Best rowing machines: 5 buys for your new home gym

These best rowing machines make working out at home ten times easier. You'll feel the burn the next day without even leaving the house...

Best rowing machines: two machines in use
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

In the market for the best rowing machine money can buy? This handy piece of home gym equipment can be used by everyone, no matter your fitness level and it can help burn calories, build strong and defined muscles and tone those abs.

Now, we're guessing you're here because you're either designing a home gym and need the best rowing machine around, or, your gym being shut at the moment has you itching to workout at home, which is understandable. Unfortunately, several others have had the exact same idea as you and have purchased gym equipment for their home. Meaning lots of the best rowing machines are currently dipping in and out of stock. 

So, If you're after a quick fix to see you through Coronavirus – something you'll probably pop in the garage and rediscover a few years later – we've popped a list of the cheap rowing machines below. This way you won't waste valuable £££s and you'll be able to get in that ab workout from home. But, if you are actually hoping to buy the best rowing machine around, grab your credit card and keep scrolling.

Interested in more gym recommendations? Find the best home gym equipment picks in our buyer's guide. Head over to our feature on how to create a home gym where you'll find design ideas and equipment recommendations aplenty. 

What is the best rowing machine?

In our opinion, the best rowing machine you can buy is the Concept 2 Model D – it ticks all the boxes and more as it can be used by the whole family and it offers an incredibly smooth workout.

 Click to shop the Concept 2 Model D now, at the best price on the web.

Looking for a cheap yet cheerful machine to use while your gym is shut? Use our price comparison widget below to see today's best deals.

The best rowing machines for your home gym

Best rowing machine for gold standard: Concept 2 Model D

1. Concept 2 Model D

Best rowing machine for gold standard: the original rowing machine remains a solid choice for amateurs and professionals alike

Best for: The gold standard
Resistance: Air
Levels: N/A
Reasons to buy
+ Very smooth to use + Easy to tailor to different users 
Reasons to avoid
- Takes up a lot of space 

If you’re looking for a rower the whole family can use, consider this Concept2 model: the footrests are easy to adjust to each new user’s height, and after watching their metrics tick along on the LCD display, they can pop a USB stick into the port and upload their individual workout data to a computer. More than that, it’s easy to see how the world’s best-selling indoor rower has earned that accolade, offering a supremely smooth ride and a handle comfortable enough to hold through even the longest workouts. If you’re not seduced by the unusual looks of the Oxbridge (or are, but can’t quite stretch to it), this is a very worthy runner-up. 

Shop more Concept2 products at Amazon

Best rowing machine for beginners: JLL R200

2. JLL R200

Best rowing machine for beginners: a budget home exercise machine, this is the best rowing machine for beginners

Best for: Beginners
Resistance: Magnetic
Levels: 10
Reasons to buy
+ Very inexpensive + Sturdy and comfortable 
Reasons to avoid
- Not many features (understandably) 

Coming in at just under £200, the JLL R200 is a great budget model. It’s sturdier and considerably more solid than most machines at this end of the price range, but is still easy to fold down or move using the wheels at the base if space is too limited to have it out permanently, and the pedals and foam-filled padded seat are comfortable enough to use for long periods of time. The ten levels of magnetic resistance may not be enough for more experienced rowers — for that matter, if you are an experienced rower, you’ll wish to go for something with more frills — but if you’re just starting out or won’t be in your home gym all day every day, it’s a superb buy. The best rowing machine for beginners, we think.

Find more JLL products at Amazon

Best rowing machine under £500: JTX Freedom Air Rower

3. JTX Freedom Air Rower

Best rowing machine for monitoring your workout: Compact and foldable, this rower is great for small spaces and tracks your every move

Best for: Monitoring your workout
Resistance: Air
Levels: 16
Reasons to buy
+ Small and light to move + Great value versatility 
Reasons to avoid
- Doesn’t have the most functions 

The JTX Freedom’s name is a big giveaway – it has a small footprint and a light, foldable frame, giving you the freedom to move around, and an impressive eight different training programmes for the freedom to own your own workout, no PT required. The display offers lots of options for tracking your exercise, including speed, stroke, revolutions, and even, thanks to the included chest strap, heart rate. Hundreds of pounds cheaper than the WaterRower Oxbridge or Concept2 Model D, it understandably doesn’t boast quite as much functionality as a higher-end rower, but for a great value, smooth and versatile machine, the Air Rower can’t be beat.

Browse more JTX Fitness products at Amazon

Best rowing machine on a budget: Skandika SF-1150 Regatta

4. Skandika SF-1150 Regatta

Best rowing machine on a budget: get the most out of your investment with this rower and resistance machine

Best for: Budget
Resistance: Bungee Cord
Levels: 3
Reasons to buy
+ Work individual muscle groups or all together + Low-noise+ Foldable and easy to store
Reasons to avoid
- Resistance may be too light for some

If you’re worried about investing big ££s on a rowing machine that you might grow tired of over time, then consider this marvellous multi-purpose machine otherwise known as the Skandika SF-1150 Regatta. You can use it as a regular rower or at two different angles while standing to work out your back or arms – great news if you prefer to focus on individual muscle groups on some days. While you work, the low-noise pulling system ensures you won’t disturb anyone, a good antidote to louder flywheel machines for small flats – and the compact foldable design helps, too. In our opinion, this is the best rowing machine you can buy if you're on a budget.

Find more Skandika products at Amazon

Best luxury rowing machine: WaterRower Oxbridge

(Image credit: WaterRower)

5. WaterRower Oxbridge

Best luxury rowing machine: this wooden water resistance rower has got collegiate cool down to a T

Best for: Water resistance
Resistance: Water
Levels: N/A
Reasons to buy
+ Beautiful and useful + Very sturdy and easy to use 
Reasons to avoid
- Enormously pricey 

The WaterRower Oxbridge indoor rower has a grand design to match its grand name. All sustainable solid cherry wood and matte black accents, it’s a very fine piece that looks surprisingly comfortable in the home – but it’s not just about the looks. It’s the only rower on our list which uses water for resistance, for the most authentic experience this side of the boating lake, and its adjustable footrests and non-slip handle make for a comfortable workout. On the off chance that you don’t want to show it off, it can be moved via the dolly wheels and stored upright until it’s next needed. For its sturdy and beautiful construction, and ease of use and storage, it takes our spot as the best luxury rowing machine you can buy. And clearly there are several others who share our views, as it's currently out of stock.

Find more WaterRowers products on Amazon

How to buy the best rowing machine

Exercising key muscle groups
Initially introduced as military training devices, rowing ergometers mimic the motion of – you guessed it – rowing a boat in water. But these days, you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear, they’re less about figuring out the proper technique and timing for escaping a sinking ship, and more about working your key muscle groups with maximum efficiency.

Toning, weight loss and endurance
Targeting the muscles in the back, legs and arms, as well as fulfilling your cardio quota, rowing machines are a great way to tone up, lose weight, and increase endurance.

Low impact: perfect for joint pain sufferers
Plus, they're a low-impact way to work out aerobically, meaning you can work on your fitness without putting undue strain on your joints. This is especially great news if you’re at the beginning of a weight loss journey, or suffer with joint pain.

Resistance type
The main difference between machines that may not be immediately obvious (excluding things like size and weight which will be dependent on your own space) is the type of resistance they utilise. Air resistance rowing machines are the most common – they generate resistance using the onboard flywheel, and while they feel authentic and are good for all fitness levels, they can be noisier than other types; magnetic resistance gives a similar feel, but tends to be much quieter. There's also water resistance types and bungee cord.

For tight budgets and small spaces, we recommend a hydraulic machine that uses pistons for its resistance, as these tend to be more affordable and compact. Finally – and a bit of a wildcard – there’s water. While offering the most realistic rowing experience, these machines are noisy and usually very expensive, but by far the best for experienced rowers. 

More advice on kitting out your home gym