• Home
  • |
  • Blog
  • |
  • Are Rowing Machines Worth Buying?

June 28, 2019

Are Rowing Machines Worth Buying?

Be Awesome! Share This Post & Help Someone..
  • 1

​Struggling with the decision to buy a rowing machine? Want to know if rowing machines are worth buying? Looking for the best indoor rowing machines? This post is for you.

The idea of having a rowing machine in your home for quick cardio exercises is tempting for most exercise enthusiasts. But they can be expensive, which begs the question are rowing machines really worth buying? And what are the best rowing machines? 

To answer the question, rowing machines are worth buying if you're looking to lose weight and build muscle from the comfort of your home.

It saves you a trip to the gym (save money on gas and gym memberships) and you can workout at any time. In short, buying a rowing machine is a great idea. If you're not sure where to start, we recommend our best indoor rowing machines later on in this post. 

Are Rowing Machines a Good Workout? 

When it comes to exercise equipment, rowing machines are often at the bottom of the list. The number one recommended choice are treadmills, but rowing machines can be just as effective, if not more so. 

To answer the question, ​when using a rowing machine you can quickly burn calories, sometimes even more than you would burn with other cardio exercise equipment. 

are rowing machines worth it image

What you need to know about rowing machines is the row is a compound movement, in other words, multiple groups of muscles work together. As a matter of fact, almost every muscle in your body is hit when you use rowing machines, granted you use proper form. 

Most people assume rowing machines are only good for back-exercises, but that's not the case. The row hits practically all major muscles in your upper body, and you can even feel it in your hamstrings as well. 

Here's a list of some of the muscles worked from a rowing machine: 

  • Biceps
  • Pectorals (Chest) 
  • Triceps
  • Forearms
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Deltoids

As you can see, the row hits almost every muscle in your upper body. ​The exercise doesn't directly focus on every muscle above, but it does carry over a bit, making it very effective. 

Long story short, when used correctly, a rowing machine can be one of the best cardio workouts you have. 

Rowing for Physical Therapy: 

If you're struggling with physical therapy and need to improve joint health or strengthen muscles, a rowing machine could be just what you need.

Before you dive in, make sure you know the proper rowing form. If possible, ask a professional to show you the correct form, or at the very least, watch videos.

The great thing about rowing machines is you can start with the easiest setting and move up from there, as your muscles adapt. Keep it slow and steady and avoid jerky movements. 

You have probably seen rowing machines in gyms with multiple pegs for weight, ranging from a few pounds to over 200. These might seem a little intimidating and you wrote them off as too difficult. 

Quick Rowing Tips: 

  • Learn The Correct Form
  • Drive With Your Legs
  • Don't Arch your back
  • Take it Slow, no quick movements
  • Use Light Resistance, at First

On the other hand, indoor rowing machines are very easy to use, and they don't have super-heavy levels. There are even some rowing machines with no adjustable settings which are perfect for people who need to familiarize themselves with the rowing movement. 

In other words, rowing machines let you take it at your pace, without worrying about exerting too much effort, at least at first. Plus, they're great for strengthening your core muscles.

In short, rowing can be great for physical therapy, as long as you keep the correct form and don't use a too challenging of a resistance setting when you start. Another benefit of a rowing machine is you can use the machine to stretch your back and core muscles. 

Best Indoor Rowing Machines: 

Now that we covered the basics of rowing machines, in this section you'll learn what we think are the best indoor rowing machines: 

​1. Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

Now this rowing machine is on the higher end, often found in most upscale gyms. In fact, it is one of the most popular indoor rowing machines on the planet.

We won't cover all of the features of this rowing machine here (and there are a lot) but we'll run through the basics. 


This model is a little bit different because it is an air rowing machine, which uses a flywheel for the resistance. Much like the magnetic rowers, this one is almost completely silent and smooth. Speaking of resistance, there are 10 resistance levels so adjusting it to meet your personal fitness level works perfectly..

​Surprisingly, the Model D only weighs 70 pounds, making it remarkably easy to transport and store. The product can also be easily separated into two pieces, which you can store in a corner of a room with no hassles.

Overall, this is one of the best indoor rowing machines, and I highly recommend it. ​When it comes to exercise equipment, it's usually best to invest a little more money to get the most value.

For more details and prices, check Amazon. 

​2. Merax Magnetic Exercise Rower

Another favorite rowing machine is Merax Magnetic exercise rower, for a number of reasons. For starters, it's small and light, making it easy transport or move from room to room.

The shipping weight is about 100 pounds, which may seem heavy at first, however, when compared to other rowing machines, it's a reasonable weight. The best part is it has wheels on the back so you can easily roll it from room to room.

Secondly - and this is my favorite feature - the Merax Magnetic Exercise rower has eight levels of resistance. To change them, simply twist the knob on the front, until the marker aligns with the setting you want. 

What customers love most about this indoor rowing machine is the silent mechanics, which makes it easy to workout in the early mornings without disturbing anyone. Most people mention the only sound you can hear comes from the padding on the chair when in use. 

Overall, the Merax Magnetic exercise rower is an excellent starter indoor rowing machine. It's not too expensive, easy to install, has enough features for quick workouts, and it's incredibly silent. One downside is the low quality LCD screen. 

Check the price on Amazon. 

​3. (NS-40503RW) Foldable Magnetic Rowing Machine 

This is a budget indoor rowing machine, a perfect choice for beginners who don' have cash to drop on a professional machine.

The Marcy Magnetic rowing machine is similar to the previous model, but with a couple of interesting features. 

For starters, the LCD screen is quite large, and provides some interesting information about your workout session, such as, calories burned, progress, timers, and more. The cool part is the screen is multi-angle, which means you can easily adjust it to eye level. 

What people love about this model (besides the price) ​are the foldable mechanics. You can fold the entire machine upwards, which makes it very easy to store. No need to worry about a bulking machine getting in the way! And the shipping weight is only 65 pounds. 

Another great feature are the two pedals. These pedals include a Velcro straps as well as anti-slip rubber. Very comfortable. 

Like most magnetic rowing machines, this one has eight levels of resistance that can be adjusted with a knob. I noticed the settings are a bit too easy for me, so I normally leave it at the maximum, level eight. 

Overall, a decent rowing machine for beginners and people on a budget. For the price, it's hard to beat. Check Amazon for the price. 

Those three models are what I consider to be the best indoor rowing machines.

Cons of Rowing Machines: 

​​In my experience, using a rowing machine is completely safe, and even if you don't use exact form, the risk of injury is very low.

On the other hand, as an Occupational Therapist I discovered rowing machines can cause lower back pain, especially for those that are prone to back pain. You need to keep in mind there is no lower back (or lumbar) support, so if you have spine or back issues, it might not be the best choice. 

Related post: Lift Chairs for the Elderly!

Bottom line, rowing machines aren't for everyone, but most people do benefit from them and believe the investment is worth it.

As a suggestion, I recommend trying out rowing machines first, either at a gym or an exercise equipment store. See if you like the feel and how it works, and then make a decision.

Worse scenario you have to return a rowing machine because it doesn't suit your needs.


​Ultimately, it's up to you to decide if rowing machines are worth it. In my experience, most people love indoor rowing machines.

But if you decide to buy a rowing machine, I recommend investing a bit more money to get a high quality model that will last. Usually budget rowing machines won't stand the tests of time and prolonged use. 

With that in mind, I hope now you understand how rowing machines work and you're closer to getting one for your home. Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

Got any questions? Leave them below!

Be Awesome! Share This Post & Help Someone..
  • 1

Related Posts

Are Rowing Machines Worth Buying?

Are Rowing Machines Worth Buying?

Microwavable Neck and Shoulder Wrap Review: Does It Work?

Microwavable Neck and Shoulder Wrap Review: Does It Work?

Are Shoulder Pulleys Good for Physical Therapy?

Are Shoulder Pulleys Good for Physical Therapy?

Are Weighted Blankets Worth It? Our Recommended Choices:

Are Weighted Blankets Worth It? Our Recommended Choices:


Todd is an Occupation Therapist and Internet Marketer. He inspires to help others improve their lives through therapy and online education.

Your Signature

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

  1. Hi Todd,
    Regarding back pain, will a rowing machine and related activity exacerbate the condition causing the pain? I am a physical eighty-eight yr old needing some exercise, gym closed, and considering a Concept 2.

    1. Hi Dave,

      I think it’s really individually based. I’d try one out first for a bit before committing to buying one. I find walking or using the step glide machines are great for getting muscles to act together in a reciprocal fashion. That means that when you’re walking for example, as you step, one side of the back contracts while the other side relaxes. This motion helps back muscles normalize muscle tone and I find this usually helps normalize pain as well.

      Rowing machines have your hips in a really tight position as your in the front position. This is what I’ve notice aggravates my back pain at times and I’ve found this to be the case with other friends, CrossFit buddies, etc.

      So I’d try it out first before you purchase. It’s no fun to spend a good amount of money on a a piece of home exercise equipment that you don’t use much.


  2. when u say people with back problems should not use a rowing machine. i have had surgery on spine 50 yrs ago and play tennis and golf without too much soreness; although it stiffens up in cooler weather or after sweating until i shower. i need something to do in condo because community gym has shut down indefinitely and im gaining weight (14lbs) mostly in stomach with fat hanging over. went for lipo consult but prefer exercising. its either a stationary bike, treadmill or a rowing machine. Any professional recommendations are appreciated.

    1. Hi Anthony,

      In my experience as an Occupational Therapist working with patients with back pain, as well as working with my own chronic back pain, I strongly feel the best order of exercise machines like you are considering is…

      A treadmill: the reason being is that walking and running allows reciprocal motion within the erector spinae muscle group of the back (the muscles that align the spinal column). You can feel this too when you’re walking if you put one hand on one side of your spinal column. As you walk, you’ll feel one side relax while the other side contracts. I find this to be very therapeutic and helpful to normalize the muscle tone within the back. Of course you want to watch your posture and make sure you’re walking or running in good form with good posture.
      The exercise bike: I feel the exercise bike doesn’t affect my lower back quite as much as a rowing machine, but if I’m really sensitive, I’d still prefer to use a treadmill over a bike. I’m an avid fan of biking and have been one my entire life and so with road bking I really notice it sometimes will aggravate my lower back pain.
      The rowing machine: this is my least favorite and it just seems to really flare up my low back pain. Most likely the reason is because you get a lot of hip movement and that might aggravate the lower back but it seems to be common with Crossfit friends of mine that have back issues.

      If you can, you might want to look into buying one of the Peloton treadmills because you can exercise online with other people and they create a nice environment through the video screen. My wife and I are looking at getting both the bike and treadmill.

      Hope that helps him and please let me know if you have any follow-up questions.


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}