Fitness experts as well as health professionals agree that rowing machines provide one of the best workouts possible. Exercising on a rower will allow you to target the great majority of your muscle groups and give them as hard and challenging a workout as you feel like giving them. On the better rowing machine models, you’ll be able to track your progress and see how your splits are improving.
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.
Here’s a secret, because the rowing machine provides an intense full body workout, the exercise burns a high amount of calories not only during the actual activity but also for a period after you’ve stopped. This is known as the “after-burn effect”. Essentially, you’ve worked your body so hard that it is forced to keep burning calories and fat even when you’re not rowing. The scientific jargon for this is “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or “EPOC” for short. But all you need to know is that if you’re doing an intense rowing workout, the benefits continue after you’re done. How great is that?
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.
Rowing has long been recognized as the perfect aerobic pursuit, with naturally smooth and flowing movements that don't tax the joints but do boost the heart rate. Now you can take your rowing experience to the next level with the commercial-quality WaterRower Club rowing machine. Using the same principles that govern the dynamics of a boat in water, the WaterRower Club is outfitted with a "water flywheel" that consists of two paddles in an enclosed tank of water that provide smooth, quiet resistance, just like the paddles in an actual body of water. As a result, the machine has no moving parts that can wear out over time (even the recoil belt and pulleys don't require lubricating or maintaining). More significantly, the water tank and flywheel create a self-regulating resistance system that eliminates the need for a motor. As with real rowing, when you paddle faster, the increased drag provides more resistance. When you paddle slower, the resistance is less intense. The only limit to how fast you can row is your strength and your ability to overcome drag. And unlike conventional rowing machines, which tend to be jerky and jarring, the WaterRower Club is remarkably smooth and fluid.
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.
The proper ratio of effort is about 75 percent lower body and 25 percent upper body. Ensure you’re hitting that by driving through your legs and keeping your hands relaxed. Posture plays a big part, too. Concept 2 recommends imagining your upright profile at noon and tilting from the 11 o’clock position (drive) to the 1 o’clock position (recovery).
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!
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* 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.
The WaterRower Natural rowing machine is handcrafted in solid ash wood, stained Honey Oak, and finished with Danish oil. Wood is an excellent material for this application due to its ability to absorb sound and vibration enhancing the WaterRower's smooth, quiet operation. The Natural, as with all WaterRowers, features patented WaterFlywheel technology, unrivaled in its replication of the resistance felt in on the water rowing.
Noise level is another large factor that tips the scale more towards water rowers. Air rowers make a fairly loud “whooshing” noise every stroke, which makes them bad for people who like watching TV, have sleeping children, live in apartments, or like working out early in the AM. Water rowers do make some noise but the splashing of water in the tank is a lot quieter and more soothing than the fan noise produced by air rowers.
The main advantages of the water rower are that it has quiet operation; there is only little maintenance to do, the water only needs to be changed occasionally; many users love the whooshing sound of water in the tank; and its consistently smooth resistance at every stroke. Two disadvantages of this machine are it costs a lot than the air rower; and it tends to be larger in size compared to the other rowing machines.
If you're looking at a WaterRower, you're probably also considering the Concept2. They're both great machines, but which you choose depends on your needs. I think the WaterRower is ideal for most people, but not everyone. The WaterRower has a number of advantages vs the Concept 2 - it is quieter, the mechanism up front is lower profile, it has a comfortable seat, it is much better looking, it's easier to stand up when you're not rowing and it's just ... zen-like. There is something about the smoothness of the WaterRower that makes it a joy to use, and because it's quiet you can easily stream your favorite binge-series without cranking the volume too high.