Best Rowing Machine

Rowing is a fantastic form of exercise that has numerous health benefits from increasing strength and stamina to burning calories by the dozen. Also known as an ergometer, the rowing machine is a standard in most gyms and provides a killer workout that will have you looking lean and mean in no time.

What Is the Rowing Machine?

The rowing machine or ergometer is essentially a piece of gym equipment that mimics the actions of rowing a boat, canoe, or shell (as in the Olympics). This machine has multiple purposes that can be used for a variety of training from low-impact workouts and low-intensity endurance development to high-intensity sprint intervals, full-body strength training, core training, and posture control.


Rowing is a fantastic form of exercise that has numerous health benefits.

How Do You Use a Rowing Machine?

A rowing machine imitates the actions used when rowing a small boat, using the arms, legs, and core of the body. An easy way to row is to use this simple formula: push, core, pull, relax and repeat. The motion of rowing begins at the bottom of the stroke in the catch position with the knees bent and arms holding the handles in front of the body.

The legs are then extended, using the quad muscles to push away from the base of the machine while at the same time, hinging the core and using the arms to pull the handle towards the chest. Once the legs are extended, bend the knees again and move back to the starting position. Repeat the movement. The bulk of the rowing movement is in the legs and is made up of 60% legs, 30% core, and 10% arms if done correctly.


A rowing machine imitates the actions used when rowing a small boat, using the arms, legs, and core of the body. 

What to Look for When Shopping for a Rowing Machine

When shopping for an indoor rowing machine, it’s important to consider the features of the machine and get one that suits your needs. Higher-end models are often of better quality and more durable so you may need to spend slightly more to get a better model.

The best way to test out an indoor rowing machine is to use it at the gym first as this will give you the chance to get used to the machine, make sure it’s a comfy fit, and decide on what features you prefer. Rowing machines use different types of resistance ranging from air and water to magnets so it’s a good idea to test a few rowing machines to find your best match.

Important features to consider when shopping for a rowing machine, include:

1. Noise Level

Indoor rowing machines can be noisy, and you need to consider this if you plan on using the machine in a public space or apartment block. Water-resistant rowers tend to be quieter than other types of rowing machines.

2. Size and Storage

Rowers are large pieces of equipment and can take up a lot of floor space. If you have limited space, consider a folding rowing machine that can be folded and stored vertically.

3. Comfortable Seat

The seat on a rowing machine is probably the most important feature as when you use the rowing machine you will be sitting for an extended period and comfort is key to an enjoyable experience. Make sure the seat is comfortable, sits at an appropriate distance from the ground, and fits your body well.

4. Adjustable Foot Straps

It’s a good idea to get a rowing machine with adjustable foot straps to find a snug fit.

5. Resistance Options

There are a few different types of resistance you can choose from when shopping for a rowing machine. Some machines have a standard resistance which is dependent on how hard you pull, while others have specific resistance levels you can set and change throughout your workout. Rowing machines with air or water resistance offer a quiet and smooth experience with maximum resistance options.

6. Dashboard Stats

If you want to analyze the data from your workouts, go for a rowing machine that has an ergometer (measures energy expended) or a dashboard that provides workout information such as calories burned, power output, and other in-depth tracking options.

7. Smart Features

Some rowing machines have added features like pre-programmed workouts, Bluetooth headphone connection, streaming capabilities, Wi-Fi connection, and syncing abilities with heart rate monitors or third-party apps.

8. Ease of Maintenance

Bear in mind that you will need to maintain your rowing machine regularly to ensure maximum efficiency and durability. A machine with detachable parts will be easier to clean, maintain, and repair if needed.


Some machines have a standard resistance which is dependent on how hard you pull. 

Best Rowing Machine

Best Overall Rower: NordicTrack RW Rower

The NordicTrack RW900 Rower provides professional rowing instruction in the comfort of your home. The rower has an innovative, immersive 22″ rotating HD touchscreen that is easily visible for showcasing a vast library of iFit Trainer-led Studio Classes and Global Workouts.

The NordicTrack RW900 rowing machine has two forms of resistance: air and magnetic that allow you to increase the intensity and build strength via manual adjustments. It has large pivoting pedals with quick-release adjustable foot straps and comes with a 1-year iFit family membership that provides fast-paced, trainer-led rowing workouts.

The NordicTrack RW900 rowing machine has an innovative folding design with front-mounted transport wheels that makes it easy to pack and store in small spaces.

Pros

  •         Innovative folding design
  •         Immersive 22″ rotating HD touchscreen
  •         Library of iFit Trainer-led Studio Classes and Global Workouts
  •         Pivoting pedals with quick-release adjustable foot straps
  •         Easy to pack and store
  •         Includes a 1-year iFit family membership

Cons

  •         Expensive

Best Budget Rower: Sunny Health SF-RW5515

The Sunny Health Fitness SF-RW5515 Rowing Machine offers a cardio workout with the feel of an outdoor rowing experience. Boasting eight levels of adjustable resistance with a weight capacity of 250 lbs, the Sunny Health Fitness SF-RW5515 Rowing Machine has a large LCD console that is easy to read.

The rowing machine has a fully padded seat and non-slip foot pedals with adjustable foot straps, as well as transportation wheels for good portability. Non-slip grip handlebars are great for long sessions and keep you balanced and focused.

Pros

  •         Magnetic tension system
  •         Eight levels of adjustable resistance
  •         LCD console
  •         Non-slip grip handlebars
  •         Fully padded seat for comfort
  •         Large anti-slip foot pedals
  •         Built-in transportation wheels

Cons

  •         Quite large and takes up more space than other rowing machines

Best Outdoor Reality Rower: Hydrow Connected Rower

The Hydrow Connected Rower is a state-of-the-art rowing machine designed to provide a realistic outdoor rowing experience. The rowing machine stores over 1000 pre-recorded river and studio rowing sessions, as well as 24-hour access to classes for all experience levels with a monthly membership.

A large LCD 22” HD sweat-and-dust resistant touchscreen provides a multisensory approach with beautiful outdoor visuals and real-life sounds from high-quality, front-facing speakers to elevate your workout. A computer-controlled electromagnetic drag mechanism provides a smooth rowing experience, and the aluminum frame and ergonomic body provide optimal performance.

Designed to be smooth and quiet, the ergonomically designed Hydrow Connected Rower is equipped with an industrial-grade webbed strap creating frictionless and silent rowing strokes. A full cushioned 10-roller system seat offers maximum comfort.

Pros

  •         Multisensory rowing experience
  •         Has a computer-controlled electromagnetic drag mechanism
  •         Ergonomic design
  •         Cushioned 10-roller system seat
  •         22” HD sweat-and-dust resistant touchscreen

Cons

  •         Expensive

Best Ergonomic Design: Schwinn Crewmaster Rowing Machine

The Schwinn Crewmaster Rowing Machine has a sleek ergonomic design that can be used by all levels of rowers from beginner to advanced. It has 10 levels of magnetic resistance for stronger and more effective pulling, and a large, backlit, and adjustable console with an LCD that shows distance, time, count, strokes, calories, and pulse.

This rowing machine has a fully padded seat and non-slip foot pedals with adjustable foot straps, as well as transportation wheels for good portability. Non-slip grip handlebars are great for long sessions and keep you balanced and focused.

Pros

  •         Multisensory rowing experience
  •         Has a computer-controlled electromagnetic drag mechanism
  •         Ergonomic design
  •         Cushioned 10-roller system seat
  •         22” HD sweat-and-dust resistant touchscreen

Cons

  •         Quite low on the ground

Best for Storage: Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine is our top pick for a fantastic rowing machine that separates into two pieces for easy storage. Boasting a weight capacity of up to 500 lbs, the rowing machine’s flywheel design is smooth and quiet, and it has a performance monitor for you to analyze your workout.

The ergonomic design of the rowing machine allows it to be used in small spaces and it is easy to transport and store. It has a 14-inch-high comfortable padded seat, adjustable footrests, and an ergonomic handle, and comes with a 90-day warranty.

Pros

  •         Easy to store
  •         Quiet and smooth
  •         Performance Monitor
  •         Ergonomic design
  •         Padded seat and adjustable footrest

Cons

  •         Expensive

Best Air Resistance Rower: Stamina ATS Air Rower 1403

The Stamina ATS Air Rower 1403 is a great air-resistance rowing machine that will help you improve build muscles and burn calories. Air-resistance rowing machines use air to match your pace, which provides an excellent cardiovascular workout.

This machine has an LCD monitor so you can track your progress by measuring distance, speed, time, calories burned, and strokes, and it has an upholstered, padded seat for maximum comfort, adjustable footplates, and a padded rowing handle.

The Stamina ATS Air Rower 1403 also features built-in wheels and a folding frame to make transporting and storage easy.

Pros

  •         Built-in wheels and a folding frame
  •         LCD monitor
  •         Padded seat and adjustable footrest
  •         Easy transport and store

Cons

  •         Only suitable for air-resistance rowers

Best for Small Spaces: Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

Ideally suited for small spaces, the Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine is compact and neat and has smooth, hydraulic cylinder resistance that effectively mimics rowing through real water.

This unique-looking machine offers full-range-of-motion rowing with two long handles and an adjustable, hydraulic gas shock resistance for a smooth rowing stroke. It has a multi-functional electronic monitor that displays data from your workout and a comfortable molded seat.

Textured footplates with adjustable straps and foam-padded hand grips provide a snug and secure fit and the small rowing machine can be folded away for storage.

Pros

  •         Ideal for small spaces
  •         Can be folded for storage
  •         Adjustable, hydraulic gas shock resistance
  •         Textured footplates with adjustable straps
  •         Padded seat
  •         Foam padded handles

Cons

  •         On the small side

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the health benefits of indoor rowing?

  1. Burns Calories

Rowing combines cardiovascular and strength training and burns large amounts of calories depending on your body weight and the effort you put in. Rowing can burn between 400 and 500 calories in an hour. Competitive rowers burn almost twice as many calories over 2,000 meters as runners burn over 3,000 meters.

  1. Reduces Stress

Physical activity, like rowing, helps produce endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in your brain. Endorphins help with insomnia and help you to sleep better; they act as natural relaxants and painkillers; and generally, make you feel great! Regular sessions on your rowing machine will lift your mood, reduce stress, and improve your self-esteem.

  1. Improves Cardiovascular Fitness

Rowing is a cardiovascular exercise that uses both the arms and legs, as well as the core and back to propel the body forward. It tones the lower and upper body, and the core, and produces better overall muscle definition than other cardio activities like running. Rowing regularly can help increase your stamina and endurance, as well as overall aerobic and cardiovascular fitness.

  1. Heart Healthy

Rowing is a cardiovascular exercise and one of the best exercises for maintaining a happy and healthy heart. Cardiovascular exercise helps to get the heart pumping, muscles working, and sweat flowing and helps make the heart stronger.

The heart is the engine of the body and the core of the complex and hard-working cardiovascular system, which also includes the vast network of arteries, veins, and other blood vessels that run throughout the body, taking oxygenated blood to every cell.

  1. Tones Muscles

Rowing works the muscles in the arms, legs, back, and core, building lean muscle, as well as toning, and tightening flabby muscles, leaving the body looking lean and mean. Rowing builds and strengthens muscles without putting any strain on the musculoskeletal structure and helps to target muscle groups that wouldn’t normally be used in other exercises. It also helps flex and stretch the muscles, which is great for people of all ages to fend off the stiffening effects of aging.

  1. Strengthens Your Core

Rowing makes your core stronger by working the neutralizer and stabilizer muscles, which are the

same muscles that create balance within the body and prevent you from injuring your back when you pick up something heavy.

  1. Improves Flexibility and Mobility

A 20 to 30-minute session of moderate rowing will loosen joints and muscles and increase flexibility. The repetitive stretching actions of rowing help keep the body flexible and also helps to reduce stiffness post-exercise.

  1. Low Impact on the Joints

Rowing is to be low-impact, using fluid motions that are non-weight bearing on the joints and tendons.

  1. Good Cross-Training Exercise for Other Sports

Rowing is a great cross-training exercise that benefits an array of other sports like swimming, running, tennis, and squash. Because it works so many muscle groups in the body, rowing strengthens and tones the arms, legs, back, and core and helps most forms of other training.


Rowing is a great cross-training exercise. 

  1. Rowing Machines are Easy to Use

Have you ever walked into a gym and felt overwhelmed by all the different types of equipment? Or even worse, started on a machine, only to be told halfway through that you are back to front and upside down? A rowing machine is easy to use from setting it up for your body and exercise requirements to using the machine.

  1. Good for Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

For anyone who suffers from osteoarthritis or arthritis, rowing is an excellent way to stay in shape. It’s also a good form of exercise if you’re recovering from an injury or battling with other aches and pains. A rowing machine will help you strengthen your joints and increase mobility without causing more damage.

  1. Rowing is Beginner-Friendly

Rowing is an easy way to start working out in the gym or at home as it is easy to perform and can be built up to varying levels of resistance. Rowing can show results in a short time for both beginners and more advanced rowers, so stick with it and you’ll see the results.

  1. Improves Posture

Rowing is an excellent form of exercise to improve posture if done correctly without slouching or over-compressing when you pull back. It requires a straight strong back and core and this can lead to a marked improvement in posture over time.

  1. Rowing is Versatile

Rowing is a very versatile form of exercise that combines cardiovascular, strength, and fat-burning training. Rowing at lower intensities for a longer period can build endurance and stamina, while rowing at high intensities for short periods with set intervals is great for building speed, increasing heart rate, and overall fitness.

  1. Improves Circulation

Rowing improves circulation and helps the heart to pump oxygenated blood to all parts of the body, move nutrients around for cell repair, and remove cell waste quickly and efficiently. A healthy circulatory system reduces the risk of embolisms, blockages caused by blood clots that typically form in the veins in the legs and travel to the heart and the lungs, which can be deadly. Improved circulation can also reduce the risk of strokes and other circulatory problems.

  1. Helps with Brain Functioning

Regular exercise, such as rowing, improves cognitive functioning, memory, and thinking skills. Rowing increases the heart rate, which increases the blood flow to the brain, and reduces inflammation and insulin resistance in the brain, which supports the growth of new brain cells.

  1. Quick and Easy

No more long hours in the gym…rowing is a quick and easy form of exercise that can give you a full-body workout in just 15 minutes!

  1. Easy on the Wallet

Rowing is an inexpensive form of exercise with the only cost outlays being a gym membership (if you don’t already have one) or the cost of a rowing machine for home. You don’t need any specific training gear – you can simply wear shorts and a tee and trainers and there are no other extra costs involved.

  1. Challenging and Motivating

Rowing machines can be set at different levels as a challenge, which is also a good motivator to train hard. It’s a form of exercise in which you see fast results, which is also a great motivator to train harder.

  1. Good Practice for Rowing Outdoors

Rowing in the gym can also set you up to try it outdoors. You can join a rowing club and meet new like-minded people while at the same time enjoying the fresh air and beautiful scenery that surrounds most rowing locations.

Q: What muscles benefit from rowing on a rowing machine?

A: The major muscles in the body that benefit from a full workout on a rowing machine include the following:

  •         Abdominal and core muscles.
  •         Leg muscles such as quads, glutes, and hamstrings all benefit from rowing.
  •         Arm muscles and other upper body muscles such as triceps, biceps, and chest muscles.
  •         Shoulder and upper back muscles.
  •         Hip flexors.

Q: Can Rowing Be My Entire Workout Every Time?

Rowing can most definitely be used as a single workout as it provides an excellent full-body workout and works the cardiovascular, respiratory, and circulatory systems. The intensity of the workouts can be increased as you get fitter and stronger and molded to your body’s specific needs.

Try this 20-minute rowing machine workout, this creative rowing circuit workout.