Male athlete in a blue vest training on an indoor rowing machine

Best Rowing Machines 2020 (Top 10 Models and Buying Guide)

10 Best Rowing Machines 2020

Best Overall

  1. Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PMS

Best Premium ($1100 and Over)

  1. WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut
  2. Concept2 Model E Indoor Rowing Machine PM5 (Great for anyone with reduced mobility)
  3. Water Rower Club Rowing Machine

Best Budget ($100 to $300)

  1. Sunny Health & Fitness Full Motion Rowing Machine
  2. Stamina 35-1215 Orbital Rowing Machine

Best Mid Range ($300 to $500)

  1. Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower
  2. ProForm 440R Rower

Best Mid to High Range ($500 to $1000)

  1. First Degree Fitness Newport AR Rower Water Rower Exercise Machine
  2. Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Exercise Rower

Rowing is a low-impact cardio workout that’s excellent for building strength and stamina at the same time. With a quality piece of rowing equipment, you can push your body to its limits without putting too much strain on your joints. Unfortunately, it’s not always so simple choosing the best rowing machines. Especially when you want them for home use. When buying a rowing machine for home use you need to balance price and performance to help you maximize your value. That’s where we come in! We’ve taken the time to build a list of best rowing machines available today. We explain how to select quality machines down below, and give you a set of top-quality options to help you get started on your journey to find the very best personal rowing machine. Read through our recommendations and find the option that’s best-suited for you.


Best Rowing Machines 2020 Reviews

Best Overall

#1.  Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PMS

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The Concept 2 Model D indoor rowing machine is our favourite option on this list of the best rowing machines for a few different reasons. The machine is highly adjustable and can be set to work with most users regardless of their height, size or weight. It supports up to 500 lbs. during use and will work for shorter and taller users. While the 14” seat height is a bit lower than other models, it’s comfortable to use and there are enough adjustment options to help you remain comfortable throughout your workout. This rower is also silky smooth during operation. Even during heavy rowing, it remains very quiet and comfortable to use. The fan resistance is even and reliable, and the more effort you put into rowing the more resistance you’ll come up against, this gives you a resistance similar to rowing through the water.

The Concept2 Model D indoor rowing machine comes with a comprehensive computer that tracks heart rate, distance travelled, power output and more useful data points to help keep you motivated. It features built-in Bluetooth to integrate with a wireless heart rate monitor, and the device will connect with a range of fitness apps to track your progress and keep you motivated over time. It’s all these different qualities together that make this product enjoyable to use and so useful for getting a reliable workout in.

We enjoyed the fan that operates while using this machine because it helps to create a cool atmosphere for more comfortable exercising. This rowing machine also split into two for simple storage, making it a more compact option for use in smaller locations. If you’re looking for a tough, reliable and comfortable machine to get a low-impact workout on, the Concept 2 Model D is a solid investment.

Pros

Reliable real-time data information

Highly adjustable to fit most users

Separates in two for storage

500 lbs. user capacity

Simple assembly

Cons

× Chain can be troublesome during assembly

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Best Premium ($1100 and Over)

#1.  WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut

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The WaterRower Classic rowing machine is a premium option for fitness enthusiasts that want to get a good workout in with minimal impact, but who are also looking for more of a memorable experience. The machine uses a unique water flywheel which is our favourite aspect of the unit. Not only does the flywheel immersed in water create smooth and even resistance, but it creates a pleasant water sound during operation as well. It’s relaxing to use, which is a plus for a workout machine.

This system is heavy and difficult to move around, but it’s also stable and dependable. You’ll love the way this rower looks thanks to its premium hardwood finish. This rower is built to last and has a very stable feel to it even when pushing out quick reps at a high intensity. It’s the type of rower that we trust to last over the long-term and something you’ll want to add in your home gym.

The WaterRower rowing machine is built from beautiful black walnut and comes oiled up with a nice glossy finish. It takes a few minutes to apply the included oil to the machine once you receive it, but once you do it’s impossible to overlook how nice this piece of equipment looks overall. Careful design and the solid wood construction means that you can work out with this rowing machine with minimal noise and vibration and that you can use it in most environments comfortably. It’s handcrafted and sturdy and a nice premium investment, but it does come at a cost. It’s more expensive than most rowing machines, which is why it’s in our premium section of the best rowing machines.

Pros

Features smooth water flywheel

Handcrafted construction

Excellent data monitor

Quiet with minimal vibration

Heavy and sturdy

Cons

× Expensive

× Wood often comes with minor scratching

×  Wood should be oiled occasionally

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#2.  Concept2 Model E Indoor Rowing Machine PM5 (Great for anyone with reduced mobility)

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The Concept2 Model E rowing machine is a premium rowing machine when you want a smooth and rugged workout right in your home. This machine isn’t cheap by any means, but it offers stable performance and excellent durability thanks to its welded steel frame design. This rowing machine comes with a 5-year frame warranty and comes with a tough nickel-plated chain that will withstand long-term use well. It’s heavy, solid and doesn’t shift or shake during heavy use. This gives us complete confidence in this machine and how well it will withstand hard use for years after your initial purchase.

We love that the rower features a 20-inch seat that’s easy to get on and off even for older users. This rowing machine utilizes an air damper for resistance that helps to create a cooling breeze while offering an adjustable level of resistance that’s nice and even. The whole rowing machine feels solid and doesn’t vibrate during use in the least. Construction is quick and easy as long as you have another person to help carry the machine to its final destination. Once assembled this rowing machine must be tightened and adjusted periodically, and the chain should be oiled, but upkeep is minimal overall. This rower is built to last and that’s why it’s one of the top options on our list of the best rowing machines available today.

Pros

Smooth feel

5-year frame warranty

Welded steel build

Separates into two different pieces

√  Comprehensive performance computer

Cons

× Expensive

× Must be tightened periodically

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#3.  Water Rower Club Rowing Machine w/ S4 Monitor

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The Water Rower Club is a fine rowing machine that delivers the level of smooth performance from a machine in its price range. It’s heavy and difficult to get to its intended location, but once there the setup is quick and easy to go through. Once everything is up and running, including adding water to the unique flywheel reservoir, you’re ready to get a solid workout from this machine.

We thoroughly enjoyed the performance of this rower because it sounds nice, it’s smooth and it’s very solid feeling. The rower is built from solid ash and doesn’t vibrate or rock much during heavy use. It comes with a very unique water flywheel that makes a relaxing water noise during use. While pushing yourself on the machine you’ll feel like you are actually rowing through water if you close your eyes and listen. This bit of equipment is costly, but it’s built well and should hold up for many years. It also folds up vertically, making it simple to store it out of the way when you aren’t working out. This makes this machine an excellent option for smaller gyms or even rooms in an apartment or a condo. When you want a smooth upper and lower body workout, and don’t mind spending a bit more to get it, the Water Rower Club rowing machine is worth the cost.

Pros

Handcrafted construction

Unique water flywheel

Stores upright

Capable data tracking computer

Solid ash construction

Cons

× Heavy at 117 pounds

× A costly piece of equipment

×  Wood may come with light scratches

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Best Budget ($100 to $300)

#1.  Sunny Health & Fitness Full Motion Rowing Machine

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If you’re searching for a light-duty rowing machine that will give you a decent workout as a beginner, the Sunny Health & Fitness Full Motion rowing machine is a solid budget-friendly option. This rower made it to our list of the best rowing machines because it performs smoothly, offers a respectable workout for new users and is comfortable to use. It isn’t perfect though and we’ll get into exactly what issues you could experience while using this machine below.

At its price, you can get started working out for very little with one of these machines added to your home. They offer a respectable 350 lbs. weight capacity and seem solid and sturdy when users near that weight get on the machine. This rower offers a comfortable full range of motion and allows you to change hand positions during use. It features wide anti-slip foot pedals and uses hydraulic resistance for a nice even feel throughout the motion. This rower is lightweight, compact and easy to assemble. It’s an excellent option when you have limited space available and is a decent investment for new exercise enthusiasts. The only real downside to this machine is that the resistance isn’t very difficult. Even at the highest setting, most users will outgrow the machine over time. It’s a good tool to get into shape but will stop being too much of a challenge eventually. If you’re just looking to get started and searching for a decent budget option, this is a good way to go, but you’ll likely want an upgrade eventually.

Pros

12 resistance levels

Full range of motion

Comfortably padded seat

Oversized anti-slip foot pedals

Smooth hydraulic resistance

Cons

× 350 lbs. weight capacity

× Weaker resistance

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#2.  Stamina 35-1215 Orbital Rowing Machine

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The Stamina 35-1215 Orbital rowing machine is a favourite rowing machine of ours because it helps budget-rowers get a good workout in without spending much to do it. This piece of equipment is affordable and does a decent job at the same time. It relies on hydraulics for resistance, and this creates a bit of unbalance throughout the rowing motion, but overall rowing is pleasant on this machine. It’s padded heavily for comfort and the orbital handles make it possible to get a very nice range of motion in during your workouts. This rower folds down compactly when not in use, but it does take up more space than other systems that fold up vertically. If you aren’t dealing with a compact workout space, this rower could be a good solid option to get you started with good solid cardio workouts.

One of the biggest standout benefits of the Stamina 35-1215 rowing machine is that it offers tough resistance that will still challenge athletic users. The system is built durably as well and comes with a decent computer that gives useful workout information. The machine is better for shorter users though because of the way that it is designed. Tall users about 5’10” or larger won’t get a full leg workout because of the length of the machine. If you’re a taller user you might want to look at a different machine for your workout, but this rower is a nice tough option for users looking to get a solid workout in without spending as much to do it.

Pros

Affordable

Compact design

Decent computer included

Thick padding for comfort

Tough resistance

Cons

× Uneven resistance performance

× Doesn’t work legs fully for tall users

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Best Mid Range ($300 to $500)

#1.  Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower

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The Velocity Exercise magnetic rower is a smooth and quiet rower priced in the middle of the pack at a reasonable rate. It’s a step-up from our budget rowers and delivers good solid long-term performance. This is a rowing machine for people looking for an extremely quiet unit. During our testing, we were pleased with just how quiet this rower really is. It can be used while watching television without turning the TV up much at all. That’s thanks in large part to the electronic resistance system it uses.

This rowing machine offers a good range of resistance levels, it’s lightweight and aluminium for easy moving, and it offers a reliable heart rate monitor. It’s a bit weak when you consider that it only supports up to 275 lbs. but if you are within that weight range this rowing machine should hold up well to regular use without too much wear. It’s nice and compact and a perfect piece of equipment for a small space when you still want to get a solid workout in. Some users complain about mechanical failures over time with this equipment, but most state that it holds up well over time, making it a good overall value if you’re looking for a smooth rower to get your workouts in on.

Pros

Good value

Electronic resistance is smooth

Good reliable heart rate monitor

Lightweight aluminium build

Very quiet to use

Cons

× Supports just 275 lbs.

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#2.  ProForm 440R Rower

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The ProForm 440R rower made it to our list of the best rowing machines thanks to its lightweight form-factor and its affordable price tag. The rower can’t compare to what you find in the local gym, but it is sturdy enough for a good solid workout at home as long for the average user. This rower is built from tough aluminium construction and has a wide rail that helps it operate smoothly and securely. It’s equipped with oversized footrests made from thick nylon and has adjustable foot straps to hold you firmly in position during use.

While using this rowing machine there is a large LCD screen that shows all the important data from your workout. There are also eight different resistance levels to choose from to custom tailor your workout to meet your needs.

This unit is best described as a light-duty rowing machine though. If you’re already in excellent shape, the maximum resistance level might not feel difficult enough. That means serious athletes should keep looking at our other recommendations for a more difficult machine. If you’re just getting started with rowing, the ProForm 440R is an excellent introductory machine that should last for quite some time and help you save on your initial purchase. It’s smooth during operation, lightweight and compact enough to fit into most spaces. It’s also very comfortable, which helps it stand out from some of the other affordable rowers on our list.

Pros

Oversized pedals with nylon footrests

Compact design

Affordable price

Oversized LCD display

Comfortable handle

Cons

× Maximum resistance is not that difficult

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Best Mid to High Range ($500 to $1000)

#1.  First Degree Fitness Newport AR Rower Water Rower Exercise Machine

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The Newport AR Water Rower from First Degree Fitness is a tough machine that offers an excellent workout to anyone looking to work up a sweat. We love the tough resistance offered by the water-filled tank and that this system is built with such rugged construction qualities. The whole system is belt driven, smooth and quiet, and you get thick steel beams, a rugged polycarbonate tank and durable stainless steel resistance blades to make a very dependable machine that should last for many years.

This rower comes with a capable computer that tracks 500M split time, calories burned per hour, total watts output during the workout and your heart rate if you have the additional heart rate monitor. This machine operates smoothly and should give you good stable performance time and time again, and when you’re finished with your workout, you can tip it up and store it vertically so it’s out of the way until next time.

We were disappointed to realize that the heart rate monitor designed for use with the First Degree Fitness Newport AR rower is sold separately and only available through the company website. If you already own a separate heart rate monitor you intend to use this won’t be an issue, but everyone else will have to make that additional purchase to enjoy the heart rate function with this machine. Other than that one flaw, this rower is an excellent mid-level machine that’s smooth, tough and offers a good solid workout that will make you want to keep coming back for more.

Pros

Water flywheel resistance

Polycarbonate tank build

Quiet operation

In-depth computer

Smooth belt drive performance

Cons

× Heart rate monitor is sold separately

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#2.  Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Exercise Rower

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The Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Exercise Rower is one of our favourites on this list of the best rowing machines for a few reasons. It benefits from a moderate price tag that most people will be able to justify. The rower is comfortable to use, nearly silent and offers a good mix of resistance levels to make use of during your workouts. Between these different benefits, there is a lot to enjoy about this rowing machine and all it can do for you.

Our favourite aspect of this rower is that it’s nearly silent during hard use. This is all thanks to the magnetic resistance system used by the rower. The only downside is that resistance is not as high as what you can expect from more manual resistance systems. It’s supremely comfortable to use thanks to the moulded seat and wide foot plates. This rowing machine is also highly customizable and offers 12 different workout programs and maintains 6 cardio profiles as well. The system helps you get the perfect workout in every time, and makes it easy to create goals to try and break while riding. It also includes a heart rate monitor and chest strap for accurate heart rate readings during your workouts. Overall, the system is tough, reliable, quiet and smooth to use. It’s a lot of fun to make use of and should help you get into shape efficiently. Add it to your home gym and you’ll be happy to have it.

Pros

12 built-in workout programs to choose from

Near-silent operation

Magnetic resistance

Multi-function fitness monitor with ample data

Comfortable moulded seat

Cons

× Tough resistance at the beginning of the pull

× Difficult to move around

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Rowing Machine Buying Guide

It’s not as simple as it seems to pick a quality rowing machine out. There’s a lot to these systems and it won’t always be obvious which option you should be going for. Below we break down key value points like smooth resistance, range of motion, data tracking, ergonomics and durability to help you decide on the right machine for your home. Use all this information to aid in your selection process.

Look for Smooth Resistance

The resistance mechanism of the rowing machine is one of the most important considerations and largely determines whether a machine is enjoyable and effective to use or not. For athletes interested in noiseless operation, magnetic resistance is the best option. That’s because materials aren’t pressing up against one another at all. There is no physical friction. The downside with this type of resistance is that it isn’t as powerful and challenging as other forms of resistance are. That means as you get stronger a machine with magnetic resistance might not be challenging enough any longer.

Fan and water-based resistance mechanisms are also excellent options for nice even resistance as you workout. These two options are louder during use, but they offer a higher level of resistance, and they push back more reliably at high-intensity levels making them perfect for a stronger rower that really wants a challenge. Water and air resistance mechanisms are louder and might make it harder to watch a television show without turning up the volume. As long as you get a machine with a smooth resistance mechanism, rowing on it should be enjoyable and comfortable. More uneven solutions, such as hydraulic resistance isn’t as enjoyable, and that’s why this option is only available on our budget options because the resistance changes throughout the stroke and feels a bit unnatural.

Full Range of Motion

Of most, the most important factors to pay attention to when choosing the best rowing machines for home or commercial use is what sort of range of motion they offer. A good rower should allow you to go from a fully crouched position to a fully extended position with your legs almost entirely straight out in front. The top-tier rowers we put on our list offer an excellent range of motion throughout the rowing cycle, making it possible to get a good upper body and lower body workout in. There are some machines on our list that are better for the taller rower, and others that are best-suited to shorter rowers, but by carefully selecting one of our recommended options you can find a rowing machine that will fit your body style perfectly. If you can find a rowing machine that offers you a full range-of-motion during your workouts you’ll enjoy all the benefits of rowing. This will also make your workouts more comfortable and enjoyable overall so you can feel confident as you push yourself to your limits.

Capable Tracking

During a strenuous workout, it’s nice having data points that you can track from your workout. That’s why we look for machines that track your distance rowed, your total power output and other trackable data points that you can use to decide how well you’re doing during your workouts. With this information, you can quickly see if you’re improving over time and also decide if you need to push harder or not during your workouts. Try and pick a system with an easy-to-read LCD display that includes useful data points. If you can get those two things you’ll be able to map out your workouts more reliably and get more out of every workout that you get in on your rowing machine.

Ergonomics and Compact Storage

Many people just don’t have the space to dedicate a full room of their home to a rowing machine. For people like this working with limited space, it’s helpful to have a rowing machine that folds up and out of the way. Most of our top recommended rowers will fold vertically up and out of the way. If you have limited space yourself, pay attention to the open dimensions of the rower and the stored dimensions and decide if the machine will fit in the space you have available or not. It might take some adjustments to get a machine that you’re happy with, but there are some systems that fold down into really tight spaces, making them an excellent option compared to something larger like a treadmill.

Durable Build Quality

We look closely at the materials used in construction, key attachment points between the different sections of the rower and also the overall attention-to-detail that goes into each rowing machine to determine just how well it will hold up over time. When choosing a quality rower we only want to recommend equipment that will last for many years, and we skip over products that flex during use, have obvious mechanical flaws or look too lightweight to hold up well over time. Even our budget recommendations are built to last.

By looking at each of these considerations carefully, and also paying attention to build quality, durability and reliability you should be able to find a quality rowing machine that will help you get into shape. Rowing is so popular because it’s an enjoyable full-body workout, and you’ll enjoy your time on one of our recommended machines more if they perform well in all of the considered categories up above.


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10 best rowing machines


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