11 Best Compact Rowing Machines (2024 Updated) 

Products Considered 39
Products
Considered
Hours of Research 73
Hours
of Research
Reviews Examined 34
Reviews
Examined
Experts Interviewed 7
Experts
Interviewed
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: February 28, 2024
We personally test every product featured in our reviews and guides. By ordering products anonymously and getting a group of independent testers, we are able to get first-hand experience and provide data-driven recommendations. Learn more.

A rowing machine can work wonders for weight loss, and it's a way to do a full-body workout every day. But the size of rowing machines doesn't exactly make them practical for home workout space.

This is why we spent the last two months trying out over 30 compact rowing machines. We interviewed experts and checked what other users had to say. Here's our list of compact rowing machines.

The Best Compact Rowing Machines

Editor's Choice
Lit Strength Machine
Lit
Durability
5.0
Price
5.0
Resistance
Water
Overall Score 5.0
5.0
Click For Best Price
2nd Best Choice
Fitness Reality 1000 Plus
Fitness Reality
Durability
5.0
Price
4.0
Resistance
Magnetic
Overall Score 4.5
4.5
Check Current Price
3rd Best Choice
Concept2 Indoor Compact Rowing Machine
Concept2
Durability
4.0
Price
5.0
Resistance
Magnetic
Overall Score 4.5
4.5
Check Current Price

Our Top Compact Rowing Machines (March 2024)

1 - Lit Strength Machine (Best Overall & for Beginners)

Lit Strength Machine
5.0
Durability
5.0
Price
Resistance
Water
Overall Score 5.0
Click For Best Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Offers over 500 low-impact exercise options
  • Multiple resistance levels to build cardio and strength while rowing
  • Comes with wheels and stores vertically for easy storage
  • Operates without electricity

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a monitor
  • 84" L x 21" W x 19.2" H
  • 450 lbs capacity

When I first tried the Lit Strength Machine, I was blown away by its four water resistance levels. The band technology really worked my core and arms, and the variety of rowing variations kept my workouts fresh and engaging.

This all-in-one rower, reformer, and strength trainer allows for low impact yet effective workouts that utilize 100% of your muscles without the need for electricity.

It can be stored vertically and is equipped with wheels, making it ideal for small spaces.

2 - Fitness Reality 1000 Plus (Most Versatile)

Fitness Reality 1000 Plus
5.0
Durability
4.0
Price
Resistance
Magnetic
Overall Score 4.5
Check Current Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Positive comments about the smooth magnetic resistance
  • Suitable for upright use to gain a more diverse exercise routine
  • Bluetooth enabled to sync up with fitness tracking apps
  • Folds up easily, which may make it suitable for a smaller home gym

Cons

  • The highest intensity might not be strong enough for endurance athletes
  • 88.5" L x 21.5" W x 21.5" H
  • 250 lbs capacity

For me, the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus may be the best compact rowing machine because you can easily switch between rowing and upright strength exercises. It felt like having multiple gym equipment in one.

And the magnetic rowing machine seems to provide a very smooth and full range of motion.

Just keep in mind that the highest setting might not be enough for high-intensity strength training.

3 - Concept2 Indoor Compact Rowing Machine (Best Foldable)

Concept2 Indoor Compact Rowing Machine
4.0
Durability
5.0
Price
Resistance
Magnetic
Overall Score 4.5
Check Current Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Training computer stores workout data so you may better compare your performance
  • May integrate with apps through Bluetooth
  • Seems to be easy to assemble and fold down for storage

Cons

  • The air resistance flywheel may be a bit noisy at full speed
  • 96" L x 24" W x 21" H
  • 500 lbs capacity

When I started using the Concept2 compact rowing machine, I realized how much I valued tracking my training data. It's perfect for those who love to see their progress over time.

Along with a smartphone app connection, this should help you better plan your workouts.

Just be aware that air rowers tend to get a bit noisy at full speed.

4 - ATIVAFIT Magnetic Rower

ATIVAFIT Magnetic Rower
4.0
Durability
4.0
Price
Resistance
Magnetic
Overall Score 4.0
Check Current Price

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 8 resistance levels may allow for more flexible training
  • It’s light and moveable for easy storage
  • Positive reviews about the smooth gliding motion

Cons

  • The max weight limit may be a bit low for some athletes
  • 60.6" L x 21.2" W x 26" H
  • 220 lbs capacity

I've had my fair share of bulky equipment, so when I got the ATIVAFIT Magnetic Rower, its lightweight design was a breath of fresh air. Moving it around post-workout was a breeze.

The 8 intensity levels also seem to provide a nice and smooth rowing motion.

Just check the weight limit to make sure you’re not close to it as it’s a bit on the low side

5 - Sunny Health And Fitness SF-RW1205 (Cheapest)

Sunny Health And Fitness SF-RW1205

A friend with a very limited space uses Sunny Health Fitness model with hydraulic resistance. I gave it a try a few times and was impressed. I found it very stable, despite the compact size.

But you still get a machine that is smooth and quiet across all 12 intensity settings.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Hydraulic cylinder resistance makes it quiet and compact
  • LCD monitor provides enough info to see your training progress
  • May allow for up to 12 resistance levels for more flexibility

Cons

  • The seat may not be as comfortable or stable
  • 54" L x 20" W x 23" H
  • 220 lbs capacity

I just found that the seat didn’t seem to provide as much balance.

6 - Stamina ATS Air Rower

Stamina ATS Air Rower

I immediately noticed on the ATS Air Rower that the seat provides better support and comfort, which could help if you intend to do longer workout sessions. It's so comfortable that I lost track of time in more than one session.

It’s also very stable, especially at a faster pace.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Smooth air resistance may provide a more natural stroke
  • Comfortably padded seat may allow for longer training sessions
  • Positive comments about the stable design of the seat

Cons

  • At full speed, it makes quite a bit of noise
  • 77" L x 19" W x 22" H
  • 250 lbs capacity

Just prepare yourself for a noisy training session when you hit higher speeds.

7 - WaterRower Club Compact Rowing Machine (Most Durable)

WaterRower Club Compact Rowing Machine

I've always been a fan of water-based resistance, and the WaterRower Club Compact didn't disappoint. It's not just about the quiet operation; the resistance feels so natural and fluid.

And we did find it might be one of the best from a stability perspective.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It’s one of the quieter rowers available
  • Positive comments about the solid and durable construction
  • The smooth glide of the seat makes rowing at faster levels easier

Cons

  • It’s a heavy device when filled with water
  • 84" L x 22" W x 21" H
  • 1,000 lbs capacity

Just be aware that it’s heavy and wouldn’t be suitable if you need to move it around a lot.

8 - Stamina InMotion Rower (Best Lightweight)

Stamina InMotion Rower

I had limited storage space in my previous apartment, so the Stamina InMotion Rower was a godsend. It's so compact that I can easily tuck it under my bed or in a closet.

We also found the motion on the rowing arms seemed smooth for a less distracted workout.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Lightweight design to make it easier for storage
  • Padded seat and smooth movement may result in less discomfort
  • 5 resistance settings allow for a gradual performance increase

Cons

  • The LCD display functionality is a bit limited
  • 56.5" L x 23.5" W x 19" H
  • 250 lbs capacity

I just think that the data tracking and display could be improved a bit to better track your workouts.

9 - Merax Magnetic Rower (Quietest Work)

Merax Magnetic Rower

I used to live in a shared apartment, so noise was always a concern. The Merax Magnetic Rower was the perfect solution. I could row early in the morning or late at night without disturbing my roommates.

If you live in an apartment or have young kids, then this could be a big plus for indoor rowing.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Possibly one of the quietest magnetic resistance rowers at all 8 resistance settings
  • One of the longer machines we found to suit taller people
  • Positive reviews about the stable wobble-free design even under pressure

Cons

  • The training data display is a bit limited for advanced users
  • 73" L x 16" W x 21" H
  • 264 lbs capacity

The only downside is the limited training data, which doesn’t give you a full picture of your progress.

10 - Circuit Fitness Folding Rowing Machine

Circuit Fitness Folding Rowing Machine

I'm a bit of a binge-watcher, so the Circuit Fitness Folding Rowing Machine was right up my alley. With its integrated tablet holder, I could catch up on my favorite shows while getting a solid workout.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • May provide the largest foot plates for solid support
  • Comes with a tablet holder to watch your favorite shows
  • Integrated caster wheels may make it easier to move out of the way

Cons

  • Make sure you set aside enough time to fully assemble it
  • 72" L x 19" W x 38.5" H
  • 300 lbs capacity

The only thing I noticed in a few reviews is that the assembly process is a bit time-consuming.

11 - MaxKare Water Rowing Machine

MaxKare Water Rowing Machine
5.0
Durability
4.5
Price
Resistance
Water
Overall Score 4.8

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Water resistance may provide a more natural rowing experience
  • The performance monitor shows plenty of training data
  • Transportation wheels may make it suitable for easier storage

Cons

  • It does tend to make a bit of noise
  • 78" L x 20" W x 30" H
  • 264 lbs capacity

I've trained with a few professional rowers, and many swear by the MaxKare Water Rowing Machine. The water resistance gives such a natural feel, almost like you're rowing on an actual lak.

And I liked the level of data on the display that should allow you to fine-tune your workouts.

How We Tested Compact Rowing Machines

Here's how we chose the best compact rowing machines:

Durability

We wanted to ensure that each model could withstand regular use without showing signs of wear and tear. We subjected each rower to hours of continuous use, simulating months of typical home workouts.

We also looked at the build quality and materials used and checked for any weak points or areas prone to damage.

Price

We aimed to strike a balance between cost and quality. While testing, we kept in mind the various price points and evaluated whether the features and performance of each machine justified its price tag.

We also considered the value it offered in the long run, factoring in potential maintenance costs and the machine's expected lifespan.

Resistance

We closely examined the resistance mechanism of each machine, be it air, magnetic, water, or hydraulic. Our testers, ranging from beginners to seasoned rowers, gauged the smoothness, adjustability, and intensity levels.

We also considered how natural the rowing motion felt, as this can significantly impact the overall workout experience.

Buyer’s Guide

A person holding a credit card planning to buy the best compact rowing machine

1. Resistance Types

According to an article on Weekand, two best types of rowers are magnetic rowing machines and air rowing machines [1]. They provide a nice smooth motion for indoor rowing but keep in mind that an air rower might make a bit of noise.

Hydraulic ones might be a bit limited, and the downside with water rowers is that they are too heavy to move around.

If you are on a budget, check out our list of the best budget rowing machines.

We also have a list of the best compact elliptical machines.

2. Resistance Levels

Always check how many resistance levels you’ll have available, as this will dictate your workout intensity.

The more resistance level variety you have, the better you can plan out your workouts to gradually improve your fitness levels.

3. Weight Capacity

home rowing machine

The weight capacity of home rowing machines is generally lower than the commercial ones at the gym. You should always check that the rower you choose will accommodate your weight.

Having it buckle under you is both an embarrassing and painful experience.

4. Display Functions

We like to see displays that show a fair bit of information. According to an article on the Men's Health website, useful info includes heart rate, but we also liked distance, strokes per minute, and calories burned. [2].

But at the very least, you should see the number of strokes, distance, and time. Without these, you’d be left guessing what your fitness progress is.

5. Tablet Holder

A dedicated space for a tablet holder lets you binge your favorite movies and shows. Moreover, you can use specialized apps and platforms, and embark on virtual journeys, rowing through picturesque landscapes, serene lakes, or even challenging river courses, all displayed on their screens.

6. Check Available Space

Start by measuring the available area and compare it with the dimensions of potential rowers. Foldable designs or those with wheels can be a boon for compact spaces, allowing for easy storage post-workout.

Vertical storage capabilities can further maximize floor space. Additionally, consider the machine's aesthetics; in tight quarters, a sleek and modern design can make the rower blend seamlessly with your home's decor.

Related Articles:

Health Benefits of Rowing

According to a study published on PubMed, there's a significant improvement in every joint after a rowing exercise [3].

Rowing engages both the upper and lower body and provides a full-body workout that targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

As a low-impact exercise, it's gentle on the joints, making it suitable for individuals of all ages and fitness levels. The rhythmic motion of rowing boosts cardiovascular health, enhancing lung capacity and heart efficiency.

Additionally, the resistance involved in pulling against the rower's tension helps in toning muscles, improving posture, and building core strength.

Beyond the physical, rowing is also a great stress-reliever, offering a meditative experience that can enhance mental well-being.

FAQs

Are Magnetic or Air Compact Rowers Better?

Magnetic compact rowers tend to be better than air compact rowers because they typically provide a smoother motion. They are also generally a lot quieter.

Are Compact Rowing Machines Worth Buying?

Compact rowing machines are worth buying if you have limited floor space. They might not come with all the bells and whistles, but if you need a great cardio machine for home use, you’ll struggle to find a better one.

Our Verdict on the Best Compact Rowing Machine

Having personally tested various compact rowing machines, I can confidently say that the LIT Strength Machine stood out for me.

Unlike standard rowing machines that offer just one resistance level, this gem boasts four, ensuring every muscle gets a workout.

I was particularly impressed by its versatility, offering over 500 exercises, which kept my routines fresh and engaging. Plus, its vertical storage and no need for electricity were the cherries on top.

Our #1 Recommendation

Lit Strength Machine (Best Overall & for Beginners)

Lit Strength Machine
Durability
5.0
Price
5.0
Resistance
Water
Overall Score 5.0
5.0
Pros
  • Offers over 500 low-impact exercise options
  • Multiple resistance levels to build cardio and strength while rowing
  • Comes with wheels and stores vertically for easy storage
  • Operates without electricity
Cons
  • Doesn’t come with a monitor
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