The 10 Best Rowing Machines of 2020 for Your Home Gym

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workout on a rower

When buying an rowing machine, it can feel like a significant investment. It's crucial to know whether you're getting the best value for your money. In this article, I’m going to discuss all of the best rowing machines of this year:

Durable yet Affordable: Concept2 Model D

Compact for Small Spaces: Stamina Body 1050 Rowing Machine

Rower that Fits Your Decor: Merax Water Rowing Machine

Low Cost, No Frills: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515

Reviews for 2020

1. Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

The Body Trac Glider provides a workout just as good as those from bigger, more expensive machines. Weighing in at only 40 pounds, this compact model gives a full range of motion and multiple resistance levels. While it's a great product, it's not perfect for indoor rowing.

This indoor rower uses a gas shock under the padded seat. Similar to other hydraulic cylinder resistance models, this machine is quieter. But it doesn’t provide a very realistic resistance rowing motion by design. Some experienced users have complained that the Body Trac didn't provide enough resistance. Perhaps they weren't using the machine correctly, or the piston leaked. It's difficult to say.

PROS

  • Compact, with fewer bells and whistles
  • Sturdy Design
  • Easy to Store
  • Easy Assembly

CONS

  • Difficult to use Adjustable Resistance
  • Inaccurate Data

2. Merax Water Rowing Machine

Merax Water Rowing Machine

With solid steel construction for durability and performance, the Merax Rowing Machine is an intense aerobic workout. Coming with a unique inclined water tank that provides stronger resistance, this home rowing machine more closely simulates dynamic indoor rowing movements than many other models.

The sound of water will relax you as it splashes through the tank, but not so loudly that you won’t be able to enjoy music or streaming video at the same time.

You can adjust resistance levels by adding as much or as little water to the tank as you require. Row with the long ergonomic handles while shifting back and forth on the contoured, molded seat. The included LCD monitor handily tracks your heart rate, rowing intensity, stroke rate, stroke count, calories, and distance time. One of the best things about this machine is that it has a relatively small footprint. 

PROS

  • High Quality and Easy Assembly
  • Powerful levels of resistance in comparison to other rowers
  • More affordable than some water rowers
  • Takes up little space when stored upright

CONS

  • Relatively cheap-looking basic LCD monitor
  • The power cord could have a tighter fit into the machine

3. Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower

Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower

The Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower utilizes a Drum Magnetic Control System and an electronic tension control. It features an easy-to-read LCD display and comes programmed with more than a few training programs to get you started.

The saddle is molded polyurethane, while the beam below it is anodized aluminum. This machine is known for stability and comfort.

Some of the bonus features on the Velocity include a heart rate monitor with simple controls. The manual magnetic resistance knob is one of the more expensive additions.

If you're tall, this machine will work for you, the track is long enough to accommodate all leg lengths. The padded seat and handles will keep your hands insulated from wear.

PROS

  • Smooth Rowing Workout
  • Eight Levels of Magnetic Resistance
  • Backlit Monitor
  • Durable
  • Foldable Model

CONS

  • Short Warranty
  • Fragile Components

4. Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

The Concept2 is the perfect machine for indoor rowing use. It provides a low impact workout that works out all the major muscle groups. It has an air resistance flywheel design for a quiet workout. You can easily change the airflow using the damper. 

Not only is the Model D indoor rowing machine easy to assemble, requiring only 8 screws, you can also separate it into two pieces for easy storage. The framelock mechanism just needs to be triggered. 


One of the things that make this rower stand out is the PM5 (Performance 5 Monitor), which not only provides useful information about your workout, it also can be used to play games. You can measure your progress with reliable, comparable data on every stroke. It connects with a wide range of fitness apps, so you can even engage in online challenges. 


While this isn't the most inexpensive item on the market, you get very decent value for the price with the Model D indoor rowing machine. For a more detailed breakdown, read my full review.

PROS

  • Solid Frame
  • PM5 Monitor
  • Easy Assembly
  • One of the Best

CONS

  • Large Footprint
  • Uncomfortable Seat

5. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515

This rower comes with eight levels of full motion magnetic rowing tension and a very comfortable seat for your indoor rowing. It offers a easy-to-read LCD, and just like the other models mentioned in this most, it's almost silent.

One problem with this rower is that the LCD display isn't backlit. So, depending on the time of day you use it (and your lighting) it might be difficult to track.

Assembly is quick and easy. The foot petals are anti-slip, allowing proper ergonomics. The handlebars are padded. But perhaps the best part of this home rowing machine is the price tag. This Sunny Health and Fitness rower is nowhere near as exorbitant as the Concept2 model. With a sturdy frame that can withstand over 250 pounds of user weight, this machine will work for you no matter your size. The Sunny Health and Fitness value that you get for the cost is almost unmatched.

PROS

  • Decent Price
  • Quiet
  • Foldable Model
  • Strong, Full Motion Resistance

CONS

  • Simple Monitor
  • Large Footprint
  • Short Warranty

7. Stamina Avari Magnetic Rower

Stamina Avari Magnetic Rower

Another budget-friendly indoor rower that allows you to get a decent upper and lower body workout without doing too much damage to your wallet. This magnetic rowing machine provides a range of motion that feels strikingly close to real rowing.

This less-expensive magnetic rowing machine has a decent computer with a chest strap for measuring your heart rate while you work out. The In-Touch Fitness Monitor includes 12 pre-programmed workouts. Most people that own the machine compliment it,  saying it provides a great workout. Still, there are some that say the seat could be a little more comfortable.

PROS

  • Quiet
  • Strong Resistance
  • Easy Assembly
  • Foldable Model

CONS

  • Uncomfortable
  • Short Warranty

8. Stamina ATS Air Rower

Stamina ATS Air Rower

This wind resistance rowing machine comes a multi-function performance monitor. With large foot pedals, and an angled, upholstered seat for comfort, this machine slides smoothly. You can monitor your time and calories burned on the ATS air rower elegant display. And the device folds up and can be wheeled away for easy storage.


This space-saving exercise equipment will give you the full body workout you require for a very moderate price in comparison to similar models. The wind-resistant design keeps this machine affordable, which is excellent as an introductory model.

This machine has been engineered for efficiency, allowing you to adjust the resistance levels to your needs. The oversized seat rail accommodates all body types with comfortable padding. The textured grips and large footplates make for a high-intensity, low-impact workout. Dimensions when fully assembled are 77 X 18 x 22.

PROS

  • A good introductory rowing experience
  • Well-packaged, easy setup
  • Very affordable

CONS

  • Fragile parts wear with use
  • Limited warranty

9. Proform 440r Rower

Proform 440r Rower

This dual action strength rower has pivoting foot pedals and adjustable foot straps. These straps keep your feet securely in for a full body work out. With a large comfortable seat, a strong rail, and an ergonomic handle, this machine will keep you comfortable as you exercise. 

Don’t forget that you can also use the 440r to do deltoid raises, overhead triceps extensions, deadlifts, bicep curls. Assembled size is 77” long x 18” wide x 22” tall.

PROS

  • Easy to Assemble
  • Easy to Use

CONS

  • Rope can wear easily
  • No warranty

10. Concept2 Model E PM5 - Top Pick

Concept2 Model E PM5

One of the things that’s special about the Model E strength training rowing machine is how it comes higher off the ground than most other models on the market. This rowing machine engages all major muscle groups including your arms, core, and legs.

Suitable for indoor use, this rower comes with a nickel-plated chain which requires less oiling. It also has a double-powder coated finish to resist scratches. The Concept2 Model E comes in two different colors, black or light gray. The sleek design makes a welcome addition to any home gym. With the quick-release frame-lock mechanism, you can separate this machine into two pieces for easy storage. 

The flywheel comes with a spiral damper, allowing you to adjust the air resistance and modify your stroke. The performance monitor comes with backlit visibility, meaning you can view your fitness details in a darkly-lit area. The monitor also comes with a USB flash drive so you can store your data. This model also comes with a 2-year warranty so you can purchase with confidence. 

PROS

  • Operates in near-total silence
  • Very Heavy-Duty
  • Stylish and high off the ground

CONS

  • Footstraps take a bit to adjust
  • Unstable USB interaction with the monitor software

Common Rowing Machine Questions

Is it possible to work the abs using a rowing machine?

Yes, for two reasons. First off, rowers facilitate effective fat-burning exercises. Using a rowing machine will help you achieve an intense workout, allowing you to burn as much as four-hundred calories in a 30-minute session. You have to shed the pounds before you’ll have any hope of revealing your beautiful washboard abs.

Another reason that rowers promote strong abs is that they work the core muscles of your midsection. Rowing on a daily basis, with correct form, will promote definition in your abdominals.

What are the benefits of using a rowing machine?

There are many different benefits. It helps build muscle strength and increases cardiovascular health. It promotes weight loss. It reduces stress, stabilizes the upper body, and it offers a full body workout while improving muscle and joint mobility. A rower is perfect rowing equipment for all experience levels. 

Types of Rowing Machines

Water Rowing Machines

These machines are expensive products that use an actual tank to create water resistance. Some say that they provide a superior full body workout to all of the other models. If you're someone that's looking to train for a competition, real water rower might be a point of preference. 

Hydraulic Rowing Machines

These rowers use smooth hydraulic rower resistance, but in the cylinders connected to the handles. These are called pistons. Because of the simple design, these machines take up less space. One disadvantage to these rowers are the fixed hand positions. When you use these handles, your arms will move in repetitive arcs. There also isn't as much pressure on your legs. So if you're looking for a better workout, hydraulic rowers are possibly the weakest choice.

Magnetic Rowing Machine

If you have family members that would be disturbed by loud noise while you work out, an exercise magnetic rower is probably your best option. Not only does an exercise magnetic rower provide substantial resistance, but it's also relatively silent.

Air Rowing Machine

Air resistance is some of the best value you can get at a moderate price point. If you can't afford a water rower resistance model, an air machine might be the next best thing with their natural rowing motion.

Benefits of Rowing Machines

Some of the benefits of rowing machines include that are among the best for cardiovascular fitness, toning your muscles, and weight loss. Some argue that they're even better than an exercise bike. They're aren't torturous on your knees and joints. They're perfect for improving your stamina and motivation to continue exercising.

Some of the disadvantages include the possibility that you can easily injure yourself if you're not careful. So be careful! So which muscle groups are most positively affected by this kind of exercise? After you read the following passages, you will understand why they provide such an excellent workout.

Arms

Your biceps, the big muscles in your upper arms, flex whenever you complete a stroke. Your triceps extend on the back of your arms when you reach forward. As you row, the motion continues to employ both sides of your limbs for superior exertion.

Legs

Using a rower is much like doing squats. It works your quadriceps, your hamstrings, and your gluts. Working your legs in this manner for an extended duration increases stamina while burning calories.

Back

The rowing motion also exerts the muscles in your upper back and shoulders.

When you catch on a rower, you also exercise your:

  • Deltoids
  • Trapezoids

When you dive on a rowing machine, you use your:

  • Calves
  • Quadriceps
  • Deltoids
  • Trapezoids
  • Pectorals
  • Abdominals

So, now you can see why these machines have become such popular items. But finding the right product for you and your budget might not be so easy. Let's talk about some of your options when it comes time to buy.

Factors to Consider 

In the following paragraphs, I will describe some of the things you need to think about when shopping for these kinds of fitness options:

Features

There are lots of things that are nice to have on an exercise machine, but whether these kinds of bells and whistles are worth the money is up to you. I would recommend that you at least find a machine with a monitor for tracking your progress and some necessary programs to keep you engaged. If you can't see how much work you're doing and don't know what your goals are, that might lead to an unsatisfying workout experience.

You also want your monitor to provide accurate information. Most modern row machines should track your speed, time, distance time and calories burned. Just remember, what gets measured gets managed. Just like when you use an exercise bike.

Be honest with yourself when reviewing the features offered by each machine. Ask yourself, “Am I going to use all of these things?”

If not, it may be time to look at more basic options for your home gym. 

Versatility

If you don't have a lot of room in your home, a rowing machine might make life even less convenient. Depending on your situation, it might be helpful to select a model that you can take apart and store. Not all rowing machine designs are easy storage. Some models can be easily folded and moved into a closet. If your housing situation is cramped, look for a foldable rower.

Price

Instead of trying to avoid the most expensive models, I recommend looking for a model that provides the best value for your money spent. If you go for the models released the year before, you can sometimes get a substantial discount.

Capacity

Depending on your weight, you'll want to check the user weight capacity of the machine you're planning to purchase. These specs can usually be found on the vendor's website (if not here on this site). These stats help you make a determination on durability. You wouldn't want the machine to break under your weight. Don't ignore the specs.

Noise

Some machines make noise when used. If you're someone that lives alone, that might not be much of an issue. But if you want to avoid irritating the people you live with, it would probably be in your best interest to look for a quiet machine.

Having silent rower will enable you to get the workouts you need without the ability to make excuses. If you buy a loud one, you might tell yourself that you shouldn't work out as not to disturb anyone. Don't let yourself make these excuses.

Ease of Assembly

My husband may enjoy it, but I don't. I'm not a fan of squinting at complicated diagrams and playing with little baggies full of screws. So when I want to buy a fitness machine, I usually check to see how difficult it is to put together, even if I'm not the one building it.

Some companies may provide you with prebuilt models upon request. So, if it's feasible, you may ask for this kind of arrangement instead. If you're a busy professional or have kids to watch, this option might be best for you.

Warranty

I take warranties very seriously. I find it suspicious when sellers only offer one or two years of service. With some kinds of machines, I understand that it would be impractical offering a lifetime guarantee. But it does put my mind at ease when I'm confident I can replace my expensive machine if it has any defects.

Comfort

If you're going to be using a machine for an extended duration, of course, you'll want it to be comfortable. Working out should never be more painful than the exertion you're putting your upper body through. Unfortunately, these kinds of things can be difficult to gauge in advance before purchasing the machine. I recommend taking a look at some reviews from buyers before committing. 

Type of Resistance

Think about what kind of dynamic you want for your row machine. Whether it’s Water, Air, Magnetic, or Hydraulic resistance, each has their pros and cons.

how to use a rower

Tips for Rowing Properly

When you row, you'll want to make sure you use the proper form. Here are some of the things you should consider before sitting down for your workout:

Check the damper

Depending on what kind of rowing machine you’re using, you’ll want to make sure that the resistance isn’t too high. If it is, you’re going to have a difficult time getting a good workout. The damper is similar to the gears on a bicycle. Adjust it to a medium resistance level to increase your strokes per minute.

Use your legs

Sometimes inexperienced rowers pull the handle with their arms. Putting too much pressure on your arms and shoulders is a bad idea. Always use the power of your legs to push out against the foot panels.

Increase your stroke rate

First push back with your legs. Then, pivot back with your shoulders passing over your pelvis. Finally, while leaning back, use your arms to draw the handles to your chest, below your ribs. Then reverse your order and go back to starting position.

Engage your core

Make sure not to hunch your back. Try to relax your shoulders and use your abdominals in the exercise.

Conclusion

I hope this guide helps you make the very best decision possible when it comes to buying the best rowing machine. For a full body, cardio workout, these cardio machines are some of the best options on the market for your home gym.