Top 10 Best Rowing Machines – Burn Calories and Focus On Your Upper Body at The Same Time

Rowing is one of the best fitness activities you can do at home. The benefits it offers are just too good to ignore. Because of all this, rowing machines have pretty much been incredibly popular ever since they first appeared on the market.

However, due to that popularity we have an overwhelmingly saturated market that is sometimes really hard to navigate or even understand. Today we are going to show you our picks for the top 10 best rowing machines out there.

When we get done with that, we are going to talk about rowers and how to choose one.

Top 10 Best Rowing Machines:

Iron Company’s water rowers are definitely something special. They may not be the brand that has come up with this design, but they are a brand that makes one of the absolute best water rowers you can get at the moment. The model we are looking at today reveals exactly what we mean.

Most other brands who do water rowers are sticking to the wooden frame design. Iron Company has decided to take a different route. Their water rower sits on an all metal frame which is surprisingly lightweight and every bit as sturdy as you would expect it to be. Aside from the frame, Iron Company has used the standard components to complete this build. We are talking a standard water tank that allows easy water levels management, a sturdy submerged flywheel and a pulley system which allows you to experience the full extent of water rowing.

The seat that comes with this rower is pretty comfortable. It’s a contoured piece that allows you to enjoy hours of use without fatigue. Last but not the least you are also getting a Series 4 performance monitor which makes tracking your progress extremely easy. Overall, this rower is among the best.

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Moving on with water rowers we run into Life Fitness Row HX Trainer. This model represents the best of the best when it comes to the more traditional wooden frames. Don’t worry, though. There are plenty of metallic reinforcements in all the necessary places which offer structural support. Just like it is the case with most other fitness machines where wood is involved, aesthetics are going to be pretty high up there.

There is no denying that Row HX Trainer is one of the best looking rowers you can get your hands on. However, it was definitely not designed to look pretty. Instead, it was designed to offer that solid core performance, good stability and most importantly, consistency. The water tank on this bad boy is fairly standard in terms of volume.

It is very easy to clean, fill and maintain. More importantly, it houses one of the best submerged flywheels in the industry. It isn’t so much different as it is robust. If reliability is something you value, this rower will hit all the right buttons for you. When it comes to sensation during use, you are looking at that progressive resistance with a very smooth curve to it.

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Compared to most other brands on this list, Concept2 is probably nowhere near as popular. That is partially due to the fact that they are a niche brand and partially because they tend to focus mainly on fitness equipment that isn’t always considered affordable. Either way, Concept2 Model D kinda boils it all down. It represents what Concept2 as a brand is all about and what their policy is all about. For starters, this is an air rower.

Compared to magnetic or water rowers, air rowers are completely progressive in nature. In other words, the harder you row the harder it gets. That isn’t the most interesting fact about this rower, though. The fact that it is a commercial machine is much, much more interesting. That means that it was designed to survive gym use.

Usually gym machines are nothing like the home fitness machines because they need to endure harsher working conditions, long work hours and so on. Being able to find a commercial rower at a price where you’re mostly getting enthusiast grade machines is beyond awesome. This is exactly why Concept2 Model D is one of the most popular rowing machines available on the market right now.

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WaterRower A1 is a machine that may not look all that special. However, it’s when you realize that WaterRower is a brand that has come up with this entire design of rowing machines. Do they still make the very best water rowers on the market? That is pretty questionable. However, they tend to offer the best bang for the buck deals in this segment of the market.

Their A1 is truly a great machine if you are trying to get the most out of your investment. The core of this rower is similar to most other water rowers. In other words, you are getting a robust water tank that is housing a massive submerged flywheel. The frame itself is quite robust. Just keep in mind that this type of wooden frames are not really compact.

The performance you get is quite great. With progressive resistance that this setup offers, you are guaranteed a challenging workout no matter what. At maximum water level, A1 tends to be quite difficult to get rolling. The display unit that comes with this model is quite basic in terms of functions, as most of them are on water rowers. It’s also very easy to read.

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One of the main questions new users have about water rowers is whether or not you can find one on a budget? The answer is a solid yes. There are water rowers out there which got rid of many features that aren’t exactly necessary but add quite a bit to that price tag. One such model that comes to mind is the XTERRA Fitness ERG600W.

Truth be told XTERRA has always known how to make a fitness machine that offers good performance at a very attractive price. Their ability to single out the most important components and get rid of everything else has earned them quite a reputation. ERG600W sits on a very standard frame. It looks pretty much like a frame you would expect to find on an average magnetic rower.

Even so, it offers plenty of stability and support. You are getting a full range of motion which is what matters the most. The water tank sits behind a protective cage, which offers easy access all while keeping the tank fairly safe. The feet the frame sits on can be adjusted for elevation, thus allowing you level the machine as necessary. Overall, this is a rock solid rower.

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There are many qualities that deserve to be at the very top of your checklist when it comes to choosing a rower. Performance is a big one and so is build quality. But what about aesthetics? Most will agree that aesthetics should be near the bottom of that list but sometimes looks matter more than we are willing to admit.

One glance at Stamina X Air Rower should inform you that there are numerous exceptions to this ’rule’ that aesthetics don’t matter. Needless to say this is one of the best looking rowers on the market. No matter what some people will say, a rower you are excited about is the rower you will come back to. Underneath those awesome looks hides a very capable piece of fitness equipment.

Stamina X went with a robust metal frame that is both compact and sturdy enough to endure regular use. The seat is a very comfortable contoured piece that does a lot towards reducing fatigue even during longer workout sessions. As its name states, this is an air rower. At the very from of the frame you will find the cage with one massive fan. The fan’s design offers a smooth performance.

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Finding a budget water rower can be very tricky. This type of resistance setup doesn’t lend itself well to cheap components. However, trick doesn’t equate to impossible. Fortunately for all of us there are brands out there who take creating affordable fitness equipment quite seriously. They may not hold a large chunk of market in the higher segments, but these brands do wonders in the entry level range.

Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian SF-RW5713 is one such rower from one such brand. Sunny has been around for a while and enjoys the reputation of a trusted budget brand in the fitness world. Their machines are always rock solid and quite honest with what they can and can’t give you in terms of performance. This particular rower is really something special.

It sits on a minimalist frame that is every bit as robust as you need it to be. The tank is not as massive as it is on some other models, but it offers plenty of resistance. One thing we really like about the Obsidian here is the fact that it comes with a large display unit that sits on top of the tank. It’s very easy to read and track.

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Simple, affordable rowers are plentiful. So much so that figuring out which ones are good to go and which ones you should avoid can become very complicated. One brand you can always trust in this segment of the market is Goplus. Their designs are extremely well balanced all things considered. You are looking at a great combination of build quality, performance and simplicity.

Goplus magnetic folding rower we are looking at here is a truly awesome budget machine suitable for both starters and intermediate users. It sits on a very solid frame that inspires confidence even if you start rowing as hard as you can. Nothing rattles and nothing wobbles. Being a magnetic rower, you get to choose your resistance levels manually.

This rower features a small but functional display unit that is easy to read and comes with simple controls. The folding tag in its name isn’t quite accurate in all honesty. Instead of actually folding, Goplus has installed a vertical frame component which allows you to flip this entire rower upright and store it that way. Although it does require you to pick up the entire machine, you are still enjoying a very compact footprint and that’s great.

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If there is one thing you will see plenty of in the affordable segment of the market, it is dull designs. Although quite understandable, sometimes it is just painful to see so many different machines use the exact same color schemes. Fortunately for us, there are those who do things differently. M

erax is a brand that has found a way to merge good aesthetics and low price tags without it all turning into a fiasco. Their magnetic exercise rower is truly something to behold. it comes in a black/dark gray color combo which gives it a very attractive appearance. The machine itself is designed to be compact thanks to its folding frame. Unlike the last model we have shown you, this one is actually a folder. There is a pull pin at the front of the rail which you can disengage and have the entire rail pivot upward.

The seat is quite interesting with its saddle-like design. Even so it’s ultimately comfortable. Being a magnetic rower it comes with adjustable resistance. It also comes with a built in display unit that can be hard to read at times due to its small size. However, it works out quite nicely.

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Last model on our list comes from EFITMENT and represents what you can find at the very fringe of the affordable range. As far as we’re concerned, this is the most affordable rower we are comfortable recommending. It is a bare bones design, but one that offers all the necessary core features. EFITMENT RW-02 sits on a simple metal frame which is tilted to the front. In other words the rail is slightly angled.

This something you’ll often see on budget rowers as means of increasing nominal resistance without having to put in more complex magnetic setups into the machine. Speaking of which, this rower comes with a very robust flywheel setup that offers consistent and smooth performance. The seat is probably the most surprising aspect of the entire build. Instead of going for a complex contoured design, EFITMENT just took a flat piece and padded it.

Does it work? Absolutely. Some might argue that it works better than some contoured seats. When it comes to storage, they classify this model as a folder. In reality it can be flipped into an upright position and wheeled into storage. Overall, at this price, you simply won’t find a much better deal.

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Category Breakdown

Magnetic Rowing Machines

Magnetic rowers represent the most of rowing machines on the market. This type of resistance is one of the most popular choices in the fitness world in general. 

The main reason for this is the fact that magnetic resistance is easy to produce and pretty affordable as well. However, magnetic resistance isn’t a synonym for cheap fitness machines. 

There is plenty of range to this segment of the market. Some of the absolute best rowers out there are magnetic. We will discuss other benefits of this system further down in the text.

Hydraulic/Piston Rowing Machines

Compared to magnetic models, piston rowers are nowhere nearly as popular. However they do offer a whole of awesome benefits of their own. Low entry cost is definitely one of the main ones. Hydraulic cylinders are something we as a society are very good at designing and building. 

It just so happens that a hydraulic piston offers a very linear resistance, which is essential for rowing. This segment of the market includes some of the most interesting rowers on the market. If you need a silent machine that is compact and reliable, hydraulic rowing machines might be your best bet.

Water Rowing Machines

Rowing fitness machines have always been a great way to get a good workout on a daily basis. While they do offer a fairly authentic rowing motion, they aren’t generally too authentic on average. You aren’t getting a high level of emulation with most. That changes when you step into the water rowers category. 

These were designed to simulate the resistance you get when an oar hits and moves through water. Naturally, these platforms are more complex and often times more expensive than your average magnetic rower. However, the benefits you get are tangible.

Budget Rowing Machines Under $300

Usually when people are just getting into rowing, they think that you have to sink a large amount of money in order to get something decent. That might have been the case in the past. However, these days you can really get a good deal at a very reasonable price. 

Rowers under $300 are going to be basic in nature but rest assured that you will get solid core performance. On a similar note, most of these will be magnetic in nature with a few piston rowers in there as well.

Rowing Machines Under $500

Expanding your budget up to around $500 opens up a few new options. This is where you can find lower mid range machines which offer more than your average basic rower, all while still being reasonably priced. This is a great place to start with rowers if your budget allows for it. 

Not that budget models are inherently bad, but you are definitely getting a much better bang for your buck. Another thing to consider is that this segment is where you start seeing different resistance systems coming into play, so you definitely get a better choice.

Rowing Machines Under $1000

Lastly there are rowers which cost around $1000. These are mainly among the top mid range or lower top range. Up until $1000 is where you are still getting a very good return on your investment. 

There are much more expensive rowers out there for sure, however those are already pretty niche designs and as such require a more specialized approach. One of the main benefits of investing this kind of money into a rower is the fact that you get to choose just about everything. 

We are talking various resistance systems, a whole different set of features and more.

Benefits Of Rowing

So why rowing? Why is this activity so popular these days? Answering this question requires us to look into the numerous benefits that rowing brings to the table. 

That is exactly what this portion of the guide is going to be about. Once we put it all down ’on paper’, you will have a much easier time understanding the true potential of rowing as means of staying fit. Lets get started with the most obvious reason.

It Hits Your Entire Body

Compared to cycling or running, rowing actually engages your entire body. You are pulling the ’oars’ with your upper body, all while pushing away with your legs. Depending on the resistance level you choose and your workout regimen, you can really put a lot of load on both your legs and torso. 

Here’s the thing. You will rarely find exercises or fitness machines which offer this type of whole body engagement. Sure, there are some exceptions out there, but nothing that comes even close to rowing.

Low Impact Cardio

Over the years the science of fitness has advanced to a point where we are able to recognized low lying problems with widely accepted exercises. One thing that we have figured out is high impact activities such as running on concrete, tends to have negative effects on your joints. 

With rowing, you are eliminating that impact variable from the equation. By doing so you are able to fully enjoy your workout without putting unnecessary strain on your joints, knees and so on. Truth be told rowing isn’t the only exercise that offers this, but it is one of the best for sure

It’s Extremely Fun

One of the often overlooked qualities of rowing is the fact that is simply a fun activity. Since there is a bit more to it than pure mechanics as it is the case with say cycling, you are forced to learn proper technique and make sure that your body is always in the optimal position. 

Working out is rarely fun, especially when you’re talking about cardio. Even the keenest of people find cardio to be quite boring at times. Having an activity that is fun, healthy and challenging as your source of cardio makes things so much easier.

Choosing The Right Rower

Now that we know what makes rowing so popular, lets discuss what makes a good rower and how to find one. There are definitely a few things you should keep in mind during your search. 

Even though ti might sound like a daunting task right now, answering a few simple questions will narrow things down considerably. In this segment of our guide we will go over the most important questions that need to be answered and how your choices affect your options.


Lets face it, budget is going to be one of the first things you will have to figure out. It is a huge factor that won’t necessarily stop you from finding something good, but being less than honest with yourself when it comes to your budget can limit you in a few uncomfortable ways. 

The thing with rowers is that you can find a really awesome selection of models at very reasonable prices. If you look near the top of our guide you will see links to three different price ranges. 

Although there will naturally be differences in features, quality and resistance systems, it is important to understand that you won’t have too much trouble finding a rower that offers solid core performance. No matter what, you will be able to get that cardio done consistently, day in and day out.

Resistance Systems

Speaking of resistance systems, we should definitely address different options and what benefits they offer. There are three main resistance systems in use today with a few obscure ones showing up here and there. You have magnetic rowers, water rowers and hydraulic rowers. 

The only less popular option that we might single out are the air rowers while there are also elastic band rowers. Latter produce resistance using elastic bands. Lets take a closer look at each of these and spend a few moments discussing what you can expect from each.

Magnetic Rowing Machines

Magnetic rower are the most popular, easy to make and prolific type of rowing machines on the market. They are generally reliable, easy to use and fairly affordable as well.

Those are also some of their main benefits. Magnetic rowers usually feature variable resistance control which you can adjust either by operating the resistance knob or by using the built in computer module.

One thing to keep in mind with magnetic rowers is that they are not that authentic when it comes to the sensation of rowing. Sure, you are getting the same body movement, but if you are going for full authenticity, you will need to check out water rowers

Water Rowing Machines

Water rowers are pretty unique in a sense that they designed to closely emulate the sensation of actual rowing. With water rowers, you are getting much more than just exercise. Those who have done actual rowing will find them to be pretty spot on in terms of the way they feel during use. 

The secret is in a submerged flywheel which sits in a water tank. Many will say that water rowers have a fixed resistance but that isn’t completely true. You can control the resistance of most water rowers simply by adding or removing water from the tank. 

Best of all, since you are compressing water and water has same properties whether it is in a tank or a river, you are getting a very similar experience. The only issue with water rowers is that they are often times expensive and feature full frames. If neither of those are an issue for you, going for a water rower is literally the best way to experience dry rowing.

Piston or Hydraulic Rowing Machines

Hydraulic piston rowers are the least popular of the three despite offering some pretty interesting benefits. Piston rower are often times affordable, which makes them a great choice for those who are just getting into fitness and don’t want to commit to an expensive machine. However, their true value comes from their ability to be super silent during use, as well as the fact that these are most often compact in nature.

Small framed piston rowers are about the only way to go if you are dealing with limited space and need something that can easily be stowed away. Here’s the thing, though. 

Some piston rowers come with fixed seats. In other words, they lock out your lower body and remove it from the equation. Not all piston rowers do this, but some definitely do. All you have to do is figure out whether which one better suits your needs and your preferred style of rowing.

Display Units

Rowers, much like most other fitness machines, come with a variety of display units mounted somewhere on the frame. The purpose of these displays is to allow you to track your progress with relative ease. In this regard they are no different than units installed on most other fitness machines. 

However, keep in mind that not all display modules are the same. Some are can be pretty advanced, show you a number of different stats at the same time, allow you to set target goals and so on. 

Some magnetic rowers even come with preset workout routines which are a great way to spice up your exercise. Again, it all comes down to what you want and what your intended fitness plan requires.

The Ver(ve)dict!

Rowing machines are definitely one of the best and most interesting ways of getting into home fitness. As seen in our guide, these come in a whole variety of shapes and forms with a bunch of different features included.

We did our best to arm you up with all the info you could possibly need. By doing most of the legwork for you, we’ve made the process of selecting the right rower that much easier. All you’re left to do is figure out which model from our list best fits your needs and go with that. You won’t be disappointed.

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