If you are looking for an exercise machine that can deliver a full body workout without disturbing neighbors, friends or family—this article could be for you.
I will show you the best magnetic rowing machine on the market and give you the background on these powerful home exercise tools. After reading, you’ll have all the information you need to make the right choice.
What Is a Magnetic Rowing Machine?
The “magnetic” part refers to how resistance is created in the rowing machine.
Rowing machines require resistance. If they didn’t have it, using the machine would not only be too easy, it would also provide an ineffective workout.
Resistance allows the user to push the body harder and increase intensity as fitness levels increase. This means that you don’t reach a level where the rowing machine fails to provide benefits.
In a magnetic rowing machine, the “pulling” action causes a flywheel to spin. Generally, if the resistance setting is increased, magnets move closer to the flywheel—as it is lowered they move further away.
These magnets generate eddy currents which act on the flywheel, forcing it to slow down. Think of it as lightly applying the brakes on a bicycle. Although you can still pedal, the effort required is much harder. (1)
The difference is, in a magnetic rowing machine, there is no direct contact with the brake as there is in bicycles. It is all done through magnetism. Here is an informative video which shows the eddy current brake in action.
What Are the Benefits of Magnetic Rowing Machines?
Whatever the type of rowing machine you use (air, hydraulic, water or magnetic), generally they all provide the same health benefits. They are highly efficient at pushing all the major muscle groups in the body to work hard—chest, arms, legs, shoulders, glutes and back.
However, there are some benefits that are directly related to magnetic machines in particular.
Magnetic rowing machines are typically considered the quietest of all the rowers available. Although, a few die-hard hydraulic enthusiasts claim that their machines generate less noise.
Generally, it is the resistance element that generates the sound. I am sure that you know the distinctive “whoosh” sound that an air rowing machine makes with each stroke. This is the sound of the flywheel encountering resistance with the air.
However, as magnetic rowing machines use eddy currents, there is virtually no sound created. I would suggest that this makes magnetic rowing machines useful for users who don’t want to disturb others in the household. Or, who want to watch TV while exercising.
User-Defined Resistance Levels
On an air rowing machine, you cannot adjust resistance. In simple terms, the faster you row on an air machine, the more resistance is created, and vice versa.
With a magnetic rowing machine, you have the ability to predetermine your resistance. Alternatively, you can follow pre-programmed exercise workouts.
In some ways, this makes magnetic rowers more adaptable to your individual fitness level.
As mentioned above, the faster you row on an air machine, the more resistance is created and the harder the workout. While this is great in mimicking “real” rowing, it does limit your workout possibilities.
On a magnetic machine, as the resistance level is independent of speed, you can go as fast or as slow as you like—and choose how hard you want the resistance to be. For example, on a magnetic rower you can have long, slow strokes but with a high level of resistance. This is impossible on an air rower.
What to Look for in a Magnetic Rowing Machine
If the above benefits of a magnetic rowing machine sound appealing, don’t jump straight in and purchase one without reading this section. There are some important factors you should consider when selecting your ideal machine.
Depending on the particular machine, the monitor can have few or numerous functions. The most basic provide simple information such as time and calories burned. The more advanced versions provide greater detail and include pre-set workouts.
Individual workouts can be designed for developing areas such as strength, endurance or burning fat. As you exercise, resistance is automatically controlled by the machine itself, you don’t have to adjust it manually.
If you are happy to exercise to your own plan, a more basic monitor could be suitable. Alternatively, if you want the challenge of different workouts, you need a more advanced model.
LCD Screen and Controls
Information from the monitor is usually displayed on an LCD screen. When selecting your machine, think about how easy this display is to read.
Being able to clearly see your progress as you exercise can provide motivation to push yourself harder. If you have perfect 20/20 vision, a small screen may be adequate. If you are visually impaired, a larger and brighter screen may suit you better.
Also, different machines have various controls for selecting programs or increasing resistance. Some have just one simple large button, others have many smaller ones. Consider how comfortable you are with increased complexity.
Size and Weight
If you have a home gym with plenty of space, this may not be a consideration. However, if you are like me and have a home which is not so large, size should be considered. Always remember to add around 20 inches on each side of the machine, to allow you plenty of room to mount and exercise on the equipment.
Furthermore, weight could be an important factor, if it needs to be moved after use. There’s no point exercising to increase fitness and then causing yourself an injury relocating the machine.
Some magnetic rowing machines have many resistance settings, others less. Consider how adaptable you want it to be. If you are a beginner, fewer could be ideal. However, if you are a serious home fitness enthusiast and want to push yourself to the limit, more settings could be the best.
Also, check how the resistance is controlled. Some are changed electronically through the monitor, others involve turning a dial.
The Best Magnetic Rowing Machines Reviewed (Our Choices)
Here are my personal top five rowing machines available today.
Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Exercise Rower
Sleekly designed in silver and black, the Stamina Avari is a modern-looking machine. It may suit those who want function with aesthetic appeal.
A large, backlit LCD screen could make this suitable for either those people who don’t have great eyesight, or want to track their progress easily.
The Stamina Avari’s monitor includes 12 pre-programmed workouts and six different cardio profiles. In addition, it can store up to four training programs that you can create yourself. For me, it would suit the serious home fitness enthusiast who wants to push themselves hard.
This magnetic rowing machine also includes a chest strap heart monitor. It could prove attractive to people who are concentrating on increasing their aerobic capacity, allowing them to check heart rate constantly.
Resistance is controlled through the monitor, not a dial. It offers over 20 different levels depending on your ability.
The Stamina Avari is 44 inches by 30 inches by 11 inches and weighs 88 pounds. It is suitable for people weighing up to 300 pounds.
- Monitor with numerous programs that can be adjusted for the user’s requirements.
- Easy-to-read LCD screen.
- Heart rate monitor included.
- A single rear foot may make it unstable for larger people.
Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine
Measuring 37 inches by 19 inches by 53.5 inches and weighing 59 pounds, the Sunny Health & Fitness is one of the more transportable magnetic rowers. In addition, it has fitted wheels, allowing you to tilt the machine and then move easily to another location.
As it is also foldable, I feel these factors could make it appealing if you have little room in your home and wish to store it elsewhere after use.
The LCD monitor screen is fairly small, so may not be ideal for those with poor eyesight. However, the controls are simple to use, with just three buttons. It doesn’t have any pre-programmed workouts. Although, it can display the usual information of calories burned, time and distance.
The machine has eight resistance levels which are manually adjusted by turning a large dial. If you like tactile control, or are uncomfortable using electronic devices, this may suit you.
Large, sturdy pedals and a heavily cushioned seat should mean that exercising is a comfortable experience. This may encourage you to spend more time on this magnetic rower. The maximum weight capacity is 250 pounds.
- Light, small footprint, wheeled and foldable—good for smaller homes.
- Basic controls for people who like simplicity.
- No pre-programmed workout routines.
Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower
With a slimline size of 43 inches by 30 inches by 11 inches, the Velocity magnetic rower could be suitable for people who are restricted to using their equipment in a small area, such as the bedroom.
While it does have a large LCD screen, it is not backlit. If you are planning on using in low light conditions (such as while your partner is sleeping), this may not be ideal. The machine monitor has six preset workouts and a further six that can be programmed by the user.
This makes it one of the most adaptable for personal use, out of all the magnetic rowers reviewed. I would suggest it makes it a good choice for someone who wants to be in control and understands how to create their own workout regimes.
The seven different resistance levels are controlled through the monitor. This enables fast switching between modes. In addition, it can also display your heart rate which receives information from an included chest sensor.
Although weighs 75 pounds, it is foldable and has transport wheels. With this design, it could easily be concealed in a closet or pushed to the corner of the room when not in use.
The Velocity magnetic rowing machine has a weight capacity of 275 pounds.
- Highly customizable workout programs.
- Includes a heart rate monitor.
- Transportable and foldable.
- LCD screen is not backlit.
- Has fewer pre-programmed workouts than some other machines.
LifeSpan RW1000 Indoor Rowing Machine
With three individual LCD screens, this magnetic rowing machine could suit those people who demand the maximum amount of information at all times.
Many other machines have a “scan” function on the screen—this switches to display time, strokes or calories burned every few seconds. The Lifespan has the ability on its three screens to show them all at once.
Despite the ingenious display, this magnetic rowing machine cannot be programmed. Nor does it include any workout programs. There are eight levels of resistance, which are adjusted by turning a dial.
With a maximum user weight of 300 pounds, I would say that the Lifespan RW1000 would suit people who are a little larger than average.
A heavy, 16.5-pound flywheel means that performance is smooth, allowing a satisfying user experience. However, this hefty wheel does mean the foot end of the machine appears bulky.
Fully assembled, this magnetic rower measures 90 inches by 18.5 inches by 23 inches. However, it can be folded, reducing the size to 34 inches by 19 inches by 64 inches.
The Lifespan weighs 75 pounds.
- Three easy-to-read LCD displays.
- Suitable for people up to 300 pounds.
- Foldable for easy storage.
- No preset workouts.
Merax Magnetic Rower Folding Exercise Rowing Machine
The Merax magnetic rowing machine has eight levels of resistance, controlled by a large dial. However, this machine does have an interesting additional resistance feature.
The seat rail is angled at 15 degrees, meaning you are rowing on an incline. I feel this would make it attractive to people who want to take resistance to the limit, and wish to develop their leg muscles further.
The LCD screen is clear and large, although not backlit. Four “easy-press” buttons make switching between calories, time and strokes simple. However, aesthetically it does appear a little dated, so may not suit the modern tech geek. It doesn’t include any workouts.
The Merax is foldable, measures 73 inches by 16 inches by 21 inches and weighs 74 pounds.
For people who find sitting on rowing machines somewhat uncomfortable, this could be a good choice. A heavily padded, upholstered seat, together with adjustable foot plates, should make use enjoyable.
Furthermore, it has cushioned floor protectors. These are designed to prevent the machine damaging the floor during use. Therefore, I feel this may be a good feature if you have wooden or laminate flooring that is liable to dent or scratch.
- Inclined seat rail for extra resistance.
- Cushioned seat.
- Floor protectors to prevent damage.
- Dated-looking LCD screen.
- Difficult to assemble.
For a serious all-over body workout, that will not disturb friends or family, magnetic rowing machines are a good choice.
Out of all the machines reviewed above, my favorite is the Stamina Avari. With a clear, backlit LCD display it is easy to read, even when pushing yourself hard. Not only does it have pre-programmed workouts, it can also store your own fitness program, making it very adaptable.
What’s more, with over 20 different resistance levels and a heart-rate monitor, it should be ideal for people wanting to monitor aerobic function.
To be fair, I also like the incline feature of the Merax, the slimline shape of the Velocity and the three LCD displays of the Lifespan.
However, in my opinion, for all-round versatility, the modern-looking Stamina Avari is one of the best magnetic rowing machines you can buy.