Foldable Rowing Machine: Review The Best of 2020

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Introduction 

Even though treadmills and exercise bikes are the most common fitness equipment in the market, rowing machines are a popular choice when it comes to cardio equipment. These are machines that replicate the boat rowing movement and are an excellent option for toning and strengthening every muscle in the body.

Yes, rowers are not only for arm strengthening, as you might thought!

Indeed, based on the American Fitness Professionals Association Research, “the rowing stroke when using an indoor rower is composed of 65-75% leg work and 25-35% upper body work“.

However, due to its size, many people are skeptical about bringing one into their homes. The foldable rowing machines are a great alternative. It is a convenient and compact exercise machine that is easy to store at home.

We have prepared this guide to help you choose the best foldable rowing machine and invest your money in the right place. 

Our Top Foldable Rowing Machines

Concept2 Model D

OUR TOP PICK

Easy to fold and store with an impressive build quality makes this an excellent choice for those who want to work out at home without worrying about the space issues.

Fitness Reality 1000

BEST VALUE

It is one of the most budget-friendly rowing machines in its category. It offers a full-body workout while being the only one in its category to provide additional exercises.

Why Choose a Foldable Over a Common Rowing Machine?

Rowing machines are less commonly chosen when it comes to full-body workout than spin bikes and treadmills. Rowing machines help switch up a cardio routine when a person gets sick of the same workout routine. Many workout enthusiasts who wish to workout at home choose folding rowing machines over the standard rowing machines. 

The compact models of these machines eliminate the storage issues for at-home gyms. The amount of space needed to store these is half that required for a typical non-foldable rowing machine. In addition to this, non-foldable models are typically manufactured for commercial purposes and might not be suitable for home use. Foldable rowing machines are not only space-friendly but are super portable, easy to disassemble, and offer multiple levels of resistance. 

Best Folding Rowing Machine of 2020

Top Picks in US & Canada

Quick Rating Table

 NameFeaturesRatingPrice
Top Pickconcept2 model d air rowerConcept2 Model D
  • 10 Resistance Levels
  • Folded Dimensions: 25″ x 33″ x 54″
  • Build quality is impressive
9.9
Best Valuefitness reality 1000 plusFitness Reality 1000
  • 14 Resistance Levels
  • Folded Dimensions: 39. 5″ x 21.5″ x 53.5″
  • Sturdy and solid build.
9.5
Editor’s ChoiceSunny Health & Fitness Compact Folding Magnetic Rowing MachineSunny Health SF-RW5801
  • 16 Resistance Levels
  • Folded Dimensions: 36. 3″ x 23″ x 47″
  • Large non-slip pivot pedals, for an impactful workout
9.4
maxkare air rowing machineMaxKare Air Rower
  • 10 Resistance Levels
  • Folded Dimensions: 40.5″ x 19.7″ x 42.1″
  • Great quality
9.4
ECHANFIT Magnetic Rower Rowing MachineECHANFIT Magnetic Rower
  • 16 Resistance Levels
  • Folded Dimensions: 40″ x 19″ x 46″
  • Silent magnetic resistance system
9.2
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 12 Adjustable Resistance RowingSunny Health SF-RW1205
  • 12 Resistance Levels
  • Dimensions: 54″ x 20″ x 23″
  • Made of high-grade commercial-level steel
9.2

In-Depth Reviews

Foldable rowing machines are smart at-home cardio workout equipment, and they offer amazing benefits. The market is full of a variety of machines, and choosing the right one is not that simple. Fitness Reality, Concept2, MaxKare, EchanFit, and hundreds of other brands have launched their models, making the whole process of choosing the best one a daunting task.

After thorough research, we have compiled a list of the best six folding rowing machines dominating the market in the year 2020. We want to make things easy for you, which is why we are saving you from the stress of tiring market research.

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine

The Most Convenient Machine in the Market

Easy to fold and store with an impressive build quality makes this an excellent choice for those who want to work out at home without worrying about the space issues.

Pros

  • The ten resistance levels help in enjoying a personalized workout session.
  • The air-resistant flywheel system generates minimal noise and paves the way for the smooth functioning of the machine. 
  • Bluetooth connectivity eliminates the need to connect the monitor with wires. 
  • The framelock mechanism removes the need to use tools to separate the machine for easy storage.  
  • Sturdy design and excellent build. 
  • Lightweight and wheeled from the front, making it super portable and easy to move. 
  • The weight capacity of these machines is 500lbs.

Cons

  • The nuts are bolts that are not that tight. 
  • Many users have complained about its Bluetooth issues. 
  • The seat is not the most comfortable.

Detailed Review

The degree of convenience that is offered by this Concept2’s model is beyond amazing. Easy to fold and store with an impressive build quality makes this an excellent choice for those who want to work out at home without worrying about the space issues. The 96 x 24 inches design can be easily folded to fit into a 25 x 33 x 54 inches space. 

It is an air rowing machine fitted with a flywheel mechanism, which means you can enjoy a super quiet workout session at home, without disturbing the peace for your family members. Made with aluminum and steel with a fully powder-coated body, it is designed to last long. The control it provides over the workout is super impressive. The flywheel mechanism responds to every stroke. You can alter the resistance between ten levels with which you can easily control the airflow. 

When talking about assembling, there is not much for you to worry about. It is easy to assemble and requires minimum time. It comes with only eight screws, you fit them right, and it is ready to be used. For storage, you can separate this machine into two parts and safely store it in a small space. You do not even have to struggle to separate the two parts; the framelock mechanism requires no tools. 

It is equipped with a monitor that offers Bluetooth connectivity. You can easily connect to fitness apps and track your workout progress. Moreover, the low-impact workout does not cause joint pain.

Fitness Reality 1000 Magnetic Rower

One of the most budget-friendly rowing machines

It is a magnetic rowing machine that offers full-body workout while being the only one in its category to provide additional exercises.

Pros

  • The machine is designed with user-friendliness in mind.
  • It is one of the most budget-friendly rowing machines in the market.
  • It is the only machine to offer additional exercises, thanks to the front stabilizer footpads. 
  • It offers 14 resistance levels.
  • Sturdy and solid build.

Cons

  • The weight capacity is only 250lbs. 
  • It is not fit for users who are looking for a vigorous workout. 
  • The pivot pedals are not very popular among users.

Detailed Review

There are hundreds of exercise rowing machines in the market, but this rower by Fitness Reality is the smartest choice when it comes to affordable collapsible rowing machines. It is one of the most budget-friendly rowing machines in its category, and there are no arguments about that. 

It is a magnetic rowing machine that offers full-body workout while being the only one in its category to provide additional exercises. From forearms, biceps, triceps, to shoulder, legs, and thighs, this machine can improve overall fitness. It offers low-impact workout and helps fitness freaks reach their fitness goals with ease. Not only does it offer Bluetooth connectivity, but it also comes with a cloud fitness app. Connecting with this app allows users to track their fitness goals and set their long-term targets. The factors that this app monitors include the workout time, calories burnt, and the distance. 

It comes equipped with an adjustable dual transmission magnetic tension resistance. It lets you alter the resistance between 14 levels, something not many rowers in the market offer. This machine’s features do not stop here; the machine is equipped with patent-pending front stabilizer footpads. It allows you to enjoy additional exercises such as curls, upright rows, bent over rows, front raises, and shrugs, triceps extensions standing shoulder press, and whatnot. 

The 88.5 x 21.5 x 21.5 inches exercise rowing machine is folded into 39. 5 x 21. 5 x 53. 5 inches. The assembly of this machine is super easy and not at al time consuming or stressful. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. It allows for a quiet workout with minimum and, in some cases, zero background noise.  

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Rower

The Most Compact Machine

This magnetic rowing machine easily fits into a compact space, which means zero storage problems for the users.

Pros

  • The magnetic rowing machine provides 16 resistance levels. 
  • The non-slip pivot pedals are larger, for an impactful workout. 
  • It is an affordable machine that features a sturdy design. 
  • The assembling of this machine is super easy and convenient.

Cons

  • The machine is very low to the ground. 
  • The design is not very smart.

Detailed Review

Sunny Health & Fitness is a well-known manufacturer when it comes to rowing machines. Therefore, for people looking for reliable rowing machines must definitely consider the SF-RW5801 by this company. This company has other rowers, but this is one of the most compact machines in the market.

Compactness is one of the features that make many people choose folding rowing machines. The 77 x 23 x 22.5 inches that weigh 46 pounds, folds into 36. 3 x 23 x 47 inches. It is perfect for homeowners who want to work out in their small apartments but are worried about the space. This magnetic rowing machine easily fits into a compact space, which means zero storage problems for the users.

The pivot foot pedals allow in engaging quads as one propels their legs back and forth. These pedals are ergonomically designed to provide ultimate comfort to the workout fanatics. The pedals are larger than usual, and it helps in promoting a powerful push, which paves the way for an effective low-impact workout session. Talking about ergonomics, the seat is designed also very smartly designed to promote a comfortable workout scene. It is large, and the sweat-resistant feature adds to the overall comfort.

Portability is another plus of this machine in addition to the compact design. The built-in transportation wheels eliminate the need to carry the machine around as users can easily transport it by rolling it from one place to another. It is one of the few rowing machines in the market that allows users to adjust the resistance between 16 levels. You can use the tension knob to set a resistance level that suits your fitness needs. It also comes with a bottle holder. The heavy-duty frame can bear a maximum weight of 285lbs.

MaxKare Rowing Machine Air Rower

An Affordable Machine that Works like a Pro

The quality of this machine is similar to any high-end rowing machines, and users are serving as advocates of it.

Pros

  • It is very affordable and can be bought at a range of $300.
  • It comes with a 90-day warranty, and users can extend up to three years.
  • The built-in transportation wheels allow users to carry it around the space easily. 
  • It features a sturdy design.
  • The feedback resistance makes it mimic the real rowing experience. 

Cons

  • The warranty policy is very confusing. 
  • The left and right foot holder screws thread in the same direction, so the right tightens but the left loosens with constant action.

Detailed Review

Another manufacturer that is gaining popularity with rowing machines is MaxKare that manufactures masterpieces such as this one. The fir rower by MaxKare is one of its best models because it is very affordable and yet works like a pro. When the prices are low, people expect low quality, but with this one, nothing of this sort must be expected.

The quality of this machine is similar to any high-end rowing machines, and users are serving as advocates of it. Moving on, this machine comes with a compact design. The machine is easy to fold, the 71.3 x 20.1 x 14.2 folds to 40.5 x 19.7 x 42.1, which helps in saving space.

With compactness comes portability, and the pulley that it is attached enables a user to move it across the house efficiently. This machine helps in alleviating shoulder and back pain, protects knees, prevents ankle sprains, and relieves joint strain. It comes equipped with progressive air resistance and two-belt drive design. The resistance increases with the speed with which you pull. Combined with a full exposure design of the fan, this air rower is one of the best in among its category.

The maximum weight capacity of this machine is 264lbs. In addition to this, the air rower comes with a digital monitor and an iPad holder. The rowing strap is very durable, and the seat is ergonomically designed to provide maximum comfort to the workout fanatics.

ECHANFIT Magnetic Rower

Durable, Versatile, and Ergonomically Designed

What makes the manufacturer claim such amazing results is that unlike all other foldable recumbent bikes, this comes with tensions rope. It supports a full-body workout.

Pros

  • It is equipped with a silent magnetic resistance system that generates minimum noise and helps in smooth functioning. 
  • Users can alter the resistance up to 16 levels.
  • It is effortless to store. 
  • The machine, from the handles, seat, and foot pedals, is designed ergonomically. 
  • It offers excellent value for money.

Cons

  • Installing the monitor is a bit time-consuming. 
  • The seat is not the most comfortable for people with broader bodies.

Detailed Review

If you are looking for a durable and versatile rower, you need to take a look at the specifications of the CRW 4901 by Echanfit. It is one of the best folding rowing machines in the market as this one offers it all. It features a solid steel frame; it is versatile and is also ergonomically designed.
The frame of this magnetic rower is made of high-strength steel, and the finishing look has been completed with powder-coated paint. The seat rail is also constructed using steel that makes way for the smooth functioning of the machine. The weight capacity of this rowing machine is 265lbs.

It is equipped with a Silent Magnetic Resistance system that allows you to alter the resistance up to 16 different levels. You can change the resistance level using the Tension Control Button, which can be operated through simple twisting. The belt drive ensures that the resistance system produces minimum sound.

The handles of this machine are covered foam and polypropylene Fiber, which ensure maximum comfort with a firm grip. The ergonomics of the handle prevent building up of strain in the wrists, shoulders, or arms. Even the footplates are designed while keeping in mind the comfort of the users. The footplates feature a pivot system intended for a broader range of motion and adjustable foot straps for safety. The dimensions of this rower, 5.20L X 19.29W X 33.46H inches, are reduced to 40.00L X 19.29W X 46.06H inches when folded. It helps in saving space while ensuring that you do not have to deal with storage issues.

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rower

The Lightest One in the Market

One of the best features is that this equipment is excellent for low-impact and aerobic exercise.

Pros

  • It is one of the lightest folding rowing machines in the market, making it one of the most portable ones for users. 
  • The design is sleek, and it is storing this machine is super convenient.

Cons

  • It has partial foldability as the frame does not fold. However, you can easily fold the rear stabilizer to reduce the elevation of the machine
  • The maximum user capacity is lower than the other in its category.

Detailed Review

Sunny Health & Fitness offers some of the best folding rowing machine models, and another model that has made it into our list of the best machines for 2020 is the SF-RW1205. Why has it made it into the list? Well, the company is one of the most reliable ones in the competition, and this model is the lightest one that you can find.

A fitness freak who wants to invest in a folding machine will definitely look at its weight. There is no point in purchasing a folding machine, which is impossible to move around. This one weighs just 20lbs with the following dimensions; 54 x 20 x 23 inches.

The rowing machine offers 12 different resistance levels with a hydraulic cylinder resistance system. One of the best features is that this equipment is excellent for low-impact and aerobic exercise. It features an exceptional build quality as it is made of high-grade commercial-level steel. The maximum weight limit of this machine is 220lbs, which is less than most of the rowing machines in the market.

Portable Recumbent Bikes Buying Guide

Everything you need to know

If you want to get your hand on the best folding rowing machines in the market, these are the six that you need to consider in the year 2020. Even though we have enlisted the best in the market after thorough research, you might still struggle to choose.

We want you to put your money in the right place as exercise equipment is not cheap. To help you spend your hard-earned money the right way, we will help you develop a surface level understanding so that you can make the right decision.

Types of Rowing Machines based on their Resistance

When you head to the market to purchase a portable rowing machine, you will find various types. There are mainly five different types of rowing machines that you will find based on their resistance. These include magnetic, incline, hydraulic, water, and air rowing machines. 

  • Magnetic Rowing Machines:
    The first type of rowing machine is magnetic models. These are machines that feature an electromagnetic brake system. Many homeowners choose these machines for their at-home gym because they generate minimum noise compared to other types. Fitness enthusiasts can set the resistance levels before the workout that contributes to a steady exercise. 
  • Hydraulic Rowing Machines:
    The next in line is hydraulic rowing machines. These are super affordable workout machines that are frequently chosen due to their smaller frame. The piston mechanism uses air or fluid to function. Users can easily preset the required resistance due to its adjustable resistance feature. These are compact and portable, ideal for small apartments. 
  • Water Rowing Machines:
    For a perfect, close-to-real rowing experience, the water rowing machines are a great choice. To set resistance levels, this machine uses water in combination with the flywheel mechanism. As compared to other types of rowing machines, these are the costliest but are the most durable, featuring a sturdy build. It is perfect for those who want to experience a close-to-real rowing experience. 
  • Air Rowing Machines:
    The air rowing machines are manufactured for commercial use, and the resistance they offer are praise-worthy. The resistance mechanism features a flywheel mechanism. 
  • Incline Rowing Machines:
    The incline rowing machines offer users a challenging workout experience, providing excellent fitness results. It is perfect for an intense workout as the rail is set on an incline.

What type of rower should I choose? 

a man using a rowing machine

First, we will start by helping you understand which type of rower is best for you. As previously discussed, we know that five different types of rowers can be found in the market, including air rowing, hydraulic rowing, magnetic rowing, water rowing, and incline rowing machines. 

So, which one is the best?

The most common out of these five are air rowing machines. These machines do not offer fixed resistance. The resistance depends on how hard a user rows. The greater the intensity, the higher, is the resistance level. These are not the quietest machines and are not suitable for workplaces and might even cause a house disturbance. 

If budget is a problem for you and you want a budget-friendly rowing machine, the hydraulic rower is the perfect option for you. These are the cheapest and the most affordable machines in the market. These are very quiet and ideal for use at home and even for a gym at a workplace. 

For users who want a minimum maintenance rowing machine, the magnetic ones are the best. These do not require much maintenance and offer proper resistance levels. Even during slow rowing, the resistance is super satisfying. The best thing? The magnetic resistance level produces close to zero noise. 

Many workout fanatics want to experience close-to-real rowing experience. For such users, the water rowing machines work great. As compared to all other rowing machine types, these offer an experience that mimics the real rowing experience close to perfection. These are the most expensive rowing machines that you can find in the market. 

If you are up for a challenging workout, the right incline rowing machines work wonderfully! 

Features to Consider before buying a folding rower

Just like you spend days on market research when purchasing something expensive, you need to do the same when buying a folding rowing machine. You need to consider several factors when you evaluate your options; your final choice must be based on the following factors of consideration. 

Types of Resistance

As discussed earlier, there are four types of resistances that you find in rowing machines. These are air, hydraulic, magnetic, and water. The air resistance depends on how hard you row. The highest intensity rowing brings higher resistance. The hydraulic ones are simple to use and are affordable. The magnetic resistance offers the quietest workout experience and requires little to no maintenance. 

The Size

The next factor that you need to consider is the size of the machine, especially if you are buying one for your home. Storage is a real issue at homes, specifically in small apartments. The machines vary in dimensions, so you need to choose wisely. You can see the dimensions on the platform you are choosing for the purchase, and you can even visit the manufacturer’s website for accurate details. Make sure you know the dimensions of when it’s upright and when its folded to know if you have space for it at home or not. 

Comfort Level

Working out on uncomfortable fitness equipment can exert excessive pressure on your back, wrist, arms, and shoulders. A poorly designed machine can negatively impact your health. You need to evaluate the seat, footplates, and the positioning of the handlebars. The best option is to opt for ergonomically designed equipment that does not put your body at risk of injury or pain. 

Portability

Portability is another critical factor to consider when purchasing a collapsible rowing machine. After working out, you will have to fold it and transport it into the storage space. For this, you need to make sure that the machine portable enough. The features to look for when portability is essential for you are foldability, weight, and presence of built-in wheels. 

The Price

The budget is a determining factor for many people. If this is the case, you need to look for a rowing machine that offers you the best value for money. Make sure you have a set budget in your mind because the options in the market may put you into a state of analysis paralysis, making you unable to decide. 

Benefits of using a rower and what muscles does it work

The rowing machines are less common than spin bikes, treadmills, and ellipticals, but these offer amazing benefits. The people who start using rowing machines do not want to switch to any other cardio equipment. 

Aerobic Exercise

Cardio equipment is a significant contributor to one’s overall fitness. It helps in boosting stamina, strengthening the immune system, paving the way for weight loss. Rowing machines work wonders in providing an effective cardio exercise. Using this machine raises one’s heart rate, enhances oxygen intake. 

Complete Body Workout

With rowing machines, users can enjoy a complete body workout, which keeps the fitness in-check all the time. These machines provide a stellar upper-body workout and offer incredible benefits to the lower body as well. They improve muscle strength and help in toning the body. 

Increased Endurance

By adding the perfect amount of physical activity in your life, these machines increase one’s endurance. It increases the stamina and even boosts the metabolism. It gives rise to a drive to do things by turning a lazy individual into an active personality. 

Convenience

Not to forget that these machines are super convenient to use. They occupy less space, and the foldability feature adds to it. You can enjoy the same rowing boat experience just by sitting in the comfort of your home. It is affordable and straightforward to use. 

Which Muscles do Rowing Machines Work on?

The rowing machines work on rhomboids, which is the upper back, latissimus dorsi, which is the midback on both sides of the torso, the quadriceps, that are the front of your thighs, hamstrings, core muscles, and your biceps and forearms. 

Conclusion

The buying guide has been designed to help you develop as much knowledge as you can about folding rowing machines. The market has so many options that choosing the right one turns into an overwhelming process. 

You do not have to worry. We have enlisted the top six in the market after carefully evaluating each model for you. To help you choose the best out of the six, we have drafted a guide that outlines all the factors you need to evaluate a machine on. 

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The article has been researched & compiled by the Editorial IF-FIT Team, a group of experienced fitness & health writers.

This post has 2 Comments

2
  1. Thank you for a most thorough review. I have been using Concept II machines since their model A in the mid-1980’s. Maybe I’m biased, but true competitive rowers don’t use anything but a Concept II because of the similar feel to on-water rowing in terms of stroke mechanics (both during the drive and relaxation phases of the rowing stroke). The Concept II machine is definitely a financial investment, but they rarely break down. Whenever mine has needed a tune-up or mechanical repair, their customer service is top-notch (responsive and informative). I have had my model D for over 10 years, bought used, and have only had 2 easy to fix maintenance issues.

    1. Hi Chip,

      Thank you for your kind words and for the really interesting information you wrote about your experience with the Model D rower.

      We can’t agree more. Concept2 Model D is not only the best Rower we’ve ever reviewed but one of the best pieces of fitness equipment in general. This is more than obvious by looking at both the great customer reviews and professional rowers’ opinions.

      IF-FIT Team.

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