Pros and Cons of Water Rowing Machines

If you are in the market for a new indoor rowing machine, you have no doubt considered a water resistance rower for your home gym. How do I know this? It is because water rowing machines are among the most popular types of resistance among rowing enthusiasts. As someone who has tested dozens of different rowing machines, I can honestly say that the water resistance is my favorite type of rower to use for a workout. There is just something calming about the sound of the water sloshing in the tank, and the feel of the resistance flywheel shredding through water that is so reminiscent of rowing an actual paddle for a boat.

But I’m not here to sell you on a water rowing machine. This article is meant to point out the pros and cons of water resistance rowers. Once you have seen both sides of the argument, we hope that you can make an informed decision about whether or not the water rowing machine is right for you.

Water Rowing Machines: the Pros

I already went over why I love the sound and feel of the water rowing machine, but what about as a regular workout for your personal fitness? As a piece of fitness equipment, water rowers are great no matter what type of living arrangement you have. The water in the tank is not too loud to bother any neighbors or family members, nor is it a distraction for your own workout. This can be an issue with some air resistance rowers as I usually find the noise of the turbine to be enough of a distraction to where I noticed it on a consistent basis.

Another positive for indoor water rowers? They are usually cheaper than their counterparts. While this isn’t a blanket statement, water rowers tend to have a lower price ceiling than some of the higher end magnetic rowing machines. Fitness equipment is always a big investment, so it helps that water rowers are a little easier on the wallet. In general, there also tends to be less technology and apps that require additional subscription fees. Why is that? Well, water rowers usually do not have to be plugged into an outlet so there aren’t any giant monitors or screens to display live classes. Water rowers really are for rowing purists!

Finally, something I love about water rowers is that the sound and natural rowing feel. The sound of water is way more pleasant than the loud noise of air rowers. The catch and drive of water rower is also more engaging/natural compared to magnetic rowers because the resistance automatically responds to your efforts (the harder you pull, the harder it gets).


  • Water rowing machines are smooth and quiet, especially compared to air resistance rowers.
  • Water rowing machines tend to be cheaper than the higher end magnetic or air rowers. Less technology also means no additional subscription fees.
  • Natural sound of water and the pleasant feel of rowing is unique with indoor water rowers.

Water Rowing Machines: the Cons

Just because water rowers are my favorite type of resistance, it doesn’t mean they are perfect! For example, due to the large water tank, water rowing machines are rarely foldable which means owning them in a small space can take up valuable real estate. Now there are some foldable water rowers, but from my experience this option is fairly rare. Most water rowers will just tell you to store the machine vertically in an upright position while leaning against the wall.

A lack of technology isn’t always a great thing, especially for those who like to track their fitness progress as they workout. For tech savvy users, they may pass up a water rower in favor of the more tech friendly magnetic rowers, which often have larger monitors and additional connectivity like Bluetooth or WiFi. Integrating our smartphones or tablets directly into the rowing machine is one of the reasons for a boom in connected fitness devices. It may lower the price, but a lack of technology may also lead to some users slowing down or stopping their usage altogether.

Finally, when rowing on a water resistance rower, it becomes fairly clear that there is no manual way to adjust resistance levels. Since the resistance and therefore difficulty of the rower is tied to the amount of water inside the tank, you have to either add or remove water manually in order to adjust the resistance. This is fine if it is just you using the machine, but once other members of your household start using it, you could find yourself spending half your workout adding and removing water to get the resistance just right. Other rowers like magnetic and even air turbine rowers come with the ability to change the resistance on the fly in the middle of a workout.


  • Water resistance rowers are rarely foldable, making them difficult to own in smaller living spaces.
  • Water resistance rowers generally lack technology options which may turn some potential customers towards more tech savvy rowers.
  • Water resistance rowers usually do not have a method to manually adjust resistance levels.
  • Indoor water rowers require extra maintenance (changing water, cleaning tank, etc).
  • Water rowing machines are heavier and more difficult to move when the tank is filled.

A Few Things to Remember With Water Rowing Machines

  • Always use distilled water to fill the tank of your water rower;
  • Depending on the size of the tank and preferred resistance, you need 10 to 18 litres of distilled water;
  • Use chlorine tablets to purify and disinfect the water and prevent germs from bunching up;
  • Change the water accordingly (when you notice it’s starting to get murky), preferably at least once a year;
  • Most water rowers have a minimum and a maximum line, initially only fill the tank to reach the minimum line. If the resistance is not sufficient, then add water to reach the maximum line;
  • Try to avoid adding water to the tank below the minimum and beyond the maximum line because it will leak or ruin the blades;
  • Almost every indoor water rower can be stored standing but if you have kids or babies, don’t store them standing because it’s not safe;
  • If the seat doesn’t comfortably support your pelvic bones, purchase a seat cushion for your rower;
  • To prevent chafing and for maximum efficiency wear tight-fitting rowing clothing and flat-sole shoes for rowing;
  • If you can’t bend your knees too deep, pick a water rower that has a more elevated/taller frame, they are easier to get on and off the seat compared to those that have short frames;


So now you have both sides of the argument. There are probably dozens of additional arguments to be made either for or against water resistance rowers, but we’ll let you conduct your own personal research. As someone who has tried quite a few water resistance rowers, I can once again say they are my favorite type of rowing resistance to use. But I also love having technology integrated into my rower and love the ability to manually adjust resistance levels on the fly. Think about what you value in an indoor rower, and ask yourself if the water rowers check off all the boxes or if there are some features you simply cannot live without.

Sayed Hamed Hosseiny
Sayed Hamed Hosseiny

Hi, my name is Sayed Hamed Hosseiny. I am a professional health and fitness trainer with nearly 20 years of experience using ellipticals, rowing machines, and spin bikes. I also have my own EU-based Rock Fitness Pro fitness brand where I design, import and sell exercise equipment such as rowing machines and spin bikes. I and writers on my team also often receive fitness equipment to review and evaluate their functionalities and performance from tens of different exercise machines manufacturers. Fitness equipment tips, guides, reviews, and comparisons on this website are my opinion (and opinions of my fitness expert colleagues) based on tens of criteria. I never accept payment to write reviews of products or say positive things about fitness equipment products. If brands are interested to have me review their rowers, ellipticals, or spin bikes, they can get in touch with me via email provided on the contact page and send a sample of their product.