Magnetic vs. Water Rower – Find the Right Rower for You

Have you ever wondered about the different types of rowing machines and how they work? If so, you’ve come to the right place. A rowing machine provides a full-body workout and is worth adding to your fitness routine. It works the core, arms, and legs with resistance and cardiovascular training.

This article will explain two popular types of rowing machines and how they work. Let’s discuss the similarities and differences and get your rowing machine educated.

The Benefits of Rowing

Before we look at the different types of rowing machines, let’s understand more about the benefits of rowing.

Full-Body Training

A rowing machine works the entire body, emphasizing the quadriceps, calves, glutes, pecs, arms, abdominals, and obliques. There are few other types of exercise machines that incorporate all of those muscle groups in one exercise.

Weight Loss

We already mentioned rowing is a full-body workout, but how much does the exercise torch fat? Harvard Health published an article about different types of exercise and calories burned based on a person’s weight. A 125-lb person burns up to 255 calories in 30 minutes when rowing. A 155lb person burns 369 calories, and a 185lb person burns 440 calories. That’s a whole lot of calories in just 30 minutes.

Cardiovascular Training

Cardiovascular training is essential for our bodies to function correctly. The cardiovascular system contains the heart, blood, and blood vessels. By increasing the heart rate regularly, this major muscle learns how to function more efficiently to get blood to major organs throughout the body.

Rowing machines provide resistance levels that increase the heart rate and promote cardiovascular training. It is an excellent form of exercise to establish better blood flow and increased oxygen levels in the body.

Low Impact Training

One of the best things about a rowing machine is that it is a low-impact type of training. The lack of pounding on joints makes it an excellent option for any fitness level. Rowing machines are used for active recovery because they allow the pace and intensity to be set by the person. Because it doesn’t stress joints, it is recommended for people with the early stages of osteoarthritis since a rowing machine provides movement and exercise without impact.


Sometimes it’s nice to be able to tune out during your workout and let your mind be at ease. Rowing machines produce smooth, gliding motions that are repetitive. This type of exercise brings about a meditative state, allowing someone to exercise and shut off their mind for a while.

Magnetic vs. Water Rower

Now that we understand how beneficial rowing machines are let’s break down the differences between magnetic rowers and water rowing machines. We’ll explain how they both work to exercise the body and how they differ in certain attributes specific to rowing machines.

Magnetic Rowers Explained

Magnetic rowing machines utilize magnets to create resistance. Unlike air rowers with a damper to control resistance, a magnetic rowing machine features a dial for changing resistance levels. Magnetic rowers work as the magnets get closer or farther away from the flywheel. Turning the dial up allows the magnets to get closer to the flywheel, which creates more resistance during exercise. Turning the dial down lets the magnets move away from the flywheel and lowers resistance. Since magnetic rowing machines use magnets instead of air, so they are quieter than other rowing machines.

What is a Water Rowing Machine?

A water rower mimics the action of pulling a boat through the water more so than any other kind of rowing machine. A water rowing machine uses a tank of water under or in front of the rower to create resistance. By using water for resistance, water rowing machines are quieter than other types of rowing machines. Most water rowing machines allow the water tank to be removed to decrease the high level of intensity, making it more suitable for children or beginners.

Understanding the Differences Between Magnetic vs. Water Rowers

Noise Level

Magnetic and water rowers are known for being quieter rowing machines based on how they establish resistance levels. However, magnetic rowing machines are more subdued than water rowers because they use magnets near the flywheel for resistance. Since water rowers use water to create resistance, there is a more significant amount of noise due to the water moving around the tank.

Space Consumed

A magnetic rower is typically better for people with more confined living spaces. Since water rowing machines require a relatively large tank of water, they don’t easily fold for storage purposes. Also, water rowing machines are heavier and bulkier than magnetic rowers.

Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance is usually required for any type of rowing machine. However, in the water vs. magnetic rower debate, magnetic rowers require significantly less maintenance than water rowers. Magnetic rowers need you to wipe down and tighten screws and bolts over time, but that is the extent of care. For water rowing machines, there is more maintenance due to the water tank included. The water tank must be removed and cleaned regularly to prevent the build-up of mold and mildew. Adding chlorine tablets every six months to two years ensures the water stays clean too.


The cost of both types of rowers varies significantly based on features. Typically, a water rowing machine prices anywhere from $500 to $2,200. Similarly, magnetic rowing machines costs between $220 to $2,500.


Are water rowers better than magnetic rowers?

For avid rowing enthusiasts, a water rowing machine creates an authentic rowing motion similar to that of rowing a boat due to the resistance levels manipulated by water. Water allows for a smoother stroke and provides resistance and cardiovascular training without a high impact on joints. A magnetic rower offers the same type of low-impact resistance and cardio training but with a less smooth, authentic stroke.

Which type of rowing machine is the best?

Each type of rowing machine brings a different feel to rowing. Air rowers, like the Concept2 RowErg, are used by professional athletes and are considered some of the best. While they are easy to maintain, they are noisy and don’t often come with many features.

Magnetic rowing machines have various features like streaming services and training videos, making them more appealing to some people. They are much quieter than air rowers since they use magnets for resistance rather than air. One downside to magnetic rowing machines is they are more expensive than air rowers and water rowers, especially when streaming and music features are added.

A water rowing machine mimics rowing a boat the best. Resistance by using water allows for a smoother stroke similar to rowing a real boat. They are usually made of wood rather than plastic or metal, making them harder to maintain, especially with the water tank. The water tank must be cleaned and emptied regularly to avoid mold or mildew.

How are magnetic rowers different than air rowers?

The significant difference between an air and a magnetic rower is how they establish resistance during training. An air rower uses air-powered flywheels to maximize resistance. While it achieves a great workout, it is noisy. A magnetic rowing machine utilizes magnetic resistance close to the flywheel activated via a dial. Without air, magnetic rowers are significantly quieter than air rowers.

Our Aviron review features an account of a rowing machine that uses both magnets and air for resistance.

Final Thoughts

In the end, magnetic and water rowers are excellent options for rower enthusiasts. Both are quieter rowing machines that help promote low-impact cardiovascular training with consistent resistance. Magnetic rowers feature many options for streaming and music, are easy to maintain, and have foldable options for storage. Read about the best magnetic rower and discover more about this type of training.

Water rowers promote a more authentic rowing experience since water is used as resistance. While they are harder to maintain and bulkier to store, the smooth rowing action is popular for many who want to feel like they are rowing a boat while exercising.

No matter what type of rowing machine you decide on, the low-impact resistance and cardio training provide an excellent workout for any kind of fitness level. 

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Kristen holds a bachelors in English from Louisianna university. With a longstanding passion for fitness, she owns and operate her own gym and is a certified jazzercise instructor.

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