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Thanks to fitness boutiques like OrangeTheory and Crossfit gyms, rowing or ergs are back on everyone’s radar. Rowers are fun, easy on the joints, and one of the more efficient ways to get a full-body workout. Unfortunately, they’re also large. If you’re lucky enough to have entire room dedicated to a home gym, that may not be an issue. But if you don’t have the square footage to spare or don’t want a huge machine in the middle of your living room, that can pose a problem. Luckily, there are some excellent rowers on the market. The best folding rowing machines don’t take up a lot of space, are surprising affordable, and are just as good as their non-folding relatives. Keep reading to see our favorites.
- Best folding rowing machine for beginners : CIRCUIT FITNESS Deluxe Foldable Magnetic Rowing Machine
- Best concept2 RowErg rowing : Concept2 RowErg
- Best folding rowing machine with back support : Avari Conversion II Rower
- Best folding rowing machine for home : ProForm 750R Smart Rowing Machine
- Best foldable rowing machine with screen : NordicTrack RW Rower
- Best folding rowing machine : Echelon Smart Rower
- Best compact folding rowing machine : ProGear 750 Rower
- Best folding water rowing machine : XTERRA ERG600W Water Rowing Machine
- Best budget folding rowing : Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine
- Best folding rowing machine for Seniors : Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rower
Are foldable rowing machines any good?
When shopping home workout equipment there’s always a concern that you’ll be sacrifice quality for the sake of having a machine that fits in your space. I won’t name names, but I distinctly recall when a member of my family bought a “self-powered” treadmill. Although its size was unobtrusive, walking on it was like trudging through mud. To be fair, folding treadmills have come a long since then, but that one was terrible. It quickly was shoved into a corner and forgotten.
Rowing machines are awesome machines. However, one can question if the foldables are as good as the non-folding rowers. Short answer: Yes. In fact, there’s not much difference between collapsable rowers and traditional ones. They can have more parts in terms of assembly, but they generally are just as durable, and most are engineered to track your workout progress while providing a comfortable exercise experience.
Another benefit of folding rowing machines is that most have transport wheels, making them simpler to move. Like traditional ergs, they vary in size and resistance type. Some collapse into a slender rectangular unit, while others only partially fold. Pay attention to dimensions, especially height.
Does a rowing machine reduce belly fat?
Rowing machines offer a low impact exercise, making them a great option for those who have joint concerns. Rowing raises your heart rate, meaning it counts as a cardio workout. Alternatively, it also counts as strength training. According to the AFPA (American Fitness Professionals Association) indoor rowing uses up to 90 percent of your body’s muscles, making it a full body workout. It engages your back, arms, legs, and even your core!
“For aging adults in particular, rowing provides a low impact method to achieve fat and [burn calories in a relatively short amount of time,” explains Certified ACE Group Fitness Instructor Celine Corbie.
Many women begin to notice an increase in belly fat as they age, according to the Mayo Clinic. Consequently, this puts them at risk for heart disease, and cancer. The good news is that exercise, like rowing, can reduce excess weight. Corbie explains:
“Unlike crunches, planks, or numerous other core exercises, the rower allows one to target their abdomen, in a more sophisticated, sneaky manner! While the majority of your power output comes from the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings, that slight lean (about 45 degrees) at the back of the rower belt engages your entire core, stabilizing the upper body to allow for a full stroke.”
According to an article from Harvard Medical School, even if you don’t lose weight, regularly exercising can reduce the size of your waist.
What type of rower is the best?
There are four kinds of rowing, each based on the type of resistance they offer. Depending on the brand, most offer similar accessories (think pre-programed workouts and stroke counters). The best folding rowing machine for you will depend on the size of your space, budget, and if noise is a concern.
Noise? you say? Yes. If you’re familiar with rowing from your gym, then you may have noticed how some make a loud whooshing sound as you pull back the T bar. This comes from the flywheel, which is where the resistance is generated. At a chattery gym, the sound may not be irritating. However, if you’re hoping to squeeze in a row while your hubby is sleeping, a quiet rower will be a non-negotiable.
Magnetic rowers are one of the most common types. Unlike other kinds of rowers, they don’t become harder to pull the faster you go, and are great for beginners. They are relatively quiet. In contrast, air rowing machines (what you find at most gyms) are much louder. This doesn’t make them bad, however. Some rowing machines, like the Concept2 RowErg, have been designed to keep the noise factor low.
Water rowers have their flywheel in a tank, and create a drag similar to a real boat. They do make noise, but it’s not loud, and you may find it soothing. The amount of water in the tank will determine the machines resistance. Although you may think they wouldn’t make the best folding rowing machine, there are models, like the Trunk Water Rowing Machine or this one by XTERRA, which are surprisingly compact.
Hydraulic rowers utilize pistons to create resistance, are not exceptionally noisy, and are inexpensive. They’re very slim in comparison to other rowers, and are the best foldable rowing machines if you’re short on room.
What is the highest rated home rowing machine?
There are many rowing machines that people are nuts over. For example, the Hydrow Rower, comes with a 22-inch touchscreen, and made it onto Oprah’s Favorite Things 2021 list. It can be stored upright. However, compact it’s not. Alternatively, the NordicTrack RW900 also comes with a large display, cost less, and folds.
One of the best folding rowing machines is the Sunny Health and Fitness Magnetic Rower. Along with being under $500, its railing can be turned horizontally and stands only 53.5 inches high. It doesn’t have a fancy screen, but that clearly doesn’t matter to the 9,000 folks who gave it 5-stars on Amazon.
What is the best compact rowing machine?
Some folding rowing machines can still look a bit chunky when compressed. If you’re determined to keep yours out of sight when not in use, hydraulics, like the Stamina BodyTrak Glider or LANOS Hydraulic Rowing Machine are the way to go. They don’t have a flywheel, which saves a ton of room. They’re also lighter than other rowing machines, so they’re easy to transport from one place to another.
What is the best folding rowing machine?
This is where you guess that I’m going to tell you that depends on what you’re looking for. While that’s true, I strongly suggest considering the type of workout experience you’re looking for. If you’re easily bored or find a trainer helpful, the best folding machine for you may be one that includes an app, like the ShareVgo Smart Rower. However, if you’re fine with popping in your Apple Airpods and rowing till your hearts content, there are plenty of rowers that don’t require you to download, upload, or connect a darn thing but your butt to the seat.
Looking for even more options? Check out our other exercise equipment recommendations:
- Best Rowing Machines for Seniors
- Best Folding Exercise Bikes
- Best Treadmills for Walking for Seniors
- Best Exercise Bikes for Seniors
See more of our best product recommendations.
Best Folding Rowing Machines
Why we like it:
- Smooth movement
- Resistance built into handles
- Rotating device holder
The Echelon Smart Rower features 32 levels of magnetic resistance, all which can be controlled conveniently through its handlebars. The seat effortlessly slides back and forth as you push and pull. Place your smartphone or tablet in the device holder. It rotates and flips, and if you become an Echelon member ($39.99 monthly) you’ll have access to studio workouts and music. Measures 40 inches long and 21 inches wide when folded. Don’t be surprised if you fall in love with how silent but efficient this rower is, as one user did.
“This product is sturdy, silent, and gives a good workout. There is a lot of range for resistance and my six-foot frame fits nicely with room to spare.”
Why we like it:
- Easy to move
- Adjustable foot straps
- Easy to read monitor
If you’re new to rowing, the Magnetic Rowing Machine from Sunny Health & Fitness is for you. Pivoting pedals are anti-slip and keep feet in place, while large handles provide comfortable gripping. A monitor on the flywheel makes tracking your distance and time easy, and there are eight resistance options to choose from. One of the most popular foldable rowing machines on the market, users love its functionality:
“I can’t believe what a great value this is! It’s quieter than the one at the gym but gives the same experience. Obviously it’s not getting commercial-level use at my home, but I use it every night when I watch TV, and it has been everything I could want. I really can’t believe such a great rower is available at the price point it is. I don’t feel like there were any tradeoffs.
Why we like it:
- 30 day iFit membership
- Dual speakers
- Quick resistance controls
It’s not the open seas, but maybe the next best thing. The Proform 750R Smart Rowing Machine has pedals that pivot with your movements, bringing a more natural rowing experience. What we really love is that the purchase of this rower includes a 30 day membership to iFit. All you have to do is connect with your bluetooth to your phone or tablet and your iFit trainer can select from the machine’s 24 quick resistance levels for you. You’ll also have access to virtual classes and their global workouts that will have your rowing as far as the African plains. The rower is on the heavy side (more than 100 pound), but it folds on itself and can be hidden in a corner or closet.
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Why we like it:
- Straightforward design
- Manual resistance
The LANOS Hydraulic Rowing Machine doesn’t connect to Bluetooth or have fancy accessories, but that doesn’t mean it won’t make you sweat. This lightweight rower is only 34 pounds, so you can drag in front of your TV with no worries of straining a thing. Manually control your resistance, while checking your calorie burn on the monitor. Buyers on Amazon love its efficiency and compact design: “This machine is great. Easy on the joints, especially knees. I work longer and harder on this than I would a treadmill or running. Doesn’t take up a lot of room.”
Why we like it:
- Comfortable seating
- Easy to read display
The Deluxe Foldable Magnetic Rowing Machine from CIRCUIT FITNESS is made with aluminum steel and can support 300 pounds. At nearly eight feet it’s on the larger side, but when folded it only measures four feet. The injection molded seat keeps your bum from becoming saddle sore, and the monitor tracks everything from stroke speed to the temperature of the room. You can even pause your progress if you need a bathroom break. According to one user, the rower is simple to assemble:
“It took this 55 year old 40 minutes to put together. I’m up to 45 minutes during daily workouts and have found muscles aching that I didn’t know I had…Within 10 minutes you will work up a sweat. I would recommend this product to older folks trying to get in shape or lose a few pounds.”
Why we like it:
- Detaches for easy storage
- Smartphone holder
Branded as a machine “built for rowers, by rowers,” the Concept2 RowErg is quiet and strong despite its slim build. It uses air resistance, which can be controlled through the damper. Expect smooth rowing from this bestseller that’s sure to keep you entertained while sweating. The performance monitor has games, workout options, and can connect to fitness apps, and bluetooth. Assembly is easy, and the base of the rower detaches for simple storing.
Why we like it:
- Magnetic resistance
- Rower bike hybrid
Trying to choose between a recumbent bike and rower? You don’t have to! The Avari Conversion II Rower has an oversized seat and cushy back, making it a great option if back support is a concern. The monitor at the front of the machine is easy to operate, tracks speed, time, and the calories you’ve burned. Pulse pistons on the side of the seat measure your heart rate. One Amazon reviewer loved how it didn’t bring clutter to their home.
“This is a great piece of exercise equipment for those who may want to get into better shape. What I like is that you have the choice of rowing or biking, and it folds up and out of the way. This is ideal for apartment living or if you just don’t want your exercise equipment taking up all your space.”
Why we like it:
- 22 inch screen
- Spacious pedals
- Nearly half the cost of similar rowers
Interactive rowers, like the Hydrow Rower, are all the rage, and though there are many that connect to apps, it’s nice to have one that includes a screen. The NordicTrack RW Rower has a 22 inch touchscreen and connects to the iFit platform. You can join studio classes or have iFit expert trainers control the intensity of your workouts. A monthly membership to the platform is $39.99, but your purchase includes a 30 day family membership (up to 5 users). This rower comes with 26 different options for digital resistance, as well as magnetic and air, which can be adjusted manually. Pedals are oversized, so no worries about uncomfortable footing. Measures 50.4 inches high and 36.2 inches wide when folded. If you’re not completely convinced the rower is worth your investment, here is one review a happy customer left:
“I have always wanted a rower, and decided that one that linked to the awesome iFit interface that I was already familiar with would be a great addition to our gym. The machine was easy to assemble, and can fold easily to make extra room if needed. The large screen makes it feel like you are actually rowing. There are tons of workouts to choose from and lots include floor exercises for cross training. I really like that the beginner classes have taught me better form. I definitely have felt an improvement in my style of rowing, and really enjoy having this as part of my home gym.”
Why we like it
- Thick padded seat
- Independent resistance
Rowers offer cardio and strength training in one machine, but the ProGear 750 takes things to a new level. The seat is extra thick (AKA comfortable) and can be adjusted to three different angles. Another quick adjustment and the rower can be used to perform pull downs, bent over rows, and shoulder presses. Independent hydraulic cylinders allows you to manually adjust resistance. This is a really nice feature if you’re rehabbing an arm or struggling with body imbalances. The LDC display shows the basic stats, but the rower doubling as a traditional circuit station makes up for it. The rower even made one customer give up their gym membership.
“I get a super workout on my arms and upper legs – so much better than the flywheel rower I used at the Y. [Its] action is very smooth, and when I pull the arms to the side instead of back and forth it actually feels like rowing in a lake. This is one of the best purchases I’ve made and best of all, I no longer have to go the Y where I see people not wiping down the equipment after use.”
Why we like it:
- Elevated seat
- Large LCD console
The XTERRA ERG600W Water Rowing Machine has six levels of resistance, each dependent on the amount of water placed in the tank. Its high seat (13.5 inches high) makes getting on and off easy, and there are five pre-programmed workouts built in if you don’t know where to start. The large adjustable LED display screen track time, number of strokes, calories burned, distance, and more. When collapsed the rower is only 33 inches high. Users love the soothing sound the water makes, and how it impacts resistance.
“This is an incredible rowing machine. It’s almost silent, and the price & warranty blew me away. [I recommend] not putting too much water in the tank -just slightly above the minimum level. In six to 10 minutes your heart rate will be above the roof.”
Why we like it:
- Full motion arms
- Slim but solid structure
What we like about the Stamina BodyTrack Glider 1050 is that even without smart tech it delivers in the muscle burning department. Don’t be skeptical about its thin frame. It’s made of solid steel. It has textured foot plates, and adjustable hydraulic resistance. The monitor allows you to track calories, time, your stroke total, and the entire machine is as slim as a pair of skis when folded. Instead of the standard T bar the rower has levers that offer a full range of motion. One happy customer raved about the workout it gave them: The jointed rowing arms is really great. Wide range of motion and you can change your rowing technique to work different muscles.
Why we like it:
- Inertia-enhanced flywheel
- Adjustment dial
- No fuss quick start button
Keep your workout on the hush with this compact but mighty rower. The MaxKare Rowing Machine turns on with the press of a button, has comfortable seating, and 16 levels of resistance. Its flywheel is inertia-enhanced, making the pull super smooth and quiet. The handles are slip resistance, and when folded the rower only is 42.3. inches high and 37.4 wide. Reviewers lover its soundlessness and sweat producing capabilities.
“I’m so happy to have purchased this. No noise whatsoever. I love that I can hold my iPad on it [and] watch videos while working out. This was the most organized product to put together; took me maybe 20 minutes. It was wonderful, and within five minutes I was sweating! I love that I can fold and store it in the corner or the closet.”
Why we like it:
- Only counts true strokes
Confession time: sometimes I spend more time “taking a break” on my fitness equipment than actually using it. Fortunately, that’s not possible with the ShareVgo Smart Rower. If you want to get credit for every mile you take, you have to give one full stroke for the machine to register it. Consider it a built-in accountability counter. Download the free subscription ShareVGo app, and connect the rower via your smartphone’s bluetooth to get an even more precise reading on your fitness stats or do the time-based challenges. The 48 inch steel rail is adjustable, accommodating both the petite and statuesque. Although the rower doesn’t fold into the slimmest unit, the rail can be turned vertically to become more compact.