compact rowing machines

The Best Compact Rowing Machines of 2020

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I love rowing machines. But it’s difficult to say which compact rowing machine is the best because different people have different needs.

Some people might prefer magnetic resistance; others might prefer air resistance. Budget and features are other essential variables to consider.

In this roundup review, I will break down the top budget compact rowing machines before providing some examples of recommended high-end compact rowers for your home gym.

Best Budget Compact Rowing Machines

#1: Stamina In Motion Rower

Stamina In Motion Rower

What’s a good cheap rowing machine? This model. The Stamina InMotion Rower is an inexpensive, convenient exercise machine for cardio and building strength. With a compact, 27-pound standing frame, having limited space will be no excuse for not being able to work out.

This indoor rowing machine features 5 levels of intensity, allowing you to adjust resistance with a resistance knob. This rower has sturdy steel construction, supporting up to 250 lbs.  It also includes a multifunction monitor tracking items such as calories, strokes per minute, distance, and workout time.

This model also includes pivoting footplates with straps to enable a full range of motion. The upholstered, padded seat will keep your long rowing sessions comfortable. This is the perfect way to affordably work out your back, abs, arms, back, and buttocks. This is one of the best compact rowing machines.

PROS

  • Sturdy, solid steel construction
  • Can be stored in an upright position with a small footprint
  • Solid handlebar distributes weight as opposed to two-cord rowers

CONS

  • Resistance might not be strong enough for more athletic users
  • Short stroke length compared to other models

Product Specifications


#2: fitbill Rowing Machine Rower

fitbill Rowing Machine Rower

Not only is this rower less expensive than many other options on the market. It also includes a tracking app that allows you to monitor and manage your workout with 3 selectable options. You can set custom programs, casual programs, or use a training program that gives you step-by-step motivation and guidance.

When you use this machine, your motions are picked up by the Bluetooth motion detector, syncing the data to the Fitbill app. The sliding rail works on a 10% incline with a bungee band under the seat to increase resistance. This machine also comes equipped with a device holder allowing you to either monitor your workout on your phone or enjoy entertainment. Compared to fan or water tank rowing machines, this rower provides a more realistic rowing sensation with the full-motion arms.

PROS

  • Durable and strong equipment
  • Compact and easy to move from room to room
  • An excellent app that works with the machine

CONS

  • Slight design flaws regarding the Bluetooth module
  • Best for users under the height of 5.8 feet

Product Specifications


#3: Sunny Health & Fitness Incline Full Motion Rowing Machine

Sunny Health and Fitness Incline Full Motion Rowing Machine

This machine provides a dynamic workout for abs and legs with an incline feature that really turns up the resistance! There are 5 levels of incline to get your arms and quads into the mix, providing a versatile, yet challenging full-body workout.

With a digital monitor, you can track your progress to you can achieve your personal fitness goals. The screen displays essential details such as distance, time, reps, and total count. It also comes with a device holder for extra entertainment.

The non-slip handlebars provide a more authentic rowing experience than traditional models. One of the best parts is that this rower is lightweight and compact with portability wheels for efficiently transporting it around your home as you see fit.

PROS

  • Sturdy, high-quality equipment
  • Provides a full-body workout that will genuinely make your whole body sore

CONS

  • No option to row without being on an incline
  • Very low to the ground in comparison to other rowers

Product Specifications


#4: Harvil Hydraulic Rowing Machine

Harvil Hydraulic Rowing Machine

With strong steel construction, this hydraulic rowing machine can support a user weight of up to 250 pounds. This machine comes with adjustable hydraulic resistance that you can modify with a handy control knob. Using the easy-to-read LCD monitor, you can track your progress with details such as time, calories, and row count. It requires one AA battery to operate the monitor.

The pivoting footplates come with adjustable safety straps that can be used to accommodate any foot size. Paired with a molded seat built to glide with your every motion, you can workout with comfort. This model comes with a Dazadi Guarantee and Warranty that promises to repair or replace any defective parts at no cost during the warranty period.

PROS

  • Outstanding value for a great indoor workout
  • Glides well with a comfortable seat

CONS

  • Flimsy foot straps
  • The monitor can be difficult to operate

Product Specifications


#5: ProGear 750 Rower

ProGear 750 Rower

This rower comes with a 180-degree range of rowing motion. It has 2 independent hydraulic cylinders with 3 resistance levels. Also featuring 3 adjustable rowing positions, this rower was built to accommodate users of different heights. This machine is also compact, as it can be easily folded for storage.

The foam-covered handlebars provide a comfortable grip. You can use the included LCD screen to display essential fitness details such as rep count, calories burned, and total rep count.

The large, pivoting foot pedals are textured with anti-slip surfaces. In addition to the thick cushioned seat on this model, you can also do several different exercises, such as ab workouts, curls, shoulder presses, rows, and more.

PROS

  • Machine incline can be adjusted
  • Comes fully assembled
  • Arms offer a full range of motion

CONS

  • Comes without video workout instruction
  • It’s very low to the ground
  • It is difficult to achieve a full range of motion with some of the extra exercises

Product Specifications


#6: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5639 Full Motion Rowing Machine

Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5639

Similar to other compact rowing machines in this list, this model supports a full range of arm movement. The extra movement will help you increase strength, burn more calories, and activate muscles in your core, back, and shoulders.

Using the resistance knob, you can increase or decrease the intensity of your workout. The model also has an LCD monitor for viewing your fitness data. Some of the information it tracks are stroke count, calories, and a countdown feature for the time.

PROS

  • Relatively easy assembly
  • Great device for beginners
  • Quiet operation, perfect for use while watching television

CONS

  • Can be hard on the knees
  • Sneakers can slip off of the foot pedals as the heel cups are small

Product Specifications


#7: Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

Built to improve your cardiovascular health. The Stamina Body Trac Glider provides the sensation of rowing on real water. You can work out every major muscle group on this machine, including your abs, back, arms, legs, and glutes. With an easy-to-read multifunction LCD monitor, you can track your stroke count, calories burned, and workout time.

To increase or reduce the intensity of your workout, adjust the hydraulic cylinder. Using a smooth, ball-bearing roller system, the BodyTrac Glider provides support and stability. Also included is a molded seat and textured footplates with straps, suitable for all foot sizes. Like some other rowers in this list, you can fold the arms on this rower to save space and easily store the machine.

PROS

  • Easy to assemble
  • Smooth and quiet while you’re watching television

CONS

  • Some people complain about slippage with the footplates and straps

Product Specifications


#8: XTERRA Fitness ERG200 Folding Magnetic Resistance Rower

XTERRA Fitness ERG200 Folding Magnetic Resistance Rower

This rowing machine delivers a full-body workout that burns calories, engages your muscles, and boosts your heart rate. With a dual aluminum track rail, an adjustable console, and 8 levels of magnetic resistance, you can get a comfortable workout with a smooth and stable motion.

This indoor rowing machine comes with a padded pull handle, pivoting foot handles, and a large contoured seat. It has a 9-pound flywheel, to help simulate the sensation of real rowing. The included performance monitor reveals your stroke count, calories, elapsed time, and more. And after you're done with your workout, the machine folds up for secure storage.

PROS

  • Easily Assembly
  • Rows smoothly with quiet operation
  • Great Value for the Price

CONS

  • Resistance can be a bit low for more athletic users
  • Limited functions on the digital monitor

Product Specifications


Higher-End Compact Rowing Machines

Though higher-end rowers tend to have much larger dimensions when unfolded, these still tend to save more space than their full-sized counterparts.

#9: Circuit Fitness Deluxe Foldable Magnetic Rowing Machine

Circuit Fitness Deluxe Foldable Magnetic Rowing Machine

This is one of the best foldable rowing machines. Constructed from aluminum and heavy-duty steel, this rower was created to be a reliable, stable, and secure. With a magnetic resistance system, you can manually adjust the intensity of your workout. Maximum support and comfort are supplied with an injection-molded seat and foam-covered handlebars.

Similar to other rowing machines in this roundup, this model also comes with a digital screen display that allows you to track fitness data. Monitor details, such as dates, ambient temperature, calories burned, SPM, speed, distance, and time. With a foldable design and transport wheels, you can quickly move and store this equipment.

PROS

  • Great value for the price
  • The seat slides smoothly and effortlessly
  • Perfect for beginners or mid-level users

CONS

  • Might not be suitable for taller users
  • No pulse monitor included

Product Specifications


#10: Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rower Rowing Machine

Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rower Rowing Machine

This indoor rowing machine provides a low impact, full-body workout targeting shoulders, legs, thighs, and forearms. With the My Cloud Fitness app, you can sync your iOS or Android device to your rower via Bluetooth and track your workout data. This rower also comes with an extra-long handlebar with a comfortable foam grip. The magnetic tension has 14-levels for more challenging workouts.

The front stabilizer foot pads allow this machine to be used for multiple purposes. Standing on the pads, you can do exercises such as front raises, curls, upright rows, shrugs, tricep extensions, and presses. The LCD console displays information such as strokes, calories burned, total count, and distance. This machine also folds for secure storage.

PROS

  • Very quiet during use
  • Easy assembly
  • Comes with a thick nylon cord
  • Easy to see the LCD screen

CONS

  • Some have had challenges syncing fitness data tracking with the app

Product Specifications


Why Should You Buy a Compact Rower?

The most compelling reason for buying a compact home rowing machine is to have the ability to get a full body workout without requiring a huge piece of fitness equipment taking up space.

If you’re someone that only has a small space fitness area, living in an apartment, or living with a roommate, a compact rower could be especially helpful.

Because you might not be able to leave it out, you might need to store workout equipment in your closet or under your bed. You may have a need to move your rowing machine from one room to the next, up and downstairs. You may also require a model with good transportation wheels.

No matter what your specific reasons might be, if you’re planning on purchasing a small rowing machine, you’ll want to make a plan on where to store it in advance. Make sure to check the dimensions and whether or not it has all the features you require.

Doing this will save you the headache of having to send your machine back if there’s no place for you to put it.

How to Choose a Compact Rower

As I just mentioned, there are a few critical questions to first ask yourself before buying a compact rowing machine.

#1: How much resistance will you need?

When it comes to rowing machines, there are five main categories, including:

● Air

● Water

● Magnetic

● Hydraulic-Piston

● Water

Keep in mind that the kind of resistance a machine uses does have an impact on its size and how big its footprint will be when in use. For example, a water rowing machine isn't likely to be compact. It will lack the ability to fold and store easily.

#2: How much are you willing to spend?

This will really determine what kinds of features you can expect to enjoy on your rowing machine. Low-end models tend to go for under $300, while the higher-end machines could run you more than $600.

Buying a rowing machine is like buying a car; you can't get a beautiful BMW for cheap. The quality increases, the more you pay. At higher prices, you'll have access to more desirable features and better warranties.

However, there are still budget rowing machines that will get the job done at a lower cost. Most of the compact models tend to be on the lower end.

#3: How much space do you have to exercise?

It’s pointless to buy a rower if you have no good place to use it. You’re going to need some floor space, and you’re going to need a place to store your equipment when not in use. It might be a good idea to take some measurements before placing your order online.

#4: What features do you want?

Do you imagine that you’ll probably get bored while rowing? Then you’re probably going to want a place to put your phone or tablet while exercising.

Are you going to need to remove the rowing machine when not in use? Then you should check whether the model you’re buying includes transport wheels or the ability to fold.

Check the weight of the machine. If you can find a mini rower or a compact rower, you should be able to lift it and take it up and downstairs.

Are you a little on the heavier side? Then you’re going to want to check the user weight capacity of the machine because not all rowers can support a person over the weight of 250 lbs.

All of these details are included in my short reviews above. 

#5. Are rowing machines a good workout?

Rowing machines are low-impact, which makes them ideal for cross-training. Rowers can burn up to 600 to 800 calories per hour. Rowing machines can provide a broader range of muscle work, engaging your lower body, upper body, and core.

#6. Are rowing machines bad for knees?

As the rowing motion is low impact and natural, it should put limited stress on the knees. Similar to stationary bikes, rowers are an excellent way to strengthen the knees after surgery or injury prevention.

#7. Is rowing bad for your back?

It is possible, that’s why maintaining the correct form is crucial. When used correctly, a rowing machine can strengthen your muscular system, lower back, and core.

#8. Does rowing tone your arms?

Before and after rowing machine fitness photos tend to reveal muscular improvement across the whole body. Rowing is an excellent full-body exercise, beneficial to the back, shoulders, arms, and abs.

#9. How long should I row on a rowing machine?

If you rowed for 15 minutes daily, you would only burn about 150 to 300 calories, depending on the intensity. It depends on your metabolism. For a very active metabolism, 15 minutes might be enough to promote improvement. But if you have a slower metabolism, it might require a little more time, at least 30 minutes.

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