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 FluidRower Viking 2 AR provides the ultimate balance between price and performance when buying a water rowing machine. It has adjustable resistance, USB connection (including online races) and a stylish design. Most importantly, it 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. FluidRower Viking 2 AR (Best Water Rowing Machine)
Our top pick for a water rowing machine is the FluidRower Viking 2 AR. Like many other water rowers, it's built with a stylish wood frame so it'll look great in your home. It also has adjustable resistance to provide greater control over your workout.
The Viking 2 AR is a solid water rowing machine that's built to last. With an Ash frame and durable metal fixtures, it's a reliable model that doesn't require much maintenance. It's also comfortable to use due to its ergonomic handle, adjustable feet plates and smooth belt drive.
One of the best features of the rowing machine is the adjustable resistance. A mechanical dial is used to adjust the difficulty of your workout, so you can switch from an easy warm-up to a tough challenge.
The Viking 2 AR has a simple computer showing statistics such as time, strokes per minute, calories and 500m split. There's also the option of monitoring heart rate via a belt, but this needs to be bought separately. Additionally, you can connect the computer to a PC via USB to take part in online races or log your progress. We would have preferred Bluetooth connectivity so you could sync via a mobile device, but this isn't a major drawback.
As you would expect from a water rowing machine, the FluidRower is relatively quiet when in operation - especially compared to air rowers. It's also straightforward to assemble, although it's important to read the instructions carefully when you get to the filling stage. 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 FluidRower 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, as the computer can't adjust the resistance electronically so there's no way to include pre-set workout programmes.
Overall, the FluidRower Viking 2 AR 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 four resistance levels also provide more variety than water rowers without this function.
If you're looking for a high-quality water rowing machine and can afford the Viking 2, it's our top recommendation, as it provides a great balance between performance and value.
2. WaterRower Club Rowing Machine
When it comes to water rowing machines, WaterRower are one of the most respected brands. The WaterRower Club Rowing Machine is one of their less expensive models, but we think it's the best for providing both value and performance.
The Club is built from American Ash 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 Club also has black-stained rails that are designed to prevent unsightly scuff marks, while the wood is treated to provide a deep tone and lasting appearance.
Aside from the design, the WaterRower Club is an excellent water tank rowing machine. It features a dual rail design that offers a smooth workout even at higher speeds. The Club 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, 500m split time and duration.
One feature the WaterRower club 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). Considering it's billed as a Club machine, we're also surprised there aren't more advanced options for syncing and tracking your workout data. There's no Bluetooth connection so you can't connect to popular fitness apps like Endomodo.
Despite the limitations in terms of workout tracking, the WaterRower Club 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.
3. FluidRower Pacific Challenge AR
If you're looking for a cheap water rowing machine (or at least a cheaper model), the FluidRower Pacific Challenge AR 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 Pacific Challenge is built to a commercial standard. This means it's a durable piece of equipment. It also comes with a number of comfort settings, including an ergonomic handle that reduces wrist and hand strain, and adjustable footplates.
Like other FluidRower rowing machines, the Pacific Challenge has an adjustable resistance system. A dial at the top of the tank is used to adjust water volume. 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 also comes with a simple computer that displays basic statistics. The computer can be connected to your PC via USB for additional logging and even online racing, but there's no Bluetooth connectivity. There's the option of using a heart rate monitor, but you'll need to buy this separately.
Most importantly, the Pacific Challenge AR is a pleasure to use. Its smooth when in use and very quiet, so you can watch TV or listen to music while working out. We also like the vertical storage design as this takes up much less space. If you need a relatively inexpensive rowing machine that uses water, yet still provides a great workout, the Pacific Challenge AR 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 2019 is the FluidRower Viking 2 AR. 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!