We picked the brains of rowing coaches, fitness experts, and physical therapists to learn what features make for an exceptional rower. Based on their input, we searched the market for air and water resistance rowing machines, then tested the best for ride feel and design. We found one model of each type — air resistance and water resistance — that felt truly superior to the others.


First of all, if you're considering rowing, just do it. It is by far the most enjoyable and beneficial exercise I have ever tried. I've made huge strides with both cardio and muscle fitness with the WaterRower, and it's so enjoyable I look forward to exercising each day. Yes, it is more expensive than most other rowing machines, but when you compare it to a lot of other types of exercise equipment, it's actually pretty reasonable. When you also compare the exercise benefit you get, it's a bargain.
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.
Chris Kinsey works as an editor for a medical publisher and has experience dealing with many topics, ranging from athlete's foot to cancer and brain injury. Kinsey has a great deal of freelance experience writing for sports and parenting magazines as well. Kinsey holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California University of Pennsylvania.

Rowing machines were first used in Archaic Greece. Chabrias, an Athenian military general in 4th Century B.C., invented wooden rowing simulators for his inexperienced oarsmen. This enabled them to learn technique and timing before stepping foot on actual water crafts. And it must have worked — Chabrias successfully led numerous naval attacks against the Spartans.
* While there is nothing to adjust from row to row on the WaterRower, it is possible to increase or decrease the level of resistance by changing how much water you put in the drum. The monitor is pre-calibrated to match 17 liters of water, but you can change that if you want. More than 17 liters = more resistance, up to the max fill line. This is not something you'll want to change frequently, it's more of a set-it-and-forget-it thing.
This twenty minutes duration technique is designed to max your muscles out every interval, and at the same time the recovery periods assist in increasing the efficiency with the fat burning routine. Once you have prepared your rowing machine, set its resistance to four. Perform sets of ten, fifteen and twenty power strokes by pulling to handle towards the torso of your body, like doing a rowing motion. Do this motion as fast as your body permits you to. Separate your power strokes at sixty seconds, putting in only fifty percent the effort you did before this. Repeat this cycle until you have fully rowed for a total of twenty minutes.
I was introduced to this rower when I joined Orange Theory Fitness four months ago. Since I started using the rower during my OTF sessions I have grown to love the overall workout this thing gives me. In fact, I loved it so much that I purchased the Waterrower Club for my home gym. The overall quality and construction is superb and I'm very satisfied with my purchase. I would highly recommend over any other home gym equipment available. One of the best features is how its so easy to stand up and move out of the way for storage. You can't do that with any treadmill or elliptical. This thing is amazing and worth every penny. Assembly was straightforward and took about 30-45 minutes. Solid, quality construction.

A 125-pound person moving at an average pace for 30 minutes on a treadmill will burn roughly 250 calories. However, they aren’t able to take advantage of this after-burn effect. The same person rowing vigorously will burn around to 250 calories but will have less stress placed upon their joints and continue to burn calories after the workout has ended. Rowing machines have been shown to burn on average 800 calories an hour if you work harder and are slightly heavier.


We picked the brains of rowing coaches, fitness experts, and physical therapists to learn what features make for an exceptional rower. Based on their input, we searched the market for air and water resistance rowing machines, then tested the best for ride feel and design. We found one model of each type — air resistance and water resistance — that felt truly superior to the others.
Storage is also a plus point for the Waterrower series as they are all designed to stand upright with the tank acting as ballast for stability. In this position they only take up around two square feet. Again, great if you are planning on training in the living room. However, if you have small children, I would advise fixing the top to the wall with a hook and strap.
Absolutely beautiful piece of functional furniture. I use this rower 3-5 times per week. The display is a little awkward and not nearly as advanced as the competition but for anyone short of a pro, it provides all the basic functions you could want. I've used plenty of rowers in gyms but this was my first purchase for home use. It was an excellent alternative to running outdoors in the winter and as an alternative to running when the legs need a little more recovery time. I have it set in the middle of it's resistance range and it is still plenty challenging. So there is a ton of adjustability in that regard. It's not quickly changed but for a single user device this doesn't matter. It's a different feeling than an air fan but I really like it.
From a fitness perspective, the WaterRower Club 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.
I don't know how this machine compares to others. I have no idea. Here's what I know: I've had treadmills and elliptical machines, weight benches and several exercise appliances from infomercials. They all work exactly like they should if you use the equipment on a consistent basis. That's where the problem comes in. I would always give up eventually and the machine would sit in the corner, covered with my laundry, laughing at me. I bought this rower without ever even trying one at the gym because I was desperate to do something (and I voted for Frank Underwood). This was the one machine I was not only able to stick with, but I now eagerly look forward to using. It started a chain reaction that changed everything. You know those incredible before/after transformation pictures you see on weight loss shows? I'm one of those guys now. Rowing is like a 'secret' in the fitness world in the way there is so little emphasis. However, in terms of results, it is so much more efficient. It works your upper and lower body at the same time, huge cardio/fat burner and builds muscle like crazy. I'm glad I'm in on the secret too.
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.
Of the four types of rowing machines or ergometers, water rowers are best at reproducing the sensation of on-water rowing. Their stroke cycles hold true to the dynamics of real paddling, and each stroke is punctuated with a splash! Water rowers have sliding seats to allow full-body cardiovascular workouts. (With cheaper rowing machines, in contrast, the seats don’t move.) These fitness machines tend to feature high quality parts and can last a lifetime.
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A 125-pound person moving at an average pace for 30 minutes on a treadmill will burn roughly 250 calories. However, they aren’t able to take advantage of this after-burn effect. The same person rowing vigorously will burn around to 250 calories but will have less stress placed upon their joints and continue to burn calories after the workout has ended. Rowing machines have been shown to burn on average 800 calories an hour if you work harder and are slightly heavier.
The Verified Sustainable Hardwoods used for the WaterRower are sourced from the Appalachian Mountain region of the eastern United States, where planting rates exceed harvest rates by an average multiple of 2.29. The Appalachian Hardwood Timber resource includes more than 65.4 million acres in the eastern United States and provides the world with a bounty of the finest hardwood species.

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.

Most people who are new to the sport of rowing have difficulty achieving low strokes rates while trying to obtain their desired intensity – there are many comments such as “it does not feel hard enough?” or “how can I make it harder?” Rowing is about ratio and rhythm and you need to focus on a long stroke length and a powerful drive phase (push with the legs and pull with the arms). Give yourself time to learn this, it can take a few weeks before you start to feel the intensity at low stroke rates.
The rowing machine itself is unlike any other on the market with its patented water filled flywheel. It is hard to exactly copy the action of a scull on the water, but the mechanics of the flywheel spinning in water comes in a close second on dry land. The fact that the water is 800 times denser than air means that there is no need for any extra resistance or dampening that you will find in normal air rowers. The faster you pull, the more resistance is generated giving it infinite variability. However, if you want to be able to practice rowing with a faster stroke, you will have to reduce the amount of water in the tank unlike an air rower where you just have to adjust the baffle.

One of the major deciding factors between water and air rowers is price. Water rowing machines are often found in higher price ranges with the lowest model going for $700 and the best models starting around $1,100. Air rowers are found in every price range starting at $300 and going as high as $1,000+. The affordability of air rowing machines makes them very popular.
Rowing machines were first used in Archaic Greece. Chabrias, an Athenian military general in 4th Century B.C., invented wooden rowing simulators for his inexperienced oarsmen. This enabled them to learn technique and timing before stepping foot on actual water crafts. And it must have worked — Chabrias successfully led numerous naval attacks against the Spartans.
Essentially, the water rower uses water as it's resistance and the air rower (click here to read our air rowing machine reviews) uses air resistance. Additionally, the resistance of the water gives a very similar feeling to actually rowing in the water. The rowing machines listed above all have fantastic rowing mechanisms that mimic the exact feeling of a rowing a boat.
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.

 The amount of water in the tank simulates the weight of the boat and crew, the more water in the tank the heavier the boat and crew. The standard Calibration Level is Level 17. If the user is lighter in weight, Level 15-16 can be used. If the user is heavier in weight, level 18-19 can be used. The maximum level to fill the tank is Level 19. DO NOT fill above the maximum level – this could void the warranty.


The frame is beyond durable and is designed for absorbing sound and vibration. There’s no creaking or other sounds that you might expect from wood components. It has a low center of gravity that keeps the rower in place while exerting full rowing power. The polycarbonate water tank is equally durable and practically indestructible. The Classic Rower doesn’t have any moving parts that can wear out, or belts and pulleys that need to be maintained.


The WaterRower Classic is handcrafted from solid American Black Walnut wood, finished with danish oil. The WaterRower's patented WaterFlywheel has been specifically designed to emulate the dynamics of a boat moving though water and is unsurpassed in its simulation of the physical and physiological benefits of rowing. WaterRower will not provide support or documentation for any product transported outside of the original country of purchase
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