Written By
Published Aug. 17, 2021

Are you looking for a low-impact workout that builds endurance and strengthens muscles? And do you want to exercise from the comfort of your own living room or bedroom or home gym? If you’ve answered yes to both questions, it might be time to add a rowing machine to your fitness equipment collection. Like treadmills and elliptical machines, the best rowing machine offers a great cardio workout with additional benefits like full-body conditioning and a good effect on your heart and lungs. Plus, it’s great for rowers of all levels and can even be meditative. Physical and mental wellbeing—check! Take a lap and scroll through our best rowing machine selects below.

What to consider when shopping for the best rowing machine 

When shopping for the best rowing machine to add to your home fitness equipment, there are a few things to consider. In order to find the best fit for you, start by asking what kind of machine you want for a cardio workout at home. Ergometers are designed with one of four main types of resistance: water, magnetic, air, and air/magnet hybrid. Then consider how much space you have available. And are you on a budget? Once you have a better understanding of your workout preferences and your space limitations (or not), you’ll be off and running to find your best ergometer.

How intense do you want your workouts?

Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or experienced rower, you’ll probably want some variation of intensity in your workout. Most rowing machines have at least eight levels of resistance, but if you really want to get your heart rate up, you might want to consider an indoor rower that features 24 levels of resistance. Additionally, lots of machines offer the option of manual or automatic so you can customize your workout or leave it up to the pre-programmed workouts. 

How much space do you have to spare?

If you have a dedicated space for your home gym and can leave your rowing machine out, then you will have few limitations in terms of options. However, if space is at a premium, or you don’t want exercise equipment in your living room, it’s a good idea to get a foldable ergometer. This way, you can fold it and store it away vertically to make the best use of your space. 

What type of rowing machine do you want?

Rowing machines are generally designed with one of four different modes of resistance: air, water, magnetic, or air/magnet hybrid. So which is the best for you? While air/magnet hybrids are the priciest option, they are considered to be some of the best rowers because they are super quiet and offer a variety of training styles. Air rowers are generally the most affordable and lightweight but tend to be on the noisier side. A water rower has the most realistic rowing sensation so you can feel like you’re out on a lake, with the sound of water sloshing in the background included. Magnetic rowers are another great affordable option if you want something on the quieter side but they don’t feel as realistic. 

Are you on a budget? 

There are lots of great rowing machines available for under $500. In this price range, you’ll find more air and magnetic indoor rowers, which have lots of pros. Cons for air rowers are that they can be quite noisy and for magnetic rowers, they tend to feel less realistic. But If your main priority is getting a great workout, then the more affordable options will certainly get the job done.  

Will there be multiple rowers? 

Once your family members or roommates catch you rowing, there’s no doubt they’ll want in. To accommodate multiple rowers, you’ll want a rowing machine that allows you to adjust both the length and footpads and straps. Lucky for you (and your housemates), most indoor rowers are easily adjustable for a good at-home cardio workout. 

Is Bluetooth connection important to you? 

In order to connect to your phone or tablet for additional workout programs, to track your heart rate or to listen to music, your rowing machine will need Bluetooth connectivity. If this is a priority for you, then be sure to look for a rower that can work with your device(s). 

The best rowing machine

The rowing machine market is crowded, which means options for every type of rower, but selecting the best for you can feel overwhelming. As long as you have an understanding about what’s most important to you from type of rower to workout preference to levels of resistance, finding the best rowing machine will be a (sea) breeze. 

Best overall rowing machine: NordicTrack – RW200 – Rower

Ergonomic Comfort

This rower features pivoting petals that allow you to customize your setup and target specific muscle areas. NordicTrack

Check Price

If you’re looking for a full-body workout on a rower with advanced and customizable features, the NordicTrack – RW200 – Rower is a solid choice. Depending on your preference, you can choose between manually adjusting the 24 levels of resistance or using the built-in SMR (Silent Magnetic Resistance) system that changes up your training intensity without interrupting your workout. With the LED screen, you can easily control and monitor your workout metrics. Plus, for added comfort and ease, the Nordictrack rower features an ergonomic seat and handle and dual two-inch speakers with an audio auxiliary port so you can listen to music or watch videos during your workout. 

Best rowing machine splurge: Concept2 Indoor Rowing Machine

Athlete Approved

The air-resistant flywheel responds to every stroke so you can control your workout intensity. Concept2

Check Price

Super quiet and easy to store, the Concept2 Indoor Rowing Machine is a great fit for your home gym, whether in your house or small apartment. In addition to controlling the intensity of your workout with the air-resistance flywheel, you can also control the air flow by changing the damper, ranging from levels one to ten. You can select programs based on time, distance, intervals, and more and easily track your workout on the backlit LCD screen. If you want to track your heart rate as well, wireless Bluetooth and ANT+ compatibility allow you to connect with heart-rate belts and apps. Plus, if trying new workout programs is your jam, you can connect to endless fitness apps, and the free ErgData app records and stores workouts on your phone. Designed to fit most rowers, the seat is 14 inches high and features adjustable footrests and an ergonomic handle.

Best water rowing machine: Mr. Captain Water Rowing Machine

Boating Vibes

For a real-life rowing experience, this machine is designed with real water resistance. MR. CAPTAIN

Check Price

A great workout is a priority when it comes to rowing machines, but what if you could truly feel like you’re rowing on actual water? Enter the Mr. Captain Water Rowing Machine, which is built like a ship with sustainable oak wood covered with an aluminum-alloy rail. It also comes with real water resistance via a water tank. To get the most out of your workout, you can set up three modes from the Bluetooth monitor: manual, interval custom, and target. Plus, features like the ergonomic seat, active recoil system, and adjustable footpads and straps provide comfort and customization for each rower. As an added bonus, you’ll have the beautiful background sound of water moving around within the shock- and oxidation-resistant tank. You might have to ask yourself: Am I in my home gym or out on the water? 

Best foldable rowing machine: Schwinn Crewmaster Rower

Convenient Design

When not in use, you can store this rowing machine vertically. Schwinn

Check Price

The Schwinn Crewmaster Rower is easy—easy to set up, easy to use, and easy to store. The durable nylon transmission provides a quiet yet intense workout and with ten levels of resistance, you can decide just how hard you want it to be. You can track your time, count, distance, stroke, calories, recovery, and pulse on the console. Depending on who’s using the machine, you can adjust the level of the console for a more comfortable viewing angle. 

Best budget rowing machine: Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine

Affordable Rowing

You can easily switch up your resistance level during your workout with the convenient tension knob. Sunny Health & Fitness

Check Price

Available for just under $250, the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine is a steal. A strong competitor to more expensive ergometers, this rowing machine features eight levels of magnetic resistance that can be adjusted during your workout for interval training. The LCD console tracks your time, calories, distance, and more, so you can focus on your workout. Safety and comfort features include non-slip foot pedals and straps, floor stabilizers, anti-slip handlebars, and a cushioned seat. And if you’ve got multiple rowers in your household, this rowing machine can accommodate most riders with its extra long slide rail. 

FAQs

Q: Are rowing machines worth it?

In short, the answer is yes, rowing machines are worth it, but that all depends on how you plan to use them. Naturally, you might assume that rowing only benefits your upper body but in fact, an ergometer works the majority of your muscles. The total-body workout also helps increase endurance, strengthens and tones muscles, and even offers aerobic benefits for your heart and lungs. Like most workout machines, to see real improvement, it’s best to use the rowing machine at least four times a week. 

Q: Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine? 

While exercising on the rowing machine doesn’t directly target your stomach section (though your abs are worked with each stroke), the workout does burn calories and strengthens muscles, which leads to shedding fat all over. The best way to do that is consistent high-intensity workouts.

Q: Which is better, treadmills or rowing machines? 

This all depends on what you want out of your workout. If your main focus is weight loss and a lower body workout, a treadmill would be the best way to go. However, if you want full-body fitness—strengthening muscles, endurance building, toning—then the rowing machine will be a great fit.

The final word on shopping for the best rowing machines 

The best rowing machine will provide a great low-impact cardio workout for your entire body, building endurance and strengthening muscles. When looking for the best model for you, your space limitations and how many rowers will be using the machine are important considerations that will help narrow down your search. If you want a realistic rowing experience, a quiet one, or a machine that offers the ability to connect to your device for additional workout programs, the best ergometer is one stroke away. 

MORE TO READ