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We picked the brains of rowing coaches, fitness experts, and physical therapists to learn what features make for an exceptional rower. Based on their input, we searched the market for air and water resistance rowing machines, then tested the best for ride feel and design. We found one model of each type — air resistance and water resistance — that felt truly superior to the others.
Outside of resistance type, we found the number-one arbiter of ride feel to be cord quality. Water ergometers tend to employ nylon cords, while air ergometers feature metal chains — a durability factor we anticipated would result in our favoring air. But while all three water rowers aced our expectation of smooth, high-tension strokes, perfecting the chain seems to be more difficult: Some tug with just a slight rumble, others feature bouncy, grinding chains that are incredibly loud, something akin to angry snoring. As for nylon, the best wind and unwind like elastic silk — no slack, no sound, no catching, just perfectly even tension throughout the stroke.
This elegant rowing machine builds strength and stamina by closely simulating a real world rowing experience. Its patented Waterflywheel, which moves through actual water, provides a smooth stroke that exercises 84% of your muscle mass evenly and prevents injuries. When not in use, the WaterRower can be stored vertically against a wall. Made in the USA from ethically sourced walnut wood. Assembly required.
The Water Rower comes partly preassembled in two large boxes. The assembly instructions are reasonably good, and as long as you take your time and follow them carefully (read all the text) it takes about 45 minutes from opening the first box to trying it out. I bought bottles of distilled water to fill it, which made it easy to fill using the included funnel & hose.
Infinitely Variable Resistance: The benefit of a water resistance rower is that it most closely simulates a boat moving through water. When rowing the resistance is due to the effect of fluid drag acting on the boat. Go faster, resistance increases. Go slower resistance decreases. Importantly, the user chooses; regardless of age, gender, size or fitness. The WaterRower M1 LoRise's patented WaterFlywheel emulates this naturally self-paced benefit of rowing. This is a workout you can start benefitting from immediately, regardless of experience!
The sport's governing body is formally known as the "Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d'Aviron" (English translation: International Federation of Rowing Associations), though, the majority of the time, either the initialism "FISA" or the English co-name, World Rowing, which the organization "uses for 'commercial purposes,'" is used to refer to it. Founded by representatives from France, Switzerland, Belgium, Adriatica (now a part of Italy), and Italy in Turin on 25 June 1892, FISA is the oldest international sports federation in the Olympic movement.
There is some minor maintenance. Because it's made out of wood, which can expand and contract, the bolts need tightening every few months or so. It's easy and takes only a couple of minutes. That, and putting in a fresh water purification tablet every six to twelve months, are about it for regular maintenance. The only problem I've had with the rower (the reason for 4 stars instead of 5) was a squeak that developed after about 6 weeks. It took me some time to determine the source of the squeak, which was a metal bracket connecting the footrest board to the horizontal boards above the drum. I had to partially disassemble the top section and tighten four bolts, but that fixed the problem and it's been quiet ever since.