Air vs Magnetic vs Water Rowing Machine: Which is for me?


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In the past couple of years, indoor rowing has gained so much popularity that many different companies are coming up with different rowing machines. When it comes to popular rowing machines, you’ll see that are four basic types available in the market based on resistance mechanism. This fitness equipment offers a full-body workout that includes arm, legs, back, stomach, and heart muscles. Resistance is provided in rowing machines in the following ways; air, magnetic, fluid, or hydraulic.

Magnetic Rowing Machine 

A magnetic rower is another common type of rowing machine. As the name suggests, two strong magnets moving past other provide resistance, so there’s no friction. This means that the resistance is quiet, consistent, and smooth action throughout your exercise. Magnetic resistance can make workouts more fun and satisfying.

By being more compact and quiet in operation than other rowing machines types, a magnetic rowing machine is ideal for home-usage. The handle features an attached spinning flywheel (a large metal wheel inside the housing) via a chain. This type of rowing machine has got multiple levels of resistance from easy to hard workout. Larger the flywheel, smoother is the resistance. 

The machine not only gives you excellent cardiovascular workout but also tones your muscles. Some machines have 8, 16, or 32 magnetic resistance levels. The level can easily be adjusted according to your workout need by digital console controls or mechanical sliders. 

Is it for me?

A magnetic rowing machine is a great in-home fitness solution as its compact with efficient footprint design and completely noiseless; best for your little apartment. Plus, some models also have a foldable design for easy compact storage.


  • Wide range of adjustable resistance
  • Noiseless operation
  • Compact size
  • Less maintenance required


  • Doesn’t mimic authentic rowing on water

Our Top Magnetic Rowers

Fitness Reality 1000 Plus

The only rower with additional exercises on the market. Full body low impact workout targets forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulders, legs, thighs, and more with additional exercises.

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515

Comes with a newly improved smoother and quieter magnetic 8-level tension system, convenient large LCD console, fully padded seat, and larger anti-slip foot pedals.

Water Rowing Machine

The innovation in the technology of the rowing machine is creating resistance by paddles and water. A water rowing machine feels and sounds like rowing on the water. Although some people still prefer air rowers over this technology, many serious rowers like the quieter and smooth operation of water rower. Plus, real water means infinite levels of resistance. The harder you row, the more intense resistance will be.

The only setup you have to do with water rower is to adjust your foot height (the paddles); water flywheel is immersed in a water tank attached to the belt-driven chain and handle. The steel rowing beam on the machine offers smooth glide to enhance your rowing experience. The paddle spins in the water tank when you pull back the handle, and moving water produces pull against the paddles which generate resistance.

This fluid technology workout delivers a smooth, realistic, and natural-feeling actual rowing motion. The fluid mechanism immediately catches and applies resistance throughout your stroke; this smooth stroke limits pressure and potential strains on joints, back, and hip flexors. 

Is it for me?

If you want to design a row-club quality gym at home, a water rower is best for you. If a space-saving design is your preference, a water rower might not be for you as it tends to a larger size than other rowing machine types. For example, the wooden WaterRower is a quite bulky machine.


  • Low-impact full-body workout
  • Quiet and smooth operation
  • Real-life rowing action
  • Require less maintenance


  • No ‘flat-spot.’
  • Bit pricey

Our Top Water Rowers

WaterRower Club Rowing Machine

WaterRower Club is handcrafted from solid Ashwood. Its patented WaterFlywheel has been specifically designed to emulate the dynamics of a boat moving through the water.

Alternative: Mr Rudolf Water Rowing Machine

MaxKare Water Rowing Machine

Specially designed to approach the real stroke on water, making your rowing experience more real and challenging. Its steel frame makes the rowing machine very sturdy.

Alternative: Merax Water Rowing Machine

Air Rowing Machine

The most popular and common type is air rower. Moreover, an air rowing machine is also considered the best type. Resistance is provided by air blowing through the flywheel; the harder you pull, the faster the fans move around, and the more resistance it provides. This is why rowing clubs tend to use air rowers as they give real rowing feel and sound. 

Rowing with air resistance use over 80% of your body’s skeletal muscles with no impact on the body that reduces stress on joints. It targets your muscles in your core, back, shoulders, and legs. Plus, it improves your cardiovascular endurance as air rower uses a smooth belt-drive mechanism with a metal chain to produce a powerful stroke. Some models come with Mag-Air resistance that includes both magnets and fans for linear resistance. Rowing machines featuring floor protectors safeguard your workout area floor and prevent slipping. 

Is it for me?

If you want authentic rowing experience, air rower is definitely your type of rowing machine. It is a perfect machine for serious rowers for training during the off-season because it mimics the rowing action on the water. However, it is a little noisy, so maybe not be a perfect choice if you live in an apartment.


  • Automatic resistance adjustment
  • Replicates real rowing action
  • A smooth and balanced workout
  • Suited for regular home use


  • Noisy operation

Our Top Air Rowers

Concept2 Model D

Provides one of the more comprehensive, full-body workouts of any fitness machine. Engineered to last a lifetime.

Official Page: Roguefitness

MaxKare Air Rower

An excellent value for money choice: Full use of ergonomic design, easy to hold and operate & suitable for all people.

Official Page: MaxKare

Hydraulic Rowing Machine

Though this rowing machine type is considered outdated, there are some benefits of hydraulic resistance rowing machines. The reason why some people still prefer this type is its low cost than other rower machines, compact smaller size, and quiet operation.

The machine handles have attached pistons that produce the required resistance when they are pulled against fluid or air in cylindrical metal chambers. Though hydraulic rowing machines offer full-body efficient workout utilizing all major muscle groups, many rowers don’t suggest this type because motion is not smooth. 

Is it for me?

Hydraulic resistance rower machine is an excellent choice if your budget is limited or you have less space. It fits easily in your home workout area. 


  • Compact foldable design
  • Economical
  • Quiet operation


  • Regular maintenance required
  • No smooth rowing motion

Our Top Hydraulic Rowers

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205

The compact design of this rower allows you to easily move your rower from room to room or into storage.

Lanos Hydraulic Rowing Machine

The unique design provides a full-body workout for every major muscle group – including back, legs, arms & abs.

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