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.


According to Men’s Total Fitness, rowing machines are not only great for aerobic workouts, but they also work all of your body's major muscle groups. What’s more, you don’t have to go to the gym to work out on a rowing machine, as many manufacturers make high-quality rowing machines -- and even rowing machines that fold up for easy storage -- that are suitable for home use. Two popular types of rowing machines are the water rower and the air rower.

The Waterrower has recently been made famous by Kevin Spacy as the rowing machine used in the ‘House of Cards’. It is a type of wooden rowing machine produced and manufactured by Waterrower Inc. in New England, USA. The rowers were designed by ex-US national team rower john Duke in the mid 1980’s and the company to manufacture them was established in 1988.
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.
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This popular rowing machine utilizes magnetic resistance for a quiet, and very smooth workout. The Velocity Exercise CHR-2001 also features a programmable computer with 12 programs that will keep your exercising varied and challenging for years. The computer also provides data on distance, time, calories burned, pulse rate, strokes per minute, and stroke count. Additionally, the tension resistance is electronically controlled via the computer.  This electronic resistance control feature puts the CHR-2001 ahead of other magnetic rowers that tend to use knobs.
Unlike its WaterRower Natural cousin, the WaterRower Club is designed for high-traffic areas, such as commercial gyms, studios, and rehabilitation clinics. Its dual black rails have been styled to prevent scuffing, while the other wood components are finished in an attractive rosewood, which is more resistant to soiling than the Natural model. Other details include four corner wheels on the rails that increase seat stability and reduce the amount of sweat buildup; a frame that flips upright for handy storage; and a weight capacity of up to 1,000 pounds. The WaterRower Club measures 84 by 21 by 22 inches (W x H x D), weighs 117 pounds (with water), and carries a one-year warranty on the frame and components (WaterRower will upgrade the warranty to five years on the frame and three years on the components with the completion of a registration form).
There is much to love about the WaterRower--and I do love it--but I would echo others' comments that although the seat rolls solidly and smoothly on the wood rails, the seat itself is very hard (I use a gel seat pad I bought for my hard fiberglass kayak seat), and the footpads are in need up rethinking and upgrading--the cheap plastic doesn't let you row in socks or barefoot and is not really worthy of a machine that is otherwise a stunning piece of engineering and a beautiful one as well. As one other person noted about his machine, my machine made a clicking noise on the return stroke, so I had to adjust the wheel underneath the top rail that connects to the footpad and pull it away gently from where it was rubbing against another component. Also, be warned: the instruction booklet is in the DVD case. I did not see the little sticker on the case telling me that, thinking I'd wait to watch the DVD until after I'd assembled it. But WaterRower has a copy of the assembly instructions on their website, along with a video (I found the written ones better and easier to follow), so I was able to assemble it with no difficulty.
Performance is meaningless if you can’t or don’t want to use the equipment, and that’s why the Wave Water rower was built for comfort and convenience. With a wide, molded seat to accommodate users of all sizes and a padded, textured rowing handle, you can build your strength and endurance in ease. When setting up the rower, the leveling endcaps with a dial ensure stability. After your workout, storing your Wave Water rower is easy – just fold the frame and roll the rower into a closet or corner.
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 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.
Other details include dual rails with four corner wheels that increase seat stability and reduce the amount of sweat buildup; a frame that flips upright for handy storage; and a weight capacity of up to 1,000 pounds. The WaterRower Natural measures 84 by 21 by 22 inches (W x H x D), weighs 117 pounds (with water), and carries a one-year warranty on the frame and components (WaterRower will upgrade the warranty to five years on the frame and three years on the components with the completion of a registration form).
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