In a 1988 US patent (US4772013A), Elliot Tarlow discloses another non-elastic chain/cable take-up and handle return strategy. Described and depicted is a continuous chain/cable loop that passes around the flywheel sprocket and around and between fixed pulleys and sprockets positioned fore and aft on the device. The handle is secured in the middle of the exposed upper horizontal section of the chain/cable loop. Although somewhat lacking in aesthetics, the Tarlow device does eliminate the stated disadvantages and defects of the ubiquitous elastic cord handle return. Tarlow further argues that the disclosed method provides an improved replication of rowing because in actual rowing the rower is not assisted by the contraction of a spring or elastic cord during the "recovery" portion of the stroke. The rower must push the oar handle forward against wind and oarlock resistance in preparation for the next stroke. Tarlow asserts that the invention replicates that resistance.
The first type is characterized by the Dreissigacker/Williams device (referenced above). With this type the flywheel and footrests are fixed to a stationary frame, and the seat is free to slide fore and aft on a rail or rails integral to the stationary frame. Therefore, during use, the seat moves relative to the footrests and also relative to ground, while the flywheel and footrests remain stationary relative to ground. This type is sometimes referred to as a "stationary" or "fixed head" rowing ergometer.

I kayak (ocean and flat water, not river), so I was drawn to the WaterRower over a flywheel type rower (which I have used in gyms) because I wanted to hear the sound of the water, which I miss hearing against the hull of the boat during the winter when I can't get out on the lake. I also like the way the paddles engage in the water; it's a very smooth pull and release, and moving the mass of the water instead of a dialed down tension feels more natural. As someone else also commented, the seat (at least on the wood version) is incredibly smooth and solid; no wobbling at all. I generally listen to music on my Nordic Track ski machine, but with the WaterRower I am content to listen to the sound of the water; working out on this is somehow both energizing and calmingly meditative at the same time. In the event that you want to use it while watching tv (this is one use to which I wanted to put it), it is quiet enough to hear the tv without having to turn it up.


The second type is characterized by the Rekers device (referenced above). With this type, both the seat and the footrests are free to slide fore and aft on a rail or rails integral to a stationary frame. Therefore, during use, the seat and the footrests move relative to each other, and both also move relative to ground. This type is often referred to as a "dynamic" rowing ergometer, although "dynamically balanced" would be a more accurate description. A static indoor rower of the Dreissigacker/Williams type, if mounted on wheels or slides to enable forward and rearward movement of the unit, is by definition "dynamically balanced". The accessory slide tracks correspond to the referenced stationary frame of the Rekers device. Casper Rekers is nevertheless credited as the first to utilize this motion type in a rowing ergometer. The effect, for the user, is a more realistic "on the water" sensation than that provided by a "stationary" rowing ergometer because the "dynamically balanced" type more closely replicates actual rowing wherein the seat and the boat move relative to each other, and both move relative to the water.
John Duke, creator of the WaterRower, was inspired to try his hand at invention while working at a subsidiary for U.S. Steel. He wanted to make an indoor machine that felt as much like real rowing as possible, with a focus on aesthetics. It took him two years to get the design right, moving past failed ideas such as a flipper in the tank instead of a clutch. What began as a series of doodles at his desk turned into a sculptural piece of exercise equipment that upends expectations in two ways: by bringing water indoors, and by looking elegant and artful when stored.
There is much to love about the WaterRower--and I do love it--but I would echo others' comments that although the seat rolls solidly and smoothly on the wood rails, the seat itself is very hard (I use a gel seat pad I bought for my hard fiberglass kayak seat), and the footpads are in need up rethinking and upgrading--the cheap plastic doesn't let you row in socks or barefoot and is not really worthy of a machine that is otherwise a stunning piece of engineering and a beautiful one as well. As one other person noted about his machine, my machine made a clicking noise on the return stroke, so I had to adjust the wheel underneath the top rail that connects to the footpad and pull it away gently from where it was rubbing against another component. Also, be warned: the instruction booklet is in the DVD case. I did not see the little sticker on the case telling me that, thinking I'd wait to watch the DVD until after I'd assembled it. But WaterRower has a copy of the assembly instructions on their website, along with a video (I found the written ones better and easier to follow), so I was able to assemble it with no difficulty.
Unlike most other non-combat sports, rowing has a special weight category called lightweight (Lwt for short). According to FISA, this weight category was introduced "to encourage more universality in the sport especially among nations with less statuesque people". The first lightweight events were held at the World Championships in 1974 for men and 1985 for women. Lightweight rowing was added to the Olympics in 1996.

First launched in 1976, Concept 2 churns out high-quality equipment that can be found in gyms nationwide, as well as at the indoor world rowing championships. Elite athletes use Concept 2 machines to push them to new levels. The Model D is easy to use: on the performance monitor, just hit row to get going, and the air resistance flywheel increases its difficulty with a slight push or pull on the damper. To store, separate the machine at the middle, tuck away the arm and roll the resistance sphere to a closet or corner.


Just like with other cardio machines, it’s highly recommended that you start off slow, especially if you’ve never used a rowing machine before. While walking and cycling are natural movements, rowing definitely isn’t, so don’t look around at seasoned pros and think you need to keep up (cue breathless panting). The potential for injury and pain isn’t worth it. Start off at a low resistance, remaining at that level until you’ve perfected your form and rowing motion. Once you’ve got those down and are feeling comfortable, feel free to increase the resistance and vary your workout. This takes time, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t catch on after the first few strokes.
One of the underrated advantages of treadmills and bikes is that they attempt to replicate something with which most people are already familiar—walking, running, or biking. The barriers to entry are low, and the task of planning and completing a workout is a little more intuitive, since most people know what those activities feel like. Those heuristics are out the door with a rowing machine, though. Do you just... pull? How far? How hard? And why does it insist on measuring distance in meters? We asked Caley Crawford, the Director of Education at Row House, for tips on getting started so that, hopefully, your experience doesn't end with you throwing your hands up in frustration and crawling back to the elliptical room.
×