Compact Rowing Machine (Top 5 for Small Spaces)

Thinking about whether or not you should invest in a compact rowing machine for your home gym? Indoor rowing gives you that same cardio high from running, but without the impact of the road. This means rowing is totally for you if you’ve experienced painful runs. Even people with broken toes, sore feet, or knee-related issues are getting great pain-free workouts on the compact rowing machine.

Rowing offers numerous benefits simply because it is non-weight bearing, and a compact model is the way to go when you are limited with space. Your heart rate will go up, but your body won’t be beaten up. Plus, your posture will improve. Your core strength will be better, and you will stand up taller.

Plus, those who suffer from plantar fasciitis have a bonus of remaining seated. For those who don’t know, plantar fasciitis or heel pain is quite painful, and these people probably want to remain off their feet as much as possible. That said, sedentarism isn’t a good idea either; that’s why a compact rowing machine is a valuable piece of equipment in such scenarios.

Whether you row on a lake or river, on a machine in the gym, or even better, in the comfort of your home, rowing is a fantastic way to engage your body. Because you are using your entire body, you burn calories quickly, and rowing puts almost no stress on your feet. If you think you still need to know a bit more about this type of equipment, you are in the right place. Continue reading and check out some of the best compact rowing machine options currently on the market.

Compact Rowing Machine Reviewed In This Guide

  1. Best Overall Compact Rowing Machine: Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1050 Hydraulic Rowing Machine
  2. Best Seller on Amazon Compact Rowing Machine: Sunny Health & Fitness Compact Folding Rowing Machine
  3. Best Affordable Compact Rowing Machine: GYMAX Hydraulic Rowing Machine
  4. Best Ergonomic Design Compact Rowing Machine: Lanos Hydraulic Rowing Machine
  5. Best Molded Seat Compact Rowing Machine: Stamina BodyTrac Glider Pro Hydraulic Rowing Machine

How To Choose The Perfect Compact Rowing Machine?

When you hunt for a compact rowing machine, you need to identify essential features; understanding key terminology will help you make the best decision as features determine how ergonomic and effective the rowers for small spaces will be.

These may look like minor details that, for many people, can go unnoticed until they have them in their hands. You do not want this to happen to you, as you may end up unhappy with your choice.

When searching for a compact rowing machine, you want it to be easy to use. With that said, remember there is more to them than just sitting down and rowing. An ideal machine should be easy to set up at home and easy to use.

Additionally, you should focus on the dimensions for both storage and in-use. Also, the rowing machine’s seat should be large enough to keep your back comfortable.

Smart home rowers are definitely worth considering if you’re serious about rowing at home. And luckily, there are, of course, models that are suited for small spaces and apartments that will still offer the right innovative technology and performance metrics. They will let you record important dates like speed, strokes, etc.

Another feature you need to consider is maintenance. Make sure the compact rowing machine of your choosing has replacement parts that are easy to access.

Generally, the rowing machine produces noise while you are working out. However, you can look for a model that keeps the sounds as low as possible.

Types Of Compact Rowing Machine

Air Compact Rowing Machine

Air rowers are one of the most popular types of rowing machines. Air rowing machines have been around since the 1980s, and many consider them the best type of Rower.

Air resistance machines, often referred to as ergos (short for ergometers), are the standard model for the indoor sport of rowing.

You need to work against an opposing force that provides some resistance to exercise your muscles. The water offers this in a real boat; an indoor rower has to replicate this by other means.

Air rowing machines produce resistance using air flowing over an internal flywheel. A chain connects the wheel to the rowing handle, and as you pull, this spins the flywheel. The faster you row, the faster the flywheel spins through the air; thus, the more excellent the resistance.

Magnetic Compact Rowing Machine

Magnetic rowers are one of the most popular types of rowing machines, especially for use in the home. The resistance mechanism makes them easily the quietest of all types available, and they’re more compact than water rowers and air rowing machines.

To provide a decent workout for your muscles and cardiovascular system, a rowing machine needs to resist your efforts to move the handle and seat. The higher the resistance, the harder you have to work and the more challenging the workout.

These machines work by varying the distance between strong magnets and a spinning flywheel attached to the handle by a chain.

Water/Fluid rowers for small spaces

Water rowers are one of the newer innovations in rowing machine technology and use water and paddles to create resistance. While many competitive rowers prefer air rowers, many people like water machines’ quieter, smoother action.

Rowing machines work your muscles and burn calories by providing resistance to the movement of the sliding seat. The more excellent the opposition, the harder you have to work and the more challenging the workout.

Water rowers use a water flywheel (paddles) in a water tank connected to a chain and handles. The paddles revolve around the water when you pull back on the handle. The mass of the moving water creates drag against the paddles and produces resistance.

Users of water rowers claim the action more closely replicates the feel of rowing on the water and is smoother with a constant resistance throughout the complete stroke.

Hydraulic Compact Rowing Machine

Hydraulic rowing machines have two major benefits; the low price and they are smaller and quieter than flywheel rowers.

To get any benefit from a workout, you need to work against some form of resistance – either low resistance for fast aerobic sessions or high for anaerobic sessions to work your muscles.

Hydraulic rowers do this with pistons, but unfortunately, many rowers claim these types of machines don’t give the smooth, flowing feel of a flywheel machine. They will, however, give you a decent enough workout but perhaps not such a comfortable one.

Compact Rowing Machine List

1. Stamina BodyTrac Glider Compact Rowing Machine


  • LCD Monitor
  • Portable
  • Folding Rower
  • Smart Workout App


  • Feet Slip Out Of Pedals

The full-motion rowing arms on this Rower for small spaces provide a natural movement, helping you realize the proven benefits of rowing for the entire body.

Aids in burning calories, improving cardiovascular function, and strengthening major muscle groups.

What Our Testers Say

My husband bought this for me, and I’m so glad he did. I love my Body Trac Glider. I am 62 years old and have had trouble getting outside to walk in extreme weather (summer and winters), but using the Glider at home can be more consistent in exercising. I have tried a rebounder and a treadmill but rarely felt like using them.

However, this Glider is by far the best of them all. I love that I can also adjust the tension for 12 different levels. I have had a mild tendon injury underneath my right knee cap, but I find that as my knees get stronger, this bothers me less and less. I am taking it easy, but I enjoy using it and am very pleased with it. I feel confident that I will have a much stronger body over time.

The multi-functional LCD monitor displays current workout time, stroke count, calories burned, and total stroke count. SCAN mode cycles through each of these metrics in real-time.

This compact rowing machine yet full-featured Rower is outfitted with a smooth ball-bearing roller system, comfortable molded seat, textured footplates with straps, and foam padded hand grips.


Adjust the hydraulic cylinder resistance to match your desired workout intensity level.

2. Sunny Health & Fitness rower for small spaces


  • Synergy Power Motion
  • LCD Monitor
  • Bottle Holder
  • 43-Inch Slide Rail
  • 285 LB Max Weight


  • Zero Resistance

Engage your quads with adjustable straps as you propel your legs back and forth on the pivoting foot pedals. Slip-resistant handlebar ensures a secure grasp.

The sizeable padded seating smoothly glides along with the 43 slide rail inseam. The heavy-duty frame holds 285 LBS while stabilizers promote stability.

What Our Testers Say

For a magnetic one, this appears, so far, to be quite a catch. It’s not easy to pick out a good “affordable” rower. However, a decision had to be made as we prepare the break area here at the office for when people come back to work in the building. It will be a break-time wonderland when everyone sees what has changed; this is just one of the many improvements, mostly because it works really well.

It has 16 tension levels, ensuring a versatile and challenging workout with virtually no maintenance. The compact rowing machine is a convenient folding rower machine that folds upright. Great for smaller in-home gyms.

Engage your quads as you propel your legs back and forth on the ergonomic pivoting foot pedals.


Engage your quads as you propel your legs back and forth on the ergonomic pivoting foot pedals.

3. GYMAX Hydraulic Compact Rowing Machine


  • Full Motion Rower
  • LCD Monitor
  • Non-Slip Pedal


  • Resistance Can’t Be Lowered

The compact rowing machine features offer full-motion arms that simulate the real feeling of rowing in water, which allows you to move along a smooth ball-bearing roller system. The unique design enables you to do a full-body workout.

What Our Testers Say

What’s not to like? It does the job. It doesn’t cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars. It’s strong and sturdy. It takes about an hour to put together (I used a ratchet wrench to speed up all the screwing and tightening). It keeps track of a bunch of things. It doesn’t take up a lot of room. All in all, it’s a great entry machine to get into rowing as a part of anyone’s fitness program. (I promise you, I don’t work for the company) I used to swim every morning, but because of Covid, my pool is closed for long. The machine seems to exercise the same muscles I used for swimming. I’m thrilled to be back training again.

An adjustable release knob can increase or decrease resistance by raising and lowering the hydraulic cylinder. With max resistance of 110lbs, you can easily choose different workout intensities and enjoy various exercise models.

The compact rowing machine is equipped with a convenient LCD monitor that displays your time, count, calories, distance, and total counts; this hydraulic rowing machine can track your workout progress at any time and assist you in making a scientific fitness plan to achieve any type of personal fitness goals.


In the folded-down position, the max height is roughly 8 1/2 inches. It should easily slide under a bed.

4. Lanos Hydraulic Compact Rowing Machine


  • Ergonomic Design
  • Durable Steel Frame
  • Adjustable Resistance
  • Gliding Seat


  • Plastic Parts Break
  • Arms are Short

The unique design allows for a full-body, effective workout for every major muscle group – including the back, legs, arms, abs, and glutes. Rowing is also widely known to aid in improving cardiovascular health and burning calories.

Manually adjust the tension with a control knob so you can easily customize your workout to fit your needs. Use the unique armbar angles to exercise your chest, shoulder, and arm muscles.

What Our Testers Say

I just got my Lanos Rowing Machine, and it didn’t take long at all to assemble. Most of it is already assembled. I tried it out immediately and loved it! It rows smoothly, and I love the electronic tracker. A great bonus is that it folds up, and you can stand it in the corner when you’re not using it! Great product!

The steel frame can withstand a maximum user weight of 250 pounds. The rowing machine is sturdy and will last for years.

The compact rowing machine has an easy-to-read LCD monitor that displays time, row count, and burned calories. The scan function scrolls through workout metrics every 6 seconds.


It is very mobile, so I can easily move it and tuck it away while I’m not using it.

5. Stamina BodyTrac Glider Pro Compact Rowing Machine


  • Compact
  • Portable
  • Smart Workout App


  • Difficult To Assemble

The dynamic rowing arms on the Stamina BodyTrac Glider Rowing Machine 1052 are designed to simulate the motion of actual oars in the water, lending your workout a real-world feel.

The intuitive fitness monitor tracks time, stroke count, calories, and total stroke count. SCAN mode cycles through these metrics in real-time.

What Our Testers Say

So far, so good! It was very easy to assemble the machine and was relatively inexpensive for its quality. Some reviewers say it feels cheap. Not for me…Nothing is flimsy, and the seat is super comfortable and cushioned. Everything works, and the measurements of this machine are perfect for my height (5.6). The meter works fine (I am using a fitness tracker anyway), and they stand for a tablet is a fantastic idea!

The best aspect of this thing is that it doesn’t need a power source. No crazy electricity bills to expect! No noise either.

This compact rowing machine is fully supported by müüv, the all-in-one app that provides smart audio coaching, a follow-along assembly video, personalized workouts tailored to your equipment, and more.

The BodyTrac Glider is outfitted with a comfortable & molded seat, textured footplates with adjustable straps, and padded hand grips. The sturdy rowing arms fold when not in use to save you floor space.


If you have any problem with the foot straps at the assembled higher setting, the Velcro can be easily moved to the lower slots on the footrests for a secure hold.

foldable rowing machine Buying Guide

What Is A Compact Rowing Machine?

Rowing machines, also known as ergometers or ergs, use both your upper and lower body on every stroke. Rowers for small spaces are exercise machines with a sliding seat used to strengthen the muscles used in rowing.

This, in turn, strengthens and tones your muscles and improves your endurance. Plus, rowing provides some surprising benefits for your heart and lungs.

The rowing machine is an excellent choice for a great cardio workout that works the entire body. It’s low-impact, which is perfect for exercisers with joint issues. If done correctly, using the rowing machine can help you get a great workout with little risk of injury.

How Does A rower for small spaces work?

To understand how a compact rowing machine works, it’s all about the rowing motion, which has four phases from beginning to end: a starting position, a transition, an ending position, and then another transition back to the start.

  1. Catch: Sit tall on the rowing machine with your arms straight, back upright, and knees and ankles flexed so that your shins are roughly vertical. Use your lats to pull your shoulders down and brace your core from this position.
  2. Drive: Begin by pushing with your legs while bracing and contracting your core. When your legs are straight, hinge at the hips and lean back to about 45 degrees. The last movement is from your arms as you pull the handle towards your torso, a few inches above your belly button. Note the order of body movements: legs, core, hips and shoulders, arms.
  3. Finish: This is the resting position opposite the catch position, although you won’t rest here for long. Legs are long, shoulders and back are leaning away from the legs, hands (and handle) are pulled in toward the body, and elbows are tucked in toward the torso.
  4. Recover: Do the drive movements reverse to return to the catch position. Extend the arms, hinge the hips forward to bring the torso over the legs, then bend the knees.

Features To Look For In A Compact Rowing Machine


Some rowers may fold up and take up minimal space when in storage but still require quite an ample space when they’re actually in use. Therefore, if you’re really short on space, such as a studio apartment, this may not be ideal, so check the rower size when it’s in use too.

You’ll also want a bit of space around the rowing machine to make it easy to get on and off, so bear that in mind.

Smart Tech

New smart rowers have entered the market and changed what a home rowing workout looks like. Brands offer immersive rowing workouts with large HD screens to view live classes, on-demand workouts, games, races, and rowing performance metrics.

These rowers do come with a higher price tag, but the value you can gain from them is undeniably more than with a basic rowing machine.

Resistance Type

Not all rowing machines use the same type of resistance, so this is something to note when comparing them.

Fan/air, magnetic, and water resistance are probably the three main types you’ll come across. Hydraulic rowers are another option, often much cheaper, but these tend to be lower quality and don’t offer the same smooth experience.

Fan resistance has been the most common type of rowing machine, but water resistance has grown in popularity a lot in recent years.

Compact VS. Foldable

Finding a great compact rowing machine doesn’t necessarily mean you’re just looking for foldable ones. Some models might not fold, but they can be stored vertically, making them one of the smallest footprints of any rower.

This is just something to bear in mind when searching and comparing models.


If you’re using a rowing machine in your home or apartment, noise is definitely a consideration. Fan flywheels that use air resistance tend to be louder but will vary from model to model.


Most rowers shouldn’t need much maintenance or repairs, and the warranties should cover such events.

Water-resistance rowers may require the water to be changed (or use cleaning tablets), but this doesn’t take too long and simply keeps the water tank fresh and clean.

Rail Length

You may also want to check the rail length if you’re tall. Most standard rowing machines will be up to around 6’9″, so if you’re taller, it’s worth checking or searching for rowers with an extra long rail.

This ensures you can extend your legs fully during the rowing movement.

Weight Limit

The max weight limit varies significantly from one rowing machine to another. Some rowers have max weight limits of up to 500 lbs.

This is an important feature to note for compact and foldable rowers, as the inclusion of a naturally compact and smaller rower could mean the manufacturer has compromised on stability and max weight limit.

Common Questions About A foldable rowing machine

Is rowing a good workout?

Rowing is a total-body workout, strengthening major muscle groups in your arms, legs, and core and increasing cardiovascular endurance. In short, if you consistently use the rowing machine, you’ll notice that you’ll become stronger and less out of breath. You may even notice some muscle gain.

Is rowing OK for plantar fasciitis?

Any type of rowing is a great way to work out when you have plantar fasciitis. Most gyms (especially CrossFit gyms) have rowing machines, which involve pulling on a handle to spin a flywheel. Actual rowing in a boat or kayaking is also a great exercise that is easy on the feet.

Is a foldable rowing machines any good?

A folding rowing machine for the home is affordable, easy to assemble, and highly convenient. Some foldable rowers come with display monitors with fitness programs that teach you how to perform various workouts. Some of these workouts are challenging and can increase your fitness levels in less than two months.

Can you get ripped from a rowing machine?

You’ll get a full-body workout. Maybe you think rowing = ripped arms. But according to the American Fitness Professionals Association, rowing is 65 to 75 percent legs and 25 to 35 percent upper body. It’ll shred your upper back, pecs, arms, abs, and obliques.

Are rowing machines good for weight loss?

Rowing boosts weight loss by providing a significant calorie burn, though you should be sure to pair it with a proper diet. It’s comparable to running in terms of calories expended, though it has less impact on your joints.

How long should you row?

Even a rowing workout as short as 5 minutes could benefit because doing some exercise is better than doing none.

However, the American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of both.

How to use a compact rowing machine?

  1. Warm-up (5 minutes): Warm up at an easy pace for 5 minutes, using an easy, rhythmic stroke to get your heart rate up. You should be at around 3 to 4 on the perceived exertion scale (PE).
  2. Three hundred meters: Now, increase your minute strokes to increase your pace to moderate intensity. That’s a Level 5 or 6 in perceived exertion or slightly out of breath. Complete 300 meters at this pace.
  3. Recovery (2 minutes): Slow down and catch your breath by reducing your strokes per minute. You may even need to rest completely or just use your legs to go back and forth to recover.
  4. Three hundred meters: Increase your strokes per minute to get back to that moderate pace for 300 meters.
  5. Recovery (2 minutes): Once again, slow down to catch your breath.
  6. Three hundred meters: For this last stretch, increase your strokes per minute to work at a level 7 perceived exertion.
  7. Cool-down (5 minutes): Cool down at a leisurely pace and end your workout with a stretch.

Enjoy Your New Compact Rowing Machine

You don’t have to be a competitive rower to reap the benefits of rowing. A compact rowing machine is excellent for a small apartment.

These rowers for small spaces are an excellent choice for a great cardio workout that works the entire body. It’s low-impact, perfect for exercisers with joint issues and heel pain.

So there you have it; with the top reviews and options in this guide, we hope your search gets more accessible and that you can make the right choice for you and your needs.
Please send us your messages with questions, suggestions, or comments you may have!


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Emily Brown is a fitness expert based in San Francisco who studied kinesiology at San Francisco State University. is her platform for offering workout routines, product reviews, and expert advice for creating a home gym, with the goal of helping people achieve their fitness goals from the comfort of their own home. Emily's vision is to create a community where people can share their experiences, ask questions, and connect with others who are passionate about fitness and health. With her team of experienced writers and contributors, she strives to provide a comprehensive resource for all things related to home fitness, catering to both beginners and experienced athletes.
Photo of author
Emily Brown is a fitness expert based in San Francisco who studied kinesiology at San Francisco State University. is her platform for offering workout routines, product reviews, and expert advice for creating a home gym, with the goal of helping people achieve their fitness goals from the comfort of their own home. Emily's vision is to create a community where people can share their experiences, ask questions, and connect with others who are passionate about fitness and health. With her team of experienced writers and contributors, she strives to provide a comprehensive resource for all things related to home fitness, catering to both beginners and experienced athletes.