7 Best compact rowing machines for homes and apartments

Compact rowing machines are for people who are seriously considering to invest in a low impact exercising machine that will let you burn a ton of calories, engage all the major muscle groups and fits almost in any space. 

Compact rowing machines are a proven weight loss exercising machine that will beat your body into shape if done on a regular basis. They are one of the most underrated workout equipment and one of the best single workout out there for a whole body workout that gets you actual results.

If you ever worked out on a rowing machine, you know that compact rowing machines are one of those unique cardio and strengthening workout equipment that gets you addicted to rowing and when you are on it, you just don't want to stop because of its low-impact, safe, comfortable seating and its real-feel design.

When it comes to working out, I always tell people to pick a workout that will make them enjoy working out to keep them active and motivated for the longest time possible. This is where rowing machines can make you love working out again and you actually will br looking forward to it everytime.

In a hurry? No worries, please see our quick overview below.

compact rowing machines for homes and apartments Quick Overview


Weight Capacity [lb]

Resistance Level


(W× L×H)

Unit Weight (lb) 



Concept2 Model D





5 year frame warranty

Concept2 Model E





5 year frame warranty

Sunny Health&Fitness SF-RW5515






Contact Manufacturer

Stamina Avari Magnetic Rower





Contact Manufacturer

WaterRower Rowing Machine





1 year warranty on frame, Can be upgraded to 5-years.

First Degree water rower






Contact Manufacturer

Stamina Body Trac Glider






1 year on frame, 90 days on parts.

Compact rowing machines benefits & drawbacks

Every workout equipment has its benefits and drawbacks and rowing machines are no different. At the end of the day, you must look for an exercising equipment that you will let you reap more of its benefits rather than its drawbacks, and I have no doubt that most people will be able to improve their fitness with a rowing machine than any other exercising equipment that combines cardio and strength training.

Rowing machine benefits

Here are some of the amazing benefits of using compact rowing machines that I'm sure will make you think in a complete new way:

1- Strength and cardio training. Rowing machines are one of few exercising machines that combines strength and cardio training in a very effective  way. Your heart and lungs muscles will get the best cardio workout while at the same time, you are targeting and strengthening the large muscle groups and building strong muscles.

2- Burn ton of calories. Rowing machines are known to be one of the best workout equipment in the fitness world that will get to burn s... load of calories.

3- No or less injuries. The low impact movement that is incorporated in its design makes them very safe and gentle on the joints. It will help you to rehabilitate and strengthen your joints and the muscles that surround the joints. If you are looking for an exercising equipment that protect and strengthen your joints and muscles, then look no further.

4- Compact. Almost all rowing machines (if not all) are designed to fit anywhere. If you live in an apartment or any other small space and wondering whether a rowing  machine fits or not? I can tell you that they will fit in any space comfortably.

5- Weight loss. As a whole body workout, rowing exercises have been proven to make you lose weight and burn fat.

6- Upper and lower body workout. Rowing is more effective than treadmill, bikes and any other cardio equipment at engaging your cardio system as well as your upper and lower body muscles at the same time.

7- Stamina and endurance. very effective at improving your stamina and endurance.

8- Cross-training. If you are into cross-training, then a rowing machine can be easily incorporated in to your workout program.

9- Range of motion. Since it's considered a total body workout machine where there are so many muscles are engaged during the rowing movement, it will provide you with natural and full range of motion and that has been proven to help people to get results faster. As you might know, most exercising equipment don't give you this luxury, and this is another reason why a rowing exercise has the upper hand.

10- Resistance training at your pace. It provides you with the flexibility to choose the resistance that you want at the pace that you set. You can go as fast or as slow as you want just like an elliptical or treadmill.

11- Easy installation. Rowing machines require some installation but they are really easy to put together and probably will take you around half an hour to assemble it together with no fuss.

11- Foldable. Not all are foldable, but the vast majority can be folded and put away out of sight in 5-10 seconds. Look for ones where they fold vertically to save more space.

Rowing machine drawbacks

1- Strain on your back. The natural rowing motion might put some strain on the back. If you have pre existing back problems, then I strongly suggest that you try out a rowing machine first before deciding on whether you should invest in one or not.

2- Vary in size. All rowing machines come in different sizes, so it's best to look at their dimensions to make sure that they will fit in your space before buying.

What type of a compact rowing machine should you get?

There are mainly 4 different types of rowing machines that are widely available, and surprisingly, all 4 types are very popular and they are:

1- Air resistance rowing machine

As the name implies, air resistance rowing machines get their resistance from the spinning fan fly wheel. As you start to row, the flywheel starts to spin which creates wind and wind starts to create resistance. The faster you spin the more resistance will be created, which will make rowing more challenging.

Despite the fact that are more expensive and noisier, they are undoubtedly very popular among gym goers and people who like to work out at home due to their smooth and natural strokes.

2- Hydraulic piston rowing machine

Hydraulic piston rowers are designed to generate resistance from the pistons on that are attached on both sides of the machine. It's unique design lets you adjust the resistance levels on each piston independently, which is a feature that the other machines don't come with. If you feel that one side of your body is weaker or stringer than the other side, then you can adjust the resistance levels to accommodate that.

Hydraulic piston rowing machines tend to be very quiet, compact, and budget friendly than air resistance machines.

3- Magnetic rowing machine

Just like the hydraulic machines, magnetic rowing machines are compact and quiet. The resistance is controlled by magnetic brakes that let you choose the desired resistance via a monitor that is similar to a treadmill's or an elliptical. Magnetic machines usually come with a wide range of resistance levels to choose form.

The other thing that I really like about these rowers is how quiet they are. They are a way more quieter than the other types of rowing machines due to their no friction design. The magnetic resistance system is designed to produce no friction and that makes them completely silent when you are rowing. This is an awesome feature to have especially if you like to watch TV or your favorite show while rowing, which makes it even more enjoyable than it already is.

The feature that I'm sure that you will also love is the smooth glide. Magnetic rowers tend to have a heavier flywheel than the rest and that gives them the smooth glide that you will typically look for in any rowing machine.

4- Water rowing machine

In terms of generating resistance, water rowing machines are very similar to air rowers. The faster you row the more resistance will be generated. The paddles that are suspended inside the water tank that control how much resistance will be generated depending on the rowing speed and intensity.

Water rowing machines are the only rowers that will give you that outdoor rowing feeling and experience that's you simply won't get  with the any other type of rower. The swooshing sound makes you feel that you are rowing in a lake or river and that's exactly what you are going to get with water rowers.

Best top rated compact rowing machines

1- Concept2 Model D rowing machine

Any one who has any acknowledge or experience with rowing machines knows that Concept2 are the leading innovators of the best air resistance rowing machines in the fitness world. Concept2 rowing machines are best-selling rowing machines in the world and they have been around for over 40 years.

Concept2 models are commercial grade rowers that are very popular among elite athletes and beginners alike, and they are widely used in gyms and homes all around the world.

if you are seriously considering buying a rowing machine that is compact, durable, and best of all it's commercial grade, then Concept2 model D will not disappoint you.

The way you know if a rowing machine is good or not by checking its responsiveness to every stroke. If your rower responds to every stroke and the strokes feel smooth and there's minimal noise coming out of it, then you know you are getting a  a gym quality equipment that will last for a very long time. This is what you are getting from concept2  machines, they are built by professionals that take care of every single detail to give you the best rower your money can get.

There's almost no noise comes out of it and it's as quiet as it can get. If you live in an apartment and worried that you might disturb your neighbors, then I can assure you that won't be the case.

Concept2 comes with the very popular performance monitor 5 (PM5). PM5 is one of the most accurate and reliable monitors out there that gives you a very accurate measurements and data like your progress, pace, watts, calories, and preprogrammed workouts that you can choose from. You can also monitor your heart rate via Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity that concept2 machines are compatible with. They come pre-equipped with USB flash drive port where you can save your workouts on flash drive, which is pretty handy feature to have and something I use all the time.

It comes with 10 resistance levels to accommodate your fitness levels and goals. And if you worried that this machine might take too long to assemble and too much storage space, then let me assure you that's not the case with this one. Most people will be able to assemble it within 1/2 hour, and best of all, this machine can be easily stored by folding it up vertically using the quick release framelock mechanism, where the rower can be split into 2 pieces for easy and space saving storage.

It's designed to accommodate people of all sizes. It features 14 inch seat height, the footrests are adjustable, and it takes up to 500lbs in weight capacity, which is more than enough.

The only downside is the price. The concept2 rowers are more expensive than other types of machines, which can make you think twice before going ahead. But, don't forget that you are getting a commercial grade machine that will last for a very long time.

All in all, you are going to love this rowing machine just like how I and many others did because it's designed to tick all the boxes and much more.

2- Concept2 Model E Indoor Rowing Machine

Concept2 model E is a slight upgrade on model D. They decided to increase the seat height to 20 inches (model D is 14 inches) to accommodate people with mobility issues. At a chair height, you won't have any issues getting on and off especially if you have knee issues. If the height is problematic for you, then I strongly suggest that you go with model E for around $200 extra.

Other than that, you are still getting all the features that makes concept2 machines one of the best rowing machines (if not the best) in the world. It takes 500lbs in weight and it easily folds up just like model D for storage, and it's still as smooth and quiet as the model D.

What you need to remember is that this model is designed for people who prefer to have it higher than 14 inches and have joint  mobility issues. If you don't have these issues, then you should just go with model D since everything else is the same with both models.

3- Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine Rower

Sunny health and fitness magnetic rowing machine is another popular rower that's highly rated and best of all it's considerably cheap than concept2 rowers.

What impressed me the most about this rower is how quiet and smooth it is. These are one of the best features that you should expect with magnetic rowers. If you are want to workout in complete silence, then magnetic rowers are the ones to go for.

They strike the best balance between affordability, quietness, and smooth strokes.

They come with 8 resistance levels that can be adjusted using a knob that's located underneath the LCD monitor.The LCD monitor shows the time and calories burnt and much more... to keep you up to speed with your workout progress.

It takes up to 250lbs in total weight, which is not bad. I would have expected it to take more than 250lbs to accommodate more people of different sizes, but don't forget that this model is considerably cheaper than concept2 rowers.

The seating and the pedals are pretty comfortable and simple in design and just lets you focus on your workout with no fuss. It doesn't take that much space and it's compact just like the concept2 rowers and can be easily folded up and stored in seconds.

In short, you are getting an affordable and well built rower that is compact and super quiet.

4- Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Exercise Rower

Stamina Avari magnetic rower is a top end magnetic rowing machine that can be easily programmed to fit your fitness goals. When you are starting to row, you instantly feel that this machine is built to last, just like what you come to expect from a gym quality rowing machine.

It's very quiet and the strokes feel very smooth and that's what we all want and expect from a gym quality rower.

What sets this one apart from the other magnetic rowers are the integrated workout programs that give you a way more choices that specifically fit your fitness. There are 6 cardio workouts, 4 custom user programs, and 1 heart rate program. The monitor has all bells and whistles that you expect it to do like checking your calories, pulse, strokes per minute, time and more.

The extruded rowing beam folds up with no fuss for easy storage and holds up to 275lbs in weight capacity, which should accommodate most people.

This is another rower that's very popular, very quiet, compact, and just lets you go on with it.

5- Water Rower Natural Rowing Machine

Water rower rowing machine is designed to give you that natural rowing feeling that you will only experience if you were on a boat rowing in open water. It will bring the outdoors right into your home without stepping one foot outside, it's really that good of a feeling. It's designed to mimic the natural movement of a boat through water, which is why these water rowers are becoming very popular machines and I wouldn't be surprised if they become the most popular type of rowers in the fitness industry.

The solid oak wood frame is constructed to absorb sound and vibration, so your rowing strokes are quiet and smooth and all you are left with is the swoosh sound of water, which has a very relaxing and calming effect.

If you are worried that the wooden frame might not be as durable as the other frames, don't let the wooden frame fool you, these water rowers are made from natural ash wood that's super durable and should last for a very long time, it's low maintenance, and it holds up to 700lbs in weight capacity.

Water rowers don't have any adjustable resistance levels that you would get with air or magnetic rowers. Since it mimics the natural rowing movement, your resistance levels is controlled by your rowing speed and intensity, which means, the faster you row the more resistance will be generated and vice versa.

This water rowing machine comes with a monitor that tracks your heart rate, stroke rate, calories, distance and more.

The downside is that this water rower doesn't fold up like the other rowers and the wooden frame is fixed. But to work around that, all you need to do is to flip it up and let it stand up tall in a corner, and it doesn't need to lean on anything since it's wide enough to stand up unsupported.

6- First Degree Fitness Newport AR Rower Water Rower Exercise Machine

If you are looking for a gym quality water rowing machine with a tough steel frame (rather than a wooden frame), then First degree water rowing machine is your best match.

At first glance, you might mistake it for an air or magnetic rower because of its modern and sleek design. But, what they did is that they mixed modern and traditional and they came up with something that looks really good. Despite its modern and sleek look, you are still getting that natural feeling that you come to expect from water rowing machines.

What the designers did is that they added all the features that you would normally get in air and magnetic rowers and incorporated them in the water rower, so you can get the best of both worlds.

The first feature that they added is the adjustable resistance. By the turn of a knob, you can adjust the the resistance from feather light to Olympic sprinter resistance levels. The other feature is that this water rower can be easily folded it up (vertically) just like the other types of rowers, which is not possible with other water rowers.

This water rower holds up to 300lbs in weight capacity and that's lower than the wooden water rowing machines, which is a petty. I definitely expected it to be higher than this, but again, this will accommodate most people of all sizes so this shouldn't be an issue for most people.

At the end of the day, if you are looking for a water machine that has all the bells and whistles of air and magnetic rowers, then this is will exceed all expectations and more.

7- Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

The Trac Glider 1050 rowing machine is for people who are looking for an affordable, compact, and made to last rowing machine, then this one tick all the boxes with a breeze.

As you can see, the 1050 rowing machine is unique in design and mimics the natural rowing motion just like when you are on a boat. You body movement will slightly going to differ in comparison to other types of rowers. Your hands are going to be on your sides when in full motion, unlike the other types of rowers where your hands are front of you.

Some people like to row while their hands are front of them and some like them on the side, so it's really comes down to personal preferences. My only advice to you is to try both them out before deciding which one is the best fit for you.

The best thing about the 1050 rowing machine is that it's the most compact rowing machine out there, which is the best option for someone who doesn't have enough space to buy the other types of rowers. Plus, this rower is probably the most affordable and it's the best option for people who are budget conscience.

And it gives you all features that other rowing machines have like, monitor for tracking your progress, and can be folded for storage. It takes up to 250lbs in weight capacity and requires some assembly. 

Final thought

Rowing machines are for people who want to get low-impact full body workout that burns ton of calories and strengthens your muscles at the same time.

The most important thing to look for in any rowing machine is how good are the strokes. When you stroke, you should be able to feel resistance in every single stroke with no empty spots. Well constructed and gym quality rowers will be able to give you that natural rowing experience you are looking for.  

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Bachelor's degree in Pharmaceutical science and extensive experience working in the health and dietary supplement industries

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