Best Rowing Machines 2021 – Do Not Buy Before Reading This

Kristen NelsonKristen Nelson

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Last Updated: January 7, 2021

Rowing is a great full-body exercise. Rowing targets over 80% of the muscles in your body, training your legs, core, back, and arms. It has become a favorite training exercise for CrossFit boxes, boutique studios, and big-box gyms throughout the world! Home rowers are now available from various manufacturers which bring the benefits of rowing into the comfort of your own space. Many rowers are compact, sit low to the ground, and some even fold up when not in use. We’ll take a look at the Best Rowers below, but first, consider some of the many benefits of rowing!

Best Rowers:

Honorable Mention
Best Compact Rower: Stamina Orbital Rowing Machine

As you can see, there are many reasons why rowing is an excellent exercise for pretty much anyone. Below we have outlined our list of Best Rowers for home use. These rowers provide a smooth, supported rowing experience in the comfort of your own home!

See the Pro’s and Con’s, features, specs, and why each rower made our best list below.

Sneak Peek of the Best Rowing Machines:













Best Rowing Machines of 2021 — Our Guru’s Top Picks

1. Hydrow Rower

Best Overall Rower: Hydrow Rowing Machine
The Hydrow is an exciting new rower that we believe may make rowing the preferred training method in many homes. The Hydrow has a 22” touchscreen with rowing videos that include outdoor on-the-water rowing routes, guidance on good rowing form, training videos and online support. The Hydrow user interface also links people together via teams, competitions, a Leaderboard and other features to create a rowing community. This rower is the smoothest and most comfortable to use of any rower we’ve tested and we think people are going to appreciate both the impressive programming and innovative engineering on the Hydrow.

While the Hydrow is priced at just over $2000, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Similar to the Peloton bike and programming, Hydrow is aiming to bring rowing into the homes of regular people who recognize the benefits of rowing, but may need guidance and engaging content to stay committed. The Hydrow does require a subscription which is compatible with other fitness apps at $38/month. At present, the Hydrow database has over 1,800 workouts which are updated regularly. You can sign up to participate in Live Rowing sessions led by a professional rower or enjoy On-Demand sessions that have been previously recorded. A Leaderboard connects people and you can give kudos and chat with other Hydrow owners as well.

The machine itself is impressive. This is a magnetic rower, so it is much quieter than an air rower. This makes the Hydrow a good option for those who are concerned about noise. You can use this in an apartment without disturbing neighbors or in a shared space since it is so quiet. The Hydrow also has a sleek feel to it. There are 10 rollers under the seat and the rowing motion is smooth throughout the drive and recovery. The Hydrow has a belt rather than a chain which also reduces noise and doesn’t require any maintenance. Both the handle and the seat are impressively comfortable. We tested this next to several other rowers and found the Hydrow to be the most comfortable which makes it easy to use for longer rowing sessions.

The 22” touchscreen at the front of the Hydrow is well-positioned so you can see it while maintaining good form. The neck of the Hydrow is about 2” higher than the Concept 2 which makes it easy to sit upright and not round your shoulders when leaning down to the catch. The screen itself is crisp, bright and easy to see. You can reach the icons on the screen from the seat so you don’t have to remove your feet from the straps.

Read our full, in-depth review of the Hydrow Rower Here.

Pros
  • Impressive subscription content with good classes and a very real on-the-water feel
  • Live Classes, Outdoor Rowing Sessions, On-Demand classes and Training included
  • Sleek frame and design looks like a rowing shell
  • Magnetic resistance is quieter than air resistance
  • Nylon strap is quieter than a chain and requires no maintenance
  • App content is constantly updated
  • Professional rowing instructors lead the rowing sessions and demonstrate excellent form and guidance
Cons
  • Expensive
  • App is $38/month
  • New – No data on long term durability
Specifications
  • Footprint: 86″L x 25″W x 47″H (from floor to top of screen)
  • Rower Weight: 145lbs
  • Max User Weight: 375lb
  • Supports:Supports up to 36” inseam
  • Audio:Bluetooth enabled for heart rate monitors and audio
  • Resistance: dynamic and responsive computer controlled
  • Handle: High quality polyester webbing for super smooth and quiet operation
  • Seat: Ergonomically designed cushion with 10-roller system for extra smooth operation
  • Screen:22” Touchscreen is 1920 x 1080 Full HD
  • Folding:Monitor folds flat for storage
  • Pivot:Screen pivots 25 degrees degrees left and right for classes off the machine

2. Concept 2 Model D

Best Air Rower: Concept 2 Model D
The Concept2 Model D is the premier rowing machine found in most gyms and fitness centers worldwide. This smooth rower provides excellent foot support, good upper body ergonomics, efficient rowing drive and release, and a gently cushioned handle. This fan rower is simple, effective, lightweight, and our pick for Best Overall Rower.

There’s a reason the Concept2 Model D is the most popular rower in the world; it is a solid, reliable rower that is well built and offers a consistent, smooth rowing drive. Many gyms have had Concept2 rowers for years that hold up well even when used regularly by strong athletes.

The Concept2 uses air resistance, which means the resistance is created entirely by the pull strength of the user. When you pull the handle, the fan blades inside the flywheel rotate which generates resistance proportional to your effort. This means stronger rowers are able to generate more power and therefore more resistance. In other words, no matter how hard you pull, the Concept2 Model D will be able to match your strength. This makes it the ideal training machine; it is always up for whatever challenge you throw at it!

Air resistance rowers have a smooth action, which closely resembles the feeling of rowing on water. This is louder than comparable magnetic rowers, however, so one thing to consider is the Concept2 Model D makes a bit of noise when in use.

The Concept2 Model D is a commercial-grade product. Unlike other manufacturers that make one grade of machine for home use and a sturdier one for commercial gyms, the Concept2 Model D is the same rower used in fitness centers all over the world. This rower is also the first choice of rowing clubs and serious rowers looking for an indoor machine. With the Concept2 Model D you are getting a quality machine in the comfort of your own home!

Appropriate ergonomics and functional engineering is paramount on a rower since it is so easy to develop poor form. The supportive aluminum track holds rowers securely without any bowing in the drive or release. The seat is contoured and comfortable, even for long sessions. It has a sweat and moisture resistant surface that is easy to wipe down when you are finished. The Model D has a 14 inch frame height, with a powder coated matte finish, and nickel-plated chain. It is available in black or gray. The rower is also designed to be lifted and stored vertically when needed to clear floor space.

Angled footboards and adjustable pedal clip will support any size athletic shoe and the velcro straps hold your foot in place during each stroke. The handle and rowing cord on the Model D is just the right height so you can pull the cord all the way to your chest and lean backward for a full, uninhibited rowing stroke. The seat also slides back far enough so you can fully extend your legs and avoid the dreaded rowing knee bounce.

The standard console with the Model D is the PM5. It switches on automatically when you start rowing (it will also switch off after a few minutes of inactivity). The LCD screen is simple with several screen options and rowing programs. It will display calories, strokes per minute, distance, time, etc. You can store your workout data to a USB key (not supplied) and transfer to your PC or Mac for further analysis using Concept2’s software for performance graphs etc.

The PM5 has more functionality than you would expect on a simple LCD screen. There are multiple programs, our favorite of which is the ‘race boat’ program where you compete against a boat on the screen. This challenges rowers to keep up a set pace which can be very challenging, but it helps you avoid zoning out or lagging in your pace.

Rowing is an inherently peaceful exercise with no impact and lots of training options. Rowing is also one of the few full-body exercises. You activate more than 80% of the muscles in your body when rowing correctly! Rowing strengthens your shoulders, back, core, arms, hips, glutes and legs.

Read our full, in-depth review of the Concept2 Model D Rower Here.

Pros
  • Exceptional build quality
  • Comfortable and supportive ergonomics
  • Foot pedals work for any size shoe
  • Smooth action
  • Contoured seat
  • Display automatically turns on when you start to row
  • Can be stored in vertical position to save floor space
  • Air resistance correlates with rower power
Cons
  • Air resistance is loud
  • Seat may be narrow for larger users
Specifications
  • Footprint: 96” L x 24” W x 14” High
  • Seat height: 14” high
  • Monorail length: 54” long (users with an inseam longer than 38” may require an extra-long monorail)
  • Frame: Welded steel construction
  • Chain: Nickel-plated steel chain, fully enclosed
  • Monitor: PM5 – requires 2 D-cell batteries
  • Max User Weight: 500lb
  • Monitor Arm: Fixed monitor arm made of aluminum. Monitor angle can be adjusted
  • Finish: Double powder coat with glossy finish
  • Color: Light gray or black
  • Storage: Folds into two parts for easy storage
  • Resistance: Air Fan Resistance
  • Machine weight: 57lbs
  • Warranty: 5-years on frame; 2-years on moving parts and console

3. NordicTrack RW500

Best Hybrid (Air+Magnetic) Rower: Nordictrack RW500
The Nordictrack RW500 Rower is a nice hybrid rower that offers the benefits of both air and magnetic resistance. While air resistance is created by air moving through the flywheel, magnetic resistance is generated by magnets inside the machine that oppose the motion of the flywheel. Magnetic resistance does not require air movement nor does it cause any friction. It is therefore very specific and extremely quiet. The Nordictrack RW500 uses magnetic resistance to reduce the amount of noise generated by the flywheel — but it still has a flywheel so you get many of the same benefits of air rowing. This hybrid model is preferred by many people who want the benefits of both types of resistance.

The RW500 rower has an LCD screen in the console and also includes a 10” tablet with purchase. For those who don’t want to use a subscription, the LCD console provides basic rowing metrics. Those who appreciate the iFit content can use the tablet for subscription based rowing classes and content. iFit is included free for the first year, so users have the option to explore iFit and see if it provides the desired content and training. If not, you can always just stick with the basic LCD console for real-time rowing metrics.

The hybrid nature of both the rowing resistance and the console makes the RW500 well suited for most people. Those who want the benefits of air rowing with the quieter magnetic resistance will appreciate the RW500. It also offers both a subscription option via iFit and a non-subscription option on the console. This way users aren’t locked into either a subscription model nor are they stuck with the LCD console.

The RW500 has a smooth feel to the rowing drive and the seat and handlebar are both comfortable. It is well priced and folds up when not in use so you can reduce the footprint when you’re not actively rowing. The combination of price, dual resistance and console/subscription options make the RW500 one of our top rowers!

Read our full, in-depth review of the NordicTrack RW500 Rower Here.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Hybrid air and magnetic resistance
  • Quieter than standard air rowers
  • Folds up
  • Console has LCD screen for basic rowing metrics
  • Included 10” tablet will sync with iFit for videos and content
  • iFit included free for the first year
  • 26 Digital Resistance levels
  • Damper on flywheel to modify air resistance
Cons
  • Only supports up to 275 pounds
  • Basic console is rather simple
Specifications
  • Total Footprint: 86.5″ L x 22.0″ W x 50.4″ H
  • Folded Footprint: 36.2” L x 50.4” H
  • Track length: 39” long
  • Track height: 12”
  • Saddle: Padded, 11” wide by 9” deep and 15” high (from the floor)
  • Frame: Welded steel construction
  • Chain: Steel chain, fully enclosed
  • Console: LCD Console with 10” tablet included
  • Max User Weight: 275 lb
  • Storage: Folds into two parts for easy storage
  • Resistance: Magnetic and Air Fan Resistance
  • Warranty: 10-years on frame; 2-years on parts, 1-year console

4. LifeSpan RW7000 Rower

Best Commercial Rower for Home Use: LifeSpan RW7000 Rower
This hybrid rower is a combination of air resistance and magnetic resistance. The benefit of this design is the LifeSpan Rower is quieter. While air resistance provides the most realistic feel (aside from water rowing), it is also notably louder than comparable magnetic resistance. However, fully magnetic resistance rowers sometimes lose power through the pull stroke. By offering a combination of both air and magnetic resistance, the RW7000 provides a smooth rowing drive with a consistent feel throughout, with the benefit of slightly quieter magnetic resistance. This is why we have named the LifeSpan RW7000 Rower our pick for Best Hybrid Rower.

The RW7000 Rower has a gently contoured seat with natural bend handlebar that is designed to allow for extended training without hand or back fatigue. It also uses a nickel-plated chain (similar to the Concept2 models) which is durable and holds up well with regular use.

The Concept2 rowers provide 10 levels of resistance. Level 1 is supposed to simulate rowing through light water while level 10 is like rowing through heavy water. The RW7000 has 16 levels of digital resistance so you have a bit more resistance options. Since the RW7000 uses both air and magnetic eddy current resistance, the resistance is consistent throughout the drive, with instant resistance at slow speeds that holds stable throughout. This gives you an excellent full-body low-impact workout.

The 5.5” backlit LCD console has various modes, including:
P1: Manual Mode (just row and go!)
P2 – P4: Goal Selection
P5: Race Mode
P6 – P9: HIIT Workouts
In manual mode, you set a time, distance or calorie goal and row to achieve it. Or set the rowing machine to race mode and try to beat the computer. Any one of the HIIT workouts provides a great high-intensity workout interspersed with intervals for optimal conditioning. The backlit console is easy to see and use with an adjustable neck so users of all heights can easily see it. Each mode provides workout metrics such as goal time, total time, calories burned, distance, watts and heart rate.

The ergonomics on the RW7000 makes it a comfortable, well-designed rower that is good for experienced or novice users. The RW7000 uses a steel rather than aluminum monorail beam which is a bit heavier but more durable. The stainless steel surface keeps the seat gliding without any lags or hitches. This rower is a great option for those looking for a quality hybrid rower.

Read our full, in-depth review of the LifeSpan RW7000 Rower Here.

Pros
  • Quieter than air resistance alone
  • 16 Magnetic resistance levels
  • Smooth, consistent drive with no lag or weak spots
  • Steel beam with stainless steel surface
  • Comfortable seat
  • Hybrid design provides benefits of air rowing with more levels and less noise
Cons
  • Expensive
  • A bit heavier than comparable machines

Specifications
  • Monorail: Powder-coated black steel beam with stainless steel surface
  • Seat: Contoured for comfort
  • Seat Height: 19” high
  • Resistance: Hybrid air resistance and adjustable eddy current magnetic resistance
  • Weight: 118lbs
  • Max user weight: 350lbs
  • Residential warranty: Lifetime frame, 5-years parts, 2-years labor
  • Commercial warranty: 10-years frame, 3-years parts, 1-year labor

5. ProForm 750R Rower

Best Buy Rower: ProForm 750R Rower
The ProForm 750R Rower is a tablet compatible rower with digital backlit console so you get the best of both options. For users who just want a basic console with preloaded programs, the 750R comes standard with 20 preloaded workouts and 24 levels of digital resistance. If you want to take your training up a notch, the 750R has a tablet clip that lifts out of the top of the console to hold your tablet securely. From here you can use any of the iFit rowing workouts. This rower is currently being offered free if you purchase 3 years of iFit (total: $1403). Since iFit has great content and really makes rowing more interesting, we think most users would opt for the subscription anyway, which makes the 750R totally free. This is why we have ranked it our Best Buy Rower.

The ProForm 750R rower has an ergonomic, molded seat set on an oversized steel seat rail. The handlebars and gently padded for comfort and the 750R uses a strap rather than chain which is quieter. The handlebar is multi-position, so you can row overhand, underhand, single arm or elevated depending on which muscle group you want to engage. This gives users lots of options to get more full-body training out of the rower. The foot pedals are supportive with a molded foot overlay on top. This allows for a touch of heel release and ankle flexion as needed. Adjustable nylon foot straps also hold your feet in securely. The foot pedals are adjustable and will accommodate any athletic shoe.

The flywheel is inertia enhanced so it spins smoothly and the 24 levels of magnetic resistance provide lots of easily adjustable training options. While magnetic resistance doesn’t respond to a rower’s power in the same way air resistance does, it is significantly quieter and more easily adjustable when looking for preset levels. You can row day or night on the 750R without disturbing those around you.

The console is a 5” backlit display with tactile buttons for programs, scan, start/end, and resistance levels. The integrated tablet holder pulls up out of the top of the console (so it’s hidden if you’re not using it, which is a great design). From here, you can watch Netflix or any other app on your tablet — or you can use the integrated iFit app which will sync with your machine to add hundreds more classes and training options! Indoor classes train good rowing form and provide options for intervals, sprints, endurance and varied hand positions while the outdoor routes take you to some of the most gorgeous locations in the world. The combination of class options in iFit makes it a valuable addition to the 750R rower.

This rower folds up when you are done. A handle just below the catch allows you to lift and fold it in half. Front mounted transport wheels make it easy to roll. The 750R has a footprint of: 22” Width x 86.5” Depth x 45.5” Height and has a 250lb weight capacity. It also comes with a 10-year frame, and 1-year parts and labor warranty.

Read our full review of the ProForm 750R Rower here.

Pros
  • Magnetic resistance is quiet with 24 preset resistance levels
  • SpaceSaver design keeps the footprint compact (for a rower)
  • Combination of backlit screen with tablet option
  • Excellent warranty
  • Lots of training options on iFit
  • Rower is free if you purchase iFit for 3 years, which is a great deal!
Cons
  • Slightly lower catch due to position of screen and flywheel
  • Resistance buttons skip by 3
  • Without iFit tablet, console is somewhat limited
  • Not a great weight capacity
Specifications
  • Holder:Integrated Tablet Holder
  • Folding:SpaceSaver design folds in half
  • movement:Front-Mounted Transport Wheels
  • Max Weight:250 Lb. Weight Capacity
  • Warranty:10-Year Frame, 1-Year Parts & Labor Warranty
  • Footprint: 22” Width x 86.5” Depth x 45.5” Height
  • Resistance:24 digital resistance levels
  • Seat:Smooth sliding seat

6. NordicTrack RW900 Rower

Most Affordable High Tech Rower: Nordictrack RW900 Rower
The NordicTrack RW900 is our Best Tech Rower because it has a 22” touchscreen attached just above the flywheel. This rower combines traditional benefits of rowing with updated tech options that display indoor and outdoor rowing classes on the full color screen. You can row from the comfort of your home while you enjoy sights from places like the Thames River! The NordicTrack RW900 rower is a great option for those who want to learn or perfect their rowing technique with support from personal trainers and rowing professionals.

The RW900 rower uses both magnetic and air resistance. The magnetic resistance has 32 levels that can be adjusted on the touchscreen. Air flow resistance is adjusted via the lever on the flywheel. Using both kinds of resistance provides the accuracy or magnetic resistance with the consistent drive produced by air resistance. While this rower is a hybrid, the air flow resistance can only be turned up or down, not on or off, so you always have a little air flow through the flywheel. This creates a bit of noise anytime you are rowing — commiserate with what you would find on an air rower. So while the RW900 is a great option with lots of features, it does generate a bit of noise when in use.

The 22” full color touchscreen on the RW900 is crisp with clear graphics and bright resolution. The screen depicts the view from a rower’s helmet cam, so you see what a rower would see while gliding down the river. This may seem unusual to new rowers at first, since you are moving away from rather than towards the scenery, but it provides an accurate depiction of a real rowing experience. Our only issue here is you see a lot of the rower’s feet and not as much landscape scenery as we would like.

The touchscreen also acts as the rowing monitor with a white stat bar at the top of the screen that displays:

  • Current 500m Split/Average
  • 500m split/Watts/Average watts
  • Calories burned/Calories per hour
  • Strokes/Strokes per minute
  • Time Elapsed/Time Remaining
  • Distance

NordicTrack includes iFit with its full database of rowing classes and routes free for the first year with purchase of the RW900. Magnetic resistance is automated in iFit, so as you row, your machine will adjust to whatever the trainer instructs — or to whatever the natural geography is. This makes it feel very natural to just row along without having to adjust the resistance manually.

The design of the RW900 rower is similar to most elevated rowers. The rail sits about 15” off the floor and is 39” long. The seat is contoured and sweat resistant and measures 11” wide and 9” deep. The RW900 also folds in half for convenience. A handle at the front of the rail allows users to lift and fold it gently — be aware the screen is very heavy on the front end. Wheels under the front stabilizer make it so you can roll it as needed. The size of the screen is a factor though and may limit where you can tuck the rower. It is still 36” long, 22” wide and 50” high when folded.

Read our full, in-depth review of the NordicTrack RW900 Rower Here.

Pros
  • 22” touchscreen is crisp and easy to see
  • Indoor rowing classes cue proper rowing form with practice exercises
  • Indoor rowing classes also offer interval training, conditioning, endurance, etc.
  • Outdoor routes filmed all over the world! Row in London, New Zealand, etc.
  • Great for new rowers looking for instruction
  • Excellent for experienced rowers who want to feel like they’re rowing on water
Cons
  • Screen is really heavy
  • Flywheel is lower due to screen which makes the catch feel a little low
  • Expensive with added cost of monthly membership
Specifications
  • Total Footprint: 86.5″ L x 22.0″ W x 50.4″ H
  • Folded Footprint: 36.2” L x 50.4” H
  • Rail length: The rail is 39” from front to back
  • Rail height: 15”
  • Saddle: 11” wide by 9” deep.
  • Screen:22” Smart HD Touchscreen
  • Membership:Includes 1-Yr NordicTrack iFit® membership**
  • Workouts:30 On-board Workouts
  • Modes:SMR™ Silent Magnetic Resistance
  • Resistance:26 Digital Resistance Levels
  • Max Weight:250 Lb. User Capacity
  • Warranty:10-Year Frame Warranty, 2-Year Parts Warranty, 1-Year Labor Warranty

7. Echelon SmartRower

Best Buy Runner Up: Echelon SmartRower
The Echelon Smart Rower is the newest rower on our list. This rower made its debut in January of 2021 as the tablet-compatible rower in Echelon’s lineup of tech-enhanced home fitness equipment. Echelon patterned the design of the Smart Rower after many of the rowers listed above, which gives it an ergonomic feel, strong drive, and lots of versatility. This is what makes it our pick as Best Rower for Beginners.

The SmartRower features fully magnetic resistance so it is extremely quiet to use. There are 32 levels of resistance that are controlled by thumb buttons on the handle. This is the most adjustable form of resistance control since it can be easily changed while continuing your rowing stroke. With air resistance rowers you have to stop rowing, remove one foot and lean forward to adjust the resistance on the fan. This adjustable feature makes the SmartRower especially useful for new rowers who may need to modify the resistance several times throughout their workout.

The SmartRower is tablet compatible. A convenient tablet holder sits just above the catch. Echelon, like NordicTrack and ProForm, offers a subscription app that provides updated rowing classes and content. Called the SmartPass, Echelon’s app features outdoor rowing routes and indoor studio classes to help new users learn correct rowing techniques and enjoy gorgeous outdoor landscapes. The tablet holder allows Echelon to provide tech features without weighing down the machine. A tablet is the perfect size for both space and visibility, and you can remove it when you are done so you don’t have to work around a huge screen attached to your rower. The SmartRower also folds up when you are done and has wheels underneath so you can slide it into a corner or closet.

While the app adds a bit of cost to an already pricey machine, the combination of a quality rower with engaging content is more likely to keep users engaged and progressing in their rowing workouts.

The SmartRower rail is smooth and it has a comfortable seat. The flywheel is positioned up and behind the catch, which makes for a comfortable rowing drive. There is a slight decline in the rail down to the adjustable foot pedals. The cushioned handle is comfortable and the pedal straps keep your feet in place. The control buttons on the handle are unique, we haven’t seen this design before, but it makes it easy to adjust resistance when needed (or when prompted by the instructor). One concern is the 12-month limited parts and labor warranty. This is substantially less warranty coverage than other rowers in this price range.

In all, we are impressed with the Echelon SmartRower. It has a functional, ergonomic design with an included tablet holder for subscription content. The combination of construction and functionality makes this a great rower for new users.

Read our full, in-depth review of the Echelon Smart Rower Here.

Pros
  • Easy to get on and off
  • Comfortable seat
  • Slight decline in the rail for smooth rowing release
  • Adjustable foot pedals
  • Tablet holder for SmartPass app
  • 32 Resistance levels
  • Resistance buttons on handle
Cons
  • New machine, not all the bugs may be worked out yet
  • Magnetic resistance is not as consistent through the drive as air resistance
  • On the expensive side with added monthly cost for the app
  • Limited warranty
Specifications
  • Footprint: 86″ x 21″ x 48″
  • Rail Angle: 1.7 degrees
  • Foldable: Yes

8. Concept 2 Model E Rower

Easiest Rower to get on and off: Concept 2 Model E
Like it’s sister machine, the Model E is a premium air resistance rower by Concept2. The only difference between the Model D and Model E is the Model E sits 6” higher up off the floor so it is better suited for anyone with balance or mobility issues. This 20” seat height (the Model D seat is 14” high) is comparable to sitting in a chair which makes it easier to get on and off. We love the Concept2 rowers and due to its slightly higher frame, the Model E is our pick for Most Comfortable Rower.

With an identical design and the same functionality as the Concept2 Model D, the Model E is a great option for just $200 more. This is our favorite rower to sit on and provides an excellent workout for your whole body!

The Model E uses a spiral damper that allows you to quickly adjust the airflow to the flywheel, so users can change the feel of the stroke per your strength and preference. This flywheel design minimizes noise while maintaining a smooth feel.

Aside from the added six inches of height, the frame specs are the same between the Model D and Model E, so you know you are getting all the same quality engineering and geometry. The Model E uses the same console, seat, pedals, handle and cord.
The Model E has a frame release mechanism, so you can easily separate the machine into two pieces for storage. There are caster wheels on the front foot which make it easy to roll the fully-assembled machine into position.

If you are someone who would appreciate that added frame height, check out the Model E today!

Read our full, in-depth review of the Concept2 Model E Rower Here.

Pros
  • Same quality construction as Model D
  • Higher seat for comfort and ease to use
  • Quality design and durability
  • Well known Concept2 brand sets the bar for all other rowers
Cons
  • Slightly more expensive than the Model D
Specifications
Construction

  • Footprint: 96” L x 24” W x 20” High
  • Seat height: 20” high
  • Monorail length: 38” long (users with a longer inseam may require an extra-long monorail)
  • Frame: Welded steel construction
  • Chain: Nickel-plated steel chain, fully enclosed
  • Monitor: PM5 – requires 2 D-cell batteries
  • Max User Weight: 500lb
  • Monitor Arm: Fixed monitor arm made of aluminum. Monitor angle can be adjusted
  • Finish: Double powder coat with glossy finish
  • Color: Light gray or black
  • Storage: Folds into two parts for easy storage

9. Assault Fitness AirRower Elite Rower

Best Rower for Larger Athletes: Assault AirRower Elite
The Assault AirRower Elite is a high-quality rower that was initially targeted to cross fit boxes and gyms but is now available for home use. This is an air resistance rower with a dual-stage drive that provides a smooth rowing feel. The large console is easy to see and the AirRower has a contoured sweat-proof seat. The AirRower Elite was designed to target the upper and lower back, legs, triceps, deltoids, pecs, glutes and abs for a fantastic full body workout. This machine is excellent for HIIT training, endurance sessions, or sustained cardio conditioning. This is why the Assault Fitness AirRower Elite is our pick for Best Rower for Athletes.

The Assault AirRower Elite is a commercial-grade rower that you could find in your local gym, hotel, fitness center, or CrossFit box. The powder-coated steel and aluminum construction, sweat-proof ergonomic seat, and solid steel constructed foot pedals will provide years of rowing in your home gym. To give you a smooth row, this rower is equipped with a dual-stage chain and belt drive. The fan-based resistance will generate power equal to whatever you can throw at it!

The LCD console is large, easy-to-read, and is packed with features, including Bluetooth® connectivity. The on-board programming allows you to select one of eight pre-programmed workouts for a get on a go workout or customize your own workout.

We are impressed with the features and functionality of the Assault AirRower Elite. This is a quality machine that is worth your training and investment.

Read our full, in-depth review of the Assault Fitness AirRower Elite Rowing Machine Here.

Pros
  • Comfortable and easy to use
  • Simple, requires no electricity
  • Can be stored vertically after use
  • Smooth drive
  • Gently padded handle
  • Long cord
  • Comfortable seat and foot pedals
Cons
  • Slightly more expensive
  • Console not as extensive as the Concept2
Specifications
  • Resistance:19” steel air resistance fan
  • Seat:Comfortable seat
  • Pedals:Ergonomic pedals
  • Screen:LCD Console with Bluetooth
  • Programs: 8 Preloaded programs
  • Heart Rate strap: compatible
  • Height range: 5’0” to 6’4”
  • Max user weight: 350 lbs
  • Footprint: 92” L x 20” W x 49” H
  • Rower weight: 125lbs
  • Warranty: 5-years frame; 3 years parts; 1 year labor
  • 10. WaterRower

    Best Water Rower WaterRower

    WaterRower builds gorgeous wood rowers with multiple stains that are stately and elegant as well as quiet and smooth. The WaterRower features a full wood frame and water tank, which swishes gently with each row. This machine simulates rowing on water much more closely than air or magnetic resistance machines and offers some unique features that make it our pick for Best Water Rower.

    Indoor rowers can use several different kinds of resistance — or even combine resistance types (such as with magnetic and air flow). Magnetic resistance tends to be the quietest, but it can sometimes have an inconsistent feel in the drive. Air resistance responds to the power of the user, and is typically used in machines that require consistent and precise wattage output. However, air resistance is loud. Water resistance is not quite as easily adjustable as the other kinds, but it most closely resembles outdoor rowing. Water rowers are especially popular in Nordic countries where rowing is a national sport and pastime.

    The WaterRower brand uses sustainably managed wood from the Appalachian forests in the eastern US. These rowers are available in Cherry, Oak or Ash. The tank is mostly transparent so you can see the water move with each turn of the flywheel. The WaterRower also uses a strap instead of a chain, which makes it quieter as well.

    The amount of resistance generated on the WaterRower is based on the amount of water in the tank and the speed of the rowing drive. The faster you pull, the more resistance is generated. This is similar to air rower resistance, however, adjusting the resistance on the WaterRower is more challenging since it requires either adding or removing water from the tank. Air resistance can be modified via a lever on the flywheel. However, WaterRower claims that rowers of all strengths and abilities can use the WaterRower since it responds to user speed and strength.

    The WaterRower has a strong catch which allows the user to apply force immediately without any lag in the beginning of the drive. The ergonomics are slightly different since the WaterRower is completely flat and designed to sit right on the floor. Unlike the Concept2 rowers which feature a slight decline on an elevated rail, the WaterRower simulates sitting in a shell with the feet on the same plane as the hips. For those who are taller or have long legs, this can feel constricting as your knees may come up higher than in rowers with slightly declined foot pedals. This can also be more challenging to get on and off since it is so low on the ground. However, for rowing enthusiasts, this design is intuitive and comfortable.

    The WaterRowers are designed to stand upright when stored — in fact the water tank acts as a ballast to hold it upright, so there is no need to drain it. The tank itself requires a bit of maintenance, cleaning tabs should be added every few months or so to keep the water clear.

    The Club uses an S4 Performance monitor that sits on the right side of the tank. The console is rather large and easy to see with digital numbers that display multiple metrics and workout programs. The Club is the most popular version of the WaterRower and the one most often found in commercial locations. It is sturdy and sleek and bound to draw attention to its unique design when compared with other steel and rubber fitness equipment.

    This is a quality rower that is subtle, smooth, and feels just like rowing on the water. Rather than bother others in the room, the motion of the water in the tank produces a peaceful, soothing sound. The WaterRower comes with a 5-year frame and 3-year parts warranty.

    Read our full, in-depth review of the WaterRower Rowing Machine Here.

    Pros
    • Feels like rowing on water
    • Quieter than other machines
    • Wood construction is gorgeous
    • Tank and flywheel are leak-proof
    • Pivots vertically for storage
    • No need to replace water frequently
    Cons
    • Resistance is only adjustable by adding/removing water from tank
    • Sits low on the ground
    • Foot pedals are on same plane as seat since there is no decline in the rail
    Specifications
    Construction

    • Finish:Multiple stains and models available (Ash wood on The Club)
    • Footprint: 83” L x 22” W x 20” H
    • Weight: 66lbs dry and 104lb full of water
    • Max user weight: 1000lbs
    • Seat height: 11”
    • Resistance Levels: None
    • Warranty: 5-year frame, 3-year parts

    Honorable Mention Rowing Machines

    Stamina 1215 Orbital Rower

    Best Compact Rower: Stamina 1215 Orbital Rower
    The final rower on our list is a very affordable rower that will bring the benefits of rowing into your home for a fraction of the cost. The Stamina Orbital Rowing Machine is a manual rower that provides a smooth rowing experience and doesn’t take up much space. This is why we have ranked it our Best Compact Rower for 2021.

    The Orbital Rower is a compact rowing machine with full range-of-motion rowing that mimics rowing on the water. Unlike other rowers on our list, it uses hydraulic cylinder resistance with adjustable tension controls. It is a very simple design that is still functional. The dual handles makes it feel more like real rowing than a single handle. There is a thick, padded seat and pivoting foot plates for knee and ankle support. It has a steel frame, aluminum rowing beam and supports up to 250lbs. The footprint is 50 long x 32.5 wide x 31 high and weighs about 50lbs.

    The Stamina Orbital 1215 rower sits low on the ground, so it may be more difficult for those with knee issues or mobility problems, but it is easy to use and will help develop a greater range of motion in both the hips and shoulders. The Stamina 1215 rower also provides excellent exercise that is low-impact.

    This is the perfect option for someone who wants a rower that will fit nicely into your home and budget. The Stamina 1215 Orbital rower is our pick for Best Compact Rower.

    Our full review in-depth review is coming soon!

    Pros
    • Uses dual handles which is similar to real rowing
    • Affordable
    • Doesn’t require a plug or wifi
    • Compact footprint is easy to store
    • Seat and handles are comfortable
    Cons
    • May be too small for taller rowers
    • Could be hard to get on and off
    • Doesn’t have some of the added features or functions of more expensive rowers
    Specifications
    • Resistance:Hydraulic cylinder resistance
    • Build:Precision extruded aluminum beam, deluxe ball bearing roller system
    • Screen:Single button multi-function console displays speed, distance, time, strokes, calories, and miles rowed
    • Controls:Adjustable tension controls
    • Beam:Increase the beam incline for a more intense workout
    • Seat:Comfortable, thick padded seat
    • Pedals: Pivoting foot plates for added comfort
    • Arms:Rowing arms fold for storage
    • Warranty: 5 years on frame, 90 days on parts
    • Dimensions: 50 long x 32.5 wide x 31 high

    What to Look for in a Home Rower

    There are several factors to consider when evaluating the best rower for you. Issues such as space and budget are probably first on your list, but then you should also consider the build and design of the rower, whether it contains a screen or console, and if you want something with subscription content. Below we outline some of the more important factors when evaluating a rower.

    Frame Design

    Most rowers feature a flywheel, connected via strap or chain to a handle. There is a seat that slides along a rail and foot pedals for your shoes. One thing to consider is the height of the rail. Rowers such as the Concept2 Model E have been designed for people who may need a rower that is not too low to the ground — this makes it easier to get on and off. The Concept2 Model E sits 20” tall and is designed to be roughly the same height as a chair. This means users with limited mobility or joint issues can easily slide from a chair onto the rower seat. When looking at rowers, consider how low they are to the ground and whether or not this would be an issue for you.

    Flywheel

    The flywheel controls the power in the drive stroke. An air resistance flywheel is considered the gold standard for both power and consistency. Air resistance responds to the power in the drive, so stronger rowers generate more resistance as they row. This means you will never be able to “out row” the rower — it will always respond to and provide resistance equal to your rowing stroke. Air rowers use a damper to control how much air flows in and out of the flywheel. More air equals more resistance. Air rowers have a consistent feel throughout the rowing stroke. The resistance on the handle is smooth throughout the drive, so you don’t have heavy resistance at the catch that eases off through the stroke. However, air resistance flywheels are loud — as the air moves through the fan blades, it creates significant noise, so this should be a consideration. Comparatively, magnetic resistance is nearly silent when rowing, but it is not as consistent through the drive and it doesn’t respond to the user’s pull strength. Water rowers are another type of flywheel. The sound of the rushing water as you pull is quieter and soothing, but water rowers don’t have resistance levels or easily adjustable resistance (there’s no damper). The only way to adjust resistance on a water rower is to add or remove water from the tank, which is challenging. Some rowers are hybrids, which is usually a combination of air resistance and magnetic resistance. These are quieter than air resistance alone, but lack a bit of the responsive power in a fully air powered flywheel.

    Handle and Chain

    The size and width of the handle affects how it feels in your hand. Most handles are gently cushioned for comfort. The handle connects to the flywheel via a chain or belt. Chains are stronger (these are used on the Concept2 machines), but they are also noisier. Belt drives are much quieter and often feel smoother through the pull, but they may wear out faster (they can shred if used repeatedly by strong rowers).

    Foot Pedals

    Most rowers have foot boards that support the foot pedal. The foot board is typically wider and longer than the pedal for sufficient support. Foot pedals are usually molded, with a ridge along the base and sides of the pedal to keep your foot in securely. Pedals also usually have a strap that comes up over the top of your foot. Pedals should have multiple size options and be pliable to allow for necessary ankle flexion. Often, pedals have a heel release, so the pedal can lift off the foot board as needed.

    Seat

    The best rowing seats are wide and lightly contoured. These should be a sweat-resistant material that is comfortable to sit on for extended training sessions.

    Rail

    The height of the rail is what determines how far you have to lower your body to sit on the seat. Rails are typically between 14” – 20” height, but some sit just an inch or so off the floor. Make sure to look for a smooth, sturdy rail that doesn’t bend in the middle or allow the seat to shift side to side. Most rails are steel or aluminum

    Console or Screen

    Traditional rowers have an LCD screen with multiple programs, but many of the newer rowers also feature a screen and offer subscription content. Some consoles also have integrated tablet clips that extend from the console to hold a personal phone or tablet. If you are using a rower as part of an overall conditioning system and only plan to use it for quick bursts of training or intervals between strength sessions, then a simple digital console is sufficient. If you want programs and metrics, then look for an upgraded LCD console. Screens are only necessary if you want to access subscription content which provides instructional and motivation rowing programs.

    Subscription Content

    Many of the rowers on our list offer subscription content to help you develop proper rowing technique (it’s harder than you think), provide outdoor rowing experiences, and indoor rowing classes. The subscription content is especially useful for new or beginning rowers. Much of the content is high-quality and provides important instruction. However, there is an ongoing monthly fee for subscription classes, so evaluate that added cost per benefit to you.

    Benefits of Rowing

    Rowing Burns a Ton of Calories

    According to a study by Harvard Medical School, rowing can burn between 400-600 calories per hour! This low-impact exercise is a great way to get some exercise in quickly and easily in the morning. You can enjoy the morning sunrise out your window while you row gently on your home rowing machine.

    Improves Overall Fitness

    Rowing for even just 15 minutes is a serious aerobic workout since it engages so many muscle groups. Rowing requires you to breathe deeply and evenly while you use your glute and core muscles to smoothly row through each stroke. Rowing regularly can help increase your stamina and endurance while improving your overall cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular conditioning is beneficial in the regulation and control of overall body functioning. Studies show that regular exercise reduces the risk of many conditions, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, stroke and certain types of cancer.

    Provides a Full-Body Workout

    As mentioned above, rowing engages over 80% of your body’s muscles. Unlike other types of exercise equipment, rowing focuses on strengthening all your major muscle systems and doesn’t exclusively isolate lower body muscles only (I’m looking at you, spin bike). Correct rowing form (more on that later) begins with your legs; specifically your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves. As you hold the handle with your arms, your legs should drive back, away from the catch, propelling your body backward. This requires significant power and control in the powerful lower-body muscles. A strong core and elongated spine help maintain proper posture as your shoulders and arms pull the handle to your chest to complete the drive. A gentle return to the catch prepares you for the next drive. This full-body muscle engagement provides rowers with well-rounded musculature and overall fitness.

    Rowing is Low Impact

    One of the major benefits of rowing is you get an excellent high-intensity workout that is low-impact. Since your feet never leave the pedal platform (and shouldn’t even lift at the heels if your form is good), you can strengthen muscles, enhance cardiovascular fitness while staying low-impact. There is no jumping or bouncing, which makes rowing an ideal workout for those with joint, spine, or mobility issues.

    Rowing is High Intensity

    Don’t think that because you’re sitting down, rowing is a breeze. In fact, when done correctly, rowing is an extremely challenging and high-impact sport!! There’s a reason why rowing is the cardio-trainer of choice at the CrossFit Games — it’s hard! Rowing helps develop endurance, and can be used to perform HIIT workouts, interval training, power and strength conditioning.

    Rowing is Great For Weight Loss or Maintenance

    Because rowing is low impact, but yields impressive results, it is a great way to lose a few extra pounds — or just burn off some extra stress from work that day. Rowing can be done by most people and since rowers typically support a higher max weight than other machines, they are a great option for anyone looking to improve fitness and decrease the numbers on that scale! Moderate rowing by a 120lb person burns 200calories in 30 minutes. Add some intensity (and most of us weigh more than 120lbs) and you’ll spike those numbers quickly! A lot of new rowing machines also have programs or classes you can use on the monitor to both keep you motivated and engaged throughout your rowing routine. The classic Concept2 model rowers feature a fun Boat Game where you row against another boat in an attempt to keep your stroke strong and consistent. If you are looking for fitness equipment to help you drop those last few pounds, a home rower is a great option!

    Rowing Helps Your Heart and Brain

    When you exercise, your body releases several beneficial chemicals that support heart and brain health. The increased blood flood required during exercise circulates valuable oxygen and nutrients through your body. Exercise stimulates a release of endorphins which make us feel happy — even after your session is over. Both dopamine and norepinephrine are also stimulated which increases your motivation, focus, learning and perception. Exercise also stimulates the production of a substance called BDNF which protects and repairs brain neurons from injury and degeneration.

    Rowing Has Protective Effects Against Disease and Illness

    Because rowing gets your body’s large muscle groups moving repetitively for an extended period, it strengthens your heart and lungs as well as working muscles. This cardiovascular exercise provides a number of proven health benefits, from boosting your immune system to improving your cholesterol and reducing your risk of many chronic health conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and stroke. Regular exercise can also help ward off viral illnesses by strengthening both your immune and circulatory systems. This may leave you less susceptible to minor viral illnesses, such as colds and flu.

    Conclusion:

    Rowing is a great exercise and we are thrilled to see more companies producing quality rowers that offer various kinds of resistance, console designs, and even subscription content. We hope you are able to find the perfect rower for your home, budget, and needs!

    Best Rowing Machines 2021
    • Hydrow Rowing Machine
    • Concept2 Model D Rower
    • NordicTrack RW500 Rower
    • LifeSpan RW7000 Rower
    • ProForm 750R Rower
    • NordicTrack RW900 Rower
    • Echelon SmartRower
    • Concept2 Model E Rower
    • Assault AirRower Elite
    • WaterRower
    4.5

    Summary

    After reviewing the 15+ of the top rowing machines on the market we have selected the 10 Best Rowing Machines of 2021 and have given each one an award. This will help you decide which rowing machine is best for you based on your needs.