A Review of the Apollo II Rowing Machine

Apollo II Rowing Machine

Apollo II Reserve AR Water Rowing Machine, from First Degree Fitness

GRADING Overall Score: A Cost: B  (at $1199 the machine is kind of pricey, but I consider it a long-term investment in my health!) Recommended?: Yes

Like many of you, I went into an initial panic when Covid-19 closed my gym indefinitely, back in March. As days went by, and as the pandemic grew, I worried less about my fitness and cared most about staying Covid free. I also enjoyed the extended break from the gym, savoring the extra time I had each day. About 4 weeks into our shutdown, my switch flipped and I insisted on having some sort of home cardio machine. Walking wouldn’t be strenuous enough for me and running is too hard on my knees. Apparently everyone else had the same idea and cardio machines were sold out everywhere, leaving shelves and online inventories empty.

Choosing a Rowing Machine

After settling on a rowing machine (due to the low height of my basement ceiling), I decided on a Concept 2 rower. Concept 2 rowers are extremely popular machines that work with air resistance. Unfortunately, as with all businesses, Covid stopped production of Concept rowers and they were out of stock everywhere. I settled on putting myself on the Concept 2 wait list and continued to look for a machine as good or better than the Concept 2.

Eventually, I started looking at water rowers, and discovered the First Degree Fitness Apollo II Reserve AR Rowing Machine. (Link to rower at Amazon,  note that I do make a small commission for purchases made through the following link, but this doesn’t affect you or your pricing.)  After two months of rowing with this machine, this is my complete review: Apollo II Rowing Machine The Apollo Rowing Machine is made up of a water flywheel that spins in a water tank, using water and paddles to create resistance. Here is some quick info on the Apollo II Rower:
  • it’s a commercial-grade rower
  • all you hear is the soothing sound of rushing water
  • it’s constructed of a wooden frame, which dampens any vibrations from the machine
  • has comfortable handles
  • has resistance levels from 1-5
  • maximum user weight 330 lbs.
  • relatively quiet machine with a maintenance-free belt drive
While doing research for this post, I’ve read some negative comments about the Apollo’s bungee cord that runs under the seat for recoil tension. Other rowing machines have chains instead of bungee cords and people like the chain’s durability. I have had no issues with the cord and actually enjoy how much quieter the bungee cord is, rather than a chain. I also don’t need the cord to be super durable as I’m the only one using it a few hours a week. Overall, I’m very pleased with the quality of the rower, the amount of resistance it provides, and the customer service at First Degree Fitness. The Apollo II Rowing Machine has proven to be just the cardio (and sanity!) I need to get my through my gym’s closure and the frightening reality of this Covid pandemic. Have you picked up a rower during quarantine? Do you like it? Leave any questions or comments below! Happy Travels, Julie Note: I was not compensated in any way from First Degree Fitness for this review.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information provided on this web site is for general information purposes only. Disclaimer: EscapingtheMidwest.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I make a small commission for purchases made through these links but it doesn’t affect you or your pricing.


  1. Noel | 23rd Jun 21

    Thank you for your review of the FD Apollo rower! I’m planning on getting one but reviews of FD rowers are scarce. This has helped me go through with my purchase.

    • Julie | 23rd Jun 21

      Glad this helped you! I use the rower a few times a week and still love it. Enjoy!

  2. Jason | 19th Sep 21

    Hi. I’m glad you like the rower. I just bought a second-hand Apollo AR but the previous owner used up all the tablets. Do you know what the tablets are? Thanks!

    • Julie | 20th Sep 21

      The tablets are called Aquatabs. I looked them up on Amazon and found the link to them here: https://amzn.to/3EBgwPy The manual suggests contacting your nearest distributor of First Degree Fitness products or their website at firstdegreefitness.com but the ones I found (on the link) look exactly the same. I hope this helps!

  3. Jason | 20th Sep 21

    Thank you Julie!

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