Water rowing machines deliver a unique, natural, and realistic rowing experience. Invented in 1972 by W.B. Curtis to help rowing athletes get the best training in the off-season, they are now very popular as home workout machines.
And for good reason. Magnetic rowers and air rowers are very convenient but the feel of a water rower is still unmatched.
And you hardly need to compromise on convenience with modern designs Our recommended water rowing machines are easy to store, adjust, and keep in any apartment. Yet, they all deliver that amazing feeling of pulling against water resistance. And that will make your workouts so much more realistic and enjoyable.
We have used many rowers over the years and these are top choices. We have selected these because of their reliability, ergonomics, and features.
Top 6 Best Water Rowing Machine Reviewsines Reviews
Best Overall: Life Fitness Row HX Trainer Water Rowing Machine
- Comes with an LCD monitor
- It has a compact design with an upright storage and transportation wheels
- Features an adjustable resistance switch
- Great commercial-grade performance
- Not cheap
If you have spent time in a commercial gym, then you must be familiar with the Life Fitness brand. They are known for producing high-quality fitness products, and they didn't disappoint with this one. This water rowing machine is a combination of elegance and quality that is hard to find.
Its design is sleek and refined, but don't let that fool you. Its frame is solid.
The frame of this rowing machine is made from tempered steel and natural wood and features surprisingly compact dimensions- it measures only seven feet long.
Its water tank can be adjusted to different levels of resistance, thus eliminating the need to remove or add water manually. The adjustable resistance is ideal if you want to do advanced HIIT workouts or share the water rower with other people.
In fact, you won't find other water rowers that provide this level and ease of adjustability.
The machine also comes with an LCD computer that displays information such as your speed, time, distance, and even your heart rate. On the downside, heart rate readings are taken by a wireless chest strap that, unfortunately, does not come with the pack.
You will have to buy it separately, but if you are a serious rower, it is an excellent accessory to have. Almost all pro athletes use their heart rate to maximize their training since it is much more accurate than feel.
Make no mistake, this machine is quite expensive. If you can afford it, you will get the highest quality, finish, and adjustability currently available in a water rowing machine.
Sure, you can row on a cheaper machine and it will be fine. But, you'll always be wondering how it would have been to row on the Life Fitness Row HX. Check price here.
Best For Small Spaces 1: WaterRower A1 Water Rowing Machine
- It is made of an aluminum frame and elegant American ash wood.
- Smooth performance with a natural feel
- Slim and compact design that supports upward storage thus saving on space
- Comes with a built-in LCD monitor
- In some places, the finish on this model could be better.
The WaterRower A1 water rowing machine comes with lots of incredible features to give you an excellent rowing experience indoors. It has an elegant design and an impressively strong frame. The wooden/metal hybrid frame is compact enough to fit in tight spaces without much effort, making this water rower our top recommendation for small spaces.
With an overall length of less than 7ft and upright storage ability, you can easily use it in both small and large apartments. The aluminum frame is lighter than the steel used in other models, making it really easy to move around and store out of the way.
Despite its compact size, you don't have to compromise in terms of performance.
It has a large water tank, and single rail design for a smooth and natural feel when rowing. You will notice that this rowing machine provides one of the most natural feeling movements.
It also comes with an LCD monitor that displays a wide range of workout feedback, including intensity, time, and speed. The LCD is nicely built into the frame so there is no risk of hitting it when moving or storing.
If you are looking for a high-performance rower with minimal space requirements, this is the one. Check price here
Best For Small Spaces 2: Stamina X Water Rower
- It offers a smooth and natural water rowing feel
- Comes equipped with a media shelf and an LCD monitor
- Made of a sturdy red steel frame
- Comes with a wireless heart rate monitor
- Compact design
- Its footpads and nylon straps tend to wear
- Large devices on the media shelf can block the LCD monitor
One of the fascinating things about the Stamina X Water Rower is its unique design. Its frame is made of heavy-duty steel, and unlike other water rowers, its water tank is placed underneath the slide rail.
You pull on a rope that runs over a pulley and activates the water paddles under your seat. If you are used to seeing the water tank in front of you, this might feel strange at first.
This design makes it even more compact than conventional water rowers, thus making it a perfect fit for someone with limited space. When you are rowing, there is nothing in front of you aside from the small LCD screen. This can be helpful if you like to watch a TV that is set up low to the ground.
The change in design might make you question its performance, but on the contrary, it does not affect it at all.
Like the previous water rowers we have discussed, this one also provides you with a smooth, natural feel while rowing. The unit also comes with transportation wheels that come in handy when moving it around.
The LCD monitor on this model is pretty basic, but it still displays all the relevant workout information you need. You also get a wireless heart rate monitor that connects to the LCD monitor. Having this included on a midrange water rower machine is quite impressive. Check price here.
Best Value 1: XTERRA Fitness ERG60W Water Rowing Machine
- Sturdy steel frame with a weight capacity of up to 300lbs
- Comes loaded with a wide range of workout programs
- It has a large 5.5” LCD screen, with adjustable height for a comfortable viewing experience
- Its water resistance is adjustable offering a natural water rowing feel
- Its LCD does not have a backlight
- Its foot panels feel a little flimsy.
If you are in the market for an affordable water rowing machine with outstanding premium features, then this might be the product for you.
The design is impressive, with a steel frame and a beautiful water tank set at its front. The steel frame is very robust, and has a weight capacity of up to 300lbs. The water tank is manually adjustable, and it offers a natural and smooth rowing experience.
The design also features some creative features like a raised seat that makes getting on and off effortless. It also has a 5.5" LCD console whose height is adjustable, thus making it easy for you to get the best view of your workout programs regardless of your position.
The LCD doesn't have a backlit which can make it hard to read in dark rooms. And we found the foot panels to feel less sturdy as some other water rowers.
However, given the great price of this water rowing machine, these issues can easily be overcome. If you workout in a well-lit room you will never need the LCD backlit. And, the foot panels never broke or came loose while we were using it.
If you are looking for a fully-equipped water rower at an incredible price, you can't go wrong with the Xterra ERG60W. Check price here.
Best Value 2: Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian SF RW5713 Water Rowing Machine
- The adjustable-level water tank that offers authentic resistance
- Comes with a large LCD screen
- Compatible with ANT+ heart rate sensor units
- Its sturdy steel frame can accommodate a user of up to 250lbs
- Its foot paddles might feel a bit awkward for some
- The chest strap heart rate monitor is sold separately
Another great value option is the Obsidian from Sunny and Health Fitness.
Although it doesn’t come with an elegant wooden frame design like most high-end water rowers, its steel frame provides all your fitness needs at an affordable price.
Most people associate low pricing to low-quality, but with this water rowing machine, things are different. Sunny Health did not compromise on quality and functionality when making the Obsidian. Therefore, you get to enjoy premium functionality at a low price.
It features a 16-blade fan wheel, which is submerged in a tank with an adjustable water level. The result is a natural water rowing feel when in use and a maximum weight capacity of up to 250lbs.
Although the Obsidian is quite long, it supports upright storage and comes with wheels for easier portability. If you plan to store it vertically, it's advisable to check the height of your storage space. The length can be a problem for apartments with low ceilings.
You also get a perfectly functioning LCD screen that displays all relevant workout metrics like time, distance, strokes per minute, and also is also compatible with wireless heart rate sensor units.
The chest strap for the heart monitor is not included, unfortunately. But, you can connect any ANT+ heart rate sensor so you can choose something that fits you best. An included chest strap would just make this water rower more expensive for people who don't need it. Check price here.
Best Value 3: MaxKare Water Rowing Machine
- Sturdy frame with a weight capacity of up to 264lbs
- Comes with a height-adjustable LCD screen
- Quite easy to assemble
- Its LCD screen does not have a backlight.
Many people have that underlying assumption that quality equals price, but what if I told you that there is a product that's just the opposite?
The MaxKare Water Rowing Machine has everything you need in a water rowing machine at a very reasonable price.
If you are a rowing enthusiast looking for a high-quality budget water rower, then this is is the best machine for you. It has a sturdy steel frame, a comfortable padded seat, a large water tank, and also supports upright storage, heck! It even has a water bottle holder.
The sliding rail and wheels are simple but effective and will let you row smoothly for many years. Your feet will be comfortable and secure in the large foot supports.
For its price, you'll be impressed by its height-adjustable LCD monitor that displays a wide variety of workout metrics like distance, time, even calories per minute. The LCD doesn't have a backlit but that can easily be cured by having lights in the room.
This water rowing machine is easy to unpack, assemble, and set up. It only took us 30 minutes before we were making our first strokes.
Although it lacks the elegant design and finish of high-end models, it's reliable and has all the basics covered. Check price here.
Factors to Consider Before Buying a Water Rowing Machine
Unlike other types of rowers, water rowers use water as their source of resistance. A water rower features a water tank with a fan wheel immersed in it. As you row, the blades of the fan move across the water, thus creating an authentic water rowing feel.
If you have ever rowed in a boat, you probably noticed that the water provides a unique resistance. This is very different from the feeling of pulling on a hydraulic rowing machine. That is why people who train for actual rowing almost always use a rowing machine with water. The next closest thing is a magnetic rower, but it still different
The best water rowing machines have water tanks with adjustable resistance levels so you can change the intensity of your workout. Depending on the price range, you can find different systems for this.
Cheaper models require you to change the level of the water in the tank. This means you need to add or remove water which can be a bit messy. Be careful if you have sensitive wooden floors.
It's also difficult to do this during a workout. If you want to perform workouts with varying resistance levels, you might be better off with a more advanced system.
Advanced rowing machines with water, like our top recommendation, allow you to change the resistance levels without adding or removing water. You can quickly change the level of resistance to create efficient HIIT sets or if you are using the rowing machine with multiple people.
Unlike other high-end gym equipment, even the most premium water rowing machine does not come with big HD and color touchscreen monitors. Instead, they come with small LCD screens.
Although we agree that it's strange since manufacturers certainly have access to these screens, it's also a good thing. Because it means that the focus is squarely on the motion, resistance, and durability of the machine.
The data provided by the LCD monitor on a rowing machine depends on its price range and manufacturer. Most of the rowers include distance, time, and strokes per minute.
Some screens also allow you to connect a heart rate monitor and see your stats on the screen. Some higher-end rowers come with monitors that enable you to operate built-in workout programs.
These programs can be a real help to achieve your goals more quickly. When you keep your heart rate at a certain level your body is getting the perfect training impulse. And fitness experts can design programs that create the best possible workout to lose weight, increase endurance, or build power-endurance.
You should also check to see whether the screen has a backlight. Most high-end rowers screens have a backlight, but most low-budget rowers don't. If you like working out in a poorly lit room, you should go for one with a backlight.
3. Extra Features
Unlike other gym equipment, rowing machines rarely come with extra features. However, you may still get some that come loaded with a few additional features to make your rowing sessions more enjoyable.
The essential features you really want to consider are the seat, handles, and paddles. These are the parts that you will come in contact with whenever you are exercising.
If they are not comfortable or wear out quickly, you will end up having to replace them or even the whole water row machine. Every machine we listed has been chosen for its comfortable and durable contact points.
Not every person is the same, however. And your size or build might make certain machines less comfortable to row on. If you are not comfortable, it will be harder to focus on your workouts and feel motivated.
So if you have a chance to test a machine, or buy it with a money-back guarantee, I will always recommend checking that out.
Frequently Asked Questions About Water Rowing Machines
What is a water rowing machine?
A water rower machine is a type of rowing machine that uses water as its source of resistance.
All water rowers use a tank with water that has to be moved when exercising on it. Moving the water is what gives you something to pull against and get great training.
Most designs have a round water tank with a fan immersed in it. When you row, the rope rotates the fan and pulls the blades through the water. It's very similar to rowing in a boat on the water.
That is why the resistance has the same feel. It feels like you are moving weight around. At first, it takes more force to get the weight moving, the last part of the movement feels easier.
Are water rowing machines better?
Water rowing machines rely on the water, which is placed in a tank to generate resistance. The level of resistance can be changed by adjusting the level of water, i.e., more water stimulates a more massive boat.
They are also reasonably quiet and you can definitely use them inside your home. They also come in various designs that facilitate pretty convenient storage options.
Water rowing machines have advantages and disadvantages.
The biggest advantage, and also the reasons many people choose them over other types of rowers, is the resistance feeling. Like we explained earlier, a rower with water has a truly unique feeling when rowing on it. No other system can emulate that.
If you use your indoor machine to train for rowing a boat on the water, you will really like this feeling. And it's likely that you will prefer the water-resistance over other systems because the training also translates better to the real thing.
If you only use your rowing machine to work out and never plan to do actual rowing, you might still prefer water resistance over other types. Many people do.
But, having water in your rowing machine does require a few adjustments.
First of all, it's wet. You will have to fill the tank with water and might want to adjust it every so often. That means you will be carrying water around your apartment.
Water is also heavy. So the water-filled rowing machine will be heavier than most other systems to move around. Most water rowers come equipped with wheels so they will still move relatively easily. But, if you need to navigate it over a step or stairs, be prepared to lift some weight.
Many of the cheaper models let you change the level of resistance by changing the water level. This is great but definitely not as easy as pushing a button on a magnetic rower. Higher-end models like our top pick the Life Fitness Row HX Trainer, have adjustable resistance levels that don't require adding or removing water.
If your training doesn't require frequent resistance changes, this shouldn't be a problem.
The last drawback is that they still make some noise. While they are not super noisy, a water rowing machine is never as quiet as a magnetic rower. And there is almost no way around this. If you want water resistance, you need to move the water around. And that is always going to make some sound.
That doesn't have to bad. The sloshing sound is very satisfying when you are pushing hard. It really feels like you are making something happen.
So there you have it. Are water rowers better?
Yes, we think so.
Out of all our rowing experience, we have always enjoyed the water rowers most. Maybe it's the satisfying sound of sloshing water. Maybe it's the unique look. Maybe it's just the feeling of moving water.
Does rowing help you lose fat?
Yes, rowing helps a lot with losing fat.
All weight or fat loss is based on the simple idea of caloric deficiency. When your body is running low on energy, it will start to burn fat reserves.
Rowing training is a great full-body workout that burns a lot of calories. According to the American Council on Exercise, you can burn 158 calories with 30 minutes of moderate rowing. That is less than the 181 calories you could burn when running.
However, running is a lot harder on your joints, especially the knees, and you don't train your upper body as much.
So, if you want just one exercise that will let you burn calories and strengthen your whole body, rowing is a great option.
If you do HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) on a rowing machine you will burn significantly more calories. And you will continue to burn calories after you stop working out.
Your best tactic for losing weight is a moderate deficient diet combined with regular exercise. If you do 30-minutes to an hour of HIIT on a rower, every other day, you will start to see improvements very soon.
Is rowing bad for your knees?
Rowing is generally not bad for your knees. Nearly everyone finds rowing to be much lighter on the knees than many other sports like running or jump roping.
But, that doesn't mean you will never hurt your knees. You will be making the same movement over and over. And that means you want to have proper alignment of all your body parts.
Especially if you have never rowed before, you want to pay a lot of attention to your form. You can find online videos explaining this, or see a trainer in your local gym. You want to use your legs more at the beginning of the stroke, finishing with the arms. And, it's important to not pull from the back because that can result in issues.
With good form and a well-fitting machine, you run very little risk of hurting your knees.
If you do experience pain after your workouts or the next morning, don't keep pushing through. Instead, study your form and try some adjustments on your rower. If that doesn't help, you should seek advice from a personal trainer or physiotherapist.
Whether you are a watersports enthusiast or just interested in regular exercise, a water rowing machine will provide you with all the exercise you need. They offer many cardiovascular and fitness benefits that appeal to almost everyone, except those with underlying medical conditions that prevent them from rowing.
If you are looking for the best water rowing machine that money can buy, you can't go wrong with the Life Fitness Row HX.
Enjoy your workouts!