Last Updated on January 1, 2023 by Jeff
Home rowing machines have come a long way and there are now a ton of sleek, highly-refined pieces of rowing machine equipment ready to get your cardio health on the upswing. Having a rower right there in your home can really be the push you need to get your muscles moving in a challenging yet comfortable way. Overall, the best rowing machines all provide a way to increase full-body fitness by burning calories and building muscle in a safe, low-impact way and for any fitness level.
Here are our 5 Top Picks for Best Rowing Machines of 2023:
|NordicTrack RW900 Rowing Machine||See Price|
|Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Monitor||See Price on Amazon|
|Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine||See Price on Amazon|
|YOSUDA Magnetic Rowing Machine 350 LB Weight Capacity||See Price on Amazon|
|Sunny Health and Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine||See Price on Amazon|
Best Rowing Machines by Price:
In the rowing machines for home use category, there are a lot of models to chose from. They range in price from under $100 to well over $1500. As you can imagine, you’re getting a different type of rower at those ends of the spectrum, but within that variety there’s something for everyone. For further help, we’ve listed best rowing machine models and brands by price ranges below:
PRICE RANGE: $100-$200:
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine w/ 12 Level Adjustable Resistance (click to see on Amazon) – $100 – 15,908 Reviews
Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine (click to see on Amazon) – $139 – 5,649 Reviews
PRICE RANGE: $200-$300:
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine w/ LCD Monitor (click to see on Amazon) – $249 – 16,734 Reviews
FITNESS REALITY 1000 PLUS Bluetooth Magnetic Rower Rowing Machine (click to see on Amazon) – $279 – 2,794 Reviews
PRICE RANGE: $400-$900:
Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine – SF-RW5713 (click to see on Amazon) – $449 – 2,605 Reviews
NordicTrack RW600 Rower – (click to see on Nordictrack.com) – $999 – 1,700 Reviews
PRICE RANGE: $900 and up:
Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Monitor – (check on Amazon) – $945 – 5,213 Reviews
NordicTrack RW900 Rowing Machine – (check on NordicTrack.com) – $1,699 – 113 Reviews
Our Very Top Picks for Best Rowing Machines
If you’re on the hunt for a rowing machine for your home workouts, keep in mind that there are many different styles and features that you’re going to want to consider before choosing. As always, high quality comes with a price, but there are great, reliable rowers at lower prices as well. We’ll do our best to break down all the things you need to know below. And we have included our top picks to help you find the best rowing machine to get your heart rate up and your fitness journey on track. To get more specific, here are our top picks for the best rowing machines:
#1. Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine
The Concept2 Model D (soon to be renamed the Concept2 RowErg) is the ultra-popular air rower that you’ll see at most gyms. It is one of the best home rowing machines you can buy period. Expertly constructed and ergonomically unequaled, this rowing machine looks great and rows smoothly without so much as a jarring catch. As an air rower, the Concept2 employs air baffles to create the resistance. A nickel-plated chain pulls the flywheel and you get your workout by pulling against the increasingly higher air pressure that the fan is creating.
This home rowing machine includes the excellent PM5 monitor that provides all vital data. It can display your workout performance in two ways. You can choose to see your workout in total distance and time, or as “splits”. Splits is a way of seeing how your pace is varying along two set points. Either way is useful, but splits give you more of a “real-time”, in the moment calculation of how you are doing.
The other nice thing about the Concept2 Model D’s PM5 monitor is that is calculates drag factor. This means that you get a true measure of your workout effort no matter if any other factors change such as damper resistance levels adjustments or a stiff breeze comes through your workout room (not likely).
Note, this rower is soon to be renamed the Concept2 RowErg, but it seems to be basically the same machine. I’ll keep you posted.
There’s a reason CrossFit enthusiasts choose the Concept 2 Model D – it’s a work horse. If you’re looking for the best rowing machine to take a licking and keep on ticking, this is it. Click here to read the full review.
#2. NordicTrack RW900 Rowing Machine
The NordicTrack RW900 Rowing Machine with 22″ touch screen represents the meeting point of traditional rowers and the future of immersive high-tech live and on-demand workouts and “connected rowing” with world-class trainers that adjust your machine’s digital resistance levels.
Speaking of resistance, without much fanfare NordicTrack switched this model from an air rower to a magnetic rowing machine via their new SMR (Silent Magnetic Resistance). As the name suggests, this plus the inertia-enhanced flywheel make this magnetic rower very quiet and smooth.
The RW900 Rower’s 22” Rotating Smart HD Touchscreen and NordicTrack’s iFit virtual training opens up a massive array of training variety with cross-training from strength training to yoga. This takes “full body workout” on a rowing machine to a whole new level.
On-demand rowing and video workouts from around the globe keeps you coming back for more workouts. The NordicTrack RW900 Rowing Machine’s iFit tracks all your with in-depth workout stats and allows up to four profiles per membership. With all of these features, and a 250lb user weight capacity, this is hands down one of the best rowing machines out there. Click here to check NordicTrack.com for the best price on the RW900 Rowing Machine:
An Interesting Rowing Machine Hybrid Option
Sunny Health & Fitness Upright Row-n-Ride Trainer with Squat Assist
The Sunny Row-n-Ride Squat Assist Glutes Workout Row Machine is a great example of deceptively simple design that allows for a surprisingly great workout, and for a shockingly low-price. The Row-n-Ride combination squat-assist and rower features super ergonomic motion that allows you to get deep, comfortable, assisted squats to target your glutes and lower body as well as rowing motion for your upper body (shoulders, biceps, back). It’s a rowing machine that also lets you focus on properly doing squats (for toning your butt). It’s pretty close to a full body workout in one rower. What more could you want?
The Sunny Row-n-Ride is super adjustable and allows you to choose the depth of your squat from 30, 60, or 90 degree angles. With its sturdy resistance bands, you can even get creative and do incline presses, bent rows, and other It comes with an exercise monitor that track time, calories and rep count. This rower also folds up into a super slim space-saving profile for storage.
With a durable, solid construction, the Sunny Health & Fitness Row-n-Ride comes in at a very reasonable price (around $100) and is very easy to assemble in around 20 min.
Home Rowing Machine Features to Consider
Type of Resistance
Rowing machines may all have similar designs, but where they can differ the most is in their form of providing resistance. This is where your workout intensity is dialed in. The types of resistance include:
- water resistance / water rowers with a water tank
- air resistance./ air rowers with fan blades
- magnetic resistance / magnetic rowers
- piston/hydraulic resistance
Each type of resistance has its benefits and unique rowing feel, so be sure to take that into consideration. Also, note that the levels of resistance vary from model to model, but basically they all go from “easy to hard” so don’t worry about that too much.
Comfort and Adjustability
The best rowing machines will have a comfortable, padded seat, good foot pads, and some adjustability.
Some home rowing machines are noisier than others. But a silent machine isn’t necessarily for everyone. Some people appreciate the rushing noise as a kind of feedback that they’re working hard. Magnetic resistance is a good option for a quiet home rower. The RW900 magnetic rower and the Sunny Health & Fitness magnetic rowing machines are good examples of this type of workout machine
You’re going to need a good amount of dedicated floor space in your home to comfortably and safely place your rowing machine. Rower length varies, and they are usually rather narrow, but almost all have long footprints. Foldable rowing machines help with maximizing tight spaces with the ability to store them with a smaller foot print. On the flip side, if you are lucky enough to have a decent sized home gym, a rowing machine is going to make a great addition without the need to fold it up to store it regularly.
As with most pieces of exercise equipment, you’re going to find that the price tag will vary widely between the budget level and the high end row machines. Higher priced models are made to take a lot of use and last a long time, while cheaper models can get you working out now if you’re on a budget but may need more maintenance or replacement sooner. Budget rowing machines may be lower priced, but watch out for quality.
Max User Weight Capacity
Rowing machines usually have a higher weight capacity than most other exercise machines. There are less moving parts to become stressed by heavier users.
Being able to easily store your rower is a huge plus. Make sure you investigate how well the machine stores, if it folds up or comes apart easily to be able to put it in your closet, or in other storage areas. As an example, the Concept2 Model D rowing machine is easy to store and folds up nicely by a simple pull pin located in the middle of the rower. Transport wheels on the bottom allow for easy moving.
Row Computer / Monitor
Most good rowing machines come with a handy computer that tells you information such as distance, time, and calories burned. Additionally, check to see if the rower you’re looking at has the option to connect to apps so you can upload data and be able to track your progress, or a heart rate monitor to track your cardio fitness. Some of these fitness machines take the notion of connected rowing to the next level and have BlueTooth or Wi Fi capability.
Ease of Assembly
You might only have to assemble your rowing machine one time, but you want that one time to not be a total nightmare. Do your due diligence and make sure you’re not getting some crazy puzzle instead of a piece of exercise equipment.
As always, you’re going to want a decent warranty that covers parts and frame.
Fitness Benefits of Rowing at Home
Rowing is a great cardiovascular workout as well as a way to strengthen most major muscle groups of the body. It’s a low-impact exercise that can be just as challenging as any higher impact exercise. It burns calories and tones the body which, in conjunction with a healthy diet, can help you lose weight.
As with any fitness activity, it’s important to perform rowing workouts with proper technique, however. The big muscles in the legs are where most of the workout action should be. Injury to the lower back can occur from bending too far forward in the row. It’s best to maintain a upright 90 degree angle to the rowing machine’s seat and slider bar. Using the legs for the motion rather than relying as heavily on the back or arms can help reduce the chance of muscle pulls or other related injuries. Always check with a physician before starting any new fitness regimen.
Rowing Machines and Weight Loss
Not only does rowing allow you to get your heart rate up to improve your cardiovascular fitness and build muscle, but when you put those together, you’ve just found yourself on the path to healthy weight loss. If shedding pounds of excess fat is your goal, a rower is a great tool to help you get there. Plus rowing machines usually have a high weight capacity to cover all users.
Comparing the rowing machine to the stationary bike, the rowing machine is superior in terms of calories burned. Yet, it’s important to note that the stationary bike is also easy on the joints and only includes the lower body. So, if you have any upper body problems then the stationary bike may be a better choice. In 30 minutes of cycling 12-13 miles per hour, an 125lb individual will burn around 225-250 calories.
For Weight Loss, Intensity Is the Name of the Game
Here’s a secret, because the rowing machine provides an intense full body workout, the exercise burns a high amount of calories not only during the actual activity but also for a period after you’ve stopped. This is known as the “after-burn effect”. Essentially, you’ve worked your body so hard that it is forced to keep burning calories and fat even when you’re not rowing. The scientific jargon for this is “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or “EPOC” for short. But all you need to know is that if you’re doing an intense rowing workout, the benefits and fat loss continue after you’re done. How great is that?
A 125-pound person moving at an average pace for 30 minutes on a treadmill will burn roughly 250 calories. However, they aren’t able to take advantage of this after-burn effect. The same person rowing vigorously will burn around to 250 calories but will have less stress placed upon their joints and continue to burn calories after the workout has ended. Rowing machines have been shown to burn on average 800 calories an hour if you work harder and are slightly heavier.
Rowing Machine HIIT – High Intensity Rowing Workouts
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a great style of training to burn fat, build toned muscle, and improve cardiovascular systems as the same time. Challenging HIIT workouts on machines such as the RW900 Rower help you get to that state of EPOC and take advantage of the after-burn effect. The ability to change the resistance of the rowing machine at will means that the equipment is ideal for this method of exercise.
The beauty of a rowing machine HIIT is it offers an optimal workout in a minimal amount of time. It may sound too good to be true but you can really make a huge difference to your overall fitness in just 20-30 minutes.
Give this rowing machine HIIT sprint a try if you’re looking for a good fat burning rowing workout. Remember to adjust your stroke rate to your fitness level and start off every rowing workout with a 5-10 minute warm up and cool down.
This workout will take a total of 26 minutes (not including the warm up or cool down).
- 30 second sprint
- 30 second rest
- Repeat for six rounds
- 20 second sprint
- 10 second rest
- Repeat for four rounds
- 15 second sprint
- 15 second rest
- 15 second air squats
- 15 second rest
- Repeat six rounds
- 20 second sprint
- 10 second rest
- Repeat for four rounds
- 30 second sprint
- 30 second rest
- Repeat for six rounds
Using Your Rower
Rowing is primarily a cardio workout, but it’s also more than that. Your heart rate is absolutely going to be climbing, but unlike a jog in the park, you might also be sore the next day. The rower requires you use your legs more than anything, and as we know, your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings are the biggest, most powerful muscles in your body. But you’re also pulling with your arms, shoulders, abs and engaging your back. That said, you’re not pulling as hard as you might with, say, a seated cable row machine at the gym. You don’t want to hurt your back, but you can engage them and this will help you get those muscles toned.
Rowing Machine Technique Tips
- Good posture and correct form while rowing are key to getting the best workout as well as avoiding injury.
- Start with a low resistance level to make sure you’re comfortable, then increase resistance as needed.
- Sit on the seat and secure your feet on the pads. For the “catch”, keep the back very straight with arms extended while holding the bar or handles of the rower.
- For the “drive” phase, push off in a controlled motion, powering through your heels into the pads and straightening your legs. Pull the cable toward your chest, but don’t worry about pulling it all the way in.
- At the “finish”, your legs are fully extended, shoulders back, and the bar pulled near the upper chest with wrists straight, not curled.
- On the return or “recovery”, allow your arms to straighten and your knees to bend. The recovery is where your core muscles such as abs and lower back can get a good, safe workout so keep them engaged.
Other Rowing Machine Considerations
You don’t want to be rowing without shoes on. It’s plain dangerous. And, of course, this goes for any kind of workout on an exercise machine. It can be sneakers, running shoes, or cross-trainers. Just make sure you’re protecting your feet. Flip flops and high-heels are not advised. Think closed-toe, rubber bottoms, shoes.
On a rowing machine, you don’t want to be wearing clothes that are too baggy as the fabric can get caught between the seat and the beam it slides on. It’s not a disaster if that happens, but it can get annoying if your shorts keep getting caught there while you’re trying to get a serious workout. It’s better to wear shorter, tighter-fitting shorts (nothing ridiculous), but just enough to ensure it doesn’t the material doesn’t hang down.
Keep It Clean
Although some rowing machines are made of space-age, super-sweat-resistant metals, you still want to wipe off the equipment after a sweaty workout. These machines are usually constructed with a lot of various materials and salty sweat can be very corrosive. Keeping your rowing machine clean can go a long way toward extending its life, and its appearance.
Final Word on Finding the Best Rowing Machine
Fitness experts as well as health professionals agree that rowing machines provide one of the best workouts possible. Exercising on a rower will allow you to target the great majority of your muscle groups and give them as hard and challenging a workout as you feel like giving them. On the best rowing machine models, you’ll be able to track your progress and see how your splits are improving.
As previously discussed, the rowing machine’s big advantage is that it provides more than just a cardio workout. It can definitely help you build muscle and lose weight. Compared to a treadmill, the rowing machine works most of your body. It will really hit your shoulders, core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, arms and back effectively while being low impact thus reducing the stress on your joints. Bigger muscles need more energy and will burn fat to get it, which of course leads to healthy weight loss.
When starting your search for a rowing machine, you’re likely to be at a bit of a loss as to which way to go and which type rower to buy. But even if you’re well under way in your hunt, we hope this review helped you understand the wonderful world of rowing machines a little more clearly. Rowing machines ranging in prices and features from the RW900 rower, to Water Rowers, to the Aviron Impact Series Rower, and the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine all are great options for anyone looking for a challenging workout.
Overall, the most important thing is to get on a rowing machine and get rowing. The best rowing machine is the one that fits in your budget and fits your body. Your heart, muscles, and mind will thank you!