Review of WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine in Ash Wood

Rhian Hunt's picture

Most rowing machines on the market nowadays have space-age frames of steel and aluminum, providing both strength and lightness, and giving the user a high-tech feel that is appealing in itself.

The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine goes in the opposite direction, using a natural, timeless material -- wood -- in its frame, an interesting design choice which makes the machine heavier than its aluminum-laced counterparts, but alsok sturdier and gives a bit more spring to its operation, since wood can flex slightly under pressure without any risk of breaking.

Pros and Cons of the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine

Extremely Sturdy Wooden Construction, Large Dimensions

The Natural Rowing Machine is a fairly large piece of equipment, just short of 7 feet long and 2 feet wide. The frame is made of pale ash wood, stained and given an oil finish. Ash wood has been noted for its strength and resiliency for centuries -- spears and lances were often made of it for this reason, and a wood able to stand up to the stress of a medieval battlefield is also able to sustain the wear and tear of indoor rowing exercise.

The wood's strength is testified to by the weight limit of the machine -- up to 1,000 pounds. There is practically no user who will be unable to use it, since a 1,000-pound person probably cannot row in any case. The length of the machine also means that users up to 6 feet 4 inches tall report no problems in using it.

Heavy But Long-Lasting And Durable

The WaterRower Natural weighs 117 pounds, including the weight of the water in the frontal water tank, also known as the "water flywheel." This means that it is probably not going to be practical to move it very far to store it unless you are exceptionally strong. However, the frame does move into an upright position to get it out of the way when the rower isn't in use.

The machine comes with a one year warranty on the frame and components, which can be upgraded to five and three years respectively by mailing in a form that comes with the machine. This product is extremely sturdy though, and as Nucpiper, a user, reports, it will last much longer than the warranty period with no problems:

“My wife and I both use it regularly ... the components are rugged and last a long time (at least 10 years so far).”

Given the quality of this WaterRower, expect to use it for years.

Very Stable, Quiet, And Low Noise

Since it is made of wood, the Natural Rowing Machine's frame probably provides a bit more 'spring' than aluminum models, which are totally immovable unless they break. This does not mean, however, that you can actually feel the Natural flexing or moving; the machine is very solid and stable, and the wood is thick, also meaning that it is very durable. Wooden construction also greatly lessens vibration and makes operation quieter, a fact that several users have remarked on.

Smooth, High-Quality Water Resistance

Resistance is provided by paddle wheels moving in a water tank at the front of the machine. This water tank -- called a "water flywheel" by the manufacturer -- is a circular tank filled with water by the user, who then pulls against the resistance provided by the paddles moving through this water. The only sound from the machine, according to many users, is the swishing of the water during rowing.

The amount of resistance is varied directly by two factors -- how hard you pull, since you will be moving the water's weight at different levels of inertia depending on how strong your stroke is, and how much water you put in the tank. Due to this design, there is no 'jerk' when you start rowing -- the motion is extremely smooth even from a standing start.

Sturdy Seat Offers Stable Rowing

The seat of the WaterRower Natural is one of its strongest and one of its weakest points at the same time. Because of the width of the wooden frame, the wheels for the machine's seat are mounted on the outside, at its corners. Each pair of wheels moves in a separate rail inset into the tops of the main beams of the frame. The seat itself is sturdily built of wood, with a thick cushion on top for comfort, and is wide enough to accommodate different sizes of rowers comfortably.

Problems, Weak Points of the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine

Difficulties With Standing And Sitting -- A Low-Slung Seat.

Because of its low center of gravity and the width and sturdiness of the seat, sitting on the WaterRower Natural is a very comfortable experience. Your buttocks will not be sore even after a long, thorough workout. The feel is very sturdy and stable, and there is basically no way to tip the machine over without using a lever.

However, the seat is also very low to the ground, and although this increases stability, it also makes standing up and sitting down more difficult than on other rowing machines with higher seats. People with knee problems, in particular, may find the rower's seat to be inconvenient, and may need to set something up nearby to lean on in order to rise after an exercise session.

A user from California refers to the low seat as a big negative. He explains:

“seat is too low. I started using a rower to protect my bad knees, but this rower puts a huge strain on the knees getting on it or off it.”

Flimsy Footrests

The footrests of the WaterRower Natural are plastic rather than wood, and are somewhat less sturdy than the rest of the machine. Although they are generally secure, and no users report actual breakage, they are probably the physically weakest point of the device and the most likely to snap under sustained use. They also have hard edges, meaning that rowing barefoot or in socks is impossible unless you have the calluses of a rhino. Wearing slippers or shoes is a must when using the WaterRower.

Monitor Too Basic

The monitor of this rowing machine is more basic than would be expected on a device of this price and quality. Sembu, an Amazon reviewer, says:

“monitor will count calories per hour as you row, but won't give you a total calorie count.”

Another user says:

“I prefer to enjoy the workout and not to focus too much in the calories.”

Calories, heart rate, and strokes are all measured, but there is no sophistication or intensive detail to be had in the monitor's readout. It also lacks a backlight, so some kind of light source is needed to read it.

What Others Are Saying

Admittedly, the WaterRower is a very good simulator of natural rowing.

Saga from Indiana states:

“My son, who rowed in an 8-boat in college, was skeptical, but when he comes home now he uses it regularly.”

T. Eggleton from Greenville, SC, who suffered a foot injury and has not been able to run for a considerable time, explains:

“I have had a "WaterRower" for one month now and find it to be an excellent option to running.”

Where to Get the Best Price on the WaterRower Natural

I believe the best place to buy the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine is on Amazon, which offers a combination of low price, free shipping, and good customer service.

A Few Tecnique Tips When Rowing on the WaterRower

  • Keep a smooth continuous motion
  • Exercise full compression and long reach
  • Maintain good posture

  • Follow the right sequence of rowing, which is as follows: (1) Arms move forward, (2) Body rocks over, and (3) Legs break, as shown below. During this sequence of events you sit tall keeping your back straight.



Common Rowing Mistakes

1. Falling Your Knees Out To the Side, Outside the Arms

When rowing make sure your knees are not out to the side. Instead, keep your knees close to each other and inside the arms, as described below.


2. Exercising Poor Rowing Ratio

A common mistake is to recover faster than you drive. When rowing, you should keep a powerful drive and a relaxed, relatively slow recovery. The following video shows the wrong and the right rowing ratio.

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