Products featured are independently selected by our editorial team and we may earn a commission from purchases made from our links; the retailer may also receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.
There are few workout options that really work your entire body all at once. Running, swimming, and elliptical are the big ones, but rowing is often overlooked. Truth is, it’s one the best all-around activities you can do for full-body fitness and strength, and an excellent low-impact option for those with joint pain who don’t want the pounding that comes with running, or the pressure of being on your feet while getting fit.
There’s no prior training involved, no age or height requirements, and you’re usually able to be in charge of the difficulty setting – letting you work your way up at your own pace. Not only can rowing Increase your metabolism, burn calories and fat more efficiently (not to mention improve your cardiovascular health), you’ll quickly find that it builds a strong back too, while utilizing all your major muscle groups.
Maybe best of all: a rowing machine in your house means no more excuses for not going to the gym.
What Are the Different Types of Rowing Machines?
While the most popular rowing machines may all look similar, it’s the little features that can make a big difference. If you’re constantly connected to your FitBit or fitness app and want to sync it up to your rower, then getting one with Bluetooth compatibility is a must. Also consider that if you live in a small space with others, you’ll want one that can easily fold up for storage, and is fairly quiet, so as to not disturb your housemate when you start that 6am workout every day.
The type of workout you want to do matters too. If you’re looking for more strength and resistance training, a rower that utilizes a belt system might be the way to go. Other users, who are seeking more of a cardiovascular exercise experience, will be just fine using a magnetic-based rower. The best rowing machines all offer adjustable resistance, so you can customize the intensity of your workout, to focus on your arms, core, legs, glute or get a full-body row in.
We’ve also rounded up options with comfortable seats, grippy, easy-to-hold handles, and foot pads that support your feet while rowing.
Ready to hit the rowing machine? These options here will help get you started finding the right rower to crush your fitness goals.
1. Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rower
The Fitness Reality 1000 magnetic rower goes far beyond just a rowing machine. The extra-wide foam handlebar and front stabilizer foot pads give you the option for lots of additional exercises, like curls, upright rows, bent over rows, front raises, shrugs, triceps extensions, standing shoulder presses and more. The contoured seat keeps you comfortable and able to go long, while the thick nylon cable means less jerking and snapping as you row.
And since our devices are basically an appendage of us now too, they can be included in your workout as well. This is the only rower out there with Bluetooth connectivity available, and includes a free download of the My Cloud Fitness app to track things like distance, strokes per minute and calories burned. Even if you’d prefer not to connect, the bright 3.5″ LED screen will tell you your stats in real time.
This is also a great choice for those living with others in small spaces, as it’s near silent when in use and folds up easily for storage after you’re finished.
Note: While there’s a wide range of resistance settings (1-14), some experienced users say that even at the highest difficulty, it’s still way too easy.
2. Stamina Conversion II Exercise Bike Rower
Can’t decide between a rowing machine or stationary bike? Why not both?
The Conversion offers the best of each in one convenient machine. Whether you’re pulling or pedaling, you’re in control of the difficulty setting. Get your cardio going with one, then switch right over to the other, without ever needing to leave the comfortable padded seat.
The handlebars feature a built-in heart pulse sensor, and the seatback’s semi-reclined position focuses your workout on all the major muscles in your hips, thighs, and buttocks. There’s even the ability to include additional upper and lower body strengthening exercises using the resistance and rowing handles.
Assembly is fairly easy, and it’s an overall ideal option for when you can’t make it to the gym.
3. MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine
The harder you pull, the more resistance you get. While that sounds like a folksy old adage about life, it more specifically applies to this MaxKare Rower.
The biggest user complaint with rowing machines is that they don’t offer enough resistance – not a problem with this one. The MaxKare Magnetic Rower features 16 levels of resistance for every type of workout, from a gentle row to fast-paced cardio that really gets your heart-rate up.
The digital screen keeps track of count, time, calories, and distance while an ergonomic seat and foam hand grips keeps things comfortable.
Sturdy and lightweight and super simple to set up, this rowing machine also folds for storage and is easily moveable.