Rowing is primarily a cardio workout, but it’s also more than that. Your heart rate is absolutely going to be climbing, but unlike a jog in the park, you might also be sore the next day. The rower requires you use your legs more than anything, and as we know, your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings are the biggest, most powerful muscles in your body. But you’re also pulling with your arms, shoulders, abs and engaging your back. That said, you’re not pulling as hard as you might with, say, a seated cable row machine at the gym. You don’t want to hurt your back, but you can engage them and this will help you get those muscles toned.
The overall rowing experience encompasses pulley, seat, and — of course — resistance. Air and water have very distinct qualities, making them impossible to compare but interesting to contrast. Air stores inertia, which feeds into intense, constant effort during a goal-oriented workout. Water’s more sluggish drag makes for demanding exercise, but one that’s less consistent.
The Concept2 Model D is the ultra-popular air rower that you’ll see at most gyms. It is one of the best home indoor rowers you can buy period. Expertly constructed and ergonomically unequaled, this rowing machine looks great and rows smoothly without so much as a jarring catch. As an air rower, the Concept2 employs air baffles to create the resistance. A nickel-plated chain pulls the flywheel and you get your workout by pulling against the increasingly higher air pressure that the fan is creating.
Now back to the aesthetics, this version of WaterRower’s natural wood line of rowers comes in beautiful Black Walnut, which the company chose for its superior sound and vibration absorption. It’s hand-made in the USA and comes with excellent warranties and customer service. Overall, WaterRower is known for the quality of their rowing machines and the Classic is no exception. And if you do want to get this rower just as an attractive conversation piece, it easily stores upright against a wall. That said, we strongly recommend using The WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine for fitness, not just eye-candy.
Outside of resistance type, we found the number-one arbiter of ride feel to be cord quality. Water ergometers tend to employ nylon cords, while air ergometers feature metal chains — a durability factor we anticipated would result in our favoring air. But while all three water rowers aced our expectation of smooth, high-tension strokes, perfecting the chain seems to be more difficult: Some tug with just a slight rumble, others feature bouncy, grinding chains that are incredibly loud, something akin to angry snoring. As for nylon, the best wind and unwind like elastic silk — no slack, no sound, no catching, just perfectly even tension throughout the stroke.
From a fitness perspective, the WaterRower Classic works 84 percent of your muscle mass, helping tone and strengthen your muscles while burning far more calories than most other aerobic machines. The exercise is also low impact, as it removes all the body weight from the ankles, knees, and hips, but still moves the limbs and joints through a full range of motion--from completely extended to completely contracted.
As previously discussed, the rowing machine’s big advantage is that it provides more than just a cardio workout. It can definitely help you build muscle and lose weight. Compared to a treadmill, the rowing machine works most of your body. It will really hit your shoulders, core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, arms and back effectively while being low impact thus reducing the stress on your joints. Bigger muscles need more energy and will burn fat to get it, which of course leads to healthy weight loss.
Con's: Super bummed that for $1160 they couldn't include an internal ANT+ transponder and Heart Rate strap(sub $100 package). The foot straps are crap! Within the first 1000m of moderate rowing they loosen to the point of being able to pull foot out on Recovery of stroke(Yes, even with ball of foot down). I really wish the WaterCoach F.I.T. software for the S4 Monitor was macOS compatible. It'd be nice to able to customer program workouts on my MacBook Pro or iMac.