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Best rowing machines 2021

Best rowing machines: Woman using a rowing machine
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With the best rowing machines you can revolutionize your home gym, and build your strength every day with intensive workouts. And Black Friday deals mean you can find top-notch machines for less. We’ve all been working out at home more over these past few years, and these machines have grown in popularity thanks to their versatility and ability to work your arms, legs, abs, core, and back in one motion. 

What the experts say:

"Rowing machines are excellent for improving cardiovascular fitness. There’s no impact at all, so they allow the user to build their fitness without risking injury, or aggravating existing injuries. They’re also an all-body workout, which means they train a lot of muscle and burn a high number of calories at the same time. Rowing machines are fantastic for helping people to lose weight." 

For those reasons, the best rowing machines are a serious contender for the number-one piece of home workout equipment. And with Black Friday in full swing, there's no better time to purchase and fit into your home workout routine.

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Before you start thinking about purchasing though, it’s good to take a look at the different types of rowing machines out there, depending on their resistance and features. We’ve listed a varied range of electromagnetic, water, and air-resistance machines here so that you can pick the machine that most suits you. Some models even have smart features, meaning you can link it up to your smartwatch or rowing app to get up-to-date statistics on your workout.

Personal trainer and gym owner Stephen Hoyle told Live Science that while looking for options "Buyers should be aware of build quality and material choices. Better quality rowers will have a chain rather than rope to attach the handle to the flywheel. They’ll also have an ergonomically designed seat for user comfort. Check the computer too - you’re looking for something that measures time, stroke rate, calorie burn, power output etc. If it has app-support as well, even better".

If you’re set on one of the best rowing machines for your home then simply keep reading to find the right model for you.

Best rowing machines

Best rowing machines 2021: Concept 2 Model D (RowErg)

(Image credit: Amazon)

The best rowing machine for value for money

Specifications
Resistance: air
Display: PM5 performance monitor
Dimensions: Length: 96” (244cm); Width 24” (61cm); Height (to top of monitor): 50” (127cm); Seat height: standard legs - 14” (35cm) / tall legs -20” (51cm)
Storage: Can be separated into two parts and stood on its end
Heart rate monitor: Bluetooth and wireless ANT+ connectivity so PM5 monitor can be synced with your heart rate monitor
Reasons to buy
+Excellent value for money +Industry standard model used in competitions +Reliable and robust with readily-available replacement parts 
Reasons to avoid
-No in-built apps, fancy graphics or live workouts -Not the most aesthetically attractive 

A solid workhorse that will last years, the Concept2 RowErg is loved by rowers, gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts the world over. Although not the most stylish and lacking sophisticated software, it delivers where it really matters, providing a comfortable, consistent performance and providing as much data as the geekiest user could wish for.

What users say

Boasting an impressive 4.9 out of 5 on Amazon (out of over 8,000 ratings globally), it's clear that the Concept2 Model D rower has impressed users, "this machine rides like a Cadillac". However, one user did complain that it wasn't suitable for building muscle, "This is a 95% a cardio only machine". 

Data is synced with the Concept2 logbook where you can keep track of how much you’ve rowed (and get rewarded when you reach landmarks) as well as pit yourself against other users over set distances and enter regular competitions.

As with all air resistance machines, the flywheel produces a white noise that is certainly louder than a magnetic rowing machine, and less appealing than the swoosh of the water rower, but the Concept2 RowErg’s noise levels aren’t excessive.

The machine is pretty unsophisticated when it comes to technology - the display on the PM5 is basic - but newer models include a device holder so you can use your phone or tablet, and it has its own ErgData app as well as being compatible with a large number of rowing apps. 

The advantage of its simple design and tech is that there’s very little to go wrong and people tend to keep these machines for many years, replacing parts as they wear out and taking advantage of the extremely helpful customer support.


Best rowing machines 2021: Hydrow rowing machine

(Image credit: Hydrow)

Hydrow

The best rowing machine for interactivity

Specifications
Resistance : electromagnetic
Display: 22” touch screen
Dimensions: L 86” (218cm); W 25” (63.5cm); H 47” (119cm)
Storage: can be placed upright but requires storage kit, purchased separately
Heart rate monitor: Pairs with basic heart rate monitors with ANT+ connectivity. Tends not to work with smart watches with HR function
Reasons to buy
+Superb graphics +Immersive experience and comprehensive program +Quiet 
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive -Membership not included 

This high spec beast is often described as the Peloton of rowing machines, and it’s important to understand from the start that you’re not just buying a rowing machine but a whole membership. 

What users say

The Hydrow is rated 5 out of 5 on Amazon (albeit with only 20 global ratings so far). Users love the interactive online aspect that the touchscreen brings and many mention the quality of the machine, "I could not have imagined what a high quality rower the Hydrow brand provides. It's super heavy, and the rowing is smooth… Highly highly recommend this rower". 

The Hydrow is all about interactivity, and as with Peloton you are encouraged to subscribe to an ongoing membership with live classes as well as hundreds of pre-recorded online sessions. The machine will function without the membership but you would not get access to the main features.

The Hydrow is a sleek, attractive, ultra-modern machine. It features a 22” touchscreen with a high-definition display and gorgeous graphics. The library includes sessions where you watch a video of real waterways as you row, complete with wildlife, passing boats and beautiful surroundings, and you can join both live and recorded classes led by top class coaches. To support your rowing training there’s also a program of yoga, pilates and strength training.

The resistance on a Hydrow is computer-controlled electromagnetic resistance, which is quiet enough to let you follow the classes without needing headphones. Hydrow claims that the experience is as close to rowing on the water as you can get on a rowing machine, although not all rowers agree with this. Either way, the action is smooth. 

For storage, you stand it up on its end, but to do this you need to buy a storage kit, which has to be purchased separately.

The main drawback is the price, both of the machine itself and of the membership subscription. If you love the idea of a community and get a kick out of the graphics, then it might be worth the investment, but you can get a good workout for less.

Note: This rowing machine is currently being tested and reviewed and this buying guide will be updated once the review is complete.


Best rowing machines 2021: NordicTrack RW900

(Image credit: Best Buy)

NordicTrack RW900

The best rowing machine with a comprehensive training program

Specifications
Resistance: dual air and silent magnetic
Display: 22” touch screen
Dimensions: L 86.5” (220cm); W 22” (56cm); H 47.1” (120cm)
Storage: folds up
Heart rate monitor: compatible with most bluetooth-enabled HRMs plus the iFit bluetooth chest strap
Reasons to buy
+Folds up for easy storage +Hybrid resistance +Comprehensive program including cross-training 
Reasons to avoid
-Not very attractive design -Membership not included 

Like the Hydrow, the NordicTrack RW900 involves a membership program. 

What users say

This rower scores 4.2 out of 5 on Amazon, with 622 global ratings to draw from. Reviews are a little mixed, with 11% of the ratings being 1 star. Fans of the machine call it a "nice piece of equipment [and] great addition to my home gym". Meanwhile, others complain about defective products arriving and poor customer service. 

Although a decent machine in its own right with 26 resistance levels as well as manual resistance, the main benefit of this rowing machine is its integration with the iFit app.

The membership brings an interactive program that isn’t confined to rowing - you get access to everything from yoga to strength training as well as indoor rowing sessions led by elite rowers. 

Unusually, it features a hybrid resistance system, with both magnetic resistance (great if you want to keep the noise down) plus added air resistance if you want to pump it up. A fun added extra is the capacity for the resistance to be adjusted remotely by the instructor during live classes.

The machine itself is pretty good value but the membership subscription isn’t cheap unless you’re participating in several classes a week. During the classes the screen will feed back data like calories and watts. As with the Hydrow, you can also enjoy rowing against a backdrop of waterways from around the world.

For such a high tech machine it’s disappointingly functional in appearance, apart from the screen which is nicely designed and rotates and tilts for complete comfort and to enable you to follow along when you’re doing mat work. It’s quite heavy, although it does have the advantage of folding for easy storage.

Note: This rowing machine is currently being tested and reviewed and this buying guide will be updated once the review is complete.


Best rowing machines 2021: ProForm - 750R rowing machine

(Image credit: Best Buy)

ProForm 750R Rower

The best rowing machine for value

Specifications
Resistance: magnetic, digital
Display: digital display with tablet holder
Dimensions: L 85.8” (218 cm); W 21.7” (55 cm); H 45.7” (116 cm)
Storage: folds up
Heart rate monitor: Syncs with bluetooth enabled heart rate monitors
Reasons to buy
+Good value +Optional membership program +Folds up for storage 
Reasons to avoid
-Only one month’s iFit subscription included in price -Design not the most attractive 

This is a great all-rounder of a machine, offering the benefits of a membership program without the hefty price tag. 

What users say

Reviews give this rowing machine 3.6 out of 5 on Amazon, according to just 7 global ratings. Positive reviews say that the rower is "great value" and "very good quality", while negative reviews discuss problems accessing the free period of iFit that comes with the machine. 

It comes with a month’s free membership of iFit, so you get access to an extensive program of classes, from yoga to strength training, but it still works well without iFit if you decide not to continue with the membership after your month elapses - it includes a number of pre-set workouts .

The monitor isn’t as attractive as the Hydrow or NordicTrack but it does incorporate a tablet holder and the monitor’s height can be adjusted which is a useful feature, especially if you’re above or below average height. The machine itself is fairly workmanlike in design, though the splashes of red give it a touch of va-va-voom. Usefully, it folds away for easy storage and can be wheeled into position.

The resistance is magnetic, so the machine is quiet - great for home use - and can be adjusted. There’s also the option for the resistance to be adjusted by the instructor if you’re doing a class via iFit.

This isn’t a machine for the serious rower - the emphasis is more on all-round fitness than on standard metrics - but for anyone looking for a rowing machine that provides a total fitness program for a reasonable price, it’s an excellent choice.

Note: This rowing machine is currently being tested and reviewed and this buying guide will be updated once the review is complete.


Best rowing machines 2021: Stamina ATS Air Rower

(Image credit: Amazon)

Stamina ATS Air Rower

The best rowing machine for a budget-friendly price

Specifications
Resistance: air
Display: Digital monitor
Dimensions: L 77” (198.1 cm) x W 18” (45.7 cm) x H 22” (55.9cm)
Storage: folds up
Heart rate monitor: No
Reasons to buy
+Cheaper than most +Folds up for storage 
Reasons to avoid
-Monitor very basic -Can’t adjust air flow -Less durable than others 

With many rowing machines costing more than $1,000, it’s always good to find one at the budget end of the market at under $500. 

What users say

With a rating of 4.1 out of 5 on Amazon (with over 1,800 global ratings), this rower has quite a few fans with positive comment such as "This is a well built machine, nothing feels cheap or delicate and the resistance is good". However, other reviewers complain about a "complicated set up" and the spring return mechanism breaking. 

This is an air rower without any bells and whistles, but if you just want to get a sweat on without spending a fortune it could be a decent choice.

The design is fairly basic, though it does come in a range of colourways which makes a nice change from most rowing machines. It folds up for easy storage, so is suitable for home use. You can’t adjust the air flow - the resistance comes entirely from the amount of effort you put in - and some users report that the resistance is quite high.

The monitor is extremely simple and not the easiest to read, but it does provide most of the metrics you’d want - speed, distance, time and calories burned. In common with all air rowers, it’s not as quiet as a magnetic rowing machine.

The main drawback is its sturdiness - or lack of it. There are complaints from some users about the spring breaking and the strap fraying, often soon after purchase, and some grumbles about customer service when they reported the problems, but overall most customers find it provides excellent value for money.

Note: This rowing machine is currently being tested and reviewed and this buying guide will be updated once the review is complete.


Best rowing machines 2021: Product image of Sunny Health and Fitness

(Image credit: Sunny Health and Fitness)

Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine

Another great option for the best rowing machine on a budget

Specifications
Resistance: magnetic
Display: digital monitor
Dimensions: L 78” (198cm); W 19.1” (48.5cm); H 23.2”(59cm)
Storage: folds up
Reasons to buy
+Good value for money +Quiet and smooth +Adjustable resistance 
Reasons to avoid
-Limited data on performance monitor -Not as robust as more expensive machines 

This magnetic rowing machine would be a good choice if all you want is a no-frills machine for a basic workout to get and stay fit. 

What users say

With 4.1 out of 5 on Amazon (based on 76 global ratings), this rowing machine has a variety of positive reviews that mention aspects such as the "reasonable price" and how easy it is to assemble. However, negative reviews discuss a lack of resistance and issues viewing the LCD display properly. 

Because of the magnetic resistance, it provides a smooth action and is quiet. Some users complain that the resistance doesn’t go high enough, despite many levels of resistance which you adjust via a dial.

It’s deliberately designed for use in the home. Although it’s not designed with looks in mind, it does fold up for storage and you won’t bother the neighbors with the noise. It’s not as sturdy as some higher-end machines, and some users report that it moves across the floor when in vigorous use.

If you like feedback and data, this won’t be the machine for you, as there is only limited data on the digital monitor (which isn’t particularly easy to read). Although it tracks stroke rate, time and calories, it doesn’t show the distance rowed, which many people regard as a basic piece of data.

There are no apps and unlike the Concept2 RowErg it doesn’t have a smartphone holder. But if it’s a budget option you’re after, it still gives you a solid workout and plenty of sweat for your buck.

Note: This rowing machine is currently being tested and reviewed and this buying guide will be updated once the review is complete.


Best rowing machines 2021: Ergatta Rower

(Image credit: Ergatta)

Ergatta Rower

The best rowing machine for fun and varied workouts

Specifications
Resistance: water
Display: 17.3” touchscreen
Dimensions: L 86” (218.4 cm); W 23” (58.4 cm); H (with screen arm extended):
Storage: can be placed upright
Heart rate monitor: syncs with Bluetooth-compatible heart rate monitors
Reasons to buy
+Stylish design and great graphics  +Gaming inspired program with constant updates 
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive -No instructor classes 

“At Ergatta we believe that working out should feel like playing a sport, not taking a class,” says Ergatta’s promotional video. 

What users say

Reddit reviews of the Ergatta Rower are generally positive, with one commenter saying "I think it's absolutely worth it. Without the 'gamification' I think my workouts would be 3-4x per week and would not last nearly as long or [be] as fun". However, another commenter mentioned a two month delay and issues sourcing a technician to assemble the rower. 

Like some of the other subscription-based rowing machines, it involves a program, only this one isn’t class-based. Inspired by gaming technology, instead of following instructors you can participate in competitions and challenges such as interval workouts, with real-time feedback and personalised targets that adjust as you get fitter. 

Competition is a big element of the program and you can pit yourself against other users in global rankings. To keep things fresh, Ergatta releases at least five new workouts each week, has a Race of the Week and a new program and community challenge each month.

The rowing machine itself is a specially-designed machine made by WaterRower (see below). The main difference is that it is made from American cherry wood (making it probably the best-looking rowing machine out there), plus it has a 17.2” touchscreen (instead of the S4 monitor) with impressive HD graphics. It will sync with Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitors.

As with all models of the WaterRower it has that distinctive hiss-and-swish sound and a smooth action. The resistance isn’t adjustable without removing water from the drum.

The main drawback is the price. The machine itself is significantly more expensive than any of the wooden WaterRowers outside the Ergatta program. The cost of the membership, which is sold separately, is on a par with Hydrow and NordicTrack.

If you like the idea of a membership program but hate the fist-pumping vibe of instructor-led group sessions, this could be a great program for you, especially if you’re motivated by competition. If, on the other hand, you are spurred on by an instructor teaching and encouraging you, a rower with a group class program would work better. And if it’s just the beautiful wooden water rower you’re after without the program, go straight to WaterRower.

Note: This rowing machine is currently being tested and reviewed and this buying guide will be updated once the review is complete.


Best rowing machines 2021: Waterrower Rowing machine Ash

(Image credit: Amazon)

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine

The best rowing machine for stylish homes

Specifications
Resistance : water
Display: digital performance monitor
Dimensions: L 83.5” (212cm); W 22.25” (57cm); H 20” (51cm)
Storage: can be placed upright
Reasons to buy
+Smooth action +Attractive sound +Stylish design 
Reasons to avoid
-No variable resistance-Basic tech 

Handcrafted in solid ash, this is one of the best-looking rowers on the market. Although it can be placed upright for storage, you’re just as likely to want it on display.

What users say

WaterRower receives a 4.6 out of 5 rating on Trustpilot, based on almost 2,000 reviews. One commenter says that they've had their WaterRower "for over 25 years. It's great to be able to get replacement parts to keep it going". However, there are a few reviews that mention shipping delays. 

It’s not just the design that makes the WaterRower a popular choice - it sounds fabulous, too, with a distinctive, soothing whooshing noise. WaterRower says it recreates the experience of rowing on the water, and it certainly does deliver a smooth, comfortable row, but it’s telling that most serious rowers favor the Concept2 RowErg over the WaterRower.

One of the reasons rowers don’t tend to go for the WaterRower is that you don’t get as much data as on the RowErg. Although the S4 monitor is a big improvement on the previous design (and can be retrofitted on older machines), it’s still pretty basic, is hard to read and misses some key functions. It shows time, distance (in metres, miles, km and number of strokes), speed/intensity (in metres per second, mph, 500m split, 2K split and calories per hour), stroke rate and heart rate. It’s a bit fiddly to program and, importantly for some, there’s no option to set time intervals, unlike the Concept2 PM5 monitor. The 2K split is a nice touch for anyone planning to compete, though.

The downside of the water resistance is that you can’t adjust the resistance. Upkeep isn’t too arduous, though you do need to pop a tablet in from time to time.

Why should you buy the best rowing machine?

There is plenty of choice out there when it comes to rowing machines, with equipment that is packed full of features and available at a range of prices – you can even get rowing machines on sale to help save some cash. However, when it comes down to it, you might still be wondering why a rower is a good investment for you, especially in the shadow of the rowing machine vs treadmill debate. 

In essence, rowing machines are worth their price in terms of both the potential health benefits and practical concerns. Expert Stephen Hoyle told Live Science: "A good rowing machine will last you a very long time, with minimal upkeep. There’s no complicated machinery, just a chain that needs occasional oiling and a computer that will require the odd battery change."

Even better, though their initial price might be a little steep, they are a cost-effective choice in the long term. Stephen said: "Rowing machines cost next to nothing to run, because you don’t plug them in like you would a treadmill. Unlike some machines, you’ll never outgrow a rowing machine, they’re suitable for all fitness levels - from complete beginner to a professional athlete."