The Best Indoor Rowing Machine For Beginners: Don’t Overspend

Want to know which indoor rowing machine is good to get started on? You don’t have any experience with indoor rowers or rowing itself. Here is which rowing machines are suitable for beginners. 

In general, any good indoor rowing machine with air, magnetic resistance is good for beginners. There isn’t really a difference between indoor rowers that are good for beginners and ones that are good for advanced rowers. The movement pattern and resistance of a good rower suits both.

Find out which rowing machines are the best options for you below.

The Best Rowing Machines For Beginners

If you just want to know which rowing machines are the best for beginners, check out the chart below. We’ll go into the what and why below. These are machines in different price ranges that are suitable for beginners and provide good value for money.

A good rowing machine for advanced rowers is also perfectly fine for beginners since there aren’t really any extra complications. Air or magnetic resistance rowers are the best options since they’re easy to use and don’t require much maintenance. You can get expensive or cheap rowers in with either air or magnetic resistance. However, if you want to spend more, an air resistance indoor rowing machine is the better option.

Image of a man setting a concept2 rowing machine.

Buy the best one you can afford. In general, paying more will get you a stronger machine that lasts longer so if you intend to row for a long time, paying a bit more will actually be cheaper in the long run.

If you want to buy a good machine to start on but aren’t sure if you want to row for a long time, buying the Concept2 is a good idea. Yes it’s expensive but it’s among the best out there. And since it’s a very popular brand, second hand prices stay quite high so you can get a big part of your money back if you would want to sell it. And it’s in gyms everywhere around the world because it’s suitable for everyone and they’re reliable.

The Sunny-Health rower is very simple but does the job. If you just want to get your toes in the simulated water, this is a good place to start. It’s good value for money but since it’s cheap, don’t expect something that lasts for several decades.

Suggested: Is 30 minutes on a rowing machine enough to see results?

Schwinn makes good mid-range cardio machines of all types. The Crewmaster is a good choice for those who want something a bit better and nicer than the Sunny-Health without paying Concept2 prices. It’s a magnetic resistance rower but with enough resistance for pretty much everyone. It looks good and folds up really compact as well.

The Octane rower is a bit more complicated machine although not difficult to use. It’s about the same price as a Concept2 rower but has more features. You have adjustable magnetic as well as air resistance so you can tailor your workout. The performance monitor looks nicer but is still simple to manage. The Concept2 will keep it’s value better and maybe even last longer.

Suggested: How big is a rowing machine and how much space does it need?

Rowing machines are perfect for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This is a great way to burn more calories in a short period of time. A good interval timer is going to make HIIT workouts much more enjoyable. Check out the GymNext Flex timer. It’s super easy to set up and control contrary to most other interval timers making the set up for any workout a breeze.

Which Resistance Type For a Beginner Rower?

There are different types of indoor rowing machines. The movement patterns are the same (except for one), but how the resistance is created is different. There are:

  • Air resistance: You spin a big fan with every pull. spinning the fan creates resistance. The faster you try to spin it, the higher the resistance becomes.
  • Water resistance: This works the same as an air resistance rower but the fan blades spins in a reservoir of water. Besides the speed, the water level impacts the resistance.
  • Magnetic resistance: There is a flywheel and a magnetic brake. This works like an elliptical trainer or exercise bike. This feels less natural than air or water resistance.
  • Hydraulic resistance: There is a oil filled tube with a piston with small holes inside. Pushing/pulling the levers pushes the piston through the oil. These rowers are cheap but don’t usually feel good.

If you want to get a good rowing experience, avoid the hydraulic rowers. Yes, they’re cheap but they’re not actual rowing machines. The seat doesn’t move and the feel is very different than the other three. Even if budget is an issue, spend a little bit more for the magnetic resistance rowers which will give you a much better experience.

For most people, advanced or beginners, the water and air resistance rowers are the best options. Air resistance rowers are a bit cheaper and have less maintenance needs. The water rowers require a bit more care but you get a more natural feel. For the vast majority of people, an air resistance rowers are the best option. Even top athletes use those machines but at the same time they’re easy to use for beginners since there is very little maintenance.

What Does a Rowing Machine For Beginners Have To Do?

Image of a woman using a rowing machine.

As a beginner you want to buy something that’s suitable for you but is also just a good machine in general. Here are some features a beginner rowing machine should have.

  • Full rowing movement pattern
  • Performance monitor shouldn’t be complicated
  • Easy maintenance
  • Enough resistance settings
  • Sturdy
  • Affordable

The fact is that most good rowing machines that are good for beginners are also good for advanced rowers and vice versa. There aren’t actually that many differences except a more advanced rower is probably ready to spend more money.

Most rowing machines (except hydraulic resistance ones) have a full movement pattern. The performance monitors are all pretty simple until you get to really high end machines, Even simpler rowers have enough resistance although more, and more different settings is always good.

Suggested: The 4 resistance types of indoor rowing machines

That leaves sturdiness and maintenance. Sturdiness has more to do with the price range than if something is good for beginners. (that’s because there really isn’t such a thing as a beginner rower.) In general paying more gets you a machine that’s stronger and will last longer.

Most rowers are pretty easy to maintain but, as a beginner, the only thing I would avoid is a rowing machine with water resistance. The water reservoir requires a bit more maintenance than magnetic or air resistance rowing machines although it’s not that much. They also tend to be a bit bigger and bulkier so you’re giving up more floor space in your house to have it.

Suggested: Is 30 minutes on a rowing machine enough to see results?

Favorite Cardio Machine Accessories

Check out these accessories that improve a home cardio workout:

  • Equipment mat: All cardio equipment should be put on an equipment mat. The Rubber-Cal mat (Amazon) is an affordable yet very high quality choice.
  • Tablet holder: Cardio can be boring. With this tablet holder (Amazon) you can follow along with on-demand workouts or just watch a movie on any cardio machine.
  • Heart rate monitor: Monitoring your heart rate is very important while doing cardio. The Polar H10 (Amazon) connects to almost anything you can imagine and is very accurate.

To find which cardio machines I recommend for home gyms, click here.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to After working out in many different gyms for almost 20 years and helping people build their own home gyms, i've learned a few things i'd like to share with you.

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