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Best Rowing Machine (2021): Top Picks from Concept2, Stamina, XtremepowerUS, and More

A rowing machine is an effective way to get a full body workout, building muscles in your legs, core, and arms and getting your cardio in at the same time. The best part is, you don’t even have to go outside or hit the gym to get your exercise fix. But with all the different models available, it’s hard to choose. In general, things you have to look out for are the resistance type (hydraulic, magnetic, water, or air), comfort, and handles, as well as size if you have limited space and noise if it may be an issue in your situation. 

On that note, some of the best include the Concept2 Model D since it ticks all the right boxes across the board and the Stamina ATS Air Rower 1403 because of how it adapts to your intensity. Then there’s the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine that doesn’t break the bank, and the XtremepowerUS Water Rower Machine for that authentic experience. Last but not least, the Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower is just the thing for seniors because of its comfortable full seat.

Best Rowing Machine Comparison Chart

ModelImageKey FeaturesPrice
Concept2 Model DConcept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor, BlackExcellent overall performerCheck Price
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing MachineSunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine Rower with 12 Level Adjustable Resistance, Digital...Affordable and simpleCheck Price
Stamina ATS Air RowerStamina Air Rower Rowing MachineDynamic air resistanceCheck Price
XtremepowerUS Water Rower MachineXtremepowerUS Water Rower Machine Water Rowing Exercise Workout Rower Adjustable Resistance w/LCD...Realistic rowing experience with water resistanceCheck Price
Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/RowerStamina Conversion II Recumbent Bike/RowerSeat with backrest, works as a recumbent bikeCheck Price

The Best Rowing Machine — Concept2 Model D

Challenging resistance, smooth-gliding seat, comfortable handles—the Concept2 Model D gets it all right.

The Best Rowing Machine Concept2 Model D
The Concept2 Model D supports ANT+ and Bluetooth for heart-rate belts and such.

There’s plenty to love about the Concept2 Model D. For starters, it has an air resistance mechanism with 10 varying levels, which lets you gradually increase your workout’s intensity. Moreover, the seat glides smoothly, and the machine itself is pretty quiet and only needs to be oiled every 40 hours of use. For comfort, it has adjustable foot pedals and ergonomic handles.

It’s smart to boot. Out of the box, it comes with what the company calls Performance Monitor 5, allowing you to track your progress and connect wirelessly to heart-rate belts and apps. Last but not least, it’s equipped with wheels and disassembles into two pieces, so stowing it away is a breeze.

Pros

  • Disassembles into two pieces
  • Works with heart rate belts and apps
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Relatively pricier

Best Rowing Machine for Beginners — Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine

When it comes to simplicity, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine gets it down to a tee.

Best Rowing Machine for Beginners Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine
For the budget-conscious, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 is one of the best cheap rowing machines.

The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 is as straightforward as rowing machines can get. To start things off, it uses hydraulic resistance with 12 levels. This type of mechanism is typically the cheapest, and that makes it perfect for beginners who just want to give rowing a try first to see if it’s for them.

This machine more or less covers all the staples, including foam handles and pivoting pedals for comfort. It even has a simple design, but not to the point that it doesn’t have progress tracking. You can keep tabs on things like calories burned and time. On top of that, it doesn’t take up too much space, making it a viable option for those with limited room. However, it’s a bit short, and tall people might not get the best experience out of it.

Pros

  • Super affordable
  • Simple, space-saving design

Cons

  • Not suitable for tall people

Best Rowing Machine Under $500 — Stamina ATS Air Rower 1403

With the Stamina ATS Air Rower 1403, workouts become harder the faster you row.

Best Rowing Machine Under $500 Stamina ATS Air Rower 1403
The Stamina ATS Air Rower 1403 boasts dynamic air resistance.

What makes the Stamina ATS Air Rower 1403 stand out is it doesn’t have clear-cut resistance levels. Instead, it uses dynamic air resistance that adjusts based on your intensity. In other words, it becomes more difficult the faster you row and easier the more relaxed your pace is.

It’s got the other factors right too, such as padded handles and a cushioned, smooth-gliding seat. In addition, it sports an LCD screen to display your progress, keeping track of speed, calories burned, and distance, among other things. As for storage, you can just fold it up and put it away in a snap.

Pros

  • Dynamic air resistance
  • Fold-up design with wheels

Cons

  • Loud

Best Water Rowing Machine — XtremepowerUS Water Rower Machine

The XtremepowerUS Water Rower Machine really makes you feel like you’re rowing.

Best Water Rowing Machine XtremepowerUS Water Rower Machine
Compared to other resistance mechanisms, water resistance offers the most realistic rowing feel.

Arguably, hydraulic resistance is the worst at mimicking an authentic rowing experience. As a polar opposite of sorts, water resistance is the best at it since you’ll be moving blades in water, which is exactly what the XtremepowerUS Water Rower Machine offers. Owing to its design, you’ll also have more control over how much resistance you want, as it’s based on how much water you put in its tank.

Just like any rowing machine worth its salt nowadays, it tracks your progress as well, boasting an LCD monitor that stays on top of your time, distance, and calories. If there’s anything to complain about it, it’s that the seat is on the noisy side, but that’s about it.

Pros

  • Authentic rowing experience
  • More control over resistance

Cons

  • Seat is noisy

Best Rowing Machine for Seniors — Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower

Decent rowing machines with backrests like the Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower are pretty rare.

Best Rowing Machine for Seniors Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower
The Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower can be used for cycling and rowing.

As its name suggests, the Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower isn’t just a rowing machine, but it’s also an exercise bike. However, the trade-off to that two-in-one design is it doesn’t exactly replicate a rowing experience, not to mention that it uses magnetic resistance, which isn’t the best for getting that authentic feel. 

The upside is, it’s easier to add variations in your workout since you can pedal away if you’re not feeling up for a rowing session. Additionally, magnetic resistance is the quietest and provides the smoothest motions out of all the mechanism types, making it suitable for apartments where noise may be an issue. But what really makes it set itself apart from the rest is its full seat. That means it has a backrest, giving it a strong focus on comfort, which is excellent for seniors and even beginners.

Pros

  • Full seat with backrest
  • Doubles as an exercise bike
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Doesn’t provide the best rowing experience

Verdict

The Concept2 Model D is hard to beat in terms of quality and features.

For the best rowing machine overall, our pick is the Concept2 Model D. Not only can it offer up a challenge at 10 different levels, but it’s also comfortable, quiet, and easy to maintain. The XtremepowerUS Water Rower Machine is a close second because of how it replicates an authentic rowing experience, as well as the Stamina ATS Air Rower 1403 because of its dynamic air resistance. 

Meanwhile, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine is an excellent pick for the budget-oriented beginner, and the Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower is simply perfect for seniors because of its backrest.

FAQs

📌 What is the best rowing machine to buy for home use?

The Concept2 Model D is among the top-rated rowing machines for good reason. It has enough resistance to work up a sweat for most people, and it’s quiet and comfortable to use as well.

📌 What is the best type of rowing machine?

Arguably, water resistance is the best because it mimics a real rowing experience the most, but each mechanism type has its benefits. For instance, magnetic resistance is the quietest and air resistance is dynamic in that workouts become harder the faster you row.

📌 Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine?

Yes, rowing machines can help you burn tons of calories and even get rid of stubborn belly fat. Not only that, but it also promotes muscle development and definition.

📌 Are cheap rowing machines any good?

Budget rowing machines like the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine are decent for beginners who don’t want to spend too much money from the get-go. However, advanced users are better off investing in a machine with more features and better build quality.

Last update on 2021-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Vincent Lanaria

Senior Editor, researcher and writer passionate about running, cooking, and how technology mixes with the two.