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After researching more than 65 rowing machines, using 13 of them, and legitimately testing five of them, I’ve pulled together a list of the best rowing machines on the market today. I took into account durability, performance, warranty, price and availability when assessing each item.
Although the Concept 2 Model D Rower came out on top, there are still some great picks here depending on what you’re looking for. Read on to learn more about each one, find out exactly how I tested these, and also what to look for when buying a rower.
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Good for: Beginners to experienced rowers looking for a great workout from the ideal machine
My Favorite Features:
This rower is the most popular rower in the world and in my opinion one of the best rowing machines out there. It can be found in nearly every CrossFit gym in the country. It’s also my pick for the best rowing machine for home. Check out 14 reasons to/not to buy a Concept 2 Rower D Rower here. Pretty much anyone, from those who row for sport to those who simply want to improve their health, can jump on the Model D and get an outstanding workout. There are few adjustments required for the machine to be used and even less knowledge needed to begin pulling on the handle.
The performance monitor (PM5) tracks every metric you'd ever want to know and more: elapsed time, strokes per minute, average pace, split meters, heart rate, and projected meters in 30 minutes. One fun part of this machine is that very few other rowers hold a candle to is their worldwide leaderboard that allows you to see how you stack up to others across the world in various challenges.
When in use, this rower takes up about the same amount of space as other rowing machines but can be easily maneuvered using the front wheels to be stood upright and out-of-the-way. Should you want even more portability, it breaks down into two separate pieces for easy storage.
This rower uses air resistance, which is low maintenance. The seat is a bit firmer than those on other machines, and there have been some novice users who complain of its hardness.
Read my full Concept 2 Rower review.
Good for: People who live in small spaces who want a high quality machine
My Favorite Features:
The Get RX’d Xebex Air Rower combines many of the design and functionality elements of the Concept 2 rower at a lower price. I especially like that you can fold this rower in half, taking its size down to 36 in by 22 in by 55 in. That makes this ideal for smaller spaces or gym owners who need easy storage solutions.
From a stability and construction standpoint, this is a solid piece of equipment. It weighs 93 pounds but can support up to 500 pounds. The legs and the piece that holds the fan up are made of black powder-coated steel, and I don't see them failing anytime soon. I put this rower to the test with people weighing 250 lbs+ with full force and had no issues other than the rower scooting backward (which is common among nearly all rowers when very strong people are doing sprints).
The foot holders on Xebex adjust easily. The seat is padded and has a back lip, which makes you feel secure during your workout. The handle feels a little cheap and a bit awkward due to how it's angled. In the center of the handle is a plastic cover that is somewhat cheap and flimsy to cover the handle connection.
Xebex has upgraded its monitor to track the usual metrics: pace, distance, and heart rate, for example. However, the company uses its own formula to determine certain metrics, like calories, so it’s not exactly the same if you’re comparing your workout to someone using Concept 2.
Read my full Get Rxd Xebex Air Rower review.
Good for: Rowers with all levels of experience who want interactive home workouts
My Favorite Features:
Here’s the deal: If you need trainer-led workouts, then one of these fancy, higher-end rowers is the way to go. The NordicTrack RW900 (as well as the others in this line, the RW600 and the RW700) come equipped with iFit, which is interactive training. This particular model has a 22-inch HD touchscreen that displays studio classes and even water-based rowing videos around the world. That’s pretty cool.
The machine itself uses both air and magnetic resistance. This can make for a hard workout, and it can keep the machine quieter than just the air-based rowers. However, it won’t feel quite as smooth and realistic as straight air or water rowers.
NordicTrack has tricked out the RW900: Bluetooth connectivity so you can wear your headphones, two speakers, automated trainer control so iFit adjusts the resistance for you and a 10-year warranty on the frame.
You better believe these perks come with a big price tag: Even the base model NordicTrack is around $1,000. I’m disappointed to see a 250-pound weight capacity on this machine, especially with that kind of a price tag.
Good for: The money-is-no-object crowd who want all the frills
My Favorite Features:
This is the “Peloton” of rowers, folks. It’s just straight up sexy. The price tag? Not so sexy. But the machine itself? Yowsa. And the guided workouts? Awesome. I have done shorter, HIIT-style workouts on it, and I’ve done longer conditioning pieces. In both modalities, the Hydrow exceeds my expectations.
Coaches who are on open water take you through workouts, which are displayed on a 22-inch HD touchscreen. There is a big library of options, and you can compete live with people around the world. (I row under @doescooperevenlift, so come and get me.) What’s not-so-great about the Hydrow setup is that you can’t just hop onto the Hydrow and go at your own pace. You have to choose a workout.
The Hydrow uses electromagnetic resistance, not air resistance. This means it’s very quiet, more silent than, say, the Concept 2. Typically, magnetic rowers tend to be really cheap and break easy. However, the Hydrow is incredibly smooth. It’s magnetic resistance done right.
At 145 pounds, the Hydrow is a heavy machine, and one of the heaviest rowers you’ll find. It uses a lot of steel in construction, which does make for a very stable experience. However, it isn’t easy to move around. And for vertical storage, you need to purchase the storage kit. However, this is a beautiful machine, so leaving it on the floor doesn’t really create an eyesore.
Watch my full Hydrow review.
Good for: People who want a realistic rowing experience on an indoor rowing machine
My Favorite Features:
The WaterRower Natural is an excellent rower that uses (drumroll) water instead of air as its main mode of resistance. This closely simulates the resistance you would receive in real life rowing, and it sounds pretty amazing, too. The body of the WaterRower is most often made of handcrafted wood. When asking people what they like most about the WaterRower, the response I most often got was that it was "the most aesthetically pleasing rowing machine available."
The WaterRower can be found in Orangetheory Fitness Gyms all over the country (although theirs are made of metal and orange, very orange).
This machine does require more maintenance, due to the fact that it uses a water tank. If you don’t change the water out, it can grow mold. There have also been reports of leaking, which can do damage to your home. And, look, I’ll admit, the wood is a beautiful touch. It’s gorgeous. But that means that the WaterRower doesn’t have the durability of, say, machines made of aluminum and steel.
Also, the monitor is located next to your right foot. This, again, makes the overall appearance of the machine better, but it does affect functionality. I didn’t love having to look down at the screen during my workout.
Good for: People on a budget looking for a great indoor rower
My Favorite Features:
The Stamina ATS Air Rower clocks in at just over $300. It uses dynamic air resistance combined with a steel rowing beam that should provide a platform for many years of rowing enjoyment. In addition to being relatively well-built for the price, the Stamina ATS Air Rower also folds so it can be stored out-of-the-way when not in use.
The frame of the Stamina ATS angles downward, instead of flat like most other rowers. The company says this "increases the work placed on the legs," but I believe it mostly just reduces the stress on the machine.
As far as ergonomics go, the seat is incredibly cushioned, so much so that I worry that it could lead to blood flow restriction during longer workouts. The foot plates have nylon straps and will fit just about any size. Keep in mind, as always, that you get what you pay for. For example, the weight capacity on this machine is just 250 pounds.
Overall, I’d call this a good “starter” rower. It boasts more than 800 customer reviews on Amazon, averaging a 4.2/5 star rating.
Good for: People with either small living spaces or limited room for large gym equipment
My Favorite Features:
Whereas most indoor rowers fall between 86 and 96 inches long, the Sunny Health & Fitness Space Efficient Rower clocks in at just 76 inches. It can also be stored vertically, making it just a few feet deep in its upright position. Bonus: It’s super easy to move because it weighs less than 50 pounds.
Keep in mind that a shorter rower means a shorter slide rail. This rower has a 44-inch rail, whereas machines like the Concept 2 have about a 54-inch rail. A more compact rower could be problematic for taller people. I am impressed that a 50-pound machine touts a weight capacity of 285 pounds. That’s more than some of the other models on this list.
This rower does what you need it to do: Gives you a full body workout and tracks your metrics on an extremely basic LCD window. Like I always say: You get what you pay for. Don’t expect a lot of extras, though it does have a device holder, water bottle holder and padded seat for comfort. There is a three-year warranty on the frame and 180 days on the parts, which is honestly more than I’d expect for a machine at this price.
Good for: Those seeking a very quiet workout from a magnetic rower
My Favorite Features:
The LifeSpan RW1000 is another decent option for people doing home workouts. I’ve said before that magnetic resistance isn’t my favorite because of its tendency to break down more often. Also, the pulling mechanism on this rower features a fabric strap, which could wear down quickly with a lot of use. However, LifeSpan offers a two-year warranty on this machine and a one-year policy for labor. So if it breaks in those first few years, at least you’re covered.
I also really like that you get 30 days to try out the rower. If you return it, though, you have to send it back in the original packaging, so don’t tear up the box too much. LifeSpan also offers free shipping, which is nice because the price tag is just under $900. That’s on the expensive side for a magnetic rower.
The LCD display is really basic and only tracks time, speed, distance and calories burned. I don’t recommend this for people who are serious about rowing. However, for those looking for some decent cardio a few times a week, it will get the job done.
Although indoor rowing machines tend to be among the most affordable pieces of cardio equipment on the market, many still require a significant monetary investment. Before you click that “buy now” button, think about a few things:
As with most pieces of fitness equipment, there is a large range between the cheapest and most expensive options. Most of the high quality rowers I like are right around that $1,000 mark. You can still get a great rower under $500, but sitting too far below $300, and you might find your machine breaks or malfunctions easy. I like to offer the best budget home gym equipment, so you’ll always find items on my site that are affordable.
By their nature, most rowing machines take up a considerable amount of space. However, that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice an entire room to the machine. Some rowers have a shorter slider, and some compact rowing machines are even foldable. If you are tight on space, look for a machine that can easily fold and store when not in use.
It’s really important to note that people with an inseam of 40 inches or more most likely will not be able to use a space-saving rower design. The rail will simply be too short. You’ll need a rail length of around 50 inches or more.
There are four basic types of resistance on a rowing machine:
Magnetic resistance uses two magnets that move past each other, creating a constant force that feels the same throughout the entire stroke. This is quiet, low-maintenance and typically provides a smooth row.
Water resistance machines have a flywheel that spins through water. These rowers most simulate actual rowing, though they tend to be high maintenance.
Air resistance, in my opinion, is the best type of resistance for a rowing machine due to the training effect. A flywheel moves against air, which makes a low-maintenance option.
Many rowers have adjustable resistance settings. Depending on the machine, you can change the levels of resistance either manually or digitally.
Sure, you can just hop on a rower and start pulling, but if you really want to see improvement, you’ll probably want to start doing some rowing workouts. Look for a machine with preset options, which can include interval training, benchmark distances (like a 500 meter test or marathon row).
There are also many rowers that have fancy screens and accompanying apps. Take the NordicTrack RW900, which comes with an iFit subscription that guides you through customized, on-demand and even personal trainer options.
The official name for machines like a rower is, "ergometers." Basically, this means exercise machines that are equipped with an apparatus that measure work performed on the machines. The display – be it a small digital monitor, a little LCD monitor, or a large 22-inch touchscreen – should tell you how you’re doing in terms of pace, distance, calories and stroke rate. Really good machines will throw in other metrics, like projected splits and distances.
You might be drawn to a rower for its joint-friendly exercise, but it still needs to fit your body! Your rowing experience could be significantly worse if you’re uncomfortable the whole time. So consider the little things. For example, some handlebars are slightly angled to improve your natural posture; some seats have light padding; some foot holders have comfortable straps. Also, take a look at where the monitor lives; you don’t want to have to crane your neck to check your progress.
The best rowing machine, however, is the one you actually use. Whether you're an athlete looking to improve performance or simply someone trying to live a healthier life, the rowing machine can help you achieve your goals.
Why should I buy a rowing machine?
You can spend just a few minutes on a rowing machine and immediately understand why so many people put one in their garage gyms. Rowers offer a number of benefits, including:
What are the best rowing machines for home use?
This is like asking what the best house is. The best rower is the one that suits you. I like the Concept 2 rower the best, but you might want live classes and go for the Hydrow or NordicTrack models instead.
To find what fits you best, set a budget, write down your priorities and do some good research. If you’re going to spend hundreds or more, do your homework.
Is 20 minutes of rowing enough?
Generally speaking, yes. A lot can get done in 20 minutes. In fact, you can do a high-intensity interval workout and burn a decent amount of calories in less than 20 minutes. If you’re just starting out rowing, keeping the intensity low and the length of the workout at a moderate place – like 10-15 minutes – is probably a good idea. If you’re training for a marathon row, however, you’ll need to spend a lot more time on the machine.
Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine?
Ay, ay, ay, here we go. Everyone wants to know how to lose belly fat, and it’s a sad truth that there is really just one way: eat right. Abs are made in the kitchen. However, burning calories and losing weight can help you lower your body fat percentage overall, not just on your belly.
Rowing is a great, low impact exercise that gets your heart pumping and works nearly all the muscles in your body. So, yes, rowing can help you trim up problem areas, but you should work with a doctor, nutritionist or other expert if you really want to put together a winning strategy.
I started out by researching more than 65 rowers. To compile the list, I dug through all of the major manufacturers as well as reached out to industry experts and various forums such as r/homegym. In addition to this, I went to Garage Gym Reviews HQ to rank and test what I liked and didn't like about all of the most popular models.
There is an overwhelmingly large number of rowing machines at nearly every price point. Thanks to the increase of people working out in their homes along with the popularity of rowing, in large part due to CrossFit, there are now more options than ever (much more than I anticipated). Whether you want a cheap rower under $100, or a high-frills WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine made out of handcrafted black walnut, there is something that will suit your fancy.
I stuck to rowers that I had used thoroughly, were highly reviewed, or that people respected in the industry recommend.
During testing, I performed both long and short duration intervals including sprints and grueling long-distance rowing events. I examined the build quality, opened up the various components to see how they were built, and spoke to representatives from different companies. Finally, I asked for the opinion of others on what rowing machines they've used and what they liked/disliked about each.
Concept 2 Model E Rower: We're big fans of every piece of equipment Concept 2 is making, and the Model E is no exception. The only reason we would suggest the Model E over the Model D is if you had an injury limiting your mobility for getting on a lower to the ground rower. Otherwise, they're pretty much identical.
TechnoGym SKILLROW: The TechnoGym SKILLROW has some cool features, but its price-point is a bit hard to swallow. We haven't been able to use it and weren't able to talk to anyone who had outside of the company. Until then, we will remain neutral.
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rower: Magnetic rowers have a tendency to break down and require maintenance sooner than air rowers. The Sunny Health Rower is a very inexpensive option, but you also get what you pay for. We don't suggest this model.
Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine: The Body Trac Glider is one of the cheapest rowers available and uses gas-shock resistance instead of air. Gas-shock resistance rowers are known to not have a very long life for use and can be found broken at garage sales often. We don't suggest gas-shock resistance rowers, no matter the price. If you go through the Amazon reviews of the machine, you'll find it riddled with comments on it breaking after less than a year.
Stamina X Air Rower: The Stamina X Air Rower has a cool look to it, but we don't see any additional benefits of it over the Stamina ATS Rower other than the colors. It's also a bit more pricey and has quite a few negative reviews.
Stamina 35-1405 ATS Air Rower: The Stamina 35-1405 ATS Air Rower is pretty much the same as the Stamina X Air Rower and again doesn't have much more benefits over our budget pick that has a lower price point.
Schwinn Crewmaster Rowing Machine: The Crewmaster is Schwinn's premier rowing machine offering and is unfortunately overpriced for its features. The Crewmaster hasn't been out long enough for many reviews, but based on its components, it's somewhat lacking for the price.
Stamina Avari Magnetic Rower: Magnetic rowers break quickly and this one is overpriced.
Stamina Wave Water Rowing Machine: If you're going to buy a rower with water resistance, go with WaterRower.
Xterra ERG400 Rower: Air and magnetic resistance is a good combination for disaster. Choose one or the other.
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