LIT Strength Machine review – A rowing machine… and much more!

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REVIEW – Look how tired I am! I’ve been testing the LIT Strength Machine, a multifunctional rowing machine that serves as a platform for all sorts of full-body workouts. Cardio, strength training, barre, pilates, rowing… this machine claims to do it all. Let’s see how it works in practice. To the review!

What is it?

The LIT Strength Machine is a water-driven rowing machine that includes multiple attachment points and accessories that turn it into an exercise platform for strength development, pilates, cardio, and physical therapy.

What’s in the box?

LIT Method offers the Strength Trainer in a number of different packages. My test kit came  the rowing machine & tablet attachment, but the base resistance band kit was upgraded to the LIT Axis resistance bands which I will be reviewing separately. See “Accessories and Upgrades” below for more information on the different package options.

Hardware Specs

  • 7′ long  by by 1.75′ wide by 1.6′ tall
  • 70 pounds assembled (added water brings the total weight to 89 pounds)
  • 450 pound weight limit
  • Steel frame with steel/aluminum construction

Design and features

The LIT Strength Machine is a heavy-duty unit, built on a steel frame that still comes in at a relatively lightweight 70 pounds before adding water. Your journey begins with assembling the beastie. The good news here is that the main body is pre-assembled. You’ll add the seat, the seat rail, and the rear foot of the unit with a couple of screws and caps.

You’ll also do some light assembly for the tablet/phone holder, which in my unit comes as an attachment to the body. This piece has different brackets to accommodate different sized devices from phones to larger tablets.

After reviewing a number of different exercise machines recently, I was pleasantly surprised by the detail the LIT Method folks put into simplifying the assembly process here. There is a set of video tutorials available online in addition to printed instructions. All the machining is precise and tight. All the tools you need are included. It’s 15 minutes from start to finish and you’re ready to add water. Completed assembly shots below:

The LIT Strength Machine is a water rower, using a tank full of water to provide resistance that feels more like natural rowing. You’ll need to fill that tank with 19 pounds of water to get started. A manual pump is provided with the kit along with treatment tablets that you can drop in if the water gets cloudy over time. I decided to fill mine with distilled water, and found that I used just under 4 gallons to meet the water line on the side of the tank (again, a video is available for filling instructions if you prefer).

This is a remarkably solid, sturdy unit. That thick frame anchors the entire assembly for a firmly planted feel. Every part feels over-engineered for long-term reliability. The beefy foot platforms, for example, are built into the frame. You can also adjust the strap position for a wide range of foot sizes.

Here’s a close-up of the base at the front of the unit. While the size & bulk look intimidating, you can easily lift it up from the back end, roll it on those wheels to a corner, and store it standing up. The sealed water tank doesn’t lose a drop of water in this process.

A thick nylon webbed strap drives the action, anchored by the burly contoured handle with rubber grips for sweaty hands.

The seat is comfortably padded with a long rail designed for users up to 6’9″ tall. Add in the adjustable foot pads and 400 pound weight limit and you’ll find that this device will easily accommodate larger humans.

The watery heart of the LIT Strength Machine uses a unique two-chambered tank that enables 4 different levels of resistance (10 pounds to 40 pounds) by moving water between the inside and outside chamber. You switch the dial and get moving, and the water transition happens as you row.

You’re also going to find a number of D-rings that are part of the frame. See them in the pic below? Look to the base, right next to the end caps on those horizontal base bars.

There are four pairs of these attachment points (two more on the back foot at the end of the seat rail) that you’ll use to connect your resistance bands for more exercise options that work on the machine or use the machine as a base platform.

The LIT Strength Machine comes with an impressive warranty that covers the frame for life and the parts for 5 years. A pack of chlorine tablets is also included with your purchase; you’ll drop one in every year to keep your water clear.

The LIT On Demand Digital Platform

The LIT On Demand Platform is a subscription-based service that provides access to tutorials, live classes, thousands of on-demand classes, performance measurement, and cumulative performance analytics. Note that I am using the app on my iPad in these screenshots. I’m also using the “Pro” membership, which includes access to the LIT Axis and Strength Machine program sets (I’m reviewing the LIT Axis Smart Resistance Bands separately), so some screenshots may differ based on your subscription type.

You’ll start by putting in some basic data (age, height, weight) and exercise goals. Your home screen will be populated with recommended workouts based on your preferences and your ongoing program usage.

Keep scrolling to see your cumulative history including your workouts and cumulative achievements. Note that this data includes information from the LIT Axis, which is available as an add-on in some packages. I do not have the heart monitor in my test kit, but that adds even more performance data if you buy it.

There are thousands of programs available in categories such as strength training, endurance/cardio, flexibility, upper body, abs, pilates, recovery, etc. You can browse the categories or apply a robust filtering system to narrow your choices by duration, intensity, equipment type, and more.

Exercise programs may include combinations of rowing, bodyweight mat work, and/or using the resistance bands that you connect to the base of the LIT Strength Trainer. You can pick and choose which options you want with the filters.

Once you choose a class, the format is pretty standard. You get a summary of the class that includes reviews from other members. You’ll also get the opportunity to connect the Bluetooth sensors here for the LIT Axis and/or heart monitor if you have those options.

Now your program begins. They all follow a consistent format. The infographic in the upper left shows the focus of the program. You get a timer with a pause/resume feature, and your measurements of activity at the bottom of the screen. The instructor begins each program with a brief orientation and warm up. Then you’ll go to work and finish with a stretch/cooldown.

As you complete the classes you’ll see the recorded results and get an opportunity to provide feedback on the class. You’ll also see a little gamification happening in the form of badges that you accumulate as you hit milestones like number of classes and weight lifted.

There is a whole lot more to cover in the app including “open gym” workouts and progressive programs you can work through that build on intensity and variety to work towards specific goals. The LIT Method team is continually tweaking the interface and adding new features to add value & performance.

The On Demand Platform for the LIT Strength Machine starts at $24.99 a month, with a discount for an annual subscription.

Accessories & Upgrades

The LIT Method Strength Trainer base unit includes a pair of resistance bands with handles and ankle cuffs that enable you to do the majority of the programs available through the LIT Method App. Available upgrades and accessories include:

  • Upgrading the bands to the LIT Axis Smart Resistance bands (which I am reviewing separately);
  • A strength bar for squats, deadlifts, and bench presses;
  • Speed bands, which operate like battle ropes that you attach to the strength trainer
  • A heart monitor that pairs withe the app
  • Floor mats
  • Power bands for increased resistance

These items are available in bundled packages at initial purchase, or you can purchase specific items separately. Check the web site (link below) for available options.

Performance

I recently tested a rowing machine that I thought was pretty good… until I compared it to the LIT Strength Machine. Here’s a shot of them side by side. You’re paying quite a bit more for the LIT unit, but you can see the difference in the design and build. Heavier framing and beefier components are clearly apparent. It also translates to performance; the LIT Strength Machine was much more stable and planted in my tests. The rowing action was also smoother & more comfortable. My family members all commented that they felt the LIT Strength Machine was better to work with for extended periods of time.

You’ll also feel a significant difference in the 4 resistance levels as you move from 10 pounds of resistance to 40 pounds depending on the program you’re running. It’s no joke!

While the LIT Strength Machine is a solid performer on its own as a rowing machine, the real value happens when you combine the rower, the resistance bands, and the programs available through the LIT On Demand Platform. The LIT Method team gets super creative at providing a surprisingly deep & varied set of programs that will test you and your limits, regardless of experience or fitness level. Standard rowing, of course, is on the menu.

But most programs don’t just hammer you with constant rowing! You’ll work in a variety of different exercises to work different muscle groups, depending on what you’re after. Different types of rows, for example, change angles or switch to an underhand grip.

You’ll also see a lot of isolation moves for strength like high rows, low rows, or shoulder raises like I am demonstrating here.

Here’s an example of one handed rows with a twist for core engagement.

You want bicep curls? A number of programs work these into your routine. They REALLY get tough if you up the level of resistance…

You’ll also see a bunch of options that integrate the resistance bands into your programs, using the different anchor points on the LIT Strength Trainer. This program had me mixing in rowing sequences with squat/rows off the machine.

This one was from a chest workout that incorporated one-armed flys. The anchor points remain stable as you work your way around the LIT Strength Machine, even when you step away from the unit for more resistance.

This is just a sampling of the 500+ different exercises that the LIT Method folks claim work 86% of your body’s muscles in one form or another. I believe it. I’ve seen programs that use the seat for ab rollouts or plank/pike routines, ab crunches from the rowing position, chest presses with the bands (seated, facing the rear of the machine), and much more. You’ll continually find new things to explore.

The LIT in the name stands for “Low Impact Training,” and that’s a key element of the program design here. One of their mottoes is “no running, no jumping, no weights.” You’re going to work as hard, but the low-impact nature of the programs and tools enables you to continually challenge yourself in different ways while building on your previous results.

The variety of programs also allows you to get really creative with your time and objectives. I find myself continually switching things up with different program lengths, body part focuses, and intensities. I particularly like combining different programs in the same session for more variety. I also find that there are a number of progressive programs you can use to learn new exercise programs (like pilates) and develop your skills over time.

I’ve been very pleased with the overall performance of the LIT Strength Machine, with only two minor nitpicks. One is that the resistance dial can be a reach when you’re locked into the rower (I’m 5’10”), so you gotta stretch a bit. I also find that the tablet holder on my model is a little clunky with the armature. It looks like an aftermarket design, and can wobble a little bit. On their web site the newer models for the LIT Strength Trainer seem to have corrected this by putting it on a bracket positioned above the center frame bar.

What I like

  • Outstanding construction and build quality
  • Water-based rower provides smooth & comfortable action
  • Outstanding On Demand app
  • Versatile device that enables hundreds of exercises with the appropriate accessories
  • Bluetooth enabled accessories provide actionable analytics

What I’d change

  • No major issues to be had!

Final thoughts

The LIT Strength Trainer is pretty great as a rowing machine on its own, but I think the real value here is when you combine it with the accessories and the On Demand platform as a complete fitness solution. I skipped the weights and other cardio options for a month to use this setup exclusively and have been very happy with my progress. I’m learning new things, and I’m continually finding new ways to challenge myself. It’s an expensive investment, but the results have been worth it in my testing so far!

I noted earlier that the LIT Method team is continually tweaking the products and the online program, so you may see updates to both that are not reflected here. I’d check the website at the link below for the latest on product offerings and pricing.

Price: Packages start at $2,000 (various accessory packages available). The On Demand Platform membership starts at $24.99 a month.
Where to buy: Go to the product page at the LIT Method web site
Source: The sample of this product was provided by LIT Method.

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