Rowing machines provide an excellent full-body workout that strengthens your cardiovascular health while toning your arms, legs, back, and core. With regular use, a rowing machine can help you lose weight, build lean muscle, and improve your stamina and endurance.
But with so many rowing machines on the market, how do you know which one is right for you? In this buyer‘s guide, we‘ll review the top rowing machine models across various price points and feature sets to help you find the perfect fit.
How to Choose the Best Rowing Machine
When selecting a rowing machine, there are several factors to consider:
Budget – Rowing machines range greatly in price from $200 basic models to $1500+ for commercial-grade machines. Set a budget and look for models that fit.
Resistance Type – The four main resistance types are air, magnetic, hydraulic piston, and water. Each provides a different rowing feel.
Size/Storage – Make sure the rower will fit in your space. Many fold up for storage. Measure carefully.
Display/Programming – Basic displays show time, strokes, etc. Advanced displays are more interactive with built-in workouts.
Adjustable Resistance – Best to have variable resistance levels to increase difficulty as you get stronger.
Build Quality – Look for sturdy steel frames and smooth rowing motions engineered for comfort.
Noise Level – Air and water rowers are louder than magnetic and piston rowers.
Maximum User Weight – Make sure the weight capacity accommodates you. Most support 250-300 lbs.
By evaluating rowers across these criteria, you can narrow down the options to find the best model for your preferences, fitness level, and budget.
Top 7 Rowing Machines
Based on extensive research and product comparisons, here are our picks for the top rowing machines across all categories and price points:
Best Overall: Concept2 Model D Rowing Machine
- Air resistance
- Smooth flowing rowing motion
- Adjustable damper for varying resistance
- Performance monitor tracks stats
- Foldable with caster wheels for portability
- 300 lb. weight capacity
The Concept2 Model D is the gold standard for serious rowing workouts. Used in gyms and competitions worldwide, the Concept2 employs air resistance and a flywheel design to closely mimic the feel of on-water rowing.
The adjustable damper lets you fine-tune the resistance from level 1 to 10. The performance monitor is easy to read and provides comprehensive workout data. When done, the rower separates into two pieces for compact storage.
With outstanding build quality and ergonomics, the Concept2 delivers an incredibly smooth and natural rowing stroke. It‘s the top choice for fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike.
Average Price: $945
Best Budget: Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine
- Magnetic resistance
- Adjustable tension levels
- LCD display tracks metrics
- Padded seat and textured foot pedals
- Folds up to store
- 330 lb. weight capacity
For shoppers on a tight budget, the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine packs an impressive set of features into a wallet-friendly price point.
The rower employs a magnetic resistance flywheel with eight adjustable tension levels, allowing users to increase difficulty as they progress. The LCD console displays time, count, total count, and calories for tracking progress.
The large contoured seat cushion provides comfortable long rowing sessions. With a 330 lb. maximum user weight, the Sunny rower accommodates most users. For small spaces, it easily folds up vertically for storage when not in use.
Average Price: $214
Best Adjustable Resistance: Hydrow Rower
- Electromagnetic resistance
- 22 levels of adjustable drag
- Live rowing classes streamed on 22” HD touchscreen
- Smooth and quiet rowing stroke
- 300 lb. weight capacity
- Vertical storage
The Hydrow Rower combines an adjustable electromagnetic resistance system with streaming on-demand rowing classes for engaging, full-body workouts.
Using the 22" touchscreen display, you can participate in live or recorded expert-led classes on the water. The electromagnetic drag mechanism lets you choose between 22 different resistance levels with the turn of a knob for greater control over your workout intensity.
Built-in rollers keep the rowing motion smooth and nearly silent. When done, the Hydrow stores vertically against the wall. With monthly class subscriptions, this connected rower provides the most immersive at-home rowing experience.
Average Price: $1,695
Best Compact: Xterra ERG400 Rower
- Space-saving foldable design
- Spiral damper controls airflow and resistance
- Large LCD console displays workout data
- Textured foot pedals with adjustable velcro
- Accommodates heights up to 6‘2"
- 300 lb. weight capacity
With its unique compact footprint, the Xterra ERG400 delivers a complete rowing workout for smaller spaces.
The rower folds into a thin 17.5” width for convenient upright storage. Despite the small size, the ERG400 generates smooth variable resistance between 1 to 10 levels through its spiral damper system.
The angled seat rail and textured foot pedals allow for comfortable ergonomic rowing. The LCD console tracks time, strokes, distance, and estimated calories burned. For rowing in tight quarters, the Xterra ERG400 is ideal.
Average Price: $299
Best Water Resistance: WaterRower Club Rowing Machine
- Handcrafted ash wood frame
- Water flywheel provides natural dynamic resistance
- Series 4 performance monitor
- Smooth and quiet rowing stroke
- Easy upright storage
- 650 lb. weight capacity
Water rowers employ a unique resistance method that uses the drag of paddles in water rather than air or magnets. As you row, the spinning water flywheel creates a soothing splashing sound.
The WaterRower Club model is handcrafted from solid ash wood with honey oak stain for a high-end aesthetic. The S4 performance monitor shows intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, zone bar, duration, and distance.
The WaterRower provides a remarkably realistic on-water feel. The rower stands vertically for storage and holds up to a 650 lb. user weight. It‘s perfect for anyone wanting the look, sound, and feel of real water rowing.
Average Price: $1,295
Best Smart Connected: Ergatta Rower
- 17” touchscreen display
- Integrated heart rate monitoring
- 500+ on-demand workouts
- Games and immersive rowing courses
- Syncs with Apple Watch + fitness apps
- Water resistance with real-wood frame
The Ergatta Rower takes connected fitness to the next level with its integrated 17” HD touchscreen loaded with content.
Along with tracking your performance metrics like time, stroke rate, and heart rate, the display provides access to Ergatta’s library of on-demand rowing classes and workout programs. Gamified features let you compete on virtual courses.
The rower combines the aesthetic of a natural wood WaterRower with advanced digital programming and connectivity. Sync your workout data via Bluetooth to popular fitness apps.
For engaging, screen-based home rowing, the high-tech Ergatta Rower hits the mark.
Average Price: $2,199
Best Budget Water Rower: Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge
- Water flywheel resistance
- LCD tracks time, count, total count, calories
- 16 levels of adjustable resistance
- Compact upright storage
- Maximum user weight: 300 lbs.
The Obsidian Surge Water Rowing Machine by Sunny Health & Fitness delivers water resistance at a lower price point.
As you row, the paddles turn the water tank flywheel providing smooth variable resistance. The large LCD console displays your workout metrics for tracking progress over time.
With 16 levels of manual resistance adjustment, you can dial in the perfect intensity. The rower stands vertically for storage when not in use.
For affordable at-home water rowing, the Obsidian Surge offers users a natural dynamic rowing stroke at an accessible price.
Average Price: $399
What To Look For When Buying a Rowing Machine
Type of Resistance
The different resistance mechanisms each provide unique sensations and benefits:
Air – Smooth and variable resistance. Mimics on-water rowing. Can be noisy. Most adjustable.
Magnetic – Quiet operation. Adjustable tension levels. Durable with little maintenance. Most affordable.
Water – Provides highly realistic rowing feel. Self-regulating resistance increases naturally with intensity. Peaceful splashing sounds.
Piston/Hydraulic – Smooth and quiet rowing motion. Self-regulating resistance. Space efficient. Most compact storage.
Think about noise level, realism, adjustability, and smoothness when choosing the ideal resistance type for your needs and preferences.
Basic consoles show simple workout metrics like time, strokes, distance, and calories. Advanced consoles add extras like games, workout programs, and connectivity.
Consider how involved you want your display and if touchscreens or workout integrations appeal to you. Most let you track progress over time.
Design and Build Quality
Look for aluminum or steel frames for maximum sturdiness. Weight capacities over 250 lbs. accommodate larger users.
Seats should be padded and adjustable. Textured pedals prevent slipping. Smooth track rollers reduce noise.
Higher prices often reflect better materials, engineering, and durability for intense daily use.
Measure where you plan to use the rower to ensure it fits. Standard sizes are 7-9 ft. long x 2-3 ft. wide. Storage heights are 2-4 ft.
Folding/standing vertical rowers take up less floorspace. Built-in rollers or wheels also aid storage.
Rowing Machine Benefits and Muscles Worked
Full-body cardio and strength training make rowing machines highly effective home gym equipment.
Cardiovascular – Rowing elevates your heart rate and sustains aerobic activity for improved cardiovascular health. Burn calories and fat.
Muscular Strength – Rowing utilizes all major muscle groups in both the upper and lower body. You‘ll feel the burn!
Calorie Burn – Rowers burn 400-600 calories per hour, more than bicycling or running. Great for weight loss.
Low Impact – The smooth fluid rowing motion is easy on joints. Kind to knees and back.
Stress Relief – The rhythmic nature of rowing relieves stress. Zen-like mind-body workout.
Muscles Targeted: quads, hamstrings, glutes, back, biceps, shoulders, abdominals. Rowing works your whole body!
Rowing Machine Workouts
Here are some sample rowing machine workouts for beginners through advanced:
- 5 minute warm up; 20 minutes moderate rowing; 5 minute cool down
- Interval training: 1 minute hard rowing, 1 minute rest, repeat 10x
- 5 minute warm up; 30 minutes moderate rowing with varying intensities; 5 minute cool down
- Fartlek training: 2 minutes hard rowing, 1 minute rest, repeat 10-15x
- 10 minute warm up; 45 minutes hard rowing with high intensity intervals; 10 minute cool down
- Pyramid intervals: 1 min hard, 1 min rest; 2 min hard, 1 min rest; 3 min hard, 1 min rest; 4 min hard, 1 min rest; 5 min hard; 4 min rest
Shoot for cardio sessions 2-4x per week. Start slower and build up endurance over time. Vary your speeds and resistance for optimized calorie burn and muscle development.
A rowing machine is one of the most efficient and effective home gym purchases you can make to boost both cardio and strength. With our guide outlining what to look for in a rower and listing the top-rated models in 2022, you have the knowledge to pick the best home rowing machine to transform your fitness.
Ready to start rowing your way to a healthier body? Visit Amazon using the links above to check out the best rowing machines on the market and bring one home today!