With some changes in the market, we felt it was time to revisit our article on the best water rowing machines.
We amended our top seven chart to include two new options – both elegant wooden-framed rowers. First we added the high-quality WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine, as well as the affordable Mr. Captain Water Rowing Machine.
There is nothing quite like jumping into a row boat on a picturesque lake and heading off for a peaceful rowing workout.
However, life isn’t always as simple as this – especially if you live in a city, where row boats, lakes and peace don’t come easy!
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This is where water rowing machines come in. These advanced rowers use water as the resistance, simulating the natural feel and soothing sound of rowing through water. Trust us, if you don’t have a lake nearby, it’s the next best thing.
Some water rowers are premium pieces of gear, proving to be among the best rowing machines on the market, while others are more budget-friendly options that are accessible to everybody. All that you need to do is pick one that suits you.
However, with so many water rowers on the market, which is the best one for your goals, your living space and your budget?
Our top seven chart below gives you the lowdown on what’s hot at the moment, while our accompanying guide runs you through the kinds of features you should look out for when shopping. Don’t forget our FAQ section to round things off!
Resistance Type: Water
Resistance Levels: 4 levels
Features: Compact design, natural wood/tempered steel frame, padded seat, LCD computer, transportation wheels, 330lb weight capacity
Life Fitness will be a familiar name to anybody who has spent time in a commercial gym, and the Row HX Trainer certainly shows off what the American brand can do. This popular rowing machine justifies its high-end price tag with an equally high-end style, performance and features.
It sports a strong but sleek frame made from natural wood and tempered steel, with surprisingly compact dimensions (just 7ft long) that keeps it suitable for smaller homes. The water tank features four levels of easily-adjustable resistance – no need to add or remove water manually!
To the left of the machine you’ll find an LCD computer, with metrics including your time, distance, speed and heart rate (via a wireless chest strap – although this is not included). Expensive, but ideal for serious rowers.
Resistance Type: Water
Resistance Levels: Adjustable
Weight Capacity: 1,000lbs
Features: Solid ash hardwood, honey oak finish, patented WaterFlywheel, adjustable pedals, S4 monitor, Hi Rise attachment, upright storage, syphon pump, water purification tablets, transportation wheels
WaterRower is a high-end brand that knows how to make a great water rowing machine (as if the name didn’t give it away!). This in-demand model is actually more affordable than others, but still delivers on style, performance and features.
Made from a honey oak-finished solid ash hardwood, this rower is the height of elegance, yet not at the expense of resilience – it can hold users up to 1,000lbs. Whatever your size or ability, the included Hi Rise attachment makes getting on and off the seat an easier experience.
The patented WaterFlywheel features adjustable water resistance for a smooth challenge regardless of your ability level. It also features an S4 monitor with good performance feedback.
Resistance Type: Water
Resistance Levels: 6 levels
Weight Capacity: 330lbs
Features: Compact design, inclined water drum, steel frame, large contoured seat, 20” ergonomic handle, built-in LCD screen, competitive race mode, transportation wheels
This popular water rower from Merax is both sleek and compact, making it a sensible choice for smaller homes. In fact, when not in use, you can store the rower upright and wheel it into a corner for even greater space saving.
However, its condensed footprint takes nothing away from the exceptional performance. It is fitted with a six-level adjustable angled water tank which, Merax claims, offers extra resistance compared to flat drums.
With a strong steel frame, this rower can handle users of most sizes up to 330lbs, while the 20” ergonomic handle and large contoured seat make it a comfortable rower for longer sessions. This rower also features a large and clear LCD monitor with session feedback as well as various preset rowing workouts.
Resistance Type: Water
Resistance Levels: None
Weight Capacity: 320lbs
Features: Sustainable oak frame, aluminum alloy track, ergonomic seat, adjustable footplates, ergonomic handle, upright storage, Bluetooth LCD monitor, transportation wheels
One water rower making a big impact at the moment is the Mr. Captain rowing machine, which fuses performance and style with a more affordable price tag than some of the higher-end water rowers.
The style comes courtesy of the vibration-absorbing sustainable oak frame, while aluminum alloy tracks allow the seat to move smoothly. The water tank is pretty much industry standard, although it is not adjustable. Still, you will be able to enjoy strong and smooth water rowing, with the LCD screen offering insight into your progress.
Another plus for this rower is that it can be stored upright, which reduces floorspace demands to just 22” x 20” – ideal if you don’t want a rowing machine taking up your entire apartment!
Resistance Type: Water
Resistance Levels: 7 levels
Weight Capacity: 300lbs
Features: Steel frame, wide cushioned seat, non-slip handlebars, four-way adjustable pedals, height-adjustable R2 LCD computer, 11 preset workout programs, media shelf, storage compartment, water bottle holder, transportation wheels
We are big fans of Sunny Health & Fitness, with the brand able to deliver a no-nonsense cardio machine in any price range. When it comes to rowing machines – and, in particular, water rowers – their SF-RW5910 Phantom Hydro is a smart choice for any user.
With an attractive price tag, the SF-RW5910 showcases a strong but compact steel frame with a 300lb weight capacity. This is largely down to the 60-degree angled water tank, in which sits a 16-hydroblade fan wheel. You can fill the tank to meet your needs, with seven resistance levels clearly labelled.
In action, it’s smooth and comfortable, with a wide padded seat and four-way adjustable pedals keeping you locked in. It also comes equipped with a generous LCD computer, offering access to your workout metrics plus 11 preset training programs.
Resistance Type: Water
Resistance Levels: 6 levels
Features: Steel frame, dual aluminum slide rails, non-slip foot pedals, 16-blade fan wheel, LCD screen, transportation wheels, 250lb weight capacity
While it may not boast the elegant wooden frame of some of the higher-end units, this robust steel-framed rower from Sunny Health & Fitness gets the job done at a price that we can all enjoy.
Even with an affordable price, there is no compromise on functionality, with a water-submerged 16-blade fan wheel and an adjustable-level water tank. In action, it is smooth and caters for users up to 250lbs with ease.
The Obsidian is quite long, yet can be moved into an upright position and wheeled away to reduce floor space post-workout. Meanwhile, it offers a clear LCD screen with good metrics including time, distance, 500m time, and strokes per minute, while it is also compatible with ANT+ heart rate units.
Resistance Type: Water
Resistance Levels: Adjustable
Features: Steel frame, padded seat, foam-padded handles, LCD monitor, transportation wheels, water bottle holder, 264lb weight capacity
Sure, you can spend over a thousand dollars on a high-end water rowing machine… but the question is – with great budget machines such as this unit from MaxKare – who would want to?
For rowing enthusiasts on a budget, this popular machine boasts everything you need from a decent water rower. There’s a sturdy steel frame, large water tank, comfortable padded seat, upright storage, and even a water-bottle holder! In action, it’s as natural as some of the higher-end models, allowing for smooth but intense workouts.
Impressively for this price, it also features a height-adjustable LCD monitor offering a range of workout data including time, distance, calories and strokes per minute. It may lack the high-end polish, but this one is a true bargain!
In the world of rowing machines, water rowers are seen as the king – delivering the natural feel and sound of rowing on water in the comfort of your own living room.
However, when buying a rowing machine, you are confronted with a plethora of manufacturers and models, all competing for your attention. What kind of size do you need? Have you considered the handles? What about an on-board computer?
This section sets out to guide you through everything you need to know about water rowers, helping you pick the right machine for you.
One of the most important questions to ask when buying a rower is ‘Will it fit in my home’? Unlike a good treadmill or an elliptical – where the main consideration is the room height – a rower demands a lot more floor space.
Many rowers can reach up to 8ft in length, so trying to fit them in a smaller room can be challenging. Luckily, there are several water rowers on the market with designs that help you save a little space, reducing the overall length to 7ft or below.
Also, keep an eye out for rowers that can be tilted onto their front ends and stored vertically. While this does mean you have to consider the height of the room, it allows you to reclaim some space on your floor after you’ve finished using the machine.
Space considerations aside, the materials used in the build are just as important. Uniquely to water rowing machines, you will find solid wood used to make many frames. Using wood such as American ash, white oak, walnut and cherry offers an elegant aesthetic, which turns the rower from fitness equipment into a piece of furniture you’d be proud to show off.
Of course, using wood demands a higher price. If you are shopping in the more affordable end, you can expect to find full steel frames instead. These are usually strong and durable, capable of withstanding higher user weights and more abuse than many of the wooden models, even if they are less attractive.
Unlike air rowers, hydraulic rowers or magnetic rowers, water rowers obviously use water as their means of resistance.
Like an air rower, the water rower features a fan wheel, although this is placed in a large plastic tank which is filled with water. As you row, the water drives against the blades of the wheel, much like it would against the oars of an actual rowing boat. Naturally, this leads to a very authentic rowing feel.
Unlike magnetic rowing machines, water rowers do not have set resistance levels – you choose your intensity. This makes it ideal for high-intensity training, as the resistance responds to your effort, so you can go as hard or as soft as you like with no delay. The harder you row, the harder the rowing becomes.
Having said that, there is often means to adjust the base resistance levels. These levels don’t change the natural feel and acceleration, although they will make the initial resistance either harder or easier (the more water, the heavier the resistance).
Higher-end machines will sometimes offer a convenient resistance selector switch, while others will allow you to change the levels by manually adding/removing water from the tank. As you can imagine, siphoning water out is not the most sophisticated of systems and may cause a few splashes along the way!
Finally, a byproduct of using water resistance is the pleasing sound of moving water as you row. It’s not the quietest of resistance styles, but some people enjoy the soothing sound of water as it sloshes around the tank. Close your eyes and you could almost convince yourself that you are out on the lake!
A lot of high-end gym equipment offers the user big color touchscreens and HD monitors with video playback and even the ability to browse the internet. However, even the screens on premium rowing machines don’t offer this kind of functionality!
While generally more basic in their offering, every water rower will tend to at least feature a standard LCD screen, offering a readout of your key workout data – some more advanced than others.
The data on offer will depend on the manufacturer and price range, with metrics including time, distance, 500m time and strokes per minute giving you an insight into your performance.
Some screens may also offer heart rate readouts, although this depends solely on whether the console is compatible with separate heart rate devices (such as chest strap monitors) – usually via Bluetooth or ANT+.
It is also from this LCD screen that you will be able to operate built-in workout programs, if the rower includes them. This is usually a feature on higher-priced machines, often with programs for time, distance or weight-loss targets, as well as interval training workouts.
Unlike other cardio machines, rowing machines are rarely bursting with secondary features. However, most will still provide a few things that help make your rowing session more comfortable and convenient.
First are the more essential aspects, such as the seat and handles. Considering these are your main points of contact with the machine, their comfort will often be the difference between a good and bad workout experience.
You can usually judge the comfort of these aspects by checking user reviews on marketplaces such as Amazon. You can guarantee that if a rower has an uncomfortable seat, then current owners of that machine will flag it up.
Of course, comfort is subjective and, while you may prefer a nicely cushioned seat with foam-padded handles, someone else may prefer a harder seat with rubberized grips. This is an area in which you will have to use your judgement.
Otherwise, there isn’t usually much more on offer in terms of comfort and convenience-enhancing features on water rowing machines. You can sometimes find media shelves, which allow you to hold a smartphone or tablet for easy viewing during a workout.
However, as your hands will be occupied for the entire workout, there are usually less things to fiddle with than you’d find on a treadmill, elliptical or exercise bike – no cooling fans or built-in speaker systems, for example.
You’ve landed on a page highlighting the best water rowing machines, but don’t actually know what water rowing is? Time to put you in the picture!
Water rowing is simply the act of using a rowing machine with water as the method of resistance. Some machines use magnets acting on flywheels, some use air resistance, and others use hydraulic cylinders – water rowers, of course, use water.
A fan wheel is placed in a large plastic tank, which is then filled with water. As you begin to row, the wheel spins and the water causes resistance against the blades of the fan. The harder and faster you go, the tougher the resistance feels.
There are several different styles of resistance a rowing machine could use, including two of the most popular: magnetic and water. This leads people to ask if water rowers – usually the more expensive of the two styles – are better than magnetic machines.
The answer isn’t as clear cut as you may imagine and, like many things in the world of fitness, the requirements of the user will ultimately determine which is better.
However, there are certainly benefits to a water rower when compared to one using magnetic resistance.
As we have mentioned many times in this article, water rowers take advantage of actual water to create resistance. Submerged inside a tank, the blades of a fan wheel move against the liquid in a similar way to an oar hitting the water. Because of this, water rowers deliver the most natural feeling rowing stroke – and this is the main reason behind their popularity.
A tank full of water also allows for a natural acceleration and deceleration, which makes water rowing as good for HIIT sessions as it is for steady-state cardio.
The main caveat is that water rowing machines tend to be more expensive, although – as this page has demonstrated – you can still find excellent units for under $400.
Magnetic rowers, on the other hand, use magnets acting on a metal flywheel to create resistance of very consistent levels. This means they feel a little less dynamic than their water counterparts. They are great for setting a resistance level and sticking to it, so are perfect for steady-state sessions – however, they fall short when it comes to HIIT.
While more clinical in their feel, magnetic rowers are also much quieter than water rowers. Almost silent in fact. They are also generally smaller and can be folded, which makes them more suitable for smaller spaces. Finally, magnetic rowers can be some of the cheapest on the market – ideal for rowers on a budget.
Now you have the pros and cons for both, you can decide which is better. Sure, a $1,500 water rower with an elegant wooden frame may feel like the best choice initially, but if you are working to a budget of $300 and want to use it in a studio apartment, perhaps a foldable magnetic rowing machine is the better choice.
When many people are looking to lose fat, cardio sessions are one of the first things they think of. This is why they usually head outside for a jog or hop onto an exercise bike at the gym.
However, it’s worth paying attention to rowing machines, which are an outstanding tool in your fat-loss arsenal.
In addition to giving you the means to have a high-intensity but low-impact cardio workout, rowing works your entire body, which is one of the reasons why this activity is so good for torching fat. Your largest muscles groups – quads, glutes and back – are all in action while rowing.
Having the muscles of both the upper and lower body working with each rep burns more calories – and a calorie deficit is what leads to fat loss. In fact, for an hour of moderate rowing, a 125lb person is likely to burn around 420 calories, while a 185lb person will burn around 620 calories.
Up the intensity and watch those numbers fly even higher!
So yes, you can definitely lose fat by using a rowing machine. The big ‘however’ is that you must combine rowing – or any exercise – with a good nutrition plan.
Losing 500 calories during a rowing session is one thing, but following it up with 1,000 calories of pizza (which isn’t that tough to do considering one slice of pepperoni pizza from a well-known national chain restaurant is 460 calories!) won’t land you with the results you want.
To lose fat consistently, you must keep yourself in a caloric deficit. Around 500 calories a day should do it, as a 3,500 weekly deficit leads to the loss of 1lb of fat. If you can do this via diet, while working your body to improve endurance and muscle size, you should see drastic results in just a few months.
Exercise is wonderful – until something goes wrong and you are nursing an injury. Whether you have a long-term knee issue (such as arthritis) or a temporary injury, you may be looking for a way to exercise around knee pain.
While activities that include running and jumping are certainly painful and can make some knee issues worse, low-impact cardio can help avoid further pain while actually helping to strengthen the knee.
Swimming is obviously a very good start, as is using certain low-impact cardio machines – ellipticals, recumbent bikes and rowing machines.
Rowing machines in particular are a great way to work your upper and lower body, torch calories and condition your cardiovascular system, all while remaining low-impact due to the position of your body.
However, rowing with poor form can actually aggravate knee issues. While we could describe the perfect rowing form, there are countless videos on the correct way to row that will give you an easier idea of how to perform the movement. Take the time to understand and execute the correct rowing technique and your body will thank you.
Also, be sure to set yourself up properly. In particular, strap your feet into the foot pedals correctly, as failing to do this can result in a twisted knee – guaranteed to hurt, regardless of your current knee health!
If you do suffer from knee pain or any joint issues, it’s worth consulting a physician before embarking on any new exercise program.
Buying a water rowing machine could be one of the best fitness decisions you ever make – providing you buy the right machine for you. If you follow the advice in our guide and make a considered decision, you are likely to find something that fits you, your living space and your budget perfectly.
Our chart is full of suggestions for some of the hottest water rowers around, although don’t stop there. There are many more on the market, some of which may be better suited to you.
Soon enough you will be able to enjoy the feeling of open-water rowing in the comfort of your own living room!