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Every rowing machine allows you to do a full-body workout that builds lean muscle and elevates your heart rate. However, some of these machines work better for individuals that are taller while feeling uncomfortable for those who are short, so it’s important to know what to look for as you shop. Is it possible to buy a rowing machine that will accommodate the height of a shorter person? Absolutely! Here are a few tips and reviews to help you find the best rowing machine for a short person.
- 1 Am I Too Short to be a Rower?
- 2 Considerations When Choosing a Rowing Machine
- 3 Important Features to Look for in a Rower for Short People
- 4 Best Air Rower Reviews for Short People
- 5 Magnetic rowers
- 6 Hydraulic Rowing Machine
- 7 Water Rowers
- 8 Short Olympic Rowers
Top rowing machine for short people
Waterrower Rowing machine
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801
Am I Too Short to be a Rower?
Not at all! While you may have noticed that most members of a rowing crew are quite tall, it doesn’t mean that shorter people can’t row quite well. Many coaches take the easy way out and pick only tall people for their team while citing power as the main factor.
There is a slight advantage to being tall in competitive rowing because taller people have longer arms and legs and are generally heavier, which means that they can generate more power through their longer strokes. This then means that they can help move their boat a longer distance in the same amount of time than short people can.
However, short rowers tend to compensate for this by adjusting their movements and being more flexible. Flexibility is key because that allows you to make adjustments to your body movements and strokes. Short people can also compete in the many lightweight events if they qualify in the weight department.
When using a rowing machine for fitness or training, the right one can aid a short rower so that there’s no discomfort during or after a session. However, a machine that is only designed for taller individuals can hamper fitness or training efforts and can even cause someone to quit rowing altogether.
Most of the home rowing machines on the market can be used by short people. It’s just important to do your research to find out which of them have limitations to their design.
Considerations When Choosing a Rowing Machine
There are a few areas that can be a problem when performing proper rowing strokes. The effect is mostly seen in the rower’s legs and hands, which in turn can cause backaches, according to many short rowers.
Inefficient Momentum with Leg Push Off
The catch phase of rowing is at the front of the machine. It is where your body is folded up after finishing a complete forward stroke and ready to push off to move backward. A “stop” is a small barrier that prevents the seat from moving beyond that point and a rower will have one stop in the front and one at the back.
During the catch phase, your legs will be close to your chest so you can get ready to push off. In some rowing machines, this can be a problem for short people if the stop is positioned too far from the front because the seat won’t go forward far enough for you to get the correct movement. When your seat won’t move far enough forward, then your legs won’t be able to get close enough to your chest, plus your shins won’t be in the correct vertical position.
Then, as you start the drive phase, which is when you’re pushing yourself backward, you can’t get the full effect of your push-off since your legs won’t be completely bent. This causes less efficient strokes and inadequate acceleration and will limit your full range of motion, which adversely affects your workout.
The way to go around this problem is to treat the push-off as an explosive jump squat where you push yourself backward with your heels as hard as possible. While the problem of the seat stopping too far short of the front affects tall and short people, it can be particularly problematic for short folk, as you’ll expend more energy than taller people would in order to push off harder. Being flexible helps a lot here. However, try to make your movements as smooth as possible or you’ll risk injury in the long term.
Incorrect Foot Ergonomics
At the catch phase, your feet should be in the correct position on the pedals to push off properly, or you could suffer foot strain in the long term.
Less Acceleration and Power at the Back
In addition to potentially losing acceleration at the catch phase, you may also lose some at the finish phase, which comes at the end of the drive phase at the back of the monorail. This is because short rowers will end the drive phase before reaching the very end and thus run out of pull length early. This means less acceleration and therefore less power. In order to compensate, you will need to lean your torso farther back.
Unnatural Hand Postion
Also in the finish phase, you may not be able to control the height of the rowing handles, which tends to happen on hydraulic-piston rowers. Since they have fixed handles, you won’t be able to pull them back just under your chest, you will only be able to pull them back to where it allows, which for short people can be as high as your shoulders. This can cause pain in your shoulders as well as an inefficient workout.
Important Features to Look for in a Rower for Short People
To work well for a shorter individual and avoid the potential problems mentioned above, the design of the rower must be able to accommodate short people. The following are a few things you will want to look for:
- The seat rail should have a design that will move far enough forward that it allows for you to have a full range of motion.
- The monitors must be accessible and viewable without you needing to move.
- The knobs and buttons that adjust the resistance need to be accessible without you needing to move.
- The footrests should be able to swivel a little to allow a smaller individual to use them ergonomically.
In addition to the above features, you should also look at the other ones that make for a good rower in general. Our rowing machine buyer’s guide will help you with that.
Our top picks for rowers for a short person are categorized under air rowers, magnetic rowers, hydraulic rowers, and water rowers.
Best Air Rower Reviews for Short People
Concept 2 Model D
One of the best selling rowing machines on the market, the Concept 2 Model D offers dependable performance and is a versatile machine used by elite athletes for competitive training. Offering low-impact exercise accessibility to anyone of any age, this rowing machine allows you to measure your progress on the Performance Monitor 5 using comparable, reliable data on each stroke.
Offering three workout options for time, distance and intervals, it comes with an easy to read backlit LCD PM5 display that you can see no matter how short you are. It includes ANT+ compatibility and wireless Bluetooth for apps or heart rate monitoring.
The Concept 2 Model D allows you to save your workouts onto a USB flash drive, plus it comes with games. The air-resistance flywheel will respond to each stroke, while you can also control the airflow for resistance by making an easy change of the damper through 10 available settings.
With a design that works well for shorter individuals, the Concept2 Model D includes a seat rail that will move far enough forward to accommodate shorter legs, adjustable footrests for an ergonomic push-off, and an ergonomic pull cord-style handle that allows every individual the ability to row naturally and use their full range of motion. Plus, shorter people can also easily reach the damper settings. The seat height is 14″ and the monorail length is ideal for people with inseams 38″ and under. It can accommodate up to 500 lbs.
This machine has a smooth feel, noise only from the fan, and is easy to assemble. Just 8 screws and it’s ready. When you’re done with your workout, the caster wheels allow you to easily wheel it out of the way. If you don’t have the space to let it be as is, it can be taken apart into two pieces for storage.
Stamina ATS Air Rower 1399
Versatile and affordable, the Stamina ATS Air Rower 1399 offers wind-based resistance that is intuitive and can adapt to your preferred intensity and pace thanks to the dynamic air resistance design. This is the simplest way to operate, as you get a wide range of intensity by just increasing or decreasing the pace of your rowing stroke. It is not a rower for anyone who’s planning on competing, but if you need it for exercise, it is a great value for money air-resistance rower.
Easily track your training results with the multi-function LCD monitor that displays your time, distance, speed, and estimated calories burned that is easy to see no matter what your height is.
This is a smooth and comfortable workout that uses an over-sized and angled gliding seat rail, a comfortably padded seat, and pivoting footplates that include nylon straps you can adjust. The rowing handle is also attached by a nylon strap. Its design is good for short to medium-height people, whereas very tall people will find that they can’t get a full extension even though the actual rail length is very long. There is one thing to note, however; some users have complained that they can’t get far enough forward so that their shins are vertical at the catch position. It is possible to remove the stop so that you go right to the start of the rail, but the manufacturer does not recommend this.
The anti-skid end caps help to protect the floor, the wheels allow you to move it away when done, and the machine can be folded for storage. Its frame is made of sturdy steel and the maximum user weight capacity is 250 lbs.
Stamina 35-1402 ATS Air Rower
For a few dollars more, you could get a more comfortable seat and nicer looking frame with the Stamina 35-1402 ATS Air Rower.
This air-resistance machine is almost identical in function to the ATS 1399 but the seat is more comfortable for all people. The display monitor also displays stroke rate, which is helpful for training.
This rower’s frame and flywheel cage are made of aluminum and have a steel and chrome finish. It also has a slightly smaller footprint while being a touch heavier. The suggested user height range is 4’9″ to 6’4″, which makes it a good pick for shorter individuals.
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515
Featuring a digital monitor, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 will display your calories, stroke count, total stroke count, and time. It features adjustable magnetic resistance of 8 levels, which allows your workout to stay effective and challenging. As you turn the knob from 1 to 8, the magnet moves closer to the drum, thereby increasing resistance. The monitor keeps track of your progress. Many users say that the resistance is great on this machine and that even very fit rowers can stay in the 5 level range.
The SF-RW5515 has a good range of motion for shorter individuals. With an extra-long slide rail that accommodates a 44″ inseam, this rower’s weight capacity is 250 lbs. The whole family can use this machine – even pre-teens. The non-slip foot pedals make sure you have safe footing during your workout while the foot straps keep your feet secure, so you won’t feel unbalanced, especially if you have shorter legs. The cushioned seat provides a comfortable experience rowing without having to sacrifice support. The non-slip handlebars feature soft padded foam grips.
The included floor stabilizers prevent wobbling, and the built-in transportation wheels make it easy to move and roll without worrying about muscle strain or heavy lifting. It also easily folds up for storage.
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW580 is a slightly more advanced model than the RW5515 and comes with a bottle holder and device holder.
The foam padded handlebars are textured to be slip-resistant and are attached by nylon straps. Featuring oversized pivoting foot pedals with adjustable straps, this machine promotes a powerful push that helps to work out your leg muscles. Plus, the sweat-resistant and large seat helps to support you during a long exercise session so that you can stay focused and comfortable. It glides along a 43″ steel rail that’s great for shorter users but those above 6′ will find it too short. The heavy-duty frame can hold up to 285 lb and you’ll feel stable on any floor surface once you adjust the rubber foot stabilizers.
The SF-RW580 allows you to control your workout using 16 levels of magnetic tension that you can adjust with just a turn of the knob. The included digital display is easy to read and displays your calories burned, speed, time, count per minute, and total count.
Transportation wheels are built-in, making this machine easy to move, and it can also be folded up for easy storage.
Hydraulic Rowing Machine
Stamina 35-0123 InMotion Foldable Rowing Exercise Machine
If space is an issue, then a hydraulic rower going to be th emost compact option of all. Compact, inexpensive and easy to use, the Stamina 35-0123 InMotion Rower is a convenient way to get in your cardio and total body strengthening needs. Most hydraulic piston rowers come with two pistons and double rowing arms. However, this one works on a single piston and a single center positioned rowing arm. This helps keep its weight down to just 27 pounds even though its construction is solid steel. It can support up to 250 pounds.
This rower offers five levels of resistance which can be adjusted by setting the piston notch higher or lower on the rowing arm. The single-piston design also helps keep your strokes smooth and even, which is not always the case when it comes to dual-piston rowers. While advanced rowers won’t find it very challenging, the rail is at a slight incline going backward, so the added effort needed to push off provides a good leg workout for beginner and intermediate users.
It includes a multi-function monitor that’s mounted on the rowing arm. It displays calories burned, distance, strokes per minute, and workout time.
The oversized pivoting footplates increase your range of motion, while the large padded and upholstered seat is comfortable for long workouts. The handlebar is foam-padded, but because it is fixed on the rowing arm, you may want to wear workout gloves to prevent blisters. Tall users may find that the handlebar ends up too low on the torso in the finish phase but shorter users will find it at an ideal height.
The Stamina InMotion Rower doesn’t come with transport wheels, but it’s not hard even for a smaller person to move the unit around thanks to its lightweight design. It doesn’t fold up but it stands on one end for storage.
Waterrower Rowing machine
At the top of the class for water rowers is the Waterrower Natural Rowing machine. It is a worthy competitor to the Concept 2 and even has some advantages over it. The name “Natural” comes from the fact that it is made of solid Ash Wood and stained Honey Oak. This helps it do a great job in absorbing sound and vibration for quiet performance and smooth operation. Ash wood is a premium wood known for its high durability. It is so strong that its maximum weight capacity is 700 lbs!
The water resistance provided here operates in a similar way to air resistance rowers but instead of blades spinning in an air cage, they spin in a water tank. This type of rower gives you the closest experience to actually rowing a boat. The WaterRower consists of two paddles in a completely enclosed water tank. As you row faster, the resistance increases, so you are in control of the intensity of your workout.
You can also control the intensity by increasing or decreasing the amount of water in the tank, as this makes rowing feel heavier or lighter. However, this is not something that needs to be done regularly – just test the feel the first time and fill water to that level every time. Changing the water is only necessary every 5-6 months. You only need to add purification tablets to the tank to prevent algae from forming.
There are no moving parts that need lubricating or maintenance, as there is no wear and tear around them. There is no front stop on the sliding rail, so short users have plenty of room to fully utilize the rail length. It accommodates a 37″ inseam, which most users up to 6’7″ say is fine. There is an optional extender available for people taller than this, but there is an XL model available too.
The molded padded seat is comfortable and sits 12″ above the ground and you can buy optional high risers that increase it by 8″ if you have difficulty getting off and on. The handle is made of lightweight aluminum with a teardrop shape that’s easy to grip.
The S4 monitor has information and programming windows, quick select buttons, and navigation buttons It displays stroke rate, heart rate, intensity, zone bar, duration, and distance. It is compatible with an optional ANT+ heart rate chest strap and receiver.
The rower has dual caster wheels for moving it around and you can stand it on its head in a corner for storage.
Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge
Making your workouts challenging and engaging, the Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge offers a steady and smooth rowing experience using water resistance and is designed to provide accurately tracked workout metrics. The 16 paddle blades give you a dynamic response and unlimited resistance to the harmonious interaction with water and provides a unique experience for the user. Making your workouts challenging and engaging, the Obsidian Surge offers a steady and smooth rowing experience.
The rower features a padded and molded seat that is comfortable. The entire steel frame is set quite high of the ground, so getting on and off is easy. Floor stabilizers on the feet keeps it from wobbling even when you’re rowing your hardest. The water tank is made of polycarbonate plastic.
The high-density non-marking rubber wheels make transporting the machine easy, and you can store it in an upright position when you aren’t using it. This machine has a 300-pound max user weight and a maximum user inseam length of 38 inches.
The R2 fitness monitor display showcases all metrics to help you achieve your personal fitness goals, including 500 M time, total time, strokes per minute, total strokes, calories and ambient temperature. It is also compatible with ANT+ heart rate belts or watches, so you can track your pulse rate.
Short Olympic Rowers