3 Best Rowing Machines For Seniors [Short Guide]

Rowing machines are a great way to get full-body exercise for seniors! In this article, you will learn how to pick the best rowing machine for seniors.

While stationary bikes and treadmills are by far more popular than rowing machines as a home exercise equipment, rowing machines offer some great benefits over them and are a great way to get both cardio and a bit of strength training in your weekly routine.

Rowing machines can be had for a relatively affordable price these days but they are still a large investment so it’s important to do your research and pick a one the suits your needs best.

While the rowing machine is a great addition to your exercise routine, it’s important to remember that you still need to do your strength training routine to have a balanced and healthy body.

So without further ado, let’s look at why rowing machines are great and what considerations you should make when choosing one!

Why Rowing Machines Are Great

Like we already established, rowing machines aren’t as popular as stationary bikes or even treadmills. But it doesn’t mean rowing machines are inferior, not at all.

The reason for this is most likely marketing and the fact people are more familiar with cycling, running, and walking than rowing.

But many people don’t realize that stationary bikes and treadmills work only about half of your body effectively. You do nothing with your upper body.

A cross trainer is a step in the right direction, but a rowing machine is even better! Why that is?

Because a rowing machine requires you to use the whole posterior chain and a large proportion of your upper body in addition to your legs.

The posterior chain consists of your hamstrings, glutes, and back musculature. They are responsible for hip hinging and transferring force true your trunk any time you lift something off the ground or perform athletic movements like jumping or sprinting.

In the modern world where we sit way too much, the posterior chain is often underdeveloped and doesn’t function correctly. This can lead to poor posture, poor lifting mechanics, back pain, etc.

A rowing motion is great for improving the posterior chain because you initiate the row by pushing with your legs, continue by extending the hip a bit, and then finish by pulling with your arms.

So a rowing machine is great for posterior chain activation but it’s not actually very effective in building strength past a certain level. Its main function is to offer a form of cardiovascular exercise and that’s what you should use it for.

One thing you need to be aware of is that if you have any lower back issues and pain, you should discuss using a rowing machine with a certified medical professional. Because of the positions of your back in a rowing machine, it can exacerbate existing back pain issues.

Then again, many people do get relief from back pain when performing exercises that strengthen and activate to lower back. So it’s important to assess the cause of your back pain with a professional.

What To Look For In A Rowing Machine For Seniors

So what should you look for in a rowing machine for seniors? Let’s find out.


Maximum resistance dictates how hard you can row before. For seniors, this is something you should not really focus on. Higher resistance requires a sturdier build and tougher resistance mechanism, This ads both bulk and price to the product.

I recommend you focus on other properties than max resistance unless you have a very athletic background and are of a very large and robust build for example.

For most seniors, the more affordable magnetic resistance rowing machine will be more than enough for a good cardio session.

Weight and Transportability

This is one of the most important features most people need to look at. Unless you have a large house with a dedicated gym, you will likely need to be able to move the rowing machine when it’s not in use.

A heavy rowing machine can be hard to move out of the way, so it can be wise to focus on a lightweight model.

Most light rowing machines are also foldable, so you can for example fold them into a closet or under the bed when not in use.

Safety Features

Generally speaking, rowing machines are very safe to use. You are sitting low to the ground so even if something goes wrong, you aren’t falling from a great height.

Still, it’s good to be aware of a couple of safety considerations. The most important one is the build quality. The biggest risk you face using a rowing machine is the pulling cable snapping or the seat giving up underneath you. More expensive machines are built better than the cheap ones.

The second safety consideration is the seat and weight-bearing capacity. Make sure the machine has a wide enough seat and high enough weight capacity, especially if you are a larger person or significantly overweight.

Most machines should handle 250lbs but quality machines are designed to withstand up to 400 lbs bodyweights.

Build Quality

The last but not the least is build quality. While it’s possible to buy a cheap rowing machine for about $100 I recommend you invest a bit more and buy a model from a well-established brand.

Cheap exercise equipment doesn’t usually last long because there are a lot of moving parts that wear and tear fast. Cheap machines rarely have spare parts available, so when the weakest part gives up, your rowing machine becomes a heavy piece of garbage you have to get rid of.

More importantly, this is a potential safety risk like we talked about. A snapping cable can cause severe injury, for example, so invest a bit in quality.

A high-quality machine will be a joy to use and won’t end up as an expensive clothing rack or dusting in the closet. If something breaks, you can usually get spare parts from the manufacturer.

Now that we know what to look for, let’s look at the recommendations!

My Recommendations

High-Quality Option

My top recommendation is the Concept 2 Model D Indoor Rower. It’s a bit on the pricier side but if you can afford it, you will not be disappointed.

There is a reason why this rower is the world’s best-selling rowing machine. It’s light, sturdy, functional, and extremely durable.

It’s in fact so durable that it’s the standard rower in most gyms around the world. So if you can afford the price tag, you will have a rowing machine that will last you for a lifetime.

Since it’s popular and a premium brand it can, of course, be repaired in case of malfunction and it comes with a hefty 2 and 5-year limited warranty.

The negative side is that it’s not easily foldable and it’s fairly long so it will take up a lot of space. But if you are concerned with quality over anything else, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Budget Option

If you are tight of money or want a lighter, foldable rowing machine, my recommendation is the Marcy Foldable 8-Level Magnetic Resistance Rowing Machine with Transport Wheels

The rower has very good reviews and it’s built by a reputable brand. But beware that these budget models often don’t have spare parts so after the warranty period is over you will not be likely to repair possible malfunctions and might end up buying a new rower.

Also, take into consideration that this model is not suitable for very large people because it’s a compromise between transportability and

That said, the Marcy rower is a very light and easy to use basic rower that should more than enough for most seniors. I wouldn’t be too concerned about the durability if you don’t do extensive rowing or are a very large person.

For Heavy People

If you weigh over 250lb I recommend you invest in a robust rower that is designed to withstand heavier bodyweights. It’s both a safety and a comfortability concern.

My recommendation is this Foldable Trac Glider Rowing Machine that can handle up to 440 lbs body weight. Rowing machines are an excellent way to get exercise if you are significantly overweight as you don’t have to put a strain on your joints like with walking.

The best part is that this rower is very sturdy and high quality. It should last you a long time.


I hope you found this short guide in choosing the best rowing machine for seniors useful and found a rowing machine that suits your needs and budget!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me through the comments section below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Rowing machines are a great option for home cardio equipment and they offer the benefit of activating your whole posterior chain which can improve posture, lifting mechanics, balance and even back pain.

But if you have mobility issues or significant back pain, it’s important to talk to a medical professional to assess if using a rowing machine is safe and wise.

But if you don’t have any medical conditions that prevent their use, rowing machines are a great way to keep up your cardiovascular health and activate the posterior chain muscles.

Just remember that cardio machines don’t often provide enough resistance to offer optimal strength improvement. Strength training and endurance training have very different principles after all.

So it’s important to include a strength training routine in your exercise routine. It doesn’t have to take long or be hard. But it needs to be hard enough to keep you strong and mobile as you age!

Thanks for reading and remember to share on social media if you found the information useful and want to support my work!

See you next time.

14 thoughts on “3 Best Rowing Machines For Seniors [Short Guide]”

  1. What an amazing post you have written with the recommendation of best rowing machines for seniors. I understand why it is advisable for seniors to use the rowing machines to build and sustain their strength as well as the rowing machines for seniors are great for their posture, balance and back pain.

    Foldable rowing machine seems to be a good choice for me.

    Thank you

  2. Elder Strength,

    I have a question for about the safety of using a rowing machine after an injury. I’ve had several shoulder surgeries, including the removal of portions of my scapula after a car accident. I’m also currently dealing with a lot of shoulder pain due to a suspected rotator cuff. I’d love to start rowing again because I know it can help build up the muscles that were cut through during one of my surgeries.

    As you can imagine though, I have some concerns. The rowing machines I’ve tried in the past have a minimum resistance that can cause some issues for me. Is there a lower resistance rower that you could recommend? Or do you think the Mercy Foldable model would work for me?

    Thanks in advance,

    • Thanks for reaching out to me Sean! Since you’ve had a major surgery done on your shoulder, I can’t recommend using a rowing machine if you haven’t OK’d it with your doctor and/or physiotherapist. I can’t give you any medical advice as you can surely understand. As you are surely aware, rowing as a movement involves the shoulder joint so you need to make sure you are not causing additional harm to your shoulder joint. Good luck with strengthening your shoulder, it’s remarkable what our bodies can heal given enough time!

  3. Rowers have been approved, I’m just trying to find one that will let me start out slower. Right now one of the primary exercises they have me doing involves rowing using elastic bands, just looking for a longer term solution.


    • A low resistance rower like the Mercy one might do the trick then, but like I said, you should clear it with your doctor since you’ve had extensive surgery done. Good luck with the rehabilitation!

  4. I am 79 and do three 28 minute indoor rows, incorporating intervals, a week on my Concept II machine (40 year old machine?). Also a in constant A. Fib patient. I am trying to identify workout guidance oriented to my age. Any suggestions? Thanks. John E.

    • Way to go John! I have no doubt that your routine has helped you stay fit and healthy. Just goes to show how durable the Concept II machines actually are. The truth is that in your age it’s very important to include medical considerations when planning your exercise routine. You should work with your physician and a qualified coach to create a fitness program that’s optimal for health in your age.

  5. Hello, your article is VERY helpful. I’ve also been looking at the LIT Method. The price tag is a bit heavy and it offers videos ($25/month) for workouts, can be folded and has a great warranty. I’m a bit reluctant b/c it doesn’t have any metrics to monitor progress i.e., I rowed 2 miles Monday and 2.5 miles Tuesday, etc. I, like many people, have become accustomed to tracking my progress. Also, as a new piece of equipment, I’m not sure of the quality and reliability – heavy price tag ($1,800) doesn’t always mean quality.
    Thank you, Suzanne

    • Glad you found the article useful Suzanne! I’m wasn’t familiar with the LIT Method but I checked it out. This post is up for an update so maybe I will review it in the future. It seems like a useful kit but to be honest the price seems very high when you consider that you can get a Concept 2 rower for less. The LIT Method does seem to offer some resistance bands for strength training but the truth is that you can do strength training with bodyweight just fine and regular resistance bands are fine as well but they don’t explain the price of the device. So at first glance I’m having a hard time understanding the price tag you mentioned. Quality and reliability is something you should expect at this price point, the Concept2 machines definitely offer that, the LIT Method might as well but needs a bit of research and long term experiences from users so only time will tell! Hope this helps with your decision.

  6. I have to use a catheter. Swinging my leg over a stationary bike was out of the question. I want something low to the ground and in a medium to lower price range. I weigh 195 and am 77 years old. Your ideas and recommendations would be highly appreciated.

    • Hi Martin! With your condition, I recommend you buy from a local sports goods store that allows you to test the rowers before deciding to buy. This way you can try different kinds of setups to find the one best for you.
      Most affordable rowers will usually hold up just fine if you are using them for light to moderate exercise a few times a week. If you are an athlete that does high-intensity workouts even occasionally, I would recommend investing in a high-quality rower. They offer more resistance and are more robust. Have you looked into recumbent exercise bikes? Maybe you could find a model that could work with the catheter?


Leave a Comment