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The Best Rowing Machines

Roman Kosolapov/Shutterstock.com
🕚 Updated June 2022

A rowing machine targets more muscles than any other cardio machine. While you can find them at many gyms, you can bring one into your own home quite easily. Gain strength, improve your cardiovascular capacity, and feel healthier overall with these rowing machines.

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  Top Choice Best Hydraulic Resistance Best Water Resistance Best Air Resistance Best Budget
  Sunny Health & Fitness
Magnetic Rowing Machine
Hydraulic Rowing Machine
Mr. Captain
Water Rowing Machine
Model D Indoor Rowing Machine
Sunny Health & Fitness
SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine
Our SummaryThis rower provides a smooth workout for a very affordable price.Get a low-impact workout that still allows for full range of motion.Adding this beautiful wooden rowing machine to your home gym will look nice and ensure you get a good workout.This trusted rowing machine will stand up to frequent use for years.Customize your low-impact workout with 12 levels of resistance on this budget-friendly indoor rower.
ProsMagnetic resistance, low noise, eight levels of tension, padded seat, 48-inch track, low profile, folds for storage, easy assembly.Hydraulic resistance, adjustable resistance, folds for storage, easy to assemble.Water resistance, low noise, adjustable foot-holds, beautiful wood material, BlueTooth compatibility, 320-pound weight limit, stands up for storage, easy to assemble.Air resistance, 10 levels of resistance, smooth ride, tight foot straps, sophisticated LCD and BlueTooth compatibility, durable, 500-pound weight capacity, folds for storage, easy assembly.Hydraulic resistance, low noise, 12 levels of tension, wide seat, folds for storage, easy assembly.
Cons250-pound weight limit, basic LCD screen.250-pound weight limit, basic LCD screen, shorter track.No adjustable resistance, foot straps loosen.Most expensive, louder noise.220-pound weight limit, basic LCD screen.
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The Best Rowing Machines

Man working out on row machine in fitness studio at scyscraper luxury hotel gym.
Roman Kosolapov/Shutterstock.com

Buying Guide for Rowing Machines

Fit man training on row machine in gym.
Lucky Business/Shutterstock.com

Why should you buy a rowing machine?

When used with the correct form, a rowing machine can build muscle, burn fat, and strengthen your heart health as it engages major muscle groups in your legs, arms, back, and core. Choosing the rowing machine that’s right for you will allow you to achieve high-intensity strength and cardio workouts that are impact-free, making rowing an ideal form of lifelong full-body exercise.

What should you consider when shopping for a rowing machine?

  • Frame and Features: Rowing machine frames can be made of metal or wood. Steel and aluminum frames are lower in cost and higher in durability. On the other hand, wood frames can be very stylish and may help to lower noise levels. Pay close attention to the seat, footrests, and the type of handles on the rower—these features will have a significant impact on the comfort of your rowing experience. Also, look carefully at the foot straps on a machine, especially if you have smaller- or larger-than-average feet; straps will keep your feet from slipping while rowing to help you have good form.
  • Space Requirements: Be sure to measure the place where you intend to work out and the place where you want to store your machine so that you can choose one that fits your space. Wheels on the machine are important if you need to move your rowing machine when you’re done using it.
  • Performance Monitors: A monitor or dashboard with more in-depth tracking options and data may be better for people looking to get a competitive edge or improve on specific rowing goals, but they’re not essential for a good cardio workout. High-tech features like pre-programmed workouts, streaming options, Bluetooth connection, and the ability to sync with third-party apps are features that can enhance the rowing experience.

Which type of rowing machine resistance should you get?

The exercise a rowing machine provides is based on its resistance to your pull on the handlebar or handles on the machine. Some rowing machines will change resistance based on how hard you’re pulling; others have specific resistance levels you can control yourself throughout your workout. The ability to change resistance levels easily is especially important if you share a machine with others and need to accommodate different ability levels.

Resistance mechanisms fall into four types:

  • Aerodynamic: These rowing machines use fan blades to produce air resistance. They’re a prevalent type of machine in gyms. They provide a smooth rowing motion that adjusts to your pace and stroke intensity, but they can be very noisy.
  • Magnetic: Magnetic rowing machines produce resistance with a braking system controlled by how near magnets are to a flywheel. The motion is smooth and fluid, and the machines that use this mechanism are very quiet.
  • Hydraulic: These rowing machines use pistons, short cylinders or disks that move up and down against a liquid or gas to give you resistance. Machines that use this mechanism are quiet and the most compact.
  • Water: With a water resistance machine, you pull against water with paddles in a large, enclosed tank—the motion produced is the smoothest of all the mechanisms. While there is noise, it’s the noise of splashing water, which can add to the realism and pleasantness of the rowing experience.

Our Picks for the Best Rowing Machines

Top Choice

Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine

This rower provides a smooth workout for a very affordable price.

Pros: It’s convenient to improve your fitness at home with this rowing machine. The magnetic tension system keeps the noise level to a minimum and provides a smooth range of motion. It has eight levels of tension to make your workout customizable and progressive. The seat is padded, so you can stay comfortable during long workouts, and it features extra-large, anti-slip footholds. For all its benefits, the rowing machine has a low profile, folds up for easy storage, and has a 48-inch long track to accommodate fitness enthusiasts of varying heights. It comes with an LCD screen for displaying metrics. The assembly is straightforward, only taking about 30 minutes to an hour.

Cons: The weight capacity is 250 pounds, which is on the lower end. The LCD screen is minimal in its metrics.

Bottom Line: Getting a smooth rowing workout that improves your fitness and frame of mind is convenient and affordable with this machine. The magnetic tension system means your rowing, whether you choose to do endurance or HIIT workouts, won’t be too noisy. The footholds, cushioned seat, and smooth track are features that make your workouts comfortable. The LCD screen helps you stay motivated to meet your goals. Not only does this affordable rower deliver an enjoyable or intense workout, it easily folds up to be convenient to use in any area of your home.


Best Hydraulic Resistance

Lanos Hydraulic Rowing Machine

Get a low-impact workout that still allows for full range of motion.

Pros: If you’re just getting into rowing or beginning your health and fitness journey, this is a great option. While it’s a full-body workout, there is less coordination and precision required to complete a workout that burns calories and targets major muscle groups. The hydraulic resistance allows you to adjust the resistance to increase or decrease the difficulty of your workouts. This compact rowing machine is made of steel and can fold up to save space between workouts. The machine is easy to assemble.

Cons: The maximum weight capacity is 250 pounds. The LCD display is pretty basic. The track is shorter than some other options.

Bottom Line: For those beginning their fitness routines, this rowing machine is a great option to bring into your home for full-body workouts. It is easier to row on this machine than ones that require more synchronized movements to be effective. As you continue with your fitness program, it’s easy to take your workouts up a notch with the hydraulic resistance. To make it even more convenient, this rowing machine can fold up for easy storage. Just note that the display screen is pretty basic, and it doesn’t have a great weight capacity.


Best Water Resistance

Mr. Captain Water Rowing Machine for Home Use

Adding this beautiful wooden rowing machine to your home gym will look nice and ensure you get a good workout.

Pros: This rower may be the nicest-looking piece of exercise equipment out there. Beautiful red zebrawood constructs the sturdy frame. The resistance is generated with water, which keeps the noise level low, and for some, it’s even calming. You get a lot of data and workout variety with the LCD monitor that’s BlueTooth compatible. The footplate is adjustable and can comfortably fit feet of any size. The maximum weight for this rower is 320 pounds, a respectable limit. The assembly is not difficult, and it comes with an electric pump to make filling the water tank easy. If you want to change up your scenery for a rowing workout, the wheels make rolling it to a new place easy.

Cons: The resistance can’t be adjusted. The foot straps can become loose during longer workouts, requiring periodic adjustments.

Bottom Line: Get the feel of rowing on the water with this rowing machine. The gentle sound and smooth feel of rowing provide an effective workout for nearly everyone in their quest for better health and fitness. While this rower does not have adjustable resistance, the LCD screen has a variety of displays and preset programs to help inspire more workout variety. When you’re not using the rowing machine, it can stand up to decrease its footprint and save on space.


Best Air Resistance

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

This trusted rowing machine will outlast frequent use for years.

Pros: This is one of the most trusted models. It’s proven to last for years, even with heavy use on a daily basis. It is the most common model found in a commercial gym, so you may be more familiar with the air resistance feel. The smooth rowing motion has 10 levels of resistance along with a monitor that tracks a wide variety of metrics. It includes preset workouts and games to add excitement to your workouts. It also features wireless BlueTooth and ANT+ compatibility to monitor heart rate and other app integration. The foot straps are tight to keep your feet in place, even for a long rowing workout. Even though this is one of the largest and sturdiest rowing machines, it can be folded and moved around easily, making it a convenient piece of home gym equipment. The maximum weight recommended for this rowing machine is 500 pounds, making it the most accommodating of all the picks.

Cons: This is the most expensive rowing machine on our list. While it’s not extremely loud, air resistance does make this a louder option.

Bottom Line: Concept2 is one of the most recognized and trusted brands of rowing machines among seasoned athletes and even casual gym-goers. This rowing machine will last through heavy use for years. The strong foot straps and smooth stroke make it a comfortable option, whether you do interval training or long endurance workouts. While it is the most expensive option on the list, people who love rowing will feel they get their money’s worth.


Best Budget

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine

Customize your low-impact workout with 12 levels of resistance on this budget-friendly indoor rower.

Pros: This is a great option if you’re looking for a compact piece of equipment that will still allow you to do a rowing workout at home. It folds away easily between use and is lightweight to maneuver. This rowing machine runs on hydraulic resistance and has 12 levels, so you can get the workout that is right for you. The foam handles and wide, cushioned seat are a few elements that make your workout more comfortable. Unlike most rowing machines, these foot pedals pivot to help find a comfortable position and range of motion, which is especially beneficial for beginners or those with tight leg muscles.

Cons: The weight limit is the lowest on the list at 220 pounds. The LCD display is very basic.

Bottom Line: This compact indoor rower is a great option for those beginning their health and fitness journey or looking for a low-impact workout. As you progress in your workouts, you can adjust the hydraulic resistance among 12 levels, allowing you to intensify your exercise. The rowing machine is quiet and has features to maximize comfort. While this rowing machine is intended for beginners, the weight capacity is only 220 pounds, which is the lowest amount on the list.

Final Thoughts

Carefully consider the type of experience you want and your budget. This list includes options for each budget and resistance type, so you can include rowing into your healthy lifestyle or fitness program with these top picks.

Lisa Walenceus Lisa Walenceus
Lisa Walenceus has 20 years of research and writing experience as an educator, news reporter, and freelancer. She writes to learn and digs deep to find how things work. Read Full Bio »
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