Home gyms have exploded in popularity and you can’t have a good home gym without a killer piece of cardio equipment. And at the top of the list for home cardio equipment is a rowing machine. It gives you a full-body workout, it’s ideal for high-intensity training, and they burn fat at a rate like no other piece of cardio equipment. That being said, there are tons of rowers to choose from and they range in price. So how do you choose the best rowing machine?
Below we cover all of the top rowing machines including the category their best in (i.e. magnetic, budget, premium, for small spaces, etc.) and review each one for you.
Let’s jump in…
- Best overall: Concept2 Model D
- Best For Budget & Small Spaces: Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050
- Best Magnetic Rowing Machine: Sunny Health & Fitness
- Best Water Rower: WaterRower
- Best folding Compact Rowing Machine: Stamina ATS Air Rower
- Best For Beginners: Fitness Reality 1000
- Best High-End Rower With Monitor: Nordic Track RW900
The Best Overall Home Rowing Machine
The Concept2 is considered to be the gold standard rower. It’s used for all official times recorded in CrossFit competitions and it’s extremely durable with a 500 lb weight capacity.
One thing that separates the Concept2 from the rest of the pack is that it’s lightweight and breaks down into two pieces so it’s easy to store out of the way.
Additionally, it has a PM5 monitor which is hands down the best monitor in the industry. It doesn’t just track stats and display data. It syncs with your phone, you can plug a USB into it and download your stats, and you can even upload your data directly to their online platform so you can check your scores vs other Concept2 rowers around the world.
Best For Budgets & Small Spaces
Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050
The Body Trac Glider 1050 is a compact, budget friendly hydraulic rower. It’s smaller than most other rowers you’ve used which is why it’s ideal for apartments and small spaces.
Measuring just 52” long, it’s not a good fit for people over about 6’ but if you’re under that height, you’re good to go.
It also has 12 different resistance levels that can be adjusted while you’re rowing so you can change intensity without getting off of the rower.
The hydraulic resistance does a good job of mimicking the feeling of rowing on the water. And it has a small screen that displays your important stats like time, number of strokes, calories burned, and total count.
Best Magnetic Rowing Machine
Sunny Health & Fitness
The Sunny Health & fitness SF-RW5622 is so quiet you could hear a pin drop while you’re using it. It has 8 levels of magnetic resistance that you can manually adjust with the convenient nob just below the screen.
Admittedly, this rower is better for beginner to intermediate fitness levels. If you’re an athlete then you might find the resistance to be too weak for your needs.
As far as tracking goes, it has a basic monitor on the front that tracks time, calories, distance, scan, count, and total count. If you’re in the market for a magnetic rowing machine, this is one of the best.
Best Water Rowing Machine
The WaterRower is on par with the Concept2 as far as quality goes. The main difference between them comes down to the fact that one uses water for resistance and the other uses an air flywheel.
So, if you’re in the market for a water rowing machine that looks extremely elegant and has a reputation or quality, look no further.
You can purchase the WaterRower in a variety of woods and even a metal option if you’re so inclined.
It has a dual rail system and padded seat that quietly glides along. Being that it’s made from wood, it absorbs vibrations so the only sound you hear when rowing is the gentle whoosh of the water.
It’s a peaceful yet challenging workout.
Speaking of challenging, you regulate the resistance by adding or removing water from the tank. This rower provides the most realistic comparison to rowing an actual boat on the water.
See how it stacks up against the Concept2 in our WaterRower vs Concept2 head to head comparison
Best Folding Rowing Machine
Stamina ATS Air Rower 1403
The Stamina ATS is another great rowing machine for small spaces. If you’re on the taller side or simply want an air rower rather than a hydraulic rower like the Stamina 1050, then this is your next best option as a rower for small spaces.
It folds up into a space saving design that occupies about 2.5 square feet when not in use. It wouldn’t be a stretch to tuck this away in a small closet.
There are a few things that make it stand out.
Firstly, it’s an air rower that doesn’t make a ton of noise and, as you may already know, regulated resistance based on your effort. In other words, the harder you row, the more resistance you get.
This is great for all levels of athletes including beginners and advanced. Additionally, if you’re into longer row sessions, you’ll be happy to know it has a padded seat and soft grip bar to prevent calluses and discomfort in the seat.
When it comes to tracking your stats, the ATS 1403 tracks your speed, distance, time, and calories burned. It also has the scan mode that cycles through your stats while you’re rowing.
Best Rowing Machine For Beginners
Fitness Reality 1000 Bluetooth Rowing Machine
The Fitness Reality 1000 is a great starter machine. It has all of the stuff you need including 14 levels of magnetic resistance so you can increase or decrease the intensity to match your fitness level.
There are a few unique features that separate this from other affordable rowers. The first is their free MyCloudFitness app (IOS & Android).
Once you download the app, your phone will sync with your rower to track all of your stats.
It keeps track of your workouts, steps, calories, distance, speed and more. You also have the option to upgrade your app for access to hundreds of trainer led videos.
One of the other cool features is that you can also perform muscle building exercises like overhead triceps extensions, curls, lateral raises, and front raises for shoulders.
As far as the rowing experience goes, it’s smooth and extremely quiet – like dead silent. The seat and bar are also both padded so it’s no problem to use this for extended sessions.
That being said, while it has 14 levels of resistance, you will outgrow it and want to upgrade as you improve your cardio and conditioning.
For the price though, it’s an excellent option when it comes to just starting or dipping your toe in the water to see if you like rowing.
Best High-End Rowing Machine With Monitor
Nordic Track RW900
When it comes to a high end rower, the Nordic Track RW900 is leading the way. It features a large 22” pivoting touch screen with on-demand access to more than 12,000 interesting and challenging workouts.
And get this – the resistance level of your rower automatically adjusts based on the workout you’re doing – how cool is that?
You don’t have to fuss with changing the resistance mid workout. You can simply follow the program and the rest is handled on autopilot.
When it comes to the riding experience, it’s on point. It’s super quiet so it’s easy to hear the trainer that’s prompting you on the screen and if you want to do your own thing, there’s 26 levels of resistance you can simply adjust on your own.
Once you’re done, you can tune into any one of the yoga, stretching, or strength training classes in the iFit library. Overall, if you have the budget, you’ll love this rower.
How To Choose a Rowing Machine (Buyers Guide)
Rowing machines range in price from cheap to over $1,000 in some cases. This can be a relatively pricey piece of home equipment so it’s important to know what you should be looking for. With that, below are the primary criteria to pay attention to when making your decision.
It may seem like the more resistance levels a rower has, the better it’ll be. However, that’s not entirely true. You generally only see mention of resistance “levels” on magnetic and hydraulic rowers. This is because other rowers such as the Concept2 are self regulating. In other words, the harder you row, the more resistance you get. It also has a damper on it if the resistance is too much. With the WaterRower, you add or remove water to increase or decrease resistance.
So while more levels may seem like the metric to go with, it’s a little misleading. The rowers that lead the pack for everyone from beginner to advanced are the Concept2, the WaterRower, and the Nordic Track RW. These are rowers that work for all levels of fitness and ones that you can pretty much beat up for years without any problems.
The size of your space will always play a role in the rower you choose. If you’re in a NY apartment where space is at a premium, you’ll need something that’s relatively compact or at least stores out of the way. Fortunately, rowers come in a variety of sizes so you can find one that fits.
The other thing to consider is your height. Compact rowers don’t work well if you’re a taller person (over 6’). If you are over 6’ and don’t have much space, you want a rower that’s full sized but can be stored out of the way. All of the rowers can be stored easily. The ones to keep away from if you’re tall are the compact options like the Stamina 1050 above.
Most rowers can handle around 250 lbs but some go much higher. The Concept2, for example, can handle 500 lbs. The WaterRower can handle upwards of 700 lbs. So check the capacity of the rower you pick and if it’s close to your weight, you might want to opt for one that’s a little more durable.
Most of the rowers these days have a padded seat. Some more than others. But, to be honest, you’re generally rowing for short bursts of 20-30 minutes at most which isn’t long enough to hurt. So the seat comfort is a factor but not a huge one. If you find a rower you love but the seats uncomfortable, it’s pretty easy to put a towel or yoga mat on there to soften it up.
Pretty much all of the rowers have a display that tracks your basic stats like duration, calories, strokes, and total count. However, some have much better displays than others. The best one on this list is the Nordic Track RW 900 which has a 22” touch screen. The next best is the Concept2 followed by the WaterRower.
This makes it much easier to keep track of your stats over the long term. Nobody wants to fumble through their tiny monitor to see what they did a month ago and how they’ve improved. When your rower connects via Bluetooth, you get the stats on your phone and you can clearly see your progress. This may or may not be a deal breaker depending on your goals but it’s nice to have.
If something does break on your rower, the last thing you want to do is spend more money fixing it. This is especially true if you just bought it recently. Even cheap rowers usually have a 1+ year warranty on the frames but the parts warranties are much shorter. Higher-end models have much longer warranties. The Nordic Track RW 900, for example, has a 10-year on frame, 2 years on parts, and 1 year on labor. When you’re buying the best rowing machine, warranty is definitely a factor.