Ergatta Robber Commentary | CNN Highlights

Did you know that a whopping 66% of Americans play video games and only 23% exercise regularly? With its play-based approach to fitness, Ergatta Rower is looking to close that gap. Instead of using the coach-led workouts many other home rowers use (including Echelon Row-S, Peloton Row, and Hydrow), Ergatta uses video game-style workouts similar to Aviron rowing, allowing you to race against yourself or others Bandits compete for points, tokens or victory

Like other rowers on the market, Ergatta requires a monthly membership fee of $29, or a discounted $319 per year. This gives you access to the full library of rowing workouts, with 40 new workouts every month, in addition to new programs to choose from.

How does this game-based approach to rowing measure up? I tested Ergatta for two weeks to find out.

If you’re looking to add a rowing machine to your home gym, the Ergatta might be the most beautiful piece of equipment you can find. A sleek water-based rower made of cherry wood that is compact and easy to fold away when not in use, but best of all it offers a super competitive rowing experience for any type of exercise enthusiast.

That’s one of their selling points, and the Ergatta is a really good looking machine. Made of cherry wood, it’s more of a stylish piece of furniture than a gym piece of equipment. With a footprint of just over 7 feet and a width of less than 2 feet, it’s easy to fold the screen arms and store the rower upright without any extra parts. This is great news for those who live in smaller spaces.

The Ergatta is a WaterRower like the Vortex VX3, which means it uses a so-called WaterFlyWheel to replicate the feeling of rowing on water. The mechanism consists of a water tank located at the front of the machine, connected to a paddle and your handle (if it looks familiar, it’s because it’s the same rower that OrangeTheory and CityRow use). In case you were wondering, no, the water never needs to be changed, and Ergatta even includes purification tablets that you put in your tank every 6 to 12 months.

When you row, the oars turn and the water creates resistance. The harder you hit the ball, the easier it will feel. While rowers using other types of resistance are inherently comfortable, using a waterproof resistance rower on the Ergatta will make your body feel good. Also, I realize it’s impossible to set the resistance too high, which could force you to pull the handle back with bad form.

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One of the most frustrating aspects of exercising alone at home is never knowing if you’re working hard enough to see results—or at least as hard as you are in the gym or in class surrounded by other competitive rowers.

Ergatta solves this liability problem. When setting up your profile, you’ll be asked to row 1,000 meters to calibrate your fitness level. Ergatta will then create four personalized intensity zones around which all of your individual workouts will be organized (your fitness level will also be used to select you for community-based workouts, such as competitions). This makes it impossible for you to reduce effort—and in some workout formats, your interval timer will even pause if you go outside the designated zone, whether you’re trying too hard or not hard enough. If you start to feel like your workouts are a little too comfortable, the Ergatta automatically stores all of your workout information and uses it every 20 or so to recalibrate your fitness level. Just to keep you honest (and sweaty).

During setup there is also a robust and detailed set of introductory videos detailing proper rowing technique and all the metrics you will use during your workout, which is great for new rowers and new Ergatta users alike. While I think Ergatta’s workout is perfect for a competitive athlete like myself, current or former, I appreciate all the introductory information. The creators know that almost everything about the Ergatta (physical rowing, game-based workout structure) will be new to most people, and they take the time to make sure you’re comfortable before you start.

Many of the workouts on Ergatta, from individual workouts to community-based competitions, are just high-intensity interval training in disguise. To reap the research-proven benefits of this popular form of exercise, you should push yourself as hard as you can in short bursts, resting in between—that’s exactly how competition training is structured.

The 4,500m race is divided into five stages of 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 1000m and 500m with breaks in between, while the 900m race is divided into 150m, 200m, 250m and 300m. Here’s the fun part: You’re racing against real people, alongside each other, ahead or behind each other, on an on-screen track. There are four live match times per week, but if you can’t catch up in real time, you can still play on-demand against virtual bandits (who have already completed their matches).

I’m not in the 66 percent of Americans who play video games, but I do know that curvy, swooping racetracks are recognizable to anyone who’s played a racing game. Gauge markings on the route remind you how far each leg has been traveled and how far is left. Plus, the machine is smart enough to select the participant closest to your fitness level, so every match can be competitive.

These game-like races push me to work out even harder, and crossing the finish line first on my first try (woohoo!) feels awesome. So good, in fact, that I forgot that I had just finished a high-level HIIT workout too. Let’s face it, that’s what most of us hope for when trying to work out on a busy day.


Alyssa Sebastian

While the Ergatta rower looks and feels great, I don’t like the pedals, they are too close together (much closer than a traditional rower). As someone with a history of flat feet and knee problems, I find this uncomfortable and suspect others with knee problems or poor hip flexibility may feel the same way.

The handles are also shorter than most Bandits; the narrower grip makes the lats (the big muscles in your upper back that proper rowing form requires you to use) slightly harder than pulling with your shoulders and arms. And, while it’s not a deal breaker, the seats are cramped and sadly lack cushions.

There are many fun and engaging forms of rowing exercise on Ergatta. Aside from the races, I’m particularly fond of the new Vortex game, where you collect tokens and compete against other users based on how hard you row your boat. If you’re not sure what workout to do on any given day, Ergatta also offers push programs, which are goal-oriented programs that run up to 50 workouts in a row to take the guesswork out of creating your workout regimen. But while most The workouts all include a warm-up and cool-down, but no post-workout stretches are currently targeted at rowers.

Floor workouts, available through other rowers’ monthly memberships like Echelon Row-S and Peloton Row, and boot camp-style workouts that move between floors and rowers, aren’t available here either. And I had to dig into the library to find workouts that utilized all four intensity zones, which were just more varied workouts with endurance and intervals instead of just two zones like interval training.

That said, rowing workouts can be both challenging and fun. But Ergatta will never replace all your workout needs.

There are two interval-based solo visual formats on Ergatta: Pulse and Meteor. Pulse’s look is simple—the screen is divided into four sections representing the four intensity zones, and a rotating circle moves through the zones to show you which zone you’re in—but it keeps you on track and in your intensity zone. Personally, I’m not a fan of Meteor. I wear glasses for reading and working on my computer (but not exercising) and the ball flies across the screen with little dots on its tail that look a little fuzzy and unpleasant.

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The Ergatta comes closest to the Aviron rower ($2,199), which also uses game-based workouts. It’s slightly more expensive ($2,499) and monthly membership ($25 vs. $29), but the Ergatta is a foot shorter, smaller and more attractive when folded up, and offers the best water resistance.

Rowers like the Echelon Row-S ($1,599), Hydrow ($2,495) and Peloton Row ($3,195) offer instructor-led workouts, which are a whole different workout experience. But it’s worth noting that monthly memberships cost slightly more ($35, $38, and $44), and they offer plenty of other forms of exercise besides rowing.

The Ergatta is probably the most beautiful piece of gym equipment you can find, though in some cases it’s more about its sleek looks than its ergonomics. Add in the engaging and clever way it forces users to do interval training with fun game-based workouts like Race and Vortex, and it can be a great addition to any home gym.

While it provides a strong set of introductory material for beginner rowers, the training is difficult; although intensity zones are individualized, I can see repeated dips into the end or falling out of assigned zones for novice exercisers become frustrating.

But for gamers looking to change up their workouts or boring ex-athletes who need a tickle to tickle, look no further: Ergatta is it.

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