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As far as cardio equipment is concerned, rowing machines sort of fly under the radar, unless you’re into CrossFit or paddle sports. That’s unfortunate, since rowing is one of the best forms of cardio exercise, especially for those who need low-impact workout options. “Rowing motions utilize every major muscle group,” says certified personal trainer and GGR performance editor Anthony O’Reilly. “You’ll also get a heart-pounding conditioning workout, and unlike treadmills there’s no impact to your joints.”

If you’re in the market for an indoor rowing machine, my guide to the best rowing machines will help you find the best one for your home gym. 

Our team of certified personal trainers, triathletes, and CrossFit coaches have researched more than 65 rowing machines and used more than 20 to create our list of the best rowing machines on the market today.

To whittle down our list, we rated machines on factors that include:

  • Durability: Does it have a weight capacity of 300 pounds or more? Does it shake when in use?
  • Resistance: Can you easily adjust settings?
  • Programming: Are there options for beginner-friendly and advanced workouts?

We also rate rowers based on performance, warranty, value, and portability.

The 9 Best Rowing Machines in 2023

Best Rowing Machines Video Review

Best Rowing Machine Overall: Concept2 RowErg

Good for: Beginners to experienced rowers looking for a great workout from the ideal machine

Best Rowing Machine Overall

Concept2 RowErg

GGR Score: 4.6 starstarstarstarstar
Community Score: 3.4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Priced around $1,000
  • Uses air resistance generated by the fanned flywheel
  • Advanced PM5 Performance Monitor
  • Low impact full-body workout fitness machine
  • Lightweight and easily portable
  • Can be broken down into two pieces for storage
  • Can also be hung for storage

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Best-selling rowing machine in the world
  • Easy assembly
  • Accommodates users up to 6.6 feet tall and 500-pound weight
  • Ergonomic seat and handlebar
  • Seat is 14”
  • 10-degree angle on handle for natural grip
  • Air-resistance
  • Adjustable airflow
  • Performance Monitor 5 (PM5) monitor
  • Nickel-plated steel chain
  • Adjustable footrests
  • Easy to store
  • Limited 5-year warranty

Cons

  • Priced around $1,000
  • Few built-in workouts

Bottom Line

The Concept 2 Model D Rower is the best rowing machine we've tested and reviewed, including those that are much more expensive like the WaterRower. There's a reason you can find Concept 2 products in nearly every gym in the world, including CrossFit Boxes, and home gyms. After having the Model D for over two years, we are still as satisfied with it as we were on day one.

The Concept2 RowErg Rower is one of the most popular rowers in the world and, in our opinion, one of the best rowing machines out there. It can be found in nearly every CrossFit gym in the country.

Pretty much anyone, from those who row for sport to those who simply want to improve their health, can jump on the RowErg (formerly called the Concept2 Model D) and get an outstanding workout. The machine requires few adjustments to begin use, and it’s not overly tech-y, so it’s a good option for beginners. Home gym equipment expert and CrossFit enthusiast Lindsay Scheele explains just how versatile this machine is in her Concept2 RowErg video review:

Garage Gym Reviews head of content and CrossFit L-1 trainer, Kate Meier, has owned this machine for nearly five years. “And it still works just as well as it did on the first day,” she says. “I’ve been using this model of a rower in the gym or at my home for about a decade. The only issues I’ve ever had were on the rowers in the CrossFit box that would need service from time to time, but those were heavily used. My own personal rower has only ever needed new batteries.”

In fact, most of our team here at GGR has used the Concept2. We all rate it highly for its performance monitor (PM5), which tracks every metric you’d ever want to know: elapsed time, strokes per minute, average pace, split meters, heart rate, and projected meters in 30 minutes. Very few other rowers hold a candle to Concept 2’s worldwide leaderboard, which allows you to see how you stack up to others across the world in various challenges.

Woman using Concept2 RowErg

(Pssst: Here’s how to find a Concept 2 Coupon.)

When in use, this rower has an average footprint of 95 inches in length and 24 inches in width. However, it earns a 5 out of 5 on our footprint and portability rating, because you can easily maneuver it into an upright position using the front wheels, so you can store it out of the way. “I love rolling the rower out into the driveway during good weather,” Kate says. “But, you do have to clean it really well if you do that. Dust and dirt getting into the fan can damage parts.”

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 (there’s no padding). We’ve seen some complaints about the seat being uncomfortable, though none of the people on our team have any complaints.

We gave it a 4.5 out of 5 for ergonomics because the handles are angled to provide a more natural pulling motion, the footpads are adjustable, and the seat slider can accomadate people up to 6′ 9″ tall.

Read more in our in-depth Concept2 RowErg review.

PriceAbout $1,000
Product Weight57 lbs (68 lbs with tall legs)
Dimensions95” L x 24” W x 14” H (20” H with tall legs)
Resistance TypeAir flywheel
Weight Capacity500 lbs
MonitorLCD display
Programming5 built-in workout options
Membership Required?No

Best Smart Rowing Machine: Hydrow Wave

Good for: People who want top-of-the-line virtual workouts on a luxurious machine

Best Smart Rower

Hydrow Wave

GGR Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • The Hydrow Wave is a new smart rowing machine from Hydrow
  • The new rower is smaller, lighter, and easier to move than its larger counterpart
  • Still features a large HD touchscreen display
  • Streams the scenic workouts that have become synonymous with Hydrow.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • More compact than original hydrow
  • Durable polycarbonate frame
  • Stainless steel seat rail
  • HD touchscreen display
  • Instructor-led workouts
  • On-location scenic rows
  • Beginner-friendly options
  • Affordable for a smart rower
  • Financing available

Cons

  • Still expensive for most people
  • Frame doesn’t fold
  • Vertical storage kit sold separately
  • Floor mat sold separately
  • Monthly membership required

Bottom Line

The Hydrow Wave is a smaller, more affordable version of the Hydrow rower that still offers all of the benefits of connected fitness.

This is the “Peloton” of rowers, folks. It’s just straight-up sexy. The price tag? Not so sexy, but at least the Hydow Wave is less expensive than the original Hydrow! Plus, Hydrow usually offers good sales around Labor Day, Black Friday, and other holidays (and if you’re looking for a Hydrow discount code, we can help!). 

Anyway, the machine itself? Very high quality. And the guided workouts? Awesome.

Coop, the founder of GGR and the world’s most well-known home gym equipment expert, has done shorter, HIIT-style workouts and longer conditioning pieces on it. In both modalities, the Hydrow Wave exceeded his expectations. “This could be a true alternative to the Concept2 RowErg,” he says. “I love that now Hydrow has a creme de la creme option, now they have a more budget-friendly option.”

RELATED: Hydrow Review

Coaches who are on open water take you through workouts, which are displayed on a 16-inch HD touchscreen. There is a big library of options, and you can compete live with people around the world. “The instructors are fantastic, the leaderboard is motivating, and seeing the metrics is helpful,” Coop says.

Another great thing about the Hydrow setup is that you can hop onto the Hydrow and row at your own pace. There are two ways to do this: Journey rows and Distance Rows. Journey rows have no set pace, instructor, or music—it’s just you and a view of your “boat” on the water for as long as you want, allowing you to focus on your rowing form and experience.

Distance rows are essentially the same thing, but the ride ends when you hit your preset distance. The distances range from 250 meters to 10,000 meters, or any distance within 180 minutes with the Open Row setting.

hyrdro wave in use

The Hydrow Wave uses electromagnetic resistance, not air resistance. This means it’s very quiet, so it’s a great option for people who risk bothering their neighbors with an air rower. 

Coop gives the resistance profile on the Wave a perfect 5 out of 5. “If you go on Amazon and type in ‘rower,’ you’ll find a ton of rowers that are absolute crap and use magnetic resistance,” Coop explains. “The reason they’re crap is because the resistance isn’t consistent, and it ends up breaking down over time. The magnetic resistance on the Wave, however, is extremely smooth.”

Historically, magnetic rowing machines were really cheap and easy to break, but the Hydrow Wave features magnetic resistance is done right. The ride is ultra-smooth, with no blips or bumps in the rowing stroke. At 102 pounds, the Hydrow is a heavy machine and one of the heavier rowers you’ll find. It uses a lot of steel in construction, which makes for a very stable experience.

However, we did find that the Wave isn’t easy to move around (though it’s still easier to move than the original Hydrow). 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.

Back to the price: Coop gives this machine a 3.5 out of 5 on value because of the high cost and the fact that you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription if you want trainer access. “Very similar to a Peloton, but it’s so good,” he says. “I still recommend paying it if you need extra motivation.”

Check out my full Hydrow Wave review to learn more.

Price$1,895
Product Weight102 lbs
Dimensions80″ L x 19″ W x 43″ H
Resistance TypeMagnetic
Weight Capacity375 lbs
Display16” HD touchscreen
ProgrammingLive workouts and on-demand classes
Membership Required?Yes, $38 per month

Best Interactive Rowing Machine: Aviron Impact Series Rower

Good for: Trainees who love a gamified experience

Best Interactive Rowing Machine

Aviron Impact Series Rowing Machine

GGR Score: 4.4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Foldable frame
  • 22-inch touchscreen
  • Dual air and magnetic resistance
  • 16 resistance levels (11-16 for strength training)
  • Steel and aluminum construction
  • Gamified workouts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • 8 workout category to choose from
  • Compatible with all major streaming services
  • Quiet nylon belt drive
  • Minimal maintenance required
  • Foldable with 4 transport wheels
  • 397-lb weight capacity

Cons

  • Monthly membership fee required for full functionality
  • 97” (over 8 feet) in length
  • Not compatible with lumbar support accessory

Bottom Line

The Aviron Impact Series Rower is a fantastic smart indoor rowing machine that comes at a lower price point than many competitors.

If you’d prefer your workouts to feel more like video games, you have to check out the Aviron Impact Series Rower. When our product testers began debating which rower is the best interactive rower, the Aviron was quick to rise to the top. We have tested the Aviron Tough Series rower (which has since been replaced), the Aviron Strong Series, and the budget-friendly Aviron Impact. All of them feature the incredible gaming experience.

Truly, there’s no other rower on the market that features interactive programming like Aviron (yet…). Not only does the $25 per month Aviron membership get you access to gorgeous virtual rowing workouts filmed in locations around the world, but it also provides a large number of video game-style workouts to keep you engaged and focused. 

The Aviron membership also features instructor-led workouts, on-demand guided programs, competition mode, live peer-to-peer racing, and free mode, according to GGR founder and rowing machine aficionado Cooper Mitchell.

“The large touchscreen is very snappy, and well done,” Coop says of the 22-inch monitor that has a beautiful metrics layout, which is available without the subscription. The Aviron rower captures more metrics than you probably care about, including: meters rowed, stroke rate, calories burned, time elapsed, heart rate (with a Bluetooth monitor), and output in watts and kilojoules per hour (kj/hr). 

aviron rower coop using

Programming and metrics aside, the Aviron rower is expertly built. It earns a 5 out of 5 on our construction rating chart thanks to its steel and aluminum frame that supports a maximum weight capacity of almost 400 pounds. It also features a comfortable padded seat, angled handles, and a 20-inch frame height to make getting on and off of the rower easier. 

Aviron’s dual air and magnetic resistance is unique and provides more resistance training opportunities than an air or magnetic flywheel can alone. 

At a price point just under $2,000, this rowing machine certainly isn’t cheap, but we think the vast majority of people would be more than happy with this purchase if they’re looking specifically for something interactive and well-built. “The gamification is unlike any other option on the market,” says Coop.

For more, check out our Aviron Rower review.

Price$1,899
Product Weight97 lbs
Dimensions97” L x 21” W  x 43” H
Resistance TypeDual air and magnetic resistance
Weight Capacity397 lbs
Display22” HD touchscreen
ProgrammingGames, live workouts, on-demand classes
Membership Required?Yes, $24 per month

Best Foldable Rowing Machine: ProForm 750R Rower

Good for: Home gym owners who want a mid-tier rowing machine that folds to save space.

Best Folding Rowing Machine

ProForm 750R Rowing Machine

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Magnetic rowing machine
  • Powerful but quiet flywheel
  • Sturdy aluminum and steel construction
  • Device holder so you can stream live and on-demand rowing workouts with iFIT

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Easily folds to save space when not in use
  • Works with iFIT programming
  • Easy assembly
  • Costs less than $1,000

Cons

  • No integrated display (must use your own device)
  • Only a 250-lb weight capacity
  • Relatively heavy (116 lbs)

Bottom Line

The ProForm 750R is a mid-tier magnetic rowing machine with a small display and a place to hold a device to stream workouts.

One thing we’ve noticed about foldable rowing machines is that there seems to be two extremes: Folding rowers are either cheap, small, and lacking in specs, or they’re massive, beautiful, tech-infused devices. What about all of the folks who want a full-sized rowing machine with good performance that folds up—and doesn’t break the bank? Well, we have the pick for you.

The ProForm 750R rowing machine is foldable and packed with a bunch of great features for a palatable price point well under $1,000. 

RELATED: Best Folding Treadmills

Sam using the Proform 750R rower review

Certified personal trainer and former triathlete Amanda Capritto personally tested the 750R, and she gave it a 4 out of 5 for construction and durability. “It’s not a tank like the Hydrow, Aviron, or NordicTrack rowers, but it’s very stable during use and has a lot of aluminum construction,” Amanda says. “There is some plastic, such as on the footing of the machine and the foot cradles, but not an excessive amount.”

In terms of resistance, the 750R utilizes a near-silent magnetic flywheel with AutoAdjust, a tech feature that allows certified iFIT instructors to remotely change the resistance during your workout. This means you don’t have to worry about leaning forward and trying to quickly adjust resistance mid-rowing stroke. (Of course, this feature doesn’t work in manual mode.)

The full-length seat rail folds up for easy storage after your workout, and the front casters make it easy to maneuver the rower wherever you want it. 

Proform 750R Rowing Machine folded up

If you suspect a rowing machine can’t be perfect for less than $1,000, you’re right: The 750R has some minor downfalls. Despite its heavy weight of 116 pounds, it only supports a maximum user weight of 250 pounds. 

It also does not have an integrated display for interactive workouts—while the small 5-inch display shows basic metrics, you’ll need to supply your own tablet to watch instructors lead you through the waters of Venice. 

All in all, however, our product testers think the ProForm 750R is a fantastic mid-tier rower with good programming and a space-saving design. 

Check out our full and in-depth Proform 750R Rower review.

PriceAbout $699
Product Weight116 lbs
Dimensions86.5” L x 22” W x 45.5” H
Resistance TypeMagnetic
Weight Capacity250 lbs
Display5” metrics display; personal device required for streaming
ProgrammingiFIT 
Membership Required?Yes, $39 per month

Best Rowing Machine for Cross-Training: NordicTrack RW900 

Good for: Rowing enthusiasts who want a rower with a fitness app subscription that comes with cross-training options.

Best Rowing Machine for Cross-Training

NordicTrack RW900

GGR Score: 4.1 starstarstarstarstar
Community Score: 3.5 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Rotating smart HD touchscreen
  • Immersive workouts
  • Solidly built
  • Smooth ride

Made in USA Made in USA

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Massive 22” HD touchscreen display
  • Pivoting and tilting screen for use off the rower
  • Solid build quality
  • Comfortable padded seat
  • 26 digital resistance levels
  • Auto-adjust resistance
  • Large foot pedals and adjustable straps
  • Quiet ride
  • iFIT workouts
  • Soft, grippy handles
  • Bluetooth-enabled

Cons

  • Monthly subscription required for full functionality
  • Large footprint
  • Doesn’t fold
  • Requires an outlet
  • Can’t store in a garage (voids warranty)
  • Low 250-lb weight capacity
  • Heavy at around 160 lbs, but has transport wheels

Bottom Line

If you're looking for a high-end rowing machine with interactive rowing workouts, this is a great pick.

The best personal trainers will tell you that you shouldn’t do just one type of exercise. As much as our team of certified fit pros loves rowing, we know that the best fitness routines include a variety of steady-state cardio exercise, resistance training, and high-intensity workouts. 

That’s why we love the NordicTrack RW900 rowing machine, and why it’s our pick for the best NordicTrack rower. It works with iFIT, a leading platform for on-demand workout streaming and live trainer-led fitness classes. The 22-inch HD touchscreen on the RW900 swivels and tilts, so you can do strength training and other workouts off of the rower. 

woman using nordic track rw 900 tower looking at monitor

Additionally, at the time of writing, the RW900 comes with a free pair of NordicTrack SpeedWeight Adjustable Dumbbells so you can get started with a comprehensive fitness program right away. 

Our product testers could harp on the iFIT integration and tech specs all day, but let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the actual machine: The RW900 rower has an overbuilt, extra-wide seat rail for optimal stability, plus wide, flat feet to keep it from rocking in any manner. 

“The seat is padded and contoured so no hard plastic like you find on the Concept2 Row Erg,” says former triathlete and certified personal trainer Amanda Capritto, who tested the RW900 at length.

Amanda can verify that this rowing machine has all of the lux and high-tech features you see in Hydrow and Aviron, but the pivoting display and access to different types of fitness training make this a great choice for people who prioritize variety in their workout routines. 

“There are virtually endless workouts to choose from and multiple filtering options so you can easily find what you need,” says Amanda, who rated the rower’s programming a 4.75 out of 5.

The RW900 uses a large magnetic flywheel that has 26 levels of resistance. During trainer-led workouts, instructors can remotely change your resistance level using NordicTrack’s AutoAdjust adjustable resistance technology. 

close up nordic track rw900 rower monitor

Our one main complaint: The maximum weight capacity on the RW900 is only 250 pounds, which is very low for its in-box weight of 163 pounds. 

Check out more in our NordicTrack RW900 Rower review.

Price$1,999
Product Weight163 lbs (in box)
Dimensions82″ L x 22″ W x 54″ H
Resistance TypeMagnetic
Weight Capacity250 lbs
Display22” HD touchscreen
ProgrammingiFIT
Membership Required?Yes, $39 per month

Best Water Rowing Machine: WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine

Good for: People who want to mimic the feel of actually rowing on water

Best Water Rower Machine

WaterRower

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar
Community Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Water resistance simulates outdoor experience
  • Handcrafted wood for beautiful aesthetic
  • One of the quietest water rowing machines

Made in USA Made in USA

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Water resistance simulates outdoor experience
  • The body is made of handcrafted wood
  • One of the quietest water rowing machines
  • Very aesthetically pleasing
  • 700-pound weight capacity
  • Optional expert assembly

Cons

  • Prices start around $1,100
  • Wood can dent and chip
  • Weighs 117 lbs
  • Monitor location isn’t convenient

Bottom Line

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 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. We like the WaterRower Natural as the best water rowing machine for its aesthetics and functionality.

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 they are orange, very orange).

Our product testers say it’s a smooth ride, stating that the seat has cushioned support that is still comfortable after an extended period of time. They also note that the seat glides very smoothly across the machine and the hand grips are angled and comfortable to hold, which is enough for the ergonomics to earn a 4.5 out of 5.

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, we’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. That said, it has a 700-pound user weight capacity, floor stabilizers, and is very smooth and quiet during use so we’ll still give it a 5 out of 5 for durability and construction.

Unlike other rowing machines, the WaterRower has no cogs and chains and so no oiling is required. It is recommended to add water purification tablets to the tank every 3-6 months, which you can get directly from the company.

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. We didn’t love having to look down at the screen during my workout.

Price$1,199
Product Weight117 lbs
Dimensions83” L x 24” W x 21” H
Resistance TypeWater
Weight Capacity700 lbs
DisplayBasic LCD display
ProgrammingWaterRower Connect app
Membership Required?Yes, $4.99 per month

Best Rowing Machine for Beginners: Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Rowing Machine

Good for: People who are just getting into rowing

Fitness Reality 1000 Plus

Fitness Reality 1000 Magnetic Rowing Machine

GGR Score: 3.75 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Quiet nylon belt drive system
  • 14 different levels of resistance
  • Compatible to MyCloudFitness app
  • Foldable for easy storage
  • Bluetooth compatible
  • Phone holder on console

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Dial adjustment for resistance
  • 3-year added protection available
  • Soft anti-slip handle
  • Adjustable foot straps
  • Assembles in less than 1 hour
  • Smooth and quiet machine
  • AA batteries for display included
  • Comparably affordable cost

Cons

  • Low weight capacity
  • 3.5-inch LCD display
  • No pre-installed programs

Bottom Line

If you need or want a simple machine at a low cost, the Fitness Reality 1000 Magnetic Rowing Machine is one that you should have high on the list. It will provide a satisfying full-body challenge and help you burn calories and reach your health goals.

For those who think they might want to take up rowing from the comfort of their home gym, we recommend the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Rowing Machine due to the fact that it’s extremely budget-friendly (under $300) but comes with a ton of value. For one, you get 14 levels of magnetic resistance and Bluetooth compatibility, and it’s foldable and compact.

We recommend this machine for beginners because it allows them to see what it’s like having a rower in their home gym before sinking hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars on a much more costly model.

man using fitness reality rower

Don’t get us wrong, we’d also recommend this machine to advanced rowers who are looking for a budget-friendly option. More than 5,000 5-star Amazon reviewers have said it’s just as good, if not a little better than the machines you’d find in commercial gyms.

It is still, however, a case of you get what you pay for. The seat is comfortable though not nearly as much as a Concept2 and the resistance isn’t as high quality as the more advanced machine, but it’ll get your heart pumping. There’s also a maximum user weight of 250 pounds, and there is some rocking when used by people heavier than 220 pounds.

Want to learn more? We have a full guide to all Fitness Reality rowing machines.

PriceAbout $275
Product Weight77 lbs (in box)
Dimensions‎21.5″ L x 88.5″ W x 21.5″ H
Resistance TypeMagnetic
Weight Capacity250 lbs
DisplayBasic LCD display
ProgrammingNone built-in 
Membership Required?No

Best Budget Rowing Machine: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801

Good for: People who want an entry-level rower and don’t want to shell out a lot of dough

Best Budget Rowing Machine

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Magnetic Rower

GGR Score: 3.9 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Costs less than $300
  • Weighs just 50 lbs
  • Easy to store
  • Good entry-level purchase to find out if you enjoy rowing for exercise

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Costs less than $300
  • Weighs just 50 lbs
  • Easy to store
  • Good entry-level purchase
  • Folds for storage

Cons

  • Shorter seat rail
  • No preset workouts
  • Lots of plastic parts

Bottom Line

The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5801 is an inexpensive magnetic rower and a good "starter" rowing machine to find out if you enjoy it for exercise.

Sunny Health & Fitness is known for its budget-friendly home fitness equipment. The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Rower is no exception. 

In addition to its low price tag of around $200, this rowing machine is also small-space-friendly: Whereas most indoor rowers fall between 86 and 96 inches long, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 clocks in at just 77 inches. You can store it vertically, too, which makes it just a few feet deep in its upright position. Bonus: It’s super easy to move because it weighs just 50 pounds.

It also folds to 36.3 inches long by 23 inches wide by 47 inches high. The only reason it didn’t earn a perfect score from us on portability is because there are no transport wheels, but it still earned a 4.25 out of 5 in that category.

using laptop sunny rower

RELATED: Best Budget Home Gym Equipment

Keep in mind that a shorter rower means a shorter slide rail. This rower has a 43-inch rail, whereas machines like the Concept2 RowErg have about a 54-inch rail. A more compact rower could be problematic for taller people.

Our testers were 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. We don’t know how durable this rower will be over time; it does have a steel seat rail, but there are a lot of plastic components, including the foot cradles and flywheel housing. It doesn’t shake or tremor in use even when moving quickly, though.

moving Sunny Health & Fitness SPM Magnetic Rowing Machine

This rower does what you need it to do: Gives you a full-body workout and tracks your metrics on an extremely basic LCD display. Like we always say, you get what you pay for. Don’t expect a lot of extras from this Sunny Health & Fitness rower, though it does have a device holder, water bottle holder, and padded seat for comfort. 

“It’s a solid deal for people just looking to move without any of the bells and whistles,” says certified personal trainer Amanda Capritto.

It does not, however, have any preset workout programming.

For more, read our in-depth Sunny Health and Fitness rower review.

PriceAbout $250
Product Weight50 lbs
Dimensions77” L x 23” W x 22.5” H
Resistance TypeMagnetic
Weight Capacity285 lbs
DisplayBasic LCD display + device holder
ProgrammingNone built-in
Membership Required?No

Best Rowing Machine For Small Spaces: Lifespan RW1000 Indoor Rower

Good for: Home gym owners who don’t have much space for cardio equipment

Best Rowing Machine for Small Spaces

LifeSpan RW1000 Indoor Rower

Product Highlights

  • Magnetic resistance rower 
  • Foldable design 
  • Front mounted transport wheels

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Foldable design
  • Cushioned seat
  • Free shipping and 30-day return policy

Cons

  • Short rail length
  • Only 5 levels of resistance
  • Pulley uses fabric strap

Bottom Line

The Lifespan RW1000 is a compact, foldable rower available for under $900. It is probably best for beginners due to limited levels of resistance.

The LifeSpan RW1000 rowing machine may not be the absolute smallest rower out there, but in the opinion of our product testers, it’s one of the better magnetic rowers for its price point, and it folds up nicely to be less than 2 feet in depth.

RELATED: Best Compact Exercise Equipment

Unfolded, the RW1000 features a full-sized seat rail and an overall length of 90 inches, yet its easy folding mechanism allows it to smoosh into a small 34-by-19-by-64-inch rectangle, so you can store it anywhere you have 3 feet of floor space and at least 6-foot ceilings. 

The pulley 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.

We 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 makes it even more budget-friendly. 

The LCD display is really basic and only tracks time, speed, distance, and calories burned. We don’t recommend this for people who are serious about hitting certain 500-meter splits or rowing a marathon. However, for those looking for some decent cardio a few times a week, it will get the job done (and store nicely when not in use).

To learn more, check out our full LifeSpan RW100 review.

PriceAbout $900
Product Weight80 lbs (in box)
Dimensions90” L x 18.5” W x 23” H
Resistance TypeMagnetic
Weight Capacity300 lbs
DisplayBasic LCD display
ProgrammingNone built in 
Membership Required?No

Other Rowing Machines We Tried And Researched 

Ergatta: Ergatta is a nice water rower that looks and feels just like the WaterRower Natural, except it has a large display up front. This is a great alternative to the WaterRower for people who want trainer-led live classes and on-demand workouts.

Read my full Ergatta Rower review.

Sam using the Ergatta Rower.

CITYROW Go Max: Another WaterRower dupe, the CITYROW Go Max is a solidly built product with partial aluminum construction, making it more lightweight than the WaterRower and Ergatta. Read my full CITYROW Go Max review.

Stamina ATS Air Rower: Our testers weren’t thrilled about the lack of stability when trying out this rowing machine. It wobbles during use and has a thin seat rail, making it feel unstable. 

Stamina Body Trac Glider: 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.

Echanfit Foldable Rowing Machine: Our testers haven’t gotten their hands on this product yet, so we’ll refrain from a recommendation or lack thereof, but based on the product description and specs, we can pretty confidently say this rower is similar to Stamina and Sunny Health & Fitness rowers.

Echelon Row-S: In general, our testers are fans of most Echelon equipment. Our overall opinion of the Row-S is that it’s a decent rower, but there are better out there for the price point of about $1,600. Read our full Echelon Row-S review.

Echelon Smart Rower: This is Echelon’s base-level rowing machine, which doesn’t come with a display like the Row-S. It does have a device holder that can support a full-sized tablet, though, so it’s an option for people who don’t need an integrated display.

AssaultRower Elite: From the makers of the ever-popular AssaultBike, the AssaultRower is a behemoth of an air rower. It’s overbuilt in all of the right ways, and gearheads will love it, but our testers still think the Concept2 RowErg is best for most home gym owners. 

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 RowErg 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 outside of the company. Until then, we will remain neutral.

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: This is a basic magnetic rower like others on the list, and I think it is overpriced.

Stamina Wave Water Rowing Machine: If you’re going to buy a rower with water resistance, go with WaterRower, Ergatta, or CITYROW. 

How We Picked And Tested the Best Rowing Machines

We started out by researching more than 65 rowers. To compile the list, we dug through all of the major manufacturers as well as reached out to industry experts and various forums such as r/homegym. 

Additionally, at our fitness testing facility in Springfield, Missouri, multiple product testers on our team tried dozens rowers and provided input on their likes and dislikes.

During testing (and during our years of training experience), our product testers performed both long and short duration intervals, including all-out sprints and grueling long-distance rowing events. 

We examined the following factors:

Footprint and Portability

We give high ratings in this category to rowing machines that are easy to move and store, bonus points if they fold.

Durability

There are several ways we assess a rowing machine’s durability. One of those is the weight capacity. As with most cardio machines, we look for rowers that have a weight capacity of 300 pounds or higher.

We also assess how the machine performs during hard sprints. If there is significant shaking or wobbling, the rower will be docked a few points.

Assembly

We personally put together the machines we test, even when professional assembly is offered. Why? Because we want to be able to tell our readers what the process is like. Rowers that receive high ratings in assembly are those that have simple processes, clear instructions, and provide most or all of the tools you need.

Customizations

This is where we assess resistance. First, if it is air, magnetic, or water, does it perform the way those types of resistance patterns should? Also, is the resistance adjustable in some way? We favor machines that allow for some level of adjustability.

Adjustability and Ergonomics

To get a at least a 3 out of 5 on our rating chart, a rower has the ability to accommodate users between 5’2” and 6’4” and offers some type of adjustability on the feet holders.

Other considerations for bonus points include a longer monorail to accommodate taller users, an angled handle for ergonomic value, and a comfortable seat.

Tech Capabilities

To get at least a 3 out of 5, we require rowers to have a small console to show time, distance, calories, splits

Bonus points for machine that have capabilities like the following:

  • Bluetooth capabilities
  • Large screen broadcasting training videos
  • Heart rate capabilities

Dynamic Programming

To get a 3 out of 5, we look for some built-in workouts. We add points when there are a large number of preset programs or access to live or on-demand classes.

Value

We rate machines based on if their price point matches the value they offer. Having researched 60+ rowers, we have a firm grasp on the average price and what to expect from a machine that falls within certain price ranges.

Other Considerations

The other areas where we rate rowers include:

  • Customer reviews on the brand or third-party sites
  • Customer service based on our interactions with the brand
  • Company policies like financing, warranty, and returns
rowing on the sole sr 500 rower

Benefits Of Rowing Machines

The benefits of rowing machines are aplenty.

At its most basic, a rowing machine is a tool that can help improve your cardiovascular health and fitness. But if you look deeper, you’ll learn that rowing ergs also serve as a way to sneak in some light resistance training, and can thus improve your muscular endurance, strength, and musculoskeletal health as well.

The benefits are, of course, most prominent when you learn how to use a rowing machine correctly.

How to Choose the Best Rowing Machine

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.

Whether you want a cheap rower under $100, or a high-frills rowing machine made out of handcrafted black walnut, there is something that will suit your fancy.

Here are some things to look for in a rowing machine:

Overall Construction

For the most part, we recommend rowers that feature the best overall construction within their price ranges. The welds are clean, the connection points are solid, the seat rolls smoothly, and the flywheel spins freely.

Durability

A rower should last a LONG time; I’m talking decades. As with most things, with rowing machines, you typically get what you pay for. A rowing machine should be able to take, within reason, whatever type of intensity you can throw at it.

Mode Of Resistance

There are four types of resistance: Hydraulic rowers use cylinders and are featured on less expensive rowing machines; air rowers have flywheels that spin against air; magnetic rowers feature magnetic flywheels; and water rowers have flywheels that spin against water. We suggest staying away from hydraulic cylinders and focusing mainly on air rowing options, although magnetic is a good choice for people who need a near-silent machine.

Monitor

The monitor used to track the various metrics should be both accurate and easy to use. Nearly every company uses a different monitor, and some are good while most are inaccurate and basic.

Fluidity

The chain or cord attached to the handle and flywheel should provide a fluid motion start and return. Cheaper rowing machines will have abrupt starts and returns, and the seat will not roll smoothly. The more closely the rowing machine experience relates to true water rowing, the better.

a man strapping into foot cradles on a rowing machine

Space

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, like the ProForm 750R.

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.

Price Range

As with other exercise equipment, there is a significant price difference between the lowest and most costly choices. The majority of the high-quality rowers we like are priced around $1,000 or more. You can still purchase a good rower for less than $1,000, but if you go too cheap, your machine may fail or malfunction easily.

Preset Workouts

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 real rowing machine workouts. Look for a machine with preset options, which can include interval training and 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 for example, which comes with an iFIT subscription that guides you through customized, on-demand, and even personal trainer options.

Tech Capabilities

The official name for machines like a rower is “ergometers.” Basically, this means exercise machines that are equipped with an apparatus that measures 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.

Adjustability Considerations

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 extra 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.

Maintenance

Rowing machines should be relatively low maintenance; you shouldn’t have to oil a chain monthly or constantly bolt parts back together. 

Price

The price of the rowing machine should match up with the features offered. Value is more important than just a low retail price. What I’ve found with rowing machines and fitness equipment in general, typically, is the more you spend, the more you get.

Warranty

A warranty should be offered and the company should stand behind that warranty with great customer service.

Ease of Use

Your rowing machine should be easy to use without an instruction manual. In other words, you should be able to sit down and start rowing without going through complicated processes.

Special Features

Does the rowing machine come with any extras, such as cup holders or media trays? Are there any preprogrammed workouts or do you have access to an online workout program?

Types of Rowing Machines

When researching rowing machines, you’ll want to know about the three main types. 

Water Rowers

Water rowers utilize a tank filled with water, and the flywheel spins through the water to create resistance. 

ergatta rower water tank

Pros:

  • Resistance is user-dependent (the harder you pull, the harder it gets) 
  • Relatively quiet 
  • Usually more visually appealing 
  • Wood construction typically means higher weight capacity
  • Mimics the feel of rowing on actual water

Cons:

  • Require more maintenance (have to change the water to avoid mold) 
  • Usually heavier due to wood construction 
  • Hard to measure resistance since there are no defined levels
Sunny Health & Fitness SPM Magnetic Rowing Machine being used

Magnetic Rowers

Magnetic rowers use a magnetic flywheel and typically come with predefined resistance settings.

Pros:

  • Defined levels of resistance 
  • Nearly silent during use 
  • Magnetic resistance is usually really smooth

Cons:

  • Some only have a few levels of resistance
  • Tend to break faster than water and air rowers 
  • Seems there are not a lot of mid-level options; most are either super luxurious or very cheap
Woman using Concept2 RowErg

Air Rowers

Air rowers use a wind-based flywheel. 

Pros:

  • Unlimited resistance is user-dependent
  • Some have dampers to fine-tune resistance control 
  • Can very accurately monitor resistance, distance, and other metrics

Cons:

  • Very noisy 
  • Most don’t have big displays with fitness streaming integrations

How to Use a Rowing Machine

There are four steps to using a rowing machine: legs, lean, pull, and reverse. We’ll go over each step here, though you could also read our handy guide on how to use a rowing machine and what form mistakes you should look out for.

  1. Drive through your heels, keeping your quads, glutes, and hamstrings engaged to fully extend your legs, stopping just short of knee lockout. Keep your feet flat and don’t push through your toes.
  2. Once you reach full extension, create a 100-degree angle between your torso and legs by leaning back slightly—but not too far.
  3. When you reach the end of your lean, pull with your arms
  4. Return to the starting position

How to Avoid Injury on a Rowing Machine

Garage Gym Reviews staff writer, certified personal trainer, and rowing expert Amanda Capritto recommends these tips for avoiding injury on a rowing machine.

  1. Avoid varied stroke rates. Make sure each stroke is consistent.
  2. Make sure each move is timed correctly.
  3. Ensure you reach full extension.
  4. Have a good starting form.

Best Rowing Machine FAQs

Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine?

Absolutely, and in fact, it might be one of the best cardio machines to help you do so. Rowing machines recruit just about every muscle group and increase your heart rate, which can help you achieve a caloric deficit, or when you burn more calories than you consume in a day. Caloric deficits are central to weight loss.

Is rowing for 30 minutes a good workout?

Yes, rowing for 30 minutes would help you reach the CDC-recommended physical guidelines that recommend 30 minutes of daily moderate-intensive cardio workouts.

How much do rowing machines cost?

Rowing machines can cost anywhere between $300 to nearly $3,000.

Is it safe to row every day?

Absolutely, so long as you use proper form, don’t push yourself too hard, and prioritize recovery.

What are the different types of rowing machines?

There are three main types of rowing machines: water, air, and magnetic. These all refer to the different resistance types found on rowing machines and one is better than the other, though magnetic is the most durable rowing resistance type.

Further reading

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