The 12 Best Rowing Machines

If you are still committed to sticking to some new year’s resolutions about getting fit, good for you. But maybe you are having problems fitting in the time to get out to the gym, or maybe it’s too cold for you to make it to the gym. Maybe you are just uncomfortable going to the gym and working out in front of strangers.  Many people are, so you are not alone. It can be very intimidating, in particular watching pro level athletes and their abilities.

More and more, people are getting fit in the comfort of their own homes. The benefits from working out at home are endless. You can pick your own hours, use your own shower, go at your own pace, and take as much or as little time as you need, without someone standing there waiting for the machine.

If you are considering getting a rowing machine and find you are debating about what type of exercise equipment to get, there are certainly plenty out there. Home machines have come a long way over the years with their design, construction, ability, and durability.

Here we will look at rowing machines. These machines are plentiful on the market, and there are a lot of options for you to find a professional level rowing machine for the home at a home level price. They are made to fit within smaller spaces and are collapsible for easy storage.

Concept2 Model DConcept2 Model D

This Concept2 Model D indoor rowing is perfect for a full-body workout. It is very suitable to perform for those just beginning or the seasoned pro. It is a good, solid, well-balanced machine that will last a long time. It’s designed for comfort and a full body workout, without straining yourself and allowing you to exercise with a natural, relaxed method.

This unit has a Performance Monitor 5 to help you track progress and give you accurate monitoring and feedback for your efforts. It can log your data and keep track of your strokes per minute, pulse, heart rate, calories burned, and distance covered.

The monitor arm and footrests are adjustable, and there is a wide padded seat that will allow you to set the machine to fit you perfectly. It easily comes apart into two pieces for storage with transport wheels if you need to move it around.

This professional level home rowing machine is mid priced, but is a wise choice for your home gym, as it lasts a long time, is built solidly, and will give you an intense, full bodied workout. It is compact enough to use in most spaces of the home, with storage capabilities to remove if needed.


WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 MonitorWaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 Monitor

This unique design by the WaterRower brand has a flywheel that contains water as its resistance to give the user the more natural, authentic feel of rowing in water. There are paddles inside the flywheel that are full of water so you get the same sensation as paddling a boat.

The water resistance provides a quiet, smooth rowing experience and proves to be more durable by not having other parts to provide the resistance with wear and tear on them. These machines are safe and sturdy, and provide the user with a low impact workout, while using upper and lower body muscles to work the machine.

The S4 monitor provides the user with calories burned, rowing data of strokes per minute, miles per hour, speed, and distance traveled. Included with purchase are six preset workout programs to help you get started and find the perfect routine to get you moving and fit. You can set the programs into intervals and monitor each one separately. You can save the data from the previous workout to set up your own challenges and monitor your progress over time.

The all-natural walnut gives it a gorgeous look with its highly polished wood. You can easily turn the machine upwards for easy storage. This machine does come in at the top of the price range. It can hold up to 1,000 pounds, so it’s extremely solid and long-lasting with a good and extendable warranty.


Sunny Health and Fitness Rowing MachineSunny Health and Fitness Rowing Machine

The Sunny family name is no stranger to exercise equipment, both for professional use and home gym enthusiasts. This particular unit is near the bottom scale of the price range so if you are on a tight budget but still want a reliable machine, Sunny Health and Fitness is a great choice. It is a popular seller for very good reasons.

This machine’s resistance system uses a hydraulic cylinder that has 12 levels of adjustments for intensity. It provides a low impact aerobic exercise by utilizing all major muscle groups like arms, legs, abdomen, and back. It has large gripping foot pedals with adjustable straps for security.

You can track your progress with the LCD monitor to see your calories burned, time spent, and count per strokes. It keeps progress to see your growth and develop new challenges for your workout and to keep you motivated.

If you just want to workout at a reasonable price, this best selling machine from the Sunny family will not disappoint you.


ProForm 440R RowerProForm 440R Rower

The ProForm 440R Rower is a great machine and is designed to provide an excellent cardio workout as well as full-body workout.  It has a smooth action for rowing (an easy gliding motion), but another great feature is that it combines regular rowing with an upward pulley option for an intensive upper body workout. You can stand up over the front of the unit and pull the handlebar up to work your arms, biceps, shoulders, back, and all major upper muscle groups.

The LCD monitor tracks all progress including strokes per minute, distance, calories burned, time, and total number of strokes. It has a simple set up for use and is foldable for convenient storage. It also comes with a manual and simple to follow diagrams to assemble the rower. It is smooth, quiet, compact, and foldable for smaller spaces, and it’s moderately priced.


Stamina Air RowerStamina Air Rower

This rowing machine uses a resistance system of air. This means the air flows through the flywheel as you pull the handles, making the fans move and create a breeze. The more you row and the harder you row, the more resistance and the more intense the workout.

This unit has a very smooth and strong stroke and its variable depends on you. You can go harder and faster with your own power, and there’s no need to stop and make adjustments to the machine. The rail for the seat is inclined slightly to add more resistance and intensify the workout. The seat is well padded and comfortable.

It works out the upper and lower body, with its sturdy steel frame and large foot pads with adjustable straps. The computer LCD monitor will display calories burned, distance covered, speed, and time. It’s a bargain on the price scale, it has transportation wheels and floor protectors, and it has a decent warranty.


Kettler Favorit Rowing MachineKettler Favorit Rowing Machine

This rowing machine is lighter than many, and it’s the lowest priced rowing machine in the Kettler range. Being lighter, this machine is best for someone who isn’t going to give it a beating, but rather, just needs an easy workout. It’s for beginners or someone who wishes to maintain a fitness level they are at, or for in between gym workouts or more intense training elsewhere.

But don’t let the light weight fool you: it’s still a great machine. The steel frame will hold up and it is powder coated for extra strength. Resistance is hydraulic and can be adjusted by moving clamps on the pistons.

The small LCD monitor is gray and red and shows time, distance, calories burned, and strokes. It can show an approximate heart rate with an infrared ear clip. It provides a quiet workout, which is great for others in the household or neighbours below.

It is compact, which is perfect for those who have limited space available, and it has a smooth glide and has a well padded seat and footpads. The resistance is in the oars, with 50 different variations. This is a great machine for home use for the beginning to moderate users, and it includes features not usually found on machines within this price range.


WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine in Ash WoodWaterRower Natural Rowing Machine in Ash Wood

Another WaterRower rowing machine, this one has a water flywheel for resistance. The wood allows for comfort and a classic look, plus provides a smooth, quiet ride as the wood absorbs sounds. It’s a solid, durable construction, built to last and withstand a lot of use. Not to mention, the honey oat stain on the ash wood looks beautiful and can blend into any decor in the home.

The water flywheel means no metal or other wear and tear on materials and it provides a realistic feel and sensation like paddling a real boat in real water. It is the perfect choice for someone just starting out or a seasoned pro who likes to really have an intense workout. The paddles in the water tank keep the operation of the machine quiet and smooth.

The LCD S4 performance monitor allows the user to follow their speed, heart rate, calories burned, distance traveled, the time of the workout, and strokes – it’s very user friendly. It has a comfortable seat cushion, adjustable resistance, and easy upright storage. This machine comes in on the higher price for rowing machines, but it has beautiful craftsmanship, is reliable, is sturdy, and will last for many years to come. It has a decent warranty for frame and parts.


Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing MachineStamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

This solid, steel framed rower is a top seller. It is a great machine for an excellent price. A hydraulic resistance system, this lighter machine would be better suited for someone who is looking for a few sessions to keep fit or drop a few pounds, and not someone at pro athlete level. It doesn’t come with a lot of fancy extras, but it does provide you with a great workout, and it is compact and can be folded up for easy storage out of sight.

It is a smaller machine, and therefore best for people with limited space to use it and exercise in. It has a computer that allows the user to monitor their calories burned, strokes, speed, distance covered, and the time lapse.

The price is definitely a great selling point for this machine, but also the workout intensity is equal to machines that may be twice as big and certainly twice as expensive.

It’s a great bargain, well-balanced, and easy to store. It’s easy to handle and move about. It’s not meant for heavy users and people who are tough on their equipment. So, there are not a lot of fancy features but it gets the job done, takes up little space, and it’s easy to handle if you have issues with strength or mobility.


NordicTrack RW200 RowerNordicTrack RW200 Rower

The name NordicTrack has long been trusted in the field of exercise equipment and for good reason. Excellent craftsmanship, durability, and extra features allow you to make the most of your workout experience.

Built for comfort and for speed, this unit uses the air resistance method – the more you row, the more resistance, just like in a real boat. You can easily adjust the resistance for a more intense or an easier workout, with ten different levels of intensity. It is part of their SpaceSaver line and is made to fold easily and be stored out of sight.

It comes with a digital monitor screen and keeps an eye on all your stats like calories burned, strokes per minute, distance traveled, speed, and the real time energy burned as you workout. It also has 20 built in workout programs designed by real trainers to keep you on track with your goals and keep you interested. You can connect your own music to workout with your favorites.

The pedals are pivoting to help keep the movements smooth, and they are large enough to accommodate the big footed family members, as well. This rowing machine is perfect for beginners and more advanced rowers, and with its raised seat, it is easy to mount for those nursing injuries or with mobility issues.


Xebex Air Rower with Bonus Conditioning PackXebex Air Rower with Bonus Conditioning Pack

Xebex is another well known, trusted name in fitness and equipment, mostly through their excellent line of indoor exercise bikes. This rowing machine is a heavier model then some, so it’s built to withstand a lot of what you can give it. It’s solid, secure, and built at a professional level for you at home.

It uses the air resistance system, and has a stretch of ten different difficulty levels to keep you pushing toward those goals. The heavily padded and formed seat is not only comfortable and wide enough to accommodate you at the beginning of your exercise regime, but it is higher off the ground for easy access for those with aches and pains, mobility issues, or those healing from injury to get on and off without problems.

The stainless steel glider allows you and the cushioned seat to slide back and forth, smoothly and quietly. The foot pads are wide and have safety straps that are easy to adjust and open or close for security, and to keep your feet in position.

The large LCD monitor has big, easy to use buttons and keeps track of watts, time, calories burned, heart rate, and distance traveled.

The bonus pack available through Amazon has extras like a conditioning workout pack, a back saver pad, a 15 pound Slam Ball, a 20 pound Premium Wall Ball, and an EZ Speed Rope.

It has transport wheels to easily move the machine, and you can fold this unit for storage. This machine is on the higher scale for price range.


Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Rower Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Rower

With a magnetic resistance system, here is another great machine from the Stamina brand name. This one is in the mid range for pricing, and is a great machine from a trusted name. This machine has the magnetic resistance system, which is good for low maintenance and has no wear and tear. Plus, the magnetic pull allows for the most intense workout levels, for the most intensity from rowing.

Giving a full body workout, this sleek, well-built machine provides a smooth, quiet ride and fluid rowing motions. The molded seat is padded and is built for comfort. The rowing handles are padded as well, and it has large foot plates to keep you in place while  rowing at top speed.

The computer has an LCD screen with 12 preset workouts for varying levels of intensity, and you can keep track of all your personal data including pulse, strokes per minute, time, distance traveled, calories burned, watts, and stroke counts.

This is a fabulous machine that is built well from a trusted company. It has a programmable setting of resistance, easy assembly, and it can be folded away for storage. Its sleek design is perfect for those of you with limited space to exercise and it’s a comfortable, durable, steady machine.


LifeSpan RW1000 Indoor Rowing MachineLifeSpan RW1000 Indoor Rowing Machine

This is a mid range priced machine, and is a good, sturdy piece of equipment. It can accommodate up to 300 pounds, and is a good machine for beginners and for the more advanced users. It uses the magnetic resistance system, it has a smooth and quiet ride, even in the heavier, more intense settings, and is often seen being used in gyms at a professional level.

The computer allows the user to keep track of the distance covered, calories burned, the duration of time spent working out, heart rate, and strokes per minute.

It is sleek and small enough to use in a smaller apartment or space in the house. The quiet ride won’t bother the baby sleeping or the downstairs neighbors, and it folds away for easy storage to keep it out of the way.

It doesn’t have a lot of features that some might have, but you are getting a great piece of machinery that will serve you well for years to come. The company backs that with an impressive warranty.



Benefits of Rowing Machines

You receive a great, all-over workout with a rowing machine. It works all of the leg muscles, including the big quad muscles, calves, and your buttocks.

The upper body gets a great workout, the shoulders, upper back, and arms, biceps, pecs and your abdomen as well, to strengthen your core.

You get low impact aerobic exercise, so there is way less grinding and pressure on the joints, and at the same time, you get a great cardio workout.

You will lose weight, get toned, get stronger, and have more endurance and strength. It is heart healthy and by using the rowing machine at home, you can workout when you want and where you want. It’s cheaper than a gym membership, it is easy to use, and these machines are low risk for injury.

They are well within most budgets, and you can share the exercise journey with family or friends.



There are some perfectly good machines, with different features and resistance systems, all with varying price ranges. The beauty about the rowing machines is the low impact and full body workouts you receive.

You want to find a machine that will be comfortable to use and not cause any strain or injury. There is no reason to go out and spend several hundred dollars on a fancy coat rack.

Different methods of resistance is something to consider. We looked at magnetic, air, and water. With technology what it is these days, the advancement of the computer systems can do all kinds of things while you work out, monitoring all your statistics and saving them to keep track of your progress, and encouraging you to keep exercising.

If you are new to the rowing machine world, it is a good idea to do some homework first. Take a few for a test drive to make sure it’s the type of machine you want. With so many different types of machines out there on the market, you shouldn’t have any problem finding something to suit your needs and you budget.



The cost is always something to look at, even if you can afford the top of the line machines. If you are just starting out, the most expensive machine isn’t always the best one and equally, the least expensive machine doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy. Find a machine to start out on and if you like it, then maybe down the road you can upgrade. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get the benefits out of the machine.



There is always a warranty, but they are not alike. Some are better than others, and this may also be a determining factor for your purchase. A weak warranty says a lot about the company, the brand, and the equipment. If they don’t stand behind it, then that tells you something right there.

Also, if you are not sure about the rowing machines and this is your first purchase, be wary of buying one off of your friend, relative, or off the internet. There is a reason they are selling it and it isn’t always the truth. One owner, only used on Sunday by a little old lady – there is not free lunch.



Space is another thing to think about. The size of the machine and the space you will be using it in is important. You don’t want to buy something you can’t fit through the door. It is always a good idea to measure the space first and then measure the machines you are considering. The machine needs space to operate, and you need space to exercise, get on and off, and have some breathing room.

If you are in a small space, make sure the machine can be folded away for storage to make life easier. Keep it way from breakables and windows, and allow yourself and the machine room to workout.



Within the size of the machine is also the sturdiness of the rower. Not all machines will weigh the same. The weight of the rower plays a big part in considering what machine to get. If you are heavy, you need a good, sturdy machine, and you need to think about the weight of the machine for convenience purposes, as well.

If you need to move the machine around or fold it up to store after use, you want to be able to handle that. If you live alone or have less mobility or less strength, then it might be too difficult for you to move a big unit around, even if it does have transport wheels.

Where will the rower be used in the house? Is the floor strong enough to hold it? If you live in an apartment, will it be convenient to get it in, and are there stairs or an elevator, and will it be too heavy for your floor?



Many of the rowing machines come with a lot of extra features, and even the units in the lower price range will have computers, monitors, and other accessories. If you are a seasoned athlete, you will know what you want and need, but if you are a beginner, you may not need all of the extras. The extra features, like computers and monitors and other attachments for clocking progress, may drive the price of the machine up, so consider these options carefully.

The prettiest, shiniest machine isn’t always the best and an old, plain, basic rower might be just enough for you to start your exercise routine. You can check these features when you are doing the research for the rower and see if they are needed, or just a bit of extra fun.

Some of the machines have adapters for your MP3 player or the ability to connect another appliance like a CD player. Sometimes, heart rate monitors or other types of exercise monitors can be purchased separately, and they may save you money in the long run if you want to choose a more basic machine.



The material that the machine is made of makes a difference in how sturdy the machine is, how long it will last, and how much wear and tear it can take.

Also, look at the parts individually – the handlebars or the oars, the seat, and the foot pedals. Finding the one that fits you may take a while. You may be okay without a padded handlebar, but you definitely want padding in the seat. Or maybe you have an extra wide foot, so check for the foot plates that will work best for you.

The chances of finding the absolute perfect machine might be a stretch, but you should be able to come close. Ask about the need for maintenance for the rower, as this may also be a determining factor. If there are belts or lesser quality parts that may break or wear out and need replacing, this could be a problem. If you don’t plan to use the rower too much or too hard, then the lesser quality parts may not be an issue.


Resistance System

There are several different methods used for the resistance systems; however, most of them work just as well as the next.

The air system works with your own power, so the harder you pull the harder the resistance, and the better and more intense the workout. These are also called flywheel, and when the wheel or fans spin, that provides the resistance. These machines mimic real life rowing very well.

The hydraulic system uses air or fluid inside a piston. These are usually in smaller, less expensive machines, so if space and budget are concerns, that may be the way to go for you.

The magnetic resistance system provides a good resistance with the use of magnets that never come in direct contact with the wheel. The higher the intensity, the closer the magnets are to the flywheel, and they provide an excellent, high intensity workout. These require very little maintenance and provide a very quiet, smooth ride.

The water resistance system is meant to simulate the closest to actually paddling on the water. The frame is made of wood, and there are paddles in the flywheel, so you are actually moving water with each stroke. Plus, you can hear the sound of water as you row. These machines are high-end, and usually high priced, used by people who need to train for actual rowing.



The ability to make adjustments and alterations to your machine are very important. This can make or break your rowing experience. Take into consideration your body type, ability, limitations, and goals. If you are extra long in the legs, you will want a machine that will accommodate you so you reach the full potential while rowing. The resistance levels may be important to you, or if you are only using the rower a few times a week to replace some other, regular exercise like swimming, running, or a class at the gym, then it shouldn’t matter that much. The pedals need to fit, or maybe you need them to rotate, or move with you. Maybe you have an extra wide foot and need that to be a priority. The ability to make adjustments to the machine to fit your own body type will make all the difference in comfort, risk of injury, or not causing pain and distress.



If you are serious about buying a rowing machine, make a list of things you think you might want, and think of a bunch of questions to ask. Set yourself a budget and stick to it. You can ask all of these questions at the gym or health club while you are test driving some of the machines.

If you suffer from allergies, you should find out what materials are used in the construction, the padding, and the covering to be sure it doesn’t trigger an allergic episode. Always ask (if allergies are a problem), and find out what the padding is made of.

There is no shortage of places to buy equipment, and you should be able to find the best rower for your budget. Ask questions, try out some machines, and find out what will work best for you and your needs and lifestyle.

Ask your family, friends, and co-workers about their machines and what to look for and what to avoid. Find the machine that works for you and happy rowing!