Best Compact Rowing Machines: Foldable & Small [November 2020]]

For those looking for the best compact rowing machine, the SF-RW 5801 Magnetic Rower is the one. It folds and stands vertically. It is compact both when folded and when in use.

Want more options?

This guide has some of the best foldable rowing machines.

To filter our top picks, we looked for two main factors:

  • Its size when in-use 
  • Its size when folded or standing vertically

So with the above criteria, here are our top picks:

Best Compact Rowing Machines in 2020

1. Sunny Health & Fitness Compact Folding Magnetic SF Rw-5801

best compact rowing machine

The Sunny SF-RW5801 operates on magnetic resistance. In this rower, the seat rail can be folded up for storage. It also has transportation wheels that let you move it without any hassle.

Resistance

It has eight levels of magnetic resistance so that you can enjoy a wide range of tension during each workout. The resistance is strong enough for beginners to intermediate level users. However, professional athletes and stronger users will find it lacking.

Magnetic rowers have fixed resistance which doesn’t change with the speed of rowing. If you want the natural feeling of rowing on water, it is better to go with an air or water rower.

Build Quality

The 5801 is built with a steel frame and has a solid build quality. It supports up to 285 pounds of weight. It comes with pivoting footplates with heel guards for comfort.

Monitor

The performance monitor is quite impressive on this rower. It tracks all the basic workout metrics and also tracks RPM. You can set targets and start a countdown for each workout. It has a scan mode that shows a different metric every few seconds.

Compact

It can fold upright for compact storage. Whether you want to tuck it in a closet or stow it in a remote corner of your house, the 5801 can do it all.

What’s Good

  • Good build quality
  • Quiet
  • Folds and stands vertically
  • 8 resistance levels
  • Comfortable
  • Feature-rich monitor
  • Heel guard
  • Value for money

What’s Bad

  • No backlight on the display
  • No connectivity with heart rate monitors

Dimensions: L x W x H

In-Use Size: 77” x 23” x 22.5″

Folded Size: 36.3” x 23” x 47”

Weight: 49 lbs.

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2. Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Monitor

Concept2

Concept2 builds the best selling rowers on the planet. They are used by Olympic athletes and navy seals. Even Jocko Willink, a retired U.S. Navy Seal officer suggested this rower to a person who asked him for fitness advice on Reddit.

Build Quality

Concept2 Model D rower isn’t cheap, but it is well worth the price. Because of its superior build quality, this Concept2 rower can last over a decade and over ten million meters of rowing distance. It is built with aluminum front legs, steel rear legs and an aluminum I-beam monorail. This robust construction is the reason it can support up to 500 lbs. of weight. With a 38-inch long inseam, the rower can accommodate tall people as well, with height up to 6 feet 10 inches.

Resistance

Resistance is an integral part of a rower – how strong it is, the range it provides and how smooth it is. The Concept2 Model D rower is used by Olympic athletes – so there is no doubt that it has an intense level of resistance throughout its range. The Concept2 rower also comes with 10 adjustable resistance levels. Changing the resistance setting on the damper lets you get the most out of workouts.

PM5 Monitor

The PM5 monitor on the Concept2 Model D is considered the best fitness monitor ever. This is because of its perfect accuracy and user-friendly features. It can track time, distance, stroke rate, calories, watts, 500m split time and much more.

The preset workout routines get you started without any previous experience. You can create customized workouts that fit your physique and fitness levels and save them on a USB flash drive. If you are new to rowing, you can learn the proper form with a fun game.

The PM5 monitor also has wireless ANT+ and Bluetooth technology that lets it connect to heart rate monitors. Connecting with heart rate monitors, you can work out in your optimal heart rate zone.

Comfort

The Concept2 Model D rower is also more comfortable than its peers. It offers a smooth rowing experience. It surely isn’t as quiet as magnetic rowers, but it is exhilarating. The seat is contoured and padded enough for comfort – although if you are a beginner, it may feel hard and take getting used to.

The foot pedals are made meticulously and allow you to workout with your feet secured in place. Many rowers struggle with ineffective velcro straps that can’t prevent feet from slipping, but not this one. This is one of the few rowers that is comfortable enough to row barefooted. The straps can be adjusted to accommodate all shoe sizes.

Storage

The Concept2 Model D rower is easy to store. You can disassemble the rower within ten seconds – into two components: flywheel and monorail. The monorail can stand vertically while the flywheel leans on it. Despite being a high-end rower, the Model D can be assembled and disassembled within minutes. This is rarely seen and this is the reason this rower is a bestselling one.

What’s Good

  • Heavy duty
  • Trusted by Olympians
  • 10 levels of adjustable resistance
  • Quick to assemble/disassemble
  • Long enough for tall people
  • Comfortable
  • Efficient PM5 monitor
  • Connects with smartphone apps
  • Stores workout data over long periods

What’s Bad

  • Display doesn’t look modern, although it is effective
  • Seat is a bit hard

Dimensions:

When in Use: 96.0″ x 24.0″ x 42.0″

When Folded: 33.0″ x 24.0″ x 54.0″

Weight: 57 lbs.

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3. Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050

trac glider 1050 compact rowing machine

The Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 is foldable and portable, being a hydraulic rower. It operates on hydraulic resistance and offers a great bang for the buck.

Resistance

With 12 levels of resistance, you can have a solid workout with a large range of resistance available to you. The knob that is used for adjusting resistance is located right under the seat. So when you are in the middle of a workout, you can adjust the resistance without getting up.

One advantage of this Stamina 1050 rower is that it offers a large range of motion which is not possible with the usual t-bar handle you see on most rowers.

But note that hydraulic resistance isn’t as strong as air, magnetic, or water resistance – no matter which hydraulic rower you buy. The level of tension hydraulic rowers provide is best suited for beginners and intermediates. If you have a strong physique or plenty of rowing experience, hydraulic resistance won’t be enough.

Build Quality

Even on a budget, the Stamina Body Trac Glider has good build quality. It is constructed using a steel frame and an aluminum center beam. It can support up to 250 pounds of weight. Hydraulic rowers are generally lightweight. The Stamina 1050 rower just weighs 40 lbs.

Monitor

It has a basic display monitor that tracks time, stroke count, total count and calories. But the calorie count isn’t accurate – which is generally true for all budget rowers. The monitor also has a ‘SCAN’ mode that toggles and displays the different workouts with an interval of a few seconds so that you don’t have to look for them manually.

Comfort

The seat isn’t comfortable so an extra seat pad is required. Foot pedals feel comfortable but the velcro straps can’t keep the feet secured and prevent them from slipping. So one would need to buy new velcro straps.

Storage

The Stamina 1050 rower is extremely easy to store. Using two screws, the arms can be folded and the rower can stand vertically taking little space. It isn’t small enough to be tucked under your bed, but it can be stored in a closet. However, it doesn’t come with any wheels for moving it around.

What’s Good

  • Compact
  • Quality construction
  • 12 levels of adjustable resistance
  • Quiet
  • Affordable
  • Decent performance monitor
  • Full range of motion
  • Handy resistance knob
  • Fits taller people

What’s Bad

  • Uncomfortable seats
  • Ineffective velcro straps
  • Hydraulic resistance, in general, isn’t enough for stronger people or athletes
  • Hydraulic pistons need constant maintenance

Dimensions: L x W x H

When In Use: 58.25” x 42.5” x 18.5”

Footprint: 23.5” x 46”

When Disassembled: 49 ½” x 11 ¾” x 9 ½” (Source: Sears)

Weight: 39 lbs.

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4. Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Foldable Rowing Machine 

fitness reality compact rowing

Fitness Reality 1000 Plus comes with many high-quality features. Since this is a magnetic rower, it is also whisper-quiet. You can workout early in the morning without waking anyone up.

Resistance

It has 14 resistance levels – an amazing range when you want to set precise fitness goals. The resistance on this rower is strong enough for beginners as well as experienced rowers. The seat is hard though and adding a seat cushion is necessary for comfortable workouts. The foot plates are comfortable and the velcro straps do a good job of preventing one’s feet from slipping.

Inseam

Despite being compact, foldable and portable, it has a long inseam. It can accommodate people as tall as 6’6”.

Monitor

The display monitor on the 1000 Plus Rower does a good job of tracking performance. It also has the scan mode that toggles and shows different metrics every few seconds.

However, some users reported how the distance and calorie metrics aren’t accurate. Keep in mind that most rowers, in general, can’t calculate calories accurately because they don’t take into account your weight and heart rate data.

The rower has footpads in the front that can be used to do additional exercises. It also connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth to the company’s app for better performance tracking.

Storage

This rower is not small per se but it is foldable. The seat rail can be folded upright for easy storage. It has built-in wheels that let you move it around easily. However, customers have reported how the wheels are small for such a solid rower.

Overall, this is a solid quality rower with strong resistance under its hood and a capable performance monitor.

What’s Good

  • Solid build quality
  • 14 resistance levels
  • Foldable
  • Efficient performance monitor
  • Bluetooth
  • Quiet
  • Assembly tools are supplied
  • Long inseam, fits people as tall as 6’6”

What’s Bad

  • Resistance is good, but not enough for athletes/stronger users
  • No backlit
  • Small wheels
  • Distance and calorie count isn’t accurate

In-Use Size: 88.5” L x 21.5” W x 21.5” H

Folded size: 39. 5”Lx21. 5”Wx53. 5”H

Weight: 63.6 lbs

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5. Stamina 35-1215 Orbital

Best compact rowing machine

The Stamina 1215 uses hydraulic resistance and provides a full-range of motion. Since it is a hydraulic rower, it is compact even when assembled and unfolded. The free arms can be folded toward the foot plates to make the rower even more compact for storage.

Resistance

It has two hydraulic pistons, one on each arm. This rower is quiet and has five resistance levels with enough resistance/tension for beginners to intermediate users.

The resistance labeling is counter-intuitive though. Level 1 is the strongest while level 5 is the weakest level of resistance. The free arms allow you to mix your workouts and bring some variety to them when you are bored. The display monitor on this rower is quite basic – it tracks the basic metrics and has a single button.

Build Quality

What is impressive though, is the build quality. Users reported that it was way stronger than they expected. Some even used it to do sit-ups or dumbbell presses. It can support 250 lbs. of weight.

Another remarkable thing about this rower is that it has high-quality pistons. Hydraulic pistons generally get hot after a short workout and need constant maintenance. But the pistons on the 1215 are higher quality.

Overall, the Stamina 1215 offers great value for small spaces.

What’s Good

  • Full range of motion
  • Two high-quality pistons
  • Solid build quality
  • Smooth movement
  • Quiet
  • Five resistance levels
  • Compact when in use
  • Foldable
  • Pivoting foot plates

What’s Bad

  • Resistance not enough for stronger people
  • Resistance levels are labelled reversely – #1 is highest, #5 is lowest

In-Use Size: 48” x 32.5” x 27.75”

Folded Size: 48” x 32.5” x 10”

Weight: 52 lbs.

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6. Stamina ATS 1399 Compact Rowing Machine

Stamina ATS Rower is one of the best compact rowing machines. For those who want an air rower but don’t want to spend a grand on the Concept2 rower, this is a great alternative.

Storage

It is a space-saver as you can fold the seat rail up to reduce its size to half. Folding it is easy – just remove a bolt from the frame and fold the rail up and then re-insert the bolt.

The whole thing takes ten seconds maximum. The rower also has built-in wheels so one can move it from one spot to the other without any hassle.

Build Quality

The Stamina ATS 1399 has a solid build quality. The handle is attached to a nylon strap, that is much tougher than the straps available on most budget rowers. As with all air rowers, the harder you row, the more resistance there is. It can support 250 lbs. of weight, which is the standard in this price segment.

Comfort

The foot plates are comfortable and even rowing without shoes isn’t uncomfortable. The pivoting motion helps move the foot plates along an axis so that there is no pressure on your ankles.

The rower has an inseam that is longer than the average rower. User surveys indicate that a person 6’4” or 6’5” will have no problems with full extension on this rower. However, if you are even taller, it is best to contact the company’s customer care number to confirm it.

What’s Good

  • Solid build quality
  • Strong resistance
  • Comfortable seat
  • Wheels for transportation
  • Air rower available on a budget
  • Rubber floor pads for stability and protection
  • Easy to assemble
  • Folds into half its size
  • Long inseam, good for taller people
  • Large LCD

What’s Bad

  • Resistance not adjustable, but fine at this price
  • Basic display
  • Flywheel fan is a bit loud

In-Use (L x W x H):

  • 77” x 18.75” x 22”

Storage (L x W x H):

  • 28.0″ x 18.0″ x 48.0″

Weight

  • 55 pounds

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7. Waterrower Rowing Machines (Natural, Club, A1)

Waterrower is a respected brand and makes some of the highest quality rowing machines in the market.

Build Quality

It is different from all other brands because it doesn’t use a steel frame to construct its rowers. Instead, it uses robust solid wood that makes the rower visually appealing. Waterrower machines are not only great gym equipment but a nice addition to your home furniture.

Resistance

Another feature that makes Waterrower rowers unique is how they simulate the feeling of rowing on water. Since they operate on water resistance, with flywheel paddles moving through water, they are the closest as one can get to the real deal.

The rowing experience is smooth and pleasant with the swooshing sound of water splashing in the water tank. In short, if you love the zen feeling of rowing on real water, the Waterrower machines are for you.

All Waterrower machines can be stood up vertically for storage.

What’s Good

  • Unique wooden construction
  • Tranquil rowing experience
  • 1000 lbs. capacity (except on Waterrower A1)
  • Stands vertically for storage
  • Smooth
  • Durable
  • Easy to assemble
  • Dual set of wheels
  • Efficient performance monitor
  • Comfortable

What’s Bad

  • No gap between foot plates
  • Foot straps aren’t always effective

In-Use (L x W x H):

  • 84” x 21” x 22”

Storage (L x W x H):

  • 21.0″ x 22.0″ x 83.0″

Weight

  • 117 pounds

There are many models you can choose from. Check our Waterrower Reviews Guide for more details.

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8. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515

best folding rowing machine

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 is one of the best compact rowing machines.

Storage

It can be folded for compact storage. All it takes is taking out a bolt and a pin and then putting them back in after folding the frame. This can be done fast. The rower also comes with built-in caster wheels for moving it from one spot to the other.

Resistance

It has eight levels of magnetic resistance and provides enough tension to get a strenuous workout even at levels 4 or 5. However, the resistance isn’t enough for athletes or people with a stronger physique. Adjusting the resistance is easy – a handy knob does the trick.

The rower is dead quiet, like most magnetic rowers. So you can workout at odd hours without waking anyone up.

Build Quality

The build quality is decent but not great. There is only a 90-day warranty on parts which doesn’t seem reassuring. Some users also reported how the rower broke within 6-12 months of use. However, the seat is comfortable and has enough padding. Foot plates are big enough for all shoe sizes, but the stock Velcro straps can’t prevent one’s feet from slipping.

The rower can support 250 lbs. of weight. It has a long inseam. Users as tall as 6’7” have reportedly had no problems using this rower. The display monitor shows all the basic workout metrics and also has the scan mode that toggles between them.

What’s Good

  • Smooth
  • Budget magnetic rower
  • Resistance is impressive
  • 8 levels of resistance
  • Built-in caster wheels
  • Comfortable seat
  • Long inseam
  • Affordable
  • Foldable
  • Quiet

What’s Bad

  • Build quality is not reliable
  • Foot straps don’t hold feet in place

In-Use (L x W x H):

  • 82” x 19” x 23”

Storage (L x W x H):

  • 37″ x 19″ x 53.5″

Weight

  • 59 pounds                      

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9. MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine

The MaxKare magnetic is a bestseller in the market – for good reason.

It has 16 resistance levels, a durable steel frame and comfortable foot pedals. It also folds up to save space. There is a knob that can be unscrewed to fold the seat rail up.

Resistance

The 16 levels of resistance have something for everyone. With this wide range, you can easily get better at rowing as it allows you to increase the resistance by a slight margin. It has an extra long inseam, that helps taller users enjoy full extension on the rower. The inseam is 45 inches. Users as tall as 6’5” have reported using it without any issues.

Build Quality

The build quality of this rower is impressive. There are no flimsy parts. The seat is a bit hard, but hard seats are more common than you’d think on rowers.

Monitor

The display is basic but does the job. It tracks time, count, calories and total count. The calorie count isn’t accurate – but it can be overlooked because this is common on affordable and even mid-range rowers. It also has the scan mode that shows a new metric every few seconds so that you don’t have to look for it manually.

Foot pedals are comfortable for all foot sizes and the velcro straps are effective at keeping one’s feet secured.

What’s Good

  • Impressive build quality
  • Quiet
  • Smooth
  • 16 levels of magnetic resistance
  • Strong resistance
  • Good for taller people
  • Foldable
  • Easy to set up
  • Comfortable

What’s Bad

  • Basic monitor, doesn’t calculate distance rowed

In-Use (L x W x H):

  • 76.4” x 19.7” x 42.3”

Storage (L x W x H):

  • 37.4″ x 19.7″ x 42.3″

Weight

  • 64 pounds            

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10. Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Rower 

Stamina Avari Programmable Rower has a superb build quality, like most Stamina rowers. It features a steel frame and aluminum beam construction. The strap is made of nylon, which can take years of abuse. The rower is quiet and the seat glides smoothly along the rail.

Storage

The Stamina Avari Rower is fully foldable. To fold it, all you need to do is take out the locking bolt and the spring knob and then put them back in after folding it up. Built-in caster wheels on the front make it easy to move.

Comfort

The Avari Rower accommodates users on the taller side too. Users with height up to 6’4” could have full extension on the rower. If you are taller than 6’4” though, we recommend checking with their customer care or trying the rower in person at a local store. The seat is a bit hard, so you will be better off using a towel or buying a seat pad.

What’s Good

  • Superb build quality
  • Smooth and quiet
  • Impressive resistance
  • Preset programs
  • Built-in heart rate monitor
  • Easy to set up
  • Foldable
  • Good for taller people

What’s Bad

  • Warranty is short
  • Uncomfortable seat

In-Use (L x W x H):

  • 81.0″ x 20.0″ x 24.5″

Folded (L x W x H):

  • 36.0″ x 20.0″ x 53.5″

Weight

  • 86 pounds        

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How to Choose the Best Compact Rowing Machine

Size

When buying a compact rowing machine, the main thing to check first is its dimensions. Check its dimensions when it is in use or assembled. Then, check its dimensions when it is folded for storage.

You can use the following format to shortlist your options:

Dimensions:

When in Use: 96.0″ x 24.0″ x 42.0″

When Folded: 33.0″ x 24.0″ x 54.0″

Weight: 57 lbs.

Foldable Rowing Machine

Then, check storage features. Does the rower allow you to disassemble it into parts for storage? Can it stand vertically? Does it have wheels for moving it around? Can the seat rail fold up against the flywheel housing for compact storage?

Resistance Type and Strength

Resistance is the powerhouse of any rowing machine. The quality and strength of resistance determines how good of a workout you can get out of it. So you need to make sure you get the right one.

Some resistance types, like hydraulic rowers, are small in size even when assembled or in use. But this doesn’t mean they are better than bigger rowers.

Hydraulic Rowers: Small But Limited

You should know the downsides as well. Hydraulic rowers have less resistance and structural strength as compared to air, magnetic or water rowers. So if you are physically strong or an athlete, a hydraulic rower will be useless for you.

They operate with a hydraulic piston, that can get too hot even after 15-20 minutes of workout and may have leakage issues. However, some hydraulic rowers such as the Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050, have become bestsellers because of their all-round, balanced features.

Air and water rowers have variable resistance. The harder you row, the more resistance you fight against. This mimics the feeling of rowing on water.

Magnetic rowers, however, have fixed resistance. Once you set a resistance level, you have to deal with the same resistance no matter how hard or fast you row.

Comfort

You don’t want strong resistance only to realize that the machine has an uncomfortable seat, footboard or handle. So read reviews carefully to see whether the seat is padded or contoured, whether the footplates can fit all shoe sizes, whether you can row without wearing any shoes and whether the handle is padded for comfort.

Other Elements

After you have checked the three features mentioned above, look for the obvious factors such as build quality and warranty (both for parts and frame). Also check if the display monitor is good at performance tracking and if it offers additional features like customized workouts.

Final Word

There you have it – the complete guide to the best compact rowing machines.

Our top pick is the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801. It is on the top because it doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket, offers 16 levels of magnetic resistance and conveniently folds upright.

Check Sunny SF-RW 5801 Below

 

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