Are you looking for something “extra” in your home fitness equipment? If so, this article could have the answer.
With the ability to exercise the entire body, while making an aesthetic statement, these rowers are becoming increasingly popular. Read on to discover the best water rowing machine and learn the truth behind the hype.
What Is a Water Rowing Machine?
Although they sound like something that should actually be outside on the river, water rowing machines are for indoor use. They were invented back in 1987 by John Duke, a member of the US National rowing team. He was looking for a way to recreate the sensation of rowing, while remaining strictly off the water. (1)
These home exercise machines have the same physical benefits of air and magnetic versions, but instead use water as the resistance method.
Water rowing machines contain a water-filled tank or reservoir, usually located behind the foot plates. It is most often transparent, and looks very similar to a “squashed” 5 gallon water bottle—the type found on office coolers.
How Do Water Rowing Machines Work?
Inside the reservoir is a flywheel or paddles which connect to the machine handles through a chain mechanism. As the handle is pulled back, the paddles begin to revolve in the water.
The mass of the water creates a “drag” effect. It is similar to trying to “clap” underwater—on the surface it is easy, underneath it is much more difficult. This drag creates resistance, and provides the tension needed for an effective workout.
As with air rowing machines, the faster you row, the more resistance is created.
What Are the Benefits of Water Rowing Machines?
Interest in these machines has gained momentum in the last few years. A lot of this has been attributed to them featuring in the Netflix hit TV show, “House of Cards”. (2)
However, their success is not solely down to this “prime time” appearance. Water rowing machines do have their own particular benefits.
Many people consider water rowing machines as the “happy medium” for noise levels. While they are not as quiet as magnetic rowers, they don’t have the overwhelming “whoosh” of air machines.
While exercising, you still get the satisfying sound response from your efforts. In addition, as it is not too loud, it can enable you to watch TV and shouldn’t disturb other people in your household. Here is a video, demonstrating the sound created by these machines.
Not all of us are lucky enough to be able to get onto a river to row. Or, perhaps you are not the greatest swimmer in the world or uncomfortable on the water.
Water rowing machines could suit if you want to experience the closest thing to actual rowing, without the potential of getting wet. This is replicated through the water sound and the effort required to move the paddles through the reservoir.
Some air rowing machines have a “flat-spot” during the rowing stroke—a section where resistance drops off. Water rowing machines provide a constant resistance, whatever portion of the stroke you are on.
Virtually Maintenance Free
As they are simple machines (a chain connected to paddles in water), there is little to go wrong.
However, the water does require some attention. It either needs changing regularly or requires the addition of water purifier. If not, the water will begin to become an off-putting green color.
As the most modern of rowing machines, and at the “top end” of the market, water rowing machines have a certain amount of kudos attached to them
While many rowing machines are manufactured purely for function, the majority of water rowers have practicality and design as their raison d’être. Often, they don’t appear out of place as some exercise machines are, but as a piece of furniture that you are proud to have in your home.
It’s not unusual to find these rowers made with solid and highly varnished wooden frames, instead of the cold look of aluminum or steel.
What to Look for in a Water Rowing Machine
While all water rowing machines work on the same resistance principle, they do differ in other areas.
Here is what I think you should look for in your water rowing machine.
Water rowers are usually the heaviest of all the rowing machines. Not only are they solidly constructed, often with a wood element, they have the additional weight of the water.
If your rowing machine is not going to remain in situ, but will be moved to an alternative location after use, look for a lighter machine.
If moving the machine is important, look for a machine that has wheels to enable easy transportation. With some machines weighing over 100 pounds, they aren’t ideal for lifting.
In addition, some of these rowing machines allow you to store them vertically, for example in a closet, without removing the water. If the machine is to be stored, this could be an appealing feature.
As mentioned earlier, many of the water rowers are quite stylish. While I would normally recommend function over appearance, the “look” of the machine may be one of the reasons you are considering such a purchase.
As this is down to personal taste, there is no right or wrong. However, in the reviews below I have mentioned the aesthetic features, to help you make your choice.
How much digital feedback and information you want from your machine is again down to personal choice. Always consider what tech features the water rowing machine has.
Perhaps calories burned and distance rowed is sufficient? Alternatively you may want more detailed information, such as heart rate and downloadable training intervals.
Furthermore, check how the monitor is operated. Are you comfortable with many buttons and functions, or would you prefer single button operation?
The Best Water Rowing Machines Reviewed (Our Choices)
I have reviewed below my personal favorite five water rowing machines. Where possible, I have included the important factors mentioned above. If a certain machine has something particular or novel, that’s in the review too.
WaterRower Club Rowing Machine in Ash Wood
This rower is manufactured by WaterRower, the company founded by the inventor of the water rowing machine, John Duke. Manufactured in the USA, this piece of equipment measures 84 inches by 21 inches by 22 inches.
The frame is made from solid ash wood, both stained and varnished. If environmental concerns are important to you, this may be suitable as it is sourced from replenishable forests.
Weighing a hefty 117 pounds, this is not a light machine, although it does have protectors, to prevent damage to your floor. This could be appealing if you have delicate laminate in your home.
Despite being heavy, it can be tipped onto one end, and then pushed on the attached roller-wheels. Furthermore, it can happily be stored vertically without removing the water. I would suggest this could appeal if you need to keep the rower in a closet or against a wall when not in use.
The WaterRower machine has an S4 monitor, which enables you to track stroke rate, time and calories burned. It may be useful for people who want to watch their aerobic fitness. An included chest strap communicates heart rate information to the monitor.
- Included wheels for transport.
- Solid ash construction.
- Made by the originators of the water rower.
- A heavy machine.
- Some users found the water-removing siphon difficult to use.
Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine Rower
I would suggest that the Sunny Health & Fitness water rower may be suitable for people who want a more “modern” appearance. Instead of a real wood design, this machine is crafted out of jet-black steel. With rounded edges, classic fonts and a black water reservoir to match, this rower shouts space-age “tech.”
This is mirrored in its extremely large LCD display. If you want to easily see your performance as you exercise, without squinting at a tiny screen, I would say this will suit.
The monitor provides information on the usual calories, time and strokes, but also heart rate and ambient temperature. However, with the numerous buttons, it may not be ideal for those who are uncomfortable switching between menus and features.
It is a light machine, weighing 80 pounds. This rower also has transportation wheels. In my opinion, these factors would make it suitable for people who are challenged in the strength department. It can be stored vertically without removing the water.
Each foot can be individually adjusted to raise or lower height, by the simple turning of a dial. If you have uneven floors in your home, this may be useful.
The resistance paddles are manufactured from high density rust-resistant steel. This could be an important factor if you’re determined to work the machine hard—it should not suffer from fatigue.
This rower measures 78.7 inches by 22 inches by 33.5 inches.
- Modern looking.
- Numerous monitor functions.
- Adjustable feet.
- While the monitor measures heart rate, it requires a chest strap, which is not included.
First Degree Fitness Newport AR Rower
If you’re looking for an “industrial” look, you might like the First Degree Fitness water rower. With a red and black design, it resembles a piece of garage equipment more than an exercise machine.
Weighing 57 pounds and measuring 38 inches by 23 inches by 22 inches, this is the smallest and lightest machine reviewed. If you are someone who lacks space, or needs to use it in a small area, such as a bedroom, this could be ideal.
While it does have wheels for transportation, some users found that the water leaked if stored vertically for long periods of time.
The monitor provides information on stroke rate, calories and time and also heartbeat (chest strap is not included). However, for people who want to check their progress from session to session, there is a USB port. This means that performance can be downloaded and viewed on a laptop.
If comfort is important, soft-grip and sweat-resistant handles are combined with a heavily padded seat. This may be great for those seriously long sessions.
- Lightest and smallest of all the machines reviewed.
- USB port to download information.
- Can leak water.
- Foot plates may be too small for larger feet.
WaterRower A1 Home Rowing Machine
Another machine from WaterRower that brings things back to basics. While still in traditional ash wood, it has been left unstained for that “natural” appearance. Although, it has been treated with oil for protection.
This simplicity of this water rower is carried through to the monitor. While it is large and clear, selections are made through the use of just three buttons.
If you are someone who likes ease-of-use in your tech, I would suggest that this would suit. This monitor has all the basic functions of time, strokes and calories burned—it doesn’t have an interval feature.
The WaterRower A1 has been designed with a “flat-end” that allows the machine to freestanding, vertically. It doesn’t have to be leant against a wall or the side of the closet.
This rower measures 84 inches by 21 inches by 22 inches and weighs 81.6 pounds.
- Sleek but basic—ideal for people who like simplicity.
- Crafted in untreated ash wood.
- Lack of monitor functions may be an annoyance for people who desire complete workout information.
HCI Fitness Prorower RX-750
With its white and black tubular design, this water rower is close to the “traditional” appearance of home gym exercise machines. If you’re not looking to make a design statement, this could be ideal.
The HCI Fitness Prorower is the only machine in these reviews which is foldable—measuring 20 inches by 21 inches when in this position. Therefore, if you are lacking space, this could be a good choice. That being said, it does weigh 65 pounds and doesn’t have wheels for easy transportation.
The LCD screen is large and is nearly at head height. If you do have visual issues, I would suggest this could appeal as checking progress is very clear. The monitor provides information on calories burned, time, distance, strokes per minute, 500 meter splits, and heart rate.
Adjustable and pivoting footrests are a nice feature. This enables you to select the perfect position for comfort and longer workouts. In addition, this means that thie water rower would be useful in a household where people of differing heights may be using it.
Unfolded, the HCI rower measures 89 inches by 26 inches by 30 inches.
- Foldable for storage.
- Traditional design.
- LCD screen in high location for easy reading.
- Does not have transport wheels.
For me, the best water rowing machine is the WaterRower Club Rowing Machine in Ash Wood.
With its attractive, solid, furniture-like appearance, it is definitely an exercise machine that is visually impressive. With in-depth monitor functions, large LCD screen and transport wheels, it is a great all-rounder.
It’s not the lightest (that’s the First Degree Fitness), but I would suggest that if you are really looking for a lightweight machine, a hydraulic or magnetic rower would be better.
For a serious workout, and a machine that makes a statement, the WaterRower Club is my winner.