The best rowing machines for making waves in your home gym

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This content originally appeared on Mashable for a US audience and has been adapted for the UK audience.

Are you looking for a full body workout at home? Or an exercise machine that just doesn’t take up too much space? Either way, a rowing machine is a solid choice.

There are plenty of rowing machines out there — plus, a variety of price points, sizes, and specifications. We’ve done most of the work for you, so we can get you off the computer and onto your rower in no time. You can thank us later when those muscles are bulging.

When it comes to purchasing a rowing machine, there are a lot of factors to consider. Air resistance or magnetic resistance? Water resistance or hydraulic resistance? Hi-tech features or just the basics? Built-in workouts or rowing solo? Fear not, we are here to answer all of your rowing-related questions and steer you in the right direction. 

Why do you need a rowing machine?

Rowing machines give you a full body workout. It’s cardio-heavy but low-impact. That means less stress on your joints or over-worked muscles, and less chance of sustaining an injury. This makes rowing a safe and effective workout for people of all ages, sizes, and abilities.

There’s more — rowing is good as both a warm-up and warm-down, if you’re having an intense or lengthy workout. It also adds variety to the run-of-the-mill weights and jogging routine.

What are the types of rowing machine resistance?

Here’s a bit of jargon you need to know about when buying a rowing machine. Resistance is the thing that makes it hard to pull back those handlebars, and thereby works the muscles. But there are multiple types of resistance, which each have their own plus points and negatives:

Magnetic Resistance — This is the most common type that you’ll find on home gym rowers. It works by placing a strong magnet at a varying distance from the flywheel, which can increase and decrease the resistance. These machines are quieter but don’t necessarily simulate an authentic rowing experience.

Air Resistance — As you pull, the flywheel spins and creates its own air resistance. The harder you row, the tougher the resistance. This simulates the experience of rowing on water — but these machines can be noisier than the magnetic resistance options.

Water Resistance — These use a small tank of water. As you row, the flywheel paddles through the water. Unsurprisingly, this is the closest you get to the real rowing-on-water experience. Once again, the harder you row, the harder the resistance. They make a “swoosh” sound as you go. These tend to be high-quality, high-cost, and generally bigger. They won’t fold away quite so easily — if at all.

Hydraulic Resistance — This is a standard mechanism on low-cost, stripped-down rowing machines. They use pistons, which push against liquid or air to create resistance. It’s not as smooth or robust of a workout as you get with other rowers, but it does the trick if all you want is the basics. These machines are usually smaller and easy to store.

Keep these points in mind when shopping for a rowing machine.

What features do rowing machines offer?

Once you’ve got a type of resistance in mind, the next thing is to look at other spec — specifically the display screen and how tech-savvy it is.

Some will offer basic information, such as distance, calories burned, strokes per minute, and time — while other hi-tech models will offer pre-programmed workouts and Bluetooth connectivity that can hook you up to fitness apps. Ultimately, it’s about how serious you are about rowing, and how much you’re willing to spend.

Other features include the number of resistance levels – around 10 is standard — and whether or not the rower folds up for easy storage.

How much does a rowing machine cost?

That’s the big question, of course. We’ve included models across a range of price points. It’s possible to pick up a rowing machine for under £100. It’s also possible to spend well over £1,000.

For anything above a very basic model, prepare to spend at least a few hundred pounds. But it’s worth the cash if you want a durable, full-body workout machine — and in the comfort of your own home.

What is the best rowing machine?

We have lined up impressive models from top brands like NordicTrack(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab), WaterRower(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab), and XS Sports(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab). Whether you’re just starting out or looking to take your workouts up a notch, we’ve compiled a list of the top rowing machines for everyone.

These are the best rowing machines in 2023.

Best For Storage


  • Folding: Yes
  • Resistance Levels: 10
  • Resistance Type: Magnets
  • Size: 180L x 52W x 49H cm

The JLL R200(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab) rowing machine is packed full of features to help you work out, with 10 levels of resistance so you make increasing progress as you get fitter and stronger.

It offers an easy sliding mechanism, with wheels fitted to the underside of the seat. This ensures a smooth rowing experience. It’s also equipped with a comfortable padded seat, so you can keep rowing for longer — totally pain-free in the posterior.

A magnet is positioned close to the flywheel and can be adjusted with the easy to reach dial. It also folds upright so storage is straightforward. The machine is held in position with a simple spring-loaded knob so you can set it up and get rowing in seconds.

Best For Durability


  • Folding: Yes
  • Resistance Type: Magnetic
  • Resistance Levels: 10
  • Size: 181L x 50W x 48H cm

The XS Sports R310(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab) rowing machine is made from heavy duty materials and can be conveniently folded away to save on space and keep your home organised.

Durability is a priority with this machine, and it features a powder coated frame designed to withstand the test of time. It’s a sturdy model that won’t let you down. In the rare case that it does, you can rely on its reassuring 12-month warranty.

The R310 features an advanced LCD display to provide you with real-time information, including feedback on calories burned, time, strokes per minute, and total row count. It features 10 levels of magnetic resistance, with a four kilogram inner magnetic flywheel for a powerful rowing experience.

Best For Resistance Control


  • Folding: Yes
  • Resistance Levels: 10
  • Resistance Type: Air
  • Size: ‎214L x 54W x 115H cm

JLL knows its stuff when it comes to well-made rowing machines.

The JLL Ventus 2(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab) technically has two types of resistance: magnetic and air resistance. While its magnetic resistance system offers 10 levels for you to master, it’s the air resistance that sets it apart. The harder you row, the more air gets sucked in and tougher the resistance becomes. That means the power is very much in your hands.

It’s made for a stable, smooth, and natural experience, with the comfortable and ergonomically designed oversized seat and soft touch handle.

There’s an LCD display for all your rowing vitals — speed, times, resistance, distance and calories burned. And when it’s not in use, it easily folds away to save on space.

Best For Style


  • Folding: No
  • Resistance Levels: N/A
  • Resistance Type: Water
  • Size: 209L x 57W x 51H cm

The WaterRower Oxbridge(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab) rowing machine harnesses the power of water to bring you a more organic rowing experience. 

The patented water flywheel utilises the same physical elements and dynamics that occur when a boat moves through water. Unlike other rowers on this list, the water wheel makes its resistance self-regulating, so there’s no need for artificial adjustment.

It’s made from solid cherry wood, which offers longevity and dimensional stability. It also absorbs sound and vibration to enhance the smoothness of the machine.

The display monitor is compatible with WaterRower’s We-Row app, so you store training data, race online against others, or try to beat your previous record. 

Best For Tight Budgets

Credit: Sunny Health & Fitness


  • Folding: No
  • Resistance Levels: 12
  • Resistance Type: Hydraulic
  • Size: 137L x 51W x 59H cm

You don’t always need the bells and whistles. Or maybe you want to give this rowing lark a rudimentary test-run before you commit to a high-end machine. Either way, the Sunny Health & Fitness rower(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab) is a good choice — a no-fuss model at a budget price.

It’s powered by a hydraulic cylinder resistance and slide rail system, with an impressive 12 levels to work your way through. 

Though it’s not much to look at, it’s surprisingly comfortable, with a wide padded seat, pivoting foot pedals, and cushioned non-slip handlebars. There’s even a basic digital display, just don’t expect a personalised workout. But as an overall workout, you’ll get just as much from this rower as a hi-tech model.

Best For Interactive Training


  • Folding : Yes
  • Resistance Levels: 26
  • Resistance Type: Magnetic
  • Size: ‎208L x 56W 137H cm

The NordicTrack RW900(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab) doesn’t only bring the tech but also the motivation.

As with other NordicTrack machines, it connects with the iFit app. The downside is that there’s a monthly subscription, but this machine comes with a free 30-day trial.

You have access to thousands of workout programmes and training sessions with world-renowned coaches. Classes play out on a 22-inch touchscreen, which also displays key stats and real-time feedback, while coaches can take control of resistance levels, forcing you to work harder — or giving you some much needed respite.

Top-class coaching aside, the NordicTrack RW900 is a highly sophisticated rower in its own right, with 26 resistance levels — all completely silent thanks to the magnetic system — plus an inertia enhanced-flywheel, roomy pivoting pedals and adjustable foot straps.

Best For App


  • Folding: Yes
  • Resistance Levels: N/A
  • Resistance Type: Air
  • Size: 120L x 26W x 66H cm

The Fit4home Air Rowing Machine(Opens in a new window)(opens in a new tab) is relatively basic model, though it steps things up a notch by connecting to the FitShow app. This allows you to track progress and key stats in your smart device, giving you a means of focusing and measuring fitness goals.

It’s built for comfort, with a padded leather seat and generously sized foot pedals. The rowing action works via a smooth slider mechanism. It’s one of the few rowers on this list to use air resistance. That means there are no levels to work through. Instead, it responds to your performance. The harder you work the tougher the rowing action is.

The large LCD display shows you distance, speed, and calories burned, though some reviewers have complained that the display isn’t up to much. That means connecting to the app is the best option with this rowing machine.

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Matt Ford is a freelance contributor to Mashable.

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