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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. If you’re on 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.
More Than 20 Rowers Tested
After researching more than 65 rowing machines and using more than 20 of them among our team of product testers and certified fitness professionals, we’ve pulled together a list of the best rowing machines on the market today. We took into account durability, performance, warranty, price, and availability when assessing each item.
The 9 Best Rowing Machines in 2022
- Best Rowing Machine Overall: Concept2 Model D Rower
- Best Interactive Rowing Machine: Aviron Impact Series Rower
- Best Smart Rowing Machine: Hydrow
- Best Folding Rowing Machine: ProForm 750R Rower
- Best Budget Rowing Machine: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801
- Best Rowing Machine for Cross-Training: NordicTrack RW900
- Best Water Rowing Machine: WaterRower
- Best Compact Rowing Machine: Lifespan RW1000 Indoor Rower
Best Rowing Machine Overall: Concept2 Model D Rower
Good for: Beginners to experienced rowers looking for a great workout from the ideal machine
Best Rowing Machine Overall
The Concept 2 Model D Rower is perhaps the most popular rowing machine on the market, found in commercial gyms and home gyms around the world. It provides a low-impact, full-body workout and uses air resistance generated by a fanned flywheel. The Model D has an adjustable damper setting from 1 to 10 allowing you to move with ease or with more resistance and intensity.The Model D comes with adjustable foot-rests, a 14-inch seat height with an aluminum l-beam monorail and stainless steel track for a smooth back-and-forth slide. This is a light cardio machine with wheels, which means you can move it with ease around your space. Also, for storage, the rower can be easily broken down into two segments, hung on a wall with a Rogue wall hanger, or simply tilted upright and stored vertically. The PM5 Performance Monitor gives instant feedback on pace, watts, calories, distance, and rpms. The monitor is easily adjustable, Bluetooth-compatible, and can easily connect to a heart rate monitor or the ErgData app.
- Easy to assemble, use and store
- Extremely durable
- Ergonomic seat and handle
- Worldwide community leaderboard
- Several built-in and customizable workouts
- Optional expert assembly
- Costs about $1,000
- Some people find the seat to be uncomfortable
- Plastic monitor arm could be subject to breaking
The Concept2 Model D Rower is one of the most popular rowers 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.
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. The machine requires few adjustments to begin use, and it’s not overly tech-y, so it’s a good option for beginners.
The performance monitor (PM5) 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.
When in use, this rower has an average footprint of 95 inches in length and 24 inches in width. However, you can easily maneuver it into an upright position using the front wheels, so you can store it 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 (there’s no padding), and we’ve seen some complaints about the seat being uncomfortable.
(Pssst: Here’s how to find a Concept 2 Coupon.)
|Product Weight||57 lbs (68 lbs with tall legs)|
|Dimensions||95” L x 24” W x 14” H (20” H with tall legs)|
|Resistance Type||Air flywheel|
|Weight Capacity||500 lbs|
|Programming||5 built-in workout options|
Best Interactive Rowing Machine: Aviron Impact Series Rower
Good for: Trainees who love a gamified experience
Best Interactive Rowing Machine
The Aviron Tough Series Rower uses magnetic and fan resistance while in use. Plus, the 22" HD screen showcases the video-game like programming that can make rowing feel more like a day at the arcade. The $29 monthly subscription cost is also pretty reasonable in terms of interactive programming goes.This rowing machine has the ability to both stand upright and fold. The added four wheels assist in the overall maneuverability of this machine. I personally find the machine to be heavy, but manageable to move.
- Gamified experience with programming unlike any other rower
- Has games, instructor-led workouts, on-location rows, free mode
- Dual air and magnetic resistance
- 22-inch HD touchscreen display
- Padded seat
- Costs more than $2,000
- Software updates can be buggy
- Large footprint in unfolded position
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.
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.
Aviron also features 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).
Programming and metrics aside, the Aviron rower is expertly built. Its steel and aluminum frame supports a maximum weight capacity of almost 400 pounds. It 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 of more than $2,000, this rowing machine certainly isn’t cheap, but I 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.
|Product Weight||97 lbs|
|Dimensions||97” L x 21” W x 43” H|
|Resistance Type||Dual air and magnetic resistance|
|Weight Capacity||397 lbs|
|Display||22” HD touchscreen|
|Programming||Games, live workouts, on-demand classes|
Best Smart Rowing Machine: Hydrow
Good for: People who want top-of-the-line virtual workouts on a luxurious machine
Best Smart Rower
We completely re-engineered the rowing machine with patented technology, making each stroke feel like you're out on the water. Then, we built an immersive experience around it. The Hydrow was designed from the ground up. While the design team wanted to create a unique machine that was elegant and sophisticated for the home, it was just as important to engineer a machine that was unmatched in performance and built to last. Hydrow's brilliant 22" touchscreen display and impressive front-facing speakers bring the river to your living room, captivating you from the moment you sit in its seat. The Hydrow's patented drag mechanism is electromagnetic and computer-controlled. The distinctive components make it the closest thing to being on the water. Garage Gym Reviews Exclusive: Use code ROWGGR to receive $150 off any purchase that includes a rower
- Sleek and sexy design
- 22-inch touchscreen display
- Magnetic resistance done right
- Gorgeous virtual rowing workouts filmed on location all over the world
- Smooth rowing experience
- Prices start at around $2,600
- Large and not exactly easy to store
- Heavy and difficult to move (145 lbs), but very stable
- No “manual” mode
This is the “Peloton” of rowers, folks. It’s just straight-up sexy. The price tag? Not so sexy, but at least Hydow 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? 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.
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. We don’t think most people will find this to be a negative thing—assuming most people are buying Hydrow for the beautiful filmed workouts— but we do want to point it out in case you’re a rowing fanatic who likes to use manual mode a lot.
The Hydrow 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.
Historically, magnetic rowing machines were really cheap and easy to break, but the Hydrow is magnetic resistance is done right. The ride is ultra-smooth, with no blips or bumps in the rowing stroke. 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 makes 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.
Check out my full Hydrow Rower review to learn more.
|Product Weight||145 lbs|
|Dimensions||86″ L x 25″ W x 47″ H|
|Weight Capacity||375 lbs|
|Display||22” HD touchscreen|
|Programming||Live workouts and on-demand classes|
Best Folding 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
The ProForm 750R Rowing Machine is a magnetic rower that works with an iFIT subscription. It's certifiably mid-tier as far as rowers go, clocking in at around $800 but still packing plenty of features. It has a full-length slide rail that folds when not in use, plus a console that adjusts vertically to accommodate different heights and preferences.This rower doesn't have a large display like some other fancy smart rowing machines, but it does have a sturdy device holder that can support a full-sized tablet. So, to stream workouts, you'll need your own device, but that makes the 750R a great option for people who already have a tablet. Because there's no big touchscreen, you can store this rower vertically if you need to.The 5-inch high-contrast display shows basic rowing metrics, including time elapsed, estimated calories burned, distance rowed, and pace.
- Easily folds to save space when not in use
- Works with iFIT programming
- Easy assembly
- Costs less than $1,000
- No integrated display (must use your own device)
- Only a 250-lb weight capacity
- Relatively heavy (116 lbs)
One thing I’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?
If that’s you, you’ll be pleased to learn about the ProForm 750R rowing machine, packed with a bunch of great features for a palatable price point well under $1,000.
For starters, 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.
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.
|Product Weight||116 lbs|
|Dimensions||86.5” L x 22” W x 45.5” H|
|Weight Capacity||250 lbs|
|Display||5” metrics display; personal device required for streaming|
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
Looking for a small-space-friendly and budget-friendly rowing machine? Check out the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Magnetic Rower, which features 16 levels of magnetic resistance and a comfortable seat for less than $300. In addition to its palatable price tag, this rower has a space-saving design with a slide rail length of just 43 inches and a total length of 77 inches (most rowers have a total length between 86 and 90 inches). This rower also folds up when not in use so you can store it out of the way.Keep in mind that a shorter seat rail means this rower might not be a good fit for taller people, as they may not achieve full extension of the legs. Still, for the average person, this rower will get the job done.The RW-5801 has a basic LCD display that tracks time, calories, and distance. It also has a device holder so you can stream your favorite rowing workouts on different apps or YouTube.
- Costs less than $300
- Weighs just 50 lbs
- Easy to store
- Good entry-level purchase to find out if you enjoy rowing for exercise
- Shorter seat rail
- No preset workouts
- Lots of plastic parts
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, 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.
Keep in mind that a shorter rower means a shorter slide rail. This rower has a 43-inch rail, whereas machines like the Concept 2 Model D have about a 54-inch rail. A more compact rower could be problematic for taller people, although 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 display. Like I 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.
RELATED: Best Budget Home Gym Equipment
|Product Weight||50 lbs|
|Dimensions||77” L x 23” W x 22.5” H|
|Weight Capacity||285 lbs|
|Display||Basic LCD display + device holder|
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
With the RW900's Rotating Smart HD Touchscreen, you can take part in immersive workouts, then hop off your rower for a strength training session or yoga in beautiful locales. Every iFit rowing workout features Automatic Trainer Controll where our world-class trainers adjust your rower's digital resistance for a great workout. Experience the difference of Automatic Trainer Control. Our elite trainers can auto-adjust your digital resistance while the manual air resistance allows you to control another level of intensity. Our oversized, pivoting pedals with quick-release, adjustable foot straps give you the confidence that you'll stay secure during your most intense trainer-led workouts.
- Large HD touchscreen swivels and tilts
- Works with iFIT, which has much more than just rowing workouts
- At the time of writing, it comes with a free pair of adjustable dumbbells
- Solidly built and has a smooth ride
- 250-lb user weight capacity
- Heavy (more than 100 lbs) and tough to move alone
- Assembly requires two people
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. 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.
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 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.
Garage Gym Reviews writer and personal trainer Amanda Capritto tested the RW900 at our equipment testing facility, and here’s what she had to say: “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.”
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.
|Product Weight||163 lbs (in box)|
|Dimensions||82″ L x 22″ W x 54″ H|
|Weight Capacity||250 lbs|
|Display||22” HD touchscreen|
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
Rowing has long been recognized as the perfect aerobic pursuit, with naturally smooth and flowing movements that don't tax the joints but do boost the heart rate. Now you can take your rowing experience to the next level with the WaterRower Natural rowing machine. Using the same principles that govern the dynamics of a boat in water, the WaterRower Natural is outfitted with a "water flywheel" that consists of two paddles in an enclosed tank of water that provide smooth, quiet resistance, just like the paddles in an actual body of water. As a result, the machine has no moving parts that can wear out over time (even the recoil belt and pulleys don't require lubricating or maintaining). More significantly, the water tank and flywheel create a self-regulating resistance system that eliminates the need for a motor. As with real rowing, when you paddle faster, the increased drag provides more resistance. When you paddle slower, the resistance is less intense. The only limit to how fast you can row is your strength and your ability to overcome drag. And unlike conventional rowing machines, which tend to be jerky and jarring, the WaterRower Natural is remarkably smooth and fluid.From a fitness perspective, the WaterRower Natural works 84 percent of your muscle mass, helping tone and strengthen your muscles while burning far more calories than most other aerobic machines. The exercise is also low impact, as it removes all the body weight from the ankles, knees, and hips, but still moves the limbs and joints through a full range of motion--from completely extended to completely contracted.The WaterRower Natural is outfitted with a Series 4 performance monitor that's designed to balance technical sophistication with user-friendliness. The monitor--which includes six information and programming windows, six QuickSelection buttons, and three navigation buttons--displays your workout intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, zone bar, duration, and distance. Plus, the monitor is compatible with an optional heart rate chest strap and receiver, which helps you optimize your workout and achieve your exercise objectives.The WaterRower Natural is handcrafted in solid ash and stained honey oak for consistency of color. The wood was chosen due to its marvelous engineering properties, especially its ability to absorb sound and vibration, which enhances the WaterRower's quiet performance and smooth operation. Ash, like all woods used in the construction of the WaterRower, is a premium hardwood with incredible longevity and dimensional stability. In addition, the wood is harvested from replenishable forests and is hand finished with Danish oil to provide a deep luster.Other details include dual rails with four corner wheels that increase seat stability and reduce the amount of sweat buildup; a frame that flips upright for handy storage; and a weight capacity of up to 1,000 pounds. The WaterRower Natural measures 84 by 21 by 22 inches (W x H x D), weighs 117 pounds (with water), and carries a one-year warranty on the frame and components (WaterRower will upgrade the warranty to five years on the frame and three years on the components with the completion of a registration form).
- 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
- Prices start around $1,100
- Wood can dent and chip
- Weighs 117 lbs
- Monitor location isn’t convenient
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 they are 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.
|Product Weight||117 lbs|
|Dimensions||83” L x 24” W x 21” H|
|Weight Capacity||700 lbs|
|Display||Basic LCD display|
|Programming||WaterRower Connect app|
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
Beneath the smooth, gliding action of the RW1000 LifeSpan indoor rower resides explosive fitness capabilities. Enhance your cardiovascular health, gain lean muscle, and lose weight with dynamic, impact-free rowing. An intuitive console makes getting started easy, and padded hand grips, a comfortable 14" injected-foam seat, and large swivel foot pedals help you go the distance.
- Folds to 34″ L x 19″ W x 64″
- Ultra quiet, magnetic resistance
- Easy to fold and store
- Free shipping and 30-day return policy
- Oversized padded seat
- No built-in workouts
- Only 5 levels of resistance
- Ride is somewhat unstable
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.
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.
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 makes it even more budget-friendly.
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 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).
RELATED: Best Compact Exercise Equipment
|Product Weight||80 lbs (in box)|
|Dimensions||90” L x 18.5” W x 23” H|
|Weight Capacity||300 lbs|
|Display||Basic LCD display|
|Programming||None built in|
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.
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.
Whipr Rower: Frankly, this rowing machine is trying to be too much. Sure, one could dub the Whipr Rower the “most versatile rowing machine,” but in its attempt to be a rowing machine, ski erg, and paddle erg, it doesn’t do any of them well. During testing, it shook tremendously during use and it’s very hard to move due to the weight of the flywheel/control unit.
Fitness Reality 1000 Bluetooth Rower: We’re not afraid of Amazon home gym equipment (in fact, we like to test limits, like in our Amazon Squat Rack drop test). The Fitness Reality 1000 looks promising for its price point, but since we haven’t tested it yet, we can’t recommend it.
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 Concept 2 Model D rower 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 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 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 several 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 build quality, opened up the various components to see how they were built, and spoke to representatives from different companies. Finally, we took into consideration factors such as price point, warranty, and customer service.
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.
What To Consider When Buying A 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Rowing machines should be relatively low maintenance; you shouldn’t have to oil a chain monthly or constantly bolt parts back together.
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.
A warranty should be offered and the company should stand behind that warranty with great customer service.
Types of Rowing Machines
When researching rowing machines, you’ll want to know about the three main types.
Water rowers utilize a tank filled with water, and the flywheel spins through the water to create resistance.
- 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
- 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
Magnetic rowers use a magnetic flywheel and typically come with predefined resistance settings.
- Defined levels of resistance
- Nearly silent during use
- Magnetic resistance is usually really smooth
- 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
Air rowers use a wind-based flywheel.
- Unlimited resistance is user-dependent
- Some have dampers to fine-tune resistance control
- Can very accurately monitor resistance, distance, and other metrics
- Very noisy
- Most don’t have big displays with fitness streaming integrations
Commonly asked questions about rowing machines are:
Are rowers worth it?
Rowing has several advantages, including improving stamina and general fitness and strength, as well as strengthening the heart. Due to its repetitive, low-impact movement and noises, it can also improve your mood and even give a peaceful, meditative effect on the mind.
What type of rowing machine is best for home use?
This is like asking what the best house is. The best rower is the one that best suits your fitness goals and home gym setup. I like the Concept 2 rower the best, but you might want live workout classes, in which case you would want to go for the Hydrow or NordicTrack models instead.
Is 30 minutes on a rowing machine good?
Generally speaking, yes. You can do a lot in 30 minutes. In fact, you can do a high-intensity interval workout and burn a decent amount of calories in less than 30 minutes.
If you’re just starting out with rowing, keeping the intensity low and the length of the workout at a moderate place—like 10 to 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 tone your body with a rowing machine?
Ay, ay, ay, here we go. Everyone wants to know how to lose body fat, and it’s a sad truth that simply hopping on a cardio machine every once in a while won’t do the trick. However, anything performed consistently over time can help you “tone” your body, which really just means losing body fat and gaining muscle mass.
Rowing is a great, low-impact home workout that gets your heart pumping and engages nearly all the muscles in your body. So, yes, rowing can help you improve your body composition, but it’s imperative that you remember how crucial nutrition, sleep, and stress management are to the weight loss process.
What’s the difference between an air rower and a water rower?
Water rowers utilize a tank full of water for resistance, while air rowers utilize a fan or air flywheel. Because the air and water resistance depend on your speed, you have control over the intensity of the workout.
What is the best rowing machine under $500?
It’s hard to find a good rowing machine for less than $500. However, after countless hours of testing rowing machines, we recommend the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 as the best budget rowing machine.
What is the best rowing machine for beginners?
If you’re not sure you’re going to stick to rowing, I recommend buying one of the less expensive models (under $1,000) to start. The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801, Lifespan RW1000, and ProForm 750R are some good starter options.
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