This Sleek Rower Is Perfect for Small Space Exercisers

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Rowing is a total-body workout that’s surprisingly low-impact—it doesn’t put a lot of pressure on your joints (think ankles, hips, and knees). So even though it would make a great addition to any at-home gym, a full-size rowing machine is often cumbersome and expensive. I purchased an affordable compact rower during the pandemic, but it wasn’t an adequate substitute for the ones you’d find at a gym.

That’s why I was eager to try The Ergatta rower, a handcrafted water rower that bills itself as “living room ready,” which means it won’t be an eyesore in my apartment.

How I tested

A panel of fitness experts helped us create the criteria to focus on when using an at-home rower, including noise level, ease to maintain, ease of storage, and smart features.

I have been using The Ergatta for about a month, doing short race workouts and attempting some of their beginner-friendly push programs. It’s worth mentioning that to calibrate this rower, I had to do a 2,000-meter row, which is survivable but not exactly beginner-friendly (it takes about 13 minutes to complete).

Noise level

The Ergatta is a standard water rower, which means when you pull the handle, you’re moving a water flywheel through a tank. During my workouts, I heard whirring and sloshing that reminded me of, well, outdoor rowing. If water sounds aren’t your thing, The Ergatta Rower has radio stations (think high-energy pop, mid-energy pop, dance, and classic rock) that you can play through built-in or Bluetooth speakers. The built-in speakers are lackluster, but the musical options are a nice touch.

Ease to Maintain

The Ergatta comes fully assembled and ready to row, so there’s not much setup involved. You simply turn it on, connect to your Wi-Fi, and set up your user profile. My rower arrived with water in it, but to add or remove the water, you use a siphon (which comes with the machine). There are also purification tablets to keep algae from growing in your water tank.

While this isn’t exactly maintenance, it’s worth mentioning that to get access to racing workouts and other features, you will need to sign up for an Ergatta membership that costs approximately $29 monthly (or $290 annually).

Ease of Storage

This is where The Ergatta shines. This rower, handmade in Rhode Island, is beautiful. When I’m not using it, I simply pick it up and lean it against the wall—and it looks like a piece of furniture. When the rower is upright, its dimensions are 86 by 23 by 22.5 inches, and when it’s ready for use, it’s 86 by 23 by 40 inches (the screen pops up, adding to the height). So it’s long (or tall, if it’s upright), and it’s not a piece of equipment you can slide under a bed, but trust me, it’s a really good-looking rower.

The Ergatta is about 75 pounds without water, according to the Ergatta website, but I regularly move it without a problem. Plus, there are wheels at the base to help you maneuver it easily.

Specific Features

Seat comfort and foot straps

The Ergatta can hold up to 500 pound and someone who is about six feet eight. Whether I am sprinting like my life depends on it or rowing slowly, the machine has never shifted during workouts.

The foot pedals are comfortable with an adjustable strap that stretches right over the bottom of your toes, but there is one long strap for both feet (fed through the bottom of the rower). To adjust the straps, you need to hit a button in the center, which isn’t exactly intuitive.

Screen positioning and stats

The Ergatta features a large, 17.3-inch, high-definition touchscreen tablet that allows you to easily navigate from one menu to the next without squinting. While rowing, you’re treated to a host of statistics. In addition to distance and time elapsed, you’ll find strokes per minute, split time (how much time it takes to row 500 meters), calories burned, and watts per second.

More advanced rowers might find these useful, but I only look at time and distance, and occasionally I glance at my strokes per minute. As someone who is often distracted (and disheartened) by metrics, I’d love the ability to hide them so I can focus on my row. It’s worth noting that when you’re using the open row, the time-elapsed information is much smaller (which I find helpful).

Instead of realistic scenery on your screen, you typically row through something resembling a dark waterway. On one side of the screen, you can see how far you’ve traveled, and you’ll find how far you have to go on the other. When you reach the end of your workout, there’s an orange light (sort of like you’re coming to an end of a tunnel) that shows you’ve reached the finish line.

Your rower also tracks how many minutes you’ve rowed overall and encourages you to hit milestones—like 10 workouts or 500 minutes of exercise.

Smart features

The Ergatta interface emphasizes gamification, something that sounded confusing until I actually tried it. This gamification is weaved into every aspect of your workout experience with a strong emphasis on milestones. Some graphics change color as you clock more time and mileage, and training challenges involve keeping an animated ball in place. Ultimately my experience has started to feel like a game, both in the moment (during actual workouts) and over time (as I get closer to reaching a milestone).

Additionally, there are built-in “push programs” designed to help you build skills, condition your body, or increase your endurance. Each program gives you a recommended time frame so that you can gauge progress. I find this helpful when deciding whether I am ready to commit to something like a 10-day conditioning program, for instance.

By far, the race-style workouts are my favorite feature on The Ergatta. Even though you’re not racing anyone live (you essentially compete against someone’s previously recorded time), it absolutely feels like you’re racing other people. As soon as a race workout starts, different lanes on your screen light up (meant to symbolize other rowers) to help you gauge how far ahead or behind you are. This didn’t sound appealing to me initially, but I have found myself singularly focused on chasing down random users or maintaining my lead during my 500-meter races. I’m not ashamed to say that losing encourages me to work harder and winning helps keep me excited about returning to The Ergatta after my workout is over. (I am able to see my global ranking after each race, and that definitely keeps me humble.)

Other features like open rowing and interval-training workouts round out Ergatta’s offerings, but you shouldn’t expect to find  cross-training workouts or Peloton-style classes led by instructors. The company does plan to include live racing events and team training at some point, Tom Aulet, CEO and cofounder of Ergatta, tells SELF.

The Bottom Line

I enjoyed the Ergatta Rower and was surprised at how much the competitive interface kept me coming back. Additionally, the rower looks gorgeous in my studio apartment (where exercise equipment can quickly become an eyesore). If function and design are your main focus, it’s potentially worth the $2,199 price tag.

I’m a relative beginner (which is to say I don’t row very fast or far), and this rower worked for me, but I’m not sure it’s suited for absolute beginners, given the emphasis on competition. Also, if you’re looking for a Peloton-style experience, this might not be the best pick for you. It might be best to explore other rowers that have more of those features for a comparable price.

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