The 11 Best Compact Rowing Machines of 2020

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

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

In this roundup review, I will break down the best compact rowers for people with a budget before providing some examples of recommended high-end compact rowers for weight loss and your home gym.

Best Compact Rowing Machines for a Budget

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 design, 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 levels with a knob. This rower has sturdy steel frame construction, supporting up to 250 lbs.  It also includes a multifunction monitor tracking items such as calories, strokes per minute, and time distance.


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

  • Best rowing machine for small spaces
  • 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 these compact rowing machines, 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 the resistance level. 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

  • Best compact rowing machine for saving space
  • 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

As one of the best compact rowing machines, this model 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 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
  • Easy Storage for small space
  • 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 levels of 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 resistance cylinders with 3 levels of difficulty. 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, 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 calories, and activate muscles in your core, back, and shoulders.


Using the resistance knob, you can increase or decrease the intensity of your workout for weight loss. 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 2 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 levels of resistance 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 rowing and quiet while you’re watching television
  • Easy to Store

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 is one the best rowing machines for 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 rowing 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
  • 8 Levels of Adjustable Resistance
  • 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

9. Stamina ATS Air Rower 

Air resistance always matches your pace, and one the best air rowers on the market is the Stamina ATS Air Rower. All you need to increase the resistance is to row a little faster and the intensity increases.  Working nearly 86% of the body’s musculature, this rower provides everything you need to achieve a tighter, stronger, healthier body. 


The included LCD monitor tracks items such as distance, speed, time, and calories burned, to help you track your progress and hit your goals. Some of the other quality features included are adjustable footplates, a padded seat, and a padded rowing handle. Enjoy a smooth slide on the large, angled rails, while floor protectors will prevent damage to your floor. 


Some have complained that the rower limits your range of motion, so if you’re very tall, it’s something you might want to keep in mind. Others who are already fit have complained that the machine doesn’t provide enough of a challenge.

PROS

  • The Stamina ATS Air Rower is relatively inexpensive
  • Aesthetically pleasing to look at
  • Easy to set up and low impact

CONS

  • The fan can be a little loud, but you can avoid the noise wearing earbuds
  • No resistance settings

The Best Compact Rowing Machines - Higher End

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

10: Circuit Fitness Deluxe Foldable Magnetic Rowing Machine

Circuit Fitness Deluxe Foldable Magnetic Rowing Machine

This is one of the best compact rowing machines. Constructed from aluminum and heavy-duty steel, this rower was created to be a reliable, stable, and secure. With a magnetic resistance levels, 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

11. 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 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 while you lose weight. 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 and Easy Storage
  • 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 great workout without requiring a huge piece of fitness equipment taking up space.

If you’re someone that only has a small spaces, living in an apartment, or living with a roommate, a compact size 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 for home use.

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

Features to Look for on Compact Rowing Machines

Rowing machines can have a myriad of different features that can improve your workout experience. What kind of features you should look for depends on your budget, your goals, and how important certain enhancements are worth to you. 

Every rowing machine should have adjustable resistance levels of infinite difficulty, thanks to the flywheel that just gets harder the more effort you exert. Your rowing machine should have soft, comfortable handles that provide a good grip. Some also come with helpful heart rate monitors that measure your progress. 

How to Row with a Compact Rower

When evaluating compact rowing machines, it’s important to remember that these machines are usually not mechanically complicated. Sadly, some people might dismiss rowing machines as an effective machine for them. There is a possibility that just because you’re using a rowing machine, that you might not be using it the right way. 

Learning the proper form is essential to getting a proper workout out of the machine. When you sit down on the padded seat, you should have your knees bent at 90 degrees. Then, fully extend your arms to grab the handles. 

Now, when you row, you want to keep your back straight and your core tight. Lock your arms and straighten your legs until you’ve moved the seat as far back as you can. At that time, you’ll want to lean with your torso backward and pull with your arms, bending your elbows. 

These are just the basic moves you would need to get started on your rowing machine, but there are still some mistakes you should look out for. One mistake that some new users might make is rowing in the wrong order. You might use your arms or upper body too soon. 

Some other people might “shoot their seat,” meaning their seat will slide forward and back, but that’s all that happens. Making this kind of motion prevents you from using your full power and strength. To prevent this, your seat should move at the same time as your knees as you row. 

Another mistake can be leaning too far forward in your seat while rowing. If you’re leaning further than 90 degrees over the floor, you’ve gone too far. Squeezing your glutes when pulling with your arms can also help you maintain the correct posture. 

The last thing that you might want to be attentive to is gripping the handles the right way. Don’t use an underhanded grip. Your knuckles should be wrapped over the top with your thumbs tightened below. You’ll also want to make sure the top parts of your wrists are flat. Taking all of the steps above should ensure that 

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

Questions and Answers

#1: How much resistance will you need?

When it comes to rowing machines, there are five main categories with a different resistance system, including:

● Air Resistance Levels

● Water Rower

● Magnetic Rowing Machines

● Hydraulic-Piston

Keep in mind that the kind of resistance a machine uses does have an impact on its size, its machine stamina, and how big its footprint will be when in use. For example, a water rowing machine isn't likely to be compact. An air rower is also likely to take up more space. 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 magnetic 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 for home use 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?

The best 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 movements are 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.

10. Will rowing machines help flatten your stomach?

Though rowing machines won’t directly reduce your belly fat, they can be an effective part of your overall workout plan. After all, the most effective way to reduce belly fat is to lose weight overall. 

11. Can rowing machines cause back pain?

Rowing machines can support back pain and prevent strain, but only if the right positions are maintained while rowing. Long training sessions can put a lot of pressure on your back extension muscles. 

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