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First of all, if you're considering rowing, just do it. It is by far the most enjoyable and beneficial exercise I have ever tried. I've made huge strides with both cardio and muscle fitness with the WaterRower, and it's so enjoyable I look forward to exercising each day. Yes, it is more expensive than most other rowing machines, but when you compare it to a lot of other types of exercise equipment, it's actually pretty reasonable. When you also compare the exercise benefit you get, it's a bargain.
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.
Both the air rower and water rower machines are very popular choices of rowing equipment, particularly the former type. They have been around in the 80s, and many consumers and those that have tried them in gyms consider the equipment to be the best type ever. These air resistance equipment, often regarded as Ergometers, is the standard base model for indoor rowing sport.
* While there is nothing to adjust from row to row on the WaterRower, it is possible to increase or decrease the level of resistance by changing how much water you put in the drum. The monitor is pre-calibrated to match 17 liters of water, but you can change that if you want. More than 17 liters = more resistance, up to the max fill line. This is not something you'll want to change frequently, it's more of a set-it-and-forget-it thing.
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.
On a rowing machine, you don’t want to be wearing clothes that are too baggy as the fabric can get caught between the seat and the beam it slides on. It’s not a disaster if that happens, but it can get annoying if your shorts keep getting caught there while you’re trying to get a serious workout. It’s better to wear shorter, tighter-fitting shorts (nothing ridiculous), but just enough to ensure it doesn’t the material doesn’t hang down.
The WaterRower Natural rowing machine is handcrafted in solid ash wood, stained Honey Oak, and finished with Danish oil. Wood is an excellent material for this application due to its ability to absorb sound and vibration enhancing the WaterRower's smooth, quiet operation. The Natural, as with all WaterRowers, features patented WaterFlywheel technology, unrivaled in its replication of the resistance felt in on the water rowing.
The WaterRower Classic 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.
There is some minor maintenance. Because it's made out of wood, which can expand and contract, the bolts need tightening every few months or so. It's easy and takes only a couple of minutes. That, and putting in a fresh water purification tablet every six to twelve months, are about it for regular maintenance. The only problem I've had with the rower (the reason for 4 stars instead of 5) was a squeak that developed after about 6 weeks. It took me some time to determine the source of the squeak, which was a metal bracket connecting the footrest board to the horizontal boards above the drum. I had to partially disassemble the top section and tighten four bolts, but that fixed the problem and it's been quiet ever since.