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Lifecore R88 Rowing Machine Review (4.7/5)


The Lifecore R88 rowing machine has six levels of air/magnetic resistance that is manually adjusted using a control knob. The professional-quality, all-aluminum rail supports a smooth-gliding padded seat with a movement range of 31 inches. The pivoting computer screen can track a number of workout statistics and features three modes: Manual, Race and Recovery (wireless pulse monitor required). The R88 folds into an upright position for a minimal footprint after the workout.

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Resistance Type:
Resistance Levels:
Heart Rate Measurement:
Optional Wireless Chest Strap
Folds Upright
Maximum User Weight:
300 Lb
Resistance Adjustment:
Frame Construction:
Console Readout:
Strokes,Total Strokes,
Manual, Race, Recovery
User Profiles:
Rowing Motion:
Band Pull
Seat Features:
14″ Wide Ergonomic
Plastic Wheels in Front
Seat Movement Range:
Battery Requirement:
2 AA
Handlebar Material:
Textured Rubber, Metal Core
All Steel, Band Pulled
Displays Room Temp. in Standby
Overall Dimensions:
L72″ W18.5″ H34″
Workout Guide:
Correct Rowing Guide,
Heart Rate Calculation
Lifetime Frame, 2Yr Parts,
90 Days Labor


When we assembled the Lifecore R88 (35-40 min.), we were pleased to find that all of the hardware (nuts/bolts, etc.) were already attached to the machine. There are no plastic baggies of hardware to misplace- just remove the hardware from the machine and use it to attach the components. The process begins by removing the cap from the end of the rail and sliding on the seat. A total of three legs are attached to the machine, but only two are used during rowing. The computer comes pre-attached to a post that clicks into the pivoting arm after the quick-connect data/power cables are connected. The battery compartment is located at the front behind a door (yes, batteries included).

Lifecore Fitness provides two wrenches and an Allen key, which are the only tools needed for assembly. The only tricky part was attaching the rail to the machine using the six bolts. Depending on how the rail is angled with the machine, is can be difficult to thread all of the bolts. It helps to have an assistant support and align the rail while another person applies the bolts. The bolts for the legs are self-locking at one end, meaning that you only need one wrench for tightening. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the process:


The Lifecore R88 has a number of comfort features. The handles are made of thin, textured rubber and are slightly angled (about 10 degrees) for wrist comfort. The seat is quite large, measuring 14″ wide, 10″ long and about 1.5″ at the thickest point. As with many rowing machines, the padding on this seat is fairly firm. Some people might find the ergonomic curves a bit too shallow. Our 6-foot-tall tester found the 31 inches of sliding range to be plenty for his height.

Above the resistance knob is an adjustable air vent that uses air created by the flywheel to cool the body. Airflow only occurs during each stroke, and is quite mild. There was just enough air to take the edge off. It’s the kind of extra feature that isn’t necessary, but you’re glad that it’s there nonetheless.

The foot pedals are oversized (11″x4.5″) and are attached to pivots that move with the ankles throughout each stroke. Shoes are secured using Velcro straps.

The computer display has two pivot points- one at the base of the neck and another just behind the display. Two test subjects had no issues finding a good viewing angle for the screen.


We were able to get the computer working quickly using the included computer instruction manual (separate from the main manual). The computer only has six buttons to manage: Recovery, Reset, Start/Stop, Enter, Down and Up. Trackable statistics include Time, Time/500m, Distance, Calories, Strokes, Total Strokes (since batteries replaced), Watts, and Pulse. In standby mode, the room temperature, time and year is displayed on the screen. We had no difficulty getting the computer to track stats after we started rowing.

Heart Rate can only be tracked using the “5K” wireless chest strap offered by Lifecore (Appx. $45). The strap is placed around the torso and wirelessly transmits the user’s pulse rate to the computer.

Manual Mode: In manual mode, users can set goals as they see fit. For example, you can set a calorie goal and the computer will track calories burned until that goal is met. Whenever the user exceeds their goal, an alarm will sound. In manual mode, the display continuously switches between a timer countdown (set by user) and your Time/500m.

Race Mode: A fun little addition to this model is the Race Mode. In this mode you can challenge a mini “boat” on the screen to a race. Users can set their own Time/500m and total distance they want to travel. Users who need a bit more motivation in their routine may find this quite helpful. The difficulty of the race can be set from a range of L1-L15 depending on how fast you can row in a 500m distance.

Recovery Mode: This feature is only available when using the wireless chest strap. After the workout, press the “Recovery” button to initiate a 60-second cooldown mode where the computer monitors your heart rate recovery. Once complete, the computer will give you a “fitness score” ranging from L1-L6.

User Profiles: The box for this machine states that a single user profile can be created, but we found no clear evidence of this. It is possible that the computer can store your fitness score between sessions, but we did not have the heart rate monitor to test out the recovery mode. We still wouldn’t consider that to be a full user profile.

Rowing Motion:

The seat’s sliding action is virtually silent and extremely smooth. Close inspection revealed high quality metal bearings and high-density plastic rollers. One big contributing factor in the smoothness of the machine is the all-aluminum solid extruded rail. The rail and track are integrated into a single piece. Our tester, who is 6 feet tall, had plenty of room to work with in the 31″ movement range.

No grinding, squeaking or loose joints were detected during our routines. Lifecore recommends re-tightening all hardware after the first 12 hours of use, and regularly inspecting the machine every 3 months. Using WD-40 is not advised and will void the warranty.

Resistance System

We started off at Level 1 resistance which is, as expected, a fairly light workout. Pleasingly, the resistance increases dramatically from Level 1 to Level 6 (controlled by dial). Although the Lifecore R88 combines magnetic resistance with air resistance, it still has the typical loudness associated with fan-based flywheels. The addition of the magnetic resistance system makes resistance changes smooth and requires no power cords.

Build Quality

The all-aluminum rail is supported by a mostly-steel frame. The resistance chamber is contained within a plastic vented chamber. Even when rowing vigorously, the Lifecore R88 rowing machine is extremely stable, sitting on 2.25″ thick leg posts. Every leg has two grey-colored rubber feet (3.25″x2.25″ in size) that shouldn’t create any scuff marks on tile or wood flooring. The front feet measure 18″ wide, while the rear one measures 12.5″ wide.

There are no staples or stitching on the seat- it’s all molded into a single component.

We took a close look at the welds on the steel framework and found solid beads with virtually non-existent splatter. While the rail is left bare, all steel parts are coated in thick grey paint.


To lift the rail up into the air for storage, the clamp knob must be turned counter-clockwise, then pulled out. After lifting the rail, the knob is tightened. The rail can be used as a handle when rolling the R88 on it dual wheels. (See video above for a demonstration). If you’re not careful to lock the rail securely, it can press into the computer and scratch the paint. When dropping the rail back down, you need to grip the joint and lift upward until you hear a click- then tighten the knob.

When folded, the Lifecore R88 only takes up about 23″x18.5″ of space. The wheels are not very big in diameter, making it quite difficult to roll the machine over carpeting. However, they work just fine on smooth surfaces.

Included Documentation:

Lifecore includes a manual with an illustrated assembly guide, Safety Instructions & Warnings, Setting Up Your Rower, Transportation & Storage, Correct Rowing Guide, Console Operation, Calculating Target Heart Rate, and Care & Maintenance. A separate computer guide is also included.

Besides some grammatical errors here and there, the instruction are thorough and easy to understand.
Download the Manual



  • Lifetime Frame
  • 2 Years Parts
  • 90 Days Labor

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