Rowing machines offer a low-impact alternative to running and other cardiovascular activities, that also heavily works out your legs, back, and core. If you want to create your own home gym or just a new way to exercise, a rower is the machine for you.
What’s Important to Look for in a Rower?
Many different kinds of rowers are on the market, and every model has its advantages and flaws. So, before you go out and make your purchase, consider what’s needed to fit your exercising goals.
- Size: Rowing machines are notorious for taking up a lot of space and, because they are very long, storing them can be difficult. Some people like to keep their rowers out in the open, and others would rather store them away when not in use. You’ll want to look for a model that best fits your storage preferences. Many models fold up or separate to provide for easier storage.
- Type of resistance: The type of resistance can be important to the workout you’re trying to achieve. Hydraulic rowers are smaller and cheaper but can have an awkward range of motion. The pricier air, magnetic, and water resistance-based rowers provide a more natural and efficient workout. Air rowers, however, can get very loud compared to the other types, especially during intense workouts.
- Technology: Many modern rowing machines have different intensity levels and preset workouts to better fit your exercise routine. Different models can measure your heart rate, workout progress, and connect via Bluetooth to health and fitness apps.
- Comfort: When buying any sort of exercise equipment, you’ll want to make sure you feel comfortable using it. You won’t want to work out on an uncomfortable machine, so we made sure to pick only machines known for feeling great.
The Best Overall: Concept2 Model D
When it comes to rowing, one name shines above the rest. Concept2 is regarded as the leader of the industry, and its Model D rowing machine is the reason why. The Model D resistance is based on an air-flywheel design; as you pull the flywheel, it pushes air out of the way. The faster you pull, the more air you push and the more resistance you face, naturally scaling with the effort you put into the workout. The rower also has a damper that can be used to block the flow of air to the flywheel allowing for an easy way to adjust the intensity of the workout.
The machine’s aluminum base also splits apart easily, without any tools, into two pieces for easier storage when not in use. The display allows you to customize your workouts and can connect to your phone and heart rate monitors to track your progress. The monitor arm allows for height and angle adjustments, too, so no matter your size, you’ll always have a comfortable viewing angle. The Concept2 Model D rowing machine is the best-selling rower on the market for a reason: It is an elite machine.
Concept2 RowErg Indoor Rowing Machine - PM5 Monitor, Device Holder, Adjustable Air Resistance, Easy Storage
The Model D is the best thing in the rowing world. It gives an unparalleled workout that's even used by the most elite athletes to train for the Olympics. This air-powered rower is the best choice on the market.
The Premium Pick: Concept2 Model E
The Concept2 Model E rower has everything that makes the Model D great and more. The Model E is made from welded steel, sits 6″ higher off the ground, and has a solid, one-piece front support, making this model much studier and damage resistant. Its steel chain is fully housed for extra protection, and the monitor arm is longer and fixed in position in front of the user for easier viewing. The rower even has a glossy finish, making it look as great as it feels to use. If you have the extra money to spend, the Model E is a great upgrade and makes you feel like you’re training for the Olympics.
Concept2 RowErg Indoor Rowing Machine with Tall Legs - PM5 Monitor, Device Holder, Adjustable Air Resistance, Easy Storage
The Model E has everything the Model D does but in a studier, more premium, package. It is built to last through even the most strenuous use, and its professional aesthetic makes this machine one of the best-looking models out there.
The Budget Pick: SF-RW5515
Not everyone has hundreds of dollars to spend on exercise equipment. Don’t let the large price tags of some of these items scare you away from creating your own home gym; cheaper options are out there. The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5515 is an excellent model without a jaw-dropping price. The SF-RW5515 is another rower that uses magnetic currents and a metal flywheel for resistance; it also has eight levels of resistance for scaling your workouts. This machine is well padded and comfortable to use for long sessions, and its steel frame gives it a sturdy feel. The SF-RW5515 is a fantastic choice if you’re on a tight budget or just don’t need anything extravagant in your workout.
Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine Rower with 8-Level Resistance, Extended Slide Rail & Digital LCD Display - SF-RW5515
The SF-RW5515 is a fantastic machine that provides an excellent workout while still managing to be incredibly affordable. This inexpensive machine will make a perfect addition to your home gym.
The Most Compact: XTERRA Fitness ERG200
Rowing machines tend to take up a lot of space, especially when they are in use. If your workout area isn’t very large, then a machine that takes up as little space as possible is vital. The XTERRA Fitness ERG200 is a folding rower that manages to fit in even the smallest of closets with a folded size of 20.7″ x 36.4″ x 47.3″ (width, length, height).
The ERG200 uses a strong magnetic field and a metal flywheel to generate the resistance, making this machine virtually silent compared to an air-flywheel. The main difference between magnetic and air resistance when it comes to exercising, though, is that magnetic resistance will be the same no matter how hard you pull. Because of this, the ERG200 has an adjustable knob with eight difficulty settings to manually change the intensity of the workout. This compact machine works exceptionally well and is perfect for anyone with space concerns.
XTERRA Fitness ERG200 Folding Magnetic Resistance Rower
The ERG200 is built to take up as little space as possible when folded up. This machine can fit in the smallest of spaces and still manages to provide an intense workout that will burn the calories right off.
The Best Full Motion Rower: SF-RW5864
Full-motion rowing machines have you pulling solid rowing arms connected to a pivot instead of a chain or rope; this allows for more motion of the arms when exercising, which better works out your back and core. If you want to focus on the strength training of indoor rowing versus the cardiovascular workout, then a full-motion machine might be right for you. The SF-RW5864 is a magnetic rowing machine that has sturdy rowing arms creating an authentic rowing experience. It has a display to track your workouts and eight levels of intensity for your workout. If you want to feel like you’re using real oars to move through water, then the SF-RW5864 is the rower for you.
Sunny Health & Fitness Full Motion Magnetic Rowing Machine Rower with Advanced LCD Display, Elevated Seat, 265 LB Max Weight and Foldable - SF-RW5864,Gray
The SF-RW5864 takes full advantage of its full-motion rowing arms and gives you an authentic rowing experience. The full-motion technology allows for a more efficient strength training workout for your back, arms, and core.