Rowing provides a lot of health benefits when done properly and consistently. Aside from being a great cardio exercise that strengthens the heart, it also works out almost the whole body with low impact on the knees and other joints. However, outdoor rowing is not easily accessible for all. This is where rowing machines come into use. There are different types of indoor rowing machines based on the type of resistance used, but for home use, the best option for you is the magnetic type.
Magnetic rowing machines are particularly popular for the smooth and quiet strokes as opposed to the traditional air rower, and more convenient portability compared to water rowing machines. Magnetic rowers even offer multiple resistance levels you can choose from. You can also modify your workouts by rowing at varied levels for a high-intensity interval training. No matter your fitness level and goal, with a magnetic rower you can easily scale the intensity of your workouts.
Some common features among magnetic rowing machines are the knob control for the resistance levels and a digital monitor to track your workout metrics like time, stroke count, and calories burned. Higher-end models even come with smart features for more convenience. Below is a table of the eight best magnetic rowing machines on the market today.
Summary of the Best Magnetic Rowing Machine
|Model||Dimensions||Weight Capacity||Resistance Levels||Other Features|
|Fitness Reality 1000 PLUS||21.5 x 88.5 x 21.5 inches||250 lbs||14||Bluetooth|
Foldable with wheels
|Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801||23 x 77 x 22.5 inches||285 lbs||16||Foldable with wheels|
|YOSUDA H-187||27.6 x 74.8 x 19.3 inches||350 lbs||16||Foldable with wheels|
Long inseam dual rail
|Echanfit R49 Magnetic Rower||50.4 x 86.5 x 22 inches||250 lbs||26||Foldable with wheels|
22” touchscreen display
30-Day iFIT membership
|Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515||19 x 78 x 23.2 inches||250 lbs||8||Foldable with wheels|
|Xterra ERG200||20.7 x 71.9 x 31.5 inches||250 lbs||8||Foldable with wheels|
|Dripex Magnetic Rower||20.87 x 63.58 x 34.25 inches||265 lbs||16||Upright storageSturdy build|
|Avari Stamina Magnetic Rower||20 x 81 x 24.5 inches||275 lbs||12||Foldable with wheels|
InTouch Fitness LCD monitor
with built-in fitness app
Best Magnetic Rowing Machines
Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Magnetic Rowing Machine
Usually costing $200 to $300, the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus is a true budget option for magnetic rowers. It gives you every basic feature in a magnetic rowing machine but nothing particularly well-designed. It has a 48-inch rail with an inseam of 39 inches that is suitable for users of up to 6’6″ height with a maximum weight capacity of 250 pounds.
Unlike other budget-priced magnetic rowers, Fitness Reality provides a more varied resistance choice with 14 resistance levels. The LCD monitor displays the time and distance rowed, total count of strokes, calories burned, and number of strokes per minute. It only has one button that allows you to pick what to display, or you can choose scan mode to roll through each of these stats every five seconds.
What sets this model apart from other similarly priced magnetic rowing machines is the additional feature of Bluetooth capability. When you enable the Bluetooth connection, you can sync the machine with the MyCloudFitness app on your mobile device. It allows you to see all of your data from the rower including the time spent, distance rowed, and calories burned. It also tracks your workouts and goals from all Bluetooth-enabled fitness devices synced with the app. You can use the MyCloudFitness app for free with limited features or you can purchase a Premium subscription. You can place your phone or tablet on the device holder.
This rower can be stored away without problems with its wheels and foldable rail. The seat and footholds are comfortable enough, and the stabilizer is sturdy with additional foot pads that allow you to perform more exercises for the upper body. All features and design are pretty basic and the machine itself does well enough in most aspects. It’s a good choice for almost anyone at any level of fitness, unless of course you’re looking for more professional training.
• Fourteen magnetic resistance levels
• Bluetooth capable with free app to track workouts
• Sturdy and durable build
• Affordable price
• Designed to perform additional workouts
• “Free app” doesn’t have many benefits besides tracking
• Bluetooth can sometimes have connection issues
• Poor quality, small LCD monitor
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Magnetic Rowing Machine
Sunny Health & Fitness offers a wide selection of fitness equipment for every fitness level, age, and goal. The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 is another budget-friendly magnetic rower among the brand’s range of rowing equipment. It’s lightweight and easy to assemble, making it a good option for a home gym. The heavy-duty beam can accommodate up to 285 pounds, with a side rail inseam of 43 inches which can fit most anyone up to 6’6” height.
This affordable magnetic rower also comes with the basic LCD monitor so you can track your time of your workout, how many strokes, and the calories you burn. It has three buttons to operate the display (set, reset, and mode) and personalize your training by putting your desired settings into the monitor, including the calories and duration for your session. Although the LCD monitor leaves much to be desired, you can simply place your phone or tablet on the device stand and use your preferred rowing app. You also have a bottle holder to keep yourself hydrated.
What’s great about this budget model is it offers even more resistance levels, with your choice of 16 settings. From slow aerobic exercises to high-intensity interval training, the Sunny Health & Fitness magnetic rower is a versatile machine. It comes with a wide, cushioned seat and a non-slip handlebar to ensure your comfort and help maintain your form. It’s also built with large foot pedals and floor stabilizers so you can paddle away without wobbling.
By itself, this rower amounts to 49.6 pounds, light enough to be carried and moved anywhere. It’s also foldable with built-in wheels for easy storage. The SF-RW5801 is a best-seller for a reason. Overall, it has most of the features you may need in an indoor rowing machine. For those who want more smart features, you can upgrade to another Sunny Health & Fitness model that works with their SunnyFit app for automatic tracking. If you’re looking for more advanced and personalized trainings, prepare to spend a little more than a few hundred bucks.
• Sixteen magnetic resistance levels
• Affordable price
• Ergonomic seat design
• Easy assembly
• No data for distance rowed
• Poor quality display
NordicTrack RW900 Smart Rower
For those who can afford a higher-end rowing machine, NordicTrack offers top-of-the-line exercise equipment for all your fitness needs. The RW900 smart magnetic rower is packed with features including personal training sessions, live on-demand rowing workouts, and global rowing locations presented on a 22-inch HD interactive touchscreen. All features are available provided you have an iFit membership.
What’s special about this NordicTrack rower (besides its smart features) is the hybrid resistance type, combining magnetic and the traditional air-powered resistance. You can adjust the magnetic resistance system in 26 digital levels and manually control the air resistance to increase the intensity of your workout. The AutoAdjust feature allows your trainer to adjust the resistance remotely during sessions. The audio is also Bluetooth compatible so you can listen to your trainer more clearly.
Despite its heavy build, this magnetic rower allows you to enjoy smooth and quiet strokes. It comes with a molded seat, ergonomic handle, and large pivoting pedals. It has a maximum user weight capacity of 250 pounds and also folds in half for easy storage. The heavy-duty steel frame is guaranteed a 10-year warranty with two years on parts and one year on labor.
Overall, the NordicTrack RW900 is packed with amazing features if you want to take your rowing workouts and additional trainings very seriously. Unfortunately, as you can guess, all these features come at a very expensive price and requires an iFit subscription to access everything, including personal training and live workouts. A purchase of the rower includes only 30 days of iFit family membership for up to five people. After that you need to pay a monthly or yearly fee to be able to use your rower to its full potential. So if you’re only looking for basic rowing, this model may be too big an investment for you.
• Works with iFit to access training programs
• Comes with 22-inch touchscreen
• Versatile workout options with 26 resistance levels
• Longer warranty on frame
• Requires iFit membership to access most features
• Premium price
YOSUDA H-187 Magnetic Rowing Machine
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty sturdy rowing machine that can still fit in a limited budget then you can look to the Yosuda H-187 magnetic rower. Built with commercial-grade steel frame and 49.2-inch long slide rail, this durable rowing machine can accommodate users over 350 pounds and 6’6″ in height. The aluminum slide rail ensures quiet and stable movement.
The included 12-pound flywheel and 16 high-quality neodymium magnets provides higher intensity with adjustable magnetic resistance levels. No matter your fitness level, whether you’re already strong and fit, or coming back from a break, you can find your desired resistance setting from the 16 levels of resistance available by turning the knob on the console. This rowing machine features a basic LCD monitor that shows the distance rowed, stroke count, time spent, and calories burned, or cycle through all these values in scan mode.
This model features an ergonomic cushioned seat, large non-slip pedals, and an ergonomic padded handlebar with reinforced nylon rope. You also have a built-in device holder so you can stream rowing workouts from your tablet. The added water bottle holder allows you to rehydrate after your workout. Finally, the Yosuda rower is also foldable and has large transport wheels make for easy movement and storage.
• Heavy-duty quality at an affordable price
• Longer slide rail perfect for taller people
• 12lb flywheel for added resistance
• Basic display quality
• Not a lot of reviews for this model
Xterra ERG200 Rower
Xterra is another well-known brand of home fitness equipment. For absolute beginners in rowing, the Xterra ERG200 magnetic rower is a good entry-level machine that can handle the most basic workouts. If you’re simply looking to burn some calories on your downtime, rowing on the Xterra ERG200 gives you a more well-rounded workout compared to running on a treadmill, for example. It is designed to work with users from 5’1” to 6’4” height and the alloy steel rail can handle up to 250 pounds.
Like most budget-priced rowing machines, the Xterra offers eight levels of resistance. Although may feel some difference between these levels, it may not be enough to challenge experienced rowers. This is because the flywheel is relatively light at only six pounds. This magnetic rowing is not designed for intense training sessions. You might even notice some wobbling or unsteady movement when you row at higher resistance levels.
The Xterra ERG200 has the essential features such as the digital monitor that shows basic workout metrics like the elapsed time, count, calories burned, total count, and distance traveled, with an option to scan through all of them. You can also adjust the angle of the monitor for easier viewing while you move.
Like any other magnetic rower, this Xterra model works quietly and folds easily for storage. If you’re around average height, this compact rower should be a good fit for homes with limited floor space. It comes with a one-year warranty, which is to be expected in a budget rower.
• Compact footprint
• Lightweight and easy to assemble
• Affordable price
• Limited resistance levels
• Not for tall people
Dripex Magnetic Rowing Machine
The Dripex magnetic rowing machine guarantees sturdiness and additional support with the triangular rear stabilizer and adjustable metal floor pads. It unique double sliding rail with aluminum frame and shock absorber further reduces pressure to provide smooth and quiet movement any time. It’s recommended for users up to 265 pounds and 6’2” height.
It has 15 levels of magnetic resistance you can adjust with a twist of the knob. Set it at levels 1 to 5 is for general aerobic exercise, levels 6 to 10 for fitness and weight loss, and 11 to 15 for more intense strength training. The different levels add variety to your exercises and make the rower useful for different users at any level of fitness.
The machine includes an anti-slip handlebar and a molded seat for increased comfort. The textured footplates and adjustable straps should keep your feet in the right position on each stroke. The console also includes an adjustable monitor with all the usual functions. There is a tiny LCD screen to view the distance, time, calories, count, and total count, as well as scan mode to view everything in sequence.
The Dripex magnetic rower is not foldable like most other models. It rotates around the front stabilizer for upright storage. This may save space for storage but it can hard to move due to the heavy, sturdy build.
• Fifteen levels of resistance
• Added sturdy and durable design
• Smaller footprint in storage
• The display is very small
• May be too heavy to move without wheels
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515
Another pick from Sunny Health & Fitness, the SF-RW5515 magnetic rowing machine is one of the best-selling budget options you can find on Amazon. With a very long 48″ slide rail, this magnetic rower can accommodate people with an inseam up to 44 inches or over 6’7” in height. Also, the steel frame has a maximum user weight capacity of 250 pounds.
The SF-RW5515 offers eight levels of magnetic resistance that can be simply adjusted with a easy twist of a knob, giving you a challenge perfect for beginners to more advanced trainers. This no-frills magnetic rower has all of the basic features most people need. It has a digital monitor that displays your total workout time, calories burned, current count, and total count, or alternates between these metrics every few seconds in scan mode. Like the other Sunny Health & Fitness rower above, this model doesn’t measure the distance you row.
This machine features textured non-slip foot pedals with large foot straps to keep your feet planted, and an ergonomic cushioned seat to keep you comfortable even through your most arduous workouts. The soft foam-padded handlebars provide a sure grip, while the floor stabilizers secure the steel frame to prevent rocking or swaying on any surface.
This magnetic rowing machine has the foldability and built-in transportation wheels you need to lift and move the machine into storage. The seat rail simply folds up to save space. While this model gives you everything you need at a budget price, we can’t ignore that it has fewer resistance levels than similarly priced rowing machines.
• Extra long seat rail
• Affordable price
• Amazon bestseller
• Not as many resistance levels as similar machines
Avari Magnetic Rowing Machine
For those who are not quite experienced yet but want to get more from their rowing machine, a good mid-range option is this Stamina Avari programmable magnetic rower. It has most of the features you can find in the most expensive options at a greatly reduced price. The aluminum rowing beam supports weight up to 275 pounds.
The best features of this magnetic rower are the included 12 preset workout programs and heart rate monitor using a chest strap. There are 12 workout programs including six cardio profiles, one manual, four custom user programs, and one heart rate program that allow automatic adjustment of resistance levels based on the program. However, it becomes a problem when you just want to perform some basic rowing. You have a backlit InTouch Fitness LCD monitor, which shows the time, count, distance, calories, strokes per minute, watt, pulse, and program selected. Avari also icludes free access to müüv, a smart audio coaching app for personalized audio workouts.
When not in use, this compact rower can be folded away for storage. The padded seat and handle add comfort for the user and the low-profile angled design targets the lower body. As you might expect, the display quality can hardly be compared to that of higher-end products. It’s not particularly impressive by any account, but it’s a good middle option if you want more than just basic rowing.
• Comes with included chest strap for heart rate monitoring
• Includes 12 programs and 6 programmable user profiles
• Compact footprint
• Low-profile design not ideal for all floor types
• Small screen with poor display quality
What is a Magnetic Rowing Machine and How Does it Work?
A rowing machine is an equipment used indoors to mimic the act of rowing a boat on water. It provides all the benefits of rowing as an exercise from the comfort of your own home. Rowing machines offer a low-impact cardiovascular exercise and full-body workout that can be modified for various fitness levels. They come in different types classified by the resistance mechanism they use, namely, air, magnetic, water, and hydraulic.
Magnetic rowing machines are considered the best option for home use. As you can probably guess, this type uses strong magnets in the flywheel to create resistance. The closer the magnets to the flywheel, the greater the resistance. Unlike most other types, with a magnetic rower the user can easily change the level of resistance with a knob or digital controls, allowing you to modify your workouts.
The essential parts of a magnetic rowing machine are the flywheel, rail, seat, handle, and footrest. Rowing machines also include an LCD monitor that tracks your progress and displays time, distance, calories, and heart rate. They are usually foldable with wheels to help you move the machine and store it when not in use.
A traditional air rower provides a wide range of resistance levels, but the constant dragging of the air through the flywheel can be extremely noisy. While this may not be a big deal in a gym, this can cause a problem with your household and neighbors if you want to get some training done at home. A magnetic rower creates a smooth rowing action that is also very quiet.
Benefits of Magnetic Rowing Machines
Rowing is a total body workout and cardiovascular exercise that helps improve strength and endurance. Investing in a magnetic rowing machine gives you all the benefits of rowing without leaving your home or paying for a gym membership.
Rowing Improves Power and Endurance
Rowing combines both aerobic exercise and strength training to help build power endurance efficiently. Power is the maximum amount of force you exert in a very short amount of time as in explosive jumping or hitting a punching bag. Building muscular power uses strength to overcome resistance, like your leg muscles pushing your body back and your arm muscles pulling the handle when you row.
On the other hand, endurance is the ability to sustain an activity for an extended period of time as in running or skipping. Building endurance takes both time and effort — you need to put more effort gradually for longer and longer periods. Rowing involves repeated movements and thus builds both cardiovascular and muscular endurance.
Magnetic rowing machines provide a low-impact workout at your desired intensity. As opposed to running which can wear down the knees, rowing spares your joints and tendons from injury or strain. Rowing involves a seated position and a fluid motion that works different sets of muscles. Proper rowing form also helps build a stronger core.
However, you may still experience soreness after rowing, a normal response of your body after you’ve worked hard, which means your muscles are in recovery. Joint pain and injury mainly come from aerobic exercise that is high impact and can leave a lasting, negative effect on your body.
Rowing Strengthens the Heart
Any cardiovascular exercise has incredible benefits for the health, specifically the cardiovascular system. This includes the heart, blood, and blood vessels which transport oxygen throughout the body.
Rowing is a low-impact cardio exercise that can quickly get your heart rate up and keep it there while you’re in constant motion. As you row, your heart works harder to pump blood throughout your body, making it get stronger, which can help reduce the risks of heart diseases. In addition, rowing releases a hormone called endorphin which is a natural pain and stress reliever.
Rowing is a Full Body Workout
As mentioned, rowing uses different muscle groups. Unlike running (on a treadmill or otherwise) or (stationary) biking which both target only your lower body, rowing engages almost every muscle group in your body, including your quadriceps, calves, and gluteus maximus, as well as your pectorals, biceps, abs, obliques, and upper back.
In specific, your quads, glutes, and hamstrings work hard to push back your body as you extend your knees and hips, while your lower back muscles work to support your spine. Also, your latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius work to pull your arms back while your biceps bend your elbows. In addition, your deltoids and core provides stability and support while the rhythmic action and coordination also challenges your brain.
Good for All Fitness Levels
Rowing machine workouts can be scaled to your desired intensity based on your health and fitness level. The harder you pull, the harder the workout will be. So if you don’t pull as hard, the workout will be much easier. If you’re a beginner, you can take it easy and use a rower as a gentle aerobic workout or for recovery. Magnetic rowing machines also offer adjustable resistance levels suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced cardio and strength training exercises.
Versatile Workout Equipment
You can use your rowing machine in many different ways to target specific muscle regions or work out the whole body in one fell swoop. You can modify your rowing workouts according to your fitness goals to ensure you never get bored.
For a basic aerobic exercise, you can slow down your pace and take long rows. Or you can pick up the pace for high-intensity interval training and combine it with bodyweight exercises for overall fat burning and muscle strengthening.
Factors to Consider When Shopping for a Magnetic Rower
Choosing your own rowing machine for your home gym can be an arduous task if you don’t know what to look for. You must unedrstand your body’s fitness level and any goals you may be trying to achieve. If you’re buying a machine for home use, you must have a dedicated space for using and storing it. Magnetic rowers can be quite the investment, so you should take the following considerations before you make a purchase.
Traditional air rowers usually don’t have selectable resistance settings like other cardio equipment. Using only air, the air is dragged through the flywheel and creates resistance. As the user rows, the resistance fluctuates based on the pace which changes the amount of air being sucked into the flywheel. While there’s also a damper to control the amount of air going in and out, there are no exact resistance settings that determine your training level.
With a magnetic rower, you have multiple resistance settings you can choose from. This allows you to pick the exact resistance level you want each time you train so you can track your progress and improvement. Whether you’re using a rower for basic aerobic exercise or more intense strength training, make sure you choose a rowing machine with enough levels of resistance for varied workouts. Budget options usually only have eight resistance levels, while the mid-range to high-end models offer up to 16 levels or more.
Rowing machines take up a bit of space when assembled and you need to make sure the model you pick can fit within your space when you’re using it or when it’s in storage. At the same time, you need to consider the length of the rail that is suitable for the height of the user. If you’re around average height or shorter, then most any rail length may be good enough for you. But if you’re taller, like 6’4” or higher, then you may need a longer rail made specifically for taller people.
The length of rail is important because if the rail is short, you will not be able to fully extend your legs. If you’re taller, look for a rower with a longer rail, like the NordicTrack model or the Yosuda if you’re on a budget. However, the drawback to a longer rowing machine is of course it’s going to take up more space for storage.
If you’re going to be using the rower daily, then you might want to leave it out. But if you have limited space to move around, opt for a rowing machine that you can fold easily to fit into a narrow space.
Design and Comfort
Magnetic rowing machines from different brands feature most of the same design, but the frame and structure have capacities for the maximum user weight they can handle. Besides your height, your bodyweight will determine the best choice of rower for you. The maximum weight differs for each model. Most of the smaller rowing machines can only support up to 250 pounds, while more high-end, robust models have a maximum weight capacity of over 300 pounds.
Aside from the length and height of the rail, you should also look at factors such as the seat, handle, and foot pedals to ensure your comfort. The seat must be contoured and large enough to support your back and help maintain proper form. If necessary, you can purchase a cushion to add comfort. The handlebar is usually padded with foam to give you a better grip and the foot pedals include large straps to keep your feet in perfect position.
Finally, you should also consider the extra features when choosing your magnetic rowing machine. Most models include at least a basic LCD monitor that allows you to track your progress including the time, distance, and calories burned. The size and position of the screen can also provide greater convenience for the user. Although it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, it may be better to go with a larger, backlit screen so you can see your progress on the display more easily while you’re in motion.
Mid-range products may also include a heart rate monitor. If you’re only looking to do basic rowing exercises, then you can pick any rower that fits. In case you want to watch a guided workout, you can simply use your phone or tablet if your rower has a device holder. Some higher end models may also include built-in workout programs to target specific fitness aspects. If you’re really committed, you can get trainer-guided workouts for a small membership fee. Of course, the more advanced the features, the higher the price, so you should really consider whether you will be using all these features before you buy a magnetic rower.
According to many health experts online, rowing is better than running. This is because it entails a full-body workout. Jogging and sprinting only require the power of your legs.