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At-home fitness equipment is undoubtedly having a moment, and we're here for it. Lots of folks are investing in stationary bikes and Pilates reformers, but if you want a head-to-toe workout and through-the-roof calorie burn, you might want to consider a rowing machine. Designed to mimic the motions of rowing an actual boat, it engages muscles throughout your entire body while calling on your heart and lungs to keep up the momentum.
"Rowing machines are an excellent form of low-impact cardio," says Beverly Hills-based physical therapist Cindy Glaser. This means the motions are easy on your joints while still pumping up your heart rate and torching fat. "They are a great full-body workout that utilizes the majority of your major muscle groups," she adds.
Scroll down for the best rowing machines available today, and get ready to elevate your fitness game.
Best Overall: NordicTrack RW600 Rowing Machine
One-year membership included
Suitable for all fitness levels
Not ideal for small spaces
The NordicTrack RW600 comes highly recommended by Dr. Glaser, and we can see why. This sleek rowing machine has a 10-inch smart touchscreen, which leads you through studio classes, global workouts, and training sessions from world-class coaches.
With 26 resistance levels to choose from, it's great for beginners and advanced rowers alike. While it's undoubtedly an investment, the RW600 comes at a reasonable price compared to other high-end models. Plus, you'll get a one-year iFit membership with your purchase.
Size: 87 x 22 x 47 inches | Features: 26 resistance levels, smart touchscreen, amplified speakers, auxiliary port | Warranty: 10 years
Best Budget: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine
Good for small spaces
Low weight capacity
For something a little easier on your bank account, Dr. Glaser suggests the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205. Measuring 54 x 20 x 23 inches, this compact rowing machine boasts an ergonomic design, adjustable pedal straps, comfy foam handlebars, 12 resistance levels, and a digital monitor. Plus, the aforementioned ergonomic design keeps you comfortable while you row off the calories.
Size: 54 x 20 x 23 inches | Features: Digital monitor, 12 resistance levels | Warranty: One year
Best Splurge: CityRow Go Max
Easy to maneuver
Innovative resistance technology
Suitable for all fitness levels
If you can swing the price tag, you really can't go wrong with the CityRow Go Max. This high-tech water rower uses innovative resistance technology to provide a full-body burn.
What's more, your subscription includes unlimited fitness classes, which you can access through the built-in touchscreen or a mobile device. We also appreciate that it has high-fidelity speakers for crystal-clear sound.
Size: 83 x 22 x 20 inches | Features: Touchscreen, high-fidelity speakers | Warranty: Five years
What Our Editors Say
"This is the lightest rower I've ever used—I'm fairly petite and can move it all by myself (it also folds up so you can stow it away). This machine is perfect for beginners, too—every single streamable class offers a variety of variations and modifications, and there are plenty of '101' style classes that have an emphasis on teaching you the proper form to maximize your workout and minimize the chance for injury." — Holly Rhue, senior editor
Best Smart: Echelon Row Connected Rowing Machine
Live and on-demand classes
If you're all about smart home gadgets, you'll appreciate the Echelon Row. When you sync it to the app through Bluetooth, you'll have access to live and on-demand workouts, scenic rides, and training sessions.
Though a paid membership is required, you might find it's well worth the price, considering the wide range of classes. We also like that it has a 22-inch rotating screen, dual audio jacks, and Wi-Fi-enhanced antennas.
Size: 84.6 x 20.4 inches | Features: Rotating HD screen, Bluetooth connectivity, WiFi-enhanced antennas, dual audio jacks | Warranty: One year
Best for Beginners: Circuit Fitness Deluxe Foldable Magnetic Rowing Machine
Not ideal for small spaces
New to the world of rowing? No sweat. The Deluxe Magnetic Rowing Machine is designed to accommodate people of all experience levels—yep, even beginners.
You can choose from eight resistance modes and work your way up as you build strength and stamina. At 91 inches long, it may not be ideal for small spaces, but the foldable design and front wheels make it easy to store.
Size: 91 x 20.5 x 31.5 inches | Features: Injection-molded seat, digital display, eight resistance levels | Warranty: Two years
Best for Advanced Rowers: Concept2 RowERG Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor
Good for advanced rowers
Easy to transport
Whether you rowed crew in college, compete in tournaments, or use a rowing machine at the gym, the standard-size Concept2 RowERG might be right up your alley.
With a stainless steel track and an I-beam monorail, it offers high-intensity, low-impact workouts for serious athletes and experienced rowers. This thoughtfully designed rowing machine also has an ergonomic handle, a smartphone mount, and caster wheels for easy transport and storage.
Size: 96 x 24 x 33 inches | Features: Ergonomic handle, smartphone mount, caster wheels | Warranty: Five years
Best for Small Spaces: Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1060 Rower
Low weight capacity
If you're working with limited square footage, we recommend the Stamina BodyTrac Glider. Measuring just 49 inches long and 36 inches wide, it takes up minimal floor space.
But what it lacks in size, this rowing machine makes up for in its design. It's got a molded seat, full-motion arms, a ball-bearing roller system, multiple resistance levels, and a digital monitor.
Size: 49 x 36 x 20 inches | Features: Molded seat, full-motion arms, digital monitor | Warranty: One year
Best Design: XTerra ERG600W Water Rowing Machine
We're also loving the XTerra ERG600W. Designed to mimic the feel and sound of rowing out in nature, this premium water rower has a multi-bladed impeller system to provide smooth movements and a uniform stroke with every rep.
We also like that it has a large contoured seat, an ergonomic handle, an LCD console, and six resistance levels, which you adjust by putting different amounts of water in the tank. And the foldable design makes it super easy to store and transport.
Size: 80.7 x 22 x 33 inches | Features: Ergonomic handle, contoured seat, six resistance levels | Warranty: Five years
Best Foldable: Marcy Foldable Turbine Rower
Suitable for all fitness levels
Measuring 85 inches long, the Marcy Turbine Rower is almost a full-sized rowing machine. But when you want to stash it or take it on the go, you can count on the foldable design and built-in wheels to make your life easy.
This durable steel rower has a comfy padded seat, a non-slip foam handle, and adjustable foot straps. With eight resistance levels and a digital display, you can create a customized full-body workout.
Size: 85 x 20.5 x 36.25 inches | Features: Wheels, digital display, eight resistance levels | Warranty: 30 days
Best Water: HouseFit Skyline Aqua Water Rower Rowing Machine
Stainless steel slide rail
The Skyline Aqua offers six levels of resistance, which you adjust by filling up the water tank. Featuring a stainless steel slide rail and floor stabilizers, you can bet it offers a smooth, ultra-sturdy ride.
We also like that this rowing machine has a tablet mount for streaming your workout of choice, plus an LCD display that shows your time, reps, and calorie burn.
Size: 64.5 x 21.5 x 31.5 inches | Features: Six resistance levels, LCD display, tablet mount, ergonomic seat | Warranty: Not listed
Best Wood: Mr. Captain Water Rowing Machine for Home Use
Solid wood construction
Easy to store
Warranty not included
Reminiscent of an old-fashioned sled, Mr. Captain's solid wood rower is a sight for sore eyes. This aesthetically pleasing rowing machine uses water for resistance to deliver an authentic experience.
Not only that, but you can sync it to the FitShow mobile app through Bluetooth to set goals and track your progress. At 84 inches long, it's generously sized but not exceedingly large and still easy to store, thanks to the built-in wheels.
Size: 84 x 20 x 22 inches | Features: Ergonomic seat, Bluetooth connectivity, mobile app, built-in wheels | Warranty: Not included
Our number one pick is the NordicTrack RW600 Rowing Machine. With a sleek design, 26 resistance levels, a large touchscreen, and unlimited access to the iFit world of streaming fitness, it sails past the competition. However, if you want something smaller or more budget-friendly, your best bet is the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine, which has 12 resistance levels and a digital monitor.
What to Look for in a Rowing Machine
There are a few main kinds of rowing machines you can buy, including water, magnetic, and hydraulic. Water rowers offer adjustable resistance through a water tank, whereas magnetic machines call on strong magnets and a spinning flywheel. With a hydraulic rowing machine, you pull against an air-filled cylinder.
When shopping around for a rowing machine, you'll want to consider the size as well. Standard models are roughly 96 inches (8 feet) long, though at-home machines are often shorter. Be sure to measure your space before ordering a rower and consider getting a fold-up option if you're short on square footage.
Most rowing machines on the market today have some type of screen, though they vary drastically. At a minimum, you'll get a digital display showing the resistance level and metrics like your distance, speed, reps, and calorie burn. Fancier models have large screens (sometimes touchscreens), which often connect to a mobile app and offer on-demand rowing classes with HD imagery.
How do you use a rowing machine?
Start by sitting on the seat with your knees bent and your feet strapped securely in the pedals. Hold the handle (oar) with your arms extended straight out in front of you, then pivot forward so your weight is in the balls of your feet. Next, simultaneously push your legs straight and pull back with your arms, then release back to the starting position. That's one rep.
What muscles does a rowing machine work?
According to Dr. Glaser, a rowing machine engages muscles throughout your arms, shoulders, and back, including your biceps, deltoids, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, and middle and lower trapezius. You can count on a solid core workout, too, as the movements work your deep abdominal muscles and back stabilizers. Not only that, but rowing engages muscles throughout your lower body, including your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. "It's pretty crazy just how full-body the rowing machine is," says Dr. Glaser.
How many calories does a rowing machine burn?
While it depends on a few factors—like resistance, speed, and body weight—the average person can burn at least 250 calories during a vigorous 30-minute workout on a rowing machine. Some people might be able to burn between 300 and 400 calories in that time.
Why Trust Byrdie
Theresa Holland is a Portland-based freelance writer with a background in fitness. For this roundup, she spoke with a physical therapist and fitness instructor, evaluated dozens of models from various manufacturers and retailers, pored over user reviews, and researched key features (type, size, weight capacity, screen, and streaming options) before making her final selections. Theresa has been contributing to Byrdie since 2020, where she covers exercise equipment, workout attire, and cosmetics.
Meet the Expert
Cindy Glaser PT, DPT, OCS, NCPT, is a doctor of physical therapy, an orthopedic clinical specialist, and a nationally certified Pilates instructor. She is the owner of Strength Unleashed, a physical therapy practice based in Beverly Hills, California.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any rowing machines from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
Carey, Daniel G. (2009). Quantifying Differences in the “Fat Burning” Zone and the Aerobic Zone: Implications For Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 23 (7): 2090-2095.
Calories burned in 30 minutes of leisure and routine activities. Harvard Health.