Whether you want to gamify your endurance sessions or get a regular cardio fix, these are the best rowing machines for home gym setups…
Until recently rowing machines were seen as the reserve of the commercial gym or fitness studio. But advances in tech have made them lighter, (a little) more compact and (almost) affordable. Those serious about upping their cardio game at home can now realistically consider investing in one of the best rowing machines. That way they can get their rowing fix whenever they like.
There’s now a surprisingly wide range of rowing machines to chose from too. From top-of-the-range $2K / £2K-plus machines with large touchscreens with gamification and virtual rowing options to simple sub-$1K / £1K models that look less like spaceships and offer a more streamlined experience, there’s a rowing machine for most budgets.
Most use air or magnetic resistance from an adjustable flywheel for you to pull against. Others, like the WaterRower Original, use water as a resistance medium. They tend to have chain or belt-drive mechanisms attached to the ‘oar’ handle, and a movable seat on wheels or rails.
Those with larger displays or digital touchscreens will often require a membership subscription to unlock on-demand classes, games and virtual rowing options, so make sure you factor that monthly expense in when making your decision.
How we tested the best rowing machines
Our experienced product testers tested each rowing machine in their own homes for at least a month. They tested each machine as a standalone rowing experience throughout its entire damper setting range and explored each machine’s connectivity and media options and subscription and app offerings. They were also tested for durability, easy of use and storage.
They marked each rowing machine for its design, features and suitability for a home gym setup before giving them an overall score to rank them in our best rowing machine buyers guide.
Benefits of rowing
Indoor rowing, like indoor cycling, has a major advantage over treadmills in that it provides a zero-impact cardio workout. It can burn a serious amount of calories too, allowing you to torch more than 300 in just 30 minutes.
It offers a higher oxygen consumption and at a lower heart rate than treadmill workouts. Oh, and it’s also one of the few forms of cardio that packs on serious muscle.
If you have the room and the budget, the best rowing machines provide an effective endurance workout to improve heart and lung function while working every major muscle in your body. The drive phase engages your leg muscles, then your core and finally your upper body.
Other benefits include improving joint health, mobility and flexibility and core strength. With all their available metrics, rowing machines are great tools for goal-setting too.
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These are the best rowing machines
- NordicTrack RW900 Rower ($1,999 / £1,999 plus $39 / £34 per month membership), nordictrack.com
- Aviron Strong Series Rower ($2,100 plus membership from $24 per month – international shipping available), avironactive.com
- WaterRower Original Series (from $1,099 / £1,099), waterrower.co.uk
- Hyrow Wave Rower ($1,895 / £1,595 plus $44 / £44 per month membership), hydrow.com
1. NordicTrack RW900 Rower
$1,999 / £1,999 (plus $39 / £34 per month membership), nordictrack.com
|Dimensions:||82 x 22 x 52in / 208 x 55.8 x 132.1cm|
|Warranty:||10-year frame, 2-year parts|
Home-gym friendly: 4/5
- Exquisite design and quiet running
- Large touchscreen with great speakers
- Huge library of on-demand trainer-led workouts
- Workouts geared to your progression
- Monthly membership required
- Premium price tag
- Very large and bulky
- Low max weight load
You’ll see the RW900 in plenty of commercial fitness spaces, due to its premium design and ultra-quiet running. Its impressive 10-year frame guarantee means it’s a worthwhile home investment too, if you can find the cash and the space.
I liked the tilting touchscreen, which gives you access to loads of premium membership content and SmartAdjust machine learning technology means every workout is tailored to suit you. With the RW900, smart training just got a whole lot smarter.
Read our full NordicTrack RW900 Rower review
2. Aviron Strong Series Rower
$2,100 plus membership from $24 per month (international shipping available), avironactive.com
|Dimensions:||84 x 27 x 48in / 213.4 x 68.6 x 121.9cm|
|Warranty:||10-year frame, 1-year parts|
Home-gym friendly: 4/5
- Great for beginners
- Easy to stand and store
- Higher-than-average seat height
- Low-decibel resistance mechanisms
- Membership includes Amazon Prime, YouTube, Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and YouTube access
- Bulky frame
- Requires tall ceiling to store upright
- Requires membership to access best features
The Aviron Strong’s dual air and magnetic resistance gives plenty of scope for fine tuning your workout and offers an authentic rowing experience. Plus, I found that its Whisper nylon belt keeps noise to a minimum too.
The reasonably priced monthly membership not only gives you access to coached, guided and structured programmes on multiple profiles but to Netflix, Disney+ and Spotify streaming platforms, among others, which kept me entertained as I rowed.
Read our full Aviron Strong Series Rower review
3. WaterRower Original Series
From $1,099 / £1,099, waterrower.co.uk
|Display:||S4 Performance Monitor|
|Dimensions:||82.3 x 20.9 x 22in / 209 x 53 x 56cm|
|Finishes:||Oak, cherry, walnut, British, Ash, club|
|Connectivity:||Optional Bluetooth Commodule|
|Warranty:||5-year frame, 3-year parts|
Ease of use: 4/5
Home-gym friendly: 5/5
- Unique, aesthetic design
- Natural, fluid movement
- Numerous upgrades available
- Choice of types of wood
- Easy storage
- Low seat and steep angled foot position
- High price with costly additions
The WaterRower is a rowing machine unlike any other, using a unique water flywheel to provide a smooth, realistic and immersive rowing experience. While testing, I found the standard monitor to be fairly basic but there are plenty of upgrades available to give you Bluetooth connectivity or to allow you to use your own tablet or laptop to enjoy third-party rowing apps.
It has a stunning design that wouldn’t look out of place in a stately home or swanky penthouse and there are a number of high-end wooden finishes to choose from.
Read our full WaterRower Original Series review
4. Hydrow Wave Rower
$1,895 / £1,595 (plus $44 / £44 per month membership), hydrow.com
|Dimensions:||80.3 x 19.3 x 43.3in / 204 x 49 x 110cm|
Home-gym friendly: 4.5/5
- Cheaper than the original
- Compact design
- Smooth and quiet operation
- Engaging classes and inspiring instructors
- Screen can be tricky to operate
- Built-in speakers could be better
- Bluetooth audio delay
- Monthly subscription fees
Smaller and cheaper than the OG Hydrow, the new Wave has a sleek, stylish and minimal brushed aluminium design. There are a number of custom colours available too, so it can make a design statement in any living room.
The Hydrow Wave features a 16in touchscreen which gives you access to plenty of engaging live classes and on-demand content for a completely connected fitness experience. Overall, for me, this is one of the most realistic and authentic rowing experiences on the market.
Read our full Hydrow Wave Rower review