The 9 best compact rowing machines 2021

If fat loss is one of your goals, you may be considering a rowing machine. A rower is a great form of cardio. The right machine can also help you tone up.

What if you have limited exercise space? Then you’ll need a space saving rower.

In this guide, we’ll look at the best compact rowing machine on the market. Ready? Let’s get going!

In a Hurry? Here is our top pick:

Best compact rowing machine

  1. Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine – Best Overall
  2. Marcy NS-6002RE Rowing Machine – Best For Whole Body Training
  3. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine – Best For Hydraulic Resistance
  4. ProGear 750 Rower – Best For Exercise Versatility
  5. First Degree Fitness AR Newport Rower – Best For Water Resistance
  6. Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine – Best For Real Oar-Like Rowing
  7. Xterra Fitness ERG220 Rower – Best For Beginners
  8. NordicTrack RW Rower – Best High Tech
  9. Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower – Best Electric Compact Rowing Machine

Reviews – The best compact rowing machines

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine – Best Overall

Here’s our pick for best overall. It’s a compact rower that separates into two pieces for storage. There are transport wheels on the heavier end for easy moving. Even so, you will need 9 x 4 feet to use the Concept2 Model D. Still, it’s portable, you can use it outdoors. 

This rower has a length adjustable seat and foot pedals. It’s designed to fit most users. Also, it features adjustable air resistance. The flywheel is quiet and has a smooth, even feel. 

The PM5 computer display has Wi-Fi connectivity and features preset workouts. It tracks pace, meters and calories. Finally, there’s a smart phone holder, and a quick start guide. User capacity is 500lbs.

PROS

  • The Rower Separates Into Two Pieces With Wheels On The Flywheel End
  • The Seat Is Length Adjustable & The Foot Pedals Are Adjustable
  • Features Adjustable Air Resistance

CONS

  • Some Users Find The Computer Display Has An Outdated 90s Look

Marcy NS-6002RE Rowing Machine – Best For Whole Body Training

This compact rowing machine imitates the rowing motion of a real boat. It’s a good choice for low-impact cardio. Also, it provides a great whole body workout.

The Marcy NS-6002RE Rowing Machine features a heavy duty steel frame. It has a user weight capacity of 300 lbs. There’s 8 levels of magnetic resistance that’s controlled by a tension knob. 

The computer display tracks calories, speed, stroke count, total stroke count, and time.

The NS-6002RE Rower comes with oversized foot pedals that fit any size user. They have hook and loop straps for a secure fit. Also, the handles are foam covered for comfort. Finally, there’s also a water bottle holder and media rack.

The Marcy NS-6002RE Rowing Machine folds and has transportation wheels for easy moving.

PROS

  • Folds & Includes Transportation Wheels
  • Mimics The Feel Of a Real Boat
  • Features heavy Duty Steel Construction

CONS

  • Some Users Feel It’s Meant For Light use Only

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine – Best For Hydraulic Resistance  

Here’s our pick for the best hydraulic resistance rowing machine. This is a compact rower that has 12 levels of hydraulic resistance. The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine features a space-saving, efficient design.

 It’s lightweight and is easy to move for storage. The SF-RW1205 includes a multi-function digital computer. The computer tracks calories, time, count, and count total. There are foam handlebars and an ergonomically designed seat. The pedals pivot and hold your feet securely.

PROS

  • Compact & Efficient Design
  • There Are 12 Levels Of Hydraulic Resistance
  • Easy To Move For Storage

CONS

  • Not Designed For Taller Users

 

ProGear 750 Rower – Best For Exercise Versatility

Here’s our pick for the most versatile compact rowing machine. You can use the ProGear 750 Rower for 10 different exercises. These include bent rows, shoulder presses, and chest flyes. You can do arm work by changing your grip. Also, you can also do ab work. This provides a complete workout. 

As well, you can use the large padded seat as a backrest for other exercises. There are three incline angles for rows. Also, there’s 180 degrees of rowing motion. It’s adjustable for user height. User height can range from 4’9” to 6’1”.

There are two hydraulic cylinders and three adjustable resistance levels. Each cylinder has independent resistance. Also, there are no-slip foot pedals with straps.

The digital display tracks calories, time, scan, and total scan. Finally, the 750 Rower folds for easy storage and has a 220lb user capacity.

PROS

  • Versatile Rower Features 10 Available Exercises
  • There Are Two Independently Adjustable Hydraulic Cylinders
  • Folds For Easy Storage

CONS

  • Some Users Feel It Sits Too Low, Making It Awkward To Use

First Degree Fitness AR Newport Rower – Best For Water Resistance

The First Degree Fitness AR Newport Rower is the best rower using water as resistance. It’s adjustable by turning a dial. The AR Newport Rower uses a triple-blade propeller for consistently even resistance. 

Also, the pulley system features constant tension. The handle is ergonomically designed for comfort. This rower has height-adjustable foot pedals with straps.

As well, the computer tracks heart rate, calories, time, and strokes. The frame is aluminum and the seat rides on precision bearings.

Finally, the First Degree Fitness AR Newport Rower folds up and has wheels for easy moving.

PROS

  • Folds & Has Wheels For Portability
  • Pulley System Features Constant Tension
  • It Has An Aluminum Rail Frame For Strength

CONS

  • Some Users Feel The Pulley Cord Is Not Durable For Prolonged Use

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine – Best For Real Oar-Like Rowing

Here’s a rower with independent handles that mimic using real oars. It’s our pick for the best oar-like feel. The Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine also has folding handles. As well, the unit itself folds up. That makes it easy to store when you’re done working out.

The compact design features durable steel construction. There’s adjustable hydraulic resistance. Additionally, the rowing stroke is smooth. The handles are foam covered for comfort. The computer display tracks performance data such as calories, time, count, and total count.

Finally, the Body Trac Glider is height-adjustable for users from 4’9” to 6’4” and has a capacity of 250 lbs.

PROS

  • Folding Handles & Folding Frame For Storage
  • The Handles Operate Independently & Mimic Real Oars
  • Height Adjustable For Users Up to 6’4” Tall

CONS

  • Some Users Feel Resistance Drops Off After The First 15 Minutes Of Use

Xterra Fitness ERG220 Rower – Best For Beginners

Here’s our pick for the best rowing machine for beginners. The Xterra Fitness ERG220 Rower has 8 levels of magnetic resistance. The resistance is good for beginners but is not challenging enough for experienced users. 

This rower has a steel frame with aluminum wheels and folds when not in use. Also, it has transportation wheels so users can move it for storage.

It has padded handles and pivoting foot pedals. The large molded seat is supportive and comfortable. The computer display tracks time, calories, count, and distance.

Finally, it fits users from 5’1” to 6’4” and has a weight capacity of 300lbs.

PROS

  • There Are 8 Levels Of Resistance
  • Folds & Has Wheels 
  • Fits Users Up To 6’4”

CONS

  • Not For Intermediate Or Advanced Users

NordicTrack RW Rower – Best High Tech 

Here’s a rowing machine with a one-year iFit membership. This means users can take advantage of personal trainer-led workouts. 

There’s a tablet holder so users can use an iPad or smartphone for their training. The rower itself is a compact design that has a hinge in the middle. It folds up and has wheels for easy moving. 

PROS

  • Features High Tech iFit Wireless Technology
  • Personal Trainer-Led Workouts using A Smartphone Or Tablet
  • Folds For Storage & Has Wheels

CONS

  • May Be Too Long For Some Exercise Spaces

 

Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower – Best Electric Compact Rowing Machine

Here’s a compact rowing machine that features drum magnetic resistance. The Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower is an electric rowing machine. It has a durable aluminum frame that folds for easy storage. The user weight capacity is 280lbs.

PROS

  • Features Electric Resistance
  • Holds Up To 280lbs
  • Folds For Storage

CONS

  • May Be Too Long For Smaller Exercise Spaces

Buying Guide – How To Choose the best compact rowing machine?

What Is a Rowing Machine

Rowing is low-impact cardio. A rowing machine imitates rowing a boat. Some rowers have a different handle and imitate a seated cable row. In either case, it emphasizes your legs, back, and arms. You can work other muscles by changing your grip. You can do other exercises with some rowing machines. One example of this is the ProGear 750 Rower. This versatile machine provides 10 exercises. While not a great choice for building muscle, the 750, or any rower, can help you get fit. 

Kinds Of compact Rowing Machines

There are two primary kinds of compact rowing machines: 

Single Handle Pull – This is the most common. This kind of rowing machine has one handle that you pull towards you. It will connect to the resistance with a cable, band, strap, or chain. This is like doing a seated cable row on a low pulley machine.

Oar – This kind has two long handles that imitate the motion of using oars to row a boat. The motion is an arc. That means it has more range of motion than a single pull handle. It works the same muscles as a pull handle. Yet the oar-like movement is a motion that affects the muscles differently.

The Types Of Resistance

Compact rowing machines have various types of adjustable resistance. There are five main types of resistance used on rowing machines:

Magnetic – This uses magnetic brakes that press against a flywheel as you pull the handle. It creates a smooth motion and uses a single pull handle.

Air Flywheel – This is a flywheel with fan blades that spin while you pull the handle. Air creates resistance. You get more resistance as you pull harder. Our best overall, the Concept2, uses air resistance.

Hydraulic – This kind of resistance uses a hydraulic piston. Sometimes, it has two pistons. In both cases, the piston(s) attach to the handles. Oar-style rowing machines use this type of resistance.

Water – This kind uses a water-filled flywheel with blades inside the tank. It usually uses a single pull handle. Our guide has one example, the First Degree Fitness AR Newport Rower.  

Electric – This is not a type of resistance. Most rowers are manual, you don’t plug them in. There is only one in our guide, the Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower. It’s quiet and smooth, but you’ll have to use it near an electrical outlet.

Is It Compact?

How small is your exercise space? If you have a nice sized home gym, that’s great. Yet, if you have limited space, you’ll need a compact rowing machine. All the machines in this guide fold for storage. They also have wheels for easy moving. Some, such as our best overall, the Concept2 Model D, separate into two pieces. 

The most important consideration is, how much space does it take up when in use? What is the length of your exercise space? You may need a compact rower with a small footprint, such as the Stamina Body Trac Glider. Make sure you measure your area and know how much space you’ll need. 

Frame Construction

Any rower you’re considering should be well built. Many feature steel or aluminum frames. The guide rails are also often aluminum. All the rowers in this guide can handle a user capacity of over 200 lbs. Some, like the Xterra Fitness ERG220 Rower, have a capacity of 300 lbs. Your rowing machine should support your height and weight. 

Quietness

When choosing a compact rowing machine, look for one that offers smooth, quiet operation. Some can be noisy, and that can limit when you can work out. The last thing you want to do is disturb neighbors or family. All the rowers in this guide are quiet and provide a smooth exercise motion. 

Seat And Pull Handle  

There are different types of pull handles, depending on the rower. Some, like the Stamina Body Trac, use long, oar-like handles. Others are short, single handles you pull with both hands. Look for a pull handle that’s comfortable to use. The seat should also be comfortable. The rowers in this guide feature large seats that are well-designed. They are also adjustable for user height. Finally, consider seat height. How low to the ground is the rower you’re considering? The lower it is, the harder it may be to mount and dismount.

Computer Data Display 

The display on a compact rower should cover the basics. This includes calories burned, time, and count, or the number of times you complete a rowing motion. Some rowers, like the Nordic Track RW Rower, are high tech. That means they have wireless connectivity and have access to personal trainer-led workouts. You can use your smartphone or tablet. Either way, you want to be able to track your exercise stats. Keep track of them because that’s one way to measure progress.

Foot Pedals

Many of the foot pedals in this guide pivot. They will also have foot straps. Some are also non-slip. Make sure the rower you’re considering has foot pedals that work for your height. 

How Many Calories Can I Burn Using A Rowing Machine?

Burning calories will be the goal of many users. What if you weigh 200lbs, use moderate intensity, and row for 30 minutes? You will burn approximately 170 calories. If you row with vigorous intensity, you can burn approximately 300 calories. If you use very vigorous intensity, you can burn 570 calories on average. (1)

Of course, if fat loss is your goal, be sure to complement your rowing with a healthy diet. Your diet should consist of low sugar, low sodium, and moderate to low carbs. Also, eat high protein from clean sources, and moderate healthy fats.

Conclusion

Are you in the market for a compact rowing machine? Why not start with our best overall? 

The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine can be separated into two pieces for easy moving. If your exercise space is small, it can be taken outdoors. Or you can take it anywhere else you’d like to train. The Model D uses air resistance and features quiet operation. 

Are you looking for a compact rower with a small footprint that is also versatile? The ProGear 750 Rower takes up less space and provides 10 total exercises. When you’re done getting in a full body workout, the 750 folds for storage.

If you want the feel of using real oars, the Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine is the best choice. The Body Trac has oar-like long handles that act independently of each other. When you’re done, the handles fold, and the rower itself folds for storage.

As you can see, the best compact rowing machine must fit your needs the most. This guide can help you make the best choice!

References:

  1. Rowing Machine Calories Burned Calculator: Rowing 1000 Meters or 5 Minutes – Daily Calories Burned Calculator (dailycaloriescalculator.com)
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