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The top 8 rowing machines, according to fitness experts

These top rowing machines are loaded with features and excellent for every age and skill level.
These at-home rowers from NordicTrack, Concept2, Echelon and more are loaded with features and great for overall conditioning.
These at-home rowers from NordicTrack, Concept2, Echelon and more are loaded with features and great for overall conditioning.Hydrow

If your goal is to get a low-impact, full-body workout for any age, then you may want to try using an indoor rower – a fitness machine that simulates the action of watercraft rowing and is increasingly becoming an at-home gym staple. “[Rowing offers] fantastic cardiovascular fitness that trains nearly every muscle group in your body,” said Yasmin Farooq, a women’s rowing coach at the University of Washington. She added that rowing, also called erging, is “second only to cross-country skiing for cardiovascular fitness.”

SKIP AHEAD Top-rated rowers and rowing machines | Benefits of a rowing machine | The best rower for you

Rowing may be more niche than other fitness activities, but it's growing at a fast rate. The global rowing machines market is expected to reach just over $2 billion by 2029, up from $1.47 billion in 2021, according to a recent report by Data Bridge Market Research. The reason, say Data Bridge analysts, is twofold: More people are focusing on their well-being and health, and the pervasiveness of obesity and heart disease worldwide is heightening the demand for strength, endurance and cardiovascular equipment.

But Farooq points to another reason for the uptick: “So many people embraced erging as a means of exercise during quarantine,” she said. “A lot of people stuck with it and then joined actual rowing clubs when the world reopened for business.” She added that rowing as a sport is also growing worldwide, thanks to grassroots programs, the emergence of coastal rowing and the availability of college scholarships for both men and women.

If you're looking to add a rower to your home gym setup, we’ve collected expert-recommended and top-rated rowers across multiple budgets. Find our recommendations below, alongside advice on how to find the right erg for you.

Top-rated rowers and rowing machines

To help you find the best rower for your needs, we asked fitness experts which rowers they recommend alongside some top-rated options online. We considered a wide variety of factors, such as price, storability, resistance options and adjustability.

Concept2 RowErg Rowing Machine

Farooq loves the Concept2 for its quality and dependability and says it’s one of the primary models used in the collegiate and Olympic rowing world. This rower has a performance monitor that connects via Bluetooth to many apps, including the company’s free app, ErgData. There’s also a device holder included. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles of some other rowers on the list and it can be loud due to the erg fan, says Farooq, but it can provide a functional, no-frills workout. The rower comes in two versions: standard and tall legs. It has adjustable footrests and can be stored vertically, according to the brand. The Concept2 is powered by two D-cell batteries — the spinning flywheel creates power to extend the battery life.

Echelon Smart Rower

This smart rower is highly adjustable. The machine has 32 resistance levels that can be cycled through from the handlebars. The screen holder can rotate 180 degrees, meaning you can incorporate dumbbell or kettlebell floor exercises into your erg workout. Users get one month’s free access to Echelon’s fitness subscription, which includes dozens of rowing workouts and a library of classes, including boxing, pilates, yoga and more. Subscriptions cost $40 per month after that.

This rower must be plugged into a wall outlet to operate. It's also foldable, with built-in wheels, making it easier to store, according to Echelon. More affordable than other smart rowers, the Echelon Smart Rower is a good option for those who aren’t looking to splurge.

The Ergatta Rower

Unlike more basic rowers, the more-premium Ergatta Rower uses water in its wheel. This results in a smoother, quieter ride that’s more similar to rowing on the water, according to the brand. Reviewers particularly loved the Ergatta’s fitness challenges and gamification of workouts. With purchase, you’ll get access to interval and HIIT workouts, goal-based sweat sessions and individual races via Ergatta’s app ($29 per month). Users can also join competitions and group challenges with other Ergatta rowers.

It’s not Bluetooth enabled but will connect to Wi-Fi. This rower also needs to be plugged into a wall outlet. If you aren’t quite sure if you’re ready to commit to this pricier rower, Ergatta offers a 30-day free trial with free returns.

Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine

This rower from Sunny Health & Fitness is water-based but doesn’t cost a fortune. It has a basic display that tracks workout metrics like stroke, calories burned and more, but it's not capable of doing classes or advanced tracking The seat is high profile, which some users may find easier to get on and off of, according to the brand. Like most ergs, it has built-in wheels for easier storage. On Amazon, the Obsidian Surge 500 has an average rating of 4.3-stars from over 2,700 global reviews.

Hydrow Rower

The Hydrow Rower is high-tech. The large, high-definition screen gives you the illusion that you’re not in your living room as you ride, said Farooq. Its Bluetooth-enabled, meaning you can sync it to other workout devices like your smartwatch or fitness tracker. If you pay for the $38 a month membership, you can use Hydrow’s library of interactive workouts, live classes and rowing landscapes. Similar to the Echelon, the Hydrow Rower’s screen can swivel around and be used for other types of exercises. Like other smart rowers, the Hydrow must be plugged into a wall to use.

If you like the Hydrow’s high-tech style but don’t have a lot of space, Farooq suggests considering Hydrow’s new, smaller machine: the Hydrow Wave. It has many of the same features, but takes up significantly less space, according to the brand.

WaterRower A1 Studio Rowing Machine with A1 Monitor

Aesthetics are an important factor to consider when buying a rowing machine, says Farooq, especially if it’s set up in your living space. The WaterRower A1 is a good option for anyone seeking a more natural erg. It is made with verified sustainable hardwoods, a water flywheel, and minimal, space-saving design, according to the brand. Unlike most options on this list, the Water Rower doesn’t use power of any kind — it uses the natural resistance of the water instead. Note that that does make it less adjustable than other ergs on the market.

NordicTrack RW600 Rowing Machine

This rower is highly adjustable, features a built-in touchscreen display and comes with a free-trail iFit membership, making it a good all-in-one package out of the box. The rower has 26 levels of resistance and an “air resistance” element that blows air as you row. It’s also Bluetooth-compatible with headphones, meaning you can connect your favorite wireless earbuds to listen to iFit workouts or trainers.

Fitness Reality 1000 Magnetic Rower

If you want to try rowing on a budget, this basic erg from Fitness Reality is a good option for beginners. It has an adjustable seat, handlebar and footpads, and folds easily for storage, according to the brand. Instead of a smart display, you can use the My Cloud Fitness App for basic workouts and metrics. It does not have more premium features like a smart display or water flywheel, but costs much less as a result. On Amazon, the Fitness Reality 1000 Magnetic Rower has an average rating of 4.5 stars from over 7,200 global reviews.

Rowing machine benefits

According to Farooq, nearly everyone can benefit from a rower. “Because the erg (or rower) is non-weight-bearing, it’s great on your joints,” she said. “People of every age can row, and you can adjust the resistance on most machines to get the workout you want. Erging is a full-body workout that helps develop leg, core and upper-body strength and can even aid in rehabbing a back or knee injury.”

Brad McLam, director of sales operations at SPS Fitness, agreed. “Indoor rowers can give a really good workout for areas of the body that are very difficult to train in other ways,” he said.

There are advantages to owning an indoor rower over other cardio machines, Farooq pointed out. For one, rowers don’t take up much space — most are about 9 feet tall by 4 feet wide. “Most of them can be wheeled around and stored upright,” she said. According to McLam, rowers are also typically quieter than other machines, “so if you live on the second floor of a duplex apartment, your neighbor might appreciate the fact that you bought a rower instead,” he said.

How to determine the best rower for you

Whether you’re new to erging or are a longtime rower, here’s what you need to know about rowers and what experts say you should consider before purchasing one.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to find a good indoor rower. “Smart” models with live classes, exercise tracking and virtual simulations will cost you extra. If you’re new to rowing, it may be smart to stick to a cheaper model or one with less features, said McLam.

Pay particular attention to how a rower will fit into your existing space. If you want to store your rower, find one that can easily be tilted upwards and stored vertically. Some models use a chargeable battery pack, while others plug into the wall — check your outlet access before making a purchase.

Consider the types of workout you want to get out of your rower, said Farooq. Do you want to casually row a couple times a week? Do you want to row with others in a live class? Or maybe you want to combine rowing with strength exercises? Different models will have different features that appeal to all types of rowers.

McLam recommended trying before you buy through a gym or free trial offer, especially if you’re new to rowing. Make sure the seat is comfortable and the rowing motion feels smooth, he said. “I cannot stress enough though that each person may prefer different exercises based on their body type, size, age, fitness level and experience,” McLam said.

Meet the experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

Yasmin Farooq is an American rowing cox and the head coach of the University of Washington women's rowing team.

Brian McLam is the director of sales operations at the fitness and rehab equipment retailer SPS Fitness.

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