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“We Don’t Just Talk About Rowing
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“We Don’t Just Talk About Rowing – We Actually Row!”

What Is a Water Rower?

what is a water rowing machine

If you are reading this article, then chances are that you are pretty new to rowing and rowing machines, which is fine because everyone, absolutely everyone, was a beginner at one time or another.

I’m Petra, and I want to talk to you about what a water rower is, how it is different from other machines, and whether or not it can help you with your fitness goals or your health issues.

Water rowers are workout machines with a circular water tank at the front or underneath the seat. Inside the tank are paddles that spin against the water when you do the rowing motion, creating unlimited resistance depending on how much energy you exert rowing.

Water rowers are similar to air rowers in the sense that they both produce unlimited resistance, except that air rowers use a fan or flywheel to create resistance instead of paddles in a water tank.

Various forms of rowers have been around since the days of the Greek Olympics, but modern-day rowing machines came so much later. In 1976, the Dreissigackers founded the Concept 2, the company that eventually created the Concept2 air rower in 1981. Later in the decade, John Duke invented the WaterRower rowing machines.

As you will see when you search about rowing machines today, they have changed dramatically over the past decade. You will find not only about air rowing machines, hydraulic rowing machines, even magnetic ones, but also smart rowers that connect to the internet.

There’s plenty to cover, so let’s get deeper into what a water rowing machine is, plus how it is evolving into a connected or interactive rowing machine.

What Is a Water Rowing Machine?

what is the difference between a water rower and air rower

All rowing machines need some type of resistance so that you get a good workout. Without resistance, you might as well just wave your arms up and down while doing squats, right? Even then your body weight is resistant, but I digress.

Every manufacturer has an idea as to what the “best” type of resistance is. Some rowers, such as Hydrow, use magnetic resistance because it is super smooth and quiet. Air rowing machines, such as Concept 2, use a fan blade and air since, let’s face it, the air is free and it has no limits. The faster you go, the more resistance there is.

Then there are water rowers. Water rowing machines use fan blades or paddles inside a tank that holds water. Moving the paddles through the water is what gives you resistance, not to mention that it makes a nice swooshing or splashing sound, which many people think gives you a more genuine rowing experience.

Everyone has their own ideas as to which type of resistance is the perfect type, which is why there are so many choices when it comes to indoor rowing machines.

Which Is Better – Air or Water Rower?

This is a matter of personal preference in many cases. Please check out this table to help you understand the major differences.

Air Rowers Water Rowers
Lightweight Yes No
Portable Yes Yes
Max Weight Capacity Mostly lower weight capacity Generally higher weight capacity
Price Tend to be cheaper Tend to be more expensive
Noise Levels Can be extremely noisy Quiet, only the sound of moving water
Rowing Experience Does not provide a real rowing experience Very similar to real life rowing on the water

If price is your main concern, you might find that air rowers tend to be less expensive, but you can find bargains even with basic water rowers, such as the Sunny Health and Fitness water rowers.

Personally, I love the sound that water rowers make, especially when you’re sitting on a machine like the Ergatta, which is made from Cherrywood. So you get the look and feel of sitting in a boat, combined with the soothing swoosh sound and authentic drag that water creates. The goal-based ‘games’, OpenRow, and racing workouts that you can do on the Ergatta make this machine a top seller, which isn’t surprising.


Of course, if you aren’t a big fan of wood, you might prefer the sleek styling of the LIT Method Machine. I really love the LIT Method on demand machine because it incorporates resistance bands connected directly to the machine ( read our LIT Axis Reviews ), and with the HIIT programs it offers, you’ll never get bored.

These two brands exemplify the latest innovations in water rowing machines. They also prove that there’s a good reason why water rowers are one of the biggest sellers among rowing machines – they sound and work as good as they look (Learn More)!

Are Water Rowing Machines Worth It?

Oh, they certainly are!

There is a reason why Olympic rowers and other professional rowers use water rowing machines or magnetic rowing machines- they are sturdy and feel like the real thing.

How sturdy and strong is a water rower?

It’s quite common to find water rowers that can easily support users weighing up to 500 pounds! In order to support that kind of weight, you know the machine must be incredibly strong.

If you want a machine that can really hold up to heavy user weight, frequent use, and hard workouts, then you want a water rowing machine.

I know that air rowers are generally less expensive, but they rarely measure up when speaking of quality or weight capacity.

man using lit method water rower with resistance bands

Most water rowers have incredible warranties as well. The LIT Method Machine, for example, offers an almost unbelievable lifetime warranty on the frame.

Personally, I would rather spend for a pricier machine that is high quality than have to frequently repair or replace a cheaper machine.

How Often Should You Change the Water in a Water Rower?

Not very often – once or twice a year or not at all. In fact, the only time you will need to change the water in a water rower tank is when it becomes cloudy and chlorine tablets don’t clear up the cloudiness.

what are water rowing machines

Nearly all water rowing machine manufacturers offer chlorine tablets that you place in the water tank to prevent algae from forming and ruining the look of your indoor rower. If for some reason the chlorine tablet doesn’t clear up the water, you may need to empty the tank and refill it. Otherwise, I believe that you don’t ever have to change the water, simply add a chlorine tablet to the tank on a regular basis.

You may wish to add or remove water to increase or decrease resistance when you first begin, but most water rowing machines tend to have plenty of resistance so you don’t have to fill or empty the tank often.

Oh, and don’t worry about where you can buy chlorine tablets. Most companies will send you chlorine tablets at little or no charge.

How Much Does It Cost to Fill a Water Rower?


Nothing, really. Chlorine tablets are usually supplied for free. I suppose if you want to buy distilled or purified water you could do that, but water is pretty much inexpensive, so I don’t imagine that you would pay more than a few dollars to do so, even if you used distilled water.

It’s true that air rowers cost nothing because there is nothing to fill and no chlorine tablets to worry about, but water rowers offer quiet resistance and the rowing stroke feels like the real thing.

You can’t say that about air rowers.

Can Water Rowing Machines Help Me Get in Shape?

They sure can!

Rowing machines, in general, offer a full-body workout that uses about 86 percent of the muscles in your body. This means that you don’t have to use several types of exercise machines to get a good cardio workout and strength training. One study found that rowing may use up to 65 percent of the leg muscles, similar to using weights 20 percent of the time.

Getting in regular exercise can help prevent a myriad of health problems, such as:

Both water and air rowers offer terrific workouts, which would explain why Olympic and CrossFit athletes use rowers, usually water rowers, as a part of their training program. If you are intererest in CrossFit –  Click here to see the best rowers for Crossfit.

Rowing is one of the best, if not the best, workout machines ever invented, and a water rowing machine is one of the best pieces of equipment ever designed.  Side Note: Looking for a water rowing machine?  Check out my review on the City Row Go Reviews as this machine is very impressive too!

Is a Water Rower Right for Me?

Most likely, yes.

If you’re thinking of buying a water rower (Learn More) or an air rower for your home gym, congratulations! I know you’re going to be rowing crazy and be crazy for rowing before too long!

what are the benefits of a water rowing machine?

Before you buy, however, you’ll do well to consider the following :

  1. Is noise an issue? Air rowers can be very noisy, and you may have problems if you have roommates, small children, day sleepers, or irritable neighbors in the apartment next door
  2. Do you have room? Some water rowers are a bit larger than others. Find the actual measurements and add a few more inches for the movement of your elbows and getting on and off the machine. Or if you’re considering the LIT Strength Machine, you will need room to use the resistance bands.
  3. How much can you comfortably spend? Don’t go for more than what you can afford. While any rowing machine is an investment in your health, you won’t enjoy your workouts if all you think about is how you’re going to make the next month’s payment.
  4. What are the warranties and subscription pricing? Many of the new water rowers, such as the Ergatta and the LIT Strength Machine, require subscription to access most of the workouts. While you can just row if you can’t pay for the subscription, you will miss out on all the features that you purchased the machine for. Check warranties as well since some are better than others. A good warranty is worth its weight in gold and speaks to the quality of the machine.

You can always shop around and find a rowing machine that will work best for you. If you want more info on the most popular and highly rated rowing machines, you can read more here.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the best rowing machine is the one that you will use (and hopefully look forward to using).

Water rowers are the better choice in my book since they are very sturdy, durable, and the closest you can associate with rowing because of the splashing noise they make.

I love the Ergatta for its beautiful looks and fun workouts, but the LIT Strength Machine offers some serious workouts with high-intensity interval training that will knock your socks off!

Everyone has his or her own personal preferences, but no matter which machine you choose, I wish you the same thing- be healthy and happy rowing!