Indoor rowing machines have come a long way and there are now a variety of sleek, highly-refined pieces of exercise equipment ready to get your cardio health on the upswing. Having a rower right there in your home can really be the push you need to get your muscles moving in a challenging yet comfortable way. Overall, rowing machines provide an outstanding way to increase fitness by burning calories and building muscle in a safe, low-impact way.


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.
The Challenge AR has the capability to allow the rower to control and adjust the resistance from “Feather light” to “Olympic sprint” delivering a silky smooth resistance to the user’s effort and instantaneous response to input with no “flat sport”.  With water resistance being the most accurate manner in which to simulate actual outdoor rowing, the Challenge AR provides a smooth and consistent sensation throughout the range of motion of the exercise experience.  

This is a company known for quality as well as stewardship for over 20 years. WaterRower hand-crafts their rowing machines to be more than just a workout machine, but also a work of art as well. Also, WaterRower is and has been on the cutting edge of environmental sustainability with their use of the best hardwoods coming from renewable forests. We’re in excellent hands here.


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.

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.
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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!
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.

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.
As far as “racing”, I said an air rowing machine is better because the Concept2 is the only model used for indoor rowing competitions, setting world records, and entering your actual scores online. It is because their monitor can calculate the drag factor of the flywheel in real time and accurately calculate distance and time. Small changes such as dust build up, air temperature, and humidity will not change the times between different machines because the drag factor is calculated every stroke.
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.
Because of the vast array of products that might contain one of the chemicals or ingredients on the list, we must include Proposition 65 warnings in our communications with you. We are required to use exact wording as specified by the state of California. While the warning sounds alarming, the purpose is to notify you of the potential risk so that you can make an informed buying decision.
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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