What Are Magnetic Resistance Rowing Machines? +Best Options

Looking for an indoor rowing machine and noticed that some are ‘magnetic’? What does that actually mean and what are the best magnetic rowing machines you can get? 

A magnetic rower creates resistance by having a magnet near a metal flywheel which creates drag. Magnetic rowers are quiet, smooth and mostly affordable. On the flip side magnetic rowers don’t feel as natural as air or water rowers. 

Let’s dive in a little deeper to see how a magnetic rowing machine works, which ones are best and what to look for when buying one. 

What Are Magnetic Stationary Rowers

Magnetic rowers use electromagnets brake to regulate the resistance. The magnets create drag on the flywheel which is what give the resistance. The resistance is adjustably by buttons on the rower. These buttons adjust the amount of current that’s sent to the magnets and therefore how much drag they create. An easier mechanism just adjusts how close the magnet is to the flywheel. 

This means the resistance isn’t dependent on how fast you move like on air and water rowers although there are a few models that combine the magnetic brake with a fan blade like an air rower.

Suggested: What are the 4 types of rowing machine?

Magnetic resistance rowing machines can be recognized by the closed shroud around the flywheel.

Most magnetic rowers have a metal flywheel that the magnetic brake acts on. There is no need for that to be exposed to the environment. Water rowers are easily recognizable by the water reservoir and air rowers by the open flywheel case. 

Because of the magnetic brake, there is no direct friction between the brake and the flywheel. This style of resistance has a few pros and cons. Let’s look at them. 

Suggested: How to stop an indoor rowing machine from moving around

Pros of Magnetic Rowers

  • Quiet: The metal flywheel is usually smooth and the shroud is closed so not much air is moved which means less noise. There is also no brake directly touching the flywheel. 
  • Low maintenance: Just get the dust out and lubricate the moving parts. This doesn’t have to happen all that often. Parts very rarely have to be replaced. Magnetic rowers require less maintenance than water rowers.
  • Available in the lower price ranges: A decent magnetic rower is a lot cheaper than a decent water rower although high end ones are also available. 
  • Can be cheaper: If you’re looking for a really affordable rower, your best bet is a magnetic rower. Avoid hydraulic resistance rowers.  

Cons of Magnetic Rowers

  • Doesn’t feel as realistic as an air or water rower: Because of the way the resistance is created, the resistance curve throughout the stroke is quite different and generally considered less realistic. With high-end models this is better but those tend to cost more than a good air rower. 
  • Motion not as smooth as air or water rowers: Of course that also depends on the quality of the rower but in general air or water rowers feel smoother.

3 Best Magnetic Resistance Stationary Rowers

Here are your best magnetic rower options. There are four brands mentioned that make good magnetic rowers in their respective price ranges. 

However, I would suggest also looking at other types of stationary rowers and know the pros and cons of those before making a choice. If you want a magnetic rower, the best options are below. 

1. Hydrow

The best magnetic resistance rowers you can find are from Hydrow. Hydrow makes two models of magnetic rowing machine that are excellent. Besides a very good feel and high quality, these rowers look absolutely amazing. They are very well designed rowers which could almost be put in the living room as an art piece. 

If you can afford either model from Hydrow, it’s the one to go for. The Wave is quite a bit cheaper and probably the best choice for most people since it is a bit smaller, folds up against the wall and the screen is a little smaller. the rowing mechanism is the same as the more expensive model. The only real difference is that the seat on the expensive model has more rollers for smoother action.

2. BodyCraft Pro VR400

BodyCraft is a personal favorite brand. Pretty much everything they make is high quality stuff that won’t let you down. 

This rower is no exception. It’s super solid, all the parts feel good in your hands and it has all the features you need. It doesn’t have much in the way of connectivity for workout tracking on your phone but, do you really need that? 

This is not a pure magnetic resistance rower though. It combines air and magnetic resistance. That means you get the best of both (pick your starting resistance, natural feel) but you also get the main downside of an air resistance rower which is noise. However, this one isn’t super loud and you can watch TV while working out.

If you don’t mind this, this is a good option, if you’re looking for a pure magnetic rower, the Hydrow is a better choice although that costs a bit more. 

3. Fitness Reality 4000MR

Looking to spend a lot less but still want something good? The 4000MR is probably the best magnetic rower you can get under $1000. It’s very solid, folds up and looks pretty good. 

It has arm levers instead of a handle at the end of a chain. That means the movement pattern is fixed and people looking for a pure rowing experience might not like that. However, if you’re looking for a low impact cardio workout, this is a perfect choice. While it might not be completely natural, it does feel smooth and sturdy. 

Suggested: Rowing Machine Load Limits, Should You Care?

The performance monitor is simple but has all the info you need, the resistance is adjustable in 16 steps and there are some built in workout programs. 


Need something under $400 that’s still good? The YOSUDA Magnetic PRO is what you’re looking for. It’s a sturdy machine that can handle up to 350 lbs. and is also super quiet. They claim 25Db which I haven’t checked but it’s pretty quiet. 

Suggested: The best rowers under $500

It can support people up to 350 lbs. and 6’6 tall which means it’s suitable for most people and it’s sturdy. There are 16 resistance levels and a basic performance monitor. Everything you really need but no bells or whistles. It’s design isn’t the best but it’s very affordable and does what is says on the box. 

What Makes a Good Magnetic Rower?

When you’re looking for a magnetic rowing machine, what are some things you need to look out for? 

Price:  Buy the best you can afford. It’s not necessary to go overboard but spending $750 gets you a very different experience than when you spend $250. The YOSUDA rower mentioned above is the cheapest rower I can recommend. 

Size: Magnetic rowers are similar in size to an air rower. Most models come with foldable or even detachable slide rails for better storage options. Buy one that fits your space. 

Quality: Of course you want to get a rower that’s good. Load limit is a decent proxy for build quality. Also look at the performance monitor and plastics. They should match the price you’re paying. 

Feel: On a good magnetic rower, the feel comes close to an air or water rower but isn’t as natural feeling because the resistance curve is a little different. This is not the end of the world and not really a problem unless you’re training for ‘real’ rowing. 

Resistance Levels: You want as many resistance levels as possible. The more resistance levels, the more adjustability which is always good to have. 

Easy controls: The resistance should be easy to adjust and the performance monitor should be simple. Big touchscreens are nice for watching videos and on-demand workouts but the resistance controls should always be accessible and very easy to use. 

Performance monitor: You need some kind of monitor to see: Speed, stroke speed, distance and time. More is nice but not strictly necessary. The monitor can be simple but should be easy to read and adjust. 


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to HomeGymResource.com. After working out in many different gyms for almost 20 years and helping people build their own home gyms, i've learned a few things i'd like to share with you.

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