen also makes the experience more fun. At 22 inches wide, it’s just 2 inches narrower than the Peloton Row and the same size as the Hydrow. The entire rower also has a relatively small footprint at 7 x 2.15 feet, with wheels on the front for easy maneuverability—and it weighs 114.5 pounds. The front end has wheels for easy maneuvering. I especially like its foldable design for easy storage. That last aspect is really clever, because the sliding part of the rower folds away so the machine can stand on its own—no need to tip it or secure it to a wall.

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For those new to rowing, there is a series of short beginner rowing lessons that focus on form and how to row properly, while also offering a taste of some of the different lesson formats. But even in longer, more advanced classes, nearly all instructors will review proper rowing form during warmups — some even do split strokes — to make sure you’re rowing correctly. Since proper form is critical to avoiding injury and getting the most out of your rowing workout, constant reminders are a big plus.

Echelon recently released their winter live rowing lesson schedule, with 30 live lessons per week, roughly two to eight lessons per day. Most lessons are 20 or 30 minutes long, but there are some 45-minute lessons in the on-demand library (currently over 3,600 lessons) for more hardcore heist. These include speed rowing, which focuses on sprinting; endurance rowing, which focuses on maintaining a steady pace; and fusion rowing, which is a combination of speed, endurance, and strength. If you want to build muscle and get your cardio in, the Fusion 30 is the perfect one-stop workout. I also love the Bootcamp classes, which focus on the full body, core, upper or lower body and are a combination of rowing and floor exercises, with or without free weights.

In addition to rowing workouts, a premium membership also gives you access to FitPass, an expansive library of nearly 6,000 live and on-demand floor classes in modalities such as strength training, boxing, yoga, Pilates, and stretching. Strength classes feature creative and challenging combinations of exercises, most are 10 or 20 minutes long and stacked; I like to start with a 10 minute HIIT class to get my heart rate up, followed by 20 minutes of full body strength train. In the on-demand library, classes like boxing camps, HIIT and core classes deliver a top-notch, full-body workout in as little as 30 minutes.

Instructors provide support and inspiration in all practice formats. While some classes are all about working out — and for good reason, because their classes are challenging — others bring in a little more personality and ease while keeping the workouts just as grueling. Like the one who shows off her super-ambitious arms, obliques, and fashion sense while telling daddy jokes in every class, and the other one who lets me peek into her home life while holding a board longer than I do many.

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Alyssa Sybertz/CNN highlights

The Echelon has a companion app that looks exactly like what you see on the Bandit screen, which I appreciate. When you’re done with a workout, rowing, or other workout, it will appear under “My Workouts” on the Progress screen. But once there, the date of the workout changes from the day it airs to the day you finish it. If you like to save your favorite workouts to return to multiple times, you can start a class and it will appear in the Favorites section on the Featured screen. Personally, I don’t like repetitive workouts, so I have no way of telling which classes I’ve done to avoid them – unless I star each class as I go and use the favorites tab as a basis for selection a different class.

If you want to search for rowing lessons taught by your favorite instructor, you can enter their name. But if you want to use any other search filter—including workout type, length, and music genre—you can scroll through more than 100 trainers, many of whom don’t even teach rowing. Finally, during class, you can change the biggest metric on the screen, output, resistance, or cadence, depending on the type of workout or what you want to focus on. That’s fine for me personally, but I’ve heard that the indicators that the instructor mentioned on my screen are not what they say they are. That said, these are minor annoyances that don’t affect the quality of your workout.

While not strictly necessary, I do like it when the music I’m working out helps me find my next gear or pushes me to my new best. Unfortunately, this was not my experience with Echelon. Playlists often feature workout or dance remixes of songs as well as a ton of music released in the late 2000s and early 2010s — so if you don’t like that, you’re out of luck. At the same time, some tutors use the same songs a lot, which leads to repetition.

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Alyssa Sybertz/CNN highlights

The Row-S isn’t Echelon’s only bandit; the company also sells the Row ($1,000), which doesn’t have an attached screen but instead has a built-in holder for your smartphone or tablet. The shape of the handlebars is also different from the “race handlebars” found on the Row-S.

The Echelon Row-S is similar to home rowers like the Hydrow ($2,495), NordicTrack RW900 ($1,799), and Peloton Row ($3,195). The only thing the Echelon Row-S lacks is the feature that the Hydrow and NordicTrack rowers have, where an instructor teaches lessons while rowing on the water, while the Peloton Row provides real-time feedback.

But what makes the Echelon so special is that it offers machines of equal quality at a more affordable price, so it’s more accessible. This is true for all of their equipment – they also make connected bikes, treadmills and fitness mirrors – each of which is offered at two or more different price points in order to provide a top-notch fitness experience to a wider range of people in need .

Studies have shown that rowing works more than 85% of your muscles at the same time, and the workout experience is worth investing in a quality machine. The Echelon Row-S delivers that quality without breaking the bank. The various rowing workouts are challenging and fun, the rowing machines themselves are well designed, and the instructors are engaging and inspiring—although it might be easier to search for them. Since your membership includes so many floor classes, it also allows you to change up your workouts daily or weekly as needed.

It took me a long time to get back on the rowing machine after my years of college rowing training, but the Echelon Row-S allowed me to reap the benefits of rowing as an effective full-body workout without feeling too like work.

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