Rowing machines are a great way to get in some cardio from the comfort of your home. The only downside is that at-home rowing machines can be expensive, and cheaper ones often lack build quality and basic features. With this in mind, we’ve created a guide to making a DIY rowing machine.
Luckily, most of the components are easily accessible and, by building them out of wood, we can easily source the materials and follow basic construction methods. So, let’s get started!
A lot of time and effort goes into building the frame. Though it’s a simple design, it needs to be strong and sturdy. Ensure you select wood that’s appropriate across the whole beam. As a rule, wood is strongest in compression, not with sideways loading. Longer sections or load-bearing sections need to be extra strong. The frame will essentially be made from three parts: a simple T-frame that supports the front and holds the spinning wheel, the support beam and slider, and the rear support.
For this, you can easily acquire a few ready-made components from your garage. You’ll need some sort of handle or bar, a rear bicycle wheel with the sprockets, a bicycle chain, a length of elasticated rope, and two pulleys.
The last few things are making the footrests, handle and seat. The footrests are simple — you just need to find some decent-sized wood that’s wide enough for your feet and secure them to the supporting beam. You can put straps on, as well, for your feet. For the handle, you can use anything. I’ve used a gym lat pull-down bar before. For the seat, you can make it from a square bit of MDF and attach four grooved wheels on the bottom, which allows the seat to slide without any left or right movement. As a key, make sure the sides of the supporting beam has slightly higher wood than the beam so it creates a channel on top, and put a piece of wood at the back to stop the seat. This is to keep you from falling off the edge in case the seat comes off the rails.
Once you’ve completed your rower, you need to make it safe before using it. Making a guard for your wheel is a good first step — this could be made from small fence wire like chicken wire or steel mesh. Also, make sure all bolts are countersunk and that everything is sturdy, secure and operates smoothly.
If the air resistance isn’t enough for you, you can do the following things:
You can easily buy a bicycle cadence system and fit it to the rower. Simply fit the magnet to one of the spokes and fit the receiver to the T-frame. Then, just fit the LCD on the T-frame, or use a Bluetooth one and use your phone. The problem here is you won’t get accurate workout and calorie readings, but you’ll be able to see your road speed (as if you were on a bike) and use the data to keep an eye on your progress to see how you’re improving.
At-home rowing machines can be expensive, but by following these simple steps, most people should be able to create a functional DIY rowing machine for under $180.
About the Author
Dave Gorman is a digital brand manager with previous knowledge as a product designer. He has over 15 years of experience in the industry and currently runs The Home Fitness Store and The Carb Free Zone.