Magnetic Vs Air Rower: Machine & Resistance Levels Compared

Rowing machines provide low-impact total body workouts that will have you feeling the burn. Unlike some workout machines, rowing machines focus on strength, power, and endurance by challenging you with different types of resistance; two of the most common types are air and magnetic.  

Looking into the differences between a magnetic vs air rower? We have all you need to know in this guide. 

Magnetic rowing machines use various powerful magnets to raise or lower the resistance of magnetic rowing machines.  

The eddy currents created by the magnets interact with the flywheel, increasing the resistance level the closer they are to the flywheel. This style of rowing machine has a very smooth, strong stroke and a consistent resistance that is hard to beat. Magnetic rowers are also much quieter than other rowing machines as there is no friction 

This type tends to have heavier flywheels for quality, but this does increase the rower’s overall weight. Most magnetic rowers tend to have a belt or chain-driven flywheel, with belts being the most popular and quiet of the two.  

Magnetic rowing machines tend to come with similar bonus features to cycling machines and treadmills; water bottle holders, apps, Bluetooth connections, and safety features, to name a few potential options.  

In terms of the warranty, most magnetic rowers vary between 30 days and a lifetime depending on the parts covered and brand; most rowers will have 30 days to three years overall. Magnetic rowers are a truly excellent choice for any home gym. 


  • Low impact on joints 
  • Virtually silent rowing motion 
  • Micro-adjustable, low maintenance resistance 
  • Heavy good quality flywheel 
  • Offered at a range of price points to suit various budgets 


  • Often heavy due to heavier flywheel 
  • Need to change resistance level manually via a dial or button 
person sitting on rowing machine

Air Rowing Machines (Overview + Pros & Cons) 

Air rowing machines are slightly different from magnetic ones as they utilize the air in the room when creating resistance. As you pull, the force and speed that you pull with causes friction, creating a high level of expanded effort.  

Air resistance machines are good for beginners and provide a smooth stroke that naturally simulates the feeling of rowing a boat. The air resistance level is adjustable on the fly depending on your strength and speed, but your strokes can be loud due to the air current.  

This style of rower can be found at a variety of price points, but it is most often relatively cheap and common in terms of the market price. As with magnetic resistance machines, air rowers have a warranty that can last anywhere from 30 days to a lifetime – the most common period is 30 days to three years. Overall, the air resistance rowing machine is an excellent choice for any home gym.  


  • Very smooth and strong stroke 
  • Simulates rowing on the water 
  • Cheap and easy to get a hold of 
  • High level of expanded effort during the workout 
  • Available at most price ranges 


  • Can be loud during use 
  • Non-consistent resistance level 
person using a rowing machine

Magnetic Vs Air Rower (Differences Compared) 

Resistance Operation, Control, And Strength 

Besides the two different types of air resistance, the magnetic rower vs air rower resistance differences come down to control and strength. There is no control for air beyond your strength and speed, but magnetic rowers can be adjusted with a dial or button; this makes the magnetic rowing machine more consistent in this category. 


In terms of the monitors, the air rowing machine vs magnetic rower winner depends on your individual preferences. Both machines can have simple or more complex monitors. However, air resistance rowers are typically more accurate and better at tracking data for training. On the other hand, magnetic resistance rowers are often full of pre-set programs, making them easy to use for pros and beginners alike. 

Noise Level 

As briefly mentioned above, magnetic resistance rowers are the quieter of the two. Air resistance machines are often accompanied by whooshes of air as you work out. Magnetic resistance rowing machines use no contact resistance levels that make them virtually silent workout machines. If you are someone who loves to listen to music or watch TV while you row, the magnetic style may be best for you. 

Weight Limitation/Capacities  

The weight limitations or capacities of magnetic rowers vs air ones are typically similar. The main differences will be between individual brands or models. However, most air resistance rowing machines and magnetic resistance rowing machines will have a weight capacity of between 150 and 500 pounds. Make sure to assess any users’ weight and ensure that those numbers comfortably fit your desired model’s weight limit. 

Ease of Use 

Both types of rowing machines will be similar in terms of how easy they are to use. Whether they have a simple or more detailed monitor system, you can get an idea of how easy they are to use from other customers’ reviews online. That being said, magnetic rowers do not necessarily need as much babysitting and are relatively low maintenance. 


In terms of cost, air rowing machines vs magnetic resistance rowers come out on an even playing field. You can find products for most budgets for both styles. That being said, air rowers will often be cheaper than magnetic rowers due to magnetic resistance machines having a much heavier flywheel.  

man using concept 2 rowing machine

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How do water resistance rowers differ from magnetic & air? 

Water-resistance rowing machines push paddles through a tank of water with each pull to generate resistance. The harder and faster you pull, along with the water level inside the tank, decide how much resistance goes into a motion. This style of machine often needs more maintenance than air and magnetic rowers due to the tank of water needing to be cleaned, emptied, and adjusted. 

How long should a beginner row on a rowing machine? 

That depends on your fitness and comfort level. We would typically recommend following a beginner’s pre-set program or going at your own pace for 20-30 minutes as well as going through both a warmup and cool down session. 


Knowing the differences between air and magnetic rowing machines can help you make the best choice for your home. While both have great advantages and similarities, we recommend magnetic resistance rowing machines for home gyms due to their more silent motion. 

Last Updated on January 19, 2023

Paul J

Paul J

Paul J is is an ex-professional footballer who has seen a gym or two and is an expert at knowing what is required for home gym setups. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually going for a run in the park or out for coffee.