When it comes to cardio, chances are you either love it or hate it, but no matter which camp you’re in, we all know how beneficial it can be.
While people will have their own favorite routines and activities for getting their cardio in, not everything is created equal.
Rowing is frequently looked upon as the king of cardio, due to how effective it is at working the entire body, unlike a bike or treadmill for example.
That’s why there are constantly new types of rowing machines hitting the market, with companies desperately trying to work out the new hook. This can only be good for users, as the competition drives innovation and leads to us constantly getting newer, more effective versions of equipment.
That brings us to the focus of today’s article, as we’ll be looking at one such innovation, the magnetic rowing machine. I’ll be breaking down their pros and cons, before helping you decide which particular magnetic rower is the right one for you.
- Why Choose A Magnetic Rower
- Limitations Of Magnetic Rowers
- How Does Magnetic Resistance Work?
- The Difference Between Electromagnetic And Manual-Magnetic Rowers
- The Top 7 Magnetic Rowing Machines
- Final Thoughts
Why Choose A Magnetic Rower
Let’s begin with the most important part, what is it that makes a magnetic rower special and sets it apart from the traditional variety.
Accurate Resistance Selection
Traditional rowers are different from most cardio machines in that they don’t have specific resistance settings.
Their resistance is generated by the air that is sucked into the flywheel. This resistance then fluctuates based on the speed at which the user rows, due to the differing amount of air being pulled in.
Sure there’s a damper on the side to allow you to adjust the vents, in turn controlling the amount of air going in and out, but there’s still no way for you to know exactly what level you’re training at from one session to the next.
With a magnetic rower, you have resistance settings more in line with other cardio machines. This enables you to pick the exact resistance you want to work at, ensuring continuity in every workout and helping you gauge your progress.
The Missing Peace
One of the biggest drawbacks of a traditional rower is just how noisy they are, as constantly dragging air through the flywheel makes quite a racket.
While this may not seem such a problem in a bustling gym, when you’re looking at equipment for home use it poses much more of an issue. The last thing you want is to get up early to fit your training in before work and have to make the choice between getting some rowing in or not having your other half mad at you all day because you woke them up.
With a magnetic rower, you won’t have to choose, as their mechanism is substantially quieter than you would find on a traditional, air powered rower. That means you can row to your heart’s content, without disturbing anyone, whether they’re sleeping, watching TV, or just after a bit of peace and quiet.
Limitations Of Magnetic Rowers
Now, as I’ve listed the benefits to magnetic rowers, it’s only fair that I also mention their limitations, so you can have the whole picture when making your decision.
Variety Is The Spice Of Life
Sometimes your biggest strength can also be your greatest weakness and that is true in the case of magnetic rowers.
One of their selling points is how quickly you can change things up. Want it to get harder, row faster. Want it easier, row slower. Fancy a bit of interval or fartlek training, go up and down as you please.
While many people will like the pre-set resistance, there are those who love the control you have on a traditional rower and, unfortunately, you do lose some of that here.
How Does Magnetic Resistance Work?
The flywheel instead features powerful magnets surrounding it that allow you to adjust the resistance manually.
When you want a greater resistance the magnets will be moved closer together and when you want an easier workout they will be moved further apart. This works as the closer two magnets are to each other, the more attraction there will be between them.
This will normally be controlled with a dial, button, or directly on the touch screen, making it very easy to adjust whenever you please.
The Difference Between Electromagnetic And Manual-Magnetic Rowers
While the difference is relatively small between electromagnetic and manual magnetic varieties, with the sort of money you’ll be spending on this type of machine it’s better to make sure you understand it so you can get exactly the right rower for you.
An electromagnetic option will be wired into the onboard computer. This means you will be able to change the resistance with either a press of a button or touch of the screen.
With the manual type, it won’t be controlled by a computer and likely won’t be wired into anything. You’ll usually find a dial, much like those you’d find on a spinning bike, to adjust it manually.
Like I said, the difference is very small, the only drawback being that you may potentially have to stop rowing to adjust a manual machine, while you could change an electromagnetic one without breaking stroke.
The Top 7 Magnetic Rowing Machines
The Hydrow Rower is part of the new wave of virtual fitness that’s currently sweeping the globe. When it comes to rowers, this is a top of the range model.
It features a computer-controlled drag system, which claims to be the closest equivalent to real rowing available from a stationary machine.
It has a highly padded seat and ergonomic design to make it comfortable to use, no matter how hard you’re training.
It also comes equipped with an array of live and on-demand classes, as well as beautiful virtual locations presented on the high definition screen to keep you occupied throughout.
As you’d expect from a rower of this type it doesn’t come cheap and, unfortunately, also needs a monthly subscription to be paid to access all the features.
When you take everything into consideration, the Hydrow is a great piece of kit but equally, you would expect nothing less given what you’ll be paying.
- Monthly subscription required
Check out our full review of the Hydrow Rower here.
Sunny Health And Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine
Sunny are a popular brand for home fitness equipment as they’re usually quite low priced, yet still of a decent quality, making them a good value purchase. This particular rower is no exception.
It features 8 different levels of resistance and a well-sized LCD screen, featuring the majority of the data you’ll require, including time, strokes and calories burned.
Best described as “cheap and cheerful” it has some limitations but none would be deal-breakers. The seat is quite squeaky, the dials look cheaply made, the seat could be more comfortable, etc etc.
At the end of the day, for the price range it’s in it does the job to a satisfactory level, particularly when considering it’s a magnetic rower. Don’t expect too much beyond the basics and it won’t let you down.
- Relatively quiet
- Good sized screen
- Squeaky seat
- Cheaply made
- Screen could provide more info
Check out our full review of the Sunny Health And Fitness SF-RW5515 here.
NordicTrack RW900 Rowing Machine
Another top of the range rower, it features a lot of the same virtual features as the Hydrow. It has online classes, personal training sessions, and virtual rowing locations powered by google maps, all presented on a 22 inch HD touchscreen.
What separates it from the pack though is that this model is what would be described in the car world as a hybrid.
That’s because it features a combination of both magnetic resistance as well as the traditional air-powered variety. The user has the option to choose between the two depending on how they want to train. It even allows a personal trainer to adjust the resistance remotely during sessions.
It’s also foldable for storage, which is a particularly nice perk considering most of you reading this will be looking at using them in your home.
Unfortunately, the drawbacks are the same as with the Hydrow. It’s a very expensive machine and, again, requires a paid-up subscription to access all the features.
Once again, definitely a “you get what you pay for” scenario.
- Interactive sessions
- 22inch HD Touch Screen
- Magnetic and air resistance
- Requires a subscription
Horizon Oxford 6 Rower
The horizon rower is the closest we’ve looked at so far to the sort of rowers you’d find in a gym.
It’s well made, with a comfortable, ergonomic seat and footrests, an attractive screen displaying essential information, and a wireless heart rate monitor.
Its 20 levels of resistance are a great range to allow users to get as close to their perfect setting as possible and the foldable nature makes it perfect for home usage, as it can be easily stored when not in use.
It also comes with 12 built-in workouts that don’t require any subscription to access and its smooth magnetic strip resistance makes it almost silent while in use.
A final underrated feature worth mentioning is the warranty it comes with, which is one year for parts, 3 years for electronics, and a lifetime for the frame.
- Great range of resistance
- Great Warranty
- Very basic information provided
Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Magnetic Rower
We turn now to a true budget option for magnetic rowers. This is a no-frills, will do the job well enough but nothing more, type rower that will appeal to those not looking to spend much and happy as long as they can get a good row.
With 14 levels of magnetic resistance, it provides quite a variety of choices, which is especially impressive considering it’s one of the cheapest magnetic versions available.
It also features a Bluetooth connection which allows you to use a smartphone instead of the, very basic, screen it comes with. It even has a dock to hold it for you.
To round out its positives, it has wheels and is foldable, which are great features for home use.
Everything else on it is “OK”. From the seat and footholds to the aforementioned screen, nothing is particularly great but then again it’s not all that bad either.
- Can connect to your phone
- 14 levels of resistance
- Very basic features
- Cheaply made
Avari Programmable Rower
Best described as a mid-range option, the Avari programmable rower aims to do a lot of the things that the high-end options do, for only a fraction of the price.
As you might expect, it isn’t as polished or impressive as some of the top-priced alternatives available but if you want a little more than just a basic rower, without having to spend a fortune, this may be worth a look.
It comes with 12 preset programs which is nice and is very quiet and foldable, both characteristics that make it perfect for home use.
It also aims to maximize comfort, with padding on both the seat and handle. However, that may need more work, as both are areas that have received complaints.
The biggest flaw I could find is that outside of the predetermined 12 workouts there doesn’t appear to be a way to adjust resistance for simple rowing.
- 12 Pre-set programs
- Uncomfortable seat
- Overly large handle
- Ease of adjustment
MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine
We finish with another cheaper option, the MaxKare is direct competition for rowers such as the Sunny. However, while being from a lesser-known brand, it does have some nice selling points.
It’s 16 levels of resistance is very generous for rowers in this price range and the seat and handles are surprisingly comfortable.
It’s also a foldable and light machine that, combined with being on wheels, makes it great for storage and transportation outside of use.
While the basic screen and limited features may be disappointing, they certainly aren’t enough to put you off.
However, one thing that might is only being covered by a one year warranty. When buying a cheaper option and from a lesser-known company, it certainly carries with it some risk.
I think that the last point is a perfect way to sum it up, if you think the rewards outweigh the risk then you might end up with a nice little purchase.
- 16 levels of resistance
- Comfortable seat and handles
- Foldable and lightweight
- Basic screen
- Limited features
- Poor warranty
So by now, you should fully understand the main selling points of purchasing a magnetic rower.
Rowers, in general, provide one of the most complete cardio workouts around and with a magnetic variety you can perform it without all of the racket and at a level that best suits you.
The NordicTrack RW900 is probably the most complete rower, due to its ability to provide both air and magnetic resistance, although its price is understandably prohibitive for many. If you want to go top of the range though, this and the Hydrow are amazing pieces of kit.
When looking at the other end of the spectrum, the Sunny and MaxKare are some of the best options around for value.
They come at a budget price but provide a little more bang for your buck than you might expect in that bracket.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to pick out the best option as everyone has different needs. All I can say is that, if you’re getting drawn to home rowing, it’s probably the magnets.