Rowing is an incredible exercise for both muscle strength and cardiovascular development. It works nearly all the major muscle groups including but not limited to; the quadriceps, glutes, deltoids, lats, and abdominals. Both HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) sprint sessions and longer LISS (Low-Intensity Steady State) sessions are also great workouts for your cardiovascular system, with some of the fittest professional athletes and amateurs in the world being rowers.
Rowing is also a relatively low-impact form of training, taking significantly of a toll on the joints when compared with something like running, which can make it an ideal exercise for someone going through rehab or someone with mobility/joint issues.
So there are innumerable reasons why someone might want to row and may wish to consider buying a rowing machine for their house or home gym; which brand and model should you go for? In this article, I’m going to talk you through my experiences with the various types of WaterRower rowing machines, their benefits and drawbacks, and the reasons why you might consider picking a particular model.
I have over a decade of experience in rowing, both on and off the water, and have tried pretty much every rowing machine on the market so am speaking here from fairly sizable experience.
Made famous by the inimitable Claire and Frank Underwood from the hit Netflix series House of Cards, the WaterRower is perhaps as recognizable in the fitness world as the Peloton spin bike, a pair of Air Jordans or the FitBit heart rate monitor. It is one of the top-flight makes of rowing machines, sitting side-by-side with the likes of Concept2, RP3, and Hydrow.
The first thing you will notice when browsing the WaterRower website is the striking look of these machines. Whereas Concept2, for example, or the RP3 can look somewhat industrial, the WaterRower is a piece of equipment where aesthetics was clearly a consideration.
There are 12 models currently available on the WaterRower website with the majority being made from wood. It should be noted that at the time of writing this WaterRower rowing machine comparison article, WaterRower was the only brand of rowing machine that used actual wood in their production, as opposed to compressed, chipboard veneer or other faux kinds of wood. This creates a product that instead of hiding away after each workout, you can leave out for house guests to marvel at!
There is a significant range in price within the WaterRower range, from ~$1,158 to ~$2,727 (plus shipping). Hopefully, this range will mean that there is a machine available to suit the budget of anyone looking to get a rowing machine for their house or to start up their own home gym. Rather the compare all 12 models one by one, I’m going to consider four characteristics of the WaterRower range; material, height, performance monitor, and price.
|WaterRower Rowing Machine Models||Material||Monitor||Price||Seat Height|
|WaterRower S1 Rowing Machine||Stainless Steel||S4||$2500||12″ No Hirise|
|WaterRower M1 Rowing Machine||Aluminum||S4||$1800||12″ + 8″ Hirise|
|WaterRower Maple Rowing Machine||Maple Wood||S4||$1490||12″ + 8″ Hirise|
|WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine||Walnut Wood||S4||$1490||12″ + 8″ Hirise|
|WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine||Cherry Wood||S4||$1290||12″ + 8″ Hirise|
|WaterRower Muller Rowing Machine||Ash Wood||S4||$1190||12″ + 8″ Hirise|
|WaterRower Club Rowing Machine||Ash Wood||S4||$1190||12″ + 8″ Hirise|
|WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine||Ash Wood||S4||$1190||12″ + 8″ Hirise|
|WaterRower A1 Studio Rowing Machine||Ash Wood||A1||$995||12″ No Hirise|
|WaterRower A1 Home Rowing Machine||Ash Wood||A1||$895||12″ No Hirise|
Editor’s Choice From WaterRower
At the end of the day, all of the above considerations; height requirements, budget, material/design and performance information are all things that you need to weigh up before making a purchase. I’m personally a fan of the Water Rower Gronk M1 – Hi-Rise – Limited Edition and the WaterRower Club Rowing Machine w/ S4 Monitor & Hi Rise Attachment – and believe that they provide a stylish and effective alternative to models such as the Concept2 (with one prime advantage being the significantly quieter water-based resistance). Whichever model you end up going for, I with you the best of luck with all of your rowing training, with many happy hours spent training those muscles and getting in the best shape of your life!
WaterRower Water Rower Material
In terms of material choice for WaterRower, the world is your oyster. There are two broad categories to start with; wood or metal, but within those sets, there is a lot of choices. Starting with the wood, as mentioned previously this is a quality piece of kit, made from solid pieces of wood and not compressed chipboard with veneers.
The choices include Ash, Oak, Cherry and Walnut with additional options with the likes of the Club model of additional staining of rose and black. Within the mental range, you have power-coated aluminum (to give a kind of matt finish) and stainless steel. In terms of durability, you are really not going to notice much of a difference, even with fairly frequent and intense use, with WaterRower offering the same warranty for each set of five years for the frame and 3 years for the parts.
There is a slight difference in weight between comparable water rowing machines, with the metal rowers being on average 10kg heavier than their wooden counterparts. Ultimately, the primary difference that you should consider is your preference on the look of wood vs metal and the price (the metal rowers are around $130 more expensive than their wood alternative).
WaterRower Rowers Height
High vs low rowing seats is a debate that stretches back to the invention of the rowing machine. Many rowers prefer a relatively low rowing machine, which more accurately mimics the low-seated position in a boat on water.
However, for people who may have mobility or joint issues (especially those who have knee pain), having a higher rowing seat is a godsend. It means that getting into a comfortable seated position can happen much more easily and safely, reducing the likelihood of injury getting on or off the machine.
All but one of the wooden models of WaterRower are at the lower end of the scale at 53cm, with the Performance Ergometer being the exception at 56cm. The metal versions range more and come in two distinct categories; hi-rise and low-rise. The former is more likely to suit individuals with mobility issues and are 57cm high, with the lo-rise models being 51cm high.
At the end of the day, this height consideration is going to be very personal. For me, I prefer a lower rowing position when I’m training, but it’s all about what makes you most comfortable and therefore more likely to keep you coming back for more!
WaterRower Performance Monitors
As well as the rowing machine itself, it’s important to consider what kind of performance information you are looking for. Effective training often requires data and the breadth and depth of information available from your WaterRower workout is going to depend on which of the four kinds of performance monitor you have.
The most basic is the A1 monitor. This gives all the basic information, such as time, distance strokes per minute, and calories and you can even program basic workouts focused around a single time or single distance. For the majority of people who are just looking to keep in shape the A1 will more than suffice, However if you are looking to take your workouts up a gear, you may consider the S4.
The S4 takes the information available on the A1 and adds a whole range of additional outputs. This includes the ability to program not only distance and time workouts but intervals as well. It can be connected to the WaterRower Heart Rate Monitor and Coxswain App allowing you to view your effort in real-time as you row.
Stepping up again from the S4 is the addition of the module. This allows Bluetooth connectivity with your rower, the utilization of the WaterRower Connect App, CITY ROW Go App, has all the features of the S4 Performance Monitor, and has the added benefit of virtual racing capabilities and suggested workouts. This plethora of options is pretty impressive and has functionality that compares well with or even surpasses some of the best rowing machine brands out there.
The final level of performance monitor, the pièce de résistance is the Smart Row monitor. This provides the all-sought-after power curve (a curve showing you how and where you are applying power during each rowing stroke you take), provides power analysis not only in watts and calories but newtons and joules as well and can do pretty much everything the ComModule does as well. If you like the idea of having a full dashboard-worth of information sent straight to your phone for real-time analysis, then go all out and head for the SmarRow.
WaterRower Rowing Machine Prices
The final consideration you should make when looking to purchase a WaterRower is price. As I mentioned at the start of this article, the range in price is quite significant, going all the way from ~$1,158 to ~$2,727. Whilst I don’t know your individual budget, I would suggest that the thing to think about when determining how much you want to spend on a rowing machine is going to be how centrally it is going to feature in your workout routines.
If you are going to do an occasional bit of rowing; maybe once or twice a fortnight, you may with to hold back in terms of how much you spend. You could consider something like the WaterRower A1 Rowing Machine, with offers basic functionality without the bells and whistles and just gets the job done. If you’re looking for something slightly more serious, which you aim to use between two and three times a week, you could perhaps look at something like WaterRower Performance Ergometer.
This is slightly more expensive at $1739 but has the sleek wood look, slightly higher seat, and is paired with the Smart Row monitor. Finally, if you’re looking to go all out on a piece of kit which will last an age and won’t look out of place in the industrial, metal jungle that is your home gym, you might consider the top-of-the-line WaterRower S1 HiRise Rowing Machine. This can be used by all members of the family, even those with mobility issues due to its raised seat gives all the performance data an amateur athlete could ever need and will withstand day after day of punishment.
WaterRower Rower Accessories to Consider
WaterRower offers a useful range or rower accessories that can significantly upgrade the rowing machine you are buying. These WateRower rowing machine accessories are sold separately and can be found on Amazon and directly on WaterRower.com. So, you decide where you would prefer to source the following water rowing machine accessories.
Unlike the Bluetooth Commodule, the SmartRow monitors your rowing workout independently without connecting to the rower’s monitor. Then, using Bluetooth protocol, it transmits data to WaterRower and the SmartRow application via an iOS or Android device.
SmartRow is more expensive than Bluetooth Commodule (listed down below) because it has intelligent electronics that measure a range of extremely precise rowing workout data, enabling users to closely monitor their training output. Basically, SmartRow tracks additional data more precisely than the S4 monitor that comes with your Water-Rower Rowing machine.
WATERROWER BLUETOOTH MODULE
This is basically a Bluetooth bridge that enables any WaterRower Rowing Machine with S4 (Series 4) monitor to transmit the rowing workout data to IOS and Android devices using Bluetooth. The reason it is cheaper than the SmartRow is that it is just a Bluetooth bridge, it doesn’t track your workouts.
This piece of WaterRower accessory simply takes data from S4 monitor and sends it to your phone or tablet. So, if you are okay with the information and accuracy of S4 monitor, this should do the job for you. Using the WaterRower Bluetooth bridge, you will be able to sync your workouts to the WaterRower app and many other third-party rowing exercise applications.
M1 ALUMINUM ROWERS PHONE & TABLET ARM
The name is self-explanatory. The package contains a phone holder and an arm that is designed for all M1 Aluminum WaterRower Water Resistance Rowing Machines. A phone holder that can fit phones from 2″ to 3.5 in width comes standard with the arm.
But if you also want a tablet holder, you must buy it separately. Two tablet holders are available, medium and large. The Medium tablet holder can fit devices from 6.14″ to 8.66″ in width. The Large tablet holder can fit devices from 6.48″ to 9.54″ in width.
WOODEN ROWERS PHONE & TABLET ARM
Unlike the other model, this one is designed for all wooden WaterRower machines (not metal WaterRower rowers). The package contains an arm and a phone holder that can fit phones from 2″ to 3.5 in width. But if you also want a tablet holder, you must order it separately.
On the website, there are two sizes of tablet holders, Medium and Large. The medium tablet holders can fit devices from 6.14″ to 8.66″ in width. The Large tablet holder can fit devices from 6.48″ to 9.54″ in width.
S4 WOODEN ROWERS HIRISE ADAPTER KIT
This piece of accessory is not compatible with A1 wooden rowers and of course, it doesn’t work with any metal WaterRower indoor rower. But it is compatible with all the wooden S4 WaterRowing Machines. The WaterRower HiRise Adapter has been designed to raise the WaterRower 8″ in order to make it easier to mount and dismount the rower. Plus, it puts the rower in a higher position so you can easily clean underneath the machine. There are four colors available on the WaterRower website.
WATERROWER EXERCISE CLOTHING
The company hasn’t released any special apparel for rowing but I have used some other clothing for rowing exercises that would work well with any rowing machine including the WaterRowers. Aside from rowing shoes and rowing gloves, you would also need an equipment floor mat for your rowing machine to protect the floor. I didn’t feel the need to use padding on the seat of WaterRower Rowing Machines but if you feel like you do, here is a list of comfortable rowing seat cushions I put together for this year.