7 Best Compact Rowing Machines: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

Rowing is regarded as one of the most effective ways to exercise. However, for practical reasons, not everyone can get out on the water, so indoor rowers are the solution.

Indoor rowers are machines that allow you to simulate the action of rowing. They allow you to work out your entire body and can massively improve your overall fitness. No home gym is complete without a rowing machine, and this review will give you a comprehensive guide for choosing the best compact rowing machine.

Benefits of Compact, Space-Saving Indoor Rowers

  • Maneuverable:
    Most compact rowers are lightweight, allowing them to be moved easily between rooms, floors, or even completely different locations. Many rowers are also built with wheels to make them even more transportable.
  • Easy to store:
    The compact nature of the rower makes it easy to put away when not in use, and many of them fold over, so they take up even less space. This is hugely beneficial to those with less storage space.
  • Fantastic workout:
    The most important benefit of a compact rower is that it allows even those without much space to have a great cardio workout and improve their fitness.

Factors to Consider for Buying a Compact Rowing Machine

Size vs. Available Space

When selecting a compact rowing machine, you need to consider the space you have available and choose accordingly. They come in a range of sizes, so you should be able to find one that suits your workout space. You should also consider the weight of the machine if you'll be moving it around.

Portability & Storage Features

If you’re considering a compact rower that you'll be moving regularly, then you'll need a more portable model, preferably one with wheels. If you're going to be putting it away after use, then you should consider a folding design that makes it easier to store out of the way. 

Comfort and Adjustability

With fitness, it’s never one size fits all. You need to make sure that the compact rower is suitable for your height and that the seat is comfortable for you to avoid any injuries. If you're new to rowing, you should look for a beginner’s rower that’s simple to use.

Durability

You should consider the material of the compact rower before purchase. The majority of rowers are made from heavy-duty steel, which is the most durable but may not be suitable for some floors and could cause scratching. Aluminum is lighter but also less durable, so it may not last as long under heavy use.

Max User Weight & Height

You’ll also need to consider your size when choosing a model. Larger and heavier people will need a larger machine, or you may risk damaging the rower or injuring yourself. Most models will tell you the rower's max weight, so look out for it before purchasing. 

Type of Resistance

There are several types of compact rowers that use different resistance types. They all have pros and cons, which are covered later in the article, but make sure you understand what you're buying ahead of time.

Noise Level

This is directly linked to the type of resistance, and it's definitely something you need to consider. Some rowers can be loud, so if you're in an apartment or an office, you'll need to look for a quieter model.

Display Monitor & Functionality

Technology is being incorporated into fitness more and more. More advanced rowers will have detailed display monitors, fitness programs, and allow you to track your workout. Some may even allow you to interface with your phone via Bluetooth. If you like technology, then make sure you look out for the extra features.

Ease of Assembly & Warranty

Be warned; rowers can sometimes be challenging to assemble. If you're new to home fitness, then look out for easy rowers that are in one or two parts rather than many smaller bits to put together. You should always get a good warranty of 1 year or more to protect your purchase.

Price

Value for money is essential in every purchase. There’s a wide variety of compact rowers on the market with a range of prices, so you should consider what your budget is first and then find a compact rower that matches. The compact rowers listed below are a great place to start as they offer excellent value for money.


7 Best Compact Rowing Machines Reviewed

1. Concept2 Model D

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with...
1,239 Reviews
Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with...
  • Space Recommendations: Assembled: 8 ft x 2 ft...
  • Designed to fit most users: 14-inch seat...
  • Low impact workout that engages all major...
  • Track your progress with real-time reliable...

Best Compact Rowing Machine for Home

Assembled Dimensions

96 x 24 x 14 Inches

Folded Dimensions

25 x 33 x 54 Inches

Weight of Machine

57 lbs

Weight Capacity

500 lbs

Resistance Type

Air

Resistance Levels

10

The Concept2 Model D is probably the most well-known compact rower on the market and is the best compact rowing machine for your home. It’s made from a mixture of stainless steel and aluminum, making it lightweight, but it's also durable and suitable for tough workouts.  It's also one of the most space-effective and only needs 9 x 4 ft of space in your home.

Concept2 are well respected in the industry for their innovation. They have a wide range of rowers on the market and have been operating for over 40 years. In that time, they've built a broad client base by making reliable and durable products.

The Concept2 Model D has fully adjustable footrests and handles and has a comfortable 14 inch seat, which will work for all users. It's two pieces for easy storage and has built-in wheels to make it easier to transport. It operates using air rowing technology, which gives a smooth and effective motion.

This popular Model D also embraces modern technology with a full display monitor and several built-in workouts. It has a wireless connection so you can track your activity in real-time. It also has a heart monitor so you can see how hard you're working.

The Concept2 Model D is the best compact rowing machine for home gyms because it combines intelligence, power, and flexibility. You'll get the same effective machine as you would in a gym, but with a smaller price tag and much smaller dimensions.

Pros

  • Durable and resilient
  • Lightweight and easy to store
  • Easy assembly
  • Intelligent workouts and tracking
  • 5-year warranty

Cons

  • More expensive than alternatives

2. Fitness Reality 1000 Plus

FITNESS REALITY 1000 PLUS Bluetooth Magnetic...
4,840 Reviews
FITNESS REALITY 1000 PLUS Bluetooth Magnetic...
  • Enjoy free forever basic workout data...
  • Revolutionize your workout with on water and...
  • 14 Level DUAL TRANSMISSION magnetic tension...
  • Patent pending front stabilizer foot pads...

Best Compact Magnetic Rowing Machine

Assembled Dimensions

88.5 x 21.5 x 21.5 Inches

Folded Dimensions

39.5 x 21.5 x 53.5 Inches

Weight of Machine

61 lbs

Weight Capacity

250 lbs

Resistance Type

Magnetic

Resistance Levels

14

Magnetic rowers offer a smooth experience that isn’t too dissimilar to the real thing. The Fitness Reality 1000 Plus has broken into the market by offering more than other brands but remaining just as compact.

It has over 8 different exercises for the back, arms, legs, and shoulders, which use magnetic resistance. Despite the extra functionality, It's still one of the most compact on the market.

Fitness Reality is a much newer brand than others on the list, but don't let that fool you because they've shown they understand their products and customers.

Over the past decade they've not only made solid products, but they've incorporated technology and innovation into everything they do. They're now looking to revolutionize rowing with new workouts and different exercises for their users.

The utility of the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus is what makes it stand out as the best compact magnetic rowing machine. It has 14 different resistance levels, higher than most, and they have their own app with workouts programmed in. The Bluetooth functionality lets you integrate with your phone and push yourself with some really challenging workouts.

The Fitness Reality 1000 Plus is well suited for beginners and is simple to set up and use. It’s quiet and doesn’t need much space at all, making it perfect for the home gym. If you’re looking for a cutting-edge compact rower at a reasonable price, then this is definitely one to consider.

Pros

  • More resistance levels
  • Added functionality
  • Unique workouts and app

Cons

  • Not well suited for more experienced users

3. Stamina Inmotion Rower

Stamina 35-0123 Inmotion Rower, Silver
432 Reviews
Stamina 35-0123 Inmotion Rower, Silver
  • Solid Steel Construction
  • Five levels of resistance
  • Comfortable stitched seat
  • Pivoting foot plates with adjustable closure

Smallest for Storage

Assembled Dimensions

60 x 22 x 27 Inches

Folded Dimensions

30 x 21.5 x 41 Inches

Weight of Machine

41 lbs

Weight Capacity

350 lbs

Resistance Type

Hydraulic

Resistance Levels

8

Some people genuinely have very little room in their home or office, and fitting something like a rower in seems impossible. The Stamina Inmotion rower is the most compact rower on our list and perfectly suited for those who want to put it away after every use.

Simplicity is the strength of the Stamina Inmotion rower, and it's probably the most basic rower on our list. However, the understated nature of this compact rower is not a weakness. It's made from stainless steel for increased durability and strength.

It uses a short crossbar, which doesn't allow for the full range of motion and instead only lets you pull the rower straight back. This is one of the factors which allows it to be lighter and smaller than other models.

Stamina has been operating for over 30 years and specializes in simple but effective solutions to fitness. Their no-frills approach to fitness equipment has helped build trust in their brand, and they're now considered one of the most reliable rowing machine manufacturers out there.

The Stamina Inmotion rower uses magnetic resistance with 8 different settings, fewer than other models but plenty for most users. It has fully customizable footplates and straps and has a molded seat for comfort. Ball bearings are used to keep the rowing motion as smooth as possible. 

The Stamina Inmotion rower might not be the most advanced on the market, but it does the job, and it does it well. It's ideal for those with minimal space who want an effective rower at a low price. If you like simplicity, then this is definitely one to consider.

Pros

  • Incredibly compact
  • Very affordable
  • Durable stainless steel frame

Cons

  • Fewer features
  • Only 8 resistance levels

4. Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050

On Sale Today
Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine
  • Unique, full-range-of-motion rowing mimics...
  • Multi-function electronic monitor to keep you...
  • Comfortable molded seat
  • Adjustable, hydraulic cylinder resistance for...

Best Value for Money

Assembled Dimensions

58.25 x 42.5 x 18 Inches

Folded Dimensions

28 x 22 x 35 Inches

Weight of Machine

39 lbs

Weight Capacity

250 lbs

Resistance Type

Hydraulic

Resistance Levels

10

Hydraulic resistance rowers have fallen out of style in the past few years, but there’s one key factor that makes them perfect for home gym use- they're quiet.

Hydraulic resistance rowers are well suited for home or office use because they run pretty much silently and won't disrupt the neighbors. It's also well built, durable, and offers a unique workout making it an asset to your fitness routine.

Stamina is a well-known brand, and it's no surprise they feature twice on this list. Their products are known for their simplicity, and this rower offers excellent value for money. This is mostly down to two factors: the initial low price and the product's durable nature, which means it's an excellent long-term investment.

Despite being low cost, the Stamina Body Trac Glider offers several uniquely useful features. It sets itself apart because it has a full-motion arm, which not only gives you a full body workout but gives the feeling of rowing on the water. It also has a multi-functional monitor, which displays all the details of your training.

This compact rower might not be the most advanced on the market, but it's affordable and effective. The ergonomic design and customizable nature of the features make it suitable for beginners or experienced rowers. If you want all the bang without the buck, then this is definitely one to consider.

Pros

  • Incredibly compact
  • Very affordable
  • Durable stainless steel frame

Cons

  • Fewer features
  • Only 8 resistance levels

5. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205

On Sale Today
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing...
9,854 Reviews
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing...
  • 12 LEVELS OF RESISTANCE: The hydraulic...
  • DIGITAL MONITOR: Track your workout progress...
  • ADJUSTABILITY: Tailor your workout experience...
  • ERGONOMIC: Enjoy a comfortable row with the...

Best Budget Compact Rower

Assembled Dimensions

54 x 20 x 23 Inches

Folded Dimensions

24 x 21.5 x 37 Inches

Weight of Machine

20.5 lbs

Weight Capacity

220 lbs

Resistance Type

Hydraulic

Resistance Levels

12

Hopefully by this point, we can all see the value in rowing, but not everyone has a massive budget for fitness equipment. The Sunny Health & Fitness is a fantastic budget compact rowing machine with a lot of the functionality of higher-end models at a fraction of the price. Despite the low price, it's not cheaply made, and the entire frame is made from durable stainless steel.

Sunny Health & Fitness has been operating for over a decade, and they work on the principle of providing tools to improve lives. In doing so, they've made a wide range of fitness equipment and specialize in affordable alternatives to expensive brands. 

The Sunny Health & Fitness compact rower uses water resistance and has 12 different settings. It's insulated to avoid excess noise and has a sleek design that accommodates a range of body shapes. The footplates are customizable, the handles are non-slip, and the seat is cushioned to maximize comfort.

There’s no app, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi with this rower but considering it's available for under $200, you're getting some outstanding value for money with this compact rower. It’s fairly stylish, easy to move, and even easier to store, so if you're on a shoestring budget, this is one to consider.

Pros

  • Low cost but durable
  • Stainless steel frame
  • 12 resistance settings
  • Very compact

Cons

  • Fewer features
  • Low tech
  • Less functionality than other models

6. MaxKare Water Rowing Machine

On Sale Today
MaxKare Water Rowing Machine Water Rower with...
  • 🏅 WATER RESISTANCE: MaxKare water rowing...
  • 🏅 ERGONOMIC DESIGN: With an ergonomic...
  • 🏅 STURDY & DURABLE & QUIET: Steel main...
  • 🏅 LARGE LCD MONITOR: The large LCD monitor...

Best Compact Water Rower Machine

Assembled Dimensions

78 x 20 x 30 Inches

Folded Dimensions

30 x 20 x 80 Inches

Weight of Machine

84 lbs

Weight Capacity

264 lbs

Resistance Type

Water

Resistance Levels

Customizable

Water rowers are known for giving the most authentic rowing experience that makes you feel like you’re on the water. MaxKare has built a compact rower that gives you this experience in your own home, and in doing so have made a rower with a lot of useful features to benefit the user.

It’s built solidly with an aluminum frame and steel tubing to support the structure, which is pretty durable for a mid-range rower.

Unlike the other brands on this list, MaxKare has a much more diverse range of products outside of fitness equipment. They’ve been operating for over 25 years and have a good range of rowers, which are not only reliable but straightforward for users. This makes their compact rowers best suited for beginner rowers.

The MaxKare water rowing machine has infinitely customizable resistance. A clear polycarbonate plastic container can be filled with water to any level so you can up the intensity of your workout at any point.

It's also one of the more comfortable compact rowers with a padded seat and a cushioned handle. It also features a unique display monitor that has different workouts, tracking, and a race mode built-in.

All of this makes the MaxKare compact rower one of the best for home use. If you like the smooth feeling of a water rower and appreciate a well-made rower, then this is definitely one to consider for your home or office.

Pros

  • Authentic water rowing experience
  • Durable and well built
  • Comfortable and customizable

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Larger than other models

7. Stamina ATS

Stamina ATS Air Rower | Rowing Machine | LCD...
  • EFFECTIVE, PROVEN RESULTS: Provides a nearly...
  • DYNAMIC AIR RESISTANCE: One of the main...
  • LCD WORKOUT MONITOR: During your routine,...
  • EASY ASSEMBLY AND STORAGE: Once assembled the...

Best Compact Air Rower

Assembled Dimensions

78 x 18 x 22 Inches

Folded Dimensions

48 x 18.75 x 28 Inches

Weight of Machine

84 lbs

Weight Capacity

250 lbs

Resistance Type

Water

Resistance Levels

Customizable

The most common type of rower in the gym uses air resistance, so it’s always good to find a compact rower that can allow you the same experience at home. The Stamina ATS gives you this and has some additional features that make it well suited for home use.

It's well built and durable, but slightly heavier than some alternatives. However, Stamina has included transport wheels, so it's easier to fold and move as needed.

Stamina features on this list multiple times because of their ability to combine effectiveness with practicality. The ATS compact rower has a modern, sleek design that not only looks good but allows for a lot of use. It’s also got an LCD screen that lets you track and monitor your progress as you workout.

The Stamina ATS allows you to burn more calories with the high-intensity air resistance. The harder you row, the more resistance you get, meaning a truly challenging workout even for seasoned rowers.

To help accommodate the higher levels of performance, Stamina has included upgraded comfort features like an upholstered seat, padded rowing handles, and adjustable footplates. There's an oversized angle rail to help give an even smoother rowing experience and floor protectors to safeguard your work area.

Air rowers are by far the most popular rowers right now because they give the best experience and workout for the user. If you want to get this in your own home, then the Stamina ATS compact air rower is definitely one to consider.

Pros

  • More resistance
  • Durable and well built
  • Very comfortable

Cons

  • Only 1-year warranty
  • Complicated setup

Comparing Types of Compact Rowers

Magnetic Rowing Machine

Magnetic rowing machines work using two electromagnets near the flywheel. They provide braking action, which provides resistance against the user, allowing you to exert yourself and workout. Magnetic rowers offer a fairly realistic rowing experience and are very quiet; however, you usually can't fold them, making them difficult to store.

Water Rowing Machine

Water rowing machines work by having the paddles in the fly wheel submerged in water, which provides resistance to the user. Some are also designed without water to mimic the feel of rowing on water but any actual liquid.

Water rowing machines give the most varied resistance and the most authentic sound and experience but can be louder than other types. They are also generally more expensive.

Hydraulic Rowing Machine

Hydraulic rowing machines are generally considered outdated, but they still have some benefits. They work using pistons that provide resistance against the user. This is a less smooth experience, and they require fairly regular maintenance, but they are affordable and quiet.

Air Rowing Machines

Air rowers are now generally considered by most to give the best experience. They use fans that provide air resistance against the user. Air rowers give a very authentic experience and are smooth to use with very little resistance on the body. The disadvantage is that they can be very loud when used.


Amount of Space Needed for Rowing Machines

Setting up your rowing machine takes thought. Rowing machines can take up a lot of space, and even compact rowers will be at least 8ft by 2 ft. However, you need to consider the clearance space and the dimensions when determining how much room you need.

You will need at least 1 foot on either side of the rower and 2 foot at the back to allow you to use it effectively, but the more space you have, the better. Make sure you thoroughly measure the space before any purchase to ensure you can properly use the device, and remember that larger rowers will, of course, need more space. 

Compact rowers are best set up in the middle of a room and not in the corner. If you can’t keep it out, then you should find something to slide it under (a bed sometimes works in an apartment) or a cupboard to load it into.


Beginner Tips for Effective Rowing Cardio Workouts

Using a rower may seem easy, but you need to take it slow if you haven't done it before. These safety tips will help you from injuring yourself when getting to grips with it:

  • Make sure the rowing machine is secure before use. You may need to put weights in front of it to keep it from drifting.
  • Always use both hands to row and wipe them down with a towel if sweaty.
  • Keep your wrists straight and avoid bending them. This will help focus the exercise and prevent straining your wrists.
  • Keep your elbows tucked into your body and keep the rowing motion in a straight line. Avoid twisting, as this can cause serious injury.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, it's all about getting the most from your workout. There's only really one way to use a rower, and it has the following 5 steps:

  1. 1
    The catch: keep your arms, back, and wrists straight, relax your legs and lean slightly forward, grasping the bar.
  2. 2
    The drive: press your knees down and lean back, pulling with your arms.
  3. 3
    The finish: your legs will be straight, and your arms bent with the handle pulled back towards you.
  4. 4
    The recovery: straighten your arms, relax your legs, lean forward and bend your knees as you slide forward.
  5. 5
    Return to the catch: keep sliding forward until your shins are vertical and get ready for the next stroke.

Rowing is genuinely one of the best ways to work out and can help you transform your body. Make sure you do it safely, and you'll get all the benefits without any downsides.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

What resistance should I set my rowing machine to?

Rowing machines are all different, but you’ll find there are generally 10 settings. Each of these will give you different levels of drag, which essentially dictates how difficult it will be to row. 1 will be your lowest setting giving around 80-100 drag, and level 10 can give upwards of 220 drag. Your fitness level should determine your resistance, but you should generally start between 3-5 and work your way up throughout the workout.

How big are rowing machines on average?

Compact rowing machines are around 8-10ft by 2-3ft, but this will vary depending on the make, model, and features.

How much should I expect to pay for a compact rowing machine?

Compact rowers are less expensive than large rowing machines. The prices do vary, but you should expect to spend between $300 and $800.

Are rowers good for cardio and/or building core muscle strength?

Rowing machines are excellent for cardio and will build your overall fitness incredibly well. They also work your whole body and strengthen your core, legs, arms, and back.

How do rowers compare with other fitness equipment?

Rowers are generally bigger than other fitness equipment but are extremely effective. Unlike other equipment, rowers work your whole body rather than focusing on one area. They are also low impact, which means there is a limited risk of injury.

How do I assemble a compact rowing machine?

Compact rowing machines are generally relatively simple to assemble, and many will fold out ready for use. Every model is different, so you will need to follow the instructions carefully. Always make sure there is a warranty to protect you from material or manufacturing defects.

Where can I find the most compact rowing machine for a good price?

Shopping online is always the best way to get good value. Amazon has a huge range of products, and Rogue Fitness has competitively priced specialist fitness equipment to meet all needs. 


Conclusion

As you can see, there's a lot to consider when choosing a compact rower, and there are a lot of different choices. For us, air rowers are hard to beat, and in the Concept2 Model D you also get a load of innovative and unique features that make rowing better.

It's lightweight, compact, and easy to store. It's hard to beat at this price point, and that's why it's our number one compact rowing machine.