Water rowers feature a tank that is actually filled with water as a means for resistance. As you increase the pace of rowing, the resistance naturally increases as well. This means that you can set your own pace and resistance in a single motion. The same is true for air rowers. Air rowers use a fan or flywheel to create resistance, and you have control over the intensity of the workout due to the fact that the air resistance depends on your pace. Most water and air rowers come equipped with -- or at least have as an option -- monitors that track various functions such as distance, strokes, strokes per minute and calories burned.
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.
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.
Not a lot to complain about on the Classic rower, but when searching for drawbacks of this rowing machine, the S4 Monitor is the one thing that occasionally comes up. It’s rather basic and it isn’t backlit. Regardless, the monitor has all necessary tracking and features for getting an excellent workout, and in normal lighting there is no problem reading the display.
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.
The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine includes the excellent PM5 monitor that provides all vital data. It can display your workout performance in two ways. You can choose to see your workout in total distance and time, or as “splits”. Splits is a way of seeing how your pace is varying along two set points. Either way is useful, but splits give you more of a “real-time”, in the moment calculation of how you are doing.
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Most of the Waterrower range is made of wood harvested from the sustainably managed Appalachian forests of the eastern United States. The machines are extremely well built and are beautiful to look at coming in Ash, Oak or Cherry wood. If you are concerned about having an exercise machine in a living area, then one of the wooden models will fit right in to your living room. They are also extremely quiet in operation due to the wooden construction and the use of a strap rather that a chain. The only thing you can really hear is the swishing sound of the water in the tank as you pull giving you the feeling that you are really on the river!
The advantages with air rowers is that there is smooth action; there is only small wear and tear to its mechanism; its automatic feature adjusts according to your rate of strokes; and there is a wide range of the resistance readily available in replicating the feel of rowing through the waters. The only disadvantage of this machine is that it tends to be noise indoors.
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.
As I mentioned, the rowing experience with the WaterRower is amazing. I bought the rower for myself, but my wife was curious and decided to try it out. She loves it, and now rows almost daily. We have a treadmill that neither of us has used since we started rowing - the WaterRower is a much better workout and much more enjoyable at the same time. It's easy to adjust the intensity, pace and duration of your exercise. There is nothing to change on the rower (* see note below), you just row harder or faster, adjust how far you lean forward and back during your stroke. The WaterRower will keep up with you as your fitness increases, all you need to do is keep throwing more and more at it.