Although it can often be overlooked for the simplicity of its design, the rowing machine has been the secret tool of a killer workout for years. With a smooth motion, the legs, back, arms, and core are activated.
In addition to being a great strength-building tool, a rowing machine offers a great cardio workout. The gravity-minimized movements are safe on the joints while being tough on stubborn belly fat. Plus, its form factor makes this a great tool to start or add to a home gym.
Being a fitness coach, it is my job to make sure people get the best results for their work. And if it were to come to a single machine that can give a complete workout, a rower is at the top of my list. This article is going to examine some of the most trusted machines currently on the market, answer some of the top questions I get, and give you a guide to buying the right one with confidence.
The Top 6 Magnetic Rowers on the Market
XTERRA Fitness ERG700
- Padded and contoured handle,
- 16 resistance levels,
- adjustable screen,
- Easy-to-read 5.5" LCD screen,
- 10 built-in programs,
- contoured seat,
- 350lb limit
Review: The XTERRA Fitness ERG700 is a very solid contender for the best rowing machine. Its combination air/magnet resistance system feels smooth and silky. Not to mention, the sturdy base and top-notch bearings make for an effortless motion to help keep users in form.
This rower is packed with features that would not be expected at this price. High-end rowers like those in a gym would be very comparable. The large screen is easy to read and makes it easy to focus on the information.
The programs that come with this rower gave me a great workout. The intervals feature was my personal favorite, but the fat burn and cardio also do their job. While my complaint about the separately sold HR band is valid, most smartwatches can make up for that. Buy it here
- The sturdy, all-metal design feels supportive during hard training
- Great seat cushion, and smooth bearings
- The long rail allows for taller users
- Plugs in, so it is not reliant on batteries
- Quite heavy at over 80lbs, and is clunky even when folded
- Heart rate monitor sold separately
- No smartphone app integration
- 7 automatically adjusting programs
- Bonus heart rate chest strap
- Exercise mat to protect floors
- LCD backlit screen
- Angled design
- Wheels for easy storage
- 275 lb. limit
Review: The Stamina Avari Magnetic Rower is capable, yet accessible, machine. It has everything needed right out of the box. With a mat and included heart-rate chest band, it doesn't skimp on the extras. It's one of the most portable rowers on the list and fits easily in a closet when not in use.
The two best features of this rower are the angular design and the automatic adjustment of resistance. The included heart rate monitor means that the six cardio programs are more effective. The angled design saves space and spotlights the activation of your quads and calves.
This machine's all magnetic resistance is smooth and strong. It provides 12 different levels, which is plenty for the programs that it offers. With all its added goodies and ease of construction, I believe this rower is a great choice for beginners or as an upgrade to a new machine. Buy it here
- Comes with included chest strap for heart rate monitoring
- 12 programs and 6 programmable user profiles
- Both folds and has wheels for easy storage and movement
- All-steel construction is durable and easy to assemble
- Low-profile design not for all floor types
- The small screen can be hard to read when sliding back and forth
Merax Magnetic Adjustable Rower
- 8-level magnetic resistance
- Foldable design with wheels for storage,
- Deeply padded seat,
- Angled design
- Stabilization bracket
Review: The Merax Magnetic Rower is a budget-friendly option for those wanting a magnetic rower. However, that doesn't mean that it isn't a fine machine. The stabilization bracket just underneath the foot straps gives this machine a stable feel despite is light design.
While it doesn't have a plethora of features, what the Merax does have is a terrific feel. The seat is padded and comfortable, and the silence of the movements is fantastic. The actual sound is not much louder than my breathing when I get going, which is great for early-morning workouts.
This is on the list for its simplistic yet perfected design. It is a machine is focused on one thing: a great workout. And while it misses out on programs and heart rate monitoring, this is a fantastic looking machine at a great price, and the savings are too good to be passed up. Buy it here
- One of the most affordable options available
- Very quiet seat movement is hardly louder than heavy breathing
- The angular design allows for targeting of legs
- Attractive design folds upright.
- Singular display flicks between information
- No programs built into the screen or display
GOPLUS Folding Rower
- Padded seat
- Ergonomic handle
- Steel frame
- LCD screen with single readout
- 265 lb. limit
Review: The GOPLUS folding rower is a good option for those who are new to home workouts or rowing. This model comes at an affordable price for its features. Adjustable foot straps, ergonomic handle, padded seat, and anti-slip pads make this machine quite comfy.
The best feature of this rower is the portability. At only 51 lbs., it is one of the lightest rowers on this list. However, the single support in the back and lightweight construction may be a concern for users pushing the weight limit.
For those not looking to break the bank, this folding rower may be a great option. The screen is responsive and large enough to read despite its limited information, and this machine provides a great rowing experience. Those looking for the best of the basics should look no further. Buy it here
- The angled design allows for more targeted workouts
- Affordable price for what is offered
- Full magnetic resistance is quiet
- Weaker construction at only 51 lbs. with singular support in the rear
- Basic LCD monitor shows limited information at a time
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515
- Folding steel design,
- Comfort-built seat, and handles,
- Digital monitor
- 8 levels of resistance
- 250lbs. limit
Review: The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 is a perfect mid-level option for those interested in a magnetic rower. The steel construction feels smooth and sturdy and doesn't waver even under the most strenuous workouts. Unlike some machines, the levels of resistance here are noticeable. The highest level will build strength in the quads and hamstrings.
The angled design helps this rower to not take up a ton of space, and the attached wheels make for easy transport. The padded seat was comfortable even after an extended rowing session. The handles and pedals are both designed to be anti-slip and proved that to be true even after a sweaty workout.
If this machine came with a larger, backlit screen and workout programs, it would be the top option. But for those that are looking for a smooth ride without some of the high-end features, this is a great rower. Buy it here
- Angled design is a takes up less space and gives a better workout
- Calorie tracking is accurate, even without heart rate monitoring
- Respectably priced for the features
- Easy to assemble construction from high-grade steel
- No workout programs available
- No heart rate monitoring options
Harvil Magnetic Rowing Machine
- Backlit LCD screen,
- Quiet magnetic flywheel,
- Contoured seat,
- Adjustable foot pedals,
- Braided nylon pull cord,
- 264lbs. limit
Review: A budget-friendly option, the Havril Magnetic Rowing Machine is the most affordable and durable choice for those with limited space. Sporting a weight of just 46 lbs., this machine is easy to move and store. This is a great beginner rower for those looking to start with an efficient and affordable machine.
What it lacks in more advanced features, the Havril makes up in simplicity. The all-magnetic resistance is responsive and quiet while the seat bearings provide a smooth ride. It was very easy to assemble and went from delivery to workout in less than 20 minutes.
The cerulean color was striking at first, but it has grown on me; and honestly, the easy storage for this rower means that it can be put away when not in use.
For those hoping to get a great workout at home, this rower is an option for both beginners and more experienced users. Even without high-tech options and guided programs, this rower offers a great way to exercise at home. Buy it here
- Most affordable option on the list
- Smallest form factor allows for easy storage and movement
- Easy assembly and lightweight design provide sturdy support
- Surprisingly quiet flywheel with 8 levels of resistance
- No included workout programs
- The color scheme is not optional
- Leaves something to be desired in terms of technology and secondary features
Buyer's Guide - What to Look for When Shopping for a Magnetic Rower
When considering which of these options would be best for your home workout, you'll want to think about the 4 basics: Resistance options, space limitations, your personal body needs, and the added features.
There are multiple options of rowing resistance like hydraulics, air and water resistance, and even tension cord and spring. The magnetic resistance option is preferred due to its quiet operation and consistent feel.
Unlike air and water, magnetic resistance is smooth from the beginning to the end of the stroke. This means your muscles will find activation at every place in your row, leading to a better workout.
When considering which rower to buy, you'll want to make sure there are enough levels of resistance so that you have room for harder workouts. Budget options may only have eight levels, while more high-end models will offer twelve or more.
The physical space that you will be using the rower should also be considered. All of the rowers on this list fold for easy storage. But if you plan on leaving it out for daily use, then unfolded length will be more important for you.
Rowers range from around 45 lbs. to over 80 lbs. A rule of thumb is that more weight offers a more stable ride. When scouting for a new machine, think about its daily placement to decide what needs you have.
Lastly, measure! The links to these rowers above provide accurate dimensions that can help you before you buy.
Bodyweight and Height
Just like the physical space, your body type will have an impact on your rower. The weight limit on all rowers are different, and more robust models like the XTERRA Fitness ERG700 are the only ones to offer support to users over 300 lbs.
The length of rail is also important to consider. A longer rail means that you have more space to travel, and for taller clients, I recommend a rail of 80".
The drawback to a longer machine is that storage becomes an issue. If you plan on leaving your machine out for daily use, a longer rail is always preferred.
The final consideration for your new rower should be the extra features. The Stamina Avari is the best choice in this regard coming with a floor mat and heart rate monitor. These extras are nice to have and can save you money later on.
It is also important to consider your rower's screen. A large screen is preferred as rowing puts you in constant motion. Backlit screens help to add contrast and make information easier to see during motion.
The included programs and tech can also help to determine which rower is right for you. If you are looking for a straight-forward workout, any will do. Guided workout programs or those that respond to heart rate will motivate during a workout but also come with a steeper price tag.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How does a magnetic rowing machine work?
A magnetic rowing machine works by moving a strong magnet in position next to a metal flywheel. The closer the magnet, the stronger the resistance. This is what allows a magnetic rower to operate quietly and with smooth action, unlike water or air resistance models.
Are water rowing machines better?
Water rowing machines provide the most accurate kind of resistance. Rowing machines are modeled after the Olympic event. But for most, this accuracy is not needed or desirable. Water-resistance machines are noisy and hard to move.
How do I best work out on a rower?
Rowers are great for interval workouts. This provides a blend of cardio and strength training. Intervals consist of high-resistance and resting phases. This allows the heart rate to spike up and down which builds endurance. Either follow an included interval program or use the included timer displays to break up sessions into two minutes of hard rowing followed by one minute of easy rowing.
Can you lose belly fat on a rowing machine?
A rower is a great way to burn fat. Rowers activate over 80% of the body's muscles, and muscle mass requires the body to have an increased metabolism. The actual cardio from this machine also helps to burn calories and get rid of that stubborn belly fat.