The 8 Best Rowing Machines for Heavy People of 2024, Tested and Selected by Our Team

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, the best rowing machines for heavy people feature the durable builds and stability you need to get your heart pumping and your muscles aching. The heavy-duty steel and aluminum construction on these models are tailor-made for heavier athletes, while still offering up low-impact cardio and total-body burns.  Whether you prefer to fire up a trainer-led class, scenic row from around the world, or even video game-style competition, these rowers have the goods to help you reach your fitness goals.

After racking up strokes on more than 20 rowing machines, our team of collegiate rowers, certified personal trainers, and all-around fitness fiends know how to spot durable, quality machines. With weight capacities that far exceed the industry standard, our picks can help facilitate your first step (or paddle) towards your fitness goals.

The 8 Best Rowing Machines for Heavy People of 2024

Best Rowing Machine for Heavy People Overall: Hydrow Wave Rower

Best Rowing Machine for Heavy People for Beginners: Concept2 RowErg

Best Foldable Rowing Machine for Heavy People: Echelon Row-s

Best Water Rowing Machine for Heavy People: Ergatta Rower

Best Interactive Rowing Machine for Heavy People: Aviron Strong Rower

Most Durable Rowing Machine for Heavy People: Vulcan Scull Rower

Best Rowing Machine for Heavy People with a High Weight Capacity: WaterRower Oak Rowing Machine With S4 Monitor

Best Budget Rowing Machine for Heavy People: Sunny Health & Fitness Compact Folding Magnetic Rowing Machine

About Our Expert

This article has been reviewed by Amanda Capritto, CPT, CES, CNC, CF-L1, CSNC, a certified personal trainer and CrossFit Level 1 instructor. She reviewed the research we cite to help ensure we’re providing helpful, accurate descriptions and recommendations.

Best Rowing Machines Video Review

BarBend’s lead video reviewer, Jake Herod, NASM-CNC, broke down some of the best rowing machines we’ve tested, including the Hydrow Wave Rower, Concept2 RowErg, Ergatta Rower, and more. Check out what he likes — and doesn’t — about these machines below.

How We Tested and Chose the Best Rowing Machines for Heavy People

The BarBend team of collegiate rowers, certified CrossFit coaches, and personal trainers has tested more than 20 rowers. As part of BarBend’s equipment testing methodology, we used a multi-point scale of 1 (boo) to 5 (yay) to rate each machine across 11 categories, including durability, footprint, portability, and more. Check out some of the key factors we prioritized when rounding up the best rowing machines for heavy people.

Weight Capacity: The industry standard in terms of weight capacity on rowers is around 300 to 350 pounds. While we have picks that meet that standard, we prioritized models that exceed it — one of our options supports up to 700 pounds.

Durability: The rowers here are made of steel and aluminum, with some hard plastics to house internal components. Each of the rowers on our list earned at least a 3.5 out of 5 from our team.

Type of Resistance: We featured rowing machines with three types of resistance — air, water, and magnetic — to accommodate the preferences of a wide variety of athletes.

Footprint and Portability: At around 7 to 8 feet in length, most rowers are not exactly “compact.” However, we made sure to include a handful of machines that are lightweight enough to be stored vertically or flexible enough to fold in half.

Dynamic Programming: Many of the options on our list are integrated with apps that offer virtual trainer-led rowing machine workouts, engaging gamified experiences, and scenic rows from around the world.

Best Rowing Machine for Heavy People Overall: Hydrow Wave Rower

Hydrow Wave Rower

Hydrow Wave Rower

This luxury rower is equipped with a 22-inch touchscreen display and offers automatic adjustments to the resistance based on your rowing efforts.

Shop Hydrow


Price: $1,695

Weight Capacity: 375lbs

Weight: 102lbs

Resistance: Magnetic

Dimensions: 80″ L x 19″ W x 43″ H

Display: 16” touchscreen


Stainless steel seat rail supports users up to 375 pounds

Foldable monitor arm reduces space when stored vertically

Our testers love the Hydrow app’s live and on-demand classes

Immersive 16-inch touchscreen


At $1,695, it’s at the high end of the average rower price range

Virtual workouts require a Hydrow membership — an additional $44 per month

Handle lacks grippiness 

Between its effortless resistance adjustment and engaging virtual rows, the Hydrow Wave Rower was an easy choice for our top spot. With an aluminum and steel build supporting users up to 375 pounds, it earned a 5 out of 5 for durability from collegiate rower and BarBend editorial member Lauren Keary. 

Our tester on the Hydrow Wave Rower.

After spending a month using the Wave for cross-training, long distance, and interval training, she said it can stand up to the most high-intensity of workouts (and the hungriest of pets). “This machine is one of the more sturdy machines I’ve landed on. I’ve even caught my puppy chewing on it, and he didn’t even leave a scratch,” she said. 

As BarBend video reviewer Jake Herod, NASM-CNC,  explains, the resistance can be adjusted manually, but it may be easiest to allow this magnetic rowing machine to adapt to you. “The default setting of 104 provides the most natural feeling. While rowing, you’ll notice the resistance automatically adjusts based on how hard you row,” he said. “It directly correlates to your overall effort.”

Check out what else Herod had to say about his time on the Hydrow Wave Rower in the below video review.

Herod and Keary both thought the quality of the Hydrow app’s scenic rows separate this rower from the competition. “Professional rowers row in single and double sculls across waters all around the world,” Keary said. “You’ll find classes anywhere from Italy to Alaska. They talk you through intervals, training techniques, and sometimes even history of the lands and waters surrounding them.”

Our tester raising the Hydrow Wave Rower vertically.

Keary scored both its tech capabilities and dynamic programming a 5 out of 5, noting the clarity of the 16.1-inch HD touchscreen. And while both she and Herod think the $44 monthly subscription is worth the additional cost, it’s still high compared to options like iFIT ($39.99 per month) and Ergatta ($29 per month). “This is pretty pricey compared to a lot of other membership plans out there,” Herod says. “But… you’re going to have more available classes at your disposal than you’ll know what to do with.”

Read our full Hydrow Wave Rower Review.

Best Rowing Machine for Heavy People for Beginners: Concept2 RowErg

Concept2 RowErg

Concept2 RowErg

The Concept2 RowErg is one of the most tried and true rowers on the market. The “erg” (as it’s commonly known) provides a double-dose of conditioning and muscular endurance, and is equipped with Bluetooth connectivity and a nifty monitor to track meters rowed and calories burned. 

Shop Concept2


Price: $990

Weight Capacity: 500lbs

Weight: 57lbs

Resistance: Air

Dimensions: 95” L x 24” W

Display: LCD


Spiral damper allows beginners to experiment with different stroke feels

Straightforward assembly

Easy-to-read LCD monitor displays metrics

Durable aluminum and stainless steel build


Minimal onboard technology

Chain drive system may require some maintenance

No screen for streaming dynamic programming

Unlike many other air rowers, the Concept2 RowErg has a spiral damper that allows newcomers to adjust the amount of airflow to the flywheel, thus allowing them to more easily find a stroke feel that can help ease them into a routine. Combine that with its straightforward assembly and approachable price tag, and we think the RowErg is the ideal machine for beginners.

Our tester on the Concept2 RowErg.

“This machine uses air resistance and you can adjust how much air enters the machine with each stroke with the adjustable dial on the flywheel,” our tester said, rating its customization a 5 out of 5. “Like a gear on the bike, you can move this dial to adjust how much effort you need for each stroke. So you can really customize the challenge.”

[Related: Best Air Rowing Machines]

Unlike walking on a treadmill or pedaling on an exercise bike, perfecting a rowing stroke requires a bit of practice.  BarBend Senior Editor and collegiate rower Lauren Keary knows the importance of solid technique. “Since you are using most muscle groups (around 85% of the muscles in your body) in each stroke you take on a rowing machine, form is super important.”

Our tester adjusting the resistance on the Concept2 RowErg.

After using the Concept2 RowErg, the stability afforded by its aluminum and stainless steel construction stood out to our tester. “There wasn’t any shaking or jostling, plus it has a 500-pound weight capacity,” they said. That exceeds the average capacity by over 100 pounds, which helped it earn a 4.5 out of 5 for durability. 

If you’re looking for trainer-led virtual courses, however, you’ll need to look elsewhere. While we liked that the LCD monitor can be adjusted to meet your eye level, the lack of a screen or interactive programming cost it a point for tech capabilities — a 4 out of 5 from our tester.

The speedy assembly, however, earned a 5 out of 5 from our tester. “Attaching the rail is easier with two people, but the whole process took about twenty minutes.” 

Read our full Concept2 Rower Review

Best Foldable Rowing Machine for Heavy People: Echelon Row-s

Echelon Row-S

Echelon Row-S

Designed with optimal rowing form in mind, the Echelon Row-s offers a comprehensive and low-impact workout that engages over 85% of your muscles. With its foldable design, sophisticated engineering, and a 22″ HD touchscreen display accompanied by a all-new soundbar, the Echelon Row is equipped with everything you need for an effective workout. 

Shop Echelon Row-S


Price: $1,899.99

Weight Capacity: 350lbs

Weight: 123lbs

Resistance: Magnetic

Dimensions: 84″ L x 21″ W x 45″ H (unfolded); 40” L x 21” W x 60” H (folded)

Display: 22” touchscreen


Foldable rail reduces footprint by about half

Immersive 22-inch touchscreen can stream Echelon Fit classes

Seamless resistance adjustment via Bluetooth handle controller

Magnetic resistance system with quiet operation


Its $1,899.99 price tag is well above average

Access to Echelon Fit rowing workouts costs an additional $39.99 per month

Decent amount of plastic in build

Although rowing machines tend to be rather narrow — around 20 to 25 inches wide — their lengthy frames have a way of intruding on your floor plan. The Echelon Row-s can help you save some precious floor space when not in use thanks to its folding rail. By folding it in half, you shrink its footprint down to roughly the size of a coffee table — 5.83 square feet. (1) “It’s similar in size to other rowers, but being able to just fold it up makes it ideal for anyone that can’t just leave a rowing machine out all the time,” our tester said.

Our tester on the Echelon Row-s.

With rowing workouts for beginners and experts streaming on its immersive 22-inch touchscreen the Echelon Fit app makes the Row-s one of the more tech-forward rowers we have tested. On top of the on-demand training, you can also stream mid-workout entertainment from apps like Netflix and Hulu, though you’ll need your own subscription.  

Our tester rated the tech onboard the Row-s a 4.5 out of 5. After rowing along with some of the trainer-led classes, however, they scored the programming a 3.75 out of 5. “I noticed that a lot of the trainers weren’t showcasing proper rowing form, which could mislead some beginner athletes looking to follow along with instructor-led courses,” they said. 

Our tester using the Bluetooth resistance controller on the Echelon Row-s.

With an active Echelon Fit membership — $39.99 per month — you’ll also get an extended five-year warranty. The price did seem a bit high compared to other options out there. “I like that there are new live classes every day, plus streaming apps like Netflix while you row is a huge bonus,” our tester said. “I think the studio classes are nice, but they can’t really compare to the on-water workouts you’ll find on the Ergatta Rower.” 

Editor’s note: If you’re looking for a lower price point, the Echelon Row trades the Row-s’ 22-inch touchscreen for a device holder.

Best Water Rowing Machine for Heavy People: Ergatta Rower

Ergatta Rower

Ergatta Rower

The Ergatta rower is ideal for athletes who want an elevated home workout experience. You can choose from pre-programmed workouts, games, and competitions to make your row more interesting, or you can select an open row to simply push your limits. This machine will adjust as your strength and stamina increase to challenge you even further.

Shop Ergatta


Price: $2,499

Weight Capacity: 500lbs

Weight: 105lbs

Resistance: Water

Dimensions: 86” L x 23” W x 40” H

Display: 17.3” HD touchscreen


Our tester enjoyed the calming “whoosh” sound of this water rower 

Access Ergatta programming via the 17.3-inch touchscreen

Gamified workouts are engaging and motivating

Aesthetically-pleasing cherry wood design


Interactive programming costs $29 per month

The $2,499 price point easily exceeds the average range for rowers 

Not as durable as aluminum or steel rowers

Even water rowers can’t quite replace the feeling of taking an actual boat out on the open water, but we think the Ergatta Rower comes pretty close. As opposed to fighting the resistance of a magnetic system or a powerful fan, this machine evokes the feel of rowing downstream with the “unlimited” resistance that only water can offer. 

Our tester on the Ergatta Rower.

BarBend expert reviewer Amanda Capritto, CPT, CES, CNC, CF-L1, CSNC, highlighted the two features you’ll find in many of the best water rowing machines. “Water rowers also provide unlimited resistance, and can also better replicate the feeling of an IRL rowing experience,” she said. “They do, however, tend to be louder and take up more space than magnetic rowers, which provide more consistent resistance while making less noise.”

Our tester noted the loud “whooshing” sounds of the water, but considered it a feature, not a bug. “It’s almost meditative,” they said. 

Our tester strapping in their feet on the Ergatta Rower.

The elegance of the cherry-wood design also enhanced the aesthetics, but earned just a 3.5 out of 5 for durability. “I’m not sure the wood will hold up as long as an aluminum build,” they noted. “That said, the weight capacity is 500 pounds, so Ergatta seems to believe in it.”

Our tester setting the Ergatta Rower down.

Apps like Hydrow ($44 per month) and iFIT ($39.99 per month) offer trainer-led rows in waters around the world, but Ergatta ($29 per month) takes a different approach with competition-style rows and gamified workouts. “I actually prefer Ergatta’s style of programming,” our tester said, rating its tech capabilities a 4 out of 5. 

“I think the system is really clever, using games and competition to keep you pushing yourself,” they continued. “It’s also a more simple programming, which is appealing. There isn’t too much to mess with and I get all the most important data.”

Read our full Ergatta Rower Review.

Best Interactive Rowing Machine for Heavy People: Aviron Strong Rower

Aviron Strong Rower

Aviron Strong Rower

Sleek, modern and compact design coupled with a diverse workout content library and frequent new releases to get you motivated and keep you consistent for the long term. The Aviron Go Rower is the perfect at-home magnetic rower to invest in. 

Shop Aviron


Price: $2,199

Weight Capacity: 507lbs

Weight: 114lbs

Resistance: Dual air and magnetic

Dimensions: 84” L x 27” W x 48” H

Display: 22” touchscreen


Aviron app offers interactive gamified workouts and trainer-led classes 

Stream entertainment from Netflix, Hulu, and more during use

Immersive 22-inch touchscreen

The 507-pound weight capacity is more than 200 pounds above average


Dual resistance system can be loud during operation

The $2,199 price exceeds average range by roughly $500

Assembly can be tricky

For a high-tech rowing experience, it’s tough to beat the Aviron Strong Series and its buffet of on-demand classes, gamified workouts, and scenic rows from across the globe. It also offers the ability to log in and stream apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video while you work. With its 22-inch touchscreen bringing all this interactive goodness to life, it’s no wonder BarBend editorial member Ben Emminger rated its tech capabilities 4.75 out of 5.

Our tester on the Aviron Strong Rower.

“The Aviron Strong Series is actually my at-home rowing machine of choice, so I’m very experienced with the available media suite,” he said. “Aside from the streaming apps, I also appreciate how Aviron is compatible with Spotify, allowing me to pick and choose my workout playlist directly on the machine instead of controlling my tunes via smartphone. The display itself is also pretty responsive, with no lagging or loading issues.”

On top of the $2,199 price tag — roughly $500 higher than the average rower — access to these trainer-led rows and video game-like workouts adds an additional $29 per month to your tab.

Our tester choosing a workout on the Aviron Strong Rower.

Compared to the monthly fees of some of the best fitness apps like iFIT ($39.99) or Hydrow ($44), we think Aviron is a relative bargain. “This is a really competitive membership fee compared to other fitness subscriptions,” said a BarBend tester.

They also noted the motivational nature of its gamified programming. “For someone more interested in video games than working out, this might be a holy union,” they said, rating the dynamic programming a 3.75 out of 5. The pivoting immersive screen can also swivel in four directions so you can tackle some of Aviron’s strength and mobility workouts off the machine.

Most Durable Rowing Machine for Heavy People: Vulcan Scull Rower

Vulcan Scull Rower

Vulcan Scull Rower

The steel and aluminum construction makes this durable rower stable during use, even at maximum resistance and effort. The padded, contoured seat offers comfort during long sessions, while its lightweight design and front wheels offer easy maneuvering.

Shop Vulcan


Price: $849.99

Weight Capacity: 350lbs

Weight: 101lbs

Resistance: Air

Dimensions: 94” L x 25” W x 48” H

Display: LCD monitor


Steel and aluminum construction bodes well for longevity

Stable during use, even at maximum resistance and effort

Padded, contoured seat offers comfort during long sessions

Lightweight design and front wheels for easy maneuvering


Basic LCD screen and no Bluetooth compatibility

Only a few programming options available

Louder than Concept2 RowErg during use

With a combination of steel, aluminum, and hard plastic, the Vulcan Scull Rower offers the stability needed to pump out intense rows. After spending several months taking on sprint, long-distance, and HIIT rowing workouts, our tester, a certified personal trainer, thinks this rower is in it for the long haul.

Our tester on the Vulcan Scull Rower.

“As long as you take care of the chain drive system, this thing should last a long time,” they said, rating its durability 4 out of 5. “It has just a bit of plastic, but it is a super solid machine. Even at max resistance and max effort, there was zero shaking.” 

While the 350-pound weight capacity meets the industry standard, it still cost the Scull Rower a point in our tester’s rating. “Compared to the 500-pound range on something like the Concept2 RowErg, it leaves a tad to be desired,” they noted. “It was also a bit louder than the RowErg.” 

A highlight for users across that weight range is the design of the seat, which helped it earn a 4.5 out of 5 for ergonomics from our tester. “OK, I really love this seat. It’s just barely contoured and has firm padding, which I think is perfect — even for long sessions.”

Our tester adjusting the resistance on the Vulcan Scull Rower.

At 101 pounds, it’s not quite one of the best compact rowing machines we’ve tested, but our tester still had no issue maneuvering it around our gym. “It actually feels relatively light and if you use the wheels, I don’t think many people would have trouble moving it around,” they said.

For $849.99 — roughly $150 less than the average range — we think the Vulcan Scull Rower offers a solid rowing experience. That said, it lacks the app-connected flash of its tech-minded brethren. “My least favorite part of the Scull Rower is definitely the screen,” our tester said, rating its tech capabilities 1 out of 5. “It’s just a basic LCD screen with a couple target and time programs.”

Best Rowing Machine for Heavy People with a High Weight Capacity: WaterRower Oak Rowing Machine With S4 Monitor

WaterRower Oak Rowing Machine With S4 Monitor

WaterRower Oak Rowing Machine With S4 Monitor

This water rowing machine uses water as resistance to make you feel more like you’re rowing on water. This machine also has a high quality oak wood frame.

Shop WaterRower


Price: $1,099

Weight Capacity: 700lbs

Weight: 83.8lbs

Resistance: Water

Dimensions: 82″ L x 22″ W x 20″ H

Display: LCD


Its 700-pound weight capacity is the highest we’ve seen

Oak wood frame is elegant and durable

Water resistance creates natural rowing feel

Built-in floor stabilizers help reduce shaking or wobbling


Requires monitoring of water quality

No integrated screen or app-connected programing

Minimal preset training modules

The beautiful oak wood construction of the WaterRower Oak Rowing Machine offers both style and substance. Its 700-pound weight capacity should give you the peace of mind that it can hold up to the most intense indoor rowing workouts. “There was never a moment where I felt rocking or shaking at all,” said our tester, a certified personal trainer, who scored durability a 5 out of 5. 

Our tester on the WaterRower.

They added, “Just by looking at the high-quality oak in person, you can tell this machine is well made. Also, it’s also surprisingly quiet.”

Ergonomics and adjustability 4.5 out of 5. “Within just the first few strokes, I noticed this rower felt extremely smooth and comfortable the entire workout,” our tester said. “The seat also moves really smoothly, the cushioned seat is comfortable even after a long workout, and you can hold the handle several different ways.”

Our tester adjusting the settings on the WaterRower.

As far as onboard technology goes, the built-in S4 monitor keeps tabs on your metrics, including time, distance, stroke rate, and, if you spring for the additional monitor, heart rate. Tech capabilities earned a 4 out of 5, but our tester also noted the lack of interactive workouts. “There are basic programs like intervals, time, and distance,” they said, scoring its programming 2 out of 5. “But nothing interactive like iFIT or Peloton.”

While our tester loved the contoured seat, they noted that the handlebars were short. “The seat is incredibly comfortable. It’s sturdy, but has enough give to help make it through longer workouts,” they said. However, the handles cost its ergonomics rating — 3 out of 5 — two whole points. “They’re only 15 inches longer, which is a bit narrow.”

[Related: Best Rowing Machines Under $1000]

Best Budget Rowing Machine for Heavy People: Sunny Health & Fitness Compact Folding Magnetic Rowing Machine

Sunny Health & Fitness Compact Folding Magnetic Rowing Machine

Sunny Health & Fitness Compact Folding Magnetic Rowing Machine

The $249.98 price is roughly $750 less than the average rower we’ve tested. Its foldable sliding rail reduces footprint by more than half, while its magnetic resistance creates quiet operation.

Shop Sunny Health & Fitness


Price: $249.98

Weight Capacity: 285lbs

Weight: 49lbs

Resistance: Magnetic

Dimensions: 77″ L x 23″ W x 22.5″ H (unfolded); 36.3” L x 23” W x 47” H (folded)

Display: Digital monitor


The $249.98 price is roughly $750 less than the average rower we’ve tested

Foldable sliding rail reduces footprint by more than half

Magnetic resistance for quiet operation

Lightweight design for easy maneuvering in small spaces


Its 285-pound weight capacity is below average

Digital monitor is very basic

Sits low to the ground

As one of the most budget-conscious rowers we have tested, this rower from Sunny Health & Fitness is a solid option for users up to 285 pounds looking to cash in on the benefits of rowing machines. It earned a 4 out of 5 for value from our tester, a certified personal trainer, who noted that not everyone needs the razzle dazzle of high-priced rowers. “At only about $250, this budget-friendly rower is great for people who want this cardio machine but don’t need all the bells and whistles you get with some of the pricier options,” they said. 

Our tester scored its tech capabilities a 1 out of 5, though that’s not a big surprise on a budget machine. However, its digital monitor can still track your stroke count, calories burned, and time.

Other categories fared much better, including its adjustability and ergonomics, both of which scored a rating of 3.5 out of 5. “I was surprised by how comfortable the seat is, especially compared to other rowers,” they said. “The seat is wide and reminds me of a recumbent exercise bike seat because it has a lot of padding.” 

However, climbing in and out of the seat may be difficult for those with limited mobility, as the seat sits pretty low to the floor. 

While its 285-pound weight capacity is around 15 to 65 pounds less than the average rower, its alloy steel rail was durable enough to earn a 3 out of 5 from our tester. “The flywheel housing and footplates are both plastic, but even at high speeds I didn’t feel any shaking,” they said. “I wouldn’t expect it to last for a decade, but it’s not going to just break down unexpectedly.”

[Related: Best Budget Home Gym Equipment]

Benefits of Rowing Machines for Heavy People

As BarBend expert reviewer Amanda Capritto, CPT, CES, CNC, CF-L1, CSNC, explains, rowing machines are having a moment. “Once reserved for rowing athletes as a way to train indoors, rowing [machines] have made it mainstream, and that’s for a lot of good reasons,” she says. “Rowing is an effective form of exercise, engaging most of the body’s muscles and significantly working the cardiovascular system.” (2)

Accessible Low-Impact Cardio: “As an exercise professional, I think… rowing machines will prove particularly beneficial for people who need a low-impact form of cardio.” Also, their high weight capacities — some up to 700 pounds — make these machines accessible to a wide array of athletes. 

Total-Body Workouts: “Rowing is a fantastic full-body workout,” Capritto says. “I particularly like rowing because it engages the majority of the body’s muscles and can develop power and explosiveness in the glutes and hamstrings in addition to improving cardiovascular endurance.”

Versatility: “Rowers are also versatile pieces of equipment: You can use them for high-intensity interval training and steady-state cardio exercise. They can also be used for some strength training exercises, like pikes, for added versatility,” Capritto says.

How Much Do The Best Rowing Machines for Heavy People Cost?

No matter if you’re eyeing one of the best budget rowing machines or a high-end model, dropping this kind of dough is a big investment in your fitness. The best rowing machines for heavy people can support users up to 700 pounds, but the models we included span a wide price range — from $249.98 to $2,499.

What to Consider Before Buying The Best Rowing Machines for Heavy People

After ensuring that the rower you’ve been eyeballing can support your bodyweight, consider the type of training you prefer and the space you have available in your home. Whether you’ve been rowing for years or are still figuring out how to use a rowing machine, here are a few factors to keep in mind.

Weight Capacity 

Before falling in love with your dream rower, ensure that it is durable enough to support your body. Look for materials like steel and aluminum as indicators of a machine’s durability and stability. The rowing machines on our list have weight capacities that cap out anywhere from 285 to 700 pounds, so first check that your current weight falls within a particular model’s range before digging into the rest of its specs and features.

Type of Rowing Machine

Rowing machines utilize one of four types of resistance. Each has a different feel and generates varying levels of noise. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Air: No set range of resistance and the loudest of the four. 

Water: Unlimited resistance and can better replicate the feeling of real-life rowing.

Magnetic: Consistent and quieter than other types with adjustable resistance levels.

Hydraulic: Uses pistons filled with air or fluid and are typically compact machines.

BarBend expert reviewer Amanda Capritto, CPT, CES, CNC, CF-L1, CSNC, offers a bit more detail. “The flywheel mechanism dictates the rower type,” she explains. “Air rowers use fan flywheels; water rowers use fan flywheels against the resistance of water in a water tank; magnetic rowers use electromagnetic resistance; and hydraulic rowers, which are less expensive but functionally limited compared to the other three types, use hydraulic cylinders in the handles to create resistance.”

Preferred Training Type 

As some of the versatile pieces of home gym equipment, rowing machines allow for both steady-state cardio workouts and pulse-pounding interval training. Whether you prefer the engagement and motivation served up by virtual rows or just like to close your eyes and imagine gliding down the Potomac, Capritto advises users to consider how the technology onboard your rower will affect your training.

She says, “You can also choose between a smart rowing machine and a “not smart” one, meaning one that has a fancy screen that streams stuff or one that has a simple LCD screen that reads out basic metrics. Smart rowing machines are more expensive and usually require a monthly subscription to access full functionality.”

Available Space 

Most rowing machines tend to be rather narrow — around 20 to 24 inches wide — but can reach up to 7 to 8 feet in length. Comparing the dimensions of the spot you plan to use your rower with the dimensions we listed in the specs is one of Capritto’s top recommendations, especially for taller users. 

“Size, weight and portability are important, as you’ll need to ensure the machine will fit in your space and it’s relatively easy to move if you won’t be able to leave it stationary,”  she says. “Tall people should check the overall length of the rower, but more importantly, the length of the slide rail, to determine whether they’ll be able to achieve full range of motion. It’s common for budget rowers to be shorter, which makes them unideal for tall individuals.”

The Best Rowing Machines for Heavy People FAQs

What is the best rowing machine for heavy people?

With a stainless steel rail and durable build, we think the Hydrow Wave Rower is the best rowing machine for heavy people. It has a weight capacity of 375 pounds — between 25 and 75 pounds more than the average rower — and its immersive 16-inch touchscreen is integrated with the Hydrow app, which is packed with trainer-led classes and scenic rows unfolding in waters around the world. When you’re done, its foldable monitor arm allows it to stand flush against a wall vertically for easy storage.

Can an overweight person use a rowing machine?

With weight capacities that can reach up to 700 pounds, rowing machines offer the accessibility that most of the best cardio machines can’t match. But as BarBend editorial member and collegiate rower Lauren Keary notes, you’ll want to consider your current fitness level and level of mobility before getting started. “Rowing may exacerbate pain in people who struggle with low back pain,” she says. “The seated exercising position combined with the hip hinging involved in the rowing stroke is not ideal for individuals with lower back pain.”

How do you row when overweight?

For users of all shapes and sizes, practicing proper form is important to prevent injury. As BarBend Senior Editor and collegiate rower Lauren Keary explains, there are four distinct parts of a rowing stroke, so take some time to hone your form. “Each stroke is made up of four parts: the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery.”

Is there a weight limit for rowers?

Indoor rowing machines have some of the highest weight capacities of any at-home fitness equipment, but each model can have different limits. Typically, rowers support users up to roughly 300 to 350 pounds, but the models on our list range from 285 to 700 pounds.


The Ultimate Guide to end table & coffee table sizes. Wayfair. (n.d.).

Relationships among muscle characteristics and rowing performance in collegiate crew members. The Sport Journal. (2022, January 14).

The post The 8 Best Rowing Machines for Heavy People of 2024, Tested and Selected by Our Team appeared first on BarBend.


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