The Best Water Rowers

Of the four types of rowing machines, water rowers are best at reproducing the sensation of on-water rowing. Their stroke cycles hold true to the dynamics of real paddling and each stroke is even punctuated with a satisfying splash. Water rowers have sliding seats for full-body cardiovascular workouts (cheaper rowing machines have stationary seats). These fitness machines tend to feature high quality parts and can last a lifetime.

How does a water rowing machine work?

A water rower has actual paddles. These are housed in a water tank, creating a ”water flywheel.” When the user pulls on the handlebar, the paddles push the water.

How powerful is the resistance?

On rowing machines from WaterRower and H20 Fitness, the water resistance naturally rises and falls; the more intensely the user rows, the higher the resistance.

Water rowing machines are sold with residential and commercial warranties. Here are some overviews of the leading water rower brands:

WaterRower

WaterRower is the global leader in water rowing machines. The company makes its products in the USA and has 11 international offices. Its products are available for rent or purchase.

Most WaterRower frames are made from hardwood, creating a natural look that many shoppers love. Classic examples are in the WaterRower Natural Series, which has residential and commercial models made from ashwood.

Sleek metal WaterRowers are popular as well. A luxury option is the brushed stainless steel S1, which is a limited edition model in the Designer Series.

WaterRowers are available with different monitors. The S4 Monitor includes advanced programming for preset workouts and heart rate monitoring. The A1 Monitor is a simpler version of the S4. The GX monitor has the least programming and is designed for use in Indo-Row group rowing classes with GX WaterRowers.

HCI Fitness – H2O Fitness

HCI Fitness manufactures the H2O Fitness line of rowing machines, the most affordable brand of water rower on the market. These residential and commercial rowers have metal frames with lifetime warranties.

H20 rowing machines have translucent blue bulletproof polycarbonate tanks, easy-to-read computer screens, and footrests that pivot for rider comfort.

Monitors on H2O rowers do not have preset workouts.

Like WaterRowers, H2O Fitness rowing machines exclusively use natural resistance with no preset levels to choose from.

First Degree Fitness

First Degree Fitness makes the only water rowers with digital resistance control. These are designed for home use, commercial use, and medical settings. The precisely calibrated resistance is especially advantageous in physical therapy.

Besides offering variable resistance, First Degree Fitness is unique for offering upper body ergometers. These let the user cycle with the upper body.

Monitors on these water rowers include preset workouts.

Like other water rowers, those designed by First Degree Fitness require minimal maintenance. Basic care includes treating the water with tablets, oiling the chain, and dusting the rail.

Top 3 Best Water Rowing Machines

Model Resistance Upright Storage Monitor Rating Pricing
1

WaterRower GX Studio Rower

Water Yes GX
9.5
2

WaterRower GX Home Rowing Machine

Water Yes GX
9.5
3

First Degree Fitness E920 Medical UBE – MDD

Water No Interactive Performance Monitor
9.25

See All Water Rowing Machines Below

First Degree Fitness Trident Challenge AR Rower

First Degree Fitness Trident Challenge AR Rower

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The Trident Challenge AR is a top rower in the First Degree Fitness Horizontal Series. This collection has horizontally-mounted tanks, a design strategy that makes for easier storage. Most models in this series are for home use or light commercial settings, but the Trident AR is especially large and has a full ...

First Degree Fitness E620 Seated UBE Review

First Degree Fitness E620 Seated UBE

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The Evolution E620 Seated UBE offers wonderfully effective low-impact exercise for the upper body. Just like the traditional water rowers from First Degree Fitness, the E620 uses smooth resistance with a wide range of preset levels. Trainees can choose from 20 challenge levels and make adjustments with a foot pedal or ...

First Degree Fitness Apollo Hybrid AR Rower Review

First Degree Fitness Apollo Hybrid AR Rower

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The First Degree Fitness Apollo Hybrid AR Rower is an indoor water rower for residential use. (The Apollo PRO Rower is for heavier duty.) What’s in the name? “Hybrid” describes this machine’s great-looking frame, which is sleek steel combined with ash hardwood. "AR" stands for "adjustable resistance." Riders can ...

First Degree Fitness Viking 2 AR Rower Review

First Degree Fitness Viking 2 AR Rower

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The First Degree Fitness Viking 2 AR Rower is built to complement home gyms and light commercial centers. Its frame is a hybrid of sturdy ash hardwood and dual steel rails, and its water resistance system is easily adjusted with a dial mid-workout. This water rower is low maintenance and is under warranty for up to 25 ...

First Degree Fitness Newport Challenge AR Rower

First Degree Fitness Newport Challenge AR Rower

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The Newport Challenge AR is a shiny red indoor rower offering a smooth exercise experience that feels like you are actually rowing on water. It is part of the First Degree Fitness Horizontal Series, which specializes full-sized indoor water rowers designed for compact storage. The Newport Challenge AR offers the ...

WaterRower Classic Rower Review

WaterRower Classic Rower

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The high quality WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine uses water resistance and is crafted from sustainably sourced black walnut. It is part of the WaterRower Designer Series, which also features commercial quality rowers made from cherry hardwood and brushed stainless steel. This machine has the WaterRower brand’s ...

First Degree Fitness Viking PRO Fluid Rower Review

First Degree Fitness Viking PRO Fluid Rower

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The Viking PRO Fluid Rower is a hardier version of the Apollo PRO. It combines a hardwood frame, a water drive and steel rails to simulate a smooth and realistic on-the-water experience. Its water tank with Min/Max dial provides up to 4.5 gallons of gently splashing resistance, enough to train anyone from the beginner ...

First Degree Fitness E920 Medical UBE Review

First Degree Fitness E920 Medical UBE

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The First Degree Fitness Evolution E920 Medical UBE is a high quality upper body trainer with water resistance. Unlike other trainers in the Evolution collection, the E920 has an access ramp built for wheelchairs. It has its own seat too, which is removable. The versatility lets people use the E920 while seated or ...

First Degree Fitness E720 Cycle XT Review

First Degree Fitness E720 Cycle XT

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The compact Evolution E720 Cycle XT is a commercial grade fitness machine that uses water resistance for full body training. It is both a recumbent bike and an upper body ergometer; the same pedals can be used by the arms or legs, and a trainee can either sit or stand. The pedals on the E720 move in two directions ...

First Degree Fitness E520 Evolution Review

First Degree Fitness E520 Evolution

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The First Degree Fitness E520 Evolution is a metal-framed commercial rowing machine using variable water resistance. It is the top rowing machine in the Evolution Series, which also has the smaller E316. Water rowers by First Degree Fitness provide preset resistance levels. The E520 lets riders choose from 20 ...

First Degree Fitness E316 Evolution Review

First Degree Fitness E316 Evolution

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The E316 Evolution is a metal-framed water rower with preset variable resistance. It is the simplest rowing machine in the First Degree Fitness Evolution Series, having replaced the E216, yet it’s robust enough for commercial fitness centers. This rower is very low maintenance and is designed for longevity. Rowing ...

First Degree Fitness E820 Fitness UBE Review

First Degree Fitness E820 Fitness UBE

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The Evolution E820 Fitness UBE is a commercial grade water ergometer for upper body exercise. This compact model features a comfortable seat with high back. The seat rotates for especially easy mounting/dismounting by people with limited mobility. It can also be removed entirely, letting a person use the machine while ...

WaterRower Club Rower Review

WaterRower Club Rower

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Leading the WaterRower Natural Series, the WaterRower Club Rowing Machine is a wood-and-water indoor rower for commercial use. This popular fitness machine features the brand’s patented WaterFlywheel. You’ll really feel as if you’re rowing a boat! The frame for this rowing machine is crafted from sustainably ...

WaterRower M1 HiRise Rower Review

WaterRower M1 HiRise Rower

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The M1 HiRise Rowing Machine is raised from the ground with four legs. It is part of WaterRower’s M Series, which also includes the M1 LoRise with a lower entry point. These machines are made from heavy aluminum. For an extra charge they can be powdercoated in virtually any color. Like all WaterRowers, the M1 ...

WaterRower M1 LoRise Rower Review

WaterRower M1 LoRise Rower

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The M1 LoRise Rowing Machine is part of WaterRower's M Series, which consists of two commercial-grade models with aluminum frames. Along with the M1 LoRise, this series has the M1 HiRise with a higher entry point. For an extra charge these can be powdercoated in virtually any color. You can even specify a color by ...

WaterRower Natural Rower Review

WaterRower Natural Rower

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The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine is a wood-and-water rower intended for home use. It’s crafted from sustainably sourced ash hardwood and stained a warm honey oak that's pleasing to the eye. While working out on the Natural, you’ll truly feel like you're rowing on water. WaterRower’s rowing machines feature a ...

WaterRower Oxbridge Rower Review

WaterRower Oxbridge Rower

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The WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine is named for Oxford and Cambridge Universities, two schools known for their long rowing traditions and spirited rivalry. Crafted from gorgeous cherry hardwood, it is part of WaterRower’s Designer Series and is hardy enough for commercial use. It features the WaterRower brand’s ...

WaterRower Signature Rower Review

WaterRower Signature Rower

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The WaterRower Signature Rowing Machine is a very natural looking wood-and-water fitness machine for serious rowers. Unlike other WaterRowers, it bears the signature of elite rower and rowing coach Xeno Müller and gives riders digital access to more than 50 hours of his workouts. Exclusively with this model customers ...

H20 Fitness RX-950 Club Series Rower Review

H20 Fitness RX-950 Club Series Rower

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The H2O RX-950 Club Series Rower is the top rowing machine from H2O Fitness by Health Care International. Its centerpiece is a Hydro-Power Drive System that holds up to 4.5 gallons of water. More so than machines using wind or magnetic resistance, the RX-950 effectively reproduces the feel of outdoor rowing. The water ...

First Degree Fitness Apollo PRO Fluid Rower Review

First Degree Fitness Apollo PRO Fluid Rower

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The Apollo PRO Fluid Rower is the lowest priced light commercial water rower from First Degree Fitness (FDF). Made in the USA, it boasts a sleek, attractive steel frame supported by double-lacquered American ashwood. Its water drive provides up to 4.5 gallons of water for resistance. FDF advertises the resistance ...

First Degree Fitness Fluid E720 Cycle XT – MDD Review

First Degree Fitness Fluid E720 Cycle XT – MDD

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The Fluid E720 Cycle XT - MDD meets medical device standards set by the European Union. This commercial fitness machine uses water resistance for full body training. It is both a recumbent bike and an upper body ergometer; the pedals move for use by the legs or arms. This efficient and space-saving hybrid can exercise ...

First Degree Fitness E520 Fluid Rower MDD Review

First Degree Fitness E520 Fluid Rower MDD

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The First Degree Fitness E520 Fluid Rower MDD is a "pearl white" commercial rowing machine using variable water resistance. It is the most traditional ergometer in the MDD series; the others are the E720 hybrid bike-rower and the E920 upper body rower with a wheelchair ramp. Each model is clinically tested and ...

First Degree Fitness Aqua AR Rower Review

First Degree Fitness Aqua AR Rower

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The AQUA AR is a shiny red and black rower offering a smooth "on-the-water" ambiance indoors. It is part of the First Degree Fitness Horizontal Series, which features full-sized indoor water rowers designed for compact storage. The AQUA AR has simplified assembly and carries a competitive warranty for home use. A ...

Life Fitness Row HX Trainer Rower Review

Life Fitness Row HX Trainer Rower

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The Row HX by Life Fitness combines modern technology and a steel frame with the rustic aesthetic of a natural wood design. This is the second rower by Life Fitness, available at a lower price point than their Row GX and offering a more entry-level approach to water resistance rowing. Like the Row GX, this ...

First Degree Fitness Neptune Challenge AR Rower

First Degree Fitness Neptune Challenge AR Rower

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The Neptune Challenge AR by First Degree Fitness is a sturdy home rowing machine that’s designed for easy storage. While water rowers tend to be heavy and demand a lot of space, this unit has a lightweight metal frame and can be stored upright. It has a variable resistance system to suit a wide range of training ...

H2O Fitness RX-750 Home Series Review

H2O Fitness RX-750 Home Series

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H2O Fitness (run by Health Care International Fitness) is one of the few rowing machine brands that uses actual water tanks for resistance. There’s no better way to replicate the feel and sound of outdoor rowing! Their Hydro-Power Drive System provides a smooth and relaxing "on the water" rowing experience. ...

First Degree Fitness Titan AR Rower

First Degree Fitness Titan AR Rower

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The Titan AR is a single-beamed metal rower from First Degree Fitness. It’s part of their Horizontal Series, which mounts its water tanks horizontally for easier storage. The Titan AR is one of the simplest and cheapest rowers in this series, but performs well for its price. It also carries a competitive warranty ...

Life Fitness Row GX Trainer Rower Review

Life Fitness Row GX Trainer Rower

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The Life Fitness Row GX Trainer is a club-quality commercial-grade water-resistance rower that uses a fluid resistance system to create an enhanced rowing experience with the option of 16 resistance levels beyond the water in the tank. Enjoy precise resistance levels while also relishing the feel and sound of water as ...

WaterRower S1 Rower Review

WaterRower S1 Rower

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The S1 Rowing Machine is part of WaterRower’s Designer Series. This series features rowers made from premium materials. While the other Designer units are made from hardwood, the WaterRower S1 is made from brushed stainless steel. This is a limited edition product that costs more than the others. The S1 features ...