Magnetic Vs Water Rower: Machine & Resistance Differences

Rowing machines offer one of the best low-impact forms of exercise for a solid, full-body workout. Not only that, but they help to develop stamina, strength, power, and even range of motion. Two of the most popular types of rowing machines are magnetic and water resistance rowers.

There are many similarities, though notable differences between them. We’re going to compare magnetic vs water rower all in this guide, so you can determine which type is ideal for your home workout needs! 

Utilizing magnets to provide resistance, it’s easier to make your training more or less challenging quickly. The downside is that you generally don't get quite as much variation with the number of resistance levels.  

Due to how extremely quiet they are, magnetic rowing machines are also great for people who live with others or who share walls with neighbors. As they don't utilize something like a water reservoir, they tend to be more compact and easier to use in tight spaces. 

woman using a sunny health & fitness magnetic rowing machine

Not to mention, many models are even foldable, so you can stow them away when you aren’t using them. If you’re on a budget, it's better to opt for magnetic vs water rowers as they are generally made of slightly less durable materials.  

  • Pros 
    More affordable, fits better in smaller spaces, less cumbersome, easier to use for beginners, very quiet. 
  • Cons 
    Not as much variation, doesn't feel as natural as other rowing machines and doesn't tend to last quite as long. 

Water Rowing Machine (Overview + Pros & Cons)  

Water rowing machines, as one might imagine, are the most natural feeling. So it makes sense, as with traditional rowing, you're working to displace water just as you'd do with one of these machines.  

If you want a stationary rowing machine that is a conversation piece rather than an eyesore, definitely get a water rower. Many boast sleek, aesthetically appealing frames made of real wood. While they aren’t exactly space-savers, they are durable and incredibly versatile.

Whether you’re just getting into rowing or are recovering from an injury, you’ll appreciate the smooth stroke action. This keeps stress on the body to a minimum so that you can stay active without repercussions.  

While you may hear the swishing of water while using your rower, it's not generally very loud and can realistically be used while others are sleeping or working. While you should expect to pay a more premium price for all of these benefits, you’ll also get more use and longevity from a water rowing machine vs magnetic machine. 

  • Pros 
    Fairly quiet, simulates open-water rowing very well, smooth action, consistent resistance, more versatility.
  • Cons 
    Generally more expensive than other types of rowing machines, tend to be bigger and heavier.
woman using a water rower

Magnetic Vs Water Rower (Which Is Better For Home Use?)

There's a time and place for both a magnetic and a water rower. It all comes down to what you value most in a rower and the type of athlete you are.  

Resistance Operation & Control

Magnetic rowers use powerful magnets which move further or closer to you to change the resistance level. To change them, you can use either a mechanical slider or a digital console, depending on the model. This tends to be easier in terms of tracking difficulty levels.  

Water rowers use paddles on a water flywheel inside of a water tank to create resistance. The faster you pull on the rowing handle, the more resistance it will create due to the moving water creating additional drag force against said paddles. This makes it easier to up resistance without pressing any buttons, though tracking the exact resistance level can be more challenging.  

man doing exercise on rowing machine

Noise Level

Magnetic rowing machines simply can't be beaten in terms of noise level. They're practically silent at times! While water rowing machines tend to be relatively quiet, they do generate a bit of noise from the splashing water in the tank.

So, when it comes to a water vs magnetic rower, the latter is ideal for staying quiet. If you're someone who likes to work out in the very early/late hours in your apartment, you should look first at magnetic machines. 

Strength & Muscle Gains

If you tend to work out really hard and need a machine that can support the abuse you’re bound to bestow upon it, a water rower is probably best. That’s not to say there aren’t durable magnetic rowers out there, but if you’re looking to really build strength and gain muscle, water rowers tend to be more effective tools. 

Keep in mind that with magnetic rowing machines, you’re limited to a predetermined amount of resistance levels. With water rowers, the possibilities (and gains!) are endless.  

For the purpose of aesthetics, comfort, and range of motion, it's important to have a smooth movement throughout. As we mentioned previously, water rowers offer exactly that. This, among the other reasons we’ve listed, is why water rowing machines are the best rowing machines for home garage gyms.  

Weight Limitation/Capacities

With stronger materials like wood frames being utilized, water rowing machines have very high weight capacities. We’ve used models with a 1000-pound weight capacity, for example. However, many magnetic rowing machines tend to support 250-300 pounds on average. For many people, this will work just fine for them. 

Ease of Use

If you're looking for a rower for beginners, magnetic rowing machines tend to be more straightforward in operation and less challenging. You simply sit down, set your resistance level, and you're off! On the other hand, water rowers are more difficult right out of the gate. However, if you're a more experienced athlete, you'll appreciate the challenge and the smoother operation. 

Monitors & Other Accessories

You may prefer the calibration and parameters that are measured on magnetic rowers. If you're the type of person who enjoys inputting your workout data into your favorite workout-tracking app, then you may prefer a magnetic vs water rowing machine. You may not get accurate workout tracking data (rowing speed, stroke time, etc.) from a water rowing machine, understandably. 


Magnetic rowers require little-to-no maintenance, which is perfect for the person who’s looking for just an everyday indoor workout. They tend to be very reliable, and their mechanisms aren't too complicated. Water rowing machines do require a bit more love and attention.

You must make sure there is no dust build-up anywhere. Moreover, you should never use hard water, so bottled water is ideal. Try to always wipe down the frame and routinely check and tighten all screws. 


Water rowers tend to be more expensive for various reasons. One is that they are generally made from the most durable materials. Genuine wood is one of the most popular materials for water rowing machine frames. They are smooth, look beautiful, and are very long-lasting. 

Available Space

If you don’t have much space to keep your rowing machine, a magnetic rower is probably your best bet. It’s more lightweight, compact, and some rowers can even be folded up for easy storage. Water rowing machines tend to be more robust and are ideal for stationary setups where they aren’t in the path of any high-traffic areas.  

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Which is better for weight loss, magnetic vs water rower?  

You can lose weight on either machine. Again, it all comes down to your needs and preferences. For example, if you need absolute quiet to row late at night and have a water rower, you probably aren't going to use it as often, resulting in less desirable results. For gaining raw strength and power, water rowers are ideal due to the essentially unlimited resistance they provide.  

How do air resistance rowers compare with magnetic and water?  

Many people wonder how magnetic vs air vs water rower machines compare. Air machines are similar to water machines in that the harder you pull, the more air is displaced and the more resistance you'll experience. However, like magnetic rowers, you also have control over the baseline resistance on air machines (usually by twisting a knob to make it easier or harder).  

Air resistance rowers come with monitors ranging from very basic to very advanced. Due to how precise and accurate they are in measuring specific workout parameters, they're used by many Olympic athletes. However, they are very noisy! 

How do you increase water resistance on a rowing machine?  

Simply by pulling faster on the rowing handle! This can be great for HIIT workouts, as you don’t have to mess around by pressing any buttons to adjust resistance.  

How often should I row to lose weight?  

If you're just starting out, we recommend rowing every other day to get in 3 rowing sessions per week. After a few weeks, up this for 5-6 times per week for at least 30 minutes. This will definitely yield results, such as loss of body fat, increase in strength and flexibility, and muscle gain.  


So, is a magnetic rower better than water? Again, that all depends on you. If you're looking to get in the most challenging workout possible, a water rower is ideal. If you want the most durable rower out there, they're also preferable.

However, if you want a rowing machine that is more affordable, space-saving, and/or quiet, then a magnetic rowing machine is best. Know that whichever one you choose, you'll surely see positive results! Thanks for tuning in, and we'll see you again soon! 

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.