Differences Between Air and Water Rowing Machine

Differences Between Air and Water Rowing Machine

Rowing machines offer many fitness benefits ranging from weight loss to total body strength and conditioning. The popularity of indoor rowing continues to skyrocket as people experience outstanding results and at-home workout convenience.

Not long ago, only a handful of air rowing machines were available on the market.  Today, innovative rowing machines incorporating water for resistance are becoming increasingly popular for their smooth stroke feel and simulation to open water rowing.  

This article covers the differences, similarities, functionality, and features between air and water rowing machines.  Compiling information before purchasing a rowing machine is essential.  Subtle differences exist between air and water rowing machines that can make a big difference in your buying decision, needs, budget, and rowing experience.  

In the end, a clear winner will emerge. 

About Water Rowing Machines

Water rowing machines offer an innovative form of water resistance, a smooth feel, and a stylish design. These rowers have a water tank and paddles connected to a chain and handle for resistance.  With each pull, the flywheel paddles move water inside the tank, creating a smooth drag and resistance for the workout.  

Many first-time water rower users fall in love with the feel and sound of water whooshing around inside the tank.  The consistent resistance and simulation to open water rowing are meditative yet challenging for the whole body.  

Water Rowing Machine

Features of Water Rowing Machines

Water rowing machines are famous for a smooth and shake-free rowing experience.  The forgiving feel of a water rower allows the user to hone in on technique, timing, and mechanics while minimizing the risk of injury.  The paddles push water around inside the tank to create consistent resistance without any drop-off.  They come equipped with performance monitors that track the most crucial workout metrics. 

Resistance Operation

Water rowing machines provide a unique form of water resistance that doesn’t allow for speedy adjustments, but this isn’t bad.  Instead, the difficulty of a workout increases proportionate to the intensity, which is dependent on stroke rate and pulling power.  

You, the user, are in total control over the intensity of the workout.  

You Can Adjust the Water Level

The water level inside the tank determines what size boat you’re rowing.  Adding more water will simulate rowing a heavier boat, while less water in the tank will simulate a lighter boat.  Adding more water to the tank makes each pull more strength-based. 

Decreasing the water level inside the tank is perfect for beginners who want to learn proper rowing technique, maximize the strength and cardio benefits of rowing, yet mitigate the risk of injury.  There’s no need to rush into filling the water tank full, and you probably shouldn’t. 


Performance monitors are mounted at eye level and provide real-time data on training variables such as: 

  •     Time
  •     Distance
  •     Stroke rate
  •     Calories burned
  •     Watts (power output)
  •     Preset standard workouts 
  •     Custom workouts 

Monitor on water rowing machine

The metrics on the monitor are easy to read and located in a natural line of sight.  Monitors give the user valuable feedback on intra-workout performance, which is essential for tracking effort.  Detailed performance metrics will ensure you’re working at the proper intensity and duration to maximize results.  Unless you're planning on entering rowing competitions, the metrics provided by water rowing machine monitors are perfect for at-home use.  

About Air Rowing Machines

Air rowing machines have a similar design to water rowing machines, except the resistance is created using air.  Resistance increased or decreased by allow more or less air to enter the flywheel.  Air rowing machines have been around longer than water rowers and have a more mechanical feel.  These are effective yet noisy machines.  

Air Rowing Machine

Resistance Operation

Adjusting the resistance on an air rowing machine is quick and easy.  A damper lever located on the flywheel allows more or less air to enter the flywheel on each stroke, thereby increasing or decreasing the difficulty of each stroke.  Air rowing machines tend to have a “mechanical” feel and can have a drop-off (sometimes called flat spots) throughout each rowing stroke.  


Air rowing machines offer very similar features and functions to water rowing machines.  Time, distance, calories burned, watts (power output), stroke rate are the most notable data.  Top-end models offer a few more features, including rowing games to encourage intensity, Bluetooth heart rate monitor tracking, and data upload for rowing competitions.  

Foldable and Easy to Storage

Many higher-end air rowing machines offer a fold and store design.  The seat and rail will disconnect from the flywheel.  Note, not all air rowers offer this breakdown feature, so pay attention as you shop.  

Differences:  Air vs. Water Rowing Machine

GoRowinGo Logo
Water Rowing Machine
Air Rowing Machine
Noise Level
Quiet, soothing swoosh of water
Essential workout metrics
Advanced features for competitive rowers
Stroke Feel
Smooth and consistent, no drop-off
Smooth but mechanical feel, can have a drop-off in the stroke
Very durable
High-end models improve durability
Visual Appeal
Complements any living space, gorgeous
It looks like dedicated exercise equipment that belongs in a gym
Store upright on end for small footprint
Store upright or fold
Heavier with water tank and wood
Slightly lighter with plastic and metal


Air resistance versus water resistance is the most significant difference.  Both water and air rowing machines offer the ability to change resistance when necessary.  Air rowers have faster adjustment capabilities.  Many people prefer the smooth feel of a water rowing machine's resistance over the mechanical feeling of air resistance.  


Air rowing machines are loud, and this is a deal-breaker for many.  If you live in an apartment or have children where noise would be an issue, water rowing machines are by far the best choice.  The swoosh of the water tank is quiet, subtle, and meditative.  Water rowing machines win big in this department.  


Monitors are comparable between both air rowing machines and water options.  To engage in a quality rowing workout, the monitor should track essential workout metrics:  time, distance, power, strokes, and calories.  Anything beyond these metrics is nice to have, not need to have.    


Both machines can be stored upright for space efficiency.  Most high-end air rowing machines have a folding feature.


Water rowing machines have a higher start price point only because a lot of low-quality air rowers exist.  High-end, quality air rowing machines are priced similarly to water rowers.  

Durability and Visual Appeal

High-end air rowing machines and water rowing machines have comparable durability.  Hands down, the visual appeal goes to water rowers, as their eye-catching natural wood construction complements any living space. 

Why Choose GoRowinGo’s Water Rowing Machine

Water rowing machines are the best choice for at-home use.  They offer a smoother rowing experience, better aesthetics, and a closer simulation to open water rowing.  

GoRowinGo’s water rowing machine is a top choice in the water rowing machine category.  This water rower offers the perfect balance of price, performance, durability, and noise reduction.  

The vibration resistance wood frame and water tank reduce noise, while skid resistance feet keep the machine in place while rowing.  This innovative machine also features ergonomic anti-slip foot pedals, a built-in phone stand, and a cushioned seat for user comfort. 

GoRowinGo’s water rowing machine is a gorgeous piece of equipment constructed from natural wood, capable of being stored on end for space efficiency or kept in plain view to complement any living space.  

Easy-to-store water rowing machine

The GoRowinGo water rower delivers a unique blend of strength and cardio that will build endurance, challenge muscles, and burn calories to help accelerate weight loss.  

Most rowing companies sell consumers the machine and send them on their way.  Not GoRowinGo. GoClub will help you get the most out of your rower, connecting you with a growing community of rowing enthusiasts, sharing workout videos and fitness tips, along with early access to sales, new accessories, and promotional offers. 

GoRowinGo’s is on a mission to offer a world-class rowing machine and workout experience as you’ve never had before. 

Learn more at GoRowinGo.com

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