11 Best Rowing Machines for Your Home Gym

best rowing machines
Get Fit at Home with These Top 11 Rowing MachinesHearst Owned


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WHEN IT COMES to your fitness routine, it can be nice to switch things up. If you don't own one already, consider an indoor rowing machine for a high-payoff, low-impact (AKA joint-friendly) workout at home. It might just be the total-body workout you've been looking for.

The rowing machine reigns supreme among cardio devices, pushing all your energy systems towards their limits at once. You could easily tax your aerobic system with a lengthy 2,000-meter or 5,000-meter long-distance session, or mix it up by doing 100-meter sprints every minute on the minute to build strength and power. Just like a treadmill, minus the impact.

Best Rowing Machines

Read more: How Men's Health Thoroughly Tests and Reviews Fitness Products

“Indoor rowing is an excellent low-impact option for improving cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance,” Lululemon lead instructor Hollis Tuttle told Men's Health. “Since it is a low impact sport, rowing reduces the risk of damage to weight-bearing joints, such as hips, ankles, and knees, which tend to be prone to injury and soreness when doing high impact sports.”

But rowing's not just a great joint-friendly form of cardio. A solid rowing workout can also help build strength in more muscle groups than you'd expect. "The rower is basically the horizontal version of the deadlift and uses similar muscles," says veteran trainer Ian Creighton. "On the drive, the main focus is on the posterior chain—the hamstrings, glutes, calves, and spinal erectors are all being used. In the pull, the quads, forearms, biceps, and lats are used as well."

When considering an indoor rowing machine, you'll encounter a variety of resistance systems:

  • Magnetic: Utilizes magnets and a flywheel for consistent resistance, ideal for steady workouts and small spaces.

  • Air: Features a fan-driven flywheel, offering dynamic resistance that increases with intensity.

  • Water: Mimics the sensation of rowing on water with a water tank and paddles that offer smooth and fluid movement.

  • Hydraulic: Uses hydraulic pistons for resistance regulation, delivering a budget-friendly option with potential motion limitations.

Men's Health fitness editors, in collaboration with experts including Tuttle and Creighton, have thoroughly tested and evaluated more than two dozen of the best indoor rowing machines to determine which ones we can genuinely recommend. We've carefully considered dozens of best-selling models from reputable brands and assessed them on build quality, resistance mechanism, performance, tech features, and price. To ensure no stone is left unturned, each rowing machine has undergone rigorous trials, including hundreds of miles in varied workout routines such as high-intensity sprints, endurance-based long-distance rows, and interval sessions.

In the market for a rowing machine after all? Read on for our curated list of the 11 best rowing machines to upgrade your home gym this year.

RowErg

The RowErg with Standard Legs is the new name for Concept 2's Model D rower, and it's the first device that comes to mind when we think of training on a rower at home. We have never come across a better rower than this one, point blank. In a nutshell, it offers many of the same features as the best rowing machines that cost twice as much.

This rower is an industry standard used by CrossFit and in many high-profile competitions for a reason. The variable resistance flywheel provides a constant challenge, which we find especially beneficial for high volume use and experienced rowers.

It's easy to assemble, too. In our experience setting up this rower, all it takes is around 20 minutes, ideally two people, and minimal tools or hardware (just eight screws are required).

This is the definitive home rowing experience, and why it's our pick for the best value rowing machine of 2024.

Editor Review: "Blast your abs, glutes, and back while redlining your heart rate with this devastating machine that’s built for either long cardio workouts or vicious high-intensity sessions," says Samuel.

Read more: Best Adjustable Dumbbells

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OUGNUO8?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.26014893%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>RowErg</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>1251.00</p><span class="copyright">Concept2</span>

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RowErg

amazon.com

1251.00

Concept2

Wave Rower

"If I can’t use a Concept2, this is my go-to," says Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., MH Fitness Director.

The Hydrow Wave—a more streamlined and slimmed-down version of Hydrow's original Rower Connected Rowing Machine, (a 2022 Men's Health Home Gym Awards winner)—is a smart connected rower with a focus on recreating the real-world rowing experience.

This rower fits easily in my basement training area, and can stand up for storage. Despite the compact size, we've found the Wave is also SUPER-durable: I can go hard on this rower for sprints, or take on longer intervals without it struggling to keep up.

Take live or on-demand classes, or take an unguided "journey", to explore the water from the comfort of your own home. The best part is that the virtual classes are immersive and surprisingly lifelike.

We do wish this rower has a free mode to allow users to could build their own workouts. Despite that, this is the best magnetic resistance rowing experience on the market.

Editor Review: "Hydrow makes you feel as if you’re out on the water, complete with videos shot on lakes and rivers," said Samuel. "The end result: a tranquil row sweat."

Read more: Best Dumbbells

<p><a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74968X1596630&url=https%3A%2F%2Fhydrow.com%2Fproducts%2Frowers%2Fhydrow-wave%2F&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.menshealth.com%2Ffitness%2Fg26014893%2Fbest-rowing-machines%2F" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Wave Rower</p><p>hydrow.com</p><p>$1695.00</p><span class="copyright">Christian Gollayan - Hearst Owned</span>

RW900 Smart Rower

Want group fitness workouts in the comfort of your own home? The RW900 Smart Rower's crisp, 22-inch touchscreen offers classes on-demand and automatically adjusts resistance levels according to the virtual trainers' cues.

We like the long list of other nice-to-haves like Bluetooth headphone connectivity, quick-adjust pedals, and easy assembly. A few other standout features make it one of our go-to rowing machines for longer workouts. We find the seat to be more comfortable than Concept2 rowers, and the magnetic resistance on this is ultra-quiet so it’s easy to watch Netflix or listen to a podcast while training.

It also sets up and stows away easily, making it easy to get ready and break down at the end of your workouts. Given the long list of smart features and the NordicTrack brand name, it's well priced at around $1,600.

Editor Review: "The seat’s extra-comfortable, and the magnetic resistance on this is ultra-quiet so it’s easy to watch Netflix or listen to a podcast while training," says Samuel.

Read more: Rowing and Core Workout

<p><a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74968X1596630&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nordictrack.com%2Frowing-machines%2Frw900-rower&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.menshealth.com%2Ffitness%2Fg26014893%2Fbest-rowing-machines%2F" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>RW900 Smart Rower</p><p>nordictrack.com</p><p>$1999.00</p><span class="copyright">NordicTrack</span>

Club Rowing Machine

Sometimes simpler is just better. The made-in-the-USA design takes things back to basics with a vaguely vintage aesthetic of stained ash wood. That also makes it one of the most heavy-duty machines on this list, supporting users up to 700 pounds.

We found that the traditional water-based flywheel not only looks great, but does an incredibly job of recreating the feel of rowing through real water. Users can fully customize the resistance by filling the water tank with more or less water, which can make a mess, but isn't difficult to do.

At around $1,200, this model lacks the fancier gadgetry of the pricier models on this list. Still, the integrated performance monitor tracks all the essentials. For anyone looking for a durable, handsome rower without unnecessary bells and whistles at a good price, this is your man.

Read more: Correct Your Rowing Form

<p><a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74968X1596630&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.walmart.com%2Fip%2FWaterRower-Club-Rowing-Machine-in-Ash-Wood-with-S4-Monitor%2F45976393&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.menshealth.com%2Ffitness%2Fg26014893%2Fbest-rowing-machines%2F" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Club Rowing Machine</p><p>walmart.com</p><p>$1289.00</p><span class="copyright">WaterRower</span>

Model E Indoor Rower

Concept 2's premium Model E rowing machine is a step up from the brand's RowErg. At its heart it's the same PM5—a simple, yet sophisticated performance monitor that keeps track of your vitals between workouts, but the low-maintenance, nickel-plated chain and a few other features set it apart. We love that it offers USB flash drive compatibility which allows users to easily backup workout data between sessions.

The frame is made from aluminum and steel, and feels incredibly stable when in use. We love that it can support users up to 500-pounds, yet only weighs 70. When you're ready to stow it, it splits in half with a framelock mechanism that's easy enough to do with your eyes closed.

At around $1,500, it's right in the middle of the price range for the indoor rowing machines we researched and tested this year, making it our pick for the best mid-range rowing machine of 2024.

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<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01A0SBJV0?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.26014893%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Model E Indoor Rower </p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$1549.99</p><span class="copyright">Concept2</span>

Smart Rowing Machine

The first thing we noticed about Echelon's base model rowing machine is the incredibly comfortable cushioned seat and oversized, adjustable foot pedals. Next was the magnetic resistance, which is one of the quietest we've tested, and offers 32 different levels to challenge newbs and pros alike.

While it lacks the jumbo high-tech displays of many other machines on this list, we never missed it much. In lieu of a built-in display is a device holder that swivels and flips around for use during off-row workouts, which we found convenient and easy to use with an iPhone.

Best of all, it's foldable. Built-in wheels help for easy transport to tuck it easily away when it's not in use.

Bonus: It's the second most affordable rowing machine on this list. So, if budget is a concern, the Smart Rowing Machine is definitely worth considering.

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<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086JQ5ZT3?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.26014893%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Smart Rowing Machine</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$554.99</p><span class="copyright">Echelon</span>

The Rower

The top-rated Ergatta Rower (a Men's Health Fitness Awards Winner) is all performance, complete with game-based workouts that challenge you daily. It's the most "gamified" water-based rowing machine on this list with a long list of virtual workout programs to choose from. We took it for a spin with head-to-head races, high-intensity endurance workouts, and goal-based gamified training plans to get the full experience.

We found this is one of the smoothest water rowers we've used, and the games are enough to keep things fun and interesting even when doing a basic workout. The game-based workouts felt like a much needed changeup from typical hard workouts on a C2, and are actually good for dialing in form. In terms of the frame, the lone downside is that the feet are positioned a little more closely than we prefer.

The warm cherry wood feels extremely durable and gives the rower a sleek retro-modern aesthetic that elevated the look of our home gym space, but can do any garage or living room justice, too. It's among the priciest rowing machines on this list, but if you're in the market for a top-of-the-line rower that doubles as a home accessory, it's hard to beat.

Editor Review: "Row with new purpose on Ergatta’s water-rower, which asks you to do more than simply pushing the pace, challenging you to maintain certain stroke speeds or power ratios in a series of games that play out on its 17.3-inch touchscreen," says Samuel.

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<p><a href="https://ergatta.com/product/the-ergatta-rower/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>The Rower</p><p>ergatta.com</p><p>$2299.00</p><span class="copyright">Ergatta</span>

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The Rower

ergatta.com

$2299.00

Ergatta

AssaultRower Elite

Assault Fitness' AssaultRower Elite was purpose-built for commercial gym usage, and we've found that it can hold up to the toughest workouts and years of abuse without wavering. With a solid steel frame and parts meant to take a beating, this thing can take our worst.

It offers all the essential features that novice and advanced users demand in the best rowing machines. A sweat-proof seat, multi-grip handles, and adjustable footrests help to make for a comfortable user experience. The simple LCD display offers basic onboard training programs, and there's a built-in heart rate monitor.

But this rower is heavy—more than 140 pounds to be exact. So it's not as easy to setup, breakdown, and store as others on this list.

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<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08K2HF8T3?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.26014893%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>AssaultRower Elite</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$1417.73</p><span class="copyright">Assault Fitness</span>

Strong Series Rower

Whether you're competing live against your peers, trying to out-row world-class athletes, or even being chased by a deadly Kraken, the Strong Series Rower is a fix to boring rowing workouts.

Aside from the basics (like tracking performance stats), a massive and crisp definition 22" touchscreen allows for streaming content from Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Prime Video, Spotify, and YouTube, as well as a library of interactive, performance-based video games. The tech was actually developed by game designers using game psychology, with the singular goal of encouraging rowing performance. The animated games are immersive and easy to learn, and incentivize players to increase output in creative ways.

Aside from the gamified perks, one major feature of this machine is its 20" elevated seat, which makes it easy for beginners, older individuals, and those with limited mobility to get on and off the machine. It isn't as low to the ground as more traditional rowing machines, and is therefore more accessible for some populations.

The foot pedals are also more wide-set and larger than found on most rowers, which makes it feel more accessible for a range of users. For those with wider hips or bigger bellies who typically feel crammed or awkward on a standard machine, this is for you.

Editor Review: "Between the elevated seat and entertainment features on Aviron's platform, this is one of the most comfortable cardio machines to ever exist," says Fitness and Commerce Editor Talene Appleton, NASM. "I genuinely look forward to sitting on this rower on days when I need a little distraction to get through my cardio."

Read more: Exercise to Improve Your Rowing

<p><a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74968X1596630&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.avironactive.com%2Fshop%2Fstrong-series-rower%2F&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.menshealth.com%2Ffitness%2Fg26014893%2Fbest-rowing-machines%2F" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Strong Series Rower</p><p>avironactive.com</p><p>$2199.00</p><span class="copyright">Aviron</span>

Row HX Trainer

Life Fitness machines are found in fitness clubs around the world. And for good reason: they're durable, easy to use, beginner-friendly, suitable for advanced rowers, and reasonably priced. The Row HX Trainer is no exception. It's reasonably heavy at 108 pounds when filled with water, and folds in half easily to stow away when not in use.

Unlike some of the more premium models we tested, the simple water-based design delivers ultra-smooth resistance without any finicky gadgetry. Compared to most water-based rowers, we love that this rower never requires users to add or remove water to change the resistance. Instead, five manually adjustable resistance levels turn the heat up or down.

Given the roughly $1,800 price tag, we're a little disappointed that this model lacks a built-in touchscreen display. However, it does integrate seamlessly with the Aaptiv app to offer additional features like virtual training programs and trainer-led classes.

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<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0913JC36L?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.26014893%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Row HX Trainer</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$1699.00</p><span class="copyright">Life Fitness</span>

Row

Men’s Health fitness writer and strength coach David Otey, C.S.C.S., took the Peloton Row for a spin and confirmed that it’s set to give every rower on this list—even the most goated rowing machines—a run for their money.

Otey and MH fitness editors found both the seat and foot pedals extremely comfortable, and the foot strap secure yet easy to adjust with a single hand. Otey describes the strap’s pull as “silky smooth” without the annoying catching found in lesser rowers. We found that the electrically controlled resistance also makes for whisper-quiet operation.

But the real star isn't its frame, “Peloton's best asset isn't its hardware; it's a great software company,” says Otey. The tech on this machine delivers, with a Form Assist function that can help nearly any level rower achieve better form as they row.

It’s not perfect, however. Otey notes that its most obvious shortcoming is the lack of an adjustable manual mode. “This is a stark difference from many manual rowers, which shows Peloton is more confident in their programming and instructors than your ability to create your own workouts.”

Trainer Review: “Peloton’s take on the rower delivers the smooth rowing experience I want, while offering a massive library of workouts," says Otey. "The Peloton Row has helped make rowing exciting."

Read more: Peloton Rower Review

<p><a href="https://go.redirectingat.com?id=74968X1596630&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.onepeloton.com%2Fshop%2Frow%2Frow-basics-package-us&sref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.menshealth.com%2Ffitness%2Fg26014893%2Fbest-rowing-machines%2F" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Row</p><p>onepeloton.com</p><p>$2795.00</p><span class="copyright">Christian Gollayan - Hearst Owned</span>

How to Choose an Indoor Rowing Machine

Indoor rowing machines are a bit more complicated than ordinary home gym equipment, like power racks or dumbbell sets. Decades ago, they used to be little more than a gliding seat and rope handle attached to a water-filled flywheel. But today’s best rowing machines are a lot more high-tech and sophisticated.

The most connected models—from the likes of Peloton and Hydrow—pair with your smartphone via Bluetooth to stream music, while their touchscreens connect you with professional rowers on the other side of the world for personalized, guided training sessions. That’s all to say that shopping for a new rower can be a challenge, and finding the best indoor rowing machine for you is especially difficult. We’re here to help with the most important specs, features, and essentials to consider before forking over your hard owned money.

Durability and Quality

If you’re dropping $1,000 or more on a complicated piece of gym equipment, you want to know that it can go the distance. That’s why it pays (literally) to buy from a company that you trust and that offers a solid, reputable product with a decent warranty. Don’t settle for a bargain-priced Amazon model from a brand you’ve never heard of just because it seems like a steal. In the world of fitness equipment, you almost always get what you pay for. If you’re planning to row on a regular basis and to keep your rowing machine for the foreseeable future, consider investing good money into a model that will last.

Resistance Mechanism

At the heart of every rowing machine is some sort of resistance mechanism. There are four main types including hydraulic, flywheel, water-based, and magnetic resistance-based. Hydraulic resistance relies on air or fluid compressed into a cylinder and is almost always the cheapest. Flywheels rely on air resistance; these will require the most nuanced timing of your rowing pattern. The downside: They're often noisy. Water-based and magnetic resistance models often deliver a near-silent experience, although they can be pricey.

Storage

By their nature, rowing machines are big, bulky, and often heavy. If you have the real estate in your home, non-folding models are typically sturdier and more convenient when it comes time to work out. They’re always set up and ready to go—er, row. If you’re a city dweller or are just short on space, however, a folding model might be the best way to go. Some rowers fold neatly in half or offer vertical storage to minimize wasted floor space. Look for models with transport wheels too, so you can easily move yours around by yourself.

Warranty

With the best rowing machines priced north of $1,000, buying one is a serious investment. So, it’s important to purchase from a manufacturer that offers a clear, comprehensive warranty. They vary widely across the industry, with the most budget-forward brands offering just 90 days on some parts, and others boasting generous 10-year warranties on everything. Again, the more you spend upfront, the better the warranty is likely to be. And, if there’s anything that isn’t clear to you about the stated warranty, be sure to ask. It’s your money, after all.

Budget

Depending on your situation, price might be the most important consideration. Indoor rowing machines are a substantial investment that can run into the thousands. Know that, if price is an issue, you can absolutely land a decent mid-range model for under $1,500 and even a solid budget model for less than $1,000 delivered.

Other Rowing Machine Features

The most basic rowing machine design has changed little in decades, and you can still find a “classic”-style model for a reasonable price. But, if you’re looking for a more connected experience, look at smart rowers like the Hydrow Wave or the Peloton Row. These offer touchscreens with built-in apps that connect you to professional trainers who can motivate and work with you to better achieve your personal goals. The rowing machines with these features are, of course, more expensive upfront. But, know that many also require ongoing monthly subscriptions to take full advantage of those “smart” connected features.

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Different Types of Indoor Rowing Machines

You'll encounter a variety of resistance systems when shopping for rowing machines, each of which offers a different feel and unique advantages.

Magnetic

Magnetic rowers use magnets and a flywheel to create resistance and provide a smooth, consistent level of challenge, regardless of your rowing intensity. It's a popular choice for those who appreciate steady resistance during their workouts.

Air

Air-powered rowers are equipped with a flywheel that features a fan. When you pull the handles, the fan spins and draws in air. The resistance increases as you exert more force and row faster, making it an excellent choice for those seeking a dynamic and challenging workout.

Water

Water-based rowing machines feature a water tank with paddles inside. This design closely mimics the sensation of rowing on actual water, providing a smooth and fluid rowing experience. Similar to air rowers, water rowers offer increased resistance as you row with more intensity, making them a great choice for those who want a lifelike rowing experience.

Hydraulic

Hydraulic rowers employ an internal mechanism that utilizes hydraulic pistons to regulate resistance. These machines tend to be more budget-friendly, but may not deliver the same smoothness of motion as other options.

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How to Use an Indoor Rowing Machine

Our fitness experts love indoor machines for a ton of reasons. But the biggest one is how easy and accessible they are for enthusiasts of any fitness level. Seriously, there’s not much more to using one than simply sitting down and pulling—rinse and repeat. But like any workout machine, there is a right way and a wrong way. The best way to not only maximize your performance and rowing gains but also to avoid injury is to practice good form.

Start by sitting squarely on the seat with your tailbone pointing directly into the middle. Follow your rowing stroke through each of these four phases, paying careful attention to your posture and form:

The Catch

To start, your shins should be perpendicular to the floor (i.e., vertical). Extend your arms fully—with a focus on your triceps—and grab the rower’s handle. Be mindful of your core, and slightly lean your torso forward.

The Drive

While keeping your arms straight, power through the Drive phase with your leg muscles, pushing your body (and the seat) smoothly away from the footplates. Finish by pulling the handle into your abdomen and leaning back.

The Finish

Despite the name, you’re not quite “finished.” In this phase, your elbows should be bent and the handle tucked into the lower part of your chest. Use your core to stabilize your torso, keeping a slight angle toward the rowing machine.

The Recovery

Be mindful of your form while returning to the starting position in this phase. Straighten your arms by using your triceps. Slightly lean your torso forward. Bend your legs and smoothly slide your butt and the seat down the rail of the rowing machine.

Once back in the starting position, repeat the next stroke by beginning with the Drive phase again.

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Why Buy an Indoor Rowing Machine?

Rowing is a near-perfect exercise, and a good indoor rowing machine promises a low-impact, full-body workout with the convenience of a single device. “Since rowing promotes improvements to both your muscular strength and cardiovascular strength, you get two for one,” says Tuttle. She outlines four specific reasons why you should buy a rowing machine:

Rowing is a Great Warmup

“A proper warmup is key to having a successful workout; it should prepare your heart, muscles, joints, and mind for the harder efforts to come.” Because it’s so low-impact, it’s a great slow warm-up, even if rowing isn’t your ultimate program goal on a given day.

Rowing Adds Variety

Because rowing is significantly lower impact than most high-intensity exercises like running, it’s far easier to recover between workouts. Ideally, a rowing machine will help add variety to your workout days.

A Good Row Can Be Pure Zen

Because indoor rowing involves fewer external stimuli than outdoor activities, it can be extremely meditative. Tuttle agrees: “Once warm and a comfortable rhythm has been established, you can close your eyes, connect your breath to your body, and simply enjoy the gift of movement.”

Rowing is a Great Finisher

Hardcore workout sessions often involve an explosive finish. Hopping on your rowing machine near the end of your routine is a great way to cap things off. “It's hard to pass up a good 5- to 10-minute long EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute) row 100 to 200 meters, depending upon your fitness and skill level,” says Tuttle. “Each effort should be about 90 percent max intensity and your goal is to finish with 20 seconds or more to recover before the top of the next minute.”

So, the better question is: Why shouldn’t you buy a rowing machine? The best rowing machines add incredible versatility and productivity to any existing at-home gym setup. But, if you’re short on space or budget, and are looking to invest in just one piece of workout equipment, consider an indoor rowing machine.

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Why It’s Worth Investing in a Rowing Machine

With most modern workout equipment, you get what you pay for. That’s why, as with all home gym equipment, we recommend investing in the best rowing machine you can afford. That’s doubly true if you’re planning to keep your new rowing machine for years to come. The most affordable rowers are rarely the most durable. So, while buying a $200-$300 model might save you money now, you’ll spend more in the long run if you’re forced to shell out another $300 or so when that “bargain” rower craps out on you in a year or so.

On the flip side, the very best rowing machines are built to last for a decade or more. The best part is that they require little maintenance—not much more than routine oiling and changing a battery or two to keep the machine’s computer(s) going. If you think you’ll be in the indoor rowing “game” for the foreseeable future, consider your new rowing machine an investment that will pay for itself over time.

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Is an Exercise Bike or Rowing Machine Best for Me?

If a low-impact cardio machine is what you're looking for, it's true that indoor bikes and rowers can both be suitable options. The best choice for you? Well, it all comes down to your goals.

The rowing machine provides a full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups. However, it requires a technique and coordination to avoid injury and that can be less intuitive for some users compared to using an exercise bike. Rowers also take up more space and can be noisy.

On the other hand, stationary bikes can provide a great cardio workout, are more adjustable (seat heat, handlebars, etc.) and are easy to use. But biking primarily focuses on lower body muscles, and may not challenge the upper body or coordination as effectively as a rowing machine.

Both indoor bikes and rowers can work well as low-impact cardio options in your home gym – but they don’t exactly challenge your body in the same way. What’s the best option for you? It comes down to your goals and your fitness level.

In general, says Samuel, the rower will be the more advanced cardio option. According to him, the rower delivers a more “well-rounded” workout. It also directly challenges your midback muscles, lower back muscles, and glutes.

“These are all key postural muscles,” Samuel told us, “so you’re getting extra benefits out of the rower.”

The downside: Rowing also requires more technique, so there’s a higher learning curve to dominating on the rower.

The stationary bike, meanwhile, will requires less technique and coordination, and is easier to learn. It won’t tap into all the postural muscles that the rower does, but it’ll hammer quads, glutes and hamstrings well, especially if you really push your limits. One added benefit: Most stationary bikes are far quieter than your rower, making the bike a terrific choice for a relaxed Zone 2 cardio session paired with Netflix.

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How to Avoid Getting Injured Using a Rowing Machine

The best way to avoid getting injured on the rower is to master proper technique, according to Samuel. You'll want to tighten your abs before each pull, and aim to let your legs drive the motion. He recommends working hard not to lean back too aggressively as you finish each row stroke; think of your torso shifting between a 10 o'clock angle and 2 o'clock as you row. Anything more than that isn't beneficial.

Additionally, start every row workout with a brief warmup. This doesn't need to take long, but before you start pulling to the max during any workout, spend at least a minute doing slower, controlled pulls through the full range of your rowing motion, driving blood flow and gradually elevating your heart rate. That'll get you primed to row your best.

Finally, make sure there's plenty of room on every side of the rower. Having three feet of space on either side of the rower will allow you to comfortably pull your arms backward even if you elbows flare. You'll want 5 to 7 feet behind the rower, giving you room to shift your torso backwards on every stride. And keep a few feet in front of the rower too; especially if you row with power, the entire machine may very well move (if your technique isn't flawless). And remember, if you're rowing hard, your heart rate will climb up there. So, don’t forget a decent cool-down.

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Can You Lose Weight Using a Rowing Machine?

Targeted fat loss has been proven to be virtually impossible. But rowing machines are great for almost every aspect of fitness, including building strength, lowering overall body fat, increasing stamina, and even weight loss. The reason is simple: by burning a ton of calories (putting yourself in a calorie deficit), you can more easily score a negative daily energy balance. Bottom line: you’re consuming fewer calories than you’re burning. Maintaining a calorie deficit over a long period is the guiding principle behind successfully losing weight and keeping it off.

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Why You Can Trust Us

At Men's Health, we take great pride in providing our readers with reliable and trustworthy product recommendations. We believe that our readers deserve the best, which is why we always make sure to conduct thorough research and testing before making any recommendations. Our writers and editors thoughtfully select experts for collaboration on product recommendations, and are also experts in their own right, using their informed opinions to select products and ensuring that our content is of the highest quality.

Our product recommendations are purely editorial, and while we may receive free products to test and review, we only recommend the products we are most impressed by. We never let retailers or public relations contacts dictate our content or product coverage. Which is why you can trust us to provide you with reliable and unbiased product recommendations.

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How We Selected the Best Indoor Rowing Machines

For the past two years, we consulted with Men's Health's Fitness editors and writers on the top rowing machines. Experts including our fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., tested rowing machines from top home gym brands to evaluate their resistance, functionality, and effectiveness. We also considered top-reviewed rowers with at least 100 five-star customer ratings on reputable e-commerce websites that we trust. The final list above represents our carefully considered picks for the best indoor rowing machines of 2024.

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Read More About the Best Home Gym Equipment to Buy Now

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