So, you want to buy a rower. Sounds easy, right? Well, maybe not after you’ve got buyer’s paralysis from looking at the vast and varying machines. From big fans to water tanks, it can be a lot to consider. So, what’s the difference between these rowers anyway?

For starters, we can categorize rowers by resistant types. Rowers usually have between one or two types of resistance, such as magnetic, air-magnetic, or water. And the best part? All of these machines can help you achieve a full-body workout.

MAGNETIC

Magnetic rowers can be easy to use and require very little maintenance. You can adjust the intensity on magnetic rowers by turning the resistance knob. With each turn of the knob, you’ll control the distance of the magnets from the flywheel. When the magnets are close to the flywheel, the repelling force generated by the magnets makes it harder to pull against the flywheel during your exercise. One of the best things about magnetic resistance is that it requires virtually no maintenance during the life of the rower.

Magnetic resistance is measurable, but it’s not infinite. Most magnet rowers have a fixed limit, such as 8, 12, or 16 levels of resistance. However, once you reach the max resistance setting on the rower, you won’t be able to apply additional force to the flywheel.

Individuals of all fitness levels can use magnetic rowers. But if you’re preparing to buy a rower for light, in-home cardio activities, a basic magnetic rower, like the SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rower, will be more than enough to power your cardio. If you prefer something that simulates real rowing, take a look at our SF-RW5864 Full-Motion Magnetic Rowing Machine. Magnetic rowers like these have versatile row arms that allow you to row backward and forward.

AIR-MAGNETIC

Air-magnetic rowers offer more resistance than standalone magnetic rowers. Air-magnetic rowers have dual resistance: two mechanisms that work against you as you pull against the rower’s flywheel. In the case of the air-magnetic rower, it has the finite benefits of a magnetic rower, but adds progressive air resistance.

Progressive air resistance is the capability of displacing air based on the strength of a rowing stroke through an onboard fan. The harder you pull, the more resistance you’ll feel. Most rowers use some form of a fan for air resistance. Simply put, larger fan blades can displace more air, and therefore provide more resistance.

Like standalone magnetic resistance, you can also control the baseline resistance on air-magnetic rowers. A great example of this is the Asuna 8580 Ventus Air Magnetic rower. This machine has a knob that allows you to cycle through 12 levels of magnetic resistance. For additional resistance, you can pull harder against the fan blade to displace more air. In most rowers, you’ll have to engage both forms of resistance at the same time.

A rower with progressive resistance would work best for individuals that want more than a light cardio exercise and believe that their strength may quickly outgrow the resistance of the magnetic mechanism.

WATER RESISTANCE

Water resistance gives you more control over progressive resistance. Similar to how a fan can displace air, a water rower has blades that displace water inside of a controlled tank. The user can determine how much water is in the tank to control the level of resistance (which tend to have marked levels). The more water there is to displace, the more resistance you’ll endure during your exercise.

Unlike its magnetic counterparts, the levels of resistance are not fixed, and it can be hard to measure. However, water rowers may offer a great experience to those who prefer the natural pull and feel of water when rowing. If water rowing fits your exercise style, check out the SF-RW5866—our newest water rowing machine.

Want to learn more about rowing? Check out our ultimate guide on rowing technique. And if you’re up for a challenge, give some of our free strength-based rowing workouts a try.