The Best Foldable Rowing Machine for 2021
This is a clear and simple guide to help you find the best foldable rowing machine – it’s by far the best solution for anyone who is limited on space but would love the full gym, workout experience that only a rowing machine will give you.
Now you can pick up a very basic hydraulic cylinder rowing machine, and chances are it will be more compact than the newer, more sophisticated rowing machines like the magnetic rower, the air rower, and the water rowing machine. Hydraulic ones, however, lack the smooth catch, drive, finish, and recovery that these newer machines have, and to be honest, who wouldn’t prefer to have the authentic feel of a boat moving through water?
So if you’re short on space but want a good rowing machine, we recommend you get yourself a foldable version of these better machines.
Of the newer technologies, the water rower will give you the absolute best rowing in-water experience, but air rowing machines also simulate the in-water feeling very well.
Magnetic rowing machines are the most popular type for home gyms. Why? Because they are very affordable – way cheaper than most treadmills. Best of all, they will give you a smooth, (friction-free) rowing stroke every time.
There are tons of foldable rowing machines out there to choose from, so we’ve done the hard work for you and narrowed our research down to the top 5 recommendations for the best foldable rowing machines on the market today.
Whichever you go for, all of the foldable rowing machines we’ve reviewed here will give you a full-body/cardio workout and get you that increase in the lean muscle on your legs, core, and arms that you want.
|Award/Price Range||Brand/Model||Type||User Interface||Resistance /Damper Levels|
Best Budget Option
|Sunny Health & Fitness|
|Best Mid Range Option||Sunny Health & Fitness Phantom||Water||LCD||Tank fill |
up to 6
|Best Premium Pick||Concept2 Model D||Air||Bluetooth, ANT+, LCD||Damper levels |
|Best Budget Alternative pick||MaxKare||Magnetic||LCD||16 Levels|
Table of Contents
- Full Reviews
- Other Foldable Rowing Machines We’ve Reviewed and Accessories
- Frequently Asked Questions
Reviews for the Best Foldable Rowing Machines
Here’s a rundown of the best..
My Top Pick – Best Overall/Affordable Option: Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Rowing Machine
Bluetooth technology is a feature you’d generally only expect to find with a rowing machine that comes with a much higher price tag.
However, this magnetic foldable rowing machine, connects to the MyCloudFitness app, allowing you to set goals and track your workouts including time, distance, and calories burned.
There’s also a large 3.5” LCD display on the machine itself which shows you your distance, time, total count, calories burned, strokes/min, and scan.
Whisper quiet, with super-smooth rowing action, the 1000 Plus comes with 14 levels of magnetic resistance for an easy – to a more challenging workout.
Nice features that secure our top spot also include a comfortable large, contoured cushion seat pad for extra comfort during long workouts, anti-slip foot pedals with adjustable strap rings, rear floor stabilizers (so there’s no wobbling about) and extra-wide (21.5”) foam grip handlebars – perfect for sweaty hands.
These handlebars are perfectly designed for the additional exercises offered by the machine’s standout feature – the patent-pending, front stabilizer footpads that you can see in the picture below.
This means you can extend and vary your workout, to target specific muscle groups with curls, upright rows, bent over rows, front raises, shrugs, triceps extensions, standing shoulder presses, and more.
The folding mechanism allows you to store away the machine in around 1 minute. To do this there’s a pin that you remove and replace when the rowing machine is folded, and one bolt that you unscrew with a handle.
- Folded Dimensions: 39.5” L x 21.5” W x 53.5” H
- Product Dimensions: 88.5” L x 21.5” W x 21.5” H
- Product Weight: 63.6 lbs.
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs.
- Suitable for anyone 4’9” to 6’6”
- Fitness Reality is a US company, founded in 2007 and located in Southern California.
Check the latest price for the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus on Amazon.
Runner Up/Best Budget Option: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Folding Rowing Machine
This option is more basic than our top choice. No frills – but it’s a good solid choice and it’s cheaper too, making it one of the most popular foldable rowing machines on the market.
With its steel slide rail measuring 48 inches (44 inches inseam) this model is suitable for all users – however tall you are.
No Bluetooth on this one, but the large, easy to read LCD console displays your time, count, calories, total count, and scan.
This folding rowing machine offers you eight levels of resistance allowing you to adjust the intensity of your workouts with a simple twist of a tension knob.
Features we like about this machine are the non-slip foot pedals with easy to adjust straps, a well-padded wide cushion seat – for comfort during prolonged use, built-in wheels, which are handy for easy transportation, and non-slip grip handlebars -great for sweaty hands.
The machine is quiet to operate and offers a smooth rowing stroke.
The folding mechanism is similar to our top choice allowing you to store away the machine in around 1 minute. Instructions are to disassemble the knob and washer to pull out the pin. Once folded reinsert the pull pin and tighten the knob and washer.
- Product Dimensions: 82″L x 19″W x 23″H
- Folded Dimensions: 37″L X 19″W X 53. 5″H
- Suitable for most heights up to 6’7″
- Product weight: 59 lbs.
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs.
- Sunny Hill is a well-respected company. They have been in business for 18 years and based in Industry CA.
Check the latest price the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 on Amazon.
Best Mid Range Option: Sunny Health & Fitness Phantom
The closest you’re gonna get to the feeling of rowing a boat in water is with a water rowing machine.
The Sunny Health & Fitness Phantom uses no resistance other than the intensity of your stroke against the water itself – offering you a near-identical in-water rowing experience.
..And you really just can’t beat the natural, soft whooshing sound that rowing in water makes.
If you are not familiar with water rowing machines, they’re very easy to maintain. You don’t have to change the water – though you can. But generally, you just drop in a purification tablet every six months.
The Phantom has an airtight water fillable hydro tank that is fitted with hydro blades to mimic competitive rowing. You can adjust the water level (up to 6 levels) for varying levels of resistance.
In terms of price, water rowing machines tend to cost a little more than magnetic resistance ones but this is a good mid-range option for any folding rowing machine and it’s a very affordable water rowing machine – coming in at more than $100 cheaper than the Merax water rowing machine.
What makes the Phantom such a good choice is that not only is it one of the few water rowing machines that is foldable but it also has an inclined tank design which gives you a more powerful resistance.
Water rowing machines with inclined tanks tend to cost more than the horizontal designs, although I do want to point out that not all higher-end water rowing machines have an inclined water tank First Degree still utilizes this flat design.
Nice features of this machine are the large built-in LCD screen that displays total duration, strokes, calories, distance, and heart rate, a comfortable seat pad – for extended workout sessions, angled nonslip footrests with secure straps, and a 19” curved multi-grip handle so you can adjust your hand positioning.
The folding mechanism allows you to store away the machine in around 1 minute.
Check the latest price for the Sunny Health & Fitness Phantom on Amazon.
Premium Pick: Concept2 Model D
Recognized by athletes and competitive rowers alike, this is the gold standard of rowing machines for indoor training.
The Concept2 is one of the best-selling indoor rowing machines in the world – and for good reason.
You may have already used this machine at your gym and aspire to own one yourself.
Yes, it’s pricey, but if you compare it to the cost of a gym membership it’s totally worth it – and you get the benefit of being able to use it whenever you want. No more trekking down to the gym and back again for every single workout session.
There’s a reason why this machine is used commercially, this air rower is built to last.
You’d never guess from looking at it that it’s also a foldable rowing machine too (it comes apart with a quick-release button). It’s practically a tank and can handle anything you want to throw at it.
That said, you are always in complete control of your workout, so age and fitness levels aren’t a prohibitive factor.
If you’ve used this machine, you’ll know what a dream it is to row. The catch, drive, finish, and recovery are all silky smooth.
Resistance is set by a spiral damper which lets you easily adjust the airflow (1–10) to the flywheel. This allows you to change the feel of your stroke and make your workout as challenging as you like.
The flywheel is designed to minimize noise while maximizing a smooth feel.
And on that point, this one isn’t a near-silent rower like the magnetic ones. But the noise, if anything, adds to the sensory experience.
It’s not like a constant annoying fan. It’s rhythmic, and naturally simulates the sound of rowing on water.
The advanced PM5 monitor has a handy “Just Row” mode to get you going or you can set up a variety of workouts.
The monitor shows you a wide range of data, including pace, watts, stroke rate (spm), and calories burned, and automatically stores the information for you.
Best of all you also get both Bluetooth and ANT+ wireless connectivity.
So you can connect to your heart rate belt, fitness devices, and apps. There’s even a free Concept2 ErgData app to track your workouts and you can sync to the Concept2 Online Logbook.
The separating mechanism allows you to store away the machine in around 60 seconds. The machine has a quick-release button that breaks the machine into two separate parts.
- Product Dimensions: 96″ x 24″ x 14″ (seat height)
- Folded Dimensions: 25″ x 33″ x 54″
- Product weight: 57 lbs.
- Weight capacity 500 lbs.
- Concept2, Inc. is located in Morrisville, Vermont, US
Check the latest price for the Concept2 Model D on Amazon.
Best Budget Option Alternative Pick: MaxKare
If you’re not quite ready for a Concept2 just yet, this foldable rowing machine is a great little budget rowing machine.
Like the Sunny Health and Fitness model (and in the same price range), it’s a no-frills foldable rowing machine but it’s also a nice compact design and it’s well built.
Ideal for entry-level rowers, this rowing machine can also handle frequent and heavy use and can comfortably accommodate users up to 6’5″ with no problem.
There’s a nice easy to read LCD with auto scan, time, count, total count, REPS/Min, and calories.
The foldable rowing machine is super quiet in fact the only sound comes from the seat sliding against the rail which is just what you’d expect from a magnetic rowing machine.
Nice features include the 16-levels of adjustable resistance, comfortable (ergonomically designed) seat cushion, and (17.6″ wide) handgrips made with nonslip high-density foam.
- Product Dimensions: 76.4″L x 19.7″W x 16.5″ H
- Folded Dimensions: 37.4″L x 19.7″W x 42.3″H
- Product weight: 64 lbs.
- Weight capacity: 243 lbs.
- Concept2, Inc. is located in Morrisville, Vermont, US
Check the latest price for the MaxKare on Amazon.
Other Foldable Rowing Machines to Consider:
These are the foldable rowing machines that didn’t quite make my top picks, (and I’ve also included accessories) but they’re still pretty good so you might like to take a look:
A great floor saver.
- High Density EVA foam material
- Non-slip, water resistant, easy to clean
- Lessens equipment vibration and noise
Similar to the SF-RW5515, this foldable rowing machine costs a little more but like our top choice, it is a dual function rower with front footplates. There’s no Bluetooth with this one though.
- 8 Levels of Magnetic Resistance.
- Dual Function for extra workouts.
- The LCD monitor tracks your time, count, calories, total count, distance, and scan.
Pricer than our top choice but it does also come with Bluetooth connectivity.
- 14 Levels of specially calibrated resistance.
- Suitable user heigh 4’9” – 6’6”.
- 250 lbs weight capacity.
Another great budget option.
- 16 Levels of magnetic resistance.
- 265lbs max weight capacity
- Adjustable console display
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you row every day?
It depends on your level of fitness but in general, rowing will give you excellent cardio as well as a full-body workout. It’s low impact too so it’s not too hard on any single set of joints.
Can you get in shape by just rowing?
Absolutely you can. Rowing uses a much wider range of muscle groups than many sports activities. It will give you leg, core, and, arm lean muscle – and give you a great cardio workout too.
What should I look for when buying a rowing machine?
First decide when you prefer a magnetic, water, or air rowing machine. Then choose one that has a well-padded comfortable seat and check the inseam length is suitable for your height. Here’s a rundown of the three best types.
- Magnetic rowing machines are very popular and generally inexpensive. The level of resistance is easy to set, and they are very smooth and quiet.
- With a water rowing machine, the level of resistance is set only by the amount of water in the tank. These machines are the closest you’ll get to rowing a boat in water, and the whooshing sound of the water in the tank only adds to the sensory enjoyment of using one.
- Air rowing machines simulate the feeling of rowing a boat very well. They don’t have resistance in the way that a magnetic one has. They have a damper that lets you adjust the airflow. They are not as quiet as magnetic rowing machines but the rhythmic sound of the air does simulate the sound of water.
Is it worth buying a rowing machine?
You can buy a really good rowing machine for less than it would cost to buy a good treadmill.
And unlike a treadmill or a stationary exercise bike – both of which only target your lower body, rowing machines will give you a full-body workout making them an excellent choice.
If you’re limited on space you can just get a folding one.
Lastly, if you want to keep your fitness levels up while working long hours at a desk you should absolutely consider getting yourself a treadmill desk.
And finally, if you are wondering if you’ll like rowing as a daily exercise. Just compare the smooth, rhythmic, low-impact, full-body workout of a rowing machine to that of frantically peddling on a stationary exercise bike (or high-impact running on a treadmill for that matter) – give me a foldable rowing machine every time.