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Best Water Rowing Machines

Looking for a true rowing experience? As you would expect, out of the four main types of rowing machines, water rowers are the best at reproducing a realistic on-water rowing sensation. Their stroke cycles hold true to the dynamics of real paddling and each stroke is punctuated with a satisfying splash. With the sights and sounds of water, many users report this as a zen-like rowing experience. Water rowers have sliding seats for full-body cardiovascular workouts as opposed to some cheaper hydraulic rowing machines with stationary seats. Water rowing machines tend to feature high-quality components and can last a lifetime. Check out our top 3 water rowing machines on the market below, and scroll down to learn more about rowers in this category.

Best Overall

badge-editor's-choice-gold-with-blue-ribbon-fitrated

WaterRower Classic Rower

Rating: 90%

Our Top Three Water Rowing Machines

Model

Rating

Resistance Type

Weight Capacity

Folding

Resistance Levels

Pricing

Reviews

Best Overall WaterRower Classic Rower
WaterRower Classic Rower
90%

Water

Up To 1,000 Lbs

Yes

N/a

Best Resistance First Degree Fitness Newport Challenge AR Rower
First Degree Fitness Newport Challenge AR Rower
88%

Water

300 Lbs

Yes

N/a

Best Value xterra ERG600W Water Rower
Xterra ERG600W Water Rower
87%

Water

300 Lbs

Yes

6

WaterRower M1 HiRise Rower
WaterRower M1 HiRise Rower
85%

Water

700 Lbs

No

5 Gallons

Life Fitness Row HX Trainer Rower
Life Fitness Row HX Trainer Rower
83%

Water

330 Lbs

Yes

4

Water Rowers—What To Expect

As you would expect, water rowers deliver the most realistic, true rowing experience. If you’re looking for an indoor rowing workout that most accurately replicates the feeling of rowing in the open water, a water rowing machine is for you. There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re browsing these machines, however. There will be some maintenance involved. Depending on your machine, this will involve anything from tightening the connecting bolts and bungee cord during the first few months of use, to more ongoing checks such as maintaining the condition of the water in the tank. Another thing to keep in mind is the size. You can find some more compact water rowers on the market, but generally, they are larger than other types of rowing machines. This is partly due to their water tank. It’s also because they are sturdy machines. Water rowers tend to be very durable machines with high weigh capacities that can handle any workout you throw at them.

 

Another reason water rowers are so popular is because they deliver the sights and sounds of splashing water as you row. Trainees report this as a zen-like rowing experience. As well as delivering a true rowing stroke, the water can usually be adjusted to deliver more or less resistance. One of the main benefits of a water rower (like an air rower) is its variable resistance that adapts to user effort. The faster you row, the more challenging the resistance will be. There will also usually be a dial which you can use to adjust the resistance, where you let more or less water into the tank. Just be wary here, and be sure to check how the resistance is adjusted on each model you are looking at. Although this is usually done by simply altering a dial, sometimes you have to manually fill or get water out of the tank. Also, when it comes to resistance, some models have limited adjustability (say, just a few levels to choose from) and some have a slow response time. That said, this is inherent to the nature of how water resistance works, and a trade-off that many are happy to accept. Most customers find this along with the occasional maintenance totally worth it for the real-rowing feel that water rowers deliver.

 

How Does A Water Rowing Machine Work?

A water rowing machine works by moving paddles which are housed in a water tank, creating a “water flywheel”. When the user pulls on the handlebar, the paddles push the water. It’s much like rowing on water.

How Powerful Is The Resistance?

On water rowing machines, the water resistance naturally rises and falls. The more intensely the user rows, the higher the resistance. Much like an air rower, the resistance is user-controlled in the sense that the faster you row, the more difficult the resistance will be. On water rowers, there’s usually also a dial on the machine which you can use to alter the resistance. These dials allow you to manually adjust the resistance mid-row to add more challenge or ease down the workout. When you alter the resistance on a water rower you are either adding water to the tank or taking water out of the tank. This adjusts the amount of water you have to work against, in turn altering the resistance. It can take quite a few strokes to fill some water tanks—so be sure to compare how slow the response time is for each model when comparing machines.

Pros

Realistic Rowing Feel
Durable
Variable Water Resistance

Cons

Limited Adjustability
Some Maintenance
Size

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I use a water rowing machine?
A: The same as any other rower, except the water tank which provides resistance must be changed occasionally.
Q: How long do water rowers typically last?
A: A lot of a rower's lifespan hinges upon maintenance. That said, we figure a water rower should easily last five years or more.
Q: Are water rowers worth it?
A: We feel so, as long as the users value the unique feel and experience of the water-based resistance.
Q: Are water rowers better than air rowers?
A: The difference in feel is significant enough that we feel it's an either/or which hinges upon individual preference.
Q: What are the main differences between air rowers and water rowers?
A: In terms of the resistance, water rowers tend to have a harder catch at the start of the movement which loosens slowly into the finish. Air rowers meanwhile tend to start out lighter and finish heavier on the pull.
Q: How do you change the water in a water rowing machine?
A: Each machine is a little different and comes with instructions, but essentially you will either pump the water out, or remove the tank and empty it.
Q: How should I clean a water rower tank?
A: Each machine differs, but some units utilize chlorine tablets and others require removal and thorough cleansing.

1. WaterRower Classic Rower

Crafted from sustainably sourced black walnut and using natural water resistance, the WaterRower Classic will add a warm, rustic feel to any workout space. It features WaterRower’s unique WaterFlywheel design which provides enough challenge for most trainees, from novices to advanced rowers. Even though there is the occasional maintenance to do on this machine (as with other water rowers), customers note that this is completely worth it for the WaterRower Classic’s zen-like, smooth rowing experience. At 82.25” long by 22.25” wide,  it’s not a small machine. That said, you can easily store it upright to save space

Read the Full WaterRower Classic Rower Review

Pros

Water Resistance
Durable
Easy Storage
Can be stored upright to 20” long
Good warranty: 3 Year Parts / 5 Year Frame
High capacity: up to 1000 pounds

Cons

Large
Price

2. First Degree Fitness Newport Challenge AR Rower

The First Degree Fitness Newport Challenge AR rower is another older model in the brand’s catalog, albeit a well reviewed unit that is still available for purchase via third party sellers like Amazon.

Similar to the current Neptune and Pacific models, it features a simpler single rail design paired with the brand’s adjustable resistance system—hence the AR in the name. At just under $1,000, the Newport challenge is a simple, comfortable rower with a good warranty and solid overall construction. Equipped with adjustable footplates and straps, the rower is easy to store with a measurement of 21″ x 20″ when flipped upright.

Its only downfall for some will be its lack of built-in training programs, as well as less than stellar customer service, according to some. Also, this unit does not come with a heart rate strap and it only works with the First Degree Fitness heart rate monitory which is sold separately via the manufacturer.

Read the Full First Degree Fitness Newport Challenge AR Rower Review

Pros

Adjustable Fluid Resistance
Easy Storage
Affordable for Category

Cons

Slow Response
Bungee
No built-in programs

3. Xterra ERG600W Water Rower

The ERG600W water rower is extremely well equipped for the price. Its resistance can be modified based on the fill level of its water tank. Its 5″ LCD console can be programmed for five different types of training programs. Its weight limit is higher and its warranty longer than anything in its competitive field, at 5 years for the frame and 2 years for parts — all for an entry price of only $799.99.

One potential downside is that with a seat placed up at the 13.5″ level, this rower doesn’t work well for folks over 6’1″ and that could be a deal-breaker for some.

Read the Full Xterra ERG600W Water Rower Review

Pros

Price
Training Programs
Weight Limit

Cons

Water Adjustments
Fits users over 6'1"

4. WaterRower M1 HiRise Rower

A top-flight machine from a solid brand, the WaterRower M1 HiRise Rower comes at a higher entry point at 20″ relative to its peers. With a powder-coated aluminum frame, the unit measures 88″ long by 28″ high. It’s S4 monitor can store up to nine workouts and displays data including: Time, distance, speed/intensity, and stroke rate.

The machine does sync with a heart-rate sensor which is sold separately. While this rower does not fold, it can be stored upright. One downside is price, at $1,900-plus, it’s an expensive unit and the warranty of one-year is a bit short for our tastes. Also, while the unit can store up to nine programs, it comes with none built into it.

Read the Full WaterRower M1 HiRise Rower Review

Pros

Higher entry point
Compatible with heart rate monitor
Well-made

Cons

Price
No built-in programs

5. Life Fitness Row HX Trainer Rower

A top model within the Life Fitness brand, the Row HX Trainer Rower comes with a solid four resistance levels and 5-year frame warranty. It is a bit pricier than some alternatives at $1,699, but it offers double-rail stability and a respectable 330 lbs weight capacity.

Measuring 83.85″ x 20.47″ x 22.04″ and weighing only 70.99 lbs, the rower comes with no built-in programs of its own, and a heart rate system is sold separate.

Read the Full Life Fitness Row HX Trainer Rower Review

Pros

Good adjustability
Stability with two rails
Easy to transport
Strong warranty

Cons

No built-in programs
Narrow model
Lower seat
 
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