Ask any trainer to name the best fitness machine for giving you a cardio and strengthening workout at the same time, and they'll immediately point you toward the rower. While pricey brands exist, it's possible to find a rower under $500—a good one at that.
A few fun facts about the oft-ignored machine? Studies have shown that rowers engage 86 percent of the muscles in your body (as in not just your legs, but your arms, core, and back, too), and research has found that rowing for just 30 minutes a day is as effective as 90 minutes of cycling when it comes to keeping your heart healthy. With that in mind, if you're looking to invest in a single home gym machine that'll give you everything you need from your daily workouts, consider the rower your best bet.
And perhaps the most fun fact of all is that you don't have to spend an arm and a leg for the sake of the cause—some of the best rowing machines under $500 also happen to be some of the best you can buy, period.
Best rowing machines under $500
Keep scrolling to shop our picks.
Best foldable rowing machine
If you’re short on space, this rower is a great option. It has everything you’d expect from your standard, no-frills rower—including an LCD display screen, 16 levels of magnetic tension, and ergonomic foot pedals—but comes with the bonus of being foldable. When you’re done with your workout, simply collapse it down and store it under the bed or in the corner until you’re ready for your next sweat sesh.
Promising review: “Great machine. Especially for the price. I work out (think run 4 miles then lift heavy for an hour) almost daily and this is perfect for active rest days. Super quiet. 8 varied settings. The hardest setting is even extremely tiring for my 250lb boyfriend. I usually work out with it at setting 4. Great because it gives you lots of options. Perfect for Netflix workouts!”
Best rower for live workouts
Yes, this rower is water-based and offers a generally comfortable experience, but what makes it really cool is the fact that it connects to an app on your phone that not only allows you to follow along with trainer-led workouts, but also lets you compete live with other rowers from all over the world.
Promising review: “…We have been trying to stay fit during this isolation. My favorite machine at the gym, hands down, is the rowing machine. This is AMAZING. I love it. It took my (handy) husband about 30 minutes to get set up. We have been using it daily and it is holding up quite well! It’s become a conversation piece, and inspired friends to order after trying out ours. It provides an intense workout of cardio AND muscular. We love this! This is a must for any home workout ‘gym.’”
Best wooden rower
This wooden rowing machine is so chic, it will look like just another piece of furniture sitting in your living room. It uses water resistance to make it feel like you’re really paddling down the river, and has an ergonomic seat to make the journey as comfortable as possible. The harder you pull, the better your workout will be.
Promising review: “Just finished assembling the rower and am very happy. Rower comes in two boxes, all hardware (and tools) needed to assemble. For well under $1,000, this machine is a great bargain—less than half the price of other wood water rowers. It appears to be well constructed and is sturdy. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of this rower! Easy to assemble, easy to maneuver and operate! I am a bigger guy (6’3, 245lbs) and have very long legs—this rower fits me and my size 14 shoes well. I have about 1-2″ to spare before the seat reaches the stops.“
Best magnetic rower
What’s great about this rowing machine is the fact that it makes your workout totally customizable. Not only can you set the seat and pedals to fit your body for the most comfortable experience possible, but thanks to the magnetic mechanism at its core, you can set your resistance to one of 10 different levels. Plus, it’s got a digital monitor to help you track the time, count, total count, and calorie data.
Promising review: “I have fibromyalgia, 3 herniated discs in my neck and 2 in my lower back. I just tore my meniscus and hip flexor about 6 months ago and now I’m using this machine as PT and it’s been life changing. I was having circulatory issues from the injury to my hip flexor and now I am healed from only using the machine a few weeks. I love this machine. Everyone should own one.”
Best water rower
For the most realistic rowing experience possible, choose a water-based machine, like this one. It offers six different resistance levels, and has a bladed propeller that mimics the experience of putting a paddle in the water. Plus, it’s on wheels, which makes it easy to move around and store away when you’re done using it.
Promising review: “Love Love Love this machine. It is sturdy but movable, easy to operate and smooth when rowing. I am 275lbs and the seat glides better than the machine from the gym. I Love this product!”
Best upright rower
Though this basic-seeming machine may look slightly different from the others on this list, it will still give you the same intense workout. It uses tension-based resistance to power your workout, and you can personalize the intensity of your sweat session with 12 different hydraulic-powered levels. It gives you an added arm workout, too, and has an ultra-comfy padded seat that will make you want to hang out on it all day.
Promising review: “…It really is worth every penny and then some. I [love] this thing. Put it right in front of the TV so that I can row and watch series at the same time. Haha! I forget that I’m exercising and go at a decent pace through a whole episode. My body weight is about double what it should be. This is turning out to be a great way for me to burn calories without hurting myself. I love the fact that the arms articulate freely. I’ve found that I can concentrate on ‘rowing’ with them at different positions and can feel the different muscles in arms I’m working. I’ve been recommending this thing to my friends.”
Best budget rower, runner up
This under-$300 pick is another great option for anyone who isn’t looking to blow the bank on their home fitness routine. It’s got eight levels of resistance, non-slip pedals and handlebars, and a built-in tracker that will monitor your stats. With that in mind, it’s no wonder this wallet-friendly device has earned 4.5 stars on Amazon.
Promising review: “Really well built. Easy to assemble. Very portable—which is important for me with needing to stow it away every day but also not cumbersome enough to deter me from getting it out daily either. I have a really small place, so it fits perfect and stows in the closer upright. More than enough tension to stay challenging for a lifetime. Rowing is full body and made for distance and longer durations, so what feels easy at start will not feel easy in half an hour. Really great investment for someone wanting to get into shape but hates exercise as it does work the whole body, burns calories fast, and is more fun.”
Best connected rower
With 14 levels of resistance, this magnetic rower is just as friendly for beginners as it is for advanced athletes. Plus, it connects to an app on your phone via Bluetooth so that you can take on-demand coached classes or row along scenic routes around the world. If one thing’s for sure, workouts on this device will never be boring.
Promising review: “For a mid-price rower, this unit does exactly as advertised. It feels very sturdy and stable and the pull is smooth, without any lag or hitch. The seat is just OK, though I don’t expect lots of contour or padding on a rowing machine. It’s reasonably quiet. The electronics worked right out of the box and while the UI isn’t great it, was usable and the connection to my Android phone was seamless. Resistance adjustment worked, though the range of resistance could be increased.“
Best rower for varied workouts
This machine goes above and beyond what you’d expect from your standard rower. In addition to rowing, its patent-pending design allows you to use it for additional exercises such as curls, upright rows, bent over rows, front raises, shrugs, triceps extensions, and standing shoulder presses, among many others. If you’re looking for a single piece of equipment that will function as an entire home gym, you’ve found it.
Promising review: “I’m not easily impressed but this machine is impressive. I reviewed many rowers before I settled on this product. I’m 63 years of age and I’ve worked out every day of my life for 45 years. I maintain an extensive early morning (3:00 AM) workout and I own several pieces of equipment including a Bowflex and other pieces including free weights. My favorite exercises will always be push-ups, chin-ups, squats, and a few others but this baby will do well for my end of day routine.
It’s whisper-quiet and at maximum resistance I am performing 50 standard reps followed by 50 more reps with the legs fully extended thus maximizing the exertion on the lower back, arms, and shoulders. I continue nonstop with another 100 reps of the same combination. The console and the phone app make it even better. I couldn’t be happier with my choice of rower.”
Best air rower
Unlike the other rowing machines on the list, this device uses air to power your workouts, which comes with the added benefit of always matching your pace. The harder you row, the more resistance you’ll get—and you’ll be able to see just how hard you’re working, thanks to a built-in LCD display that tracks your speed, distance, time, and calories burned.
Promising review: “The resistance is excellent. There is no damper to control the air flow but as with all air rowers, you can increase the resistance by rowing harder. (The reviews that complain about the inability to ‘change’ resistance settings do not understand the way air rowers work. When you row an actual boat on water, you can’t change the resistance setting on the water, either. You get a better workout by rowing harder/faster.) I highly recommend this rower for a home gym.“
Best no-frills rower
Just because this machine is basic doesn’t mean it won’t give you a solid full-body workout. Hydraulic cylinder resistance gives you a smooth rowing stroke, and despite its small size you’ll be able to get a full range of motion in both your arms and legs. Plus, it folds in on itself for easy storage in even the smallest studio apartment.
Promising review: “Machine is very well made. It is easy to assemble (took about 10 minutes), and it is very quiet. I like the range of motion in that it is similar to actually rowing a small boat or raft, as opposed to the single pull back bar that many rowing machines are made with. The seat glides back and forth smoothly and there is a resistance setting under it with a range between 1 and 12.”
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