One of the much-asked questions from potential customers about rowing machines is its footprint. Thus, it brings out the importance and popularity of compact rowing machines.

Don’t let the compact size fool you!

Compact rowing machines provide those who are short of living spaces with the chance to enjoy the rowing pleasure at the comfort of home. There is no need to worry the rowing machines will hog too much space in your home.

In this review, I’ll stay true to the meaning of compactness and include only the rowing machines that are true space savers.

One more tip: in order to be 100% sure that what you choose is compact enough for your living space, it’s always advised to choose the rowing machine brand that offers the option of trying before buying.

Table of contents

  • Best compact rowing machine reviews
  • Workout programs on rowing machines
  • How to upgrade rowing experience
Top picks Rating
Waterrower Natural Rowing Machine 4.8/5
Xterra ERG600W water rowing machine 4.2/5
Matrix magnetic rowing machine 4.5/5

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine

The video here might give you a idea of such elegant rowing machine.

WaterRower rowing machine

Waterrower is designed to resemble the glorious vessels found spearing down the Thames during the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race. This video may give a clear idea of elegant Waterrower.

Rating: 4.8

Technical specifications

  • Assembled dimensions: 83.0″ x 22.0″ x 21.0″ (L x W x H)
  • Standing dimensions: 21.0″ x 22.0″ x 83.0″ (L x W x H)
  • Weight: 117 pounds [53 kg] (full water tank) / 73 pounds [33 kg] (empty water tank)
  • Maximum user weight: 250 pounds
  • Price: $1,000 – $1,499

Compactness & storage

WaterRower rowing machine tilted into an upright position

It’s really a compact rowing machine. When assembled, its dimension is 83.0″ x 22.0″ x 21.0″ (L x W x H).

After use, you can store it in an upright position. When stored, it’s dimension is 21.0″ x 22.0″ x 83.0″ (L x W x H) and only takes the space of a chair.


According to WaterRower, assembly should take no more than 30 minutes.

Assembly instructions are provided to help users assemble. There are also plenty of YouTube videos walking through the WaterRower assembly.

Build design & quality

It looks robust, well-constructed out of quality wood, exuding a sense of nature. The WaterRower Natural frame is built using solid Ash wood, sustainably sourced from the Appalachian mountain range. Stained in honey oak and finished with a light Danish oil, this sleek machine is the company’s flagship offering.

Such delicate construction absorbs sound and vibration, making rowing smoother and quieter.

With a water flywheel, it mimics the feel of rowing in actual water.

On this rowing machine, there is plenty of room for users to keep their shin vertical and stretch their arms forward.

Another good feature is its fixed footrests with sliding footpads. Its footrests are fixed at a scientific angle, ensuring users a correct feet angle.

The sliding footpads allow Waterrower to accommodate feet of different sizes. Such design can also better meet rowers’ specific needs. For example, if you are a barefoot rowing lover, raise your footpads higher as you don’t have the cushion or sole of shoes getting in the way.


The molded seat has an ergonomic design and comes with extra padding to provide superior comfort while rowing.

A few users commented that this seat was the most comfortable they’ve experienced. So smooth in fact that many users don’t realize how hard they have been working out until they get off the machine!

Aluminum-made, the handle is durable and light. Its tear-drop shape makes it easy to grip and also minimizes any development of wrist problems.

However, the footrests are where Waterrower gets mixed comments.

Some uses find the footrests are too straight and close and would be better if adjustable. If you have ‘big’ legs (muscular or otherwise) you may find your knees and thighs knocking together.


As its name indicates, it uses water resistance.

It works your muscles with a flywheel spinning in water. Unlike other rowing machines you don’t have the option to select the resistance level. The faster you row, the greater the resistance of the water – just like rowing on a lake.


monitor of WaterRower rowing machine
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Monitor Specs
Data Time, Distance, Intensity, SPM, Heart Rate Monitor, etc.
Bluetooth √ with ComModule
Heart rate feature √ Option is available when optional heart rate monitor is used
Preset programs
Games ×
Software/Apps WaterRower Connect App, CITYROW Go App, Coxswain App, and SmartRow App, etc.
PC connectivity
Backlit ×


This rowing machine is more than just a pretty face!

Another feature is its easy-to-read Series 4 (S4) monitor.

Series 4 performance monitor tracks workout’s watt/intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, and more.

Additionally, WaterRower Natural provides six preset workouts.You can set simple time/distance goals using the workout button. You could also set distance interval and target mode workouts to spice up your workouts a bit.

On top of this, S4 features PC connectivity and you can turn S4 Performance Monitor into a Bluetooth enabled device with ComModule. There are several commercially available software products for the WaterRower, including WaterRower Connect App, CITYROW Go App, Coxswain App, and SmartRow App. With apps, you can store training data, race online against others, or try better times from previous training sessions.

But a little notice: ComModule is not included in the original package – one letdown to some potential customers.


It provides three-year-warranty on all components, excluding touchscreen electronics, electronics accessories and rechargeable batteries, and five-year-warranty on the structural frame by registering the product within the first year of purchase.


Waterrower rowing machine is pleasing to the eyes and the ears and it works up to 84% of your muscle. Overall this piece of beautifully tuned, hand-crafted, water-resistance workout equipment sits at the high end of the water rowing machine spectrum.

Pros Cons
The whoosh sound is soothing The console/ monitor is not easy to reach
Very solid and well-made construction The foot rests may not be comfortable if you’re tall
Natural wood looks elegant Lacks backlit
Console can be plugged into your PC for additional features
Fairly accurate monitor
Easy to store upright with transportation wheels

Xterra ERG600W Compact Water Rowing Machine

Xterra ERG600W water rowing machine

Rating: 4.2

Technical specifications

  • Assembled Dimensions: 80.7″ x 22″ x 33″ (L x W x H)
  • Standing dimensions:
  • Weight: 83 lbs
  • Maximum user weight: 300 LBS
  • Price: $599~$899

Compactness & storage

Xterra ERG600W water rowing machine tilted into an upright position

In general, Xterra ERG600W is quite compact. In use, its assembled dimension is 80.7″ x 22″ x 33″ (L x W x H).

After finishing exercise, you can easily store it upright and wheel it around. All you have to do is slide the seat to the front of the rail and lift from the rear support.In upright position,the dimension of this compact rowing machine is 33″ x 22″ x 80.7″.

Build design & quality

Featuring a solid steel frame and a dual aluminum rail system, the ERG600W is a sturdy rowing machine. It is capable of supporting a user of up to 300 lbs.

The rowing seat rail is 13.5″ off the floor which makes getting on and off the rowing machine a bit easier.

On this rowing machine, footrests are fixed and feature sliding footpads. Fixed footrests spare users from finding the feet angle. Sliding footpads better ensure comfort and meet rowers’ specific needs. For example, raising footpads up a little bit might a good idea for those who suffer knee pain.

I cannot say enough of the importance of sliding footpads. However, on the market, some rowing machines lack such design, resulting in a bad rowing form. Read the article of rowing machine buyer beware to learn more.

However, one issue is the durability and functionality of the footrests. On some models (seems like older models), the “heel cup” portion of the footrest would break when users’ shoes get caught on the plastic and when users raise their heel while rowing.


With the large, contoured seat and the padded ergonomic handle, you can enjoy a smooth and comfortable rowing. Overall, the rowing position is good with a high seat (good for your knees), a comfortable seat, good width and well-padded handle, and long, wide footrests with a secure straps.


tank of Xterra ERG600W water rowing machine

Resistance is variable and adjusted by how fast you pull the handle.

The water tank has 6 different lines to measure the height of the water. The higher you fill the tank, the more difficult it feels to row. Technically, it doesn’t change the ‘resistance’ but it does change the feeling of the rowing stroke.


monitor of Xterra ERG600W water rowing machine

Monitor Specs
Data Total Time, Time/500M, Calories, Distance, Strokes, Strokes/Min (SPM), Room Temp, Clock, Pulse (only with HRM)
Bluetooth ×
Heart rate feature √ Only with used with a 5.3 KHz chest strap heart rate monitor, which is not included
Preset programs √ 5 programmable training modes
Games ×
Software/Apps ×
PC connectivity ×
Backlit ×

The Xterra Erg600W comes with a large 5.5″ LCD monitor.

The monitor tracks Total Time, Time/500M, Calories, Distance, Strokes, Strokes/Min (SPM), Room Temp, Clock, Pulse (only with HRM). The monitor is heart rate compatible – but note, it displays your pulse but has no heart rate training programs, and the chest strap is not included.

Even though this is a budget-friendly water rower, it still has 5 programmable training modes: Race Against Computer, Time Countdown, Distance Countdown, Strokes Countdown, Calories Countdown. With such modes, you can customize and diversify your training without app subscription costs.

However,this monitor doesn’t allow you to connect the console to third-party apps for interactive training or workout data transfer.


It includes 5 years on the frame, 2 years on parts, and 90 days on labor.


Pros Cons
Good value Heart rate strap not included
One tough machine – can support users up to 300 lbs Basic console with no PC connectivity and no preset heart rate programs
Good monitor with some useful features – including heart rate monitor Poor footrest quality & design
Good warranty for low-cost rowing machine

Matrix Magnetic Rowing Machine

Matrix magnetic rowing machine

Rating: 4.5

Technical specifications

  • Assembled dimensions: 87.6″ x 21.5″ x 38″ (L x W x H)
  • Storing dimensions:
  • Weight:
  • Maximum user weight:
  • Price:

Compactness & storage

a man tilting a rowing machine into upright position and two women looking at each other beside two indoor rowers

When it comes to storage, Matrix is quite compact. It can be stored vertically. There are 2 built-in caster wheels at the front of the rower, which allows users to roll around easily into place.


Assembling this rowing machine requires 6 different steps and one person can complete the entire assembly by themselves. It should take around 45 minutes to complete.

One annoying point is that this rowing machine doesn’t offer you the tools required.

Build design & quality

The Matrix Rower is often used in fitness centers so you know it can withstand a lot of abuse.

The seat rail is made from aluminum but it has stainless steel strips to add extra strength for high volume usage.

One feature that worth mentioning is that the space between footrests are wider than that on Concept 2. Because of such design, users who have a big belly can also find it easy to perform a rowing form.

Another important feature is that it features fixed footrests with sliding footpads. For beginners and professional rowers, fixed footrests ensure a correct feet angle and good rowing form. However, it may be an issue for those who have flexibility issues.

Sliding footpads allow Matrix to accommodate feet of different sizes. Such design also allow users to better meet their needs.

For example, for those who suffer knee pains, raising footpads up a little bit might a good idea. This will relieve strain on the Achilles tendon.

However, here comes one downside. Its handlebar is attached to the housing by a string, which cannot hold the handlebar properly in place. The handlebar may shift from left to right.


Compared with Concept 2, Matrix features a slightly cushioned seat which is built for comfort (more than performance).

One key feature of the footrests is that they are slightly wider than other rowing machines. This is a good design especially for bigger users, preventing their thighs from rubbing together.

Users can also comfortably hold an extra-long ergo grip handle, enjoy pleasant rowing workout.


As a magentic rowing machine, its resistance is adjusted by the dial.

On Matrix, resistance is hard at the catch stage, but it decreases and becomes lighter as users accelerate to the finish. Especially at the highest resistance setting, users may find it quite difficult to start at the catch stage. At the recovery stage, users may feel sort of being pulled back by the pully strap, which may encourage bad rowing form.

On the other hand, the resistance on Concept 2 is consistent throughout the rowing stage.

That said, Matrix is good for those who need intensive workout.


monitor of Matrix magnetic rowing machine

Monitor Specs
Data Time, Distance, SPM (strokes per minute), Stroke, Watts, Heart Rate, Calories, 500 meter split
Heart rate feature
Preset programs
Games ×
Software/Apps ×
PC connectivity ×

This rower comes equipped with a extra-large backlit LCD Display (3.5” x 2.5”) that tracks the following data: Time, Distance, SPM (strokes per minute), Stroke, Watts, Heart Rate, Calories, 500 meter split.

The monitor has a telemetric receiver, which can sync to a heart rate monitor such as the Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor.

It features several programs: Manual, Interval, Pace, Target Training, Sprint 8, Target HR, Tests – 500 m, 2000 m, and Max HR

One unique feature is that the monitor is powered by rower’s rowing workout.

However, one main downside is that it also doesn’t have pre-programmed workouts. Nor does itprovide all the features on rowing monitors like the Concept2 PM5. For a highly-priced rowing machines, this is something that really needs improvement.


  • Frame: 7-Years
  • Parts: 3-Years
  • Labor: 3-Years

Now, you might wonder why in this article, there are only three rowing machines. And why there isn’t any foldable rowing machine?

First, I wanna talk more about foldable rowing machines.

Some rowing machines, such as Nordictrack, can be folded after workout. When folded, the space it takes is indeed reduced. However, they still need more space and not as compact as the rowing machines stored vertically.

And as for why only three rowing machines are listed here, well, that’s because though some rowing machines are compact, they do have some common flaws and deal-breakers. Being only good in compactness is not enough to be included in the list of best compact rowing machines.

It’s better to check the article of rowing machine buyer beware before jumping onto your rowing journey.

Workout programs

a woman doing single arm plank beside a blue-dyed rowing machine in a room

Rowing machine is a lifelone investment. Reading reviews and buying one rowing machine is only one step. More important step is to do workouts for your preferences and specific goals.

If you wanna lose weight, the article of guide of weight loss is helpful.

How about getting beautiful muscles? The article of workouts to tone muscles on rowing machines is what you need.

Upgrade rowing experience

a man wears a pair of Topiom rowing gloves

Rowing gloves can certainly help you from getting blisters, upgraing rowing workout to a more comfortable level.

Wanna bring picturesque lake scene to your home? VR rowing of Holofit provides total immersion in exceptional environments and a unique experience where wonder, change of scenery do not leave any place to boredom.

Do you know you can make a difference just by rowing at home? Rowing for charity is now on the swing.

Here are some ways to upgrade your rowing experience.