Best rowing machine: 6 top rowers for home use

Spend your money on the best rowing machine and work your arms, legs and abs all from one machine

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

Choosing the best rowing machine for your home gym? Or looking to buy something for use in your garage? All of these top buys below should be on your radar. An easy way to work your arms, legs and abs all at one time, a rowing machine can be used by pretty much anyone from teens to seniors. A great way to tone as well as to build muscle, using a rower frequently can also help you lose weight. 

We've done our research and have popped six great machines below. For all size budgets and all levels of fitness. When choosing these rowers, we considered everything from price and performance, to what type of resistance each one uses – whether that be air, water or manual – and how many levels of resistance each machine has. Choose wisely, based on your needs and experience.

Interested in more gym recommendations? Find the best home gym equipment picks in our buyer's guide.

Best rowing machines

Best rowing machine for gold standard: Concept 2 Model D

1. Concept 2 Model D

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

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. 

Best rowing machine for home: JLL R200

2. JLL R200

Best rowing machine for home: a budget home exercise machine, fit 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.

Best luxury rowing machine: WaterRower Oxbridge

(Image credit: WaterRower)

3. WaterRower Oxbridge

Best rowing machine 2020: this wooden water resistance rower has got collegiate cool down to a T

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 rowing machine you can buy in 2020, if you want your home gym to look the part and play the part. And clearly there are several others who share our views, as it's currently out of stock.

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

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 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.

Best rowing machine under £100: Opti Manual Rowing Machine

(Image credit: Opti)

5. Opti Manual Rowing Machine

Best rowing machine under £100: Argos' own brand rower can do the job with ease

Resistance: Manual
Levels: 12
Reasons to buy
+Folds for easy storing+On wheels+Console feedback+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Only really great for beginners

This manual rower from Opti is definitely the best affordable option, should you be after something budget-friendly. It boasts 12 levels of tension control, and it even has console feedback to tell you how many strokes you've done, how many minutes you've spent, how many calories you've burned and more. Boasting a faux leather seat and adjustable feet straps, it's suitable for everyone, no matter your height. Though it does have a maximum user weight of 100kg. Work your arms, legs and abs, and then fold it away after use. It's even on wheels to make storing easier job.

Best rowing machine compact: JTX Freedom Air Rower

6. JTX Freedom Air Rower

Best rowing machine compact: this foldable rower is great for small spaces and it tracks your every move

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.

How to buy the best rowing machine

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. 

The more resistance levels your new rowing machine has, the longer you'll be able to use it for. Beginners needn't worry about having a huge range, but if you are experienced, you may want to opt for something that can offer a variety of levels so you can switch it up every now and then.

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.

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Annie Collyer
Annie Collyer

Annie joined the Real Homes team in 2018 as our Deals Editor. Now, as our UK Shopping Editor, she spends much of her time giving advice on what you need to add to your shopping cart. Whether that be a sofa bed for your spare room, accessories to give your space a new lease of life, shiny new appliances for a kitchen or some smart tech for an easier life. She's also our fitness and beauty guru, with hands-on experience with some of the top hair tools and the best home gym equipment around. Otherwise, you can find her rearranging the furniture in her space-savvy London flat, DIYing accessories to fit with her ever-changing colour scheme, or going on long walks with her pug. Next up on her to-renovate list is her bathroom...