Best rowing machine 2023: Jump Menu
00. The list in brief ↴
01. Best overall: Ergatta Rower
02. Best premium: Technogym Skillrow
03. Best affordable: Echelon Smart Rower
04. Best water rower: WaterRower Rowing Machine
05. Best for beginners: Reebok Nano X2
06. Best compact: Hydrow Wave
07. Best Peloton alternative: Hydrow Indoor Row
08. Best performance: JXT Air Freedom Rowing Machine
09. Best value: Proform R600
10. Best foldable: JLL R200 Rowing Machine
11. How to buy the best rowing machine
The best rowing machine might not be the cheapest home gym equipment, but it's an investment in health and therefore is well justified. Indoor rowers are the perfect tools to get a full-body workout at home, not to mention their ability to improve cardio performance, help you lose weight and make you more resilient overall. In fact, very few pieces of fitness kit deliver a workout quite like the humble rowing machine.
If you've got the space to stash one at home (or in a garage), it could be your best home gym buddy as you work to get in shape for those sunnier days. Speaking of home gyms: discover all the best exercise bikes, best treadmills (or best foldable treadmills, should you not have an awful lot of space at home) and best elliptical options in our dedicated buying guides.
As someone who spends 95% of their time in the gym doing weightlifting and conditioning, my bum has sat on a lot of rowing machines. It's a fantastic piece of cardio equipment that provides a full-body workout; its low-impact, but is great for building stamina and strength. The main things you should be thinking about before making your purchase is the type of resistance you want (water, magnetic or air) as this can affect noise levels, stroke ease and price.
T3's Top 3
From the best rowing machine overall, to the best premium pick and affordable options, here's a quick rundown of the top three workout shoes 2023, followed by more in-depth analysis of a fuller list for those who want a deep-dive with additional context on a per-device basis.
Best overall rowing machine
The Ergatta Rower packs a lot of value into a surprisingly stowable package and it's one of the best rowing machines we've tested to date. Whether you want to gamify your next cardio routine or simply escape to wayward waterways of the world in a virtual canoe, the Ergatta Rower makes an excellent addition to any home gym.
Best premium rowing machine
The Skillrow is ridiculously high-tech. Its system uses Multidrive Technology, adding additional resistance to the usual air resistance unit, and has some excellent connectivity, including its own clever app.
Best affordable rowing machine
Unlike the offer rowers listed, with the Echelon Smart Rower you use an external display – tablet, smart TV, etc. – as your performance monitor. It's not always perfect, however, we'd still recommend it for people with a tablet or TV and want a quiet indoor rowing machine who don't want to spend loads of money upfront.
Best rowing machines to buy right now
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The Ergatta Rower brings an ergonomic angle of friendly competition to an already dynamic exercise. The price of entry may give you pause, but the more you use the machine, the more value that monthly membership accrues. And with all the digital swagger those leaderboards afford, you’ll feel like the captain of your own ship in no time.
Speaking as a novice rower but seasoned expert in analyzing futuristic fitness tech that arrives at my doorstep, we’d argue the Ergatta Rower packs a lot of value into a surprisingly stowable package, and this is one of the best rowing machines we’ve tested to date. Whether you want to gamify your next cardio routine or simply escape to wayward waterways of the world in a virtual canoe, the cherry-flavoured Ergatta Rower makes an excellent addition to any home gym.
Read our full Ergatta Rower review.
Like much of the products in Technogym's latest range, the Skillrow is ridiculously high-tech, offering the user way more than just a platform to idly row in front of 4Music for an hour. The system uses Multidrive Technology, which basically adds further resistance to the usual air resistance unit, allowing users to switch between training for cardiovascular fitness and back-bulging strength at the twist of a dial.
On top of this, it has some excellent connectivity, including its own clever app that offers a virtual cox to get you through those really punishing sessions. Get several Skillrows in a room, and wheel in a large screen, and an entire class can start competing against one another or rowing in total synchronicity for a more entertaining workout.
Read our full Technogym Skillrow review.
Echelon's Smart Rower is an exciting concept. It's an affordable piece of home gym equipment that helps you save money by getting you to use an external display – tablet, smart TV, etc. – as your performance monitor. It's not perfect, and we would've appreciated it if Echelon included at least a small LED display for basic stats. However, we'd still recommend the Echelon Smart Rower for people with a tablet or Tv they can use with the rower and want a quiet indoor rowing machine to work out with. At least you won't have to spend loads of money upfront.
Read our full Echelon Smart Rower review.
Best water rower
Just take a few moments to admire the beauty of the WaterRower. Fashioned from solid ash and stained honey oak, it is designed to resemble the glorious vessels found spearing down the Thames during the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race. This is more than just a seductive household ornament, though. This cleverly conceived rower features a decidedly moist flywheel that's designed to mimic the feeling of gliding across the watery surface.
Rather than the irksome humming of a fan and clanking of a chain, users are greeted by the sound of rushing water with every stroke. The unique resistance mechanism adapts to the user's input: pull harder, and the resistance increases. It's that simple. The result is a seriously heart-pounding, all-over workout that targets up to nine muscle groups in one fell swoop. A small S4 Performance Monitor comes with the package and displays distance, stroke rate, workout duration and distance without plugging into the mains.
Although not foldable, the relatively clunky unit does feature guide wheels at the rear and is designed to be stored vertically when not in use, although with a body like that, maybe you'll want to show it off to house guests.
Read our full WaterRower review.
Best for beginners
The NordicTrack RW900 rower is great, a beginner-friendly rower for those with a larger budget to spend on home gym equipment. The large touchscreen makes this rower extremely user-friendly, not to mention the automatic resistance system and foldable, space-saver design that's ideal for smaller living spaces.
Thanks to the iFit workout library and live workouts, both amateurs and pros are likely to find at least a few dozens of exercises to follow along. The family membership also allows more than one person to set up a profile and track progress using the single rower alone. If you are happy to spend this much money on a rower, we can wholeheartedly recommend the NordicTrack RW900. It will provide a fun full-body workout and improve fitness and endurance at home.
Read our full NordicTrack RW900 Smart Rower review.
With a plethora of classes in its library and coupled with enthusiastic instructors, rowing on the Hydrow Wave seems far more accessible to beginners than 'normal' rowers. Bad habits can often slip in, and it’s reassuring to have the instructors take time to break down the correct form, so rowers know how to use their legs, arms, back and core for a safer rhythmic workout.
There's very little we don't like about the Hydrow Wave; it’s compact, sturdy and offers more value for money than many of its competitors. If we were to be picky, we would say that from the noise point of view, the wave is not 100 per cent smooth. On odd occasions, it can be noisy, especially when sliding towards the screen. Other than that, we can safely say that the Hydrow Wave is a good investment for those looking to improve their strength training and fitness overall.
Granted, no rowing machine will give you the thrill or the mindfulness of being on the river. But designed to address two of the biggest barriers that prevent people from bringing a rowing machine into their homes - space and cost - the Hydrow Wave has addressed this perfectly.
Read our full Hydrow Wave review.
Best Peloton alternative
Hydrow takes a leaf out of the Peloton book of indoor fitness and offers live or on-demand fitness sessions led by rowing professionals and elite-level athletes. But rather than being stuck in a softly lit studio, these workouts take place in authentic and stunning locations, meaning your mind is transported somewhere nice while you are sweating all over your living room floor.
Powered by a patented electromagnetic resistance system, Hydrow aims to offer a realistic rowing stroke that offers a great level of adjustability to suit different fitness levels. Although not as natural and fluid as a WaterRower, every stroke is designed to mimic rowing on water, although we found Technogym's Skillrow (see below) to offer one of the best pure overall rowing experiences in the game.
High-definition workouts come courtesy of a crisp 22-inch display, which links up with Bluetooth heart rate monitors and wireless headphones. At the same time, built-in speakers are powerful enough to drown out the little noise of an electromagnetic rowing stroke.
Read our full Hydrow Rower review.
With its aluminium construction and nickel-plated steel chain, the JTX Freedom Rowing Machine feels like a sturdy piece of kit. In fact, it has got one of the highest user maximum weight ratings on this list (135 kg, if you're interested), along with primo features, such as a wide padded seat and adjustable footplates.
A built-in computer offers a plethora of rowing read-outs, while the 16 levels of resistance and multiple training programmes ensure there's a workout for all abilities. That said, the overall construction and tough air resistance offered here makes it more suitable for those with a bit of rowing experience rather than someone new to the business, seeing as it tickles the more premium end of the budget spectrum.
With its muscular front legs, oversized air-resistance flywheel and adjustable footplates, the ProForm R600 belies its very reasonable price tag and will look professional stashed in any living room. Designed for home use, this 10-setting indoor rower might not offer the most natural rowing feeling around. Still, a small, AA battery-powered display gives boredom-busting readouts on speed, time, distance, rpm, and an estimated calorie burn. It folds, wheels around, is lightweight, and pitched at a very reasonable price – a top pick for those looking to add a little CV workout to their home routine.
This rower sits very much at the cheaper end of the scale, but unlike lots of rivals in this price bracket, it uses clever magnetic resistance technology to deliver not only a more realistic rowing experience but also offers seven different resistance levels. There's a basic LCD monitor that counts calories, reps and time exercising, but that's really where the gizmos end. Instead, this is a well-built and affordable rower with smooth action and the ability to fold and store away when not in use. So long as you're not expecting to train for the next Olympic Games on this thing, it will more than suffice as a fat-burning tool.
How to buy the best rowing machine
Once the slightly tricky technique of rowing a machine (or rowing anything, in fact) is mastered, you'll benefit from an all-over shakedown that targets most of the major muscle groups, as well as sculpting a lean upper body and improving the all-important respiratory system.
Rowers are the machine of choice for CrossFit nuts, Olympic athletes and professional sports stars. If it's good enough for the fittest folk on earth, it's perfectly suitable for those who want to tame a beer belly. A rowing machine is also, perhaps surprisingly, less cumbersome than the likes of a cross-trainer or running machine, with many lightweight models folding flat and/or standing up for easy storage in cupboards or corners of rooms.
Before setting foot in the Rowing Machines R Us, there are several other factors to consider, the first being space. Also worthy of thought: how much noise you and your loved ones can put up with and your exercise intensity needs. Box-fresh oarsfolk will not be able to tell the difference between a machine that uses air resistance and one that favours water or some trick electromagnetic unit. Still, these factors will be important to more experienced rowers.
Most units tend to favour an air resistance system, which is the tried and tested formula in the mock rowing world but also one of the noisiest. Water and magnetic resistance technology are much quieter, and the former is said to offer the most natural rowing experience.
Those on a really tight budget with minimal floor space can look to old-school hydraulic rowers, which use dual handles and hydraulic pistons to replicate resistance. They tend to deliver a less realistic experience and don't target the spread of muscle groups that the more traditional rail, handle, and chain models offer.
Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine?
Indoor rowing is an excellent way of losing belly fat. Rowing is a moderate-intensity exercise that is perfect for losing weight. It also provides a full-body workout, unlike cycling, meaning that it works the upper and the lower body. You'll need to use those glutes and quads plus the arms (mainly the biceps) and the back too.
If your goal is to lose weight, we recommend going easy and sticking to low to moderate-intensity rowing workouts, especially if you're new to rowing. It can take a while to get used to the movement, and it's really easy to overdo it initially, tiring yourself out early on the workout. Slow and steady wins the race, be patient with both the rowing and the weight loss process.