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Last updated: May 18, 2021
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Are you looking for the best water rowing machine? Many people who love to row, but don’t always have a way to be out on the water, use water rowers as their way to get a realistic workout that feels like the resistance they would get on the water. This can be the best way to get the true feel of rowing without leaving your home, and a great workout too.
After reviewing 10 different models we’ve chosen the GYMAX Water Rowing Machine as the best option for a water rowing machine and our editor’s choice. As well as being relatively lightweight and portable, perfect for a home gym, it has some great extra features including an LCD display, and adjustable water resistance so you can build up to the sort of strength you want to test with your rowing machine. It also has a relatively comfy seat so you can sit on it for a long time without starting to feel uncomfortable. We’ve provided two more options for the best rowing machines, so you can choose the one you think is best for your own unique needs and make the final choice.
When we were evaluating products and making our water rowing machine reviews, we considered a number of features including the slide rail length and inseam rail length, weight capacity, size, dimensions and weight of the product. We also looked at the resistance and the water capacity, too. Our research is presented as a simple overview table of your options, before we delve into some product reviews, and finally a buying guide to help you fully understand the features and functions of a water rowing machine and how you can select the right one for you.
If you are looking for the best water resistance rowing machine then this could be a great choice for you. It has a capacity for people who weigh up to 265lbs and it can provide a great workout with six different levels of resistance.
There’s an LCD display so that you can track your workout too, with figures including how long you have been exercising, the “distance” you have covered, your speed and even the calories you have burned doing your workout.
The resistance can be changed simply and easily, and six levels means you can choose the strength you want to exert during your workout. The U-shape seat is fairly comfortable, and padded to ensure that you aren’t in pain after long workouts.
The portability and space-saving design is a big plus point too as we don’t all have loads of room for exercise gear in our house. Store this upright and then wheel it into position when you are ready for your workout, it couldn’t be easier.
Some of the very tallest people out there might struggle a bit with this model as it could ideally do with being a bit bigger, if you are over 6’2 you might not find it easy to use.
One of the other key benefits of this rower is the fact that it is almost silent if you are using it correctly, so you don’t need to worry about using it early in the morning or late at night, or disturbing others in your house who want some peace and quiet.
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5713 is a little bit heavier than our editor’s pick, but it makes it to our list for a lot of reasons, including the fact that it has a very reasonable price tag when you consider the features on offer here.
The molded padded seat is one of the best things about this rowing machine, it is fantastic for longer sessions and you won’t find aches and pains afterwards
It’s a steady stroke, too, with a great rowing experience that comes from both flywheel and steel fan blades, which is an unusual combo, but it does a good job of replicating a realistic level of resistance. 16 hydro blades are able to give the feeling of rowing through water in a competitive environment.
The handlebar is also sweat resistant, and very wide, so even if you are a larger rower you can find that you can use this machine to good effect.
The seat is off the ground, and the high-profile design is to help people not have to bend their back, which is good for your body but may not be as good for storage purposes. It does have wheels, though, and it can be stored upright against a wall, but it isn’t as easy as some other rowing machines.
The R2 fitness meter is another big plus point, which can track your time, strokes, the ambient temperature, your heart rate and how many calories you’ve burned, displaying all in front of you while you work out.
Why did it make our list?
High profile design.
R2 fitness meter tracks your workout.
What is not ideal about it?
Not quite as compact and easy to store as some others.
The MaxKare Water Rowing Machine is a surprisingly good option when you consider the price point. We’ve included it as our budget pick but it is not far off the quality of some more expensive models.
The stride rail length of 46.4 inches is plenty for most people, of most different heights.
The water tank has a capacity of 3.5-4 gal. The stabilizer is a great feature and helps you to ensure that your rowing machine is totally even, distributing the weight equally and as intended to avoid injuries. It’s pretty comfy and flexible, too, you can use this with safe knowledge that you will have plenty of padding on the seat and the handles, and the adjustable footplates mean people of all different shapes and sizes should fit on with ease.
There is an LCD display showing features of your workout including distance and calories, but this doesn’t have quite as much detail as some of the others. It is movable though, so you can see it no matter what angle you are looking from.
All-in-all it is not far off the level of a truly top rowing machine, but it is good value for money.
This might be your first time ever buying a water rowing machine, so it is important to fully understand the features and functionality before you delve in and make a purchase. We’ve created the best water rowing machine reviews based on the features and functions listed in this buying guide. We wanted to provide a buying guide, too, so that people are more confident when it comes to making the purchase, and get the right model for their own needs.
Water rowing machines – what’s so special about them and how do they function?
Water rowing machines use actual water in order to give the resistance you need when working out. The blades within the wheel are submerged in water, and this is designed to replicate the feel of pushing water with an oar. The rowers on our list (and some other water rowers) have a reputation as giving a realistic feel. They are great for people who also do real rowing, or just those who want to give themselves a challenging workout.
If you fill the tank with water, you will feel the same speeding up and slowing down process as you would with actual rowing, and gives a good level of cardio and strength workout to your body.
Many people are in agreement that these types of machines are better than other rowing machines, but it is vital that you consider the benefits of using water. If you buy a magnetic rower then you might find that you don’t get the same level of workout, and they certainly don’t prepare people as well for rowing out on the water. For high intensity interval training, water rowers are definitely superior as the resistance can change along with your actions, rather than having to manually set a magnetic resistance.
Features to consider while choosing a water rowing machine
The features below are those we consider the most important when it comes to choosing the right water rowing machine, these are what we have mainly based our reviews on. Make sure you’ve understood the features before making your purchase, and work out what is best for you. For instance, if you are big and tall, you might need to establish the best water rower that can accommodate you based on size.
Water tank capacity
How much water can be held within your rowing machine? This is one of the key features when considering the resistance. Some of the water rowers have a convenient switch to let you choose resistance, but others may do it all based on how much water is in the tank.
To alter the resistance it might be best that you actually alter the amount of water within. In many cases, more water will make it feel like rowing on a real body of water such as a lake.
Tank capacities of 3 or 4 gallons aren’t uncommon. Our editor’s choice, the GYMAX Water Rowing Machine SP36854 has a 4 gallon capacity. Obviously, larger capacities will also take up far more space.
The water tank does add some extra maintenance, we cover this in more detail below, but generally speaking if you are looking to get a water rowing machine you will need to replace the water from time to time or use special treatment products to keep the water in good condition.
Water tank blades
The water tank blades are what move against the water to deal with the resistance and cause the “propulsion” feel to the rowing machine. It’s important that the blades are high-quality and don’t break, an issue here would be fatal for your rowing machine. The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5713 has 16 high-quality hydro blades.
How many different levels of resistance are there? It is ideal if you are able to change the water rowing machine resistance levels, and in the water-rower reviews we have mentioned the levels of resistance that can be set for each rowing machine.
As mentioned, some need to be set manually with the water that is added, but others have the ability to flick a switch to change how hard the resistance is, it’s a good idea to have multiple levels and as you get stronger and fitter you may wish to increase the levels to give a better workout.
You don’t need lots of different levels of resistance to have a good workout, but it is good to have some extra control.
The rail length means the length of the area the seat moves along, and if you are particularly tall you will need to ensure you have a large enough rail length to suit you. Some of the models might become an issue if you are well over 180cm and you might not be as comfortable when you are moving along the machine. Your body needs plenty of space to do the workout properly.
Once again, this is a consideration based on the size of the user, and how much they weigh. Most of the rowing machines on this list can handle people up to 250lb and maybe even a little more, as for example the GYMAX Water Rowing Machine, so it shouldn’t matter if you are slightly larger in size, if you are bigger than this, you may need to opt for a specific water-rower with a high capacity to handle your weight and provide a proper workout with no risk of breaking the machine.
Dimensions and weight
How big is the rowing machine itself? Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5713 is one of the models on our list that is actually off the ground and has a slightly higher profile than a lot of the other rowers, this means that you might find it tough to store if you don’t have much space. All of the rowers we have recommended are great for stacking up against a wall, so they are perfect if you need something to fit in your garage.
Storage is often made easier by the fact that water rowing machines are usually designed with wheels, which you can use to roll them back into position or to store in another room, for example.
Obviously, if you want to get a smaller model of water rower then there is a sacrifice to be made as you might not get one that can fit larger people, if you are over six foot then getting one of the smallest rowing machines on the market is not advisable.
Naturally, a longer warranty is better than a short warranty. It is always a good idea to protect your purchase for as long as you possibly can. Warranties of one year are pretty standard with a lot of exercise and fitness equipment. You might find a little longer, or you may have to pay extra for protection for multiple years, some manufacturers offer schemes for extended warranties if you are worried about breakage.
Water rowers are generally more expensive than magnetic rowers, but this is mainly due to the fact that they have a more realistic feel, combined with being more expensive to produce. If you were to explore the top end of the market you could potentially spend thousands. Some water rowing machines even involve full tanks for people to get in. Actually, the products on the cheap end of the market might be a few hundred dollars, and though they’re more than magnetic rowers, the workout can be better for HIIT and for those who need the feel of rowing on water.
Most water rowing machines are stored upright.
So, the horizontal position is the “workout” position, and they can then be tilted 90 degrees and rolled to where you wish to store them. This can make them a great choice for a home gym, as some other exercise equipment is not possible to store this easily, and it is likely to take up a lot more space.
If you are storing like this, be careful not to mark the wall, some of the rowing machines advise that it is actually rested upon the wall.
Are you looking to track your workout in detail while you are on your water rower? It is vital that you consider the workout you are doing, especially if you are serious about burning calories or becoming a better rower. You may well want to keep an eye on a lot of the different aspects of your rowing. For example, you might want to know the speed, distance travelled and more. Some can even process information like your heart rate and the ambient temperature to help you to get more scientific data about the workout.
All of the models on our list of the top water rowers have some form of LCD screen, and some of them are adjustable to ensure you can see at every point of your workout.
Yes, for many people rowing can definitely be a good substitute for jogging. If your joints feel the strain of jogging on the road then rowing might be a good way to mix things up or take a lot of the strain away from your knees. It is good to have some form of variation in your exercise, but running or jogging, especially on the road, can cause a lot of injury issues over time.
Rowing can provide both a strength and aerobic workout and many people actually prefer it to jogging. Rowing can be classed as a “low impact” workout, especially if you are doing it slowly. This means it can be very good for people who have joint problems such as knee troubles. Swimming and elliptical training are other examples of types of exercise that don’t put a huge amount of impact onto your joints. Lower resistance is a good way to avoid injury, too.
There are a few different maintenance tips you might want to follow for your rowing machines to ensure that you are getting the most out of it and extending the life of your rower for as long as you can. Every time you use it you should definitely wipe it down and spray with antibacterial spray. Also, there are some regular steps to keeping it in good condition. Dust the tank and the belts regularly to keep them in good working order. Also, you will need to either replace your water or add purification tablets to stop it from becoming any sort of a hazard. From time-to-time, you might need to replace batteries in your LCD screen, too.
The GYMAX Water Rowing Machine SP36854 comes in at the top of our list due to some brilliant features. It has a 4 gallon capacity for water, and six levels of resistance that you can choose between in order to get the ideal workout for your own needs. It is also relatively lightweight, so it isn’t too difficult to store. It is also very quiet, meaning you don’t have to wake people up with your workout. We’ve given this a rating of 9.9/10.
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5713 is the best value, it is a great option if you are don’t mind something that is a little bit smaller in terms of the water capacity and resistance. It has some impressive features anyway, and an LCD screen that can track a number of aspects of your workout, we’ve rated this as a 9.7/10.
The budget pick is the MaxKare Water Rowing Machine, which has a 9.5 rating, but actually it has some surprisingly good features for the price, and a large capacity due to being sturdily built. It is just a little louder than the other options and the LCD tracker is a little bit basic.