How To Choose The Right Rowing Machine? 

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Rowing machines are great for burning calories and toning up.

But with so many options on the market, how do you find the right one?

how to choose the right rowing machine

As a personal trainer, I’ve tried my fair share of rowing machines.

And I can tell you, it’s not as simple as picking the most affordable model out there. 

There are plenty of good quality rowing machines, but there are also some duds. 

One friend of mine purchased a water rower, because a water rower feels more like real rowing. But after a while, she got tired of the sound of the water and did not row anymore.

To help you in your search, I compiled a list of questions to ask yourself, which can lead you to your “the one”.

So, how to choose the right rowing machine?

Keep reading below.

Table of Contents

How To Choose The Right Rowing Machine For Your Home Gym?

Answer these seven questions, and you’ll be well on your way to finding the best rowing machine for you. 

1) How much space is needed for a rowing machine?

Home gyms tend to have a lot less space than regular gyms, so it’s best to check how much space you have available. 

Rowing machines are not humongous, but they take up some space.

I cannot find a standard size for a rowing machine. But you can use the Concept2 Rowing Machine as a basis, as it is one of the most popular rowers in the rowing community.

Concept2 RowErg has a dimension of 95 x 24 inches, so it can take up a floor area of 2,280 square inches. Rowing machines are a bit longer than a standard yoga mat (68 x 24 in) [1].

As for ceiling height, I don’t think having a low ceiling would be an issue, because you perform rowing exercises while seated, so you don’t need much height. 

rowing machine motion

However, if you plan to share your rowing machines with others, you have to consider the user-compatibility. For instance, if you share it with tall people, then a rowing machine for tall people is a good option.

And of course, since you need the monorail to be longer to accommodate longer legs, your rowing machine will take up a bigger space. 

You can actually store some rowing machines upright. A friend of mine has one of these rowers. She keeps it upright in her study and puts it in place when she wants to row.

There are also others where you can separate the parts. In the case of the Concept2 RowErg, for example, you can separate the parts for easy storage.

So if space is limited, some rowers actually have space-saving features.

2) How much does a rowing machine cost?

I have a rowing machine both in my home gym and commercial gym. 

Based on my recent purchases, you can get a decent rowing machine for home use for around $300. That does not include the shipping costs or installation fee.

Of course, commercial-grade rowers are more expensive.

But before you decide to buy a rower, ask yourself the following questions first:

❔ How long will you keep it?

❔ How often do you intend to use it?

❔ How many people will use it?

If you use it regularly and share it with others, you might want to invest in a more expensive yet durable model.

3) What are the different types of rowing machines?

Next is to know which type of rowing machine suits you best. 

Rowing machines can be classified into four resistance types:

Air resistance rowing machines

Air rowers use a flywheel with a fan to generate resistance. To adjust the resistance, you have to change the damper setting on the side of the flywheel.

Water resistance rowing machines

Water rowers use a tank of water and paddles to create resistance. The water provides a smooth and natural rowing experience, mimicking the feeling of rowing on actual water. 

To adjust the resistance, you need to add or drain water from the tank.

Magnetic resistance rowing machines

Magnetic rowers use magnets to create resistance. You can adjust the resistance electronically, allowing for a wide range of intensity levels.

Hydraulic resistance rowing machines

These rowing machines use hydraulic cylinders to create resistance. You can adjust the resistance by turning the knob to add or reduce the tension.

4) Do rowing machines have weight limits?

A rowing machine supports your whole body during the exercise, so a weight limit is necessary to keep you safe.

An average rower has a weight capacity of 250 pounds. 

And the high-end models can support up to 350 pounds.

The average weights of American adults are the following [2]:

American AdultWeight in pounds

So an average rower is enough for most people. 

If you’re over 250 pounds, the best option is to buy a model with a higher weight capacity for your safety. 

5) Do rowing machines make noise?

The noise generated by a rowing machine varies by resistance type.

Air rowers tend to produce more noise due to the sound of the fan blades as they spin. 

If you row intensely, the noise will be louder.

While generally quieter than air rowers, water-resistance rowers can still produce some noise due to the sound of the water in the tank. The sound mimics the sound of rowing on actual water.

Many people prefer water rowers because the sound is immersive and meditative.

Magnetic rowing machines are popular for their quieter operation, because magnets are the source of resistance. There is no contact between the magnets and the cables, so there is not much friction and sound generated.

Similar to magnetic resistance machines, hydraulic rowers also operate quietly.

6) Do rowing machines need maintenance?


Like any piece of exercise equipment, rowing machines require maintenance to ensure they operate at their best and last as long as possible.

Maintaining your rowing machine properly can also help prevent injuries and costly repairs later on.

Air and water rowers tend to require more maintenance than magnetic and hydraulic rowers.

Since air rowers use a fan and air for resistance, the flywheel has some holes for the air to pass through. And over time, dust can accumulate in the flywheel.

For water rowers, you need to change the water from time to time, so the water wouldn’t get cloudy and algae wouldn’t grow. Plus, adjusting the resistance requires adding and draining water, so it takes a lot of work.

Magnetic and hydraulic rowers don’t require much maintenance unless they get damaged.

7) What else should I look for in a rowing machine?

After you’ve answered all these questions, you probably have an idea of what you want in a rowing machine.

However, rowing machines also include some features that can elevate your rowing experience.

Here are some of them:

Console Features

Like other cardio machines, rowers come with a console that displays your current stats.

Some machines include features like built-in heart rate monitors and workout stats that allow you to track your performance.

Most rower’s consoles will show workout metrics, such as:

  • Pace
  • Watts
  • Stroke rate
  • Calories
  • Time
  • Distance

Workout programs

Some rowers even come with pre-programmed workouts that you can use to get started without having to think too hard.

These programs are particularly useful if you’re new to rowing. Since you don’t know how much resistance or time to set for your workout.

Apart from workout programs, rowers are also compatible with several fitness apps like:

  • Future
  • Ergatta
  • iFit
  • LiveRowing

Connectivity features

Many rowers now come with connectivity features that allow you to connect your device and rower via Bluetooth or WiFi.

This allows you to sync your workout data to your devices.

And listen to music or watch videos while rowing.

Transport wheels

Rowers can sometimes be heavy, especially the water rowers, which come with a water tank.

You wouldn’t risk dropping or damaging your rower, right?

So transport wheels are a must-have for any rower.


As I mentioned, rowers are not huge, but they take up some space.

And extra space is a luxury when it comes to home gyms.

A rower that you can store upright or come with a foldable design is a huge plus.  

How to Choose the Right Rowing Machine (FAQs)

What to look for when buying a rowing machine?

When looking for a rowing machine, the essential features you should look for are resistance type, noise level, weight capacity, console feature, and size.

How to buy a rowing machine?

You can buy a rowing machine by visiting a nearby fitness store or by shopping online. Websites like Amazon have a robust selection of rowing machines. You can also buy directly from the manufacturer’s website if there is a specific brand you have in mind.

Should I buy a rowing machine?

Rowing is among the top cardio machines for burning calories [3] and a rowing stroke targets 85% of your body’s muscles [4]. So I highly recommend getting a rowing machine for your home gym.

What to do next?

With the long list of rowing machines available in the market, it can be hard to choose which is the right one for your home gym.

So I recommend answering all these questions one by one, so you can narrow down your options and eventually make a decision.

If you need more guides regarding rowing machines, here are some other articles that can help:

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Inge van Haselen is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritional Coach. For over 17 years, she has been coaching hundreds of clients in her gym. Inge published several programs on health and fitness. It is her passion to help you have the best Home Gym for your needs, so you can be in the best shape of your life. More info: About Us

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