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.

In the rowing machine category, there are a lot of models to chose from. They range in price from under $100 to well over $1500.  As you can imagine, you’re getting a different type of row machine at those ends of the spectrum, but within that variety there’s something for everyone.  To help guide you, we’ve listed our favorite row machine models and brands by price below:

The Apollo Pro 2 water rower is a commercial grade, natural wood rowing machine, perfect for group training or high-end home gyms. This rower’s water resistant design, meditative motion and integrity of construction sets it apart from its competitors. Handcrafted from the finest quality American Ash wrapped around a stabilising steel frame, this steadfast indoor rower offers a standout performance even in the harshest of fitness applications.


Rowing machines were first used in Archaic Greece. Chabrias, an Athenian military general in 4th Century B.C., invented wooden rowing simulators for his inexperienced oarsmen. This enabled them to learn technique and timing before stepping foot on actual water crafts. And it must have worked — Chabrias successfully led numerous naval attacks against the Spartans.

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 model E’s seat stands 6 inches higher. And while the model D’s monitor rests on an adjustable arm, the E’s sits on unbending metal. These few technical differences do nothing to impact ride feel. We recommend the $200-cheaper model D as the best buy, but the Concept 2 E will appeal to anyone who values a higher seat and more solid construction.
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.
Being able to easily store your rower is a huge plus. Make sure you investigate how well the machine stores, if it folds up or comes apart easily to be able to put it in your closet, or in other storage areas. As an example, the Concept2 Model D rowing machine folds up nicely by a simple pull pin located in the middle of the rower. Wheels on the bottom allow for easy moving.
 The amount of water in the tank simulates the weight of the boat and crew, the more water in the tank the heavier the boat and crew. The standard Calibration Level is Level 17. If the user is lighter in weight, Level 15-16 can be used. If the user is heavier in weight, level 18-19 can be used. The maximum level to fill the tank is Level 19. DO NOT fill above the maximum level – this could void the warranty.
1.) I keep reading about cracks and leaks that develop in the water tank. WaterRower even offers a tank repair kit for this very issue. It seems to me that this is a design flaw that they refuse to address, instead offering a fix for when it eventually occurs. Have you seen these tanks to eventually leak? I’m surprised they haven’t tried a one-piece tank.

Another negative point for me is the angle of the seat. Unlike the Concept2, it has a slight backward angle, which makes it easier to maintain good form at the end of the stroke. Given that the Waterrower has greater resistance at the catch, it puts more pressure on the lower back at this point making it uncomfortable for people like myself with lumbar spine problems.
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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.
This piece of finely tuned, hand-crafted, water-resistance workout equipment also sits at the top end of the rowing machine spectrum. Employing a water flywheel that helps to mimic the feel of rowing in actual water, the natural wood WaterRower Rowing Machine will bring you a smooth, yet challenging workout that is as tough as you want it to be. If rowing is one of the best exercises you can do for your body as far as natural motion with low to no-impact, then the WaterRower is one of the best machines to do it on.
After reading so many fantastic reviews I purchased the Classic model. Before I write what I think are the negative aspects I'll say that it gives a great workout! That is pretty obvious and I don't think that part is arguable. The disappointment began while unpacking. The wood parts were wrapped fairly well and did not have damage but there were several scratches that I had to sand out and re-oil. It appears that they were there before shipping. Putting it together would have been fast and easy- except 2 of the bolts were bent at about 15 degrees and would not fit. I had to wrap with tape and bend with vice grips. After getting it all together the rower worked well for about a week. I started to notice an annoying kind of popping sound from the left rail as the wheels rolled over on each stroke and recovery. It seems the plastic that the wheels ride on is not flat or adhered well to the rail. It isn't very loud but I can hear it well and it gets my attention, spoiling the nice sound of the water. Really disturbing. Support at WaterRower would like a video of the issue. Seems like an obvious issue and could swap out with a rail that is good instead of me trying to make a video of this small sound while moving the seat back and forth. For a $1500 machine the quality control- or lack of it is disturbing. Having to jump through a bunch of hoops because they are too cheap to just send a part is even more so. Perhaps I am being difficult but it is upsetting to have something touted as so great but put together like a $200 piece of junk. Another complaint would be the lack of any back lighting on the monitor. Really cannot see it if the lights are low. Being able to remove the monitor to attach to a PC wouldn't hurt either. While it gives a good workout the rower really suffers from poor manufacturing.
Function plays a large role in defining good design. When designers look at an object, they don't just consider its aesthetic appearance; they should also challenge it to be more versatile, to respond to the user's need, or to achieve its purpose more elegantly. Good design has the capacity to solve problems that sometimes we didn't even know we had. This is one of the ways design touches and enriches our everyday life.
The WaterRower Natural is handcrafted in solid ash and stained honey oak for consistency of color. The wood was chosen due to its marvelous engineering properties, especially its ability to absorb sound and vibration, which enhances the WaterRower's quiet performance and smooth operation. Ash, like all woods used in the construction of the WaterRower, is a premium hardwood with incredible longevity and dimensional stability. In addition, the wood is harvested from replenishable forests and is hand finished with Danish oil to provide a deep luster.
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