10 Best Rowing Machines Compared & Reviewed
If you've never used a rowing machine before don't be intimidated by what may look like a complex movement. It's actually really easy to learn, and once you develop the proper technique you can start enjoying all the benefits of rowing.
Most gyms have a few rowing machines, but once you get hooked on one of these wonderful workout machines, you may find yourself wanting one of your very own. We have reviewed and compared the best home rowing machines to determine the best models on the market today, and brought them all together in one place to save you the time and hassle. Scroll down to learn more.
- Concept2 Model D
- Stamina ATS
- Lifecore R100
- First Degree Fitness Newport AR
- Stamina Avari
- Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5515
- Stamina 1215
- Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW1205
- Velocity Exercise CHR 2001
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Concept2 Model D
Built to last
Sophisticated PM5 monitor for data tracking
Compatible with RowPro Software
Easily separates for storage
Consistent and challenging full body workout
Takes up a lot of space
The Concept2 rower consistently tops the list of best home rowing machines and is the rower most commonly used by elite athletes. The sophisticated computer is compatible with RowPro Software that will keep you motivated through this killer full body workout. It may seem pricey, but all users agree it is built to last a lifetime.Read more
This rower utilizes air resistance that you can set up prior to your workout by adjusting the spiral damper to control airflow.
The air resistance and flywheel design allows for smooth movement that becomes more challenging as you push yourself. Users love the consistent challenge and full range of motion provided by this machine.
A backlit display and adjustable arm makes this monitor easy to read throughout your workout. This rower features the sophisticated Performance Monitor 5 (PM5) that accurately tracks comparable data for each row. It is compatible with USB flash drives to help you easily track data over time and to set and meet long-term fitness goals. For an additional cost, you can also download RowPro Software to keep you motivated during these challenging workouts.
The seat is firm but is not uncomfortable. Adjustable foot rests and ergonomic handles make this rower comfortable and easy to use.
This rower does take up a bit of space at 96in x 24in x 14in but it is solidly built and can support users up to 500lbs. A quick-release frame lock mechanism allows the machine to easily separate into two pieces with wheels on the front for easy storage.
The air resistance on this rower is comparable to the noise of a loud fan. Users note it is quiet enough to still watch television and not disturb neighbors or kids.
It is on the more expensive side but owners of this rower have no buyer’s remorse. They say the price is easy to justify for this solid piece of machinery that they expect to last their lifetime.
Attractive ash wood frame
Pleasant water sound
Natural water resistance
Flips up for easy upright storage
6 Window monitor
This water rower has been gaining popularity after its appearance on House of Cards. The luxury ash wood design and water tank are beautiful and functional as they replicate the movement of rowing through water. The monitor is not as sophisticated but many users prefer the smooth water resistance to the more mechanical motion of fan and magnetic rowers.Read more
The signature “water flywheel” consists of 2 paddles that rotate in an enclosed tank of water. As you row the paddles are met with resistance from the water. Just as in a regular boat, the faster you stroke the more difficult it will be to pull your paddle through the water. This allows you to control the level of resistance with your own speed.
Unlike most rowers, this Natural Rower has 2 tracks and 4 corner wheels for the seat for added stability. The water resistance creates a smooth and fluid resistance that mimics the natural rowing movement. With complete extension and contraction, the company estimates you engage 84% of your muscle mass.
The Series 4 Performance Monitor includes 6 windows with 6 QuickSelection and 3 navigation buttons to display motivational programming and workout data including intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, zone bar, duration and distance.
The sturdy design and 4 corner wheels make you feel secure and comfortable as you move through your workout.
The WaterRower measures 84in x 21in x 22in and weighs 117 lbs. The frame is designed to flip up easily for upright storage that will require just 2 square feet of floor space. The very sturdy design can support users up to 1000 lbs.
Most users find the quiet, watery sound of the paddles spinning in the tank satisfying and pleasant. The solid ash frame was designed to absorb sound and vibration for a very quiet operation.
The WaterRower is certainly an investment but the sturdy build and oak-stained ash make the added cost well worth the money.
3. Stamina ATS
Foldable and portable
Basic data monitoring
Inclined seat rail for easy return
Not as durable
Less natural movement
Loud fan noise
This wind resistance rower is the best bargain option at a fraction of the price of the top of the line models. It is a simple but sturdy rower that provides a constant and progressive challenge along with basic data monitoring.Read more
Air resistance fan provides a constant challenge as you row.
The seat rail is angled slightly to provide an easier return as you contract. Many users like the added leg workout as you push up the incline on extension but some seasoned rowers feel that the movement is less natural and prefer the standard flat rail.
Simplistic monitor displays speed, distance (in miles), time and calories burned.
Wide, padded seat and large footplates make this rower comfortable for users of any size.
The rower is 77 in x 18in x 22in and is fairly lightweight at just 54 lbs. It folds easily and has wheels on the front for easy storage.
The noise level is comparable to that of a large fan. Some users also note a clicking noise with the chain but this seems to be resolved with a little oil.
This functional rower provides an excellent full body workout at a fraction of the cost of the higher end models. Most users note a solid build and surprisingly good quality for the price but a handful of rowers do have some premature breakage of the return spring.
4. Lifecore R100
Sophisticated monitor with 15 preset programs
Included heart rate monitor for heart rate-dependent programming
Data storage for up to 4 users
16 levels of magnetic resistance
This unique rower utilizes a combination of air and magnetic resistance to offer a smooth rowing motion and 16 levels of resistance. It has a sophisticated computer display and data tracking that allows for up to 4 users.Read more
This rower combines air resistance with 16 levels of magnetic resistance to offer unique preset programs with varied resistance.
This solid rower has a sturdy build and smooth operation that is easy to use for both beginners and experienced rowers.
The large blue backlit LCD display is easy to use during your row. It includes 15 preset pacer and watt dependent motivational programs and will store data for up to 4 users. It also comes with a heart rate monitor that is compatible with 4 polar heart rate control programs.
Adjustable footrests accommodate a wide variety of shoe sizes to provide you with a solid platform to press off. The ergonomic handle features a 10 degree bend for a natural arm and hand positioning. Additionally, this machine aims some of the fan air at you to keep you cool through your workout.
This machine is a bit larger at 92 x 19 x 36 inches and 96 lbs but it folds to the size of 52 x 19 x 67 inches and can support users up to 600 lbs.
The air resistance will make some fan noise but the drive belt that replaces the standard chain in this machine operates silently.
This sophisticated machine is more expensive but offers customizable resistance and a wide variety of preset programs.
5. First Degree Fitness Newport AR
Natural water resistance
Interval training programs
Rower moves a bit with intense workouts
This water resistance rower offers a smooth stroke that replicates the natural rowing motion. It is less expensive than the top of the line WaterRower and offers a nice computer display and solid build.Read more
Water resistance becomes more difficult with speed and can be adjusted through the volume of water added to the tank.
The tri-blade propeller spins through the water tank for a smooth and natural-feeling resistance. The seat glides smoothly on the track but some users note the machine sliding backward or lifting up slightly in the front when completing sprint workouts on this machine.
Computer displays time, distance, 500m split time, strokes per minute, calories per hour, watts and has programming for interval training and heart rate reception.
The seat and handle are comfortable and easy to use. Some users complain about the heels on footplates being a bit narrow for the wide, tapered heels common to most athletic shoes.
This rower is 78in x 21in x 20in and weight 68 lbs. It is designed with front wheels for easy upright storage and can support users up to 300 lbs.
This rower is fairly quiet with a pleasant water sound from the propeller in the tank.
This machine is much less expensive than the high-end WaterRower but is still not considered a budget option. Users are pleased with the sturdy build and feel the natural water resistance is worth the investment.
6. Stamina Avari
Sophisticated data monitoring
12 workout programs
Movement feels a bit mechanical
Despite the slightly mechanical feel, this rower has a smooth rowing motion and sophisticated programming and data monitoring for about half the price of the higher end Concept2 and LifeCORE R100.Read more
Magnetic resistance can be adjusted during your workout with simple buttons on the InTouch Fitness Monitor.
The magnetic resistance feels a bit more mechanical but is easier to fine tune than rowers that utilize air or water resistance.
The LCD backlit fitness monitor tracks time, count, distance, calories, strokes per minute, pulse and watts. It also offers 12 workout programs including 4 custom user programs and 1 heart rate program.
The machine feels sturdy during workouts but some users feel the seat is very uncomfortable and stiff after 15-20 minutes of rowing.
This rower is 81in x 20in x 24.5in and can support a maximum user weight of 275 lbs. It folds easily and is easy to store when not in use.
The magnetic resistance and nylon chain make for silent operation of this rower.
At around half the cost of the higher end rowers, this machine is a great option for those looking to save a bit of money. It offers similar data monitoring and personalized programming of the more expensive machines but utilizes a less expensive and more mechanical magnetic resistance.
7. Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5515
Smooth and silent operation
Foldable and portable
8 levels of resistance
No distance monitoring
Not ideal for sprint workouts
This basic rower is a great bargain for beginner and casual rowers. The magnetic resistance provides smooth and silent operation with 8 levels of resistance.Read more
This rower utilizes a magnetic tension system with 8 levels of adjustable resistance.
The movement of this magnetic resistance rower is very smooth but some users note the machine catching when they move too quickly through their stroke. Those planning for intense sprint workouts may consider a water or air rower instead.
Large and simple LCD display monitors time, count, total count, calories and scan.
Padded seat and non-slip handlebars are reasonably comfortable for long workouts. The foot pedals do pivot which is a positive for some but tends to be uncomfortable for more experienced rowers.
This rower is 82in x 19in x 23 in and supports users up to 250 lbs. With a little effort it can be folded into a more compact size. Additionally, front wheels make for easy portability and storage.
The magnetic resistance operates in near silence.
At a fraction of the price of the more complicated rowers, this machine is certainly a budget option. It is ideal for beginners and casual rowers that cannot justify the additional cost of all the bells and whistles associated with the higher end rowers. Users note it is well made for the price but may require some maintenance over time.
8. Stamina 1215
Compact and portable
Free motion arms provide a great upper body workout
Single button display
Resistance may be inconsistent
Difficult for shorter people to use
This compact and affordable rowing machine is ideal for those with little space in their home. It has free motion arms that provide an additional challenge for the upper body. The resistance is somewhat inconsistent so this machine may be best used for occasional cross training rather than regular rowing.Read more
Hydraulic resistance can be adjusted with a knob at the front of the machine. The ball-bearing system does take some time to warm up and will feel more difficult at the start of your workout.
This machine features free moving orbital arms rather than the standard handle attached to a cable. This provides more range of motion for the shoulders but some users have difficulty getting a challenging ab and leg workout on this machine. Some users also note some issues with the knob that controls the resistance loosening as they row.
Single button monitor allows you to view speed, distance, time, row count, calories burned and miles rowed.
Like many home rowers, the seat is quite hard and may be a bit uncomfortable after long workouts.
This ultra-compact rower has a footprint of just 32.5 x 48 inches and is portable at just 47 lbs. Users as tall as 6’3’’ report using this machine effectively. The manufacturer recommends a maximum weight of 250 lbs.
This rower operates very quietly and is ideal for using while watching television or listening to music.
This machine is on the less expensive end of the price range for rowers.
9. Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW1205
Light and compact
12 resistance settings
Comfortable foam handles
Best suited for beginners
Resistance tube becomes hot
A budget option with hydraulic resistance. It is small and compact but is best suited for beginners.Read more
Hydraulic resistance that comes with 12 resistance settings.
This machine works really well for those learning to row and those who are completing shorter workouts. More experienced rowers feel that the range of motion is a bit constricted, especially if you are outside of the average height range. Additionally, a few users note the resistance chamber has a tendency to heat up after some time so this may not be the best machine for longer workouts.
LCD monitor displays time, count, total count, calories and scan.
The seat is cushioned but many users note it wears down quickly and does not provide that much added comfort.
This machine is small and very lightweight at just 53L x 20W x 22H and 20 lbs. It folds and stores very easily but at this small size it does not support taller individuals or users over 220 lbs.
Without a fan or chain, this rower operates fairly quietly.
This is certainly a budget option and is one of the least expensive rowers on the market. Most users are pleasantly surprised by the sturdy build and smooth operation but if you are looking for a machine that can take some punishment you would be advised to look elsewhere. This rower is really ideal for the casual or beginner rower but those with more experience would recommend investing quite a bit more in a more sophisticated machine.
10. Velocity Exercise CHR 2001
Built-in heart rate monitor
Not the most durable machine
Not a favorite among experienced rowers
This magnetic rower offers smooth resistance and sophisticated display for less than half the price of the top of the line. The silent operation and foldable, portable design make this a good option for small living spaces.Read more
This rower offers smooth magnetic resistance with a seat that glides smoothly. It seems to work well for beginning rowers but some experienced rowers complain that the front of the stroke does not allow them to move far enough forward and even the highest resistance setting leaves something to be desired.
This rower comes with a built-in heart rate sensor and has an LCD monitor that displays time, count, strokes per minute, distance, calories, watt and pulse as well as 12 programs to help you motivate yourself through your rowing workout.
Users note the seat is a bit uncomfortable after 20-30 minutes of use.
This rower is foldable and has a relatively small frame at 80"L x 20"W x 29"H. It is suited for users up to 6’2’’ and has a maximum user weight of 275 lbs.
Magnetic resistance offers almost silent operation.
This rower is not the least expensive option but it is less than half the price of the luxury models.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
In an actual boat, resistance is created when dragging the paddle through the water. Home rowing machines need to replicate this resistance in a small (and dry) space. They use a variety of mechanisms to do this and create the power needed to create resistance for your workout.
-Air resistance is most common for professional rowing machines. Similar to an exercise bike, these machines utilize a flywheel that is driven by pulling the chain during the rowing motion. As air flows through the fan it creates progressive resistance on the flywheel, so the faster you row the more resistance you are met with. This progressive resistance is smooth and replicates the sensation of rowing through water fairly well. Many professional rowers prefer air rowers for training as there is a “flat spot” where the resistance drops during the recovery. This simulates the change in resistance as you lift your paddle from the water before your next stroke.
-Water resistance rowers have been growing in popularity. They use a propeller-like flywheel that spins in a small tank of water at the front of the rower. As the propeller speeds up it is met with more resistance from the water in the tank and also becomes progressively more difficult to pull. Water rowers do not have the same “flat spot” as an air rower and instead present a consistent resistance during both contraction and extension.
-Magnetic resistance is very popular for home rowers as it operates silently, requires very little maintenance and does not take up much space. This type of resistance employs strong magnets to create resistance on a metal flywheel. Magnetic resistance is easy to adjust during your workout and you will often see rowers with multiple levels of resistance. These rowers offer a great full body workout but do not simulate the resistance of rowing on water as accurately.
-Hydraulic resistance rowers have been decreasing in popularity over the years. They do not require a flywheel and therefore can be much smaller, lighter, and quieter than other options. These machines have pistons in the handles that create resistance. This still provides a challenging workout but the movement is a bit more awkward and much less fluid.
The most effective rowing machine will be the one you want to use. Stiff seats and abrasive handles will not make an upcoming tough workout any more appealing or more likely to be completed. We looked for machines that are comfortable to use and will not add unnecessary difficulty to an already grueling workout.
Another factor that effects your comfort is your physical build compared to the maximum recommended weight and height for each machine. Less expensive and more affordable machines often do not have the capacity to support larger individuals so you may not want to waste money on the budget options. Similarly, machines compact machines with free motion arms may be more challenging for shorter individuals.
Size and portability are important for any home exercise machine. If your home is small or just full, every square foot counts so we looked for options that are streamlined and have features that make them easy to fold and store.
What are your plans for this rowing machine in your home? Rowing machines vary widely in weight and portability. Do not invest in a heavy-duty machine if you will need to move it regularly. Also, consider your available storage space. Do you have space to flip the rower upright and place it against the wall? Or will you need a foldable model that can fit in the closet.
How the seat and your body rides on the machine as you move through your rowing movement makes a big difference in how effective and enjoyable your workout is. The fluidity of the movement is largely dependent on the machine's resistance type. However, it is also important that the seat glides easily over the tracks. A solidly built machine that will not wobble or slide on the floor.
Likewise, a well-built and solid machine won't shake and wobble during use which can cause a lot of noise. The sound a rower makes is also dependent on the resistance type and quality of the machine, but a solid build goes a long way towards quiet operation. Many users love the pleasant whirring sound of the water resistance while others are not bothered by the louder fan noise of the air resistance models and some are. Still, other people with thin walls may prefer the silent operation of hydraulic resistance.
Like anything else, when it comes to home rowing machines, you often get what you pay for. There are plenty of inexpensive options out there but they will have very basic monitors, a simple design, and may require maintenance or even replacement down the road. This may not matter for those dabbling in rowing but people committed to making this part of their long-term fitness routine may consider investing more up front for a high-quality machine that will last a long, long time.
Other Factors to Consider
The computers on these machines often make the difference between a $1,000 price tag and a $500 one. The most basic rowers display simple data such as time, distance, and calories while you are rowing. More sophisticated computers allow for more specific and accurate data tracking that can even be stored and monitored over time. The best computers will allow users to create profiles to track their long-term progress and they often feature or are compatible with preset programming to keep you working hard through your entire workout.
Frequently Asked Questions
Not much is required for rowing at home. Many people choose to buy a mat to place under the rower to reduce noise and protect the floor. It is recommended to row with shoes on but any rubber-soled, closed-toed shoe should work just fine. Additionally, some rowers like to wear gloves to protect from blisters and calluses during long workouts.
Proper rowing form consists of 4 stages:
1. Begin in the “catch” position with the seat pushed forward. The back should be straight and the knees should be bent with arms extended to hold the bar or handles of the rower.
2. The “drive” is the motion of pushing off the feet pads. Begin by powering through the heels to straighten the legs then pull the cable to the chest.
3. The “finish” position ends with legs extended, shoulders back and arms pulled to your chest with the wrists straight.
4.The “recovery” movement reverses the “drive” by first extending the arms and then bending the knees to return to the “catch” position.
Proper form is very important, so make sure to take time to watch some videos or work with a trainer when you are first starting out.
There are many great benefits to rowing. To list a few:
- It strengthens the whole body
- Burns a lot of calories
- A machine doesn’t take up a lot of space, and is easy to move around
- Improves overall fitness
- Targets all the major muscle groups
- Increases cardiovasular capactity
With a rowing machine, you will have the opportunity to strengthen your whole body with just one machine! This is a lot cheaper than going out and investing in different machines for different purposes. The machine does not take up a lot of space, which is another factor in why it is so good for training at home.
You will get in a lor better shape and rowing also great if you want to drop some quick pounds or strengthen all or your muscle groups.
Whether you have kids at home or just like peace and quiet while you're working out, noise is a good thing to think about while you're shopping for a rowing machine.
Yes, some machines are noisy. But not all of them. Magnetic rowers tend to be the quietest, with water rowers coming in a close second. Unfortunately, some of the budget options on our list were reviewed as being somewhat noisy, but that's the nature of this kind of equipment.
The biggest benefit of a rowing machine is the total body workout it can give you. Treadmills only work your legs, and even elliptical machines and stair climbers don't give your upper body nearly as much of a workout as your lower body. Rowing however is a near perfectly balanced exercise, which will help you build and maintain strength throughout your entire body as well as fluidity and power throughout your kinetic movement.