7 Best Rowing Machines for Beginners: Entry Level Models Reviewed

Working out at home is convenient and can save money in the long term. Investing in quality, low impact cardio fitness equipment is a great place to start building your home fitness arsenal.

For those looking for cardio and muscle toning, getting an affordable rowing machine can be the best of both worlds. Read on to discover the best rowing machine for beginners.

Benefits of Using an Indoor Rowing Machine

Why invest in an indoor rowing machine? There are plenty of benefits to gain from using an indoor rowing machine, including an excellent upper and lower body workout.

Some of the muscles worked include the deltoids, pecs, biceps, abs, obliques, quadriceps, triceps, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and lats. Rowing is also low impact, meaning minimal stress on your joints, which prevents injuries later.

Both cardio and body conditioning training is possible to achieve on a rowing machine. This fun and challenging workout can lead to weight loss and muscle building if used correctly. Plus, rowing machines are often compact and easy to store.

Buying Guide for Beginner Rowers

Comfort and Adjustability

Like with any seated workout product, if your rowing machine is not comfortable, you will not use it. Focus on finding a machine with a comfortable ergonomic seat and comfortable non-slip handlebars. Make sure to read the product reviews carefully to ensure that the height restrictions and resistance levels are perfect for your body and goals.

Display Monitor Functionality

Having a functional and easy to use monitor can save you so much hassle. Many rowing machines come with a few preset workout programs and fitness app Bluetooth connectivities to keep you on track to achieve those fitness goals. Some also have speakers and media consoles for you to follow online workouts or watch a movie while working out.

Stability & Durability

As rowing is a vigorous and highly active workout, you need a stable and durable model. Does your rowing machine have stabilizers? Will those stabilizers mark the floor? How sturdy is it? What materials is your desired machine made of? Reading the product description and reviews will help give you a sense of how strong and stable this machine is.

Ease of Assembly & Storing

When your machine arrives, you want to get started as soon as possible; find a machine that is easy to assemble. Some arrive made, some need to be built, and some brands provide a construction service for your convenience.

Know how much storage you have for your machine in advance; measure it out and compare it to the rowing machine. Can this machine fold? Does it have transport wheels? How heavy is it? Consider all these things before purchase.

Easy To Use

What kind of resistance would you prefer? There are typically four types of resistance in rowing machines. Water provides a smoother and more authentic experience. Magnetic resistance machines have the smoothness of air resistance machines but are quieter.

Air rowers are adjustable and cheaper but are often loud. Hydraulic machines can work each arm individually, making them perfect for rehabilitation. Make sure your model is easy to use and provides the best resistance for your needs.

Size vs. Available Space

What size is your machine? How heavy is it? Do you have the space to use and store your desired device? Measure your space out beforehand, leaving plenty of room to walk and workout and compare it to the product specifications. Do this before purchase to ensure you get the right model for your home.

Max User Weight & Height

To function correctly, gym equipment like rowing machines have a maximum user height and weight limit. Check your weight and inseam measurement and compare it to your desired model's specifications before purchase. This is the best way to ensure that you get the best rowing machine for your body and needs.


Getting a rowing machine with a decent warranty can save you money and stress later on. Should a malfunction occur, you want to know that your model is covered. Rowing machine warranties are usually broken down into three separate ones for the frame, parts, and labor.

Typically, a frame will be covered for five years to life, while parts and labor are usually protected from 90 days to five years. We recommend investing in a rowing machine with an extended warranty.


Another significant factor for many buyers is the price of your rowing machine. We recommend setting a personal budget and looking for a decent model with plenty of features with that range. If you want a more expensive model, you can save big money by waiting for a sale or getting a practically new one secondhand.

7 Best Rowing Machines for Beginners Reviewed

1. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515

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Best Entry Level Rowing Machine

Dimensions (L x H)

62 x 23 inches

Weight of Machine

59 lbs

Resistance Levels



44 inches

Weight Capacity

250 lbs

Our top pick for the best home rowing machine for beginners, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515, is an excellent option for new rowers. This sturdy and foldable model has eight different resistance levels and floor stabilizers for a challenging and safe workout.

The handlebars are coated in foam, and the ergonomic seat is cushioned for comfort and to prevent slips. Two non-slip textured oversized pedals have sturdy foot straps to keep your feet comfortable and in place throughout your session. A large LCD screen records time, count, calories, total count, and scan; two batteries are provided to get you going as soon as possible.

When it comes time to store your rowing machine away, simply fold the machine, carefully lift it, and wheel it to your storage destination. This machine's magnetic resistance means that you get a great workout without the noise that can come with other rowing machines.

While we love this machine, it is essential to note that the warranty only lasts 90 days. Overall, there is plenty of reason to get your new fitness routine started with the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515. Give it a try for yourself and see if this rowing machine is right for your home.


  • Amazon's choice (2020)
  • Compact and easy to store
  • Comfortable and easy to use
  • Wheels for easy transport
  • Quiet and stable


  • Short warranty of 90 days
  • The weight limit could be larger

2. Concept2

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Top Of The Range

Dimensions (L x H)

96 x 14 inches

Weight of Machine

57.32 lbs

Resistance Levels



38 inches

Weight Capacity

500 lbs

The most advanced entry-level rowing machine on our list, the Concept2 is found in many homes and gyms across the world. This air resistance style makes minimal noise and provides an exceptionally smooth rowing experience.

The backlit LCD monitor tracks meters, pace, watts, and calories and has an adjustable smartphone cradle above it for convenience. Along with the variety of preset workouts, you can also compete online and look at online rankings.

If you need to save your activities digitally, it is possible to keep your workouts on a USB drive for future use. It is possible to use Bluetooth to connect your ANT+ heart rate monitor for optimal cardio tracking.

In terms of construction, you only need to insert eight screws to attach the two pieces. If you want to store your rowing machine, you only need to unscrew the same eight screws to separate the pieces again.

Two different warranties cover the Concept2; the frame is covered for five years while all the other parts are covered for two years. It is important to note that the resistance can feel a little weaker than other rowing machine models. The USB port can be unreliable at times, but trying again often works.


  • Decent warranty
  • Large user weight limit
  • Smartphone cradle
  • Preset workouts and connectivity
  • Easy to assemble and store


  • Resistance could be better
  • The USB is unreliable

3. Sunny Health & Fitness Water

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Best Water Rowing Machine For Beginners

Dimensions (L x H)

80 x 34 inches

Weight of Machine

91.9 lbs

Resistance Levels



38 inches

Weight Capacity

300 lbs

Our pick for the best water rowing machine for beginners is another entrant on Amazon's Choice list. The circular water resistance tank uses powerful hydro blades and to provide smooth and natural resistance.

Algae tablets and a funnel are equipped to treat the 2-3 gallons of water in the tank. These tablets work for around six months, but we recommend cleaning the tank regularly to keep the machine in proper working order.

Batteries are included to power the LCD monitor, which tracks time, 500-meter time, SPM, total strokes, calories, heart rate, temp, and more. The non-slip handlebars are comfortable to hold, and the padded ergonomic seat is comfortable to sit on for extended periods. Oversized non-slip foot pedals have nylon straps and are suitable for different sized feet.

Rubber high-density wheels are perfect for helping you lift your rowing machine upright and against the wall for storage. Multiple floor stabilizers keep you safe and stable throughout the most vigorous workouts.

Some customers have noted that the foot pedals could be more durable and that the Concept's customer service team can be challenging to deal with. Overall, the Concept2 provides a high tech and authentic rowing experience whether you live near a river or a big city. Give it a try and see how this unusual style of rowing works for your lifestyle.


  • Amazon's Choice (2020)
  • Easy to use, transport, and store
  • Water is easy to sterilize and replace
  • Batteries included
  • Compactible with ANT+ tech


  • Footpedals could be more durable
  • Customer service could be better

4. Stamina ATS Air Rower

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Best Air Rower For Beginners

Dimensions (L x H)

70 x 28 inches

Weight of Machine

54 lbs

Resistance Levels



40 inches

Weight Capacity

250 lbs

Another air resistance model, we consider the Stamina ATS Air Rower to be the best air rower for beginners. Available in three different colors, this basic foldable model is easy to use and has a smooth stroke. An upholstered seat, oversized pivoting foot pedals with adjustable straps, and padded handlebar keep you secure and comfortable throughout your workout routine.

Anti-skid endcaps stop your machine from moving around even during vigorous workouts. The large LCD tracks speed, distance, time, and calories, keeping things simple for new users. When storing your rowing machine away, you simply fold the machine in half and wheel it into the storage area.

Some more experienced fitness fans may find this model a little basic for their tastes. However, we think this model is an excellent option for getting to grips with regular rowing workout routines. It is important to note that the warranty only lasts for 90 days and that the flywheel can be noisy during the workout.

Overall, this is a great model for smaller folks looking to tone up and get into rowing without any of the bells and whistles of more expensive or fancier models.


  • Easy to transport, store, and use
  • Basic and easy to use display
  • Multiple color options
  • Many adjustable features


  • 90-day warranty
  • The fan can be loud

5. NordicTrack RW Rower

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Full Of Features

Dimensions (L x H)

53.15 x 22.64 inches

Weight of Machine

59.24 kg

Resistance Levels




Weight Capacity

250 lbs

The opposite of the previous entry, the NordicTrack RW Rower, is full of useful bells and whistles for the tech-savvy. This inertia enhanced magnetic resistance model has 26 resistance levels that can be manually controlled or manipulated by a coach.

Coaches will only adjust the resistance during an online class. The 22 inches HD smart tech screen display quickly displays your workout data, iFit workouts, and other videos. With iFit, there are thousands of workout programs and options to provide variety and interest in your regular rowing routine. The console is adjustable to suit your height and angle preferences.

Oversized foot pedals can be pivoted and have adjustable straps. An ergonomic and molded seat keeps you comfortable so you can focus on your posture and working your muscles.

After a workout, you need to fold it and push it along using the front-mounted transport wheels when storing your rowing machine. In terms of a warranty, the NordicTrack RW Rower is covered by three long term warranties.

The frame is covered for 15 years, parts are covered for five years, and the labor is covered for two years. It is important to remember that there is an automatic charge for your iFit membership after the year is up. Some customers have found the customer service team to be challenging to work with.


  • Long warranty
  • One year iFit membership included
  • Plenty of workout and resistance options
  • Quiet operation
  • Space saver folding design


  • The automatic charge for iFit after one year
  • Customer service could be better

6. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205

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Best Cheap Rowing Machine For Beginners

Dimensions (L x H)

54 x 23 inches

Weight of Machine

20.5 lbs

Resistance Levels



37 inches

Weight Capacity

220 lbs

Another fundamental and easy to use option, we consider the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 to be the best cheap rowing machine for beginners. This hydraulic model has 12 different resistance levels to keep you challenged. A simple LCD monitor tracks time, count, total count, calories, and scan.

The cushioned seat is wide and comfortable, and the non-slip handlebars are also cushioned. Large non-slip pedals with adjustable straps will keep your feet in place for the duration of your workout. Stabilizers work to keep your rowing machine in place to prevent accidents and keep you focused on moving your body.

For smaller folks with a small budget and even smaller apartments, this compact and simple hydraulic rowing machine is a great option. It is worth noting that the user weight limit is on the lower side; some folks may find a more robust model with a higher user weight limit better for their body.

Overall, we love the compact and straightforward nature of the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205, as well as its lower price range. If you are interested, we recommend giving this rowing machine a try to see if the SF-RW1205 is right for your budget and lifestyle.


  • Basic and easy to use
  • Plenty of resistance levels
  • Compact
  • Cushioned, comfortable, and adjustable


  • Low weight limit

7. Stamina Rower

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Best Basic Beginner Friendly Rowing Machine

Dimensions (L x H)

56.5 x 19 inches

Weight of Machine

27 lbs

Resistance Levels




Weight Capacity

250 lbs

Our top pick for the best basic beginner friendly rowing machine, the Stamina Rower, is an excellent tech-averse option. This lightweight and simple model has a multi-function monitor that tracks distance, time, strokes per minute, and calories.

A padded upholstered seat and textured foot straps help to keep you secure and comfortable. The Stamina Rower is easy to assemble and is stored upright and out of the way. Customers have noted that this model is quiet and compact, which is perfect for parents and renters.

Unfortunately, the warranty is on the small side; the parts are covered for 90 days, and the frame is covered for only one year. This is not ideal but does not take away from the benefits of having a basic and compact rowing machine model at home to kickstart your cardio and rowing routine.

We wish that the user weight limit was higher than 250 pounds but still like its other features. Whether you want to tone your body or try high-intensity interval training, the Stamina Rower could be the right rowing machine for you. Give the Stamina Rower a try for yourself to see if it is best for your body and personal fitness goals.


  • Basic and easy to use
  • Quiet
  • Compact and easy to store
  • Easy to assemble


  • Few resistance levels
  • Short warranty

Comparing Rowing Machine Resistance Types

Magnetic Rowing Machine

Magnetic rowing machines use a magnetic brake system to create adjustable resistance. This style of rowing machine has no friction and is virtually silent. It provides the smooth motion of air machines but without the loud noise. Magnetic devices are often weaker in terms of resistance than other types.

Water Rowing Machine

Water rowing machines use a round tank of water and fan blades to provides a smooth and authentic rowing experience. The harder you pull, the more resistance you feel while rowing.

Increasing the amount of water in the tank can also increase the resistance felt. This style of rowing machine is often more aesthetically pleasing but is heavier and requires more maintenance.

Air Rowing Machine

Air resistance rowing machines feel smooth and provide adjustable resistance levels. This type of rower is often used by athletes and can be used for HIIT training. Air resistance rowing machines are also cheaper and more common than other styles. Still, they are often loud due to the spinning flywheel system.

Hydraulic Rowing Machine

Hydraulic rowing machines can use either one or two hydraulic pistons to create resistance. Depending on the model, you can even row with one arm to use one to eight resistance levels. Hydraulic rowers are often used for recovering patients or to treat muscular imbalance.

Hydraulic machines are quiet and compact but are prone to overheating. These models are usually not suitable for taller or stockier folks.

Rowing Machine Basics for Beginners: Setup & Usage Guide

Need some tips on how to get started? Here are some rowing machine basics for beginners to give you a hand. Once your machine arrives, clear some space in your desired workout area and grab a toolbox.

If your machine did not come preassembled, we recommend assembling your machine according to the manual's instructions. Be sure to test each part carefully before use to prevent any injuries.

Once your machine has been assembled, you need to wear proper shoes and workout gear, as well as plenty of water. Ensure that the settings on display are what you need and check out the preset workout programs.

When using your rowing machine, having proper posture is key to ensuring a good workout. You can find more rowing machine tips for beginners here.

Recommended Rowing Machine Workouts for Beginners

Now that you are set up and know how to get the best out of a workout, you are ready to begin a regular workout routine. Suppose the preset programs on your rowing machine are not for you.

In that case, there are plenty of other rowing machine workouts for beginners available on various apps or online. Some models come with a fitness membership, like iFit, which can be a great way to get variety.

There are hundreds of articles and videos with rowing machine workout routines for beginners. There are plenty of routines aiming to help you gain muscle, burn fat, and reach your fitness goals.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Are there maintenance steps needed in keeping indoor rowers in good condition?

Yes, regular maintenance and testing ensure that your machine stays in top condition for a long time.

Which is better, folding or non-folding rowing machines?

That depends on how much space you have at home. For those with limited space, folding machines would be better. If you have plenty of floor space, a non-folding rowing machine may be better.

Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine?

You can lose belly fat and sculpt your muscles with a regular workout routine and a lot of effort and rest.

What resistance should I set my rowing machine?

That depends on your ability and fitness goals. Try your machine's settings out and see which is best for you.

How long should a beginner rower workout for?

We recommend working out for 15-30 minutes at least three times a week, depending on your health and resistance levels.

How much space do I need for a rower?

That depends on the rower. Measure out your space beforehand and compare it to your desired model's size to make sure you get the right one for you.

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

Rowing machines are perfect for getting low impact cardio in and toning your core muscles.

How do rowers compare with other fitness equipment for beginners?

Rowers are often seen as intimidating, but they are an incredibly useful tool once you know what to do. Watching someone use a proper technique before trying yourself can make all the difference in how well it goes for a beginner. 


Investing in a quality rowing machine can help you achieve your fitness goals and improve your overall health.

We recommend picking up the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 as the best rowing machine for beginners for people looking to make a start. If you would like to see more home gym options, please see our website for more information.

Paul J

Last Updated on August 18, 2021