9 Best Rowing Machines – 2021 Home Gym Buying Guide
Rowing machines are a fantastic piece of cardio equipment that can help build stamina and build muscle. But picking the right rowing machine for your home gym can be difficult.
Fortunately, we’ve spent hundreds of hours testing and reviewing the top rowing machines on the market, so you don't have to.
Peruse our buying guide below to understand what features fit your needs and what other factors you need to consider when selecting the right rowing machine for your space.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 211 hrs of research
Small and compact
Solid welded steel construction
9 Best Affordable Rowing Machine Reviews
1. Stamina Inmotion Rower
Small and compact
Solid welded steel construction
Hard plastic grips
Stamina is a brand known for reasonably priced fitness gear that doesn’t skimp on the quality. What makes this design great is that it is composed of solid and durable components and it comes in at one of the most affordable price points out there on the market. If money is really tight, this is one of your best options.Read more
If you want extra bells and whistles such as fancy LCD screens and heart rate monitors, this isn’t the option for you. By omitting quality of life features that have no bearing on the intensity of your workout, Stamina is able to offer this device at a fraction of many of the others out there. The simple screen measures your strokes, distance traveled, and calories burned.
The frame is composed of a solid welded steel construction with a glossy powder-coated finish. It is able to comfortably hold up to 250 pounds, which is quite impressive considering the very low price point. Users love that they can adjust the tension on the bar to increase resistance up to 5 times.
If you want one of the most affordable and simple designs out there on the market, the Stamina Rower is a really great choice. Not only does it come in at an insanely affordable price point, but it also boasts a smaller and compact frame that won’t take up that much room in your home gym.
2. Sunny Health and Fitness Full Motion
12 levels of adjustable resistance
Rail doesn’t completely fold for storage
The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5639 is a quality compact hydraulic rower. This rowing machine under $500 is a dual function affordable machine that will give you a great rowing workout as well as doubling as a resistance training machine for the muscles of your upper body. You get a hydraulic tension system with 12 levels of adjustable resistance. The movement of the cable is very smooth, allowing for a jerk-free motion.Read more
This Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5639 has a seat that is extra wide and thickly padded for comfort. The footplates are dual function, providing an ideal rowing platform and then adjusting to hold you secure while performing resistance movements.
It comes with a a healthy weight capacity of 350 pounds so you can reach your goals no matter where you are starting. It also has a full range of motion for your arms for good shoulder exercise. The non-slip handlebars give you excellent comfort and support and the foot pedals which adjustable foot straps.
3. Lanos Hydraulic
Easy to set up
Smaller than expected
This design from Lanos provides users with some of the advanced features users want to stay on top of their workouts without the higher price point. Smart design features make for a much more comfortable ride, and tracking screens do a great job of tracking your progress as well as calories burned. Users find this design a cinch to set up and just as easy to use and adjust.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this design is that it boasts an adjustable hydraulic system for smooth movements. Users are able to adjust the tension in subtle increments by simply turning the knob on the base of the unit. This allows for smaller adjustments that work perfectly for your specific strength level.
We also love all of the smart features that help make your workout enjoyable. It boasts padded handles that are coated in a layer of foam that comfortable hands and works to wick away sweat. The contoured seat is similar to a bicycle seat with a little extra padding which is perfect for those long rides.
The best part of this design? While it comes in at a lower price point, it is able to hold up to 330 pounds, which is almost 100 pounds more when compared to other budget-friendly options out there on the market. It is composed of tough and sturdy materials that hold up well over the years of daily use and benefits from hydraulic resistance for a smooth ride.
4. Stamina Body Trac Glider
Very realistic rowing experience
Two-piece rowing arms
Max user weight 250 pounds
The Stamina Body Trac Glider will keep you motivated with its clear electronic display and how easily it copies the actual movement of rowing on the water. The textured footplates have nice straps that keep your feet secure and the foam handlebars keep your hands comfortable.Read more
The Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 is a hydraulic piston controlled compact rower that provides you with two-piece arms to give a full range of rowing motion. The adjustable hydraulic resistance allows for a smooth rowing stroke, while the textured footplate with secure straps allows you to securely lock your lower body in place while exercising.
The rowing machine has a sturdy steel frame. It also has a molded seat for comfort and ball-bearing rollers for smooth seat gliding. The multi-function monitor gives you instant feedback on your workout. Foam padded handgrips provide extra comfort while rowing.
5. Sunny Health and Fitness Hydraulic mACHINE
Cheapest value machine on the market
12 levels of adjustable resistance
Foot plates pivot
Piston pin rubs on the frame
The Sunny is an economical machine with a comfortable seat and smooth action. It features 12 different levels of resistance so it will give you a good workout for a decent price.Read more
This is the best cheap rowing machine that we reviewed. It is the best machine that you’ll find for under $100. This hydraulic piston driven rower gives you 12 levels of adjustable resistance. The rowing motion is relatively smooth and jerks free. The seat glides smoothly and is comfortable to sit on. The footplates pivot to position your legs better and add comfort.
A simple electronic monitor displays all of the workout data that you need to know. The unit is solid and compact and folds easily for storage. It is a reliable rower that will give you a decent workout at an unbeatable price.
6. GoPlus Folding Magnetic
10 levels of magnetic resistance
Smooth rowing action
Large, anti-slip foot pedals
Large LCD screen
Max weight limited to 220 pounds
The GoPlus is a durable rowing machine with six wheels to help it move smoothly. The magnetic resistance system gives you adjustable resistance. This machine is easy to use and when you are done exercising it is easy to put away and store.Read more
It provides ten levels of magnetic resistance with n elastic cord. While not as smooth as air or flywheel-based system, this rower does provide you with a full extension on each row and a relatively smooth rowing action. The sturdy beam on this unit is made from aluminum, providing a solid base to work from.
Large, anti-slip foot pedals with adjustable straps give you a secure footing while you are exercising. Non-slip grip handles also ensure that you get a secure hold and the ergonomically designed seat has extra padding for comfort.
You get a functional monitor on this rower, with a large LCD screen that gives you readouts of your total calories, count per minute, count, scan and time. This is a simple, functional rower that gives you a smooth, fluid workout every time. It has built-in wheels for ease of transportation and folds for convenient storage. The maximum user weight on this machine is 220 pounds.
7. Merax Folding Magnetic
15-degree seat angle
Extra padded seat
Ax weight 264 pounds
Not overly durable
Merax will help you get a little variety in your workout with eight different levels of resistance. The seat is well-formed with extra padding which will keep you comfortable while you exercise and the display monitor helps you keep track of how you are doing.Read more
This is a compact, smooth rower that provides you with 8 levels of magnetic resistance. The 15-degree angled seat rail provides you with the ideal positioning to provide maximum comfort and allow for a smooth and efficient return.
The built-in magnetic flywheel minimizes noise while maximizing a smooth feel during the rowing motion. A convenient tension knob allows you to easily and quickly adjust the intensity of your workout.
The sliding, extra padded seat on the Merax rower provides comfort during those long training sessions. Large strapping footplates keep you securely locked n place. This machine has a built-in folding frame and transportation wheels. Floor protectors keep the machine from sliding around while also protecting your floor from damage. The maximum weight capacity of this rower is 264 pounds.
This option displays your time, count, calories and total count, presented on a simple, easy to use screen. The foldable nature of this machine makes it an ideal choice for those with limited room to exercise.
8. Xterra Fitness ERG200 Rower
Drum magnetic roll resistance
Smooth seat glide
The frame may start to wear after several months
The Xterra folds up for easy storage or to move where you need it. This machine is made with steel framing so it is durable and has a friction-free quiet and smooth ride. Sit back and enjoy the exercise.Read more
The Xterra Fitness ERG200 rower provides a drum magnetic control resistance to give you a smoother, more natural rowing experience. It also features electronic tension to maintain the ideal strap tension at all times. There are 8 levels of adjustable magnetic resistance. The dual extruded aluminum slide rails are mounted to the steel frame to provide an impressively smooth and stable motion.
The monitor features a large LCD screen. It provides a rolling readout of time, count, stroke/minutes, distance, calories, watts, and pulse. The saddle is made from molded polyurethane to give an ergonomic feel that is also comfortable. It also has a space-saving, foldable design.
9. Sunny Incline Magnetic
300-pound max user weight
Slides on the floor
This best budget rowing machine has a cool incline feature which gives you an extra amount of exercise. It provides you with a full-motion arm movement so you have an authentic experience. The seat is fully padded and the digital console will keep you posted on your progress and keep you inspired towards your goal.Read more
The rower has a unique incline rail feature that inclines your body as you row. This provides an increased challenge and puts more workout stress on the abs and thighs. There are 5 levels of incline to suit people of all ages and fitness levels.
This is a lightweight, compact unit but it still allows for a maximum user weight of 300 pounds, which attests to its sturdy design. Unlike most magnetic rowers, this machine provides you with full motion arms in order to simulate an authentic rowing motion. When you’re done you can fold it away for easy storage.
The digital monitor screen comes with a comprehensive accounting of all of your key training statistics. Non-slip for pads with velcro nylon straps ensure that you are firmly locked into place while foot levelers at the bottom of the unit ensure that the machine is evenly placed regardless of what surface it is sitting on. This is a very impressive little rower at a great price.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Key features, such as stroke counters, help you get the most out of your workouts.
You don’t have to spend a whole lot of money to benefit from some key features. While higher-end models spare no expense on Bluetooth capability that pairs with your smartphone and full-color displays, sometimes the simpler option is better. When rowing, all you really need to know is how far you have traveled, the number of strokes, and calories burned. These affordable options come equipped with very simple yet effective screen displays.
Adjustability is also a great thing to keep in mind. Whether you opt for magnetic, hydraulic, or simple tension designs, we wanted to ensure that we selected designs that are easy to adjust. Magnetic and hydraulic designs often have up to 10 levels of resistance. If you want more detailed resistance, a hydraulic design allows for more subtle tension to fit your specific strength level.
Tension options such as water resistance were left off of our list for a reason. While these designs are effective, they often clock in at a price point that is double or triple many of the other designs out there on the market. Plus, they will take up much more space in your home gym.
Ease of Use
If it's not easy to use, it will most likely be demoted to a glorified coat rack!
As with most exercise equipment, we believe if you find it easy to use you will be more likely to use it. It is that simple. You want a machine that has levels you can slowly build-up, which is comfortable and uncomplicated, and something you can easily set up and put away when you are not using it.
We wanted to make sure that we selected designs that were not easy to use, but also easy to adjust. The good news here is that many of the budget-friendly options out there ditch the complicated frames that make them hard to use and difficult to learn. Simple frames composed of high-grade materials allow users to get up and running right out of the box.
Don’t worry, we also made sure that these devices are also easy to set up as well. Overall, many of the selections on our list come with detailed instruction manuals and take users about 30 minutes to get completely set up. It’s important that it is easy to set up because a frame that isn’t set up quite right runs the risk of breaking down when in use.
A foldable and lightweight frame makes it easy to make room for new additions to your home gym.
You want the best rower for your home gym that will be easy to move around whether it is so you can clean around it or if you have a small area and need to put it away when you are not using it.
There are a few things that we kept in mind when searching for the best affordable rowing machines for your home space.
The first thing that we considered was whether or not a unit was foldable. These machines are often used as supplementary workouts when you are taking a break from lifting, or just need to vary up your cardio workouts. The basic design of a rower takes up quite a bit of floor space, so foldable designs are incredibly helpful. Most utilize a base that folds into the main tension unit so that you can push it up against a wall or under a bed as needed.
We also liked designs that were lightweight so that they are easier to move. When making way for new workout gear, sometimes you need to move things around a bit to make the best use of your space. Selecting a lightweight design not only saves you quite a bit of money on shipping costs, but it also makes your life just a little bit easier as well when it comes time to rearrange your setup.
Various tension methods offer different benefits, so be sure to select the design that is right for you.
You want a machine with has levels of resistance so you can start small and slowly build up your strength and endurance. The resistance and rowing should also be smooth and quiet to make a more favorable experience. There are three different types of resistance that we selected that we wanted to discuss below.
Track gliders use a series of wheels and friction to create resistance. This is one of the most cost-effective designs out there on the market, but it has a few shortcomings worth considering. First of all, it requires a little more maintenance than other designs. Users need to ensure that they keep the track clean to avoid squeaky or ineffective tension. If you are willing to take a little more care, it will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Hydraulic and magnetic designs are only slightly more expensive than friction, but they require far less maintenance and boast a few beneficial features. Hydraulic designs, for instance, allow users to make small adjustments to the line by twisting a screw, which allows for a workout specifically catered to your strength level.
Comfort helps with your focus.
Look for machines that have nice, padded seats and foam handles that will protect your hands. The footplate should be textured with comfortable straps which will keep your feet secure and avoid any slipping. Being comfortable will help you focus on your routine and have a happy workout.
While many shoppers only pay attention to the shape of the seat (which is incredibly important), it is also worth considering the handles. We love handles that are coated in a layer of soft plastic or EVA foam. Your palms are likely to create a death grip on the handles as you fatigue, so soft foam materials will help to prevent blisters during long workout sessions.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you want to select a design that boasts comfortable features in the seat and handles. If you find that your hands are burning or your tailbone is screaming, you are more likely to fail out before you really give those muscles a good workout.
When you get your machine, be sure you read the instructions carefully and learn how to use the machine correctly before you begin working out. Using the machine incorrectly can lead to back issues or other injuries so it is important to row correctly.
Sometimes beginners will get excited with how fun and easy the machine is so they end up overdoing their workout. It is important to time your workout, beginning with a small amount and then gradually increasing your time little by little. This will help you prevent injury or at the very least extreme muscle soreness which will discourage you from keeping up with your fitness goals.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Will the rowing machine help me lose belly fat?
There is not an exercise that can work specifically on belly fat. You lose belly fat from losing fat on your body as a whole. The rowing machine will help with losing body fat in general, so it should help some with that as well.
q: How long should a beginner use a rowing machine?
When you are first starting using the rowing machine you should probably start with no more than 30 minutes a day to help slowly build your conditioning. It will not be long before you see development in your legs, arms, back, and chest.
q: What muscles should I warm up before I start using the rowing machine?
When you are using the rowing machine you will use major muscle groups in your hamstrings, glutes, and your back so you should probably stretch those out and warm them up before you start to avoid soreness or injury.
q: What is the damper?
The damper is the small lever on the fan cage of the rowing machine. It works kinda like the gears on a bicycle. It controls the amount of air that goes in and decides how easy it is to spin the flywheel so it controls how intense your workout is.
q: How much do I use my arms in this rowing machine workout?
You should use about 60% of your power on pushing with your legs. Use 20% on bracing your core and the rest on your arms. If you use your arms too much you will end up causing injury so be sure to focus on pushing with your legs when using the rowing machine.