John Duke, creator of the WaterRower, was inspired to try his hand at invention while working at a subsidiary for U.S. Steel. He wanted to make an indoor machine that felt as much like real rowing as possible, with a focus on aesthetics. It took him two years to get the design right, moving past failed ideas such as a flipper in the tank instead of a clutch. What began as a series of doodles at his desk turned into a sculptural piece of exercise equipment that upends expectations in two ways: by bringing water indoors, and by looking elegant and artful when stored.
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.
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.
If you’re interested in using a rowing machine for focused training — whether for outdoor rowing, an indoor competition, or as part of a larger fitness program — you’ll want air resistance. If you’re drawn to rowers for the enjoyability (alongside the full-body, cardio-plus-strength training efficacy) of a rowing workout, consider a machine with water resistance.
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.
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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.
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.
A 125-pound person moving at an average pace for 30 minutes on a treadmill will burn roughly 250 calories. However, they aren’t able to take advantage of this after-burn effect. The same person rowing vigorously will burn around to 250 calories but will have less stress placed upon their joints and continue to burn calories after the workout has ended. Rowing machines have been shown to burn on average 800 calories an hour if you work harder and are slightly heavier.
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The Verified Sustainable Hardwoods used for the WaterRower are sourced from the Appalachian Mountain region of the eastern United States, where planting rates exceed harvest rates by an average multiple of 2.29. The Appalachian Hardwood Timber resource includes more than 65.4 million acres in the eastern United States and provides the world with a bounty of the finest hardwood species.
Rowing machines are often used by people who are looking to get a full-body workout, and also by rowers to stay in rowing shape during the off-season. According to Men’s Total Health, rowing is a natural motion, and is therefore fairly easy for anyone to pick up and do properly. Also, rowing is a low-impact exercise, meaning that the potential for injuries to your joints is lower than on such machines as treadmills, for example.
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?
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.
The WaterRower Club is handcrafted in solid ash and stained for 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 and urethane for protection.
The WaterRower Club is outfitted with a Series 4 performance monitor that's designed to balance technical sophistication with user-friendliness. The monitor--which includes six information and programming windows, six QuickSelection buttons, and three navigation buttons--displays your workout intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, zone bar, duration, and distance. Plus, the monitor is compatible with an optional heart rate chest strap and receiver, which helps you optimize your workout and achieve your exercise objectives.
Performance is meaningless if you can’t or don’t want to use the equipment, and that’s why the Wave Water rower was built for comfort and convenience. With a wide, molded seat to accommodate users of all sizes and a padded, textured rowing handle, you can build your strength and endurance in ease. When setting up the rower, the leveling endcaps with a dial ensure stability. After your workout, storing your Wave Water rower is easy – just fold the frame and roll the rower into a closet or corner.
If you are accustomed to the natural catch and feel of on-water rowing, your rowing technique will immediately appreciate the Apollo’s unrivalled emulation of a boat gliding through water. FDF’s patented twin tank design generates a smooth uniform stroke, including no lag of resistance at the catch and continued resistance all the way to the finish.
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.
From a fitness perspective, the WaterRower Classic works 84 percent of your muscle mass, helping tone and strengthen your muscles while burning far more calories than most other aerobic machines. The exercise is also low impact, as it removes all the body weight from the ankles, knees, and hips, but still moves the limbs and joints through a full range of motion--from completely extended to completely contracted.