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.
There is some minor maintenance. Because it's made out of wood, which can expand and contract, the bolts need tightening every few months or so. It's easy and takes only a couple of minutes. That, and putting in a fresh water purification tablet every six to twelve months, are about it for regular maintenance. The only problem I've had with the rower (the reason for 4 stars instead of 5) was a squeak that developed after about 6 weeks. It took me some time to determine the source of the squeak, which was a metal bracket connecting the footrest board to the horizontal boards above the drum. I had to partially disassemble the top section and tighten four bolts, but that fixed the problem and it's been quiet ever since.
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.
Being able to easily store your rower is a huge plus. Make sure you investigate how well the machine stores, if it folds up or comes apart easily to be able to put it in your closet, or in other storage areas. As an example, the Concept2 Model D rowing machine folds up nicely by a simple pull pin located in the middle of the rower. Wheels on the bottom allow for easy moving.
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 WaterRower Club is outfitted with a Series 4 performance monitor that's designed to balance technical sophistication with user-friendliness. The monitor--which includes six information and programming windows, six QuickSelection buttons, and three navigation buttons--displays your workout intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, zone bar, duration, and distance. Plus, the monitor is compatible with an optional heart rate chest strap and receiver, which helps you optimize your workout and achieve your exercise objectives.

As with any fitness activity, it’s important to exercise with proper technique, however. The big muscles in the legs are where most of the workout action should be. Injury to the lower back can occur from bending too far forward in the row. It’s best to maintain a upright 90 degree angle to the rowing machine’s seat and slider bar. Using the legs for the motion rather than relying as heavily on the back or arms can help reduce the chance of muscle pulls or other related injuries. Always check with a physician before starting any new fitness regimen.


1.) I keep reading about cracks and leaks that develop in the water tank. WaterRower even offers a tank repair kit for this very issue. It seems to me that this is a design flaw that they refuse to address, instead offering a fix for when it eventually occurs. Have you seen these tanks to eventually leak? I’m surprised they haven’t tried a one-piece tank.
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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.
In the rowing machine category, there are a lot of models to chose from. They range in price from under $100 to well over $1500.  As you can imagine, you’re getting a different type of row machine at those ends of the spectrum, but within that variety there’s something for everyone.  To help guide you, we’ve listed our favorite row machine models and brands by price below:
The Classic Rowing Machine is generally quiet for a water resistance machine, but some users believed that it was a little noisy. Like all rowers, whether it’s a flywheel or a waterwheel, there is going to be noise. The more effort that you put into it, the louder it’s going to get. And most find it motivating to hear the water paddles get louder as they burn more calories.
The reason I'm writing now, two years after purchase, is, I broke one of the wheels. I proceeded to order the wrong replacement, so I emailed them pictures to ask for the right parts. They wrote back asking for the serial number to get the right unit AND to see if it was under warranty. (Hadn't even occurred to me.) Turns out it was, they're sending me the wheels, they're refunding me for the wrong part, AND included a link for the Puri-Tabs which I didn't know they provide for the life of the ROWER! They're also replacing all eight wheels even though there's only one broken one.
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.
The dense resistance of water creates substantial drag, but on the WaterRower models, this is perfectly tempered by a whippy cord. It coils and recoils with such steady speed that one tester noted how the Classic “eats the rope back up on recovery.” This smooth agility helps balance out the impact of encountering slow water at the start of every stroke.
Both the air rower and water rower machines are very popular choices of rowing equipment, particularly the former type. They have been around in the 80s, and many consumers and those that have tried them in gyms consider the equipment to be the best type ever. These air resistance equipment, often regarded as Ergometers, is the standard base model for indoor rowing sport.

* 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.

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