A rowing machine is an effective way to get a full body workout, building muscles in your legs, core, and arms while 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 Hydrow Rower, Concept2 Model D, and Hydrow Wave, since they tuck all the right boxes across the board. We also like 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
- The Best Overall Rowing Machine — Hydrow Rower
- Best Rowing Machine Under $1000 — Concept2 Model D
- Best Compact Rowing Machine — Hydrow Wave
- Best Rowing Machine for Beginners — Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine
- Best Rowing Machine Under $500 — Stamina ATS Air Rower 1403
- Best Water Rowing Machine — XtremepowerUS Water Rower Machine
- Best Rowing Machine for Seniors — Stamina Conversion II Recumbent Exercise Bike/Rower
Best Rowing Machine Comparison Chart
The Best Overall Rowing Machine — Hydrow Rower
The Hydrow Rower offers the best-in-class rowing experience thanks to its patented electromagnetic drag technology.
With its low-profile form and futuristic design, the Hydrow Rower is a re-engineered rowing machine that makes an excellent addition to any home gym. You can also position the machine upright for easy storage between uses.
As the company’s flagship offering, the Hydrow uses patented electromagnetic technology to simulate drag, so you actually feel like you’re rowing on water. And by eliminating the use of chains or fan wheels, the Hydrow makes pulling smoother. Plus, the use of a webbed strap means it’s quieter than other rowing machines in the market.
But if the sensation is not enough, the Hyrdow comes with a 22-inch touchscreen display that streams workouts and coaching sessions. This translates to more fun and immersive exercises. To make the most out of the machine, you need to sign up for an All-Access Membership. For $38/month, the subscription provides access to a growing library of workouts and connects users to a community of fellow rowers.
- Realistic drag
- Sleek design and excellent build
- Immersive workout content
Best Rowing Machine Under $1000 — Concept2 Model D
Challenging resistance, smooth-gliding seat, comfortable handles—the Concept2 Model D gets it all right.
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.
- Disassembles into two pieces
- Works with heart rate belts and apps
- Relatively pricier
Best Compact Rowing Machine — Hydrow Wave
Compact but just as effective, the Hydrow Wave is an affordable alternative to the Hydro Rower for those with space constraints.
The Hydrow Wave builds on the success of the Hydrow Rower, but comes in a more compact and affordable package. Like its flagship sibling, the Wave uses electromagnetic drag technology for a more realistic and dynamic rowing experience. But in terms of build, the latest iteration exchanges the single-piece structure of the Rower with a hollow body. As such, the Wave is lighter and more maneuverable, perfect if you only have ample space at home.
Hydrow’s Wave is also best used if you have a subscription. The Hydrow platform offers an expansive catalog of live and on-demand workouts delivered to a 16-inch screen. Non-rowing classes are also available, including HIIT, cross-training, Pilates, and more. If you’re new to rowing, Hydrow also boasts an ensemble of expert online coaches who will enthusiastically guide you in your training and fitness regimen.
- Compact and affordable
- Realistic rowing drag
- Engaging workouts
- Doesn’t fold
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.
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.
- Super affordable
- Simple, space-saving design
- 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.
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.
- Dynamic air resistance
- Fold-up design with wheels
Best Water Rowing Machine — XtremepowerUS Water Rower Machine
The XtremepowerUS Water Rower Machine really makes you feel like you’re rowing.
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 the 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.
- Authentic rowing experience
- More control over resistance
- 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.
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 to 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.
- Full seat with backrest
- Doubles as an exercise bike
- Doesn’t provide the best rowing experience
The Hydrow Rower and Concept2 Model D are the standouts in this list.
For the best rowing machine overall, our pick is the Hydrow Rower and the Concept2 Model D. The Hydrow Rower delivers the most realistic and dynamic rowing experience, thanks largely to its patented electromagnetic drag technology. It also offers an expanding library of live and on-demand workout content courtesy of the Hydrow All-Access membership.
But if you want something more compact, the Hydrow Wave is a compelling and budget alternative to the Hydrow Rower, albeit not as sleek.
The Concept2 Model D comes a close second to the Hydro Rower. Not only does it offer up a challenge at 10 different levels, but it’s also comfortable, quiet, and easy to maintain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.