The overall rowing experience encompasses pulley, seat, and — of course — resistance. Air and water have very distinct qualities, making them impossible to compare but interesting to contrast. Air stores inertia, which feeds into intense, constant effort during a goal-oriented workout. Water’s more sluggish drag makes for demanding exercise, but one that’s less consistent.
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.

As previously discussed, the rowing machine’s big advantage is that it provides more than just a cardio workout. It can definitely help you build muscle and lose weight. Compared to a treadmill, the rowing machine works most of your body. It will really hit your shoulders, core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, arms and back effectively while being low impact thus reducing the stress on your joints. Bigger muscles need more energy and will burn fat to get it, which of course leads to healthy weight loss.
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).

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.
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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.
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The WaterRower Classic is handcrafted in solid American black walnut, which may vary in color from rich brown to purple/black. The black walnut 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. Black walnut, 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 three coats of Danish oil to give it a deep luster and warmth.
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!
I don't know how this machine compares to others. I have no idea. Here's what I know: I've had treadmills and elliptical machines, weight benches and several exercise appliances from infomercials. They all work exactly like they should if you use the equipment on a consistent basis. That's where the problem comes in. I would always give up eventually and the machine would sit in the corner, covered with my laundry, laughing at me. I bought this rower without ever even trying one at the gym because I was desperate to do something (and I voted for Frank Underwood). This was the one machine I was not only able to stick with, but I now eagerly look forward to using. It started a chain reaction that changed everything. You know those incredible before/after transformation pictures you see on weight loss shows? I'm one of those guys now. Rowing is like a 'secret' in the fitness world in the way there is so little emphasis. However, in terms of results, it is so much more efficient. It works your upper and lower body at the same time, huge cardio/fat burner and builds muscle like crazy. I'm glad I'm in on the secret too.
The WaterRower Natural 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.
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