What’s The Best Home Indoor Rowing Machine For Beginners?

You want to get a rowing machine for use at home but, you’re new to rowing and want to get a machine that’s suitable for you and your situation. What should you look out for and which rowing machine works best for you? I’ve done some research and here’s what you need to know.

In general, an indoor rowing machine that’s good for advanced rowers is also suitable for beginners. Any indoor rower with magnetic or air resistance is suitable for beginners as long as the quality is sufficient. Avoiding hydraulic or water resistance rowing machines is a good idea as a beginner.

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.

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 but aren’t sure if you want to do if 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.

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.

What does a rowing machine for beginners have to do?

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?

Are some rowing machines better for beginners?

Beginners often go for a magnetic resistance rowing machine because of the price. There is no downside to starting on an air/water resistance rower as a beginner except the fact that they cost more. One is not inherently more suitable for beginners than the other.

Actually, most rowers that are good for advanced rowers, are also good for beginners. There aren’t that many differences. The few differences that are common between indoor rowers bought by beginners and more advanced rowers is the price. Many differences are because of the price difference and not because one is better for beginners than others.

Suggested: Best rowing machines under $400

A beginner will probably not want to spend too much money on a machine they’re not sure they are going to use for a long time. We all start things and then give up pretty quickly so as a beginner you don’t want to break the bank for something you’re not sure will even be used a few months from now.

Another thing is the resistance type. Intermediate or advanced rowers will usually go for a machine with air or water resistance. Since most rowing machines in the lower price ranges are either magnetic or hydraulic resistance.

Hydraulic resistance rowers are not something that’s suitable for anyone if you’re looking to actually row. Most hydraulic rowers are quite cheap but don’t have a sliding seat. That means you don’t actually use your legs to do the movement. This is OK for an upper body workout but to get the full rowing experience and benefits like weight loss and cardiovascular improvements, you really want to be able to use that large muscle mass of your legs.

Suggested: Does a rower tone your body? Which muscles?

That’s why most beginners end up with a magnetic resistance rowing machine. And for beginners these are great. You have the right movement pattern that involves upper and lower body. You can adjust the resistance to your needs and it’s simple to maintain.

More advanced rowers go for air or water resistance because it feels more like rowing in an actual boat. It feels more natural because the fan blade that spins through the air or water, gets harder to spin the faster you pull. The resistance goes up exponentially with speed while magnetic resistance stays the same.

That means that air and/or water resistance rowers can give you a tougher workout but if you go slower, it’s easier. That means they’re suitable for everyone. The resistance is matched to your input. This type of rower is more expensive though, which is why beginners usually go for magnetic resistance versions.

If you can spend the money, there is no downside to going for a water or air rowing machine. It’ll be better in the long run.

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 HomeGymResource.com. I've been going to the gym for about 15 years and am now looking to build my own. In the process I've learned many things I'd like to share with you.

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