Rowing machines are experiencing a wave of rising popularity. That's because people are realizing that using a rowing machine for exercise does much more than just work your upper body. Rowing is also a great low-impact alternative to jogging, which makes it ideal for people who are looking for ways to reduce stress on their joints.
But with so many new and advanced rowing machines to choose from, trying to settle on the best rowing machine for you can feel a little overwhelming. Rowers are also an investment, and you will need to keep your budget, space, and other personal factors in mind before deciding what is best for you.
To help with your decision-making process, the ACTIVE Reviews Team has conducted detailed reviews of some of the most popular rowing machines out there, along with models that have been swimming under the radar, to see which ones deliver the absolute best value and benefits––and which ones mostly tread water. Some of the main components that we considered in our rowing machine reviews were the type of resistance, size, noise levels, footprint, storage, price, and overall quality.
Why Trust Us?
The ACTIVE Reviews Team is made up of fitness experts that include athletes, coaches, and certified trainers who bring their years of knowledge and experience to each review. More importantly, each member of our team is a fitness enthusiast. Fitness may be our job, but it is also our passion. Therefore, we strive to bring you products that we trust and would personally use.
The 6 Best Rowing Machines for 2022
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- Editor's Pick: NordicTrack RW900
- Best Rowing Machine with Interactive Programming: Hydrow Rowing Machine
- Best Water Rowing Machine: Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge
- Best Budget Rowing Machine: Get RX'd Xebex Air Rower 2.0
- Best Foldable Rowing Machine: Echelon Row Connected Rowing Machine
- Best Rowing Machine for Beginners: Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing
Editor's Pick - NordicTrack RW900
- Resistance: Magnetic and air
- Product weight: 131lbs
- Max user weight: 250lbs
- Dimensions: 86.5"L x 22.0″W x 50.4"H
- Storage: Vertically folds
- Warranty: 10-year frame warranty, 2-year parts warranty, 1-year labor warranty
The NordicTrack RW900 is a sleek, high-tech, durable, and fun rowing machine. With the purchase of this rowing machine, you will get one month of iFIT, an app that offers thousands of live and on-demand exercise classes, for free (after your month's trial, you can choose to subscribe for $39.99 per month or use it manually). With a 22-inch smart HD touchscreen that tilts and rotates, you can not only participate in rowing workouts, but you can take your workout off the rower with strength training, yoga, boot camp, and more brought to you from beautiful locations around the world.
The foot pedals pivot and have quick-release adjustable foot straps to keep you secure when you are rowing. Furthermore, when you are engaged in a rowing class, your instructor has the ability to adjust your resistance so that all you have to worry about is getting the best workout possible. Also, this rowing machine tracks and stores your stats, and the front-mounted wheels make it easily portable.
- 22" 360-degree rotating touchscreen
- Varied catalog of trainer-led fitness classes
- Extensive warranty
- Silent Magnetic Resistance (SMR) makes it quiet
- Two types of resistance
- Max user weight is 250lbs
- Customer service can be inconsistent
Best Rowing Machine with Interactive Programming - Hydrow Rowing Machine
The Hydrow is one of the most luxurious rowing machines out there, and it packs in a lot of value to match the higher price point. This rowing machine is chock-full of high-intensity, trainer-led live and on-demand rowing workouts that can be streamed through the built-in 22-inch touchscreen monitor that is also designed to repel dust and sweat. In addition to the studio-based classes, Hydrow offers immersive workouts that take you to scenic waterways around the world. Coupling this real-world programming with patented electromagnetic, computer-controlled technology, the rower simulates the look and feel of slicing through the water on an erg.
Although the Hydrow gives you a real-world rowing feel, it also provides you with a host of creature comforts such as an ergonomic seat and handles. This attention to detail shines through when you are settled in for a long rowing session. While this is a top-notch machine, it does have a few causes for concern. If you want to put this machine away when it's not in use, you'll have to pay extra for a vertical storage kit on top of an already expensive price tag.
- Resistance: Magnetic
- Product weight: 145lbs
- Max user weight: 375lbs
- Dimensions: 86″L x 25″W x 47″H
- Storage: Upright storage kit (available for additional cost)
- Warranty: 1-year home use warranty
- Attractive, modern design
- Smooth movements
- Trainer-led live and on-demand classes
- Community-based challenges available
- Must buy additional kit for upright storage
Best Water Rowing Machine - Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge
Water rowers differ from air and magnetic because the water creates a more realistic rowing experience. The Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge provides you with the feeling of sitting on an erg as you stroked down a waterway, but from the comfort of your home. And, it does it at a steal. Although this rowing machine is packed with features, it comes in at less than $600. The 16 sturdy hydro blades move through an adjustable water tank that has six fillable levels.
If you decide to use the provided programming or perform personalized workouts, the built-in monitor tracks your time, split time, total strokes, strokes per minute, calories, heart rate, and more. Additionally, the rower is compatible with ANT+ heart rate monitors. Keep in mind that with a water rower, you may need to use purification tablets or other cleaning methods to prevent tank issues.
- Resistance: Water
- Product weight: 92lbs
- Max user weight: 300lbs
- Dimensions: 80"L x 22"W x 34"H
- Storage: Upright
- Warranty: 3-year structural frame warranty, 180 days parts and components warranty
- Provides "on-the-water" experience
- Good value
- Can be easily stored upright
- Warranty is for shorter time than many others
- No app or built-in workouts
Best Budget Rowing Machine: Get RX'd Xebex Air Rower 2.0
Proving that you don't have to pay a lot to get a lot, the Get RX'd Xebex Air Rower 2.0 has many of the features of high-end rowers but at a fraction of the cost. You'll find multiple preprogrammed workouts, several racing programs, a 10-setting damper to control airflow, and an advanced monitor to provide you all the metrics you could ever want from a rowing machine, including strokes per minute and a 500-split pace.
What really impressed us is that this 93-pound machine boasts a 500-pound weight capacity. It performed solidly during our testing, touting durability you'd expect from a much heavier rower. In terms of comforts, the Xebex Air Rower 2.0 has a padded handle and a padded seat that is an ergonomically-friendly 20-inches off the ground. And check this out: When it's not in use, this rower folds to less than half its unfolded footprint and easily rolls on four wheels.
- Resistance: Air
- Product weight: 93lbs
- Max user weight: 500lbs
- Dimensions: 99"L x 20"W x 47.1"H
- Storage: Folds
- Warranty: 5-year frame warranty, 2-year non-wear parts
- Easily adjustable air resistance
- Supports up to 500lbs
- Good value
- Sturdy construction
- Somewhat noisy
- Monitor quickly drains batteries
Best Foldable Rowing Machine - Echelon Row Connected Rowing Machine
Although many rowers are now foldable, The Echelon Row Connected Rowing Machine stands out because it folds to less than half of its unfolded footprint in just a few simple steps. However, considering that this rowing machine is packed with user-friendly features, we doubt that you'll keep it stored away for long at a time. Also, this rower features transport wheels so that you can move it around your space with ease.
The rower comes with a handy rotating console that will keep almost any phone or tablet secured so that you can easily stream live and on-demand classes through the Echelon app. You can also sync your devices with the built-in Bluetooth compatible speakers to clearly hear your professional trainer's instructions. And, with the resistance controls being built into the handle, you never have to worry about losing your rowing form if you have to adjust through any of the 32 electronic resistance levels.
- Resistance: Magnetic
- Product weight: 106.5lbs
- Max user weight: 300lbs
- Dimensions: 84" L x 21" W X 45" H (40" L x 21" W X 60" H - folded)
- Storage: Foldable
- Warranty: 12-month limited parts and labor warranty
- Easy foldability
- 32 levels of resistance
- Interactive technology for live and on-demand classes
- Resistance control in handlebars
- Engineered for hip and spine alignment
- Short warranty
- App requires a subscription
Best Rowing Machine for Beginners - Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine
The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine sets the bar high when it comes to a rowing machine that delivers serious indoor training. Better yet, especially if you are a rowing beginner, this rowing machine is an easy-to-use, commercial-grade rower that won't intimidate casual rowers looking for a good home workout.
This rower's performance monitor boasts plenty of workouts and games, all while tracking your metrics. There's also an ergonomic handle and seat so you can stay comfortable as you work out. The Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine is built to last. This rower is widely used in commercial gyms and in CrossFit boxes, showing that it can withstand intensive use. As an air resistance rower, it closely replicates the feeling of rowing on water. It also increases its resistance depending on how fast you row. Overall, it's a sturdy machine that's easy to put together, won't break down, and stores easily in your home gym.
- Resistance: Air
- Product weight: 57lbs (standard legs), 68lbs (tall legs)
- Max user weight: 500lbs
- Dimensions: 96"L x 24"W x 14"H (to seat w/ standard legs), 20"H (to seat w/ tall legs)
- Storage: Can be stored vertically and separates into two pieces
- Warranty: 5-year limited warranty on frame, 2-year limited warranty on all parts
- Simple to use
- Sturdy construction
- Available in standard and tall heights
- No app or on-demand classes available
- Small screen with basic graphics
Will a Rowing Machine Help My Performance?
With regular use, the right rowing machine can increase the strength of your muscles and get your body in a prime position to burn some serious calories. Hopping on a rowing machine for HIIT workouts, endurance training, and functional fitness training all deliver a great cardio workout. So, while rowing machines may have been sitting idle in the back of the gym for the last decade, the health benefits they offer have finally gotten them enough attention to springboard them back into action.
Rowing Machine Factors to Consider
Rower Type and Resistance: Rowing machines are all about resistance, with the goal being to mimic the experience and provide the benefits of rowing on water. A rowing machine can provide that resistance in any number of ways, be it air, magnetic, or water resistance. And across all three there are models available that let you adjust the level of resistance to best fit your desired workout intensity. Here's a quick rundown of the pros and cons of each rower type and how they work to provide resistance:
- Air rowers rely on air being propelled through a flywheel, or the internal mechanism that creates resistance in this rower. Resistance is created based on how hard you pull. Meaning, if you're pulling hard for quick intervals, the flywheel is moving quickly and creating resistance. Air rowers are good at replicating the rowing action you'd expect on the water, so they also tend to be quite noisy when in use.
- Magnetic rowers typically use strong magnets rotating around one another to create resistance as you pull. A great perk here is there's zero friction which makes for a smooth and quiet workout. The major drawback with magnetic rowers is that they lack the authentic feel of rowing on the water.
- Water rowers are the newest of the three rowing types. When you take a stroke, paddles within a drum of water turn to create resistance. The harder you row, the more intense your workout. Aesthetically, water rowers also tend to be beautifully designed and offer rowing action that can often make you believe you're actually on the water. Of course, with that level of authenticity comes a major drawback: price. They tend to run steep, and they're by far among the most expensive models you'll find. You'll also have to clean your water rower regularly or else mold and mildew may pop up. Keep in mind that leaks are a possibility too.
Space: Much like treadmills, rowing machines come in all shapes and sizes. Some are foldable, some can be stored vertically, and some even separate into multiple parts. If you have a space picked out for your rowing machine, take measurements and compare them to any model you have your eye on. And don't be fooled by the fact that a particular model can fold. Sometimes a foldable rowing machine can have a bulkier profile than streamlined models that don't fold.
Features: A rowing machine can come with all the bells and whistles. Some of those features are practical and even innovative while other features come off as a tad gimmicky. Here are some things to consider when deciding which features matter the most to you:
- Upkeep: No matter what machine you land on, there will be a bit of maintenance involved so it can stay durable. Plan on switching out the batteries every so often in the monitors, oil the chains for smooth strokes, clean dust off of the dampers, and change out the water periodically if you have a water rower. You can also get in touch with each brand's customer service for maintenance best practices.
- Seat: Rowing involves sitting in one place for an extended period. Look for a machine made of high-quality materials with ergonomic features, like the seat. How high a seat sits off the floor is also important. If you're someone with knee and back pain, you'll want a seat positioned higher off the ground.
- Monitor/Dashboard: Rowing machines will usually have a dashboard or monitor that provides you with basic stats. Others have full-on, high-definition monitors that share those same metrics, but with the added perk of selectable workouts and rowing sessions. A monitor or dashboard doesn't necessarily impact the health benefits of a rowing machine per se, but knowing your metrics and sweating through a pre-programmed workout can go a long way toward helping you achieve your health goals. Depending on how important a monitor or dashboard is to you, look for a rowing machine model that lets you adjust and reposition the screen for optimal viewing.
- Foot Straps: This one might sound like a given, but it can often be a feature that goes overlooked until a purchase has been made. Like the seat, don't take this element of a rowing machine for granted. Make sure the straps on any model you're considering are adjustable enough––you don't want your feet sliding around as you row.
- Smart Features: Lastly, like so many workout machines on the market today, rowing machines can have all kinds of smart features such as Bluetooth connectivity for headphones and wearable health devices and can be paired with third party workout apps for additional performance tracking. You may care about some, all, or none of these smart features, so make sure you do your homework to not only ensure you get a model that fits your needs and preferences but that you're not paying a high price for a bunch of features you don't even plan to use.
FAQs About Rowing Machines
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about rowing machines.
What rowing machine is best?
Finding the rowing machine that works best for you depends on several factors such as budget, footprint, type of resistance, and features. Once you have considered those features it will be much easier to choose from the ACTIVE Review Team's list of best rowers.
Can rowing help me lose weight/gain muscle?
Rowing is a full-body workout that is an efficient way to burn calories and can target about 85% of your muscles. Furthermore, it is easy to control the intensity of rowing workouts, and rowing does not put added pressure on your joints.
Is 30 minutes of rowing enough?
There are benefits to 30-minute rowing sessions that are mixed with HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts. Mixing longer, more evenly-paced routines with intense, shorter workouts provides a varied approach to your rowing training. However, the type of workout that you perform is largely dependent on your personal goals, and it is always a good idea to consult with a personal trainer or coach for questions and concerns.