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.
As I mentioned, the rowing experience with the WaterRower is amazing. I bought the rower for myself, but my wife was curious and decided to try it out. She loves it, and now rows almost daily. We have a treadmill that neither of us has used since we started rowing - the WaterRower is a much better workout and much more enjoyable at the same time. It's easy to adjust the intensity, pace and duration of your exercise. There is nothing to change on the rower (* see note below), you just row harder or faster, adjust how far you lean forward and back during your stroke. The WaterRower will keep up with you as your fitness increases, all you need to do is keep throwing more and more at it.
One of the major deciding factors between water and air rowers is price. Water rowing machines are often found in higher price ranges with the lowest model going for $700 and the best models starting around $1,100. Air rowers are found in every price range starting at $300 and going as high as $1,000+. The affordability of air rowing machines makes them very popular.
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.
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.
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.
Not a lot to complain about on the Classic rower, but when searching for drawbacks of this rowing machine, the S4 Monitor is the one thing that occasionally comes up.  It’s rather basic and it isn’t backlit. Regardless, the monitor has all necessary tracking and features for getting an excellent workout, and in normal lighting there is no problem reading the display.
Con's: Super bummed that for $1160 they couldn't include an internal ANT+ transponder and Heart Rate strap(sub $100 package). The foot straps are crap! Within the first 1000m of moderate rowing they loosen to the point of being able to pull foot out on Recovery of stroke(Yes, even with ball of foot down). I really wish the WaterCoach F.I.T. software for the S4 Monitor was macOS compatible. It'd be nice to able to customer program workouts on my MacBook Pro or iMac.
Absolutely beautiful piece of functional furniture. I use this rower 3-5 times per week. The display is a little awkward and not nearly as advanced as the competition but for anyone short of a pro, it provides all the basic functions you could want. I've used plenty of rowers in gyms but this was my first purchase for home use. It was an excellent alternative to running outdoors in the winter and as an alternative to running when the legs need a little more recovery time. I have it set in the middle of it's resistance range and it is still plenty challenging. So there is a ton of adjustability in that regard. It's not quickly changed but for a single user device this doesn't matter. It's a different feeling than an air fan but I really like it.
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.
Unlike its WaterRower Natural cousin, the WaterRower Club is designed for high-traffic areas, such as commercial gyms, studios, and rehabilitation clinics. Its dual black rails have been styled to prevent scuffing, while the other wood components are finished in an attractive rosewood, which is more resistant to soiling than the Natural model. Other details include four corner wheels on the rails 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 Club 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).
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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?
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.
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Con's: Super bummed that for $1160 they couldn't include an internal ANT+ transponder and Heart Rate strap(sub $100 package). The foot straps are crap! Within the first 1000m of moderate rowing they loosen to the point of being able to pull foot out on Recovery of stroke(Yes, even with ball of foot down). I really wish the WaterCoach F.I.T. software for the S4 Monitor was macOS compatible. It'd be nice to able to customer program workouts on my MacBook Pro or iMac.

Chris Kinsey works as an editor for a medical publisher and has experience dealing with many topics, ranging from athlete's foot to cancer and brain injury. Kinsey has a great deal of freelance experience writing for sports and parenting magazines as well. Kinsey holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California University of Pennsylvania.
In addition to its natural, fluid resistance, the Elite Wave Water Rowing Machine features many performance upgrades that push you to row harder, faster and longer. When mounting the rower, you will immediately notice the ease and customization of the footplates and straps. The footplates, which accommodate a wide range of foot sizes with their adjustable length, feature a heel strap that secures the feet while also allowing the heel to rise higher for a wider range of motion. There are also quick-adjust straps with finger loops so you can quickly secure your feet – even in the middle of the workout. Once you push, extend and bend, the seat glides atop the aluminum rowing beam, providing a smoother workout.
Now back to the aesthetics, this version of WaterRower’s natural wood line of rowers comes in beautiful Black Walnut, which the company chose for its superior sound and vibration absorption. It’s hand-made in the USA and comes with excellent warranties and customer service. Overall, WaterRower is known for the quality of their rowing machines and the Classic is no exception.  And if you do want to get this rower just as an attractive conversation piece, it easily stores upright against a wall.  That said, we strongly recommend using The WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine for fitness, not just eye-candy.
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 Classic 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).
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