It's been nearly 30 years since John Duke, a former Yale University and USA National Team oarsman, set up a small shop in Rhode Island, USA to begin fine-tuning his innovative water-resistant rowing machine. With its beautiful design and unmatched feel, the WaterRower quickly gained a cult-like following of both on-water rowers and fitness enthusiasts that had found their perfect piece of workout equipment. As word spread of the new product that simulated the feel of on-water rowing, WaterRower transitioned from simply a one-off product found within the occasional boathouse to an established brand in both the rowing and fitness world.
The rowing machine itself is unlike any other on the market with its patented water filled flywheel. It is hard to exactly copy the action of a scull on the water, but the mechanics of the flywheel spinning in water comes in a close second on dry land. The fact that the water is 800 times denser than air means that there is no need for any extra resistance or dampening that you will find in normal air rowers. The faster you pull, the more resistance is generated giving it infinite variability. However, if you want to be able to practice rowing with a faster stroke, you will have to reduce the amount of water in the tank unlike an air rower where you just have to adjust the baffle.
The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine includes the excellent PM5 monitor that provides all vital data. It can display your workout performance in two ways. You can choose to see your workout in total distance and time, or as “splits”. Splits is a way of seeing how your pace is varying along two set points. Either way is useful, but splits give you more of a “real-time”, in the moment calculation of how you are doing.
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.
I kayak (ocean and flat water, not river), so I was drawn to the WaterRower over a flywheel type rower (which I have used in gyms) because I wanted to hear the sound of the water, which I miss hearing against the hull of the boat during the winter when I can't get out on the lake. I also like the way the paddles engage in the water; it's a very smooth pull and release, and moving the mass of the water instead of a dialed down tension feels more natural. As someone else also commented, the seat (at least on the wood version) is incredibly smooth and solid; no wobbling at all. I generally listen to music on my Nordic Track ski machine, but with the WaterRower I am content to listen to the sound of the water; working out on this is somehow both energizing and calmingly meditative at the same time. In the event that you want to use it while watching tv (this is one use to which I wanted to put it), it is quiet enough to hear the tv without having to turn it up.
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.
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 WaterRower Classic rowing machine. Using the same principles that govern the dynamics of a boat in water, the WaterRower Classic 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 Classic is remarkably smooth and fluid.
However, I own an air rower and have zero worries about maxing out it’s ability. I can completely exhaust myself on any type of workout. Air and water rowers are the chosen resistance type by Olympic athletes and any athlete looking to train their full-body cardio. I don’t think they would choose this resistance type if they felt they could max it out.
The Classic Rowing Machine is generally quiet for a water resistance machine, but some users believed that it was a little noisy. Like all rowers, whether it’s a flywheel or a waterwheel, there is going to be noise. The more effort that you put into it, the louder it’s going to get. And most find it motivating to hear the water paddles get louder as they burn more calories.
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.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a great style of training to burn fat, build toned muscle, and improve cardiovascular systems as the same time. Challenging HIIT workouts help you get to that state of EPOC and take advantage of the after-burn effect. The ability to change the resistance of the rowing machine at will means that the equipment is ideal for this method of exercise.
From a fitness perspective, the WaterRower Club 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.
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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
One downside of the Waterrower for me are the footrests. Whilst they are perfectly adequate if you want to row in shoes, rowing barefoot, which is something I like to do, is impossible. The plastic is completely square at the bottom and has sharp edges that cut into your heels. I also found that my shoes get caught when trying to put them in and out of the holders, which is a bit irritating.
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 Natural 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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