Last updated: February 14, 2021

Seeking a reliable magnetic rowing machine designed to provide a smooth, challenging at-home rowing experience for years without requiring maintenance?

Don’t want to end up spending a fortune on a magnetic rower that’ll break after a few months? Who does?!

Not only can the wrong choice be detrimental to your budget, but also your health.

Luckily, we’ve taken time to weigh the pros and cons of the best magnetic rowing machines to help you choose the ideal rower within your budget and avoid a waste of money on uninformed purchases.

Our Top Product Recommendations

1 - Fitness Reality 1000 Plus (Editor's Choice)

Fitness Reality 1000 Plus, one of the best magnetic rowing machines for home gyms, is the only rower on the market with innovative front stabilizer foot pads.

What are those foot pads for?

They allow for additional exercises like shoulder presses, biceps curls, front raises, etc. for your full-body workout!

Paired with its extra-wide, non-slip, foam-padded handlebar, large, ergonomic, padded seat, and anti-slip pivot foot pedals, it provides a comfy, high-intensity, low-impact indoor rowing experience, helping you burn tons of calories.

It’s the only rower with Bluetooth connectivity to set your fitness goals and track results via the free My Cloud Fitness app available on iOS and Android.

Product facts:

  • Resistance levels: 14
  • Max weight capacity: 250lbs
Pros
  • Sturdy construction with extra-long 39-inch slide rail and a large, clear 3.5-inch LCD display
  • Broad range of easily adjustable resistance, providing dead-silent, challenging, and fun workouts
  • Foldable with a compact footprint and transport wheels for easy storage
  • Great price-quality ratio
Cons
  • Resistance might not feel strong enough for pro rowers

2 - Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515

sunny health

Although lightweight, this one from Sunny Health & Fitness is stable and feels robust.

With a heavy-duty steel frame and super-long slide rail (48in) built to suit many tall rowers (up to 6ft 5in) and withstand time - it’s certainly of high quality.

Unlike other similar entry-level magnetic rowing machines, this Sunny Health and Fitness model offers a strong, smooth resistance.

It enables even advanced users to comfortably strengthen their lower and upper body and track their progress on the large LCD display screen (not showing distance or heart rate).

Decent built quality combined with a low price point and many positive user reviews make the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 one of the best-selling at-home magnetic rowers.

Product facts:

  • Resistance levels: 8
  • Max weight capacity: 250lbs
Pros
  • Well-built, quiet, comfy rower machine
  • Foldable, angled design, with built-in wheels and tools for convenient assembly, storage, and transportation
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Short warranty, no built-in workout programs

3 - MaxKare

maxkare

MaxKare isn’t jam-packed with bells and whistles like Fitness Reality, but it may be a good alternative to it, offering:

One, wide resistance range to provide beginners and more advanced rowers with wholesome rowing sessions.

Two, padded seat and handles ensuring comfort.

Three, an LCD monitor clearly displaying basic metrics needed to track your progress (although the calorie count might be inaccurate)

Unlike the two previous models, it has a handy storage box you can use as a bottle holder to help you stay hydrated while rowing.

You can also use it as a smartphone, iPad, or tablet holder to listen to music or watch videos, making your workouts more interesting.

Product facts:

Pros
  • Durable steel frame, quiet, smooth, extra-long slide rail suitable for taller rowers
  • Foldable, space-saving design
  • Budget-friendly
Cons
  • Hard, not-so-comfy, low-positioned seat making it difficult for individuals with knee or back problems to get on/off the machine

4 - ATIVAFIT

ativafit

This well-constructed magnetic rower features the basics necessary for a silent, effective workout/

It has an easily adjustable workout intensity with a simple twist of a resistance knob for a smooth, challenging customized workout plan.

Additionally, it has a multi-function LCD screen that displays key stats for tracking progress and staying motivated.

But my favorite features are the large ergonomic seat, foam-padded handlebars, and textured, non-slip, adjustable footplates with straps, ensuring safety and comfort during long workouts.

It’s an excellent budget rower for casual beginners who want to build strength, burn fat, improve cardio and overall health while enjoying at-home workouts that activate the entire body.

Product facts:

  • Resistance levels: 8
  • Max weight capacity: 220lbs
Pros
  • Solid steel frame construction
  • Foldable, with transportation wheels for easy storage and portability
  • Cost-effective
Cons
  • Not ideal for advanced rowers, no available preset programs

5 - NordicTrack

nordictrack

What sets the NordicTrack RW 900 row machine apart from Sunny Health & Fitness or other similar magnetic rowers is NOT its space-saving design, frame quality, or smooth, quiet operation most of the best rowers share.

This high-end magnetic rowing machine stands out for its innovative features, making it feel like working with a personal trainer.

A real expert coach brings fun and challenging live or pre-recorded group fitness sessions (cardio workouts, yoga classes, CrossFit, endurance, and strength training) straight to your home.

Your iFit trainer automatically adjusts your digital magnetic resistance to deliver optimized workouts based on your stats and goals, but you can also manually adjust the air resistance.

Product facts:

  • Resistance levels: 26 magnetic + 10 air
  • Max weight capacity: 250lbs
Pros
  • Premium build quality with dual resistance system - magnetic and air - suitable for beginners and pros, backed by a generous warranty
  • Huge 22-inch HD touchscreen display for tracking performance and accessing workouts via the interactive iFit platform (but no YouTube or Netflix, sorry)
  • Offers indoor rowing with Olympian rowers in real locations worldwide (via Google street view)
Cons
  • Users don’t find it worth its hefty price tag (the free one-year iFit family membership code is tricky to get, hard, uncomfortable seat, no power button, poor customer service)

6 - Stamina Avari

stamina avari

Stamina Avari provides sufficient magnetic resistance options automatically adjustable with preset programs and easily controlled by pushing up/down arrows on its advanced LCD backlit monitor.

This magnetic rower offers versatile preset workout modes (interval, mountain, valley, fat burn, target heart rate, etc.), plus a few user-defined modes fantastic for customizing your rowing strength and cardio workouts.

Besides the programmable personalized user profiles, it features the Pulse Recovery System, showing how fast you return to your resting heart rate after training (useful for measuring your cardiovascular endurance and performance progress).

Studies claim that exercising within your target heart rate zone enhances your heart health and fat-burning ability.

Its angled folding design helps you save space and further activate your calves and quads, while the steel construction and long extruded aluminum beam ensure stability, operation smoothness, and full leg extension for users not taller than 6ft4in.

Product facts:

  • Resistance levels: 8-10
  • Max weight capacity: 275lbs
Pros
  • Strong, quiet magnetic resistance, 12 automatically adjustable workout programs (preset and customizable)
  • Heart rate monitor and bonus heart rate strap included
  • Great user weight limit and height capacity
Cons
  • Short warranty period, not for serious athletes, seat could be more comfortable

7 - Circuit Fitness Deluxe

circuit fitness

Circuit Fitness Deluxe is one of the home rowing machines that offers a quiet, manual magnetic resistance rowing workout best suited for beginner to mid-level rowers seeking reliable and safe fitness equipment.

The foam-covered handlebar (possibly too short for a 6-feet-tall person), durable injection-molded seat, adjustable foot straps, and transport wheels make this foldable home rower functional, comfortable, and easy to use, store, and move.

Product facts:

  • Resistance levels: 8
  • Max weight capacity: 300lbs
Pros
  • Stable heavy-duty steel and aluminum construction
  • LCD screen panel for convenient progress tracking (also displaying date and room temperature)
  • Amazing maximum user weight capacity
Cons
  • The battery-operated LCD display has no on/off switch button, seat wheels wear out fast

8 - Merax

merax

Merax's great price-quality ratio and quietness not louder than heavy breathing exceeded most users’ expectations.

Its slide rail steepness is another feature that makes this magnetic rower special because the 15-degree seat angle adds extra resistance, helping you tone up your lower-body muscles more efficiently.

Offering average resistance and very basic data (inaccurately tracking calories burned), it’s best-suited for not-so-strong newbies who aren’t taller than 6ft, obsessed with performance tracking, and can’t afford a higher-end rower.

Product facts:

  • Resistance levels: 8
  • Max weight capacity: 264lbs
Pros
  • Sturdy build with stabilization bracket
  • Compact, simplistic, lightweight design
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Basic monitor without preset workout programs, low-quality foot pedals and straps, no warranty

9 - Goplus

goplus

Don’t want to break a bank, but strive for a good rowing experience? This option might be for you.

With a U-shaped padded seat, ergonomic hand grips, and large, textured footplates with straps, the Goplus entry-level electromagnetic resistance rowing machine is surprisingly comfortable, allowing you to stay focused on the rowing for a long time.

What’s more, it’s high-quality build with tear-resistant nylon rowing strap and hardened, thickened aluminum beam makes it stable without wobbling, even during vigorous rowing.

Product facts:

  • Resistance levels: 8
  • Max weight capacity: 220lbs
Pros
  • Well-built, easy-to-operate, super-silent rower suitable for people up to 6ft tall
  • Compact, foldable, angled design for easier storage and increased leg muscle activation
  • Easy on your wallet
Cons
  • LCD monitor without backlight, showing limited information

10 - HouseFit

housefit

According to user reviews, this HouseFit exercise machine with the rock-solid build, fabulous top weight limit, and powerful manually adjustable magnetic resistance options is one of the highest-rated best-buy home rowers under $500.

Like most top-graded machines, it features a durable belt, silent flywheel, an aluminum alloy rowing beam, a wide padded seat, large textured pedals, and a non-slip handlebar for maximum comfort.

Although it can provide enough force to give men and women a challenging cardio workout, it’s not for users who seriously practice for rowing competitions.

Product facts:

  • Resistance levels: 15
  • Max weight capacity: 300lbs
Pros
  • Convenient upright storage (frame not foldable)
  • Built-in transport wheels, floor stabilizers, and protectors
  • Low price, one-year free part replacement warranty
Cons
  • No monitor backlight for visibility under low lights, wireless connection to a chest strap for tracking your pulse, or distance tracking

What Should I Look for When Buying a Rowing Machine?

credit card and laptop

Here’s what you should look for when buying a rowing machine.

If you are on a budget, check out these affordable rowing machines.

Note that we’re talking about magnetic rowers here, not about water, hydraulic, or air rowers, although the key factors besides resistance types are the same.

1. Adequate User Weight Capacity

Always check the maximum user weight capacity of the home rowing machine first to ensure it can support your body weight.

It varies from 220-265lbs (some models can even accommodate up to 350-500lbs) and has to do with the machine build quality and stability.

Also, consider the number of users as lighter, compact rowers often aren’t strong enough to support everyday heavy use like pricier commercial machines.

2. Rowing Machine Size and Stability

The best size of magnetic rowers mainly depends on the users’ height and place for storing their indoor rower.

Your magnetic rower should be small enough to fit into your home gym space.

Yet, it should be large enough with a longer beam or central seat rail to allow full leg extension comfortably.

This allows you to maintain proper rowing technique and form when sliding, without hitting furniture or walls, e.g. a 6ft4in user (or taller) will need a beam at least 7ft (84in) long.

The heavier your magnetic rower, the more stable (a decent rower weight ranging 50-100lbs).

Some models come with wide stabilizing feet at the front and back, capped in rubber to prevent slippage, floor damage, and absorb vibration so that the noise doesn’t disturb your neighbors or family downstairs.

Of course, you can always put an affordable anti-slip mat under your rowing machine.

3. Your Available Space

Rowing machines are usually larger and longer than most other at-home exercise equipment pieces, so you’ll need to figure out whether you have adequate space before purchase.

Compare your home workout space measurements and the magnetic rowing machine dimensions (length, width, height + add 3-4ft around it) to make sure it will fit properly and allow for comfortable use with your hands and legs moving freely while rowing.

Midrange rowing machines for home use are 5-8 ft long, whereas foldable models are usually 2.5-3.5ft long when folded to fit into most closets.

Unlike rowers with air or water resistance, magnetic rowing machines typically fold up to allow easier storage.

If you don’t have a dedicated room for your magnetic rower but plan to move it around, you might opt for a lighter model (usually less stable and cheaper) with wheels.

4. Design and Comfort

When determining the design of the best rowing machine for your body type, I’d pay particular attention to the material, comfort, and adjustability of the seat, handles, and footrests, which differs from one manufacturer to another.

You don’t want to compromise safety or get a sore, numb butt and blisters, do you?

Then, seek foam-padded handles, non-slip pivoting foot pedals, and a cushioned, ergonomic seat large enough to support your back comfortably, enabling you to maintain proper rowing form.

Also, adjustability is key if more than one person will be using the rower.

man and rowing machine

5. Resistance Range

Different magnetic rowing machines provide either manual or automatic resistance that’s more consistent and quieter than on rowers with other resistance types.

“Rowing activates nine muscle groups and 85% of the body's musculature. It will work your upper and lower body, tone your arms, and strengthen your back.”

 

- Dr. Cameron Nichol, MD, former Olympic rower

The more levels of resistance, the more options for workout variety and gradual progression, but the more expensive the rower gets.

Budget rowers usually come with five to eight levels of magnetic resistance (sufficient for beginners). More advanced users will be better off getting a high-quality rower with 10-20 levels of resistance.

6. Special Features

A budget rowing machine comes with basic features, while pricier magnetic rowing machines offer several advanced features.

Besides the paddings for comfort and transportation wheels for easier transportation of heavier models, the performance monitor quality is among the most important special features.

“Rowing recruits many muscle groups and can provide a total-body, cardiovascular, muscle-building workout that you should consider adding to your weekly exercise routine. Rowing is also impact-free and non-weight-bearing, which makes it even more appealing because you can work intensely without putting added stress on your joints.”

 

- Stephanie Thielen, ACE Fitness Instructor

Lower-end magnetic rowers usually include a basic monitor that tracks and displays the essential workout reads like strokes (per minute), speed, and time.

Best high-end magnetic rowing machines are supplied with more advanced backlit or touchscreen monitors that also track your workout data like row count, speed, distance in kilometers and miles, time elapsed, plus offer:

  • Preset workout programs (e.g. fat burning, strength building, etc.)
  • Heart rate trackers
  • Calorie counters
  • Racing games and
  • Other bells and whistles to add variety and excitement to your workout routine.

The best, pricier magnetic row machines often offer a larger, more detailed central LCD console with a bigger screen, allowing you to see your stats even when rowing in dark rooms.

FAQs

Are Magnetic Rowers Quiet?

Yes, magnetic rowers are quiet - almost noiseless when operating (unlike other rowing machines) because they use magnets for resistance control without friction that causes noise.

Which Rowing Machine Is Better Air or Magnetic?

Which rowing machine is better - air or magnetic - isn’t a matter of quality but users’ requirements and preferences.

Air rowers provide a more authentic water rowing experience, but they’re noisier and don’t offer multiple levels of magnetic resistance for more challenging training sessions.

Is a Rowing Machine Better Than a Treadmill?

Yes, a rowing machine is better than a treadmill for muscle building and providing low-impact full-body workouts regardless of your exercise intensity.

But a treadmill may work better for burning more calories and shedding fat. The choice depends on your specific workout goals, body weight, and health.

Which Burns More Calories Running or Rowing?

Running burns more calories than rowing. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) Physical Activity Calorie Counter shows that for 20 minutes, a 170-pound person burns around 179 calories when rowing at a moderate pace and 205 calories when running at 5mph. [1] [2]

What Muscles Does Rowing Work the Most?

The muscles rowing works the most are biceps, deltoids, brachioradialis, forearms, rhomboids, trapezii, latissimus dorsi, abs, erector spinae, quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. [3]

Can You Lose Belly Fat on a Rowing Machine?

Yes, you can lose belly fat on a rowing machine if you use it consistently paired with a sensible diet because rowing machines can provide excellent cardio workouts to help you shed excess fat and build or define muscles.

How Far Should You Lean Back When Rowing?

You should lean back as close to the 90-degree angle with the floor as possible when rowing to reduce the risk of injury and maximize the effects of your rowing movement.

How Long Should You Workout on a Rowing Machine?

How long you should work out on a rowing machine depends on the exercise intensity, your fitness level, and goals.

Beginners could start with 5mins of lower-intensity rowing 3 times/week for the first few weeks, then gradually progress, increasing the intensity and time to 20mins 5 times/week.

Rowing for 15mins/day at a vigorous intensity or 30mins at a moderate intensity is enough for maintaining general health. [4]

For maximum weight loss results, you may need to row consistently at a moderate intensity 30-50mins, 5-6 times/week.

What Is the Best Magnetic Rowing Machine?

The best magnetic rowing machine for home use may be the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus because it’s a durable, compact machine, long enough for taller users. Your silent, comfy rowing action with a smooth glide Fitness Reality offers won’t annoy or wake up anyone around you.

Its crystal clear monitor for performance tracking and an amazing magnetic resistance range ensure challenging and engaging workouts for rowing enthusiasts of all fitness levels.

Make sure you pick the best magnetic rower that delivers the rowing workout you need within your desired price range. Have you found it on our list yet?

Fitness Reality 1000 Plus

Our #1 Recommendation

  • Sturdy construction with extra-long 39-inch slide rail and a large, clear 3.5-inch LCD display
  • Broad range of easily adjustable resistance, providing dead-silent, challenging, and fun workouts
  • Foldable with a compact footprint and transport wheels for easy storage
  • Great price-quality ratio
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