Water Rower Vs Air Rower: Machine & Resistance Differences

Rowing machines are a great way to challenge yourself and get fit without shelling out on trips to the water and rentals. There are various types of rowers that each have their unique features to consider, but today, we want to focus on the water rower vs air rower debate.  

Looking into buying one for yourself? We have all you need to know down below.  

Before we can consider water vs air rower pros and cons, we need to break them both down. Water rowing machines use a water tank and paddles connected by a water rope to your handlebar. As you move back and forth, you move the paddles; the faster you move, the higher the resistance.  

The water level within a rowing machine's tank simulates the size of a boat and how many people are in it, which affects the resistance level. The paddles moving through water creates a soothing, gentle splashing sound that is not obtrusive and simulates the feeling of rowing in a boat.  

In terms of the frame, more upscale water rower frames are made of wood, but the lower-end ones are often made of various metals. Wooden frames are excellent at absorbing vibrations and noise if you can get one.  

The monitors on water rowers are similar to other styles of rower or exercise machines, like bikes, with standard measurements regarding time, distance, number of strokes, and more. You can find water rowers at most price points, but they are often more expensive than their counter styles.  

Pros & Cons of Water Rowers


  • Quiet 
  • Stylish 
  • Smooth and consistent stroke 
  • Similar to rowing on the water 
  • Little maintenance required 


  • Larger and heavier than other styles 
  • Often starts at a higher price point 
woman using a water rower

Air Rowing Machine (Resistance Overview)

As the name implies, air rowing machines use the air in the room and the strength of your pull to create resistance. The adjustable resistance provided by your stroke feels similar to rowing a real boat but much louder due to the air currentAir rowing machines are very common and are often found at various price points and with popular brands or gyms.  

Air rowing machine monitors are standard and similar in style to water rowers and cycling machines; the higher you go, the more technical they become.  

The warranty for an air rowing machine will vary depending on the individual part covered, with most warranties lasting anywhere between 30 days and a lifetime: the standard falls around 30 days to five years.  

Overall, air rowing machines are an excellent choice for home and commercial gyms; these affordable models can often be found on sale for an even better deal. 

Pros & Cons of Air Rowers


  • Smooth and strong stroke 
  • Simulates rowing on water 
  • Easy to find a range of different machines
  • High level of effort due to resistance type 
  • Available at affordable price ranges 


  • Can be loud during use 
  • Non-consistent resistance level 
concept 2 air rowing machine

Water Rower Vs Air Rower (Differences + Which Is Better?)

Resistance Operation, Control, And Strength 

When considering water vs air rowing machines, it is impossible to ignore that, although what powers their resistance is different, they have similar resistance styles. The drag and challenge are highly adjustable and depend on your strength and personal power.

Both these styles also mimic the authentic experience of rowing on the water versus running workouts.


In terms of rowing machine air vs water monitors, they are typically very similar to cycling machine monitors.

Both styles of monitor will vary in quality and technical prowess depending on the price of the rower. The types of stats measured will often include time, calories, number of strokes, speed, and more.  

Noise Level  

In terms of noise levels, the water rower is much quieter than an air rower. Because of the increased airflow through the machine, air rowers create this loud whoosh sound that can drown out music or TV.

On the other hand, water rowers produce quiet splashes that can be soothing or meditative for some. 

air rowing machine

Weight Limitation/Capacities

The weight limitations for water and air rowers will often be around the same range, depending on the brand. Most rowers have a weight capacity of between 150 and 500 pounds to ensure that users will be safe while exercising.

We recommend knowing the weight of the common users of this machine and carefully reading the product description to ensure it suits your needs. 

Ease of Use 

Both water vs air rowing machines have similar construction and use styles, making them very easy to use. Manuals should make setting up a breeze, and using them during exercise is similar in motion to other rowers.

The major use difference will be with the water rower in regard to adjusting the water level to suit your abilities. 

Stroke Feel 

Both air and water rowing machines have a very consistent and strong stroke, which is great for beginners. These strokes do an excellent job of simulating how it feels to row in a boat across a river or lake, which can be soothing and immersive for some. 

If this is important to you, you can get that from either style. 


One of the more considerable differences between water rowers and air rowers comes down to maintenance. While air rowers need maintenance in terms of cleaning, oiling, and adjusting screws or the monitor, the water rower needs all of that, plus water maintenance.

The water tank will need to be adjusted, emptied, and cleaned and often needs to be treated with chemical tablets provided by the manufacturer. 


You can find water and air rower for most budgets; the water rower, however, often starts at a slightly higher price point than the air rower. It is possible to find both styles on sale regularly, which can help you get a good steal.

We recommend considering your budget in advance and finding a model that fits within that. 

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Are water rowers worth it? 

That depends on you. Water rowers are the quieter option, but not everyone wants to manage the tank or pay a little bit more for them. Consider your situation carefully and compare the two to decide which is best for your home. 

How does a magnetic rower differ from air and water machines? 

Magnetic rowers use various magnets to produce resistance, which is controlled by a monitor or crank. Magnetic rowing machines are also quieter than both air and water models on the market. Compare magnetic and air models here.

How often do you change the water in a rower?  

Most brands would recommend changing the water every six months or when the water turns cloudy or pond-like. Using the provided tablets can help keep the water clean and fresh for longer, minimizing maintenance. 


Overall, water and air rowers are very similar machines that can both provide excellent workouts. Knowing the difference between air and water rowing machines can help you decide which is right for your home. 

While we love both styles, we would recommend a water rower for a home gym due to its quiet strokes and stylish design. 

Last Updated on January 19, 2023

Paul J

Paul J

Paul J is is an ex-professional footballer who has seen a gym or two and is an expert at knowing what is required for home gym setups. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually going for a run in the park or out for coffee.