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.


Floating Heel-Rest Design: The Rowing Machine's footboard incorporates the all-new Floating Heel-Rest design. The cup of the heel-rest follows the heel as it rises from the footboard providing stability and comfort from the beginning to end of each stroke. The heel-rest position is adjusted simply by pressing the central button to disengage the lock pins securing the footpads.
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Both the air rower and water rower machines are very popular choices of rowing equipment, particularly the former type. They have been around in the 80s, and many consumers and those that have tried them in gyms consider the equipment to be the best type ever. These air resistance equipment, often regarded as Ergometers, is the standard base model for indoor rowing sport.
Fitness experts as well as health professionals agree that rowing machines provide one of the best workouts possible. Exercising on a rower will allow you to target the great majority of your muscle groups and give them as hard and challenging a workout as you feel like giving them. On the better rowing machine models, you’ll be able to track your progress and see how your splits are improving.

The benefit of a water resistance rower is that it most closely simulates a boat moving through water. Rowing resistance comes from the effect of fluid drag acting on the boat; in other words, resistance increases according to stroke rate. The patented WaterFlywheel emulates this naturally self-paced benefit of rowing. This is a workout with immediate benefits, regardless of your level of experience! Please also note that you can adjust the workout intensity by changing the amount of water in the tank. The more water, the higher the effort level required.
From a fitness perspective, the WaterRower Classic works 84 percent of your muscle mass, helping tone and strengthen your muscles while burning far more calories than most other aerobic machines. The exercise is also low impact, as it removes all the body weight from the ankles, knees, and hips, but still moves the limbs and joints through a full range of motion--from completely extended to completely contracted.
The rowing machine itself is unlike any other on the market with its patented water filled flywheel. It is hard to exactly copy the action of a scull on the water, but the mechanics of the flywheel spinning in water comes in a close second on dry land. The fact that the water is 800 times denser than air means that there is no need for any extra resistance or dampening that you will find in normal air rowers. The faster you pull, the more resistance is generated giving it infinite variability. However, if you want to be able to practice rowing with a faster stroke, you will have to reduce the amount of water in the tank unlike an air rower where you just have to adjust the baffle.
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