6 Best Compact Rowing Machine Reviews 2019 [Portable Indoor Rowers]

best compact rowing machine
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Best Compact Rowing Machine Reviews 2019 [Top 6 Portable Indoor Rowers]

Welcome to our 6 best compact rowing machine reviews for 2019, where we have chosen what we believe to be the best portable indoor rowers we could find based on quality, effectiveness, size, and affordability to name a few. In this rowing machine review, we stay true to the meaning of compact. Our review lists only the best rowing machines you can find that are true space savers and will easily fit into any room in your home or apartment.

We understand when you are searching for compact rowers, you are looking for a home rowing machine that will not only save you space but is also very portable. It is easy to see that our compact rowers are considerably smaller than your basic indoor rowers. They are generally shorter in size, lighter in weight, and require much less floor space when in use.

Table of Contents

  • Intro
  • What are Compact Rowing Machines?
  • Are Compact Folding Rowing Machines Effective?
  • Compact Rowers Quick Feature Comparison
  • Top 6 Best Compact Rowing Machine Reviews
    • #1 Stamina 1215 Rowing Machine
    • #2 ProGear 750 Multi-Function (Editors Choice)
    • #3 Sunny SF-RW5639 Indoor Rower
    • #4 Stamina 1050 Free-Motion Rower
    • #5 fitbill with Bluetooth & App (Runner-Up)
    • #6 Stamina 1100 Magnetic Rower
  • What are the Top Benefits of Owning a Compact & Foldable Home Rowing Machine?
  • Compact Rowing Machine Q&A
  • Closing Remarks

 

Furthermore, some of our rowing machines have foldable rowing arms which makes them even more compact and easy to move and store in a closet, behind a couch, or maybe even under a bed.

…compact rowing machines are great space savers, very portable, easy to store, very inexpensive, and burn more calories in less time than a treadmill.

Besides being compact and foldable rowers, they are also very effective cardio exercise machines. For as little as $100 to $200 you can own a quality compact rowing machine that will effectively work your upper and lower body and help you lose weight and tone muscles all in the comfort of your home.

This review compares product features of various compact rowing machines to help you better understand the differences of each machine and hopefully not only save you time but also make it easier for you the consumer to make a more informed decision.

At this point, you can either continue reading our review or click any of the quick links below to take you directly to our best compact machine reviews for 2019.

What are Compact Rowing Machines?

Designed to mimic rowing on water, home rowing machines are known as one of the top exercise machines to help strengthen and tone your muscles, increase your metabolism for weight loss, and increase overall cardiovascular fitness.

Compact rowing machines are much smaller and lighter than your typical rowing machine. Most compact rowers are driven by adjustable hydraulic pistons with individual rower arms. Whereas your typical rower has intensity adjustments controlled by magnetic resistance, water resistance, fan-based, or even strap or brake resistance with a T-bar handle connected to a cable.

Nevertheless, all versions are effective cardio machines. The perfect machine to use indoors to burn calories and tone muscles, these indoor rowers work both your upper body, lower body, and core muscle all at once. Trust me when I say these machines will get your heart racing in no time flat. When I first started using these rowers, I could not make it past 5 minutes of exercise. That should tell you something.

…don’t let the compact size fool you! These compact rowers are very sturdy and offer more bang for your buck than most any other home cardio exercise machine on the market.

Each rowing machine has its own unique features and qualities which in most cases will also determine the sales price of the machine. Compact rowing machines may be at the bottom of the price spectrum, but don’t be fooled. Cheap does not always equate to poor quality. It only means fewer features, in some cases, and possibly lower weight capacity and structural differences.

But don’t let this scare you away. There are many benefits to these compact rowing machines that other rowers do not possess. And we have found and listed some of the best compact rowing machines we could find to prove it.

So before we get to our review of best rowing machines let’s take a closer look at how effective these rowers are as exercise machines and follow that up with some of the top benefits of owning a compact rowing machine.

home rowing machine

Compact Rowing Machines are built to mimic real-life rowing on water.

 

Are Compact Home Rowing Machines Effective?

As I mentioned earlier, compact rowers are very effective at getting your heart rate up and keeping it there. I would consider the rowing machine one of the best cardio exercise machines you could own.

Unlike a treadmill, the rowing machine engages both upper and lower body and core muscles all at once. This requires much more energy to perform than just your typical treadmill, and thus results in burning many more calories in less time.

Another great way to increase the intensity level on these rowing machines is by adjusting the hydraulic intensity levels, or on some models increasing the incline to challenge yourself even harder.

When you consider how small these machines are and how much they deliver, and not to forget how inexpensive these compact rowers are, you really can’t go wrong.

 

Compact Rowing Machine Quick Feature Comparison List

The following is a quick feature comparison of all compact rowing machines in our top 6 list above. All rowers use hydraulic resistance except for the last rower, Stamina 1100, which uses magnetic resistance.

It should also be noted that all except the last rower use free-motion rowing arms, whereas the Stamina 1100 uses the more typical straight rowing handlebar and cable operation as seen in most gyms.
Also be aware that unique features for each compact rower will be highlighted in orange.


#1 Stamina 1215: strong durable construction; dual hydraulic pistons; LCD; foldable arms; 250lbs max.


#2 ProGear 750: adjust. 37” – 43” rail; 3 incline levels; LCD; multi-function exercise machine; 220lbs max. (Editor’s Choice)


#3 Sunny SF-RW5639: very light weight; very inexpensive rower under $100; LCD Monitor; 350lbs max.


#4 Stamina 1050: most sold rower on Amazon; slightly over $100; LCD; foldable arms; 250lbs max.


#5 fitbill: Bluetooth Motion Detector & fitbill App; 10% incline; hydraulics & bungee band; 300lbs max. (Runner Up!)


#6 Stamina 1100: Magnetic Resistance; straight handlebar & cable operation; stores on end; 350lbs max.


 

TOP 6 BEST COMPACT ROWING MACHINE REVIEWS 2019

The following is my list of top 6 compact rowing machines that I have reviewed extensively and consider to be very effective, great quality indoor rowers at a very affordable price.

 

#1 Stamina 1215 Orbital Rowing Machine with Free Motion Arms

Stamina 1215 compact rowing machineI truly appreciate the quality and design Stamina has put into their compact rowing machines. The Stamina 1215 rowing machine with free motion arms is built to closely mimic the smooth motion of rowing on water. The rowing arm grips are foam padded for comfort and non-slip operation.

This rower comes with a well-padded seat that glides on a ball bearing roller system for smooth and quiet operation.

The multifunctional fitness monitor keeps you motivated by showing your progress, such as speed, distance, time, stroke count, calories burned. Put the monitor in scan mode and watch all your monitor functions rotate and display each function for 6 seconds.

The Stamina 1215 is built with a strong yet lightweight aluminum center beam and steel frame construction made for many years of hard workouts.

Adjust your workout intensity by raising the center beam incline, and by moving the adjustable dual piston hydraulic resistance controls up or down on the rowing arms.

The rowing motion (wide or narrow) is controlled by the rower as you are rowing and is not meant to be locked in place. You can use it straight up and down, or pivot outward.

This compact rowing machine has foldable arms to make it easier for storing away in a closet, in a corner against a wall, behind furniture, or even under some beds.

Noteworthy: The new model has been upgraded to all steel parts in critical areas; very strong and durable construction; orbital free motion arms to better mimic true rowing on water; no transport wheels, but nothing sliders can’t solve; angle adjustment is also a big plus; 5 levels of resistance with level 5 being the easiest and level 1 the hardest (many new users are fooled by this and complain about the lowest resistance being too hard); low noise, very quiet operation; great customer service.

Bullet Points: Dimensions: 48 x 32.5 x 27.75 inches – Weight: 47 pounds – Maximum user weight capacity: 250 lbs. – 2 Piston Hydraulics – Rating: 4/5

 

#2 ProGear 750 Multi Exercise Functionality Indoor Rower (Editor’s Choice)

ProGear 750 multi-function indoor rowerThe ProGear 750 indoor rower is a unique compact rowing machine that is not only a rowing machine but also functions as an additional multi-exercise workout machine. If rowing is not enough, follow up your workout with some bicep curls, shoulder presses, pull-downs, bent over rows, pec flies, ab workouts, and more.
This compact rower comes with a large 1.8” thick cushioned seat and backrest, and large anti-slip pedals with adjustable straps to keep feet securely in place.

The foam covered handlebars have a 180-degree range of rowing motions so the user can row straight up and down, or pivot outward.

The ProGear 750 Rower has 3 adjustable rowing positions to accommodate users from 4.9 feet to 6.1 feet tall and a maximum weight capacity of 220 lbs., and an adjustable 37” to 43” slide rail for smooth rowing operation.

…very sturdy, and extremely versatile compact rowing machine offers an additional 10 workout exercises. The most bang for your buck!

The LCD monitor show real-time functions such as scan, time, rep count, and calories burned.
To control your workout intensity, this rower offers 3 hydraulic resistance levels that are independently adjustable and positioned on either side of the handlebars, plus 3 adjustable incline levels of 0, 3, and 5 degrees.

Noteworthy: Extremely versatile, not just a rowing machine, but also a multi-exercise workout machine with over 10 exercises; very compact, folded dimensions are 45.5”L x 26.5”W x 7.8”H for easy storage; smooth and quiet operation; sturdy construction.

Bullet Points: Dimensions: 53 x 26.5 x 36.3 inches – Weight: 54 pounds – Maximum user weight capacity: 220 lbs. – 2 Piston Hydraulics – Rating: 4/5

 

#3 Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5639 Full Motion Indoor Rowing Machine

Sunny SF-RW5639 inexpensive rowing machineSunny Health & Fitness never seem to disappoint when it comes to delivering quality fitness machines at a very affordable price. So it comes as no surprise to me that they have also succeeded in making a top-notch compact rowing machine that is not only very inexpensive, as in approximately $100, but also delivers on effectiveness and is built to last.

The SF-RW5639 full motion compact rowing machine is built with a high-quality steel frame and a maximum user capacity of 350 lbs. Strong enough to handle most weight classes and handle the toughest of workouts.

…most bang for your buck at only around $100! Very lightweight at only 33 pounds yet strong enough to hold 350 pounds.

Workout intensity is easily controlled by a hydraulic cylinder with 12 levels of resistance that can be conveniently accessed on the slide rail directly under the seat.

Full-motion arms with high-performance sweat resistant rubber handgrips offer smooth operation and keep your hands in place for an effective workout.

This rowing machine comes with a large padded seat for comfort and slip-resistant pivoting foot pedals with adjustable straps to fit all foot sizes. It is important to note that this added pivoting feature helps to increase the range of motion in the leg drive action for an even more effective workout.

Furthermore, let’s not forget the LCD Monitor located at the foot of the slide rail to keep track of your workout progress and keep you motivated. This monitor displays scan, time, count, calories, and total count.

Noteworthy: Extremely light at only 33 pounds, however not foldable; very affordable at only around $100; strong construction and max weight of 350 pounds; 12 resistance levels.

Bullet Points: Dimensions: 51.5 x 24 x 14 inches; Weight: 33 pounds – Maximum user weight capacity: 350 pounds– 1 Cylinder Hydraulics – Rating: 4/5

 

#4 Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1050 Hydraulic Compact Rowing Machine

Stamina 1050 compact indoor rowerThe Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1050 is a compact rowing machine built on a durable steel frame and aluminum rowing beam, and only weighs 39 pounds for super easy transport.

This rower also offers optimum mobility and a great workout with its full range motion rowing arms.

If you live in an apartment where noise is a concern, no worries here. This rowing machine is very quiet, and noise levels are so low you can watch TV while you are working out.

This machine comes with pivoting footplates and adjustable straps to keep your feet positioned securely, and offers a wide molded seat design.

…super quiet, very lightweight with foldable arms and stands up vertically for easy storage. Another bargain rowing machine at slightly over $100. Most sold rower on Amazon.

Track your progress with the easy to read LCD monitor which displays your time, row count, and calories burned. This monitor also includes a scan function which automatically scrolls thru all workout metrics every 6 seconds while you work out.

An easy to access hydraulic cylinder with manual control knob is used to adjust resistance according to your workout intensity and fitness needs.

The Stamina BodyTrac has foldable rowing arms to make it even more compact and can stand up vertically for easy storage.

Noteworthy: Most sold rower; Lightweight at only 39 pounds; foldable rowing arms and stands up vertically; low noise; very affordable at only around $100.

Bullet Points: Dimensions: 46L x 23W x 18H Inches; 39 Pounds/ Maximum User Weight Capacity: 250 Pounds – 1 Cylinder Hydraulics – Rating: 4/5

 

#5 fitbill Compact Rowing Machine with Bluetooth & Workout App (Runner Up!)

fitbill compact rowing machineThe fitbill compact rower recently released an all-new updated model which combines innovative technology and new design.

This extremely lightweight, portable, compact rower is the first and currently the only rowing machine that offers an app (the fitbill app) to monitor and track your workouts and keep you motivated and coming back for more.

The fitbill app works together with the Bluetooth Motion Detector to help you…

  • Monitor your workout: the fitbill app will display real-time stats (elapsed time, distance, calories burned and strokes.
  • Virtual Trainer: offers step-by-step guidance to keep you motivated and help reach your fitness goals.
    Custom Program: create your own custom programs.
  • Track Progress: keep track of all your training activities and upload them to the cloud automatically.

The fitbill rower weighs a mere 32 pounds, is only 42.5 inches long with folding arms when not in use, and has a maximum user weight capacity of 300 pounds.

…our lightest and only compact rowing machine with Bluetooth Motion Detector and Mobile App Technology – monitor and save your progress to the cloud. Also has 10% incline and bungee band under the seat for added resistance to burn even more calories.

This compact rower has dual hydraulic cylinders and 8 levels of resistance to accommodate everyone from beginner to advanced users.

Experience ultra-quiet operation with the rower’s free-motion rowing arms to create a realistic rowing experience.

Noteworthy: No display – must use a smartphone; extremely light; low to the ground; not ideal for tall users 6.2 feet plus; Bluetooth and Mobile App Technology; 10% incline; bungee band under the seat.

Bullet Points: Product Dimensions: 42.5 x 25 x 27 inches; 32 pounds /Maximum user weight capacity: 300 pounds – 2 Piston Hydraulics – Rated: 3.5/5

 

#6 Stamina 1110 Magnetic Resistance Handlebar Indoor Rower

Stamina 1110 magnetic handlebar indoor rowerI will admit that the Stamina 1110 rowing machine is much different than the previous compact rowers in both size and functionality. However, I do have my reasons for including this rower in our list of best compact rowing machines in that it is still very compact and lightweight and offers features typically found in higher end rowing machines.

The first major difference is that this rowing machine uses a short crossbar or handlebar which is only pulled straight back. This is very similar to commercial rowing machines used in most fitness centers.

The second major difference is the magnetic resistance rather than hydraulic resistance. Magnetic resistance is a newer technology but is also very smooth and quiet. This particular model has 8 levels of magnetic resistance which can be easily adjusted up or down with a simple rotating knob conveniently located below the handlebar.

…our only magnetic resistance compact rower with straight handlebar cable pulley system offered by most traditional commercial rowers used in many fitness centers and training camps across the country.

A multi-function monitor is located just above the handlebar which displays total strokes, strokes per minute, workout time, distance and calories burned. This LCD will also scan thru stats while you exercise.

This rowing machine is lightweight and with built-in wheels is easy to transport. Even though the Stamina 1110 rowing machine is somewhat longer than the previous rowers, it is nonetheless very compact and easy to store on its end.

This resistance rower also comes with a durable and smooth gliding aluminum rowing beam, a padded molded seat with ball-bearing rollers for smooth operation, pivoting footplates and straps, foam rowing handles for an easy grip, and an extra phone or water bottle holder.

Noteworthy: More popular straight handlebar rowing; magnetic resistance; stores end up; compact design.

Bullet Points: Product Dimensions: 60 x 22 x 27 inches; 45 pounds /Maximum user weight capacity: 350 pounds – Magnetic Resistance – Rated: 3.5/5

 

What are the Top Benefits of Owning a Compact & Foldable Indoor Rower?

Effective Cardio Exercise Machine
If you’re looking to burn some calories and lose some weight quickly, these compact rowing machines deliver quite the punch. Much more effective than just your ordinary treadmill, these rowers can burn more calories and in a shorter amount of time.

Muscle Toning
Besides being an effective cardio machine, the rowing machine also engages muscles in both your upper body and lower body with resistance exercise. This leads to more overall muscle activation and results in more muscle toning over time.

No Additional Weights Required
These compact rowing machines use hydraulic pistons and cylinders to create the tension you need for your individual workout intensity level. Intensity levels are easily adjustable with a simple turn of a wheel or control knob. This means no additional heavy or bulky weights to deal with.

Multiple Intensity Levels
Each compact rowing machine can be easily adjusted to the desired resistance level of the user. Some rowers can have up to 12 levels of resistance, giving you a wider intensity range and more flexible workout.

No Impact Exercise
If you’re looking for a zero impact cardio and muscle toning machine, the compact rowing machine is it. The machine offers easy gliding motions for both arms and legs which has no impact on your joints.

Low Noise
These machines are whisper quiet. If you live in an apartment or want to work out late at night without being worried about waking up others around you, this is the perfect machine. You can even watch TV while using your rowing machine without even having to turn up the volume.

Space and Mobility – Compact and Foldable Rowing Machines
Most of these rowers are very compact and with some having foldable rowing arms you can easily transport them from room to room or conveniently store them away behind furniture, in a closet, or in some case even underneath a bed.

Indoor Rowers
Excuses not to work out due to inclement weather is a thing of the past. Whether cold or hot, rain or snow, you can just jump on your rowing machine and exercise until your heart’s content.

Inexpensive Home Rowing Machines
The compact rowing machines are by far the most inexpensive rowers you can buy. However, inexpensive does not always mean low quality. The price difference is because compact rowers have a smaller footprint and some different features than those you would typically find on other rowing machines.

best indoor rowers

Bring your outdoor rowing indoors.

Best Compact Rowing Machine Questions & Answers

If you’ve never used a compact rowing machine with hydraulic resistance and free-motion arms or even the magnetic resistance rower with straight handlebar and cable operation, let me give you a few tips and clear ups some misconceptions you may have.

Do Indoor Rowers Build Muscle Mass?

The rowing machine is an excellent way to build a strong and healthy cardiovascular system and lose weight. However, some are under the belief that rowers also build muscle which is not exactly true. Rowing machines may help to tone muscles and even strengthen them to a degree, however, they are not muscle-mass building machines.

The main function of the rowing machine is for cardiovascular health and burning calories.

Do Indoor Rowers Have Separate Resistance for Legs?

I have seen many inquiries about what type of resistance is used for the legs if any. There is a common misconception that the legs use a separate resistance system from the arms to create tension on the legs. The truth is there is only one source of resistance necessary to create leg resistance and that comes from the arm rowers.

These compact rowing machines are constructed to mimic real-life rowing on water. The execution of this exercise requires the user to pull the rower arms or handlebar with the arms while at the same time pushing back with the legs. This results in tension or resistance being transferred from the arms to the legs. Most of the tension on the legs come from the first half of the movement while pushing back followed by finishing the exercise with the arms.

Are Compact Rowing Machines Effective Cardio Machines?

If you have never used a rowing machine before, let me tell you that even before you complete your first minute of rowing you will already being puffing and gasping for breath.

I would recommend a rowing machine over a treadmill any day when it comes to physical exertion, cardio endurance and strengthening, and burning calories. You will definitely burn more calories using a rowing machine than you would a treadmill since you are using more muscles during the exercise.

Why Does My Home Rowing Machine Lose Resistance and Get Easier to Row?

All of our rowing machines have free-motion rower arms that use hydraulic pistons to create resistance, except for the last rower which uses magnetic resistance. Some use a single piston and others use dual pistons, one for each rower arm.

Each piston is filled with oil and air, and when the oil heats up from extensive use the oil loses viscosity or hardness. This, in turn, results in pressure loss and loss of resistance.

Typically this should not be a problem for most users. Especially if you are not a power user or operate your indoor rower for more than 30 minutes at a time.

Here are a few remedies you can use to help with this problem:

  • Increase the intensity level a notch or two up to make up for the loss in pressure.
  • Keep your workout session between 20 and 30 minutes.
  • Let your rowing machine cool down for about 30 minutes and start again.

Do note that not all users will experience this problem with their indoor rower. If this is a major concern, I would suggest considering the Stamina 1100 magnetic rowing machine which does not use hydraulic resistance.

 

Closing Remarks

First and foremost I would like to thank you for choosing to read our “6 Best Compact Rowing Machine Reviews 2019” as your guide to finding some of the best portable indoor rowers available on Amazon.

Wind rowers, magnetic rowers, and water rowers are great rowing machines to own if you have the space to accommodate these machines, but for many of us less fortunate there is luckily the compact rowing machine that is much smaller in size and can be folded for easy storage.

The compact rowing machine is a great alternative. And even though it is smaller it still delivers a great workout experience with great results.

I would like to thank you again for reading our best home rowing machine reviews for compact rowers. If your are still undecided and are looking for more options, then you can check out more rowing machines on Amazon below.

Suggested Reading:

Top 8 Folding Exercise Bikes for indoor cycling.

Top 5 Vertical Climber Machines for your home gym.