FAQs About Water Resistance Rowing Machines

By Sayed Hamed Hosseiny

Water resistance rowing machines became really popular mainly after its use in the “House of Cards” show. Although in the beginning it was really expensive to buy one, today indoor water rowers are available for under $500 which is considered low-cost in the world of rowing machines.

The popularity of water rowing machines also brought lots of doubts and questions. Many people aren’t sure if water rowers would meet their needs and if they are safe to use them at home. In this article, I covered most questions and doubts that are around water rowers. Without further ado, let’s get to faqs about home water rowers.

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  1. What is the resistance of water on a rowing machine?

The resistance of water will vary with the speed you row and how much water you add in the tank. You should be able to see a minimum line for lowest resistance and maximum line for highest resistance. If you are moving faster, there is more drag on your oars because you are pushing through a greater volume of water per second compared to when rowing slowly.

  1. What is “drag” ?

Drag is the force in opposition to an object moving through a fluid (or air), caused by the fluid’s viscosity, normally expressed in terms of an area perpendicular to the direction of movement that would be measured in pascals (Pa) if it were also expressed in newtons/meter (N/m). Drag can therefore be thought of as aerodynamic resistance and this component does not depend on how fast the object is moving.

3.Is it better to row harder or longer?

Both. If you row harder, your heart rate increases and you build up more lactic acid in your muscles which will make them sore the next day. However, because it takes less time to cover a set distance (500 meters), if your technique is correct (see below) you will find it easier to keep the boat moving fast.

  1. What are some common mistakes people make on rowing machines?

Not using the ball of the foot; Using their back muscles instead of their legs; Not keeping their body upright throughout; Using incorrect hand grip (too wide or too narrow); Bending arms at the top of each stroke; Tensing shoulders at the end of each stroke; Pulling with bent arms rather than pulling through the whole stroke; Poor foot placement (not parallel to the frame of the machine); Not keeping straight wrists at the end of each stroke ; Not getting their body low enough on the slide and/or pushing too hard against it with no extension; Moving sideways or backwards off the seat; Arching or leaning backwards on the backswing; Untightening legs before release.

  1. How long should I rest between rowing intervals?

If you are unable to get your heart rate back up to normal 120-150 beats per minute (bpm) within a couple of minutes, you need a longer recovery time. Your heart rate will drop more rapidly if you also stop exercising your upper body while resting between strokes on a rowing machine. If you are only taking your heart rate for a couple of minutes, it will be elevated after you have finished rowing. If you are taking your pulse for longer periods to determine the maximum safe interval before exercising again, take your pulse immediately after stopping to get an accurate reading.

  1. How do you increase resistance on a rowing machine?

It depends on the rowing machine resistance type. Some rowing machines in the UK with magnetic resistance allow manually increasing resistance while some air rowers in the UK only offer dynamic resistance which means you can increase the resistance by either pulling harder or increasing the number of “strokes” you take per minute. If you are happy with your technique, it is better to row faster because this will allow you to get more benefit in a shorter time.

  1. Should I row every day?

Although many people row every day, it is not necessary or advisable to do so. You are likely to injure yourself if you row too much without adequate time for your muscles and connective tissues to recover. Rowing puts a lot of stress on the body similar to that experienced in activities such as running, cycling, aerobics etc. If you are new to exercise or haven’t exercised for some time, start with several short sessions per week and gradually work up the duration and intensity over several weeks.

  1. How long will it take before I see results?

It is important not to become discouraged when starting an exercise program because most people overestimate how quickly they will be able to achieve their goals when they begin exercising although they are likely to see some improvement within the first couple of weeks. If you are new to physical activity, it may take several months before you can row for 30 minutes at a reasonably high level of intensity.

  1. What is the “stroke rating” on my water resistance rowing machine?

This tells you how much work is required per stroke or per minute by comparing your power output with that of an average person who weighs 75 kilograms (165 pounds) and who rows 2200 meters in 10 minutes at a rating of 40 watts. This gives her a cox rating of 40 divided by 2200 which is 0.0219 or about 19 strokes per minute! So if your “strokes per minute” reading is greater than this, i.e., 20, you will have to row at an effort that is very strenuous.

  1. How do I know what resistance setting/stroke rate/pace to use on a rowing machine?

You can read the intensity level off the monitor (e.g., “level 8”) or if it isn’t easy to see this information, ask someone who knows about your rowing machine. The figures given below are approximations for people of average fitness and skill doing 2200m in 10 minutes on various water-resistance rowers (cw = coxswain). Note that these figures are based on comparisons of average rowers of different weights; individual rowers may find they need use more effort than indicated below.

For example, on the Concept II rower with its 4-5 resistance settings (and 0-10 adjustable damper), you may find that you need to set it at 5 (about 10 on the damper) for level 8; however, some people might need to use Level 6 or 7 even for this same setting. On the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine which has only one resistance setting, you would probably want to set it at 2 (about 4 on the damper). For most other machines your best bet is to pick a comfortable rate and/or resistance level based on how hard they feel at first. However, after several weeks of consistent training you should be able to determine an appropriate rate and resistance level without too much difficulty.

  1. Why is it important to keep my intensity level at the correct level?
  • For maximum results , you must work hard enough to challenge your cardiovascular system (without overstressing it).
  • It is more fun if you can row within your limits because exercise should be challenging rather than easy; however, it may require you to push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to achieve noticeable improvements through regular exercise.
  • If you become exhausted and stop exercising, your heart rate will not decrease as much as it would with a lower workload and your muscles will not receive as much benefit from this brief session; thus, you are unlikely to feel energized and ready to exercise again on the same day.
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Bottom Line

I have gone through some questions about water rowing machines that I have been asked about in the years of training with indoor water rowers. Hopefully your questions are covered here but if they aren’t, feel free to get in touch with me or leave a comment below. I will answer your indoor rowing exercise questions and questions about water rowing machines to the best of my knowledge. I also covered some of the related points in one of my recently published rowing machine buying guide article. Good luck and happy rowing

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