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.
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.
It's been nearly 30 years since John Duke, a former Yale University and USA National Team oarsman, set up a small shop in Rhode Island, USA to begin fine-tuning his innovative water-resistant rowing machine. With its beautiful design and unmatched feel, the WaterRower quickly gained a cult-like following of both on-water rowers and fitness enthusiasts that had found their perfect piece of workout equipment. As word spread of the new product that simulated the feel of on-water rowing, WaterRower transitioned from simply a one-off product found within the occasional boathouse to an established brand in both the rowing and fitness world.
The water flywheel is comprised of two paddles encased in an enclosed tank of water. As you pull the cable, the paddles move through the water creating resistance. The beauty of this machine is it uses the mass/density of water. The paddles create the drag, so the harder you pull, the more resistance increases. Think about moving your hands through water. The faster you go, the more dense water feels. The slower you go, the less you feel the resistance. And this type of resistance is excellent for your joints. Click here to read the full review.
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The Challenge AR features an advanced computer monitor providing the rower with measurable performance output, an ergonomically designed seat that rides on precision bearings and rollers for absolute smoothness, an upgraded footboard with advanced heel support, and an innovative soft grip handle to eliminate stress on the hands and wrist during the comfortable, but physical workout.
No matter the resistance we set or the power we applied, the machine remains sturdy, centered, and even. We amped up the intensity for 2000m sprints and found that the C2 supports consistent effort in a way water resistance can’t. The machine assists in keeping your intensity uniform, because it stores up remaining energy in the spinning flywheel. Comments about the ride feel of both Concept 2s were noticeably brief. As one tester put it, “It’s unremarkable because it’s good,” and leaves you free to focus on the effort you’re putting into your workout.
Comparing the rowing machine to the stationary bike, the rowing machine is superior in terms of calories burned. Yet, it’s important to note that the stationary bike is also easy on the joints and only includes the lower body. So, if you have any upper body problems then the stationary bike will be a much better choice. In 30 minutes of cycling 12-13 miles per hour, an 125lb individual will burn around 225-250 calories.
Assembly was challenging. One of the rails could not be attached because the embedded screw in the cross-beam was too crooked to fit into the hole on the rail. I had to place a nut on it to protect the screws and tap until it was true enough cap nut to be attached. The foot board is slightly wider than the top board. I will sand this to match when I reapply the finish. This will need to be done because the wood has a dry, ashy appearance. The wood is beautiful and mostly uniform. This rowing machine is a nice product, but the build quality of the unit I received was disappointing. I felt lucky that the gashes in the carton did not damage the product as the packaging was optimistic. The leading competitor I use at the gym seems to provide slightly more resistance. It is beautiful and useful, but with room for improvement.
From a fitness perspective, the WaterRower Natural 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.