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Ergatta Wants To Transform Your Fitness With Its Game-Based Rowers

In a home-workout landscape where content is king, Ergatta has taken a bold approach.

What if, instead of perky instructors pushing you to get one more rep or go just a bit farther and faster, it was just you and a little marker on the screen that you had to try and keep in a certain zone? What if, instead of a leaderboard, you had other members racing against you in an interactive kart-style race? Or you were all trying to siphon points from a collective pool? Or maybe you just had to try and match the rhythm?

That’s what awaits you when you strap your feet into one of Ergatta’s rowers. Both the original Ergatta and new Ergatta Lite are surprisingly rustic at a glance. There’s no gleaming metal frames and magnetic resistance here but, instead, hardwood frames and a water reservoir that provides resistance.

The classic appearance belies an innovative training program.

The Hardware

One glance at Ergatta’s rowers and you know that they’re not your typical home workout equipment. The original rower is crafted from cherrywood while the frame of the Lite is made from oak.

Both use a refillable water reservoir instead of magnetic resistance. The advantage of using water over magnets is that you get even, natural resistance throughout your stroke, like if you were rowing on the water. This engages your core and arms more and takes pressure off your back. It’s something I’ve noticed. In the month I’ve been using Ergatta, I’ve not had the same lower back pain that I felt when using the Hydrow or Peloton machines. The auditory feedback you get from a water rower is nice too, though if you have light sleepers in your home, they may wish for the whisper-quiet of a magnetic rower.

As far as differences between the two Ergatta rowers, the Lite is a little less bulky, with a slimmer, shorter frame. If you’re on the tall side, you’ll want to stick to the original Ergatta Rower, which can accommodate people up to 6 feet 8 inches.

The Lite has a redesigned seat as well, which is a big point in its favor. The seat of the original Ergatta Rower is awful. It wasn’t until I found a YouTube video that suggested flipping it to face the other way that I found it functional at all. The Lite’s seat is molded so that your legs aren’t constantly hitting a raised lip.

However, if you want a rower that isn’t low to the floor, you’ll want to stick with the original Ergatta Rower. It’s the only one compatible with their optional high-rise kit that raises the frame off the ground. It gives the machine a profile more like competitor’s rowing machines.

That’s pretty much it for hardware differences. Both rowers easily fold up and out of the way (and don’t need a wall anchor since they have a substantially low center of gravity). Both have a 17-inch HD screen to deliver content. The audio output of the tablet is underwhelming but that’s why Ergatta recommends pairing Bluetooth headphones for the best audio experience. Still, for a machine starting at $1,499, I was expecting a little better.

One note: theoretically, Ergatta is also compatible with your Apple Watch for heart rate monitoring during workouts. But I couldn’t get this beta feature to work while I was evaluating the rower.

So what about the programming itself?

The Software

What if, instead of classes and programs, your exercise platform only offered games? Would you still have the same incentive? Would it inspire you to push yourself like a trainer-led class does?

The answer is complicated, if there even is an answer.

Every person’s fitness journey is different. One person’s fitness zen is another’s tedious torture. However, if you’ve ever found yourself wishing that your workouts could be more like a game of Mario Kart, Ergatta could be the change you’re looking for.

The competitive games are strongly motivational. There’s just something about seeing someone creep up from behind to pull ahead in a race or get more points per round that drives you to dig deeper, rowing harder and faster.

But training fast and hard isn’t the way to develop overall fitness. In fact, the majority of your fitness journey should be more mundane endurance training, with HIIT and variable effort workouts thrown in to test your mettle. They’re the cherries on the endurance pie.

For me, this is where Ergatta’s “game only” model gets shaky.

Ergatta has a vast library of training programs. Each uses their gamified interface to take you through a plan design to achieve a certain goal, whether that’s improving your overall fitness, speeding up, or increasing endurance. The problem is, when you take away the competitors, the appeal of keeping a little ball in a specific zone wears off fairly quickly.

The training programs don’t have TRON-like landscapes or chaotic arenas in which you’re collecting rings. It’s just you, your effort represented by a little ball on the screen, and whatever music is on the playlist you picked.

A quick word about Ergatta’s music. It’s serviceable, but there’s been many times when I wished for in-workout audio controls so I could skip a track. Especially since they recommend connecting to Bluetooth audio, which usually have some sort of music control mechanism (be it haptic or otherwise), it’d be nice if I could trigger it during my workout.

For shorter workouts, the gamified approach is fine, if even welcome. Sometimes you don’t want chatter, you just want a quick workout. But during longer endurance workouts I find myself longing for the instruction or motivation or even just inane stories about their pets that you get with a live trainer. Oh, and reminders about form. I almost always find that I’m cheating when form is brought up.

To that end, Ergatta just launched an AI coach via their app. You’ll want to get a sturdy platform or tripod to rest your phone on but then it’s just a matter of pointing your phone at the rower and working out. Once you’re done, you’ll get form feedback just like you do on Peloton’s rower. It’s a handy way to see where you need to tighten things up.

Is Ergatta For You?

Ergatta is a fantastic platform. I really enjoy the water-based resistance as opposed to the magnetic resistance of other rowers. However, I have to knock off points for Ergatta’s sub-par display and awkward seat. Those keep it from being my favorite rower of the three I’ve evaluated in the past few months.

And while I find myself more engaged by an instructor-led training platform, if you find yourself frequently annoyed by trainers and you’re already comfortable with rowing, Ergatta offers a substantial alternative. The company is constantly updating its competitive and training programs, so there’s always some new flavor of the core gamified workouts. Plus, it’s easy to find and curate like-minded fitness friends to challenge overall.

The races and head-to-head competitions are the best I’ve seen on any platform (which is probably why Peloton ran a beta with some of Ergatta’s programs on their rower in Q4 of last year). If you’re the type of person that craves live competition more than anything else, Ergatta is going to let you scratch that itch.

The Ergatta Lite starts at $1,499 and the original Ergatta Rower is $2,099. You can find out more about both on the Ergatta website.

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