Water Rowing Machine and Alternatives Reviews 2019
Wooden water rowers are works of art as well as functional fitness equipment. When you lean one against a wall, units from WaterRower look like modern sculptures. WaterRower, especially, puts a great deal of labor into finishing the wood used to make the rails and frame.
While the beauty and effectiveness of a wooden rower is something to behold, these units also can get pricey. In more recent years, there are steel framed alternatives for home gym enthusiast who want to replicate the calming sound and feel of rowing on a lake, without leaving home. Water rowers are now popular enough that manufacturers are willing to offer many different varieties and options.
But in spite of all the options, every water rower has a frame, sliding seat, handlebar, and flywheel that actually moves through the water in a tank. We rounded up the ten best water rowers for you to
In a Hurry? The test winner after 20 hours of research
Ash wood is durable and lightweight
Full featured computer monitor
Folds up for storage
Eco friendly construction
Best 10 Water Rowers
Ash wood is durable and lightweight
Full featured computer monitor
Folds up for storage
Eco friendly construction
Some users may prefer adjustable resistance
This may be the most aesthetically pleasing rower on our list, with its unfinished look and sturdy construction that can hold users up to 1,000 pounds.Read more
The entire frame is ash wood, giving this the look of an actual boat and an impossible machine. How can something made of wood be as strong and effective as something made of steel? The answer is that Water Rower, one of the best-known makers of these machines, uses the best materials and craftsmanship in their products.
The raised, padded seat rolls easily along the two smooth wood side rails, giving you a bump-free ride. The unit is 13 feet long, long enough to be a working boat, so you will need to make sure you have enough space in your home gym area. Although it is a log, the ash wood construction means the rower only weighs 108 pounds when assembled (more if the water tank is full).
Water Rower sources all their wood from sustainable forests in the U.S.A. The unit can be folded, down to less than three feet long, so the length does not have to be a deal breaker. The resistance is self-adjusting, according to how hard you row, so there are not a lot of settings to adjust. And although this rower has an ancient look, at its heart is a monitor with bright backlighting that will track your workout metrics to help you stay on mission.
2. Incline Fit Wood
Can be stacked against a wall
More water=more resistance
Thick padded seat
Monitor is rather small
This low priced alternative model has a modern look and ergonomic engineering to ensure a comfortable ride for every body.Read more
Cushions, straps, and foot pads are all made with the user in mind. The seat is firm and the pads follow the curve of human feet. There is a monitor which tells you time, distance, calories, and even your strokes per minute. The seat cushion is twelve inches wide, large enough for anyone's comfort level.
Interestingly, we can't tell you the water tank capacity on this model. The company does not provide that. Instead, they advise you do not go past the clearly stamped fill line. The water imparts a relaxing sound, and some users reported being able to stow the machine up against a wall.
The seat slides back and forth easily, with no bumping or stalling. You will feel like you are out on a lake while getting all the strength and cardio benefits of any rower. You add resistance by adding water, and there are water purification tablets available to make sure nothing unwanted grows in the water.
Inclined tank enhances resistance
Portable/can be stowed
Single rail may not feel as solid
While not cheap or cheaply made, this third entry on our list saves you money by using steel instead of wood construction.Read more
You can still get a low impact workout for your entire body, and the same simulation of lake rowing that a wood framer provides. Resistance comes from the water tank, which sits at an incline inside the front frame. The clever design saves space and also offers a bit more resistance, with the water pressure pushing on the sides of the tank.
The seat is almost level with the single rail, a difference from the wood rowers which have a slightly raised seat. There are wheels to make the unit easy to use. In addition, the machine is designed to be turned upright easily and put away in a closet or against the wall when not in use.
The monitor gives you basic workout metrics, and you can start or stop quickly by pushing a button. A unique feature is the ability to race yourself against the computer, with a program you can set up. The resistance is adjustable fairly quickly using a siphon and pump to remove water. Handle, seat, and footrest are all ergonomic and easy to adjust.
4. Go Plus
Resistance is easy to adjust
Wide single rail
Seat has natural slide movement
Oversized textured pedals
User capacity only 220 pounds
This rower has a simple design and, unlike the first three on the list, gives you heart rate monitoring.Read more
You can change resistance without having to pour water out of the tank, thanks to an attached and included hand pump unit. An LCD monitor, oversized and easy to read, shares strokes, time, distance, and calories. There is a scan mode that helps you track and adjust your goals.
The heart rate monitor only works with the included chest belt. There is no way to get the heart rate by holding the handles. You have the option of using a mobile app, which pairs with the computer to save and share your workout data.
The wider than average rail is of aluminum alloy. The seat glides smoothly. Foot pads are adjustable, and the rower handle is a dowel style with non-slip grips.
5. Eriding Wood
Water motor is quiet
Computer monitor gives elapsed workout time
Hardwood finish lends durability
No extra programs on computer
This is another wood rower, at a lower price point than the first two we looked at. It even comes in two colors- Oal wood and black walnut.Read more
The water flywheel is special, patented by Eriding. It feels a lot like natural rowing, and the resistance adjusts itself as you push and pull. The sound of flowing water is still there, like on the more expensive models, and the overall effect is that you can imagine you are out on a lake.
The wood has a long-lasting, attractive finish, and the frame even has natural sound dampening properties. This is something you can use to get a workout, even if everyone in your house is asleep. There is a small monitor that gives you basic metrics, including the elapsed time for all your workouts.
This rower, like several others, is designed for convenience and easy storage. You can't fold it, but you can stand it on its bottom. Be sure to throw in a water tablet, according to directions. This will keep the water fresh and also help lubricate the machine.
Eriding offers a one year warranty on the rower.
6. Iron Company Steel
Solid steel double rail construction
Submerged flywheel is quite quiet
Richly featured computer monitor
Commercial grade with one year warranty
This is a thick-framed water rower with a double rail for the padded seat to slide on. It is made of steel, but follows the frame design of wooden rowers, making for something that is traditional and futuristic at the same time.Read more
The double rail is joined together with a massive centerpiece, so it is really a single rail that holds the seat, rather than having the seat straddle it like on less expensive models. It makes for a secure and stable experience. The water flywheel replicates a lake rowing session quite convincingly. The flywheel is completely submerged in water, giving you an ultraquiet ride that will not disturb others.
A full-featured computer monitor displays distance, elapsed time, strokes per minute, and a few other useful metrics. The frame is tubular steel, with a protective coating. This is a commercial grade machine. It looks heavy, but reviewers indicate you can store it propped up against a wall easily.
The rower weighs 150 pounds, 200 with a full water tank. Frame and parts come with a full warranty for one year.
7. Xterra Fitness
Impeller flywheel is quiet
Resistance levels marked on tank
Easy to read adjustable LCD monitor
Does not fold for storage
Xterra makes a few models of budget rowers, and typically reviews are positive. This one's full name is the Xterra Fitness ERG600W.Read more
This one uses an impeller style flywheel, that looks like the inner workings of a centrifugal pump. It is completely submerged and is what provides the natural rowing feel. The machine is quiet, but it does make the splashing and cascading sounds most of us associate with both lake and machine rowing.
The LCD console is oversized at 5.5 inches. You can adjust the height and angle so it is suited to your viewing abilities without having to strain your neck. There are 6 levels of resistance, all determined by water level. The tank has all the resistance levels marked, so you know when to stop filling.
The seat on the Xterra is a big draw, too. It is generously padded. Like the Water Rower and other high-end machines, the Xterra has an elevated seat, making it easy to get on and off.
8. Sunny Health And Fitness
16 bladed fan for emulating competitive rowing
Wide sweat resistant handle bar
Padded ergonomic seat
Includes a fitness meter with some extra features
Tall users may not get a full extension
Sunny Fitness makes simple, well-designed rowers and other cardio equipment at prices that make them good starter options for those just starting their home gyms.Read more
The fan blade style flywheel emulates outdoor rowing and provides resistance with 16 blades, designed and installed to mimic the motions of competitive rowers. You get a quiet, effective, low impact workout. The handle resists sweat and is covered for a secure grip. Many different users will be able to use the machine because the handle is wide enough for different arm spans.
The seat is ergonomically and biomechanically friendly, meant to support and move with the human body instead of making it uncomfortable. There is also an elevated seat, common on all water rowers, so you can get on and off with ease no matter your height or leg length.
An LCD monitor gives you standard data but also includes ambient temperature. There are wheels for moving the unit or propping it against a wall. Wheels are hard rubber and will not mark your floor.
9. Vintage Oak Rowing Machine
Monitor has some extra features
Oak is durable and reduces sound
Twin rails hold a raised seat for easy mounting
Lightweight at just 108 pounds
Heart rate feature needs a strap
This is another Water rower offering. It is handcrafted from solid wood, harvested in sustainable forests, just like our number one water rower pick.Read more
This one comes with a series 4 computer monitor, the most advanced one that Water Rower makes as a company. It gives you all the basic metrics, plus heart rate. The frame is oak, hardwood, with a walnut stain which gives it an antique look. In addition, the machine is finished with Danish oil, by hand, before being shipped out. This makes the wood bright and vibrant.
The oak is long lasting, so the rower will give you reliable performance for years. It also has sound dampening attributes, with the result being an exceptionally quiet workout. The monitor has quick start features and settings. Once you get the hang of the monitor, you can deep dive and access an array of functions and helpful information. You always have the option of just pushing the quick start button to start rowing.
Data points include your rowing speed, in both kilometers and miles per hour. You can challenge yourself by checking your time per 500 meters and striving to improve. You do need a strap to get heart rate.
10. Stamina Wave 1445
Wheels make transport easy
Padded seat, foot pads, handle
A little hard to move according to reviews
This is another affordable steel framed rower that is easy to move and keep out of the way when you are not using it.Read more
There are no set resistance levels, so no need to add or take away water. Instead, the machine adjusts resistance in response to you. If you want a tougher workout, you just pull the wide grip handle harder and let the submerged flywheel do the rest.
If you do need to change the water, there is a siphon included which makes it very convenient. The seat is equipped with enclosed ball bearing rollers for consistent smooth sliding motion. You get an extra wide handlebar with foam padding and a textured feel. Footplates are large, adjustable, and able to pivot for even greater comfort and customization.
The endcaps have a dial to help you level the machine on your floor. There are a total of six endcaps, four up front and two in back, all rubberized to avoid floor damage. Should you need to move the rower, it is equipped with two casters.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Too many rowing machines are made with the average person in mind.
We don't mean there is something wrong with being average. It is natural for manufacturers to tailor their machines to people of average build because they seem to make up most of the buying public.
But we want everyone to have access to a quality fitness experience. So we looked for machines that considered people who were taller or shorter than average. It is incredible to us that there are machines which will not seat someone over 5'8". We think there should be adjustments for weight, too, and even measurements like inseams.
The water rowers that distinguished themselves to us, and that earned our highest marks, are all able to comfortably fit people on different ends of the body spectrum.
You don't have to fit on a height and weight chart to be fit and enjoy physical exercise.
Losing weight is typically a goal people have when they start working out, but for many of us, reaching an unrealistic goal weight means depriving ourselves and constantly being vigilant. We aren't suggesting you shouldn't watch what you eat, just that your body will perform as it should if you set it up for that by eating healthy foods and getting exercise.
Which is why fitness machines, water rowers included, should have weight capacities that include people who may be self-conscious about working out. It takes a lot to take that first step, to begin getting fit, and that should not be made even more difficult by discovering that many of the machines are off limits to you.
People are willing to pay more for a machine that will last a long time.
We think this is a universal rule of thumb. Nobody wants to buy a car for 2,000 dollars, only to spend 3,000 on repairs over the next couple of years. It is better to just spend 4,000 or even more on a car that won't need any major repairs for a long time.
It is an oversimplified example, but you get the idea. You want to get the machine that has the highest ratings for durability. To help you, we looked at materials, reviews, ad manufacturer's specs to pick out the water rowers that will give you years of trouble-free service.
Wood frame water rowers open up so many possibilities.
That is because there are so many different kinds of wood available. We are fans of the Water Rower company because all of the wood for their machines comes from sustainable forests. This may be a consideration for you, too.
Aside from the sustainability factor, you can pick wood or steel based on its strength, appearance, or ability to squelch noise. Many types of wood can quiet the machine naturally. With steel, there is not that much difference in quality. But manufacturers can use different powder coating techniques to protect and beautify their rowers.
A good water rower rides like a boat out on a lake.
In fact, many of us buy water rowers because we want to recreate that experience while we improve our cardio health. So how efficiently a rower rides is very important. It is a combination of several factors-handlebars, responsiveness, flywheel type and placement, and type of rail.
Probably the biggest factor in ride quality is just how well the seat slides up and down the rail or rails. Wooden water rowers have good ride typically because there are twin rails for the seat to slide on. Rollers and ball bearings attached to the seat help it move as it should.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Water rowers offer simple operation, automatic resistance, and, for some water rowers, a look that is almost artistic. They can also be relaxing, with natural but muted lake sounds coming from the water tank with every rep you perform.
But since there aren't water rowers in the home of every fitness buff, they must not be for everyone. Let's look at some of the reasons this could be.
For one thing, most of them have automatic resistance. Some users may prefer machine controlled resistance, which they can select themselves at the beginning or during a workout. With some water rowers, you cannot change the resistance without getting up and interrupting your workout.
In addition, some exercisers want to know exactly how hard they worked and how much time they spent at different resistance levels. Or they may want to warm up at a lower resistance, one that will stay constant even if they speed up.
We also found that the monitors on water rowers are often not up to par with those on conventional rowers. They may be smaller, harder to read or have fewer adjustments for neck comfort. We are not sure why this is, and it is certainly not always the case, but the need for a premium monitor may send users to look at a regular rower.
Water tanks are potential spots for algae or other undesirable life forms to grow. No matter how hard you try to keep up with maintenance, some problems are unavoidable.
To prevent algae growth, you will need to use the water purifying tablets that came with the machine. These will stop growth before it can happen. If you do have problems, you can pour the water out of the tank, fill it back up to the previous level, and then put a bit of algae cleaner in the tank. You can get this chemical at a place that sells pool supplies. Follow the directions on the bottle to get rid of all the unwanted growth, and prevent more from showing up.
Another thing you may not think of is that, if your rower is in direct sunlight for most of the day, you will need to add a tablet a bit more often. The sun encourages the growth of aquatic plants.
Other Factors to Consider
Stability, of course, is important in any piece of fitness equipment that moves or supports your weight. In reviewing water rowers, we considered how many points of contact each machine had with the floor. We also considered how easy or hard it is to level the machine. Some of them have built-in leveling knobs.
Everyone's personal preference is different. but we tend to think the dual rail construction is more stable than the single rail. Either kind of machine is fine, but with two rails, the bearings and rollers have less of a chance to fall out of alignment. Also, the more solid rail and centerpiece design are more like the construction of a boat.
Water rowers, surprisingly, are not especially heavy pieces of equipment. They definitely weigh less than a multigym or peck dec machine. So, this time around, we did not have to encourage readers to use professional movers when the equipment arrives. You may need a helper the first time you set up your rower, but after that, they are both stable and surprisingly portable. Many have wheels, and most home use machines are meant to be stacked up against a wall when you finish using them.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Are water rowers more effective?
The broad answer is no. There is nothing special about the resistance on a rower that will make you stronger faster. Some models, though, will have extra features, making them more effective or efficient than traditional models.
q: What is infinite resistance?
Many manufacturers will describe their rowing machines ad flywheels as having infinite resistance. This just means that every pull you could make, at different levels of effort, would create a different resistance. This is different from a regular rower, where the flywheel creates only the levels of resistance you set. While the words "infinite resistance" is intriguing, the truth is you do not feel that many different resistances over the course of your workouts.
q: Should I empty the water tank before I lean the rower against a wall?
You should always consult the manufacturer's literature, but, often, you do not want to empty the tank because it weighs down the machine and keeps it from falling when leaned against a wall.
q: Who invented water rowers?
Usable water rowers first came about in 1989, when John Duke filed a patent for the first machine. Duke was a rower for the U.S. national team. He thought up the design and figured out a way to make it practical for use in gyms.
Although Duke's patent cleared in 1989, he had thought of the machine before then. In 1988, WaterRower was founded. The company went on to become the world's leading manufacturer of water rowing machines.
q: Can a water rower help me prepare for rowing on a lake?
Yes, it can. A conventional rower can, too. They were first invented as a way for rowers on ships to stay in shape while on dry land. No machine can exactly mimic the motion and experience of lake rowing, but the water rower is the next best thing and will use the same muscles you need for rowing a boat.