Water rowing machines produce strong, quiet resistance. Rowers generally describe the resistance of a water rower to be the smoothest of all other types on the market. No matter what type of water rower you purchase, it will have a water tank at the front of the machine and a long seat rail.
Before buying a water rowing machine, it’s a good idea to know how water rowing machines work and their benefits. Let’s explore these underrated cardio machines and highlight some of the best on the market right now.
Our Top Picks at a Glance
- Topiom Water Rower
- Spirit CRW900
- skandika Nemo II
- Sportstech WRX700
- BH Fitness R370 Cardiff
- Xterra ERG600W
Note: There’s a lot more information below but clicking the above links will take you to current prices, further information and customer reviews on Amazon or Best Gym Equipment.
How Does A Water Rowing Machine Work?
Resistance is provided by water, so the harder you row the more resistance you feel and the more force you have to apply.
Water rowers have paddles suspended in tanks of water at the front of the machine. To operate the rower, you pull on a handle that’s attached to a rowing strap, which causes the paddles in the tank to spin.
As the paddles spin, they move the water. This creates resistance. The relationship between speed versus resistance means there’s an infinite amount of resistance you can experience on a water rowing machine, which is why the resistance is variable. Unlike non-water rowing machines, there’s no resistance setting on a water rower. To feel more resistance, you just have to row faster.
Water levels change how the rowing stroke feels, and each machine has the ability to add or subtract water from the main tank. Contrary to what many people think, adding more water doesn’t increase resistance. Resistance is related to speed. The old sailor’s adage, “The faster a boat travels, the greater the drag (resistance) and the harder the crew has to work” applies to water rowers, too. So, the tank’s water level simulates the weight of the boat and the crew. Changing the water level won’t change how hard you (the crew) has to work. Instead, it changes the weight you’re trying to move. To liken it to our analogy above, more water simulates a heavier boat and less water simulates a lighter boat.
What Are the Benefits of a Water Rower and Why Do I Need One?
In addition to providing a full body workout, water rowing programmes offer you a lot of intensity without the risk of injury. With a rowing machine, you’re able to work as intensely as you like without a major strain on the body. Compared with other cardio activities like running, the rower is virtually impact-free.
Rowing requires a lot of concentric muscle movement. Concentric muscle movement is a type of muscle activation that causes tension on your muscle groups as they shorten. That means you’re able to actively target sustainable fat loss workout efforts without the fear of DOMS. Translation: you’re able to train more intensely, more often.
When you strap into a rower, you’re getting a full body workout, and your arms, bac, and core get a serious workout. If done correctly, rowing can be an effective abdominal workout, making it ideal for anyone who spends any amount of time hunched over a desk.
Just like a treadmill and spin bike or elliptical, rowing machines offer a wide array of workout choices. No matter if you prefer HIIT training or LISS training, using a water rower can help you reach your goals.
Water vs Air Rowing Machine
There are a lot of similarities between air rowers and water rowers. In fact, there are probably more similarities than differences. In both machines, you’re able to mimic the resistance felt while rowing on water. You’re able to chance the feel of the stroke on both machines by either changing water levels or changing the damper on the air rower. Each version utilises a handle pull mechanism. Some rowers feature straight handle designs, while others are curved to better accommodate the pull action. No matter the handle design, the result ends up being the same – you’re strapped into the machine and you pull back to execute the movement.
Here are the major differences between water rowers and air rowers:
- Price – water rowers are generally more expensive than air rowers
- Noise Level – water rowers tend to be much quieter than air rowers
- Monitor – monitors aren’t as detailed on water rowers as with air rowers
- Stroke Feel – water rowers have a strong catch and a smooth finish on each stroke; air rowers have a light catch and a stronger finish
- Aesthetics – water rowers are made from wood and built to last; air rowers are made from plastic
Water rower monitors provide basic metrics such as split times, distance travelled, and time worked. However, water rower monitors generally leave a lot to be desired, though manufacturers are working hard on correcting that issue. Some models now come with apps that can be used to race against other athletes, but those features are few and far between. Most often, water rower monitors will simply give you the basic metrics you might need – speed, distance, and time travelled. So, if you’re not concerned about comparing data with other rowers or competing in indoor rowing competitions, then the standard water rower machine monitors should provide you with more than enough information.
Most water rowers are made from wood which makes them aesthetically pleasing. Wood also serves a dual function since it absorbs sound and vibration and helps reduce noise.
Water rowers can be stored upright with the water tank acting as a ballast for safety and stability.
The noise level of a water machine versus an air machine is significant. A water rower isn’t completely silent, since it makes a small splashing noise, but it’s nowhere near as loud as an air rower.
Some rowers will have two arms while others will feature just one rail. Both designs offer stability in the pull and the release, so one choice isn’t better over another. With that in mind, a dual-arm rower might offer more stability to users who need additional support, but that’s not always the case. If you’re unaccustomed to rowing on a single arm, you might find the balance a little challenging to start, but it’s easy enough to acclimate to a single-arm machine.
A Detailed Look at the Best Water Rowing Machines
With its adjustable footrest and sleek design, the MorNon Home Rowing Machine is built for comfort and built to last. Dedicated construction helps absorb extra sounds and errant vibrations, making this one of the quietest water rowers on the market.
- Upright storage and transport wheels make this easy to tuck away when not in use
- Dark wood colour matches most aesthetics
- Max user weight is over 300 pounds, so this is useable by everyone
- Handle isn’t as ergonomic at others on the market
- Feet rests could be better spaces to accommodate wider anatomy
This handcrafted water rower is a testament to gorgeous craftsmanship. MorNon stands by its manufacturing and tests every part of the assembly before moving shipping to you. The upright storage and easy transport wheels make this simple to move around. If you have wider hips or need an ergonomic handle design, you might consider looking elsewhere.
The Spirit CRW900 features 10 levels of water resistance and an easy adjust knob so your workout can change with your energy level. The wood and steel frame is built to last and the ergonomic handlebar means your grip won’t fail – even when you’re rowing a marathon.
- 10 levels of water resistance with easy adjust knobs
- Easy to read console tracks all basic metrics
- This doesn’t move well, so once it’s in a spot, it’s probably best that it stays there
- Seat could be much more comfortable
Unlike other rowers that require removing water to change resistance levels, this Spirit water rower uses a knob function. That makes it incredibly easy to ensure you’re getting the workout you want and need. The padded handlebar is really comfortable and the pull and release on this rower is really smooth.
This is a well-made water rower that will help you achieve your fitness goals. It provides the classic zen-like sound of other water rowers and its customisable training programmes will quickly help you reach your fitness goals.
- Easy to see monitor provides key metrics
- Includes a heart rate monitor for effective tracking
- Max weight capacity is 150kg
- Not as aesthetically pleasing as wooden water rowers
- Doesn’t have wheels for transport, so it can’t be moved easily
- Has to be assembled
- A bit louder than other rowers on the market
- Some of the materials used in construction seem cheap; foot straps tend to break
This can’t stand up like other water rowers, but it can be folded when not in use. That’s helpful for something that so obviously looks like a fitness machine. This is a good rower for the price point especially if you’re not overly concerned with the footprint inside your home/gym and its inability to be tucked away.
The Sportsteck WRX700 is gorgeous with its well-constructed wooden frame. It features a comfortable seat, the ability to fold for storage and an app to help you track your workouts.
- Extremely quiet rower
- 8 training programmes
- Non-slip rubberized feet
- Folds for easy storage and has transport wheels attached
- Calculations for metrics aren’t always accurate
- Heart rate monitor doesn’t reliably connect
This water rower looks gorgeous with its wood frame, but there’s a lot to be desired. Even though it features a lot of high tech, the reality is that the technology doesn’t always reliably connect with the machine. That’s frustrating for the price point and for anyone who’s interested in reliably tracking metrics.
The WaterRower A1 is specifically designed for small spaces and is intended to be incredibly portable, making it the perfect choice for at-home gyms. With this rower, you get all the benefits of a strenuous cardio workout without all the stress on your joints.
- Catch and release are very smooth
- Ergonomic handle design
- Max user weight is only 125kg so not suitable for all users
This is a great water rower, especially for the price point. There are definitely rowers out there that are more advanced in terms of tracking metrics and Bluetooth capabilities, but the beauty of this rower is in its simplicity. It’s relaxing, easy to use, and will definitely give you the workout you need to help you accomplish your goals.
An easy to read displace console, 6 pre-set resistance levels and a large seat make this Xtrerra water rower one of the best on the market. It’s easy to feel like you’re rowing on water when you strap into the Xterra.
- Seat is fairly large and comfortable to sit in for longer periods of time; great for long rows/intense raining
- Seat can be raised to accommodate different heights
- Easy to stand up and wheel away when not in use
- Made from steel, aluminium, and plastic, so this isn’t as aesthetic as other water rowers
- Max weight is only 136 kg
- Must be assembled
Overall, this isn’t a bad water rower. We love the fact that the seat height can be adjusted and that it stands up on its one when not in use. But, if you’re looking for the classic wood frame water rower aesthetic, this isn’t going to suit. For the price, this rower will likely hold up for long periods of time.
Rowing offers such dynamic benefits, the least of which is a great low-impact cardio workout. This total body workout is excellent for days when you’re not able to go for a run, or you just need a break from the constant impact of pounding the pavement. In addition to strengthening your leg muscles, the rowing stroke activates your back, arms, and abs.
The beauty of a water rower is one-part workout and one-part meditation. The contemplative water sounds that accompany the rowing stroke make it meditative for many fitness enthusiasts. The smooth gliding motion of the rower can allow your mind to go on autopilot, so you’re not only getting a full body workout but your relaxing your mind at the same time.
As a cardio exercise, rowing helps strengthen the heart and lungs, making it excellent for any athletes who want to work on their cardio performance. As an alternative to the running machine, elliptical, or spin bike, using a water rower gives you a chance to switch up your training, refresh your mindset, and still stay on track with your goals.