Water rowing machines provide a more realistic feel than air, magnetic or hydraulic alternatives. They also tend to have a quiet and smooth stroke. But which is the best water rowing machine? And is there anything to watch out for? Let's find out!
The WaterRower provides the ultimate balance between price and performance when buying a water rowing machine. It features the company's unique WaterFlywheel system, beautiful Ash frame, and a stylish design. Most importantly, this model provides a smooth and effective workout.
A water rowing machine can provide a smooth and enjoyable full-body workout. These machines use a wheel/paddle and tank of water to create resistance, instead of magnets or air. They are often made with attractive wood and are also quiet in use.
Water rowers aren't just a gimmick though. Rowing works many of the muscles in the body at the same time, so a rowing machine is excellent for getting in shape. Water rowers provide a consistent and smooth stroke which is why they are a popular choice.
Plus, if Frank Underwood from House of Cards is using one, you know they must be the "classy" option!
In this article, we're going to list our top water rowing machine reviews. Each of these models provides outstanding reliability and a great workout.
A word of warning though: water resistance rowing machines aren't cheap, so if you're on a tight budget you may want to look at our list of the best rowing machines. If you want a smooth workout that mimics the feel of a real boat though, a water machine could be the perfect option.
Which are the Best Water Resistance Rowing Machines?
1. WaterRower Rowing Machine With S4 Computer (Best Water Rowing Machine)
Our top pick for a water rowing machine is the WaterRower Rower with S4 Computer.
When it comes to water rowing machines, WaterRower are one of the most respected brands. This is their most well-known model, and we also think it's the best for providing both value and performance.
The WaterRower is built from solid ash wood that's sourced from sustainable forests. This creates an elegant design that's far more attractive than regular rowing machine.
It's also a highly durable machine that can handle heavy usage. If you're buying for home use, it'll require very little maintenance and last a long time. The WaterRower also has black-stained rails that are designed to prevent unsightly scuff marks.
Aside from the design, the WaterRower is an excellent water tank rowing machine. It features a dual rail design that offers a smooth workout even at higher speeds. This model is built with WaterRower's WaterFlywheel that provides a consistent stroke to mimic the way a boat moves through water. It also comes with an S4 monitor with features such as chest strap heart rate monitoring, intensity, distance, workout programs, zones, and more.
One thing the WaterRower doesn't have is adjustable resistance. Like all water rowing machines, the resistance increases as you row faster, but there's no way to manually adjust the difficulty of your workout (aside from adding more water). On the plus side, it's Bluetooth compatible for use with ComModule or SmartRow, and you can also use it with a heart rate monitor.
Despite not having adjustable resistance, the WaterRower remains one of the best water rowing machines on the market. If you're looking for an elegant and highly durable water rower that provides a smooth and quiet workout, it's a great option. The water flywheel also provides a stroke that genuinely feels like "real" rowing.
2. Capital Sports Stoksman 2.0
Another of our top picks for a water rowing machine is the Capital Sports Stoksman 2.0. Like many other water rowers, it's built with a stylish real wood frame so it'll look great in your home. It also has a display showing key metrics and a vertical storage option.
The Stoksman 2.0 is a solid water rowing machine that's built to last. With a wood frame and durable fixtures, it's a reliable model that doesn't require much maintenance. It's also comfortable to use due to its adjustable straps and size adjustment options.
One thing to note about this rowing machine is that it doesn't come with adjustable resistance. The resistance is entirely generated from the water tank, so you'll need to row at a faster strokes per minute to get a more difficult workout. This is in contrast to models from companies like FluidRower, where a mechanical dial is used to adjust the difficulty of your workout.
The Stoksman 2.0 has a simple computer showing statistics such as time, strokes per minute, calories and distance. While this doesn't provide the advanced features found on non-water rowers, the large water tank makes up for it. The tank has been designed to provide a realistic feel, with ergonomically shaped paddles helping to make the experience more like real rowing on calm water.
As you would expect from a water rowing machine, the Capital Sports is relatively quiet when in operation - especially compared to air rowers. It's fully assembled, so it's quick to get started. We also like that it can be stored vertically to save space, as water rowers tend to take up a lot of room.
There aren't many downsides to the Capital Sports Stoksman water rowing machine, but if we had a complaint it would be that the LCD display is relatively basic. This is almost unavoidable on a water rower, although it would be great to have some form of connectivity. The lack of resistance options may also be an issue for experienced rowers.
Overall, the Stoksman 2.0 water rowing machine is a highly durable product that provides a great workout. It feels smooth and comfortable when in use, so you won't have trouble rowing for extended periods. The water tank also provides a realistic feel and it provides a great balance between performance and value.
3. Xterra ERG600W Water Rower
If you're looking for a cheap water rowing machine (or at least a cheaper model), the Xterra ERG600W is one of our favourite options. It doesn't have the elegant style of a WaterRower, but provides an excellent workout at a lower price.
Like most water rowing machines, the ERG600W is built to a commercial standard. This means it's a durable piece of equipment, due to the aluminium rails and and industrial-strength handle strap.
It also comes with a number of comfort settings, including an ergonomic handle that reduces wrist and hand strain, and easily adjustable pedals that flex with each movement. The relatively high seat also makes it easier to climb onto the machine.
The Xterra has six resistance levels, although these are based on how much water is in the tank. This makes it a great option for long-term use, as you can adjust the difficulty of your workout as your fitness level improves. It's not as convenient to change resistance as other options though.
It also comes with a 5.5" LCD console that displays basic statistics. These include time, 500M time, distance, strokes per minute, strokes, and several others. There are even "Race the Computer" and "Distance Countdown" options. Don't expect many advanced features though - you'll need an air or magnetic rower for that.
Most importantly, the Xterra ERG600W is a pleasure to use. It's smooth when in use and very quiet, so you can watch TV or listen to music while working out. If you need a relatively inexpensive rowing machine that uses water, yet still provides a great workout, the Xterra is our top recommendation.
4. Life Fitness HX Row Trainer
Another excellent water rowing machine is the Life Fitness HX Rower. It has a dual track design and smooth operation, along with features such as adjustable resistance and a basic on-board computer.
The Row HX has an attractive and elegant design. It uses the company's "Fluid Resistance Technology" to recreate a realistic rowing experience, and is also built with a steel frame for added durability. Life Fitness claims it has a small foorprint, but you can buy an upright stand separately to save space.
The standout feature of the HX Row is its adjustable resistance. Unlike WaterRower machines, you can use a simple dial to adjust the difficulty of your workout with four resistance levels.
There's also a simple on-board computer showing statistics such as total time, 500m split, distance and calories burned. For more accurate calorie tracking, you can tell the computer which resistance setting you are using. While there's no advanced integrations or Bluetooth syncing, the computer is clear and easy to use.
Overall, the Life Fitness HX row is a high-quality water rowing machine that's a serious contender to WaterRower and FluidRower models. If you need a rowing machine with variable resistance and a smooth stroke, it's one of our top recommendations.
How do Water Rowing Machines Work?
Inside the tank of a water rowing machine is a set of paddles. As the handle is pulled, a chain rotates the water wheel, causing the water to move. The mass of the water creates resistance. Like air rowing machines, the faster you row the more resistance is produced.
As water is used for resistance, many machines (including WaterRower models) don't have a way to adjust the level of resistance other than rowing faster. Some come with a system for increasing or decreasing resistance by adjusting the water volume though. These systems work by moving some of the water into a separate tank to reduce the resistance.
What are the Benefits of a Rowing Machine with Water?
The first thing that stands out about many water rowing machines is the design. While air and hydraulic rowing machines tend to have a functional appearance, water rowers often have an elegant style that's unmatched by other types of exercise equipment. Not all water machines have a wood design, but many do.
As you would expect, one of the biggest advantages of a rowing machine with a water wheel is the realistic "feel." If you enjoy outdoor rowing, or just want to mimic the experience indoors, the best water rowing machines are a great option. Using water for resistance also provides a consistency throughout the stroke that's often lacking on air rowing machines.
Water rowers also tend to be quiet and require little maintenance. They aren't silent - there's still the sound of water sloshing in the tank - but they are quiet enough to watch TV while you work out. To give you an idea of the sound level of a water rowing machine, here's Frank Underwood using it in House of Cards (just don't pay attention to his form!)
There are some downsides though. Water rowers are often bulkier and larger than other rowing machines, simply because of the tank. They also aren't the rowing machine of choice for professional rowers, as they don't provide the same level of workout customisation. Not to mention they are expensive!
Water vs Air Rowing Machine - What's the Difference?
Both water and air resistance rowing machines have their advantages and drawbacks. Here's a quick comparison.
- Water resistance is relatively quiet when in use - even when you're rowing fast.
- Water machines become more difficult the faster you row. Some models have a limited level of adjustable resistance, while others don't have any option to change difficulty.
- A water rowing machine is one of the most expensive options. The cheapest water rowers start at around £700.
- Water resistance provides a smooth stroke and a mechanism that doesn't require much maintenance.
- Air resistance machines are noisier and sometimes have "dead spots" in the stroke.
- Like water, air rowing machines also become more difficult as you row faster. Some models combine magnetic with air resistance for a wide range of resistance settings.
- There are a range of prices for air rowers, but many are considerably less than even the cheapest water machines.
- Air resistance is also smooth when in use. The lack of friction reduces wear and tear while minimising maintenance.
Correct Water Rowing Machine Technique
Using the correct rowing machine technique isn't difficult, but it's important to get right. If you row with the wrong form, you increase the chance of injury and won't get the most out of your workout. Water rowing machine technique is the same as any other type of rower - here are the most important points:
- The Drive. The drive is when you push yourself backwards. Before starting the drive, the arms should be straight, with head and shoulders in a neutral position. Your upper body should lean slightly forward and your shins should be close to vertical. Begin by pushing with your legs, then lean your body back before starting to pull with the arms. The arms should move in a straight line in parallel to the floor, while the shoulders shouldn't be hunched.
- The Recovery. At the end of the drive, the upper body should be leaning slightly back with the core tightened. The legs should be extended and the hands and handle finished at the bottom of the ribs. The first step of the recovery is to extend the arms until they are straight. Then lean forwards as you move towards the flywheel. The knees shouldn't bend until the hands have passed them. You should finish in the starting position for the drive and be ready for the next stroke.
It's often easier to show correct form than explain it in words, so here's a useful video made by Concept2:
When you first start rowing, it can be a good idea to have someone else critique your form or record you. It's best to row gently without pulling too hard until you're sure you have the correct form.
If you're looking for a quiet, smooth workout from the comfort of your home, a water rowing machine could be a great choice. The best water rowers provide an excellent lower and upper body workout that burns plenty of calories. Generating resistance with water also provides a more consistent stroke that feels much closer to "real" rowing.
We think the best water rowing machine in 2021 is the WaterRower Natural With S4 Monitor. While there are machines with more advanced features (especially in regards to the on-board console), the smooth stroke and adjustable resistance mean this model provides an excellent workout and great value.
Do you have any questions about buying a water rowing machine? Or have you used one and want to give feedback? Let us know in the comments!