The 11 Best Rowing Machines of 2021

Row your way to better health with these picks

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Best Rowing Machines

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Our Top Picks
"Since the machine gets its resistance from actual water, your workouts will feel surprisingly authentic."
"While many rowing machines are built around a pulley, this one relies on two handlebars, putting the emphasis on your upper body."
Best Splurge:
Hydrow Rower at Hydrow
"This immersive rower offers live and on-demand outdoor rowing classes that you can stream from the comfort of your home."
"The rower boasts 26 different resistance levels, which you can use to scale the intensity of your workout."
"If minimal noise is a priority, this pick offers exactly that while keeping your workouts sturdy and stable."
Best for Total-Body Workouts:
Stamina Orbital Rowing Machine at Amazon
"Since the machine gets its tension from hydraulic cylinder resistance, it mimics the feeling of rowing outdoors."
"The comfortable full seat and recumbent design is particularly suited to beginners and seniors looking to keep fit."
"This pick's compact design is perfect for people with limited space, as it folds in half when not in use."
"Its durable frame will stay stable as you row, while its 16 magnetic resistance levels ensure you stay challenged."
Best Wind Resistance:
Stamina ATS Air Rower at Amazon
"A solid option that will keep you balanced as you build strength, this rower is designed to increase resistance as you gain speed."

Rowing machines provide an effective full-body workout. Each row requires you to push off with your legs, pull back with your arms, and maintain your balance by engaging your core muscles. It works u[ a sweat quickly and helps build strength from head to toe.

Rowing machines can get a little bulky, but if you’re low on space, there are options that come equipped with transport wheels, which you can use to roll the machine into other rooms. And some even fold in half, allowing you to tackle an intense workout and to clear the space when you're finished with your at-home fitness routine.

What to Look for in a Rowing Machine

Resistance Mechanism

All rowing machines offer some amount of resistance, but the source of this resistance can vary. Some rowers come equipped with water tanks that handle the tension for you. Others rely on internal resistance mechanisms like hydraulic or magnetic resistance. And some others come with built-in fans that provide wind resistance. These resistance mechanisms boast different strengths. Water-based rowers, for example, offer a more realistic and dynamic experience while magnetic rowers tend to be quieter.

Handle Design

Classic rowing machines boast a single handle, which you grip with both hands to pull. But some rowers boast two handlebars, instead. These handlebars look a little like what you’d find on an elliptical, and you can use them to get a fuller range of motion in your upper body.

Storage and Portability

Rowing machines can get large and heavy, which can make them hard to transport or store. But many rowers are designed with portability and convenience in mind. Some come with built-in transport wheels that make them easy to move from place to place, some are designed to be turned on their sides and propped up against your wall, and some even fold in half.

Here are the best rowing machines on the market.

Best Overall: XtremepowerUS Water Rowing Machine

Pros
  • Durable design

  • Authentic rowing experience

  • Non-slip rowing handle

Cons
  • Heavy

The XtremepowerUS Water Rowing Machine is a classic rowing machine that looks great in any home gym. Since the machine gets its resistance from actual water, the workout feels surprisingly authentic. And the resistance automatically increases as your rowing speed does, keeping you challenged as you build strength. That said, you can always reduce the resistance by decreasing the amount of water in the tank. 

The cushioned seat keeps you comfortable as you glide forward and back, and adjustable safety straps keep your feet firmly in place as you row. A large, built-in console helps you keep track of metrics like your distance rowed and your strokes per minute. And when you’re finished using the machine, you can take advantage of its built-in transport wheels to tilt it and roll it away.  

Resistance Style: Water tank | Maximum Weight Capacity: 550 lbs | Dimensions: 83 x 20.5 x 19 in | Product Weight: 117 lbs

Best Budget: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5639 Full Motion Rowing Machine

Pros
  • Great for small spaces

  • Quiet

  • Easy to use

Cons
  • Changing resistance mid-workout isn't seamless

The Sunny Health & Fitness Full Motion Rowing Machine is a budget-friendly trainer that will give you a great workout without taking up too much space. While many rowing machines are built around a pulley, this one relies on two large handlebars. This design puts the emphasis on your upper body—instead of using your legs primarily to glide forward and back, you use your arms, chest, and back. 

The machine relies on hydraulic cylinder resistance, which makes it incredibly small space-friendly and puts you in control of your workouts. Simply turn the built-in dial to kick the resistance up a notch, and scale it back whenever you need to recover. 

Resistance Style: Hydraulic cylinder | Maximum Weight Capacity: 350 lbs | Dimensions: 52.2 x 28.7 x 11.8 in | Product Weight: 35.8 lbs

Best Splurge: Hydrow Rower

hydrow-rower
Pros
  • Most immersive rowing experience

  • Top-of-the-line design

  • Smooth and quiet strokes

Cons
  • Larger footprint than other options

If you want your rowing workouts to feel like the real thing, the Hydrow Starter Package is worth the splurge. The rower uses electromagnetic and computer-controlled resistance to mimic the feel of real water, giving you workouts that are both dynamic and challenging. And if you really want to feel transported, you can take advantage of the rower’s large touchscreen and built-in speakers—both of which promise a truly immersive experience.

The rowing machine was designed with performance in mind, and it doesn’t skimp on comfort. Its ergonomic seat offers all the cushion you need to make it through long workouts, and its industrial-grade glider keeps your strokes smooth and quiet.

The Hydrow Starter Package ships with a rowing machine, a mat, a heart rate monitor, and a pair of wireless headphones, so you’ll have everything you need to start rowing. And since it tilts upright, it will be easy to store between uses.

Resistance Style: Electromagnetic and computer-controlled resistance | Maximum Weight Capacity: 375 lbs | Dimensions: 86 x 25 x 47 in | Product Weight: 145 lbs

Best High-Tech: NordicTrack RW900 Rower

NordicTrack RW 900 Rower
Pros
  • Great workout program integration

  • Comes with 22-inch touchscreen

  • Versatile resistance options

Cons
  • Heavy

The NordicTrack RW900 Rower is a feature-packed rowing machine that delivers a solid workout every time. The rower boasts 26 different resistance levels, which you can use to scale the intensity of your workout, and since the machine relies on magnetic resistance, your strokes will be smooth and quiet. The rowing machine also comes with an ergonomic padded seat and large comfortable pedals. And it folds in half, making it incredibly easy to store between uses.

When paired with an iFit membership, the NordicTrack RW900 Rower reaches its full potential. The membership gives you access to hundreds of on-demand rowing workouts, which you can use to get started with your new machine. You can also activate iFit’s Automatic Trainer Control feature to let a trainer virtually control your resistance level while you row, making it easy to build strength without taking your eyes off your workout.

Resistance Style: Silent magnetic resistance and adjustable air | Maximum Weight Capacity: 250 lbs | Dimensions: 86.5 x 22 x 50.4 in | Product Weight: 131 lbs

Best Quiet: Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower

Pros
  • Solid construction

  • Easy to assemble

  • Quiet enough to use in a common area

Cons
  • Too small for tall people

Want a rower that won’t make too much noise? The Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower gets its tension from a magnetic resistance system, which keeps your workouts challenging and surprisingly quiet. Meanwhile, its durable aluminum frame keeps your workouts sturdy and stable.

Its padded seat keeps you cushioned during your longest, most grueling rowing sessions. And the non-slip pedals keep your feet firmly in place as you row. What’s more, the machine folds up for convenient storage between uses, shrinking to half its size when you're done with your workout.

Resistance Style: Magnetic resistance | Maximum Weight Capacity: 275 lbs | Dimensions: 81 x 21 x 25 in | Product Weight: 75 lbs

Best for Total-Body Workouts: Stamina 35-1215 Orbital Rowing Machine

Stamina 35-1215 Orbital Rowing Machine
Pros
  • Full range of motion for arms

  • Mimics rowing outdoors

  • Very compact

Cons
  • Challenging to assemble

Many rowing machines offer a total-body workout, but the Stamina Orbital Rowing Machine offers a particularly dynamic one. Because the rower boasts two large handlebars instead of a single handle on a pulley, it gives your arms a fuller range of motion as you row. This design helps you challenge more muscles in your upper body while strengthening your core and lower body the way any rowing machine would. The result: A killer workout from head to toe.

Since the machine gets its tension from hydraulic cylinder resistance, it mimics the feeling of rowing outdoors. An adjustable tension dial helps you keep your workouts challenging while a thick, padded seat keeps you comfortable while you row. The machine is also surprisingly compact, making it a pretty easy addition to small spaces. 

Resistance Style: Hydraulic cylinder | Maximum Weight Capacity: 250 lbs | Dimensions: 49 x 14 x 7 in | Product Weight: 52 lbs

Best Recumbent: Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike and Rower

Pros
  • Great for users who need additional support

  • Convenient to fold and store

  • Two-in-one design

Cons
  • Doesn't mimic a traditional rowing experience

If comfort is your priority, you may want to invest in a recumbent rowing machine like the Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Rower. While many rowing machines boast comfortable padded seats, very few of those seats come with backrests. This one offers a full seat for you to rest in while you work out, making it more comfortable and supportive than most. 

Even better, the design doubles as a recumbent bike. If you’re in the mood for a cycling workout, slide your seat toward the front of the machine, slip your feet into the front-most set of pedals, grip the sides of your seat, and start pedaling. To use the machine as a rower, slide your feet into the footholds that are closer to you, grip the built-in handle, and start rowing. You can use the same resistance dial to up the intensity for both workouts.

Resistance Style: Magnetic resistance | Maximum Weight Capacity: 250 lbs | Dimensions: 75.5 x 20 x 27 in | Product Weight: 106 lbs

Best for Small Spaces: Sunny Health & Fitness Upright Rowing Machine

Sunny Health & Fitness Upright Rowing Machine
Pros
  • Silent

  • Very small footprint

  • Secure design

Cons
  • Doesn't mimic a traditional rowing experience

If you’re really low on space, you may not have room for a traditional rowing machine. But with the Sunny Health & Fitness Upright Rowing Machine, you can get a dynamic workout within a much smaller footprint. The machine boasts a unique upright design. Instead of sitting down and rowing back, you sit upright and row up. This format makes your rowing workouts more focused on the lower body, but you still get opportunities to challenge your upper body and core as well.

In lieu of a more traditional resistance mechanism, this rower comes with three adjustable resistance bands. Attach these to your machine to increase the intensity of your workouts, reaching a maximum resistance level of 22 pounds.

The rower’s textured pedals offer plenty of traction, and its non-slip handlebars are easy to grip. Adjust the height of the seat and the handlebars until the machine fits you just right, and take advantage of the fact that the machine folds in half for easy storage between uses.

Resistance Style: Three adjustable resistance bands | Maximum Weight Capacity: 220 lbs | Dimensions: 36.5 x 19 x 37 in | Product Weight: 24.5 lbs

Best Foldable: ECHANFIT Foldable Rowing Machine w/ LCD Monitor

Pros
  • Very easy to move

  • Sleek and sturdy design

  • Quality resistance mechanism

Cons
  • Tracker needs improvement

It’s rare to find a foldable workout machine that's also sturdy and durable, but the ECHANFIT Foldable Rowing Machine is just that. Climb on the rower for an intense workout, and fold it away when you're done to make room for other activities. The frame remains stable as you row, and the 16 magnetic resistance levels keep you challenged. Adjust the built-in handlebars, pedals, and console until you feel comfortable, and settle in for a solid workout.

When you’re finished using the rowing machine, you can fold it in half. This design makes it easy to store against a wall, but you can also tilt it onto its transport wheels and roll it into another room.

Resistance Style: Magnetic resistance | Maximum Weight Capacity: 265 lbs | Dimensions: 44.5 x 25.5 x 8.75 in | Product Weight: 61 lbs

Best Wind Resistance: Stamina ATS Air Rower

Pros
  • Resistance naturally changes based on your intensity

  • Lightweight

  • Comfortable

Cons
  • Louder than other options

The Stamina ATS Air Rower is a solid rowing machine that will keep you balanced as you build strength. While many rowers get their tension from magnetic, hydraulic, or water-based resistance, this one draws on dynamic wind resistance. A wheel on the front of the bike spins every time you row, adding resistance as you gain speed. This design allows for your workouts to become more intense as you grow stronger. The faster you row, the harder your workouts get.

The dynamic wind resistance design isn’t the only thing that makes this machine worth buying. Its cushioned seat, padded handlebars, and adjustable pedals keep your workouts comfortable, and the seat smoothly glides forward and back as you row. Since the machine’s frame folds up, it’s particularly easy to store between uses as well. Simply fold the rower, tilt it onto its built-in transport wheels, and roll it away. 

Resistance Style: Air fan | Maximum Weight Capacity: 250 lbs | Dimensions: 77 x 18 x 22 in | Product Weight: 54 lbs

Best Water Resistance: MaxKare Water Rowing Machine

Pros
  • Ergonomically designed seat

  • Mimics outdoor rowing well

  • Easy to store

Cons
  • Tracker needs improvement

The MaxKare Water Rowing Machine is a classic water-based rowing machine that's available at a pretty accessible price point. The machine relies on water-based resistance to mimic the feel of rowing outdoors, keeping your workouts feeling authentic, dynamic, and challenging.

A durable steel frame keeps the machine sturdy and stable as you row, and a wide, ergonomically-designed seat will keep you comfortable as you work out. When you’re finished with a workout, you can tilt the machine upright for easy storage. Simply stand it vertically against your wall, or tilt it onto its transport wheels and roll it to another room.

Resistance Style: Water tank | Maximum Weight Capacity: 264 lbs | Dimensions: 78 x 17.3 x 35.4 in | Product Weight: 86 lbs

Final Verdict

Quiet, comfortable, and plenty challenging, the NordicTrack RW900 Rower offers everything you’d want in a rowing machine. The feature-packed rower will keep your workouts challenging and engaging. And since it folds in half, it won’t be hard to store between uses.

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, though, the MaxKare Water Rowing Machine is a great pick. It’ll give you a dynamic rowing experience that mimics the outdoors. And since the machine tilts upright, it won’t demand too much space in your home.

FAQs

Can you lose belly fat by using a rowing machine?

Rowing is an excellent low-impact cardiovascular workout that allows you to both burn calories and build muscle efficiently. Because it activates a multitude of muscles throughout your body, it elevates your heart rate quickly and helps you maintain that aerobic workout, which then helps you burn body fat. While you can't target belly fat specifically with any particular exercise, rowing can help you lose body fat overall, some of which may sit around your midsection.

Is it safe to row every day?

Depending on the intensity with which you row, you can enjoy this total-body workout safely every single day—and for hours, if you choose to do so. Just pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you're feeling particularly sore or stiff, consider a day of gentle stretches and rest to give your body a period of recovery. If you feel great, keep rowing!

Why trust Verywell Fit?

As a seasoned health and fitness writer, Lindsey Lanquist understands how vital quality product recommendations can be. She is careful to recommend products that are reliable, comfortable, and genuinely well-reviewed by those who’ve tried them.

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