12 Excellent Rowing Machines for Your Home Gym

best rowing machines

The Best Indoor Rowers for Your Home Gymoriginal photo

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WHEN IT comes to your fitness routine, it’s nice to switch things up. For a workout that is low-impact (a.k.a. joint-friendly) but has a high payoff, consider an indoor rowing machine. It might just be the total-body workout you’ve been looking for.

“Indoor rowing is an excellent low-impact option for improving cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance,” Lululemon lead instructor Hollis Tuttle told Men’s Health. “Since it is a low impact sport, rowing reduces the risk of damage to weight-bearing joints, such as hips, ankles, and knees, which tend to be prone to injury and soreness when doing high-impact sports.”

Read more: How Men’s Health Thoroughly Tests and Reviews Fitness Products

Which is why Men’s Health fitness editors, in collaboration with fitness experts like Tuttle, have compared testing notes on dozens of the most reliable rowing machines to identify which ones we can honestly recommend. In fact, our dedicated team of MH Staff certified trainers, including MH Fitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S, MH Senior Fitness Editor Brett Williams, NASM, have been putting the best rowers through the wringer for years. Throughout this meticulous process, we have carefully considered numerous best-selling models from reputable and highly rated brands. Our evaluation criteria cover all the essentials: build quality, resistance mechanism, performance, tech features, and price. To ensure a comprehensive assessment, each rowing machine has undergone rigorous trials, including varied workout routines such as high-intensity sprints, endurance-based long-distance rows, and challenging interval sessions. Our collective efforts have resulted in logging hundreds of miles on these rowers, providing invaluable insights into performance, stability, and ensuring that your investment is built to last.

But rowing’s not just a great joint-friendly form of cardio. A solid rowing workout can also help build strength in more muscle groups than you’d expect. “The rower is basically the horizontal version of the deadlift and uses similar muscles,” says Veteran Trainer Ian Creighton. “On the drive, the main focus is on the posterior chain—the hamstrings, glutes, calves, and spinal erectors are all being used. In the pull, the quads, forearms, biceps, and lats are used as well.”

The rower is one of the most versatile cardio devices, and one that challenges all your energy systems simultaneously. You could easily tax your aerobic system with a lengthy 2,000-meter or 5,000-meter long-distance session. Or mix it up by doing 100-meter sprints every minute on the minute to build strength and power. Just like a treadmill, minus the impact.

Not to mention, rowing is just plain fun. More so now than ever, with many mid-range and luxury brands offering high-tech gamified and trainer-led experiences to keep you entertained through any intensity session.

In the market for a rowing machine after all? Here are our top picks for the best rowing machines to upgrade your home gym right now.

Best Home Gym Equipment | Best Cardio Machines | Best Exercise Bikes | Best Treadmills | Best Ellipticals | Best Under-Desk Exercise Bikes | Best Under-Desk Treadmills | Best Folding Treadmills | Best Folding Exercise Bikes

Wave Rower

“If I can’t use a Concept2, this is my go-to,” says Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., MH Fitness Director.

The Hydrow Wave—a more streamlined and slimmed-down version of Hydrow’s original Rower Connected Rowing Machine, (a 2022 Men’s Health Home Gym Awards winner)—is a smart connected rower with a focus on recreating the real-world rowing experience.

“It fits easily in my basement training area, and can stand up for storage. Despite the compact size, the Wave is SUPER-durable: I can go hard on this rower for sprints, or take on longer intervals.”

Take live or on-demand classes, or take an unguided “journey”, to explore the water from the comfort of your own home. The best part is that the virtual classes are immersive and surprisingly lifelike.

“A free mode would be nice, so I could build my own workouts, but this is the best magnetic resistance rowing experience on the market.”

It offers a long list of other high-tech features, including a crisp and responsive touchscreen display. Unique “electromagnetic drag” technology also makes for more realistic and lifelike rowing—more so than any other machine we tested. Plus, it sets up and stows in seconds. The optional Upright Storage Kit ensures it takes up minimal space, which is especially nice for storing in apartments and other tight spaces.

The Hydrow Wave features the sleekest, most streamlined design of any rowing machine we’ve seen. It’s enough to elevate the look of any home gym, although it comes at a premium—the device is nearly $1,900 delivered and requires an ongoing monthly subscription fee of $44, too.

What do buyers say? Out of more than 9,000 Trustpilot reviews, 94% recommend the Hydrow Indoor Rowing Machine with at least a 4-star rating.

Read more: Best Dumbbells

<p><a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74968X1596630&url=https%3A%2F%2Fhydrow.com%2Fproducts%2Frowers%2Fhydrow-wave%2F&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.redbookmag.com%2Fbody%2Fhealth-fitness%2Fg44098779%2Fbest-rowing-machines%2F" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Wave Rower</p><p>$1895.00</p><p>hydrow.com</p>

Magnetic Rowing Machine

We might be a little biased, but this Men’s Health-branded rowing machine is a solid choice for beginners looking to get started with home rowing workouts. With 14 levels of resistance, it’s easy to start small and build up as your fitness level increases over time.

“This rowing machine isn’t for everyone. But on days I’m not going hard, I love this rower. It’s relatively quiet. The resistance can be a little slow to catch, so I don’t love doing sprint workouts on this. But for a longer, more relaxed cardio session, this is great,” explains Samuel.

You’ll get real-time fitness analytics wirelessly (cadence, watts, mileage, calories burned, and more) with the device’s built-in Bluetooth connectivity.

This machine also provides access to a deep library of on-demand classes, so you can go beyond rowing with cycling, yoga, bodyweight exercises, and more. The surprisingly lightweight construction (around 60 pounds) and space-saving design also folds down small. So, it’s a great option for apartment dwellers and anyone with limited home gym space. Plus, it’s a steal at around $550 delivered.

What do buyers say? Out of more than 200 Amazon reviews, 85% recommend the Men’s Health x Women’s Health Bluetooth Rower with at least a 4-star rating.

Read more: Men’s Health x Women’s Health Rower Sale

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08838TSZ7?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10063.g.44098779%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Magnetic Rowing Machine</p><p>$374.99</p><p>amazon.com</p>

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Magnetic Rowing Machine



RowErg with Standard Legs

The RowErg with Standard Legs is the new name for Concept 2’s Model D rower, and it’s the first device that comes to mind when we think of training on a rower at home. Our editors have never come across a better rower than this one, point blank. In a nutshell, it offers many of the same features as the best rowing machines that cost twice as much.

“It’s an industry standard used by CrossFit and in many high-profile competitions for a reason,” according to Samuel. “It relies on a variable resistance flywheel that provides a constant challenge, making it great for high volume or experienced rowers.”

It’s extremely easy to assemble, too. In our experience (and many Amazon reviewers agree) setup takes around 20 minutes with minimal tools or hardware (just eight screws are required). The design is versatile enough to support users up to 500 pounds with adjustable footrests and an ergonomic handle. It’s built with high-quality materials throughout, so it’s plenty durable too.

City dwellers and users tight on space will appreciate the clever design that allows this machine to separate into two pieces for easy storage. Built-in caster wheels make setting up and putting away a breeze. Plus, it’s surprisingly affordable at $1,240 delivered.

This is the definitive home rowing experience, and why it’s our pick for the best value rowing machine of 2023.

What do buyers say? Out of more than 11,900 Amazon reviews, 98% recommend the RowErg Indoor Rowing Machine with at least a 4-star rating.

Read more: Best Adjustable Dumbbells

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OUGNUO8?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10063.g.44098779%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>RowErg with Standard Legs</p><p>1240.00</p><p>amazon.com</p>

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RowErg with Standard Legs



Club Rowing Machine

Sometimes simpler is just better. WaterRower’s Club Rowing Machine takes things back to basics. The made-in-the-USA design is streamlined with a vaguely vintage aesthetic of stained ash wood. That also makes it the heaviest-duty rowing machine on this list, supporting users up to 700 pounds.

The traditional water-based flywheel not only looks great but also mimics the dynamic motion of rowing through real water. Users can fully customize the resistance by filling the water tank with more or less water, as desired.

At around $1,200, it’s not surprising that this model lacks the fancier gadgetry of the pricier models on this list. Still, the integrated performance monitor tracks all the essentials, including stroke rate, intensity, distance, workout duration, and more. For anyone looking for a durable, handsome rower without unnecessary bells and whistles at a good price, this is your man.

What do buyers say? Out of more than 180 Amazon reviews, 86% recommend the WaterRower Club Rowing Machine with at least a 4-star rating.

Read more: Correct Your Rowing Form

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0053BMXEW?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10063.g.44098779%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Club Rowing Machine</p><p>$1289.00</p><p>amazon.com</p><span class="copyright">WaterRower.com</span>

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Club Rowing Machine




RW900 Smart Rower

Want group fitness workouts in the comfort of your own home? This rowing machine from NordicTrack has you covered. The RW900 Smart Rower has a crisp, 22-inch touchscreen, which allows you to take classes on-demand and automatically adjusts your resistance level according to the trainers’ preferences. Professional class instructors will even challenge you to go beyond just cardio, with strength training and yoga classes, too. The comprehensive virtual program library ensures you’ll never be bored.

We like the long list of other nice-to-haves like Bluetooth headphone connectivity, quick-adjust pedals, and easy assembly. A few other standout features make it one of Samuel’s go-to’s for a long rowing workout, “the seat’s extra-comfortable, and the magnetic resistance on this is ultra-quiet so it’s easy to watch Netflix or listen to a podcast while training.”

It also sets up and stores easily, making it easy to get ready and break down at the end of your workouts. Given the long list of smart features and the NordicTrack brand name, it’s surprisingly well priced at around $1,600.

What do buyers say? Out of more than 800 Amazon reviews, 80% recommend the NordicTrack RW900 Smart Rower with at least a 4-star rating.

Read more: Rowing and Core Workout

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07T9GS1ZL?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10063.g.44098779%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>RW900 Smart Rower</p><p>$1065.72</p><p>amazon.com</p><span class="copyright">Courtesy of Retailer</span>

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RW900 Smart Rower



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The Rower

The top-rated Ergatta Rower (a Men’s Health Fitness Awards Winner) is all performance, complete with game-based workouts that challenge you daily. It’s the most “gamified” water-based rowing machine on this list with a long list of virtual workout programs to choose from. Rowers can opt for head-to-head races, high-intensity endurance workouts, or goal-based gamified training plans.

“This is one of the smoothest water rowers I’ve used, and the games are plenty of fun and keep me interested in basic workouts,” says Samuel.

The solid wood construction is extremely durable, ensuring it can accommodate even the largest rowers with body types up to 500 pounds and frames up to 6’8″. That same warm cherry wood also gives the rower a sleek retro-modern aesthetic that will elevate the look of any space from your home gym to your garage to your living room. It looks so good.

We found the game-based workouts to be a much needed changeup from typical hard workouts on a C2, and actually relaxing and good for dialing in form. The lone downside: The feet are positioned a little more tightly than we’d like

It’s among the priciest rowing machines on this list. But, if you’re in the market for a top-of-the-line rower that doubles as a home accessory, Ergatta is hard to beat.

What do buyers say? Out of more than 600 reviews, 99% recommend the Ergatta Rower with at least a 4-star rating.

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<p><a href="https://ergatta.com/product/the-ergatta-rower/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>The Rower</p><p>$2249.00</p><p>egatta.com</p><span class="copyright">Courtesy of Retailer</span>

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The Rower



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Strong Series Rower

Whether you’re competing live against your peers, trying to out-row world-class athletes, or even being chased by a deadly Kraken, the Strong Series Rower is a perfect fix to boring rowing workouts.

A massive and crisp definition 22″ touchscreen allows for tracking stats and streaming content from Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Prime Video, Spotify, and YouTube all in one place. Developed using game psychology to incentivize greater rowing output, you can also enjoy immersive animated games like fending off ships of killer pirates or teaming up to battle space bugs in an enchanted forest.

The patented auto-resistance feature adjusts the resistance to meet your needs, while the 20″ elevated seating makes it easy to get on and off the machine (especially for those with limited mobility due to age or obesity). When we first tried this rower, we weren’t accustomed to the noticeably unique seat height. After getting used to, the less intense hip flexion angle felt great, and didn’t negatively affect power output.

You can adjust the foot placement to your comfort and measurements, and they’re also more wide-set than the average rower. Meaning it’s great for those with wider hips or bigger bellies who typically feel crammed on a standard machine. And this machine offers some of the best-in-class resistance with up to 100+ lbs. available with each stroke, allowing you to challenge yourself as you get stronger.

With all of the before-mentioned features, it’s an ideal pick for beginners or bigger-bodied individuals looking for an accessible at-home machine.

Read more: Exercise to Improve Your Rowing

<p><a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74968X1596630&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.avironactive.com%2Fshop%2Fstrong-series-rower%2F&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.redbookmag.com%2Fbody%2Fhealth-fitness%2Fg44098779%2Fbest-rowing-machines%2F" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Strong Series Rower</p><p>$2199.00</p><p>avironactive.com</p>

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Strong Series Rower



AssaultRower Elite

Assault Fitness’ AssaultRower Elite was purpose-built for commercial gym usage, so you know it’s built to hold up to the toughest workouts and years of abuse. With a solid steel frame and parts that can take a beating, this thing will take your worst—and give you a full-body workout to make your body its best.

It offers all the essential features that novice and advanced users demand in the best rowing machines. A sweat-proof seat, multi-grip handles, and adjustable footrests all help ensure you’re getting a comfortable workout. The simple LCD display offers basic onboard training programs, and there’s a built-in heart rate monitor too.

The only downside? That same solid steel construction means that this rower is heavy—more than 140 pounds to be exact. So it’s not as easy to setup, breakdown, and store as others on this list.

What do buyers say? “Design is attractive and engineering is smooth and sturdy. Doesn’t take a ton of space. I love that I’m getting cardio in and working posterior chain muscles at the same time. Using the rower fits perfectly in my HITT workouts. It’s also great for longer cardio workouts,” wrote one Google Reviewer.

Read more: Best Cardio Machines

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08K2HF8T3?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10063.g.44098779%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>AssaultRower Elite</p><p>$1199.00</p><p>amazon.com</p><span class="copyright">Courtesy of Retailer</span>

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AssaultRower Elite



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Row HX Trainer

Life Fitness machines are found in fitness clubs around the world. And for good reason: they’re durable, easy to use, beginner-friendly, suitable for advanced rowers, and reasonably priced. The Row HX Trainer is no exception. It’s reasonably heavy at 108 pounds (with water) and designed to run well for years. It also folds almost in half to neatly stow away in even the smallest spaces.

Unlike some of the more premium models we tested, it features a simple water-based design for ultra-smooth resistance, so there’s less gadgetry to worry about. We love that, unlike many other water-based rowers, you never need to add or remove water to change the resistance. Five manually adjustable resistance levels make this a great option for novice to advanced users.

This model lacks a built-in touchscreen display (surprising given the roughly $1,800 price tag). But, it’s designed to work seamlessly with the Aaptiv app to keep you motivated with thousands of workouts and new ones added regularly.

What do buyers say? “Great quality and the ability to change resistance levels makes for an intense workout. Looks good too,” wrote one Amazon reviewer.

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<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0913JC36L?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10063.g.44098779%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Row HX Trainer</p><p>$1699.00</p><p>amazon.com</p><span class="copyright">Courtesy of Retailer</span>

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Row HX Trainer



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Smart Rowing Machine

Echelon’s base model rowing machine has an ergonomic cushioned seat and oversized, adjustable foot pedals for extra comfort. The 32 silent, magnetic resistance levels allow you to customize your workout, whether you’re a rowing newb or an advanced rowing machine.

While it lacks the jumbo high-tech displays of many other machines on this list, it features a device holder that swivels and flips around for use during off-row workouts instead. With an optional Echelon Fit US membership (you can use the rower without it), you get access to 3,000+ live and on-demand classes including rowing, strength, yoga, and more. Plus, all those scenic rides that high-end rowers twice the price boast. Dual built-in speakers also allow you to hear the trainers in your virtual workout programs loud and clear, too.

Best of all, it’s foldable. Built-in wheels help for easy transport to tuck it easily away when it’s not in use.

Bonus: It’s the second most affordable rowing machine on this list. So, if budget is a concern, the Smart Rowing Machine is definitely worth considering.

What do buyers say? “I love using the machine, especially with the iFit workouts. I’ve rowed in Zambia, Montana, the French Polynesian Islands, and more. I love the iFit coaches, the variety of workouts and scenery, and the encouragement they provide,” wrote one Google reviewer.

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<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086JQ5ZT3?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10063.g.44098779%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Smart Rowing Machine</p><p>$749.99</p><p>amazon.com</p>

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Smart Rowing Machine



Model E Indoor Rower

Concept 2’s premium Model E rowing machine steps up from the brand’s RowErg with a low-maintenance, nickel-plated chain and several other features that set it apart. At its heart is the same PM5—a simple, yet sophisticated performance monitor that keeps track of your vitals between workouts. USB flash drive compatibility allows you to easily backup your workout data between sessions.

The aluminum and steel construction is extremely durable with support for rowers up to 500 pounds. But, at less than 70 pounds, it sets up and moves easily. When you’re ready to stow it, it splits neatly in half with a simple framelock mechanism to fit into an ultra-compact footprint.

It’s well-priced at around $1,400—right in the middle of the price range for the indoor rowing machines we researched and tested this year—making it our pick for the best mid-range rowing machine of 2023.

What do buyers say? Out of more than 800 reviews, 96% recommend the Concept2 Model E Indoor Rower with at least a 4-star rating.

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<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01A0SBJV0?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10063.g.44098779%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Model E Indoor Rower </p><p>$1555.00</p><p>amazon.com</p>

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Model E Indoor Rower



Peloton Row

High-end home fitness equipment company Peloton launched the simply named Peloton Row in December of 2022. Men’s Health fitness writer and strength coach David Otey, C.S.C.S., took it for a spin (pun intended) and confirmed that it’s set to give every rower on this list—even the best rowing machines—a run for their money.

Both the seat and strap are extremely comfortable and easy to use. Otey describes the strap’s pull as “silky smooth” without the annoying catching found in lesser chain-linked rowers. The electrically controlled resistance also allows for whisper-quiet operation. But, “Peloton’s best asset isn’t its hardware; it’s a great software company,” says Otey. Case in point: The built-in Form Assist function is a game-changer to help novice (and even experienced) users row with better form to maximize their workouts and eliminate unnecessary post-workout aches and pains.

It’s not perfect, however. Otey notes that its most obvious shortcoming is the lack of an adjustable manual mode. “This is a stark difference from many manual rowers, which shows Peloton is more confident in their programming and instructors than your ability to create your own workouts.” It’s also reliant on power and a Wi-Fi connection. If either goes down, you’re out of luck. And, of course, there’s the sky-high price. At north of $3,000, it’s among the most expensive indoor rowing machines on the market.

Still, after early testing, he concludes that “Peloton pairing its best-in-class programming with this luxe machine is a combo for results … [The Row] is a perfect option for someone who is short on time and looking for an efficient and effective workout (if they have a big enough wallet).”

Read more: Peloton Rower Review

<p><a href="https://www.onepeloton.com/row/sign-up" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Peloton Row</p><p>$3195.00</p><p>onepeloton.com</p><span class="copyright">Courtesy of Retailer</span>

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Peloton Row



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How to Choose an Indoor Rowing Machine

Indoor rowing machines are a bit more complicated than ordinary home gym equipment, like power racks or dumbbell sets. Decades ago, they used to be little more than a gliding seat and rope handle attached to a water-filled flywheel. But today’s best rowing machines are a lot more high-tech and sophisticated.

The most connected models—from the likes of Peloton and Hydrow—pair with your smartphone via Bluetooth to stream music, while their touchscreens connect you with professional rowers on the other side of the world for personalized, guided training sessions. That’s all to say that shopping for a new rower can be a challenge, and finding the best indoor rowing machine for you is especially difficult. We’re here to help with the most important specs, features, and essentials to consider before forking over your hard owned money

Durability and quality: If you’re dropping $1,000 or more on a complicated piece of gym equipment, you want to know that it can go the distance. That’s why it pays (literally) to buy from a company that you trust and that offers a solid, reputable product with a decent warranty. Don’t settle for a bargain-priced Amazon model from a brand you’ve never heard of just because it seems like a steal. In the world of fitness equipment, you almost always get what you pay for. If you’re planning to row on a regular basis and to keep your rowing machine for the foreseeable future, consider investing good money into a model that will last.

Resistance mechanism: At the heart of every rowing machine is some sort of resistance mechanism. There are four main types including hydraulic, flywheel, water-based, and magnetic resistance-based. Hydraulic resistance relies on air or fluid compressed into a cylinder and is almost always the cheapest. Flywheels rely on air resistance; these will require the most nuanced timing of your rowing pattern. The downside: They’re often noisy. Water-based and magnetic resistance models often deliver a near-silent experience, although they can be pricey.

Storage: By their nature, rowing machines are big, bulky, and often heavy. If you have the real estate in your home, non-folding models are typically sturdier and more convenient when it comes time to work out. They’re always set up and ready to go—er, row. If you’re a city dweller or are just short on space, however, a folding model might be the best way to go. Some rowers fold neatly in half or offer vertical storage to minimize wasted floor space. Look for models with transport wheels too, so you can easily move yours around by yourself.

Warranty: With the best rowing machines priced north of $1,000, buying one is a serious investment. So, it’s important to purchase from a manufacturer that offers a clear, comprehensive warranty. They vary widely across the industry, with the most budget-forward brands offering just 90 days on some parts, and others boasting generous 10-year warranties on everything. Again, the more you spend upfront, the better the warranty is likely to be. And, if there’s anything that isn’t clear to you about the stated warranty, be sure to ask. It’s your money, after all.

Budget: Depending on your situation, price might be the most important consideration. Indoor rowing machines are a substantial investment that can run into the thousands. Know that, if price is an issue, you can absolutely land a decent mid-range model for under $1,000 and even a solid budget model (like the Bluetooth Rower by Men’s Health x Women’s Health) for less than $550 delivered.

Other rowing machine features: The most basic rowing machine design has changed little in decades, and you can still find a “classic”-style model for a reasonable price. But, if you’re looking for a more connected experience, look at smart rowers like the Hydrow Wave or the Peloton Row. These offer touchscreens with built-in apps that connect you to professional trainers who can motivate and work with you to better achieve your personal goals. The rowing machines with these features are, of course, more expensive upfront. But, know that many also require ongoing monthly subscriptions to take full advantage of those “smart” connected features.

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How to Use an Indoor Rowing Machine

Our fitness experts love indoor machines for a ton of reasons. But the biggest one is how easy and accessible they are for enthusiasts of any fitness level. Seriously, there’s not much more to using one than simply sitting down and pulling—rinse and repeat. But like any workout machine, there is a right way and a wrong way. The best way to not only maximize your performance and rowing gains but also to avoid injury is to practice good form.

Start by sitting squarely on the seat with your tailbone pointing directly into the middle. Follow your rowing stroke through each of these four phases, paying careful attention to your posture and form:

The catch: To start, your shins should be perpendicular to the floor (i.e., vertical). Extend your arms fully—with a focus on your triceps—and grab the rower’s handle. Be mindful of your core, and slightly lean your torso forward.

The drive: While keeping your arms straight, power through the Drive phase with your leg muscles, pushing your body (and the seat) smoothly away from the footplates. Finish by pulling the handle into your abdomen and leaning back.

The finish: Despite the name, you’re not quite “finished.” In this phase, your elbows should be bent and the handle tucked into the lower part of your chest. Use your core to stabilize your torso, keeping a slight angle toward the rowing machine.

The recovery: Be mindful of your form while returning to the starting position in this phase. Straighten your arms by using your triceps. Slightly lean your torso forward. Bend your legs and smoothly slide your butt and the seat down the rail of the rowing machine.

Once back in the starting position, repeat the next stroke by beginning with the Drive phase again.

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Why You Should Buy an Indoor Rowing Machine

Rowing is a near-perfect exercise, and a good indoor rowing machine promises a low-impact, full-body workout with the convenience of a single device. “Since rowing promotes improvements to both your muscular strength and cardiovascular strength, you get two for one,” says Tuttle. She outlines four specific reasons why you should buy a rowing machine:

Rowing is a great warmup: “A proper warmup is key to having a successful workout; it should prepare your heart, muscles, joints, and mind for the harder efforts to come.” Because it’s so low-impact, it’s a great slow warm-up, even if rowing isn’t your ultimate program goal on a given day.

Rowing adds variety: Because rowing is significantly lower impact than most high-intensity exercises like running, it’s far easier to recover between workouts. Ideally, a rowing machine will help add variety to your workout days.

A good row can be pure zen: Because indoor rowing involves fewer external stimuli than outdoor activities, it can be extremely meditative. Tuttle agrees: “Once warm and a comfortable rhythm has been established, you can close your eyes, connect your breath to your body, and simply enjoy the gift of movement.”

Rowing is a great finisher: Hardcore workout sessions often involve an explosive finish. Hopping on your rowing machine near the end of your routine is a great way to cap things off. “It’s hard to pass up a good 5- to 10-minute long EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute) row 100 to 200 meters, depending upon your fitness and skill level,” says Tuttle. “Each effort should be about 90 percent max intensity and your goal is to finish with 20 seconds or more to recover before the top of the next minute.”

So, the better question is: Why shouldn’t you buy a rowing machine? The best rowing machines add incredible versatility and productivity to any existing at-home gym setup. But, if you’re short on space or budget, and are looking to invest in just one piece of workout equipment, consider an indoor rowing machine.

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Why It’s Worth Investing in a Rowing Machine

With most modern workout equipment, you get what you pay for. That’s why, as with all home gym equipment, we recommend investing in the best rowing machine you can afford. That’s doubly true if you’re planning to keep your new rowing machine for years to come. The most affordable rowers are rarely the most durable. So, while buying a $200-$300 model might save you money now, you’ll spend more in the long run if you’re forced to shell out another $300 or so when that “bargain” rower craps out on you in a year or so.

On the flip side, the very best rowing machines are built to last for a decade or more. The best part is that they require little maintenance—not much more than routine oiling and changing a battery or two to keep the machine’s computer(s) going. If you think you’ll be in the indoor rowing “game” for the foreseeable future, consider your new rowing machine an investment that will pay for itself over time.

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Is an Exercise Bike or Rowing Machine Best for Me?

If a low-impact cardio machine is what you’re looking for, it’s true that indoor bikes and rowers can both be suitable options. The best choice for you? Well, it all comes down to your goals.

The rowing machine provides a full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups. However, it requires a technique and coordination to avoid injury and that can be less intuitive for some users compared to using an exercise bike. Rowers also take up more space and can be noisy.

On the other hand, stationary bikes can provide a great cardio workout, are more adjustable (seat heat, handlebars, etc.) and are easy to use. But biking primarily focuses on lower body muscles, and may not challenge the upper body or coordination as effectively as a rowing machine.

Both indoor bikes and rowers can work well as low-impact cardio options in your home gym – but they don’t exactly challenge your body in the same way. What’s the best option for you? It comes down to your goals and your fitness level.

In general, says MH Fitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., the rower will be the more advanced cardio option. Samuel says the rower delivers a more “well-rounded” workout. It also directly challenges your midback muscles, lower back muscles, and glutes.

“These are all key postural muscles,” says Samuel, “so you’re getting extra benefits out of the rower.”

The downside: Rowing also requires more technique, so there’s a higher learning curve to dominating on the rower.

The stationary bike, meanwhile, will requires less technique and coordination, and is easier to learn. It won’t tap into all the postural muscles that the rower does, but it’ll hammer quads, glutes and hamstrings well, especially if you really push your limits. One added benefit: Most stationary bikes are far quieter than your rower, making the bike a terrific choice for a relaxed Zone 2 cardio session paired with Netflix.

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How to Avoid Getting Injured with Your Rowing Machine

The best way to avoid getting injured with any workout—including on a rowing machine—is to practice and maintain proper technique. Start with a good warm-up before every workout, focus on your form, and don’t forget a decent cool-down. With a rower, it’s easy to fall into the habit of letting your back handle most of the strain in any of the above phases. Focus on limiting your back movements while allowing your core to handle the “heavy lifting.” If you’re just starting, consider strengthening your core before hitting the rower too hard.

Another tip for beginners: don’t overdo it. Shoot for a rowing workout of between five and 20 minutes, plus a warm-up and cool-down. Allow your muscles time to acclimate to the new stress before going “all in.”


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Losing Weight with a Rowing Machine

Targeted fat loss has been proven to be virtually impossible. But rowing machines are great for almost every aspect of fitness, including building strength, lowering overall body fat, increasing stamina, and even weight loss. The reason is simple: by burning a ton of calories (putting yourself in a calorie deficit), you can more easily score a negative daily energy balance. Bottom line: you’re consuming fewer calories than you’re burning. Maintaining a calorie deficit over a long period is the guiding principle behind successfully losing weight and keeping it off. Using a rowing machine for weight loss is simple—eat better, exercise more—though not always easy.

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Why You Can Trust Us

At Men’s Health, we take great pride in providing our readers with reliable and trustworthy product recommendations. We believe that our readers deserve the best, which is why we always make sure to conduct thorough research and testing before making any recommendations. Our writers and editors thoughtfully select experts for collaboration on product recommendations, and are also experts in their own right, using their informed opinions to select products and ensuring that our content is of the highest quality.

Our product recommendations are purely editorial, and while we may receive free products to test and review, we only recommend the products we are most impressed by. We never let retailers or public relations contacts dictate our content or product coverage. Which is why you can trust us to provide you with reliable and unbiased product recommendations.

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How We Selected

For the past two years, we consulted with Men’s Health‘s Fitness editors and writers on the top rowing machines. Experts including our fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., tested rowing machines from top home gym brands to evaluate their resistance, functionality, and effectiveness. We also considered top-reviewed rowers with at least 100 five-star customer ratings on reputable e-commerce websites that we trust. The final list above represents our carefully considered picks for the best indoor rowing machines of 2023.


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