Best Rowing Machines - CNET

Rowing Machines make a great addition to any home gym, as long as you pick one best suited to your space.

Updated Jan. 19, 2024 8:00 p.m. PT Incline Benches

Best Rowing Machines - CNET

As with so many other products at CNET, we test rowing machines as thoroughly as possible, through rigorous examination and comparison. Each rowing machine in our list has been through at least 10 hours of workouts, using as many of the built-in features as possible.

While rowing on the water is a combination of a beautiful experience and one of the best full-body workouts possible, we know most people can't just get in the water any time and get rowing. But that doesn't mean you don't have options to get the same workout! With a good rowing machine, you can start effectively burning calories. One of the most important factors is finding one that fits with your living space. If you're a busy person with little time to dedicate to a workout, getting one of these machines will give you the best one-stop shop option directly in your home.

Rowing machines have evolved in design over the years, and the truth is there are multiple great options available, with features for different living situations. But if you've got the space for it and you enjoy a class-style format, the Peloton Row is a step up from traditional rowers and it's our current pick for best overall rowing machine. We've tested different models to determine the best rowing machines on the market. Here are our top picks.

Peloton's first smart rowing machine that teaches you how to row and corrects your form is the most expensive rowing machine on this list, but there's no denying it's impressive. The Peloton delivery team sets up the rower in your home so you don't have to. It's sleek and all black with touches of red, which stays true to the Peloton aesthetic. It also has a 24-inch HD touchscreen that's adjustable and easy to rotate. I had concerns with the size of the machine because it's on the larger side (it's 8 feet by 2 feet and weighs 156 pounds). I was able to fit it in my apartment, but keep this in mind if you have limited space. An anchor is included with your order, so you can store the machine safely upright, but you'll want to make sure your ceiling can clear its length. 

Using the Peloton Row is an experience unlike the others I had testing rowing machines. Before you take a class, you have to calibrate your rowing form. One important thing to note is that the Peloton Row has sensors that detect the position of the handle and seat. This is based on the length of the handle strap pulled out from the base as well as the position of the seat along the rail. Once your rowing form is customized, you can select to Just Row, do a Scenic Row or take a rowing class from the Peloton roster. This is where another feature, known as Form Assist, comes into play.

Form Assist offers real-time feedback on your form during class using the same sensors from the calibration process. Peloton says the rower measures your position hundreds of times a second to generate Form Assist and track form errors. You have the option to turn off Form Assist, but it defeats the purpose of owning a Peloton Row. When it's on, an image of a digital person sitting on a rowing machine shows up on the left-hand side of the screen and moves in sync with you. If your form is off, you'll see the person's body highlight in red the part of the stroke where you need to correct your form. 

After the class is over, you can see your rowing stats and Form Rating score, which uses a circle graph and shows you a total score out of 100. Beneath that, you'll see a detailed explanation on where you're making errors, along with tips on how to fix them. I saw improvement in my form rather quickly during the period I tested the Peloton Row, thanks to the Form Assist feature. Additionally, like the rest of Peloton's machines, you have to sign up for the All-Access membership ($44 a month). The plus side is that since the screen swivels, you can easily take other classes that require you to be on the floor. If money is no object and you're serious about rowing, you'll love the Peloton Row. 

The Echelon Row-S is the ideal rowing machine if you're a rowing beginner. Assembly was easy enough that only one person was needed to put it together. It's not the fanciest looking machine, but it felt sturdy and smooth and got the job done. I found it less intimidating than the smart rowers and appreciated parts of its design, like the handle's protective covering to prevent blisters. I also liked the footplate design the most of all the rowing machines, because it felt intuitive to use the fastener straps.

Additionally, the lever underneath the machine that lets you store the rower upright was easy to find and lift. The machine is also on the lighter side, which makes it easy to move around. Despite being light, the machine can hold up to 350 pounds (158.7 kg) comfortably; therefore, it's versatile for people of all sizes and weights. 

The traditional rowing machine has a small metric screen to measure distance, number of strokes per minute and your split time. Echelon upgraded this concept, making a 22-inch HD touchscreen with a 180-degree flip adjustment. You'll need an Echelon Live and On-Demand class membership for an additional fee to use this machine. There are three levels of membership to fit your budget: a two-year membership ($29.16 a month); a year membership ($33.33 a month); or a $40 month-to-month option.

Echelon has a library of thousands of classes besides rowing, including yoga, cycling, HIIT or strength training. I liked that the library had beginner row classes, warmups and cooldowns, scenic, low impact and bootcamp rowing sessions. It's easy to increase or decrease the resistance by clicking the buttons on each side of the handle. The onscreen metrics are simple to read and follow. Overall, with the classes included, I liked the Echelon Row-S as a good introduction to rowing or if you want a less bulky machine in your home. 

If you don't mind spending a little more on a rowing machine, then you'll love the Hydrow. While testing rowing machines, I got input from the CNET Wellness team, and we collectively agreed that Hydrow was a smooth and high quality offering. Not only does Hydrow look sleek and futuristic, the stride also feels smoother and natural.

Hydrow works best wherever your Wi-Fi is strongest. This machine uses electromagnetic drag technology to mimic the outdoor rowing experience. It consists of a 22-inch touchscreen that gives you access to over 4,000 workouts, whether you're using the machine or the Hydrow app. To view the Hydrow classes, you'll need an all-access membership, which is an additional $44 a month but gives you unlimited profiles for your family. 

I liked that the Hydrow looked more futuristic than other rowing machines I've seen. But I wish the footplate was more updated to match the machine. Instead, the machine has the same nylon foot straps as most rowers, where you have to fiddle with the strap to tighten or loosen it. I find this style restrictive, and it can make it hard to get out of the machine if you're doing a HIIT circuit, for example. 

Hydrow also has beginner classes that teach you how to properly row and get you used to the movement. My main concern with Hydrow was that it was bigger than I anticipated for a modern rowing machine. You also have to purchase the anchor separately to store it upright; it retails for $80 and is essentially a strap screwed to the wall. I found this pricey, especially since the unit itself is expensive. Without the ability to store the machine upright, it made me question if people with smaller spaces should buy it.

Earlier in the list we mentioned the Hydrow. Now we're focusing on its newest and smaller model, the Hydrow Wave. One of my original issues with the Hydrow was the size of the machine. The company rectified the issue by shrinking the original model by a few inches. I had this one delivered to my home and was impressed by its size. It easily fit in the space I had in mind in my apartment. When it was delivered, the Hydrow team assembled it incredibly fast and ensured I could access my account before they left. 

You'll need to set up this machine in a space with a power outlet and a good Wi-Fi connection. The Hydrow Wave design looks more like that of a standard Flywheel rowing machine and uses a smaller footprint than its predecessor. It still has the same high-tech qualities, like the electromagnetic drag technology, a touch screen and access to Hydrow's workout programs. It's also $800 cheaper, making it a more affordable option. However, you'll still need to pay for the all-access membership for classes.

One thing I observed that I wish had been upgraded this time around was the design of the straps on the footplate. It still had the adjustable nylon straps. I also would've liked the handle to have a more protective covering to prevent blisters. Additionally, you'll still need to purchase an anchor if you intend to store the machine upright. The plus side is that you can get away with not storing the machine upright since it isn't as big as the original Hydrow. You can also lower the screen when it's not in use to help save space. 

The rowing experience, on the other hand, was similar to the original, and I'm glad that aspect remained the same. It wasn't too loud, and everything was smooth and comfortable between the seat and the pulling motion. I think a good way to upgrade this experience would be to add a more cushioned seat, since there were times when my glutes felt achy the longer I used the machine. Overall, the Hydrow Wave is a great option for your home if you're limited in space but still want the smart rowing experience. 

The LIT Strength Machine impressed me with how the creators challenged the traditional rowing machine. This machine is an all-in-one rower, Pilates reformer and strength trainer. Unlike other machines on the list, the LIT is a water rower, with resistance ranging from 10 to 40 pounds (4.5 to 18.1 kg) of water in a dual-tank drum. The good thing is you won't ever have to change the water, because the machine comes with a lifetime supply of chlorine tablets. 

Even though I tested this machine in the brand's showroom, I learned that LIT makes assembly easy for customers by delivering its machine 85% preassembled. The black-and-red design makes it look sleek and futuristic. The machine also has resistance bands (up to 100 pounds or 45.3 kilograms of resistance) looped around both sides of the rower handle, ready for strength training or Pilates exercises. I liked that this machine (similar to the Aviron) had a wider footplate, so if you're tall or have wider feet, it offers plenty of room. I also learned that it was designed to let you use your hamstrings more during the workout. The rowing handle is also properly coated with protective rubber layering, to minimize the chance of blisters. 

This is one of the few machines that doesn't have a touchscreen or monitor, but classes are offered through the LIT On-Demand app, which you can access on your smartphone and is both iOS and Android compatible. LIT's membership costs $25 a month or $199 annually and comes with a three-month complimentary trial upon receiving your rower. The machine has a small device holder so you can comfortably view the class from your streaming device. Using this machine felt like what the true rowing experience should be. Even though I was on land, it felt nice to hear the water as I rowed instead of a fan. Adjusting the resistance was easy, since the rower has a dial that's labeled with levels 1 through 4. However, this may not be the machine for you if you're into keeping track of your stats or looking at a monitor.

The LIT had the most comfortable seat -- it was padded and helped me feel more supported while rowing. I was put through a demo to try the different aspects of the machine and appreciated its versatility. Once you're done, you can store the machine by folding it up vertically and rolling it to the desired area. If you're into the idea of having a versatile machine that challenges the traditional rowing practice, you'll love the LIT Strength Machine.

I was super excited to try EnergyFit's Ski-Row because I love the idea of a rowing machine being two in one. The Ski-Row combines skiing and rowing. It offers two machines: The Ski-Row Air + Pwr and the Ski-Row Air. For this review, I tested out a Ski-Row Air + Pwr. Having used other two-in-one fitness machines before, like the Concept 2 rowers and Ski Ergs, I knew I'd have to compare the Ski-Row to them to see if the design does it justice.

I was surprised by how sturdy and well-made it was to withstand two types of fitness activity. I did think some details could use some upgrading. For instance, the monitor you use to adjust the resistance looked dated; the lever used to lower and raise the base was made of plastic, which made me wonder if it would break off after a lot of wear and tear; and the rope attached to the handle didn't look as durable as the ones on other rowing machines. When the machine was adjusted to the skiing position, I thought the ski handles looked and felt legit, and it was the right height (for grabbing the handles), even for shorter individuals.

I started by testing the rowing aspect. Ski-Row has your traditional footplate, with nylon straps and an adjustable base. The machine uses air and magnetic resistance as you're rowing or skiing. This is unlike the Ski-Row Air, which uses only air to power its machine. The monitor on the Ski-Row reads time, distance, stroke rate, pace, resistance level, and calories burned. It functions more or less the same way as a Concept 2 rowing machine and lets you connect via Bluetooth to an ANT Plus Heart Rate monitor. Ski-Row is also connected to Gymtrakr, an iOS and Android app that can sync your phone to the console. 

The skiing option was reminiscent of using a Concept 2 Ski Erg, which I considered a plus. I think the Ski-Row is a great piece of equipment to have at home (or at the gym) if you're looking for a two-in-one machine that won't take up extra room. Even though it has room for improvement, it's a solid piece if you're an experienced rower or ski enthusiast who wants the ability to train indoors.

Aviron offers two types of rowers to choose from: the Aviron Impact Series and the Aviron Tough Series. For this review, I tested the Aviron Impact Series. Aviron gives a unique spin to indoor rowing with its interactive workout programs. This is especially appealing if you enjoy video games. The machine's resistance is made up of dual air and magnetic resistance. It's one of the lighter machines on the list, weighing only 97 pounds (43.9 kg), and its base folds upright for easy storage. Another thing to note is that you'll want to place your rower in an area with strong Wi-Fi connection to get the best gaming experience.

I liked that the design included a padded handle, since I'm prone to blisters. The seat sat higher from the ground than those of the other rowers, which makes it user friendly if you're a tall individual and prefer the extra room to hop on and off. The foot placement is a little wider than that of the other rowing machines, which is helpful because when placed too close together it's uncomfortable, particularly if you have longer legs. The seat had a little more padding than your traditional rower seat and comfortably glided up and down the base. 

I'm not a big gamer, but I tried out some of the games Aviron offers and found them entertaining enough that it was a distraction from realizing you're working out. If you dread the idea of working out, this could be a good option for you, since exercising will feel more like entertainment than a task. You can also log in to your streaming-service accounts such as Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus and YouTube while you row. 

If you prefer to opt for Aviron's upgraded rower, the Strong series will cost you another $300. The difference between the two is that the Strong version has a heavy-duty frame and is intended to hold up to 507 pounds (230 kg). This makes Aviron the ideal rower for taller people who want to ensure the machine can withstand their height and weight.

Since rowing machines are very specific machines, there were several factors we considered to determine which were best. We narrowed it down to these rowing machines based on the following guidelines. 

There's no such thing as one rowing machine for every user or every living situation, but there are a few things you can ask yourself to narrow it down. With that in mind, we tested all rowing machines under the same basic criteria.

With a lot of smart rowing machines, you're rarely paying for just the hardware. Be sure to check the subscription price, and whether that subscription is required to use the rower. Separately, many manufacturers offer payment plans for rowing machines to help make the initial cost a little less impactful.

By design, rowing machines are quite long, and you need to be able to move across the length of the rail while working out. Be sure to measure your space and include a little room on either side for you to get on and off the rower. It's also important to be aware of the size of the machine when it's stowed away or folded up, to ensure it isn't always taking up a lot of space.

You may be surprised to learn that the total weight a rowing machine can support varies significantly from model to model, especially if that model folds up instead of stands up. You can run into long-term wear issues if you're close to the maximum weight a machine can handle.

If you're going to be paying for a monthly subscription, the stuff you get access to needs to be good. Some rowers come with great class-style programming, while others use recordings of the real world or even games to help keep you focused on the physical activity at hand. It's important to know what kind of programming motivates you the most, and choose a platform to best suit your needs.

There are four types of rowing machines: hydraulic, flywheel, water and magnetic. 

Hydraulic machines tend to be the most affordable and the resistance is created by the amount of air or fluid that's constricted with a hydraulic cylinder.

Flywheels work with fan blades to create resistance using air. This is the traditional rower you might've seen at your local gym.

Water and magnetic rowers are newer machines that are quieter and intended to best mimic outdoor rowing. The difference is that magnetic rowers use magnets, while water rowers use water in a tank to generate resistance.

Depending on the type of rower, some cheaper machines can cost about $500, while more expensive ones can cost $1,000 to $2,000-plus.

Yes, rowing is a full-body workout and targets 85% of your body. It targets your arms, back, core, legs and chest and can help build up your endurance and strength.

Best Rowing Machines - CNET

Titanfitness Rowing is so efficient that you can get a good workout in as little as 20 minutes. Most of the classes offered through memberships on this list have classes lasting 20 to 45 minutes.