Best Rowing Machines

Find the Best Home Rowing Machines: Whatever Your Budget and Fitness Level

Rowing machines come in 5 distinct types. They range from budget hydraulic lever-based machines, right through to the club style Concept 2 machines and water rowers. Rowers appeal to a wide range of users. Fans include people looking for cardio or fat burning workouts – right through to athletes training for endurance events and people toning their major muscle groups.

This page goes way beyond the usual ‘dull lists’ that you will see on other sites.

Instead you will find out about the best rowing machine options. What you get for your money, and which is best for specific goals.

By the time you have whizzed through the content below you’ll know all about the different types of rowing machine, and what features should be on your personal ‘must have’ list.

Remember to bookmark this page today, you can then narrow down your choices bit by bit.

Here is what you will find below:

  • Table: The best picks in each of the main categories
  • Types: Covers hydraulic, elastic cord, magnetic, air and water resistance
  • Price Brackets: What you can expect for your money / sweet spots for value
  • Popular Picks: The category best sellers, plus machines for specific goals
  • Features: Can’t decide? Choosing from this list of features will narrow your options
  • FAQ: Everything you wanted to know about rowing machines, but never asked

Table: Best Rowing Machines in 2021

This table shows my picks at different price points in 2021 – along with a brief explanation of why each model made the cut. You will find more details on each rower below or can click the black button to jump to the more detailed review.

Popular Rowing Machine - the JLL R200

Magnetic Best Seller -JLL R200

JLL set the standard for magnetic rowing machines which get the basics just right. This machine has 10 resistance levels, an LCD console and a ton of positive feedback - a great value pick!

Check Price! Read Review
Best selling air rower - the Vfit Tornado

Air Resistance - The vFit Tornado

A popular model with air resistance. The 'Tornado' has more than just unique looks, it is a category best seller, giving you air breaking at a competitive price point.

Check Price! Read Review
App Compatible Pro Style Rowing

Pro Level / App Compatible - Sportstech RSX500

German engineering, app compatible and enough resistance to keep even the fittest users challenged. The RSX500 sets a high standard at a mid-budget price point.

Check Price! Read Review
Skandia Water Resistance with a unique 45-degree style

A Unique Twist on Water - Skandika Nemo iV

A unique angled water tank allows this water rower to have a smaller profile. You will love the technology, build quality and realistic resistance (complete with water sounds!).

Check Price! Read Review
Best of the Best - Concept 2 Rower

Best of the Best - Concept 2 D with PM5

This is the dream rowing machine for most of us. Concept2 set the standard for clubs / commercial gyms. Their PM5 tech connects with all the popular rowing apps too. An amazing machine which will last for years.

Check Price! Read Review
Super Cheap Alternative from HOMCOM

Cheap Hydraulic Rower - From Homcom

You will get the job done without breaking the bank with this hydraulic model from Homcom. It has a basic monitor to track your strokes, and is easy to move / store.

Check Price! Read Review
Elastic Cord Resistance from Sunny Fitness

Perfect for Older Users - Sunny Elastic

A comfy, stable seat combined with elastic resistance. This budget rower is from Sunny Fitness, who specalise in equipment for older people and those returning to fitness.

Check Price! Read Review

Best Rowing Machines: Types of Resistance

How hard it is to row depends on the ‘resistance’ level you choose. This can be controlled in 5 distinct ways. You can choose from hydraulic (piston), belt / flywheel (magnetic), elastic, air, or water resistance.

There are pros and cons of each type. Here is a quick overview:

Hydraulic Rowers: This is used for budget / basic rowers. You get a hydraulic piston, which is connected to an arm. Instead of pulling a belt, you swing the arm towards you. The resistance can be set manually via the piston.

Elastic Cord Rowers: If you have ever worked out with resistance bands, you will be familiar with the concept behind elastic cord rowers. The handle is attached to a bungee type cord. You can adjust the length of it to control how hard it is to pull. You get additional resistance from stopping it pinging back too quickly.

Magnetic Resistance: A popular format, which is used in everything from budget models to the very top end of the home rowing machines available. You get a flywheel, belt mechanism and magnets which adjust how hard it is to turn the flywheel. As a rule of thumb, bigger flywheels are smoother / quieter.

Air Resistance Rowers: This format uses a special type of flywheel that pushes against the air. The more that you close the slats, the harder it pushes against the atmosphere. This makes for predictable and smooth resistance. It can also give you a fan effect while you work out. Air resistance is found on more expensive rowers – from mid-priced and up.

Water Resistance: Luxury rowing machines use water tanks. This provides realistic resistance (plus satisfying splashing sounds). Changing the resistance is harder with this type of rower. You need to add or remove water each time. Water rowers are expensive, they include wood-effect machines which look amazing. You will get a pump.

For beginners, you can’t go far wrong choosing a machine with belt / magnetic resistance. There are options at multiple price points that use this format.

Price Brackets: What Kind of Rowing Machine to Expect at Each Price Point?

Rowing machines vary in price from under £100 to over £1000.

Super-budget machines are not for everyone. A half decent magnetic rower will start at £250 with the air resistance types around £400+. At the top end, a club level rower that will last a lifetime is around £1000 – which is less than the top end equipment with in other categories.

Price levels guide for rowing machinesHere are the price brackets for rowing machines, and what you can expect for your money:

  • Under £150: Hydraulic rowers are available at this price point. These use arms attached to a piston. You will get a cardio workout, with many users claiming that these small, light, economy rowers get the job done. Examples: Homcom Basic Rowing Machine. You will also find the cheaper elastic cord rowers at around £150.
  • Under £250: You will find some quality magnetic flywheel rowers at this price point. A best-selling example is the JLL R200. Expect an LCD monitor and a choice of resistance levels. Higher quality rowers with elastic resistance also come in this price bracket.
  • Under £400: Spending a little more will get you a bigger, smoother rowing machine. You will find folding rowers here, and the start of the app-compatible ranges (look out for a tablet holder). While some air resistance machines come into this price point, most are belt / flywheel driven. A popular and keenly priced pick is the V Fit Tornado.
  • Under £600: Here your choices expand to pro-level equipment. You will find some excellent Air-resistance machines (for example the JLL Ventus 2) along with magnetic rowers with a long list of features. Sportstech have 2 models which really catch the eye in this price range – for example RSX500.
  • Under £800: Water rowing machines come into the picture here. They include the beautiful wooden water rowers. There are high-end alternatives with both water and air resistance, with specs worthy of any club. A popular example is unique looking Skandika Nemo iV.
  • Over £800: If you have the cash to invest in the best, then Concept 2 is the brand to go for. You will find pro level rowers (with water or magnetic resistance) at this price point too. Expect engineering that will last you for years at the higher prices.

 

Recommended: The Best Home Rowing Machines in Each Category

This section takes the home rowing machines highlighted in the table above and explains the pros / cons in detail. I have started this list with the most impressive models, if you are on a smaller budget, you can find the most popular lower priced units below.

Best Professional Rowing Machine: The Concept 2 Model D with PM5

Concept 2 Model D ReviewWhen it comes to rowing machines, Concept 2 is the brand that millions of rowers aspire to. These machines are the default pick for commercial gyms and clubs worldwide. The key to their appeal is the combination of quality build and technology.

Before apps were popular, Concept 2 came up with their ‘Performance Monitor’ consoles. These are still advanced – the latest is PM5. These days, connecting to apps for group workouts, scenic rows and performance coaching is popular. Concept 2 moved with the times – with a long list of apps that work with their machine.

These are big rowers, suitable for people up to 6 foot 7 and up to 227 kgs. Expect the smoothest resistance, which will get up to some challenging levels!

These high-end machines are not cheap. If you enjoy rowing and want a machine which will last you for years to come, then the price tag represents excellent value for money.

Check out the picture gallery and read the glowing feedback left by 1000’s of owners for yourself now, over on this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page.

Alternatively, you can read my detailed Concept 2 Model D review here.

Best Water Rowing Machine: The Skandika Nemo iV

Skandika Nemo IV Rowing Machine ReviewSkandika is a popular German brand. They make a wide range of high-quality fitness equipment and recently expanded their popular Nemo water rower range with updated models. What stands out with Nemo iV is a unique 45-degree tank, along with a ‘trolley’ look to the seat / rail.

German engineering might sound like a cliché, though the quality of the German brands (the other one is Sportstech) is certainly showing the way. Feedback is hugely positive for this model. It is compatible with training apps (via iConnect or Kinomap) and even comes with those satisfying ‘sploosh’ sound effects.

This machine is metal – though you will also find water rowers made with wooden frames. For natural water resistance, a quality build and all the tech and small features you’d expect from this brand, the Skandika Nemo makes a solid choice.

You can check out the pictures (which include a curious one of a big guy rowing on top of a stone wall) and feedback over on this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page.

Alternatively – see my review of the Skandika Nemo V Water Rower here.

Best High-End Magnetic Rower: Sportstech RSX500 Magnetic

RSX500 Rowing MachineSportstech make amazing kit. They are best-sellers in their native Germany – and approaching that status here as more and more Brits enjoy the quality of their rowers, elliptical trainers, treadmills and weights gyms. The RSX500 rowing machine is big. It would fit perfectly in any club or commercial gym. It has multiple small touches too.

They include app compatibility, 16 different resistance levels, magnetic breaking for the flywheel and the ability to set up user profiles to track different users.

The sturdiness got a lot of mentions from buyers – you won’t get the rattles and wobbles commonly associated with cheaper machines with the RSX500.

Check out my detailed review, which also shows detail of the console, over on this Sportstech RSX500 Rowing Machine Review page.

Better still, you can see the full gallery (including close-ups) and read the latest buyer feedback over on this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page.

Best Mid-Priced Home Rowing Machine: V-Fit Tornado (Air Resistance)

air resistance rowing machineThis rower has more than a perfectly fitting name going for it. The Tornado from V-Fit is an amazing air-resistance rowing machine with 100’s of positive comments left from buyers. The design is unique, with the big turbine dominating the front, and console sitting on an angled bar below it. This monitor has 3 screens – so you can see all the stats on a session without needing to wait for them to scan.

V-Fit Tornado rowers will fold away. They are also fully compliant with a long list of UK safety standards. The makers go out of their way to make sure you understand that this is a unisex rower – perfect for different sized users.

For more information on this best-selling air rower, check out my detailed V-Fit Tornado rowing machine review page.

Zoom in on the pictures, and check the feedback from people already enjoying this model over on this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page.

Best Budget Magnetic Rower: JLL R200

JLL R200 Rowing Machine ReviewFor me, the R200 sets the standard for a solid, reliable magnetic rowing machine. It has a lower price point than many rivals. It comes from the popular JLL – a British based company with a great reputation both for their equipment and their after sales service.

You get 10 levels of resistance, a functional (though not fancy) display and the ability to fold your unit away when you are not using it. The action is smooth, and the setup is easy for this model.

User feedback focuses on the excellent value for money.

If you are after a ‘traditional’ style of rower that is comfortable and smooth, that gives you a fantastic all-round workout. Then the JLL R200 ticks all the right boxes.

You can read my detailed review here: JLL R200 Rowing Machine Review

JLL® R200 Home Rowing Machine, 2020 Model Rowing Machine Fitness Cardio Workout with Adjustable Resistance, Advanced Driving Belt System, 12-Month Warranty, Black and Silver Colour

R200 Rowing machine

The R200 Rowing Machine is our elite performance home rower. It’s packed with premium features which allows you to train like a pro and sculpt your body.

(read more…)

Best Elastic Cord Rowing Machine: Sunny Fitness Elastic Cord

Sunny Fitness Elastic Cord Rowing MachineSunny Health and Fitness specialise in equipment for older people and those taking the first steps towards improving their fitness. This rowing machine is a perfect example of what they do best. It has a bigger, wider seat than most rowers, and a stable base.

The rowing action is simple. This controlled by an elastic band. This is the same type of band you will find in resistance band workouts. You row, with the added bonus of needing to hold the handle while the band goes back to its resting position. There are 4 levels to choose from. Which are adjusted by lengthening and shortening the elastic cord.

These are popular rowers, with many older people enjoying using them. You get a basic monitor, which tracks your calories as well as strokes and time.

Check out my detailed review of the Sunny Fitness Elastic Rowers here.

For the close-ups of that comfy seat, and to see the rower being used, you should check out this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page.

Best Super-Cheap Hydraulic Rower: Homcom Rowing Machine

Homcom Hydraulic Rower ReviewThis model is perfect for anyone that does not want to break the bank before trying out rowing. It uses an arm attached to a piston to get the resistance. This allows for a rowing motion, though without the flexibility of the band / handle setup that other types use.

You do get a basic LCD display. This counts your strokes, time, and distance. It will give you an estimate of the calories you burned too.

A big advantage of this machine is the smaller size makes it easy to put away. You can grab it from a cupboard or under the bed for a quick rowing session. Compare this to the big magnetic or water rowers… where you really need a dedicated space.

These machines are super-cheap. If you want to get the job done with no frills, then check the details on my Homcom Hydraulic Rowing Machine Review page.

For the full picture gallery and pleasantly surprised comments from buyers, check out this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page.

Rowing Machines: Apps and Tracker Technology

Quick Update: This page got so long overall, that I am going to use this list to create a bigger and better rowing machine apps page in the ‘tech’ section here at fitness review. Will link to it here as soon as it is up.

How to Choose the Best Home Rowing Machine: Features Checklist

Comparing Features of Home Rowing MachinesFor some people, all the rowers sound good in different ways. If you can’t (yet) decide on which is the best home rowing machine for you, then this section will help.

Here is how to use it:

  • Go though the features below, making a mental note of ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ in the different categories.
  • With your budget in mind, revisit the table and locate those rowers that have the most must-haves.
  • You’ll be down to a couple of options by now. I’d check the details of the specs, and that all important feedback from buyers to make the final decision.

Features List:

Fold Away Units:

Rowers come in different sizes and the space you have set aside for one is important. If you go for a mid-range+ model, your unit will be around 2 meters long. A lot of machines state that they fold. What you need to look for is how easy it is. Some need you to unscrew the rail and disconnect wires. Others simply require a lever pull and up they go.

App Compatibility:

Apps are all the range these days. Instead of simply counting strokes on a LCD monitor, you can row through scenic settings, join others for group sessions and track / share your progress as you get fitter. Some apps have subscriptions, where you get classes led by an instructor, or one-to-one coaching. Two things to look out for… first compatibility (iConnect helps), second a tablet holder. The second might seem obvious, though if you miss it, your app readouts might need to sit on the floor!

Big, Stable and Safe:

Some brands deliberately use wider machines and a more stable setup, aiming for older / heavier users. Sunny Fitness make products for older users that include rowers. As you climb the price brackets, the machines will get bigger. If you are over 6’4”, then you need to check carefully in the comments whether your machine is suitable.

Type of Resistance:

This was covered in detail above. You choose from hydraulic, elastic, magnetic, air and water resistance. The price points (with some exceptions) follow in the same order.

Capable of a Tough Cardio Workout:

Most machines will give beginners a great cardio session (not forgetting the tone-up). Whether your machine will be capable of getting this task done once you hit a decent level of fitness is another option. Resistance levels come into play, as well as the type. It is worth spending a little extra to have a machine which will grow with your fitness. Opting for a cheaper elastic cord or hydraulic machine could leave you wanting some extra resistance before too long.

Suitable for Multiple Users:

You need to consider the size and power of a machine – and also the electronics when it comes to sharing. Some machines have consoles which let you save the data for up to 5 users. If you choose one that is app compatible, then you can save the data this way too.

Choosing a Rower: Heart Rate CompatibleHeart Rate Monitor Compatible:

Matching the intensity of your rowing with your heart rate adds a new dimension to controlling your workouts. As you climb the price brackets, you will find rowers which are compatible with POLAR chest straps and other monitors. Those straps are rarely included, so you will need to purchase one separately.

Quietness:

Compared to the thuds of treadmills or buzzing of vibration plates, rowing machines are at the quieter end already. That is not to say you won’t get a quieter row by comparing the different models. The resistance comes into play here. Elastic and air resistance are extra quiet. Magnetic rowers can have a ‘vrrrrr’ sound (especially at the budget end) and water rowers deliberately give you sploosh sound effects for that realistic feel.

Gym / Alternative Workout Add-Ons:

It is hard to combine a rowing machine with other workout equipment. There is no equivalent of the elliptical trainer / bike combinations here. The one thing that can be done is to use the belt / tension for upper body workouts. The Bodyfit Rower does this (in a basic unit). I can see the appeal, though since rowing already tones your upper body, it will not work for everyone.

Comfortable Seat:

You are sitting down for 20 minutes+ each time. This means some extra comfort would be welcome for many users. Many brands highlight ‘ergonomic’ seats, though some of them can be on the hard side. If you really like a rower, and the comfy seat is missing, then you can always buy a separate padded seat cover.

Maximum User Weight:

All fitness equipment needs to advise a maximum user weight to comply with safety regulations. Rowing machines range from 100kgs to 150kgs or more. Keep in mind that the makers have an incentive to be cautious with their advice. That said, if you are heavier than the recommendation, you will be using the machine at your own risk.

Table: Features of the Best Home Rowing Machines

Now that you understand the resistance levels, and the features to look out for – the entries in this table will make a lot more sense. If you have any further questions, the rowing machines FAQ below will clear them up.

Popular Rowing Machine - the JLL R200

Magnetic Best Seller -JLL R200

JLL set the standard for magnetic rowing machines which get the basics just right. This machine has 10 resistance levels, an LCD console and a ton of positive feedback - a great value pick!

Check Price! Read Review
Best selling air rower - the Vfit Tornado

Air Resistance - The vFit Tornado

A popular model with air resistance. The 'Tornado' has more than just unique looks, it is a category best seller, giving you air breaking at a competitive price point.

Check Price! Read Review
App Compatible Pro Style Rowing

Pro Level / App Compatible - Sportstech RSX500

German engineering, app compatible and enough resistance to keep even the fittest users challenged. The RSX500 sets a high standard at a mid-budget price point.

Check Price! Read Review
Skandia Water Resistance with a unique 45-degree style

A Unique Twist on Water - Skandika Nemo iV

A unique angled water tank allows this water rower to have a smaller profile. You will love the technology, build quality and realistic resistance (complete with water sounds!).

Check Price! Read Review
Best of the Best - Concept 2 Rower

Best of the Best - Concept 2 D with PM5

This is the dream rowing machine for most of us. Concept2 set the standard for clubs / commercial gyms. Their PM5 tech connects with all the popular rowing apps too. An amazing machine which will last for years.

Check Price! Read Review
Super Cheap Alternative from HOMCOM

Cheap Hydraulic Rower - From Homcom

You will get the job done without breaking the bank with this hydraulic model from Homcom. It has a basic monitor to track your strokes, and is easy to move / store.

Check Price! Read Review
Elastic Cord Resistance from Sunny Fitness

Perfect for Older Users - Sunny Elastic

A comfy, stable seat combined with elastic resistance. This budget rower is from Sunny Fitness, who specalise in equipment for older people and those returning to fitness.

Check Price! Read Review

Home Rowing Machines: Frequently Asked Questions

Best Rowing Machine FAQWhat are the Key Benefits of Using a Rowing Machine?

No other fitness machines cover cardio, fat burning and muscle toning as well as a rowing machine. This explains why they are just as popular for cross fit fans as those seeking regular HIIT or cardio workouts. You’ll burn calories, give your heart and lungs a workout and tone muscles in your upper body, core, and legs all in a single workout.

What Muscle Groups are Used in Rowing?

Estimates go from 85% to 90% of your major muscles. This is way higher than any other cardio style machines manage to hit. The key is that your arms and upper body are involved in pulling the handle, your lower body in pushing you back on the rail – plus those all-important core muscles for getting the correct posture. If you were to sing while you row, I’m sure a couple more muscles would be involved!

How Many Calories Does Rowing Burn?

A vigorous row will burn through 600 calories per hour. The real benefit comes in those short / sharp sessions, which boost your metabolism and get through a few hundred calories here and a few hundred there.

What is the Best Type of Rowing Machine Resistance?

Three types of resistance (of the five) vie for the title of best. Water resistance is the most realistic, though comes with the need to fill the tank to different levels when you want to change the resistance level. Air rowers are hugely popular. They have a benefit in that air moves around more while you row. Magnetic (flywheel plus belt) rowers range from a little noisy to the best of the best.

At the budget end, hydraulic resistance limits your options, while elastic resistance loses strength over time and is a hassle to change.

How Much Do Home Rowing Machines Cost?

There is a wide range – you can get the most basic hydraulic rowing machine for less than £100. You could invest £1000+ and get the best in category club style rowing machines. It is possible to get a solid, reliable unit which is flexible enough for the whole family from £250 and up. The ‘sweet spot’ where you get serious tech and quality engineering is in the £400 to £550 range. Here you get a lot of the benefits of the ‘club’ rowers, without having to spend big money.

Do Rowing Machines Work with Group Training Apps?

Yes. Rowing machines which connect with 3rd party apps are common. Look out for one with a tablet / iPad holder on the console. Bluetooth compatibility and iConnect make the treadmills work with all kinds of apps – you no longer need to go with those made by the makers of a specific model. Popular apps include Kinomap, Performance Monitor (for Concept2) and many others.

Can I Use a Rowing Machine for HIIT Workouts?

Absolutely, a vigorous row can be used alone, as part of a circuit training routine, or in combination with other fitness machines. You will be surprised how quickly intense rowing can elevate your heart rate. The best thing is, there is always room for more resistance and a more intensive row.

Are Rowing Machines Suitable for Older Users?

With a combination of low impact motions and a machine that is stable / safe, rowing is a great candidate for older users. I’d put this second only to a recumbent bike in terms of gentle cardio options. The benefit of rowing is that it covers more of your muscle groups than cycling. At the lowest resistance levels, you get some cardio exercise without the strain. As your fitness improves, you’ll be keeping up with the younger users and giving that resistance a boost.

Can I Join Group Training Online While Using my Rower?

Yes. If your rowing machine is app compatible, you will be able to join group classes via the popular apps. Subscriptions will be required in most cases, though the social element will give your rowing workouts a whole new life.

Wrapping Up: Getting the Best Home Rowing Machine for YOU!

The most important factor when choosing a home rowing machine is you. Once your goals, budget, fitness level and personal preferences for things like electronics and styles are factored in – choosing a rowing machine becomes far easier.

If you go this far, you will already know about the different ways of providing resistance, what you get at different price points and which brands are compatible with the latest apps. The next step is to order a machine – and set aside the time to reach those fitness goals.

There is the table from the top of the guide again. If you know which model you’d love, the only step left is to make it happen!

Popular Rowing Machine - the JLL R200

Magnetic Best Seller -JLL R200

JLL set the standard for magnetic rowing machines which get the basics just right. This machine has 10 resistance levels, an LCD console and a ton of positive feedback - a great value pick!

Check Price! Read Review
Best selling air rower - the Vfit Tornado

Air Resistance - The vFit Tornado

A popular model with air resistance. The 'Tornado' has more than just unique looks, it is a category best seller, giving you air breaking at a competitive price point.

Check Price! Read Review
App Compatible Pro Style Rowing

Pro Level / App Compatible - Sportstech RSX500

German engineering, app compatible and enough resistance to keep even the fittest users challenged. The RSX500 sets a high standard at a mid-budget price point.

Check Price! Read Review
Skandia Water Resistance with a unique 45-degree style

A Unique Twist on Water - Skandika Nemo iV

A unique angled water tank allows this water rower to have a smaller profile. You will love the technology, build quality and realistic resistance (complete with water sounds!).

Check Price! Read Review
Best of the Best - Concept 2 Rower

Best of the Best - Concept 2 D with PM5

This is the dream rowing machine for most of us. Concept2 set the standard for clubs / commercial gyms. Their PM5 tech connects with all the popular rowing apps too. An amazing machine which will last for years.

Check Price! Read Review
Super Cheap Alternative from HOMCOM

Cheap Hydraulic Rower - From Homcom

You will get the job done without breaking the bank with this hydraulic model from Homcom. It has a basic monitor to track your strokes, and is easy to move / store.

Check Price! Read Review
Elastic Cord Resistance from Sunny Fitness

Perfect for Older Users - Sunny Elastic

A comfy, stable seat combined with elastic resistance. This budget rower is from Sunny Fitness, who specalise in equipment for older people and those returning to fitness.

Check Price! Read Review