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.
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.
If you’re on the hunt for a rowing machine for home fitness, keep in mind that there are many different styles and features that you’re going to want to consider before choosing. As always, high quality comes with a price, but there are great, reliable rowers at lower prices as well. We’ll do our best to break down all the things you need to know below. And we have included our top rower picks to help you find the best rowing machine for your needs.
Rowing is primarily a cardio workout, but it’s also more than that. Your heart rate is absolutely going to be climbing, but unlike a jog in the park, you might also be sore the next day. The rower requires you use your legs more than anything, and as we know, your quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings are the biggest, most powerful muscles in your body. But you’re also pulling with your arms, shoulders, abs and engaging your back. That said, you’re not pulling as hard as you might with, say, a seated cable row machine at the gym. You don’t want to hurt your back, but you can engage them and this will help you get those muscles toned.
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.
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.
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 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.
Don't know why, perhaps due to rising demand and production bandwidth, but be forewarned quality control is an issue. Assembly is easy enough, though have gap where back separator does not fit snugly after tightening nuts as firm as they will go (see pic). No water level sticker on tank received, so had to measure water manually according to calculations (4 gallons). Siphon was not air tight (even though release valve closed firmly), so had to manually pump instead of siphon. S4 monitor only flashes, not working as of yet and now have to take a apart top of unit to figure out why, currently not resolved after verifying connections and looking at simple solutions on website.
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).