Instructables
Picture of Homemade rowing machine

I needed an alternative form of cardio for my home gym. I already had a treadmill, but I was looking for more variety. Just as you need variety in weight lifting, the same goes for cardio.

The elliptical machine is about the easiest cardio machine to use, but good ones like Life Fitness that have a decent, smooth motion are expensive, even reconditioned ones. I also didn’t have the room for another machine.

I’ve always liked rowing machines, because they work all major muscle groups, including legs, arms, back, abs, and glutes.

A Google search found I could buy a cheap one with pneumatic cylinders for about $100, all the way up to the most expensive with a price tag of $1500.

I started looking for alternatives.


 
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Step 1:

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My Powertec power rack has a high/low pulley attachment. The low pulley can be used for seated rows, so all I needed to do was figure out how to involve my legs, and I had a rowing machine.

I decided I could use the detachable seat from an Ironmaster superbench along with the power rack P-LTO Lat Tower Option.

You don’t need a Powertec rack and an Ironmaster superbench seat for this; all you need is a standalone low pulley, and some foam and covering for a seat.

It’s always a good idea before you begin any project to familiarize yourself with the plans and make sure you have all of the materials required.

List of materials needed:

1-4' x 8' sheet of 1/2" plywood $18
1-2" x 2" x 8' $3
1-2" x 4" x 8' $4
4-Fixed casters $4 each $16
1-Bottle of wood glue $5
1-Rubber stair runner $2
16 sets of caster mounting hardware (bolt/washer/nuts) $1 /set $16
30-1 5/8" wood screws (I bought a 100 count box) $6
1-Quart of primer $4
2-Cans of cheap gloss black spraypaint $4
4-1/2" flat washer I had lying around
1-Old belt
Total
$78

All of the supplies can be purchased at your local home improvement center.

Prices of the materials will vary depending on where you live.

Phil B3 years ago
Thank you for your Instructable. We have one of the cheap $100 rowing machines you describe. We bought it almost 30 years ago when it was $65! It uses two automotive shock absorbers for resistance. I have played in my mind with the idea of a homemade rowing machine using pulleys, cables, and weights for resistance; but the $65 machine still works well. One thing our cheap machine has that I would miss on your adaptation is a slight incline under the seat pathway that helps to return it to a forward position. I would also likely add wooden rails to guide the seat and keep it moving in a straight line. These are not criticisms, but just musings about what I think I would do.