Not many home gym equipment provide full-body workouts but rowing machines are an exception. This is why we at Home Gym Strength highly recommend rowing machines to people who have very limited space in their homes or garage. We also recommend it to people who are pressed for time and yet want to make the most out of their workout routine.
Since rowing machine benefits are high, they are in demand these days when people prefer working out from home instead of stepping out during the pandemic. In this blog, we will explain more about the benefits of rowing machines and how to use a rowing machine to get the maximum possible results. We will also provide you with a list of best rowing machines for home, so you don’t have to spend weeks searching for the right product.
But, first, let’s understand what is a rowing machine good for and what muscles does a rowing machine work.
What does a rowing machine do?
Don’t really understand why there are so many rave rowing machine reviews?
That’s because they help you target all the major muscle groups of your body! Now, that’s a great thing because if you are hard-pressed for time, just 30 minutes of rowing is enough to help you stay fit and active.
Rowing is a low-impact workout i.e. it is pretty easy on your weight-bearing joints such as ankles and knees, which often bear a lot of burden when you do high-impact exercises. But, that doesn’t mean rowing machine workouts aren’t effective.
Millions of users in their rowing machine reviews have stated that they are highly effective for fat loss as well as for improving your strength and stamina. Other rowing machine benefits include improved aerobic fitness, improved cardiovascular fitness, full-body toning, improvement in overall posture, and much more.
If you are recovering from an injury or if you are just starting with your fitness routine, a home rowing machine should be one of the first few pieces of equipment that you should buy.
What muscles does a rowing machine work?
This is one of the most common questions people ask.
While rowing looks like an upper body exercise, 80% of it is just leg work (which involves glutes as well). The rest of it involves the upper body and the core.
Rowing is more like a horizontal version of deadlifts, engaging almost the same muscles. You may not have realized but a single stroke of rowing engages your quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, glutes, core muscles, arms and shoulders, back muscles, and your chest muscles. Plus, it takes your heartbeat up, giving you a killer cardio workout. That’s surprisingly more than what you could have ever asked for! This pretty much answers ‘what muscles does a rowing machine work’.
How to use a rowing machine?
Well, this may sound like a lame section of the article. But, don’t skip reading unless you have used a rowing machine for quite some time. Although rowing looks like a very natural movement, a lot of people do not use the correct form and technique and end up being sore or injured.
Some of the common mistakes that people make while doing their rowing machine workouts are:
- They hunch their back.
- They make a scooping motion instead of rowing motion.
- They raise their arms either too high or too low.
- They let their knees drop to the sides.
- They do not engage the core.
Watch this video by Concept 2 rowing machine to learn how to use a rowing machine correctly:
Best rowing machine workouts to trigger fat loss and build more muscles
We will keep it short here. This blog from Men’s Health has featured 8 different rowing machine workout sets that can help you achieve most of your fitness needs. We have tried a few of them, so we can confidently say that they do work. But, most of them are suitable for intermediates and advanced trainers. Beginners can refer to the below video for easy rowing machine at home workouts.
Now that you have got a clear idea of what is a rowing machine good for, let’s learn about the type of resistance they use, because that is going to be your prime decision-making factor.
Rowing machine resistance types
Rowing machines typically use 4 types of resistance :
- Water resistance
- Magnetic resistance
- Air resistance
- Hydraulic resistance
The below comparison table will help you understand better:
|Resistance type||Key features||Noise level||Pros||Cons|
|Water||Paddle is submerged in the water tank.
Amount of resistance depends on your paddling speed. The faster you paddle, the more resistance you will experience.
Suitable for everyone.
Usually have a large footprint because most water resistance rowers are made of wood and have a large water tank.
|Bit noisy but the whooshing of water sounds rather soothing||Smoothest possible resistance
Pretty much feels like outdoor rowing
|Not quite affordable
Heavy because of the water tank
The tank requires occasional cleaning.
|Magnetic||Have magnetic brakes to create resistance||Quietest possible noise which is why they are the best home rowing machines||Cheaper
Decent resistance level
Require little maintenance
|Resistance is not as smooth as water one
Not enough for athletes and serious trainers
Do not provide realistic rowing experience
|Air||The flywheel spins to create wind that gives resistance
The faster you pull the handle, the more resistance you will get
Suitable for intense rowing machine workouts
|Noisy and not really considered as a home rowing machine. More suitable for commercial places, garages, etc.||Lightweight
Pretty much replicates outdoor rowing
|Can be too noisy for homes
No fancy features
|Hydraulic||Uses hydraulic pistons to provide resistance
Resistance can be adjusted by turning the knob, which controls the movement of fluid in and out of the piston.
The best rowing machine for low-intensity rowing machine workouts and rehab purposes
|Bit noisy but doesn’t cause much botheration||Affordable
Compact and foldable
|Most hydraulic rowers fail to provide smooth rowing motions
Gets hot when used for more than 30 minutes
Doesn’t replicate outdoor rowing
Why is resistance type so important?
Choosing the right resistance type can make a lot of difference to your workout experience. You don’t want to end up buying a rowing machine that is noisy enough to not let your kids study or your partner work. You also do not want to buy a rowing machine that you will outgrow sooner than expected.
While it is pretty common to fall for cosmetically and economically appealing rowing machines, do not rush through your decision. Take your time to decide on the correct resistance type that suits your personal needs.
Some of the key factors that you need to consider while buying the best rowing machine for home are:
- Where do you want to keep the rowing machine? If you want to keep it in your living room, you should buy a magnetic rowing machine so no one gets disturbed.
- What is the surface of the area on which you are planning to keep it? If you are planning to house it on a wooden floor you probably have to buy a mat to reduce the vibration. You should also prefer magnetic rowing machines to further minimize the vibration and any damage to the floor.
- Make sure you consider the feel that you want to have while using a rowing machine. Water rowing machines are the only ones that provide a highly realistic rowing experience. Plus, they are very soft on joints!
Now that you know how to choose a rower for home, let’s look at some of the top options that we recommend:
5 Best Rowing Machines for Home
|Name||Dimensions||Weight capacity||Resistance type||Our Rating||Price|
|Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor||96” x 24” x 14”||500lbs||air||4.7||Check Price|
|Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine||78L x 19.1W x 23.2H in||250lbs||magnetic||4.6||Check Price|
|Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rowing Machine||88.5 x 21.5 x 21.5 inches||250lbs||Magnetic||4.6||Check Price|
|Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine||54 x 20 x 23 inches||250lbs||Hydraulic||4.7||Check Price|
|Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine||58.25 x 42.5 x 18.13 inches||250lbs||Hydraulic||4.6||Check Price|
Priced close to $1000, the Concept 2 rowing machine model D is not exactly a budget-friendly option. But, we have been using it for more than two years and we agree with thousands of other buyers who have stated that this is by far the best rowing machine for people looking for intense, challenging rowing machine workouts. Its superb build quality, connectivity, and performance tracking features justify its hefty price tag. You can connect it to your phone or other devices using bluetooth or ANT+ wireless connectivity. It works with Concept2’s free app as well as with a bunch of other popular fitness tracking apps.
We would rate it as the best rowing machine 2021 because it not just helps you with workouts but also helps you stay motivated by competing with yourself and with other rowers. Check out its features, pros, and cons below.
Features of Concept 2 rowing machine model D with PM5 performance monitor
- Dimensions: 96” x 24” x 14”
- Weight capacity: 500lbs
- Resistance mechanism: Air as mentioned above.
- Track length: 54”
- Can be folded and stored vertically. It is one of the best home rowing machines if you don’t have dedicated floor space.
- Comes with wireless connectivity and a PM5 monitor that can track your workout data and store it in your mobile phone for later reference.
- Comes with 5 pre-programmed workouts and four games.
- All Concept2 rowing machines have free access to their own fitness app.
- Warranty- 5 years on frame and 2 years on all other parts including digital parts.
What we like about it
The best thing about most Concept2 rowing machines is that they require minimum possible assembly. This model has just 8 screws. Even people who aren’t great with assembly would hardly take 15 minutes to put it together.
Plus, did you know you just have to unlock its clip to remove its monorail, so you can store it vertically? You don’t have to unscrew any part of it for storage and that makes it one of the best rowers for home gyms with compact spaces.
It has an ergonomic design
This Concept2 rowing machine has an ergonomic handlebar, seat and pedals. The handlebar is covered with moulded rubber and has a 10 degree bend, which provides you the most natural grip possible. It is covered with molded rubber, which is why it is grippy enough for intense, sweaty workout sessions. However, the manufacturer has clearly mentioned that if you are new to rowing, you could get some blisters. You may use workout gloves.
The seat, as mentioned by many buyers, is hard but contoured. We had got a seat cover for it to add more cushioning. Numerous buyers have confirmed that the pedals feel comfortable even when used barefooted. So, if you are a barefoot rower, this is definitely going to be the best rowing machine 2021 for you. The footrests have a dial-in design so even if you do not have absolutely flexible ankles, you will still be able to get your shins in a vertical position. By the way, here is how you can improve your ankle flexibility and learn how to do deep squats.
What isn’t so great about it
PM5 monitor is very basic
All Concept 2 rowing machines have the same PM5 performance monitor. The monitor is good and works as expected. It comes with some preset workouts and games. But, at a $1000 price range, buyers obviously expect something better. Probably the manufacturer ignored that aspect because this rower for home comes with wireless and bluetooth connectivity. You can connect it to any of your fitness apps and get a killer workout of your choice.
Noisy enough to be used in a living room
Pick up any air rower and you will experience this problem, even though you have paid a hefty amount for it. Even the best rowing machines with air friction are noisy enough to cause inconvenience to others in the house, especially if you have kids. Great for garages or dedicated home gym areas though.
The monitor arm is made of plastic.
Well, this is a minor complaint but a metal arm would have made it look amazing. The plastic used is durable though.
Our Rating: 4.7/5
We have been using it for 2 years now and we never had any issue with it. Concept 2 rowing machine model D is a great product for advanced trainers who want intense rowing machine workouts. If you are new to rowing, this rower for home might overwhelm you. You may want to try a starter, affordable product first, so you could decide if rowing really interests you. For them, we would recommend the below-mentioned Sunny Health & Fitness rowing machine.
This is the best rower for home for beginners who are on a budget and yet want something that provides smooth, effective rowing machine workouts. People who are recovering from injury can use it too. It is a very basic and low-priced home rowing machine, so do not expect a lot from it. Due to its magnetic resistance, it is quiet and convenient for home. It has manually adjustable 8-levels of resistance, which will challenge you to push your limits further, so you can soon upgrade your home gym with a Concept 2 rowing machine. Here are some of its key features:
- Dimensions: 78L x 19.1W x 23.2H in
- Weight limit: 250 lbs
- Resistance type: Magnetic. Has 8 levels that can be adjusted with the help of a knob
- Track length: 48”
- Can be folded for vertical storage
- Has a very basic console, large adjustable footpads, floor stabilizers, and transportation wheels
- 90 days warranty
What we like about it:
The most common problem that people face while buying a low priced product is a complex assembly process or incomplete assembly directions. Thankfully, none of the buyers have reported assembly issues with the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine. Numerous people have confirmed that the assembly couldn’t have been easier. There are just 5 steps for assembly. The parts required for each step are packed together so you don’t have to guess which one needs to go where. Depending upon your assembly skills, you could put it together in 30 to 45 minutes.
Reasonable price and fantastic quality
85% of buyers have rated it 4 stars and above. Thousands of buyers have agreed that it is almost impossible to find a competitively-priced throwing machine that could offer the same features and quality that the SF-RW5515 does. The resistance mechanism is enough to challenge you until you are ready to upgrade. The seat slides smoothly on the rail but could make some squeaking noise after a few months. All you need to do is to oil it. Some buyers have even stated that the seat is better than Concept 2 and any gym-grade best home rowing machines. No wonder why we have rated it as the best rowing machine 2021 for casual use.
What isn’t so great about it:
Display could have been more informational
A lot of buyers have stated that the display is useless and unreliable. It is useless because it does not track strokes per minute. It only tracks strokes per workout, so you won’t be able to figure out the speed at which you are rowing. It also does not track the total distance that you have rowed, which is slightly disappointing provided that it isn’t a cheap home rowing machine.
The display screen is too small and does not have a back light feature, making it impossible to read the numbers unless you are working out in a wel-lit room.
As we said above, the display screen is unreliable because the calorie count it provides is unrealistic and incorrect. Sadly, the only thing that you can rely on is the timer. Well, most of us use our own tracking apps these days, so the issues with the display could be ignored, considering that this is the best home rowing machine in terms of price and functionality.
Too short warranty
Just a 3 months warranty is ridiculous. If you have never used Sunny Health and Fitness products you might not feel confident enough to spend $200 on this rower for home. What is the handle breaks or the resistance system stops working?
Well, this is a medium-quality rowing machine for sale, so it is going to give you some trouble after a decent amount of use. A few buyers have stated that the spring mechanism of the handle stopped working after a few months. A few others have stated that foot pedals developed cracks. These issues are common with almost all low-priced home rowing machines. They are not Concept2 products. These products are only meant for casual use.
Sunny Health and Fitness is a well-known manufacturer of budget-friendly home gym equipment. We have used many of its products and never really had any major problems. This is why we have picked up this product to be a part of our list of best rowing machines for home.
Our Rating: 4.6/5
If you aren’t 100% sure about rowing or if looking for no-nonsense home gym equipment to get a full-body workout, Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine is the right choice for you. Go for it; we bet you won’t be disappointed.
If you are looking for a low-cost rowing machine that comes with bluetooth connectivity, so you can use the online apps and programs of your choice, this Fitness Reality 1000 Plus rower for home is a great option that you must check out. Since its release in 2019, it has been a top-seller product catering to people who love its flashy features such as a patent-pending stabilizer footpad that you can use for upper body exercises. No wonder why it is the best rowing machine for home with limited spaces.
- Dimensions: 88.5 x 21.5 x 21.5 inches
- Weight-bearing capacity: 250 lbs
- Resistance type: magnetic with 14 levels
- Comes with a smartphone holder
- It is one of the few best rowing machine 2021 that come with bluetooth connectivity and yet doesn’t cost a fortune
- Has digital console (non-backlit), pivoting pedals, transportation wheels,
- 1-year limited warranty
What we like about it:
It is the only rowing machine for sale that lets you perform ‘additional exercises’ such as curls, upright rows, bent over rows, shoulder press (standing), tricep extensions, front raises, and more! This is its most-promoted feature and buyers love it! The magnetic resistance also works for these additional exercises. If you have very limited space, this is probably the best rowing machine because it limits the need of free weights.
See the image below for reference:
Please note that this rower for home doesn’t eliminate the need of a cable machine or free weights, especially for people with moderate to serious workout goals.
Also the handlebars are completely straight so they support extra exercises. They should be angled to prevent you from hunching your back but most people didn’t find it a problem.
Smooth and quiet operation
Magnetic rowing machines for sale are expected to be silent. But, as we mention above in the Sunny Health and Fitness rowing machine review, many of them start making a squeaking or grinding noise after some time. However, most buyers of the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rowing Machine have stated that this rower for home is ‘dead silent’. Only sound that you can hear is the sound of the seat gliding, which is barely noticeable. So, if you live in an apartment you don’t have to worry about neighbors.
The LCD of this machine is much better than the Sunny Health and Fitness one. Assembly is easy. Plus, it comes with all the necessary tools and a detailed assembly guide. Numerous buyers have also mentioned that unlike cheap home rowing machines, this one provides a smooth gliding motion which makes your workouts effective and safe. Overall, it meets the expectations of the buyers.
What isn’t so great about it:
Not so user-friendly foldable design
As we mentioned above, the best rowing machines for home should have a foldable design to save the valuable floor space. The Fitness Reality 1000 plus Bluetooth rower for home too has a foldable design, but it doesn’t fold up that easily. You have to literally disassemble the seat bar by unscrewing some of the screws and then removing the safety pin and bolting it up to the front. It is not a realistic process that you can do almost every time you want to use the machine. If you don’t have ample space where you can just leave it as it is, we wouldn’t recommend this.
Bluetooth connectivity and app gives glitches
Numerous buyers have had bluetooth connectivity issues. Some buyers have also stated that the app provides misleading data. The actual data could be far less. A few others have stated that the app is average and the $15 charge is not worth it.
MyCloudFitness app calculates only your rowing workouts. It cannot detect the activity of the other standing workouts you can do using the handle. This is because the tracker is located below the seat.
Our Rating: 4.6/5
Well, Fitness Reality 1000 plus Bluetooth enabled rowing machine for sale deserves better ratings than what we have given. But, the complex foldable design is the only reason why we couldn’t rate it any better. The manufacturer needs to improve it. Otherwise, this is one of the best rowing machines for home that provides an excellent blend of price and quality.
It is one of the cheapest rowing machines for sale. It is so cheap that people avoid buying it assuming that it would just be a waste of money. Don’t worry; we too had the same opinion until we tried it.
One thing that we appreciate about Sunny Health and Fitness is that it never disappoints its buyers. It has earned a strong reputation, which is why people like us do not hesitate to try its product even if they are just the ridiculously cheap basic ones.
The SF-RW1205 hydraulic rowing machine for home is lightweight, compact, and has a single-piston hydraulic cylinder, and has enough resistance for beginners, elderly people, people who are recovering from injury, and people who are looking for low-impact workouts. You can also use it to do your warm-up before moving into other intense activities.
- Dimensions: 54 x 20 x 23 inches (shorter than all of the best rowing machine for home that we have listed here)
- Weight-bearing capacity: 220 lbs
- Resistance type: Hydraulic with 12 levels
- Comes with a very basic digital monitor, pivoting pedals, and cushioned seat
- Unlike other home rowing machines listed here, the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW1205 rower cannot be folded flat. But, you can store it vertically in a closet.
Please note that being a hydraulic rowing machine for home gyms, it tends to heat up when used for more than 20 minutes. This is a common problem with all hydraulic rowers. If you are not OK with it, go with the other Sunny health and fitness home rowing machine that we have reviewed above. To be honest, a lot of people buy hydraulic rowing machines only because they are affordable.
Also, note that it is meant for small users. Rowers taller than 6 ft may not be able to do a full row.
What we like about it:
Rated as one of the best rower for home with limited floor space, this product comes with all necessary tools and even batteries. There is nothing much to assemble. You just have to put in three bolts! And most buyers were able to do it in just 10 minutes without even looking at the instructions.
Most products from Sunny Health and Fitness are pretty easy to assemble, unlike other cheaper home gym equipment that often require a lot of brainstorming and manual effort.
Works as expected
Despite being a ridiculously cheap rowing machine for home, the SF-RW1205 far exceeds the expectations of its buyers. The manufacturer hasn’t compromised on the core functionality. It provides ample resistance for beginners and those looking for low-intensity workouts. Plus, the seat is inclined towards the front, which further increases the amount of resistance. Being a hydraulic rower for home, it is quiet and lightweight, so you can move it around as and when needed.
The display is only accurate when used as a timer. Other data is usually inaccurate but most buyers didn’t mind it considering that it is one of the cheapest and best rower for home gyms.
The frame is made of high-quality steel, so you can expect it to last for years until you are ready to go with Concept 2 rowing machines or any other product that you might be having in your mind. Numerous buyers have agreed that it is a fairly stable rowing machine for homes. It doesn’t wobble even when you are working out at your max speed, a common issue with most inexpensive rowers. What more can you expect from a $100 rower?
What isn’t so great about it
- This home rowing machine has a weight capacity of just 220lbs.
- It is not meant for taller, well-built people.
- It can only be used for 20-25 minutes at a stretch. You need to let it cool before using it again, which could take 15 minutes.
- When the oil inside the piston heats up, the machine starts losing its resistance. This is a fairly common issue with all hydraulic rowing machines.
- When it is hot, you have to be careful not to touch the piston. If you have kids, you have to make sure they are away from it when it’s hot or they could get burns. Definitely not the best rower for home with toddlers and small kids.
The manufacturer has mentioned all these issues in the product description, so we have nothing to complain about. But, apparently, a lot of buyers didn’t read it thoroughly. They ordered it because it was inexpensive and compact without understanding what a hydraulic rower is meant for. These are the people who have rated it poorly. Make sure you think about these issues before buying the product so you don’t end up feeling cheated.
Our Rating: 4.7/5
Do you think you will be able to buy a better home rowing machine than this for than $100? There are not many rowing machines for sale under $100. And, those available are usually cheap Chinese products that have mushroomed around The World Wide Web during the pandemic to cater to the steep demand for home gym equipment. We have tested a few such products. Some of them are good options but most of them stop working after a few weeks. If you have a very low budget or if you need something to get your muscles working until you’re ready to upgrade, do not try anything except the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW1205 rower. We bet you won’t be disappointed.
This one is also a hydraulic rowing machine meant for shorter, low-impact workouts. Its full-pivoting arms make it work better than the other best rowing machines available for less than $200. This is why, despite its retro look and bare basic function, the Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 rowing machine for home gyms has been a top-selling product for the past few years. More than 80% of buyers have rated it 4-stars and above. Thousands of them have agreed that it provides a low-cost way to stay active and in shape. Let’s look at some of its key features:
- Dimension: 58.25 x 42.5 x 18.13 inches
- Weight-bearing capacity: 250lbs
- Resistance: hydraulic. Resistance can be adjusted by turning a knob located on the piston. There are no preset levels. You have to do trial and error.
- As mentioned, this one of the best rowers for home gyms for people who want to get an almost real rowing feel.
- Can be folded for vertical storage
- Has a non-backlit display, textured foot pedals, and padded handles
- Warranty: 1 year on frame and 90 days on parts
What we like about it:
Full range of motion rowing arms is a thoughtful addition
The arms move in a circular motion, which simulates the feel of rowing a boat. The other best rowing machines 2021 listed here have just one arm that you need to pull towards you for rowing. They provide a very limited range of motion to your upper body. This home rowing machine is a one-of-its-kind product that helps you to experience the original rowing sport. It also provides a better workout for almost all major muscle groups of your body.
This feature is also available in some of the high-end home rowing machines but, as you can expect, you have to pay a hefty price for it. We don’t know how the manufacturer of this rower made it possible to provide the pivoting arms in such a low-cost machine without compromising its quality and operation.
Don’t worry about the huge arms. You can fold and tuck them neatly below the seat when not in use.
What isn’t so great about it:
Bushings are made of plastic
These bushings are used for fixing the pivoting mechanism of the seat. Since they are made of plastic, they will eventually wear out. They should have been made of metal. Nevertheless, numerous buyers have stated that the bushings can last up to 3 years or more depending upon your usage.
You can order extra bushings from the company but some buyers have stated that they don’t fit well. You may have to grind them down to achieve a better fit. A DIY expert buyer has stated that you can replace the bushings with ball bearings. See the image below for his instructions. We haven’t done that, so we don’t know if it will actually work.
The pedals aren’t deep enough to keep your feet secured
This is a commonly reported problem with the Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine. The heel cups are almost flat. Although the pedals have velcro straps for securing your feet, buyers have mentioned that no matter how much you tighten them, your feet will eventually come out after a few minutes of use.
Adding an extra pair of velcro to the pedals can help solve this issue. You can also try some DIY like one buyer did in the below image. It looks funny but it works!
Our Rating: 4.6/5
It isn’t the perfect rower for home but it works as expected. Despite its standard flaws such as a faulty monitor, we still claim that it is one of the best home rowing machines for beginners and people who want low-intensity workouts.
Since most of us are pressed for time, total body workouts are a great choice because they can help you stay in shape even when you manage to exercise for less than an hour every day. Rowing machines are one of the few pieces of equipment that can help with this. Some other options you can consider are treadmills and spin bikes. We have already reviewed some of the top-rated spin bikes for home gyms. We are currently in the process of finalizing the treadmills. We will soon be publishing the list. Meanwhile, why don’t you check out this list of mini ellipticals that you can use in your home office when you are hard-pressed for time and can’t go for regular exercises.