The best rowing machines in 2024

Our top rowing machines provide a low-impact, full-body workout from the comfort of your own home.

Best professional

The Concept2 is the best rowing machine splurge.

Concept2 Indoor Rowing Machine

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Best water

Mr. Captain Rowing Machine is the best rowing machine for water.

Mr. Captain Water Rowing Machine

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Best budget

The Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine is the best budget pick.

Sunny Health u0026 Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine

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If you’re looking for a low-impact workout that builds endurance and strengthens muscles, look to a rowing machine. A quality growing machine lets you exercise multiple muscle groups from the comfort of your living room, bedroom, or home gym. 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 well-being—check! Take a lap and scroll through our best rowing machine selections below before you add this invaluable equipment to your collection.

The best rowing machines: Reviews & Recommendations

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

Best overall: NordicTrack – RW500 – Rower

Ergonomic Comfort

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Specs

  • Weight: 115 pounds
  • Dimensions: 86 x 22 x 47 inches
  • Max user weight: 250 pounds
  • Screen: LCD

Pros

  • Classic model made by trusted brand
  • 26 levels of resistance
  • Folds up for storage

Cons

  • LCD screen doesn’t play media
  • No long-term tracking of metrics

If you’re looking for a full-body workout on a rower with advanced and customizable features, the NordicTrack RW500 Rower is a solid choice. Depending on your preference, you can manually adjust the 26 resistance levels or use the built-in SMR (Silent Magnetic Resistance) system that changes your training intensity without interrupting your workout. You can easily control and monitor your workout metrics with the LCD screen. For added comfort and ease, the Nordictrack rower features an ergonomic seat and handle, plus dual two-inch speakers with an audio auxiliary port so you can listen to music or watch videos during your workout. 

Best professional: Concept2 Indoor Rowing Machine

Athlete Approved

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Specs

  • Weight: 57.32 pounds
  • Dimensions: 96 x 24 x 14 inches
  • Max user weight: 500 pounds
  • Screen: LCD display

Pros

  • Designed with responsive air-resistant flywheel
  • Bluetooth- and ANT-compatible
  • Can disassemble and store

Cons

  • Can’t stream media on monitor
  • No virtual coaching

Walk into a serious gym or a place where rowers train, and you’ll likely find this machine. It’s a relatively simple machine built like a tank that will absolutely annihilate you in the best way possible. In addition to controlling the intensity of your workout with the air-resistance flywheel, you can also control the airflow by changing the damper, ranging from levels one to 10. 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 allows 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 athletes, the seat is 14 inches high and features adjustable footrests and an ergonomic handle.

Even if you pull absurdly hard on the handle, it will stand up to nearly endless abuse. It’s meant for professional gyms and training facilities, so it can easily stand up to the rigors of your basement. And even though it’s a piece of professional gear, it doesn’t require much maintenance to keep it working. The screen doesn’t show live workouts or fancy media, but it’s not that kind of device. It shows you a super-accurate stream of your actual output with a few simple games (like the fish game that most Crossfitters know about) thrown in just for fun. — Stan Horaczek

Best for gamers: Aviron Rowing Machine

Best for gamers

Aviron Rowing Machine

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Specs

  • Weight: 113.5 lbs. with high-strength aluminum frame
  • Dimensions: 83.5L x 27W x 48.4H inches
  • Max user weight: 507 lbs.
  • Screen: 21.5-inch 1080p touchscreen
  • Tablet: dual ARM processors; ARM GPU; 4GB RAM; 32GB flash storage; Wi-Fi; Ethernet; Bluetooth 5.1, 2MP front-facing camera; two 5W stereo speakers  

Pros

  • Unique gaming workouts for single or multiple players
  • Connects to popular video and audio streaming services
  • Guided workout videos include both rowing and non-rowing exercises
  • High-tech bells and whistles aside, it’s an all-around solid rowing machine
  • Stores vertically to take up less space in the home

Cons

  • Not as large of a user community as Peloton
  • Speakers sometimes too quiet for the noise of the rower
  • No button controls for the games

Some people have trouble staying motivated to work out; others just find it painfully boring spending 30-60 minutes on an exercise machine. With the Strong Series Rower, Aviron aims to remedy both obstacles to fitness with a rowing machine featuring 16 levels of hybrid air/magnetic resistance (up to 100 lbs.) and a gamified approach that make you want to level up—keeping you entertained as you keep in shape.

The Strong Series Rower offers a large amount of games that use your rowing stroke pace and distance covered to control the gameplay. The games include takes on arcade classics like “Space Invaders” and “Pong,” as well as scrolling shooter games, racing games, and others that you can play solo, against computer opponents, or either against or alongside friends whom you add from the Aviron network or who join sessions from the “Group Workout Lobby.” With their simple control schemes based on variations to your rowing speed and distance covered (which you can also increase or decrease by altering the 16 resistance levels while maintaining the same stroke rate), the games are not complicated, but many of them can succeed in keeping your mind on them, rather than on the repetitiveness and/or discomfort of rowing sessions.

Games are just one worthy option for your workout. Unlike Aviron’s big competitor, the Strong Series Rower also connects to popular streaming services—Spotify, Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and YouTube—that you can listen to or watch while rowing. In addition, Aviron offers its own coached workout videos that include companion routines such as weights, bodyweight exercises, and stretching to complement your rowing and keep you comprehensively fit. Guided programs give you routines of different lengths with varying goals based on calories burned, distance covered, etc. Scenic rowing videos let you escape mentally to beautiful locations across the globe, complete with moving water sounds. “Pros vs. Joes” games let you simulate a race against some of the world’s top rowers, and extended programs such as monthly challenges line up all the different workouts Aviron has to offer in a sequence that will keep things interesting and nonrepetitive as you rack up achievement badges and stats over time.

Connecting a Bluetooth heart rate monitor will let you view your heart rate while you row, and the machine also lets you connect Bluetooth headphones or plug in headphones or speakers to the audio output for bypassing the touchscreen tablet’s built-in speakers.

Regardless of the workout type you choose, the Strong Series Rower saves all your metrics to your account, which you can access from your profile on the built-in screen or from the Aviron Rower Companion iOS/Android app. You can see your total time, meters, kilojoules of output, strokes, and calories burned, as well as average strokes per minute, calories per hour, and time per 500 meters—added up over the last day, seven days, 30 days, or all-time. The global Leaderboard also shows how you stack up against other Aviron users. During my two weeks using the Strong Series Rower, there were usually just under 8,000 total users on the board, and just under 1,000 in my division, which was men in their 40s.

Aviron’s user community is much smaller than that of it’s major competitor, Peloton. It was usually pretty easy to find a live session scheduled or in progress if I wanted to join other users in a competitive or collaborative game, a scenic row, or some other workout program. However, Aviron does not offer live coached classes, which Peloton tends to lean on for its monthly membership. But other than that, the Strong Series Rower offers big advantages over Peloton machines, letting rowers play games, stream shows, or follow guided programs from this machine’s 21.5-inch monitor, all for a price significantly lower than its most obvious competitor.

The Strong Series Rower starts at $2,199, with a membership of $29/month when paid monthly, or $24/month when paid annually. By contract, the Peloton Row costs $3,195 with a $44/month All-Access Membership. Without a membership, you could still use the Strong Series Rower with its Metrics Monitor as much as you want, but I found the full array of Aviron’s content to be diverting and motivating enough to gladly return to the seat almost every day. I even made it to the top 10 of my division’s leaderboard over a seven-day period. For anyone who sees the value in a high-tech rowing machine to keep them fit, but doesn’t want the inflated price or live coached workouts of Peloton, Aviron makes the ideal alternative. — Markkus Rovito

Best for coaching: Hydrow Wave

Best for coaching

Hydrow Wave Rower

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Specs

  • Weight: 102 pounds
  • Dimensions: 80 inches L x 19 inches W x 43 inches H
  • Max user weight: Up to 375 pounds
  • Screen: 16-inch touchscreen

Pros

  • Olympic-caliber coaching
  • Live competitions
  • Allows you to row on beautiful waterways around the world virtually
  • Ability to customize workouts for experience level

Cons

  • Limited connectivity to fitness trackers and smartwatches
  • Fixed screen makes some non-rowing workouts awkward

If you’re the type of exerciser who gets inspired by Olympians like Aquil Abdullah, the Hydrow Wave Rower could be the machine for you. The company was founded by Bruce Smith, the coach of the U.S. National Team and a descendant of master boat builders. Yet the experience is also quite accessible for beginning paddlers, with lots of training sessions available on how to have correct form.

Hydrow makes two rowing machines: the Hydrow Rower and the more recently released Hydrow Wave, which is described as a compact model that’s 30 percent smaller than the original. At $1,795, the Hydrow Wave also costs $600 less than the Hydrow Wave Rower.  

What first jumped out at me was that the Hydrow Wave wasn’t particularly small, which could be a benefit or a drawback. The Wave’s 16-inch touchscreen is indeed smaller than the classic model’s 22-inch one. But it’s worth noting that at 80 inches long, the Wave will still take up a good amount of space, a consideration for people living in smaller apartments. The machine does have wheels on the front that allow you to lift and roll it more easily, but at 102 pounds, it may be heavy for some. It’s also designed to be stored upright, with a stand you can also purchase from Hydrow.

You can assemble the Hydrow Wave yourself, or the company offers setup for an additional fee. The two workmen who brought it to my home got the machine up and running within about a half-hour. To take advantage of the Wave, you must purchase a monthly membership costing $44. That includes live sessions with coaches; simulated rowing sessions on inspiring waterways from around the globe, from the fjords of Norway to the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon in Rio de Janeiro on the full HD screen; more than 4,000 other workouts, including yoga and mobility exercises; and virtual membership in a community of other Hydrow rowers. 

A key benefit of the Hydrow Wave is the ability to fine-tune your workouts. The system allows you to pick your instructor from among a group of highly accomplished athletes; the duration of your workout, from 1 minute to 45; the type of workout, including Drive, Sweat, and Breathe modes; and your workout style, from beginner to advanced, and including instruction videos and weekly training sessions. 

You can also choose the location of your workout, from 27 states around the United States and the District of Columbia to 10 countries around the world, mostly in Europe. (It would be great to see some countries in Asia and Africa added, though). Finally, you can pick your favorite music, from Alternative/indie to Soul/Funk/Disco. While I appreciated the range, I did find some dissonance between the music in the background and trying to listen to the instructor. My favorite sessions allowed me to virtually experience a storied waterway, complete with a first-person vantage point of the shoreline, the bobbing of the boat, and the sound of water lapping.

The Hydrow Wave system also offers live classes several times a week and a leaderboard for the more competitively inclined. The system does a great job of tracking your progress in an easy-to-read profile screen that shows your streak, average rate, and how many meters you’ve rowed in the past 30 days. 

But with the emphasis on tracking numbers and progress, I was surprised to learn that Hydrow rowers don’t connect with many fitness trackers or smartwatches, though the company just announced you can now connect with an Apple Watch. They also work with Strava and the system is enabled for Bluetooth 5.0, which means you can use most Bluetooth headphones and speakers with it. And the rowers also connect with most heart monitors.  

Another quibble is that, unlike the touchscreen of the Hydrow Rower, the Hydrow Wave’s touchscreen doesn’t rotate. That made it harder for me to do the non-rowing workouts included in the package, such as yoga and Pilates. I straddled the rower or squinted to see the screen from behind the machine. But if you’re looking for first-class training from beautiful locations worldwide, the Hydrow Wave is a great option. — Jen McCaffery

Best water: Mr. Captain Water Rowing Machine

Boating Vibes

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Specs

  • Weight: 58.5 pounds
  • Dimensions: 82 x 22 x 10 inches
  • Max user weight: 320 pounds
  • Screen: Bluetooth

Pros

  • High-quality wooden design
  • Water resistance and sound lend authenticity
  • Bluetooth-compatible monitor that lets you track progress in app

Cons

  • No media streaming available 

A great workout is a priority for rowing machines, but what if you could truly feel like you’re rowing on actual water? Enter the Mr. Captain Water Rowing Machine, 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 budget: Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine

Affordable Rowing

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Specs

  • Weight: 60.9 pounds
  • Dimensions: 89 x 18.9 x 23.6 inches
  • Max user weight: 250 pounds
  • Screen: LCD

Pros

  • More affordable
  • Large LCD screen displays metrics
  • Bluetooth connectivity

Cons

  • Not a group exercise experience

Available for just over $200, 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 machine can accommodate most riders with its extra-long slide rail. 

What to consider when shopping for the best rowing machines

When shopping for the best rowing machine to add to your home fitness equipment, there are a few things to consider. 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 better understand 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 an 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, getting a foldable ergometer is a good idea. 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 a Bluetooth connection important to you? 

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, look for a rower that can work with your device(s). 

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 an ergometer actually works most 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, it’s best to use the rowing machine at least four times a week to see real improvement. 

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, the rowing machine will be a great fit if you want full-body fitness—strengthening muscles, endurance building, and toning.

Final thoughts on 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 use the machine are important considerations that will help narrow your search. If you want a realistic rowing experience, a quiet one, or a machine that can connect to your device for additional workout programs, the best ergometer is one stroke away. 

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Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

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Alexandra was born in NYC and still resides there with her fiance and border collie mix, Layla. She studied Psychology at Binghamton University and the American University of Rome. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, reading, traveling, and going to the movies.