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Ergatta Review: Rowing machine makes a game out of exercise

ergatta rowing machine review rower 2
Ergatta Review: Rowing machine makes a game out of exercise
MSRP $2,199.00
“Game your way to fitness with Ergatta's water-based rowing machine.”
Pros
  • Compact size with vertical storage
  • Gorgeous wooden frame
  • Calibrates to your fitness level
  • Gaming is motivating
  • Water mimics outside rowing
Cons
  • No video training
  • Challenging for beginners
  • Open row is monotonous

Not everyone wants to endure the monotony of running on a treadmill or pedaling a bicycle inside. As a result, an increasing number of people are turning to rowing for its cardiovascular and core-strengthening workouts. Most rowing machines stick to the basics, but the Ergatta water rower defies convention with its beautiful wooden frame and gamelike workout experience. Does the Ergatta deliver more than good looks and games? We put the rower to the test to find out.

Installation and setup

Installation and setup of the rower took less than 30 minutes. The unit arrived almost fully assembled, with wheels that made it easy to roll it to right where I wanted it. The technician filled the rower with water, and it was ready to go. Before leaving, the tech briefly walked me through the basics of folding the Ergatta for storage and turning it on.

Connecting the rowing machine to my Wi-Fi network and setting up my Ergatta account was my responsibility. It’s also worth mentioning that Ergatta charges $199 for delivery and installation of the rower, which is in addition to the $2,199 cost of the unit.

Looks like luxury furniture

Unlike the industrial look of most gym rowing machines, the Ergatta sets itself apart by appearing more like a piece of furniture. Its cherry wood frame and transparent water tank blend right in with any decor. It’s definitely unconventional looking, but it’s easily the best-looking rowing machine currently available.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Ergatta is made by WaterRower, a well-known brand in the rowing world, and it shows. Everything about the rower is high quality. The seat rolls smoothly, the pull on the rowing handle is steady, and the display is easy to read. Workout equipment shouldn’t have to be intimidating. With the Ergatta, you get a sense of nature because it feels like you’re rowing a boat over water.

Compact size for storage

I have a small exercise room and was concerned the rowing machine wouldn’t fit. When it arrived, I was shocked at how little space the Ergatta takes up. The rower is narrow and not overly long, so it doesn’t require a lot of floor space when you are using it. I was able to slip it between the wall and my treadmill. The Ergatta also is astonishingly light and compact. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to move it — anyone can lift it to store it or roll it to a new location.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

When you finish your exercise, you can reclaim your living space by storing the Ergatta in an upright position. The engineers behind Ergatta put a lot of thought into storage and made it incredibly easy. It takes three simple steps — fold the monitor flat, lower the monitor arm, and lift the end until the Ergatta is upright. When upright, it takes up about the same space as a dining room chair. That’s important because most other cardio-based machines tend to take up more room. The Ergatta is perfect for apartment dwellers.

Smart rowing

In the beginning, Ergatta introduces you to rowing with a few tutorial videos and a 2,000-meter row to calibrate the machine to your fitness level. Once your baseline fitness is established, the software can then choose workouts that are not too easy and not too difficult. After 10 activities, you are prompted to recalibrate again. If you feel these workouts are too hard or easy, you can recalibrate at any time.

The Ergatta uses water for resistance to mimic both the feel and the sound of rowing outside. The rower increases or decreases resistance based on how fast or strong you row. There are no magnets or resistance bands involved. The faster or more powerful you row, the harder it gets.

Hooked on the game of rowing

Ergatta doesn’t offer the live training or video training that is taking the home gym world by storm. The rower instead gamifies the workout experience, making it different from any other home gym equipment I have used.

The Ergatta lets you choose between training and competition. While training, you are encouraged to row at a specific speed or with the proper amount of power. Instead of having a trainer yell at you to “row harder” or “keep it up,” the Ergatta uses a virtual ball to represent how powerful or fast you are rowing. In one game, you are challenged to keep the ball inside a predefined zone for a set amount of time. If you row too slow or too fast, you move out of the target area and won’t be able to complete that level.

This gamification was extremely engaging. Time flew by as I focused on keeping my virtual ball within the target zone. I didn’t count the minutes or number of strokes — I was utterly caught up in the game. Exercising shouldn’t ever feel like work or a chore — it should be fun and rewarding, which is exactly what you’ll find with the Ergatta.

Racing for the prize

When you are done training, you can hop into a race with eight other rowers at the same skill level. Some races challenge you to row for a long distance, while others use sprint-paced intervals. Your times are recorded, and you are ranked both among the other racers and on a global leaderboard. I spent the bulk of my time on the Ergatta competing in the different races. I’d typically start with a quick warmup training session and then jump right into the races. After three or four races, I was a sweaty, tired mess.

I pushed myself to the limit while racing and enjoyed every minute of it.

Open rowing was disappointing

Ergatta also has an open row option that lets you row at your own pace without any race or training goals in mind. I eagerly opened this section to see how Ergatta applied its gaming approach to a free row workout.  I was disappointed when I discovered there was none. There was no game to challenge me, no competitors to push me. It was only me and my stats.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Having used the Hydrow and iFit, I longed for some video scenery, a video trainer sharing stories, or some other visual stimulus. Ergatta, unfortunately, doesn’t embrace video training. If the company ever did, the open row would be an ideal area to implement it.

Challenging for beginners

As a beginning rower, I found it challenging to get into a groove. The tutorials were helpful, but I missed the video instructors. With Hydrow, I could mimic the trainer’s strokes and their form while rowing. I didn’t have that feedback on Ergatta and found myself getting sloppy, especially when tired.

I also found some of the training sessions to be too long for a beginner. I started the easiest 30-day workout series and was encouraged after the first workout. It was short but challenging. The activity on day two was twice as long, and I couldn’t complete it. I was discouraged by my performance and the endurance Ergatta expected me to have on my second day.

I felt similarly challenged by the races and training sessions. Most were longer than I could handle. I found some short races and training sessions, but the bulk of the workouts were 20 minutes or longer. Ergatta is always adding new content, so I hope they add more sessions in the 5- to 10-minute range.

Pricing

The Ergatta costs $2,199, with an additional $200 for shipping and installation. You can purchase it in one lump sum or finance it over 24 months. Like most smart home gym equipment, the Ergatta rower requires a monthly subscription. You can pay $29 monthly ($290 yearly) to access the entire library of workouts and races. You also can add an unlimited number of accounts, so your partner, roommates, or kids can join.

You can use the Ergatta without a subscription, but you lose access to the races and training games that make the rower worth its high price tag.

Our take

It may look like it belongs in a showroom, but don’t let the Ergatta’s stunning good looks fool you. It is a powerful rowing machine with a game-based interface that will motivate you to workout.

How long will it last?

The Ergatta is a tank with a solid wood frame designed to hold up to 500 pounds. Treat it well, and it will last a long time. The frame is covered by a five-year warranty with a three-year warranty on parts and a one-year warranty on the tablet.

Is there a better alternative?

The Ergatta is in a class by itself, thanks to its game-based training and cherry wood frame. If you want a more traditional-looking rower with video training, then you should consider either the Hydrow or the NordicTrack RW900 rowing machine. Both of these rowers offer instructor-led exercises and off-rower strength training for a full-body workout.

Should you buy it?

Absolutely. If you enjoy rowing and are short on space, the Ergatta is worth every penny.

Editors' Recommendations

Kelly Hodgkins
Kelly's been writing online for ten years, working at Gizmodo, TUAW, and BGR among others. Living near the White Mountains of…
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