Water vs. Air Rowing Machine: What is the Difference?

Water vs Air Rowing machine

Rarely has there been an activity or a skill so important that it literally changed the way people live and stuck around for thousands of years. A lot of such activities used to be prevalent for warfare for example. Sword fighting was something everyone needed, only for it to be a sport today in the form of fencing and other variations.

Archery is another great example, something used for hunting and warfare that is now a sport. Well, one other ancient skill/activity is nowadays a sport, but also one of the most beloved cardio exercises that are being done by millions of fitness enthusiasts. That would be rowing, and in this article, we talk about how it is done today.

The Origins and History of Rowing

Rowing and row boats go back thousands of years and it is difficult to pinpoint the exact time and place when they first appeared. Archaeological evidence suggests that ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome all had it as a crucial means of travel, exploration, and warfare.

In ancient Egypt, rowing boats were used for fishing on the Nile River with depictions of this activity present in tomb paintings from as early as 2500 BCE. Similarly, in ancient Greece and Rome, rowing was crucial for transportation, trade, and military purposes. The famous trireme warships of ancient Greece were powered by rowers and there are numerous depictions of rowing boats in Greco-Roman art.

Nowadays, rowing is a competitive sport, but it is not as modern a discipline as many believe. The first recorded regatta took place in Venice, Italy in 1274. The sport gained popularity in England during the 18th century, particularly among university students. Since then, it has spread around the world and today represents a very competitive Olympic sport.

Proper Technique and Form

Contemporary, 21st-century rowing requires a combination of physical skill and endurance, just like before, as well as teamwork and strategy. Competitions are held on rivers, lakes, or oceans and can involve different race formats. The most common include head-to-head races, time trials, and regattas.

When proper technique and form are concerned, the activity involves a series of coordinated movements that require upper and lower body strength. The rower sits facing backward in the boat and uses their legs, back, arms, and core to power the oars through the water. Proper form and timing are essential to achieve optimal speed and efficiency.

In addition to being a professional sport, rowing is also enjoyed as a recreational activity, a way to stay fit and active. This is where the indoor rowing machine comes into play, a way for anyone who wants the benefits of this amazing exercise without having to go to the nearest body of water and do the real thing.

Exercising on the Rowing Machine

Rowing Machine Exercising

Rowing in general is a rather straightforward sport to practice and prepare for. Rowers typically engage in a variety of exercises that develop their strength, endurance, and technique, not all of which are done in the actual boat and while on water. Weight lifting, cardio, and specific rowing drills are used to improve technique and coordination. Many rowers also do cross-training activities like cycling or swimming to improve overall fitness and keep their cardio levels high.

Still, the best way to go about things especially when there is no need to actually row a boat is to use a stationary, indoor rower. Also known as the rowing machine or an ergometer (erg), this fitness device simulates the motion of rowing a boat on the water and presents the user with a rather popular tool for training and exercise. It is a low-impact, full-body workout that improves cardiovascular health, strength, and endurance and works out the arms, legs, back, core, and abs.

A rowing machine consists of a seat, a footrest or separate foot pedals, and a handlebar attached to a chain or a cord. The most important part is its resistance mechanism, which may be water, air, or magnetic-based. As the user sits on the seat with their feet secured, they hold the handlebar with both hands and pull it towards their chest. They do so while also pushing with their legs and leaning back slightly. This motion almost perfectly mimics the action of rowing a real boat as the resistance mechanism provides varying levels of difficulty.

Water VS Air Rowing Machines


Water and air rowing machines are two of the most common types of resistance mechanisms used in modern rowing machines. Both types provide a similar rowing motion, the thing users need the most, but there are some key differences when it comes to the feel and experience. You should know about these differences if you are to use either one of these two types.

Water rowing machines have a tank filled with water that provides resistance to the motion. As the user pulls the handlebar, the paddles present in the tank spin and create a resistance that simulates rowing. Water-based machines usually provide a smoother and more fluid motion that is more realistic when compared to all other types. A great benefit is that they are also much quieter than other types, making them the preferred option for those looking for a more authentic experience.

Water Rowing Machine

On the other hand, air rowing machines have a flywheel and a fan that create resistance. While the user pulls the handlebar, the flywheel spins and creates resistance based on the speed and intensity of the motion. Air-based machines give a more intense and challenging workout because the resistance is more dynamic. It adjusts to the level of exertion the user gives in and follows it accordingly. They are noisier than water rowing machines because of the fan, but some have it positioned in a way that it blows the air back providing some cooling while working out.

Air Machine

Both water and air rowing solutions offer a very effective full-body workout. They can be used for training, exercise, or recreation, both by professional rowers and those looking for some effective cardio every once in a while. The choice usually comes down to personal preference and individual fitness goals, as well as the overall appeal and sound (or lack thereof). Those who prefer the more realistic feel should pick a water machine, while those looking for a more intense workout should focus on an air machine.