Water Rower Classic

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9 Best Water Rowing Machines: Top Picks for Indoor Training (2018)

THE GOATS BEHIND THIS REVIEW:
Jamal - Team Fitness Goat
Jamal
Writer
Cece
Producer
CR
Designer
Austin - Team Fitness Goat
Austin
Researcher
Katherine
Writer

Rowing is a total body workout that can greatly improve your cardiovascular fitness and overall strength. It’s also a very meditative exercise that’s low impact but high payoff.

In this piece, you’ll learn how to make the most of your rower, what to consider when buying one, and what we selected as top picks for the best water rowing machine to add to your gym.

GOAT PICK

First Degree Fitness Apollo Pro II Rowing Machine

WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine

BEST VALUE PICK

Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian SF-RW5713

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine

Stamina Wave Water Rowing Machine 1445

HCI Fitness ProRower RX-750

First Degree Fitness Apollo Pro 2 Indoor Rower Rowing Machine with Variable Fluid Resistance and...
Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine Rower w/LCD Monitor - Obsidian SF-RW5713
Water Rower Natural Rowing Machine in Ash Wood with S4 Monitor
Stamina Wave Water Rowing Machine
HCI Fitness Prorower RX-750 Prorower Indoor Water Rowing Machine
TLDR
A high-quality water rower designed to be durable. Aesthetically pleasing and ergonomically built.
Handcrafted from black walnut and finished with Danish oil, the WaterRower Classic was built to last. The frame is both aesthetically pleasing and vibration absorbing.
Lightweight but durable, the Sunny water rower offers a smooth and steady rowing experience. The overall design is ergonomic and comfortable to use.
Similar to the Classic model, with the main difference being the type of wood used for the frame. Durable and beautiful design.
A steel-based frame and a wave water resistance system come together to form a good quality rower.
Innovative hydro-power drive system emulates the feel and sound of on the water rowing. Features a more compact frame than other models.
Pros
The patented variable resistance mechanism, rapid recoil system, maintenance-free belt drive, and ergonomic handles make this machine a dream to use.
Patented water flywheel replicates the feel and sound of real rowing, providing smooth, quiet, and self-regulated resistance. Features the Series 4 performance monitor to track your stats.
Hydro blade drive system mimics the dynamic movements of rowing, while an onboard computer tracks all your metrics. Easy to store, easy to use.
The flywheel replicates the feel of actual rowing, and the seat glides smoothly. Overall, a quiet but intense workout.
The flywheel replicates the feel of actual rowing, and the seat glides smoothly. Overall, a quiet but intense workout.
The compact size, pivoting footrests, adjustable straps, and built-in fitness monitor make this a good water rowing machine.
Cons
Assembly is on the more difficult side.
The only real drawback is the high price point.
Comparatively low max weight capacity of 250 pounds.
Compared to other models, the footrests are awkwardly placed, possibly causing slippage.
Compared to other models, the footrests are awkwardly placed, possibly causing slippage.
Durability is an issue. Given the lower price point, the overall built is not as sturdy as comparable models.
GOAT PICK

First Degree Fitness Apollo Pro II Rowing Machine

First Degree Fitness Apollo Pro 2 Indoor Rower Rowing Machine with Variable Fluid Resistance and...
TLDR
A high-quality water rower designed to be durable. Aesthetically pleasing and ergonomically built.
Pros
The patented variable resistance mechanism, rapid recoil system, maintenance-free belt drive, and ergonomic handles make this machine a dream to use.
Cons
Assembly is on the more difficult side.

WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine

TLDR
Handcrafted from black walnut and finished with Danish oil, the WaterRower Classic was built to last. The frame is both aesthetically pleasing and vibration absorbing.
Pros
Patented water flywheel replicates the feel and sound of real rowing, providing smooth, quiet, and self-regulated resistance. Features the Series 4 performance monitor to track your stats.
Cons
The only real drawback is the high price point.
BEST VALUE PICK

Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian SF-RW5713

Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine Rower w/LCD Monitor - Obsidian SF-RW5713
TLDR
Lightweight but durable, the Sunny water rower offers a smooth and steady rowing experience. The overall design is ergonomic and comfortable to use.
Pros
Hydro blade drive system mimics the dynamic movements of rowing, while an onboard computer tracks all your metrics. Easy to store, easy to use.
Cons
Comparatively low max weight capacity of 250 pounds.

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine

Water Rower Natural Rowing Machine in Ash Wood with S4 Monitor
TLDR
Similar to the Classic model, with the main difference being the type of wood used for the frame. Durable and beautiful design.
Pros
The flywheel replicates the feel of actual rowing, and the seat glides smoothly. Overall, a quiet but intense workout.
Cons
Compared to other models, the footrests are awkwardly placed, possibly causing slippage.

Stamina Wave Water Rowing Machine 1445

Stamina Wave Water Rowing Machine
TLDR
A steel-based frame and a wave water resistance system come together to form a good quality rower.
Pros
The flywheel replicates the feel of actual rowing, and the seat glides smoothly. Overall, a quiet but intense workout.
Cons
Compared to other models, the footrests are awkwardly placed, possibly causing slippage.

HCI Fitness ProRower RX-750

HCI Fitness Prorower RX-750 Prorower Indoor Water Rowing Machine
TLDR
Innovative hydro-power drive system emulates the feel and sound of on the water rowing. Features a more compact frame than other models.
Pros
The compact size, pivoting footrests, adjustable straps, and built-in fitness monitor make this a good water rowing machine.
Cons
Durability is an issue. Given the lower price point, the overall built is not as sturdy as comparable models.
Why Trust Us? Fitness Goat spends hundreds of hours researching products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We never accept free products, do paid promotions, or hide behind our website. If you would like to know more, please contact us here.

What Exactly is a Water Rowing Machine?

Water rowing machines simulate the motions and experience of rowing a boat on open water. These machines force you to work out a variety of muscles in a low impact and controlled way, in a comfortable indoor setting. To use a water rowing machine, you pull a handle while sliding on a small seat to get the proper motion going, all the while minimizing your risk for injury.

Comparatively, outdoor rowing requires the right equipment and environment to be successful. For one, being near a body of water with decent to warm temperatures is required. Rowboats also tend to be expensive, usually due to their racing or touring specialization. You also have to keep in mind transporting all your equipment to and from the lake or river, which can be cumbersome.

A water rowing machine offers most of the benefits of outdoor rowing, combining it with the convenience of being indoors and gaining greater control over the workout. The best part is, there’s no chance you’ll fall into freezing waters if you’re working out during the cold winter months!

First Degree Fitness Apollo Pro 2 Indoor Rower Rowing Machine with Variable Fluid Resistance and Multi-Level Monitor

The Apollo PRO II is the Cadillac of water rowers with all the bells and whistles (Source)

Benefits of a Water Rowing Machine

  • To work on your aerobic conditioning. Consistently working out on a water rowing machine help to work out the heart and lungs, which is beneficial for your overall health and improves your fitness. The estimated calorie burn is around 600 calories per hour.
  • To strengthen your muscles. The motion of rowing utilizes several muscles groups at the same time, making it a compound exercise. This type of exercise strengthens your muscle fibers and improves muscle tone.
  • To protect your joints. Rowing is a low impact activity. Compared to other cardio workouts, such as running, rowing is easy on the joints since there are no forceful movements when done correctly.
  • To HIIT train. The variable nature of water rowers makes it easy to increase or decrease resistance on the fly. That means you can easily formulate your own highly effective HIIT workout.
  • More resistance. Compared to air rowers, water rowers offer more natural resistance. This is great if you’re looking to keep your workouts as variable as possible, helping you to avoid plateaus.
  • Incredible durability. Most water rowers are built from high-quality materials. Most frames are made from hardwood or metals, meaning your new rower is able to take a beating.

What Makes a Good Water Rower?

A water rowing machine is any rower that uses a spinning paddle in a water-filled tank to generate resistance.

Main Features

The size and shape of the handles will affect the overall rowing feel and motion. Draw-type handles get pulled, spinning the flywheel. These offer the most realistic rowing experience. The flywheel is the mechanism that generates resistance through the water, which is kept in a tank that also holds the paddles.

Convenience Features

Some rowers come with monitor controls that, like other gym equipment, track metrics, workout information, and allow you to adjust settings. Certain rower brands allow you to flip the frame into a vertical position, moving the bulk of the frame out of the way. This is a great feature in case you’re short on storage. Finally, some rowers have built-in transport wheels that make it easy to move the frame around.

Other Popular Features

Frames that enable full leg extension will mean a more comfortable and effective workout. You’ll also want adjustable footstraps to ensure a perfect fit. Likewise, look for rubber padding on the feet of your rower to protect your floor. Models that make it easy to adjust the resistance levels are easier to use, plus you’ll want to make sure that the handle pulls smoothly. Finally, check that the machine makes a quiet, smooth rowing sound.

What to Watch Out For

Extensive and confusing assembly, cheap construction materials, and too much-required maintenance will make your rower owning experience less than ideal. Also, watch out for a lack of fine resistance control and footstraps that aren’t adjustable. These tend to fall off, interrupting your workout. You’ll also want to check that the built-in tracking monitor is accurate.

Water Rower Classic

The Water Rower Classic is our runner up pick (Source)

Other Factors to Consider

  • Use: Most rowing machines are designed with home-use in mind. They tend to be small, user-friendly, and lack the greater durability of commercial options. Water rowers for home use often look like upscale pieces of furniture. Comparatively, commercial rowers are designed to withstand the greater abuse of repeated workouts throughout the day. These are mostly seen in professional gyms.
  • Size: You’ll want to take the size of your exercise room into account when determining how big or small the rowing machine can be. Most water rowing machines are larger than other rowers, usually about as big as a couch. When selecting a rower, make sure that the length of the track is long enough to support your height and leg length.
  • Comfort: Many models differ in how much padding the seat and handlebar offer. More padding will keep you working out in comfort, even for long rowing sessions. Handle grips have the added benefit of protecting your hands from harm and injury.
  • Warranties: Most brands offer both residential and commercial warranties. Typically, water rowing machines will come with a 5-Year warranty on the frame and a 3-Year warranty on the parts.
  • Shipping and Assembly: Your water rowing machine may be shipped in multiple boxes due to its large size. The majority of rowers require some assembly. This typically entails connecting large components like the rails to the frame.

Top Water Rower Brands

Water Rower

Water Rower Logo

Founded in 1988, Water Rower is headquartered in Warren, Rhode Island. They’ve been producing quality equipment for over 30 years, with their most popular products being the Classic and Natural rowers.

Sunny Health & Fitness

Sunny Health Logo

Sunny Health & Fitness is headquartered in Los Angeles, California. They were founded in 2002 and have been making high-quality Water Rowers since then.

First Degree

First Degree Fitness Logo

Founded in 2000, First Degree is headquartered in Bassendean, Washington. They’ve been producing quality equipment since day one, with their most popular product being the Apollo Pro II.

Stamina

Stamina Fitness Logo

Stamina was founded back in 1987 and is headquartered in Springfield, Missouri. They’ve been producing quality sports equipment since they opened their doors more than 30 years ago. The most popular of Stamina’s products is the Wave Water rower.

Water Rowing Machine Prices

  • Under $500: This is the budget price point for an aqua rower. Here, you’re getting the bare minimum of features. The frame will be made out of steel instead of wood, and the feel of the machine will vary greatly depending on the model you get. Some have smoother pulls than others.
  • $500-$1000: In the midrange, you’ll get a pretty decent water filled rowing machine. The seat will be padded and comfortable and the frame could be made from either steel or wood. Features include a built-in monitor and a more life-like rowing feel.
  • $1000 and above: At this price point, you’ll get a quality water rower that’s built to last. Frames are made from high-quality, beautifully finished wood, the rowing will feel and sound lifelike, and many models will fold up for easy storage. Included also are all the standard features, like fitness tracking monitors and foot straps.

Best Water Rowing Machines Reviews & Recommendations 2018

Best Water Rower Overall: First Degree Fitness Apollo Pro II Rowing Machine

Sale
First Degree Fitness Apollo Pro 2 Indoor Rower Rowing Machine with Variable Fluid Resistance and...
  • HIGH-QUALITY WATER ROWER - Engineered with a steel head...
  • PATENTED VARIABLE FLUID RESISTANCE - Multiple levels of...
  • LIFE-LIKE WATER ROWING EXPERIENCE - Enjoy rapid recoil...
  • OPTIMUM COMFORT AND CONNECTIVITY - This row machine is...
  • WARRANTY AND SHIPPING - Enjoy full commercial...

The Apollo Pro II is a high-quality water rower, engineered with a steel head and ash wood frame, making it extremely durable and also aesthetically pleasing. Built-in transit wheels make it easy to move the unit when not in use. It also boasts a max user weight of 330 pounds. The seat is contoured for optimal comfort, and the footplates and straps are fully adjustable.

Among its many great features are the patented variable resistance mechanism, a maintenance-free belt drive, a rapid recoil system for a life-like water rowing experience, and deluxe ergonomic handles that minimize forearm, wrist and hand strains. The multi-level built-in computer shows time, distance, 500 meters split time, strokes per minute, heart rate, calories burned, and watts.

The only real drawback to this machine is the assembly, which has been reported to be a little more difficult than expected. That shouldn’t deter you from this rower if you’re looking for something that’ll give you a great workout and will last for years to come.


Best Water Rower Runner Up: WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine

Water Rower Classic

WaterRower is top of its class for a reason: they make a high-quality product that is built to last. The Classic water rowing machine is handcrafted from black walnut wood and beautifully finished in Danish oil. The frame absorbs sound and vibration, making for a truly peaceful rowing experience. A water flywheel replicates actual rowing feel, providing smooth, quiet, self-regulated resistance.

Another of the Classic’s features is the Series 4 performance monitor, which effortlessly tracks your workout intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, split time, calories burned, and much more. It’s also compatible with a heart rate strap and receiver so that you can optimize your workout. The durable frame flips upright for storage and boasts an incredible 1,000-pound weight capacity.

The only real drawback is the price point. If you’re looking for something more wallet-friendly, this isn’t the best option for you.


Best Value for Money: Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian SF-RW5713

Sale
Sunny Health & Fitness Water Rowing Machine Rower w/LCD Monitor - Obsidian SF-RW5713
  • WATER PERFORMANCE: The water creates a smooth and...
  • DESIGN: Constructed with light weight sturdy steel, for...
  • ERGO-EFFICIENT: Molded padded seat is designed to be...
  • FITNESS TECHNOLOGY: The R2 Fitness Meter is designed to...
  • SPACE EFFICIENT: High density non-marking rubber wheels...

Constructed from lightweight steel for durability, the Sunny water rower offers a smooth and steady rowing experience for a great at-home workout. The three hydro blades mimic the dynamic movements of rowing and the onboard computer accurately tracks all your metrics: total time, 500 meters split, stroker per minute, calories burned, and more.

The overall design is ergonomic, with a molded and padded high-profile seat and a cushioned, sweat-resistant handle. It’s also easy to store, thanks to its built-in transport wheels. The foot pads are textured to decrease slippage, and velcro straps adjust to keep your feet in place. Also equipped with end-cap levelers to ensure your machine is set up properly.

Keep in mind that this unit has only a 250-pound max weight capacity. It’s also been reported to leak a bit when placed upright for storage, which could prove detrimental to hardwood floors.


Honorable Mention: WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine

Water Rower Natural Rowing Machine in Ash Wood with S4 Monitor
  • Handcrafted rowing machine with "water flywheel" that...
  • Flywheel sits in enclosed water tank to provide smooth,...
  • Series 4 performance monitor tracks workout intensity,...
  • Solid ash and stained honey oak construction absorbs...
  • Stores upright; measures 84 x 21 x 22 inches (W x H x...

This water rowing machine is very similar to the Classic model by WaterRower. The only real difference is the type of wood it is made from. Here, you get a light colored Ash wood and honey oak, which offers many of the same sound and vibration absorbing qualities. The flywheel replicates a natural rowing experience with self-regulated resistance.

Again, the rower comes with the Series 4 computer to monitor your athletic performance. You can even take your data and upload it online to compare to other athletes – a useful feature should you want that feeling of competition in your daily workouts. Like the Classic model, this one can also be stored upright and holds a maximum user weight of 1000 pounds.

Compared to some other models, the footrests and straps are awkwardly placed, meaning that you might experience some slipping during your workout. Likewise, the monitor is placed low on the machine, making it difficult to look at while rowing.


Honorable Mention: Stamina Wave Water Rowing Machine 1445

Stamina Wave Water Rowing Machine
  • Wave water resistance feels and sounds like rowing on...
  • Siphon included for filling and removing water from...
  • Multi-function monitor provides instant feedback on...
  • Padded, textured rowing handle for better grip;...
  • Wheels for Transport; steel rowing beam; leveling...

The Stamina 1445 is made from steel for a more durable finished product. The wave water resistance system feels and sounds like rowing on water, providing a dynamic rowing stroke with infinite resistance levels. The seat is wide and molded for comfort, positioned on ball-bearing rollers for smooth seat gliding.

Other features include a padded and textured rowing handle for a better grip, pivoting foot plates with adjustable straps to keep your feet stable and secure, and a folding frame for easy storage. A multi-function monitor provides instant access to important metrics, keeping your workout on track.

That being said, you do get what you pay for. In this case, the lower price point means you’re getting lower quality materials. Depending on how often and intensely you row, this machine might show signs of wear and tear pretty quickly compared to more durable models.


Honorable Mention: HCI Fitness ProRower RX-750

Sale
HCI Fitness Prorower RX-750 Prorower Indoor Water Rowing Machine
  • The RX-750 water rower's innovative hydro-power drive...
  • The RX-750 water rowing machine's features easy to...
  • Large ease-to-read display panel that shows: exercise...

The RX-750 features an innovative hydro-power drive system that is meant to provide a smooth and relaxing rowing experience that emulates the real thing. Its compact size is also a bonus if you happen to be a little short on space. Also features easy to adjust pivoting footrests with straps to keep your feet secure and your workout uninterrupted.

The built-in activity tracker is large and easy-to-read, monitoring your total exercise time, distance, 500 meter split time, strokes per minute, calories and heart rate, thanks to the integrated heart rate receiver. An overall weight capacity of 350 pounds makes this a good pick even if you’re a heavier rower.

The durability of this water rower is its only real con. Given the low price point, the overall build is not as good as some comparative models. That means you’ll have to spring for replacement parts sooner than for other machines.


Honorable Mention: WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine in Cherry

Water Rower Oxbridge Rowing Machine in Cherry with S4 Monitor
  • Handcrafted rowing machine with "water flywheel" that...
  • Flywheel sits in enclosed water tank to provide smooth,...
  • Series 4 performance monitor tracks workout intensity,...
  • Solid cherry wood construction absorbs sound and...
  • Stores upright; measures 84 x 21 x 22 inches (W x H x...

This water rowing machine is very similar to the Classic and Natural models by WaterRower. The only real difference is the type of wood it is made from, so you get a different aesthetic feel. The Oxbridge model is made from a solid cherry wood that is lighter in color but offers many of the same sound and vibration absorbing qualities.

Again, the flywheel replicates a natural rowing experience with self-regulated resistance and the integrated Series 4 computer does a great job of monitoring your athletic performance. Like the other WaterRower models, the maximum weight capacity is close to 1000 pounds.

A drawback to this model, besides the high price, is that the water tank is likely to become leaky after some time. Like the other two WaterRower models, this one also has a monitor that is placed too low to be useful during a workout.


Honorable Mention: WaterRower Club Rowing Machine

Water Rower Club Rowing Machine in Ash Wood with S4 Monitor
  • Handcrafted rowing machine with "water flywheel" that...
  • Flywheel sits in enclosed water tank to provide smooth,...
  • Series 4 performance monitor tracks workout intensity,...
  • Solid ash construction absorbs sound and vibration;...
  • Stores upright; measures 84 x 21 x 22 inches (W x H x...

The WaterRower club model features a handcrafted frame made from solid ash wood that absorbs sound and vibration. The water flywheel sits in an enclosed water tank, providing a smooth, quiet, and self-regulated level of resistance. Unlike the other WaterRower models, this one is made for high-traffic areas – if you think your water rower will get a lot of use, this is the model for you.

Like the Classic water rower, this one comes with the Series 4 performance monitor to track your workout stats. It also folds upright and is easy to move for storage purposes thanks to the built-in transport wheels. Thanks to its durable construction, it will easily hold up to 1000 pounds of weight.

There are some assembly difficulties with this model. The monitor on this water rower is also excessively heavy, making it difficult to position and use.


Honorable Mention: Pure Design Fitness Indoor Rowing Machine

Pure Design Fitness Indoor Rowing Machine - Valor with Dual Rails with Steel Frame, Water Flywheel,...
  • BUILD FOR HOME GYM - The indoor rowing machine is made...
  • LIFE-LIKE WATER ROWING EXPERIENCE - Equipped with a...
  • TRACK YOUR FITNESS LEVEL - This exercise machine...
  • EASY STORAGE - After your workout exercises, it can be...
  • WARRANTY AND FREE SHIPPING - Enjoy 1-year limited parts...

Built for your home gym, the Pure Design Fitness rower is made from high-quality beechwood and steel. The main body features a powder coating and Danish oil finish for optimal durability. The frame’s design is sleek, making it pleasing to the eye and easy to store. A 325-pound user weight limit applies.

The rowing experience on this machine is life-like, thanks to the patented water flywheel that makes every stroke smooth. Resistance is self-regulating, which means that the harder you pull, the more resistance you’ll encounter. A VR2 monitor rounds out the features of this rower, making it easy to track your most important stats.

This is a well-built rowing machine designed to last. The only real drawback is the electronics system, which has a tendency to reset itself. That means you’ll have to enter your preferred settings every time you start a workout.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Water Rowing Machine

When using a water rowing machine, there are a few handy techniques that can be used to maximize your workout potential:

  • Proper rowing technique is important for efficient strokes and to prevent injury. The technique is divided into four stages: catch, drive, finish, and recovery. The pull stroke is a combination of the catch, drive, and finish stages. During the recovery stage, the handle is brought back to the starting position.
  • Slow down for better form. Try to make your pulls long and slow for more precision and efficiency. You’ll unlock more power in your stroke and sharpen your technique.
  • Drive each pull with your glutes rather than with your arms.
  • Watch your posture. You don’t want to bolt upright, since you’ll need your back for strength, too. Instead, aim to sit tall and lean back slightly to maximize power and protect your back.
  • Adjust the water level in the tank to increase or decrease the resistance.
  • Try an interval rowing workout to keep from getting bored.

Water Rowing Machine FAQs

Q: How long does it take to start burning fat?

A: Any type of cardio workout will help you burn fat. However, if torching fat is your goal, then aim for doing HIIT training. On a rower, that means alternating high-intensity, high-resistance strokes with lower-intensity recovery periods. Also, keep an eye on your target heart rate and stay in the fat burning zone.

Q: Can a rowing machine be used as a main form of exercise?

A: Definitely. The rowing machine works about 84% of your entire body, ranking second only to swimming as a full body workout. Rowing regularly is a great way to get your cardio in, and will also strengthen your upper and lower body.

Q: How frequently should I exercise on the rower and how long per session?

A: The Department of Health recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. You should aim for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

Q: What maintenance is required?

A: Water rowing machines tend to be very low maintenance. That being said, one of the things you should definitely pay attention to is the quality of the water in the tank. It’s recommended you add a purification tablet every 3-6 months.

Q: What’s the maximum user weight a rowing machine will support?

A: Rowing machines tend to be solidly built. Most water rowers will have a weight limit of at least 325 pounds, with many sturdy enough to hold up to 700 pounds of user weight.

Final Thoughts

For the best overall water rowing machine, we selected the First Degree Fitness Apollo Pro II Rowing Machine. Its durable and aesthetically pleasing design, along with its ergonomic features and low-maintenance owner’s experience, make it a great pick for your home gym.

If you’re looking for a budget pick, the Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian SF-RW5713 is an excellent choice. Its built from sturdy steel and features a smooth rowing experience.

We hope the above recommendations and considerations have been helpful. Which models are your favorite and why? Let us know in the comments below!