Concept2 Rower Review

Concept2 Rower ReviewThe Concept2 Indoor Rowing Machine

The Concept2 Rower is a tried and true piece of classic fitness equipment that remains just as relevant today as when it came out decades ago.  Commonly called the Ergometer or the Erg Rower, you’ll find Concept2 Rowers pretty much anywhere fitness is being pursued. Commercial gyms, personal training studios, group exercise classes, CrossFit boxes, and home gyms are all common places to sight a trusty Concept2 Rower in a place of honor. If you’ve never done indoor rowing before, you may wonder what the deal is.

Who are Concept2 Rowers good for? How do they work? How can they help you burn fat, build muscle, and improve athletic performance? What are the benefits of Concept2 Rowers that differentiate them from other rowers and other types of cardio training equipment? And are they a worthwhile investment for your home gym setup?

Keep reading our Concept2 Rower review for answers to all of the above; for a certified personal trainer’s honest opinion on the benefits, limitations, and home gym value of the Concept2 Rower.

A Brief History of the Concept2 Rower

history of rowing machines


Since their inception all the way back in 1981 with the Model A, Concept2 Rowers have undergone a steady evolution toward the fully optimized piece of equipment they are today. The concept of simulating a water-based rowing workout within an indoor context has remained essentially the same, but additional safety, accessibility, and practicality features have been added over time.

The Concept2 company was founded by Olympic rowers and brothers Pete and Dick Dreissigacker. Though the company started with just the two brothers building oars and rowing machines out of the back of an old bread truck (no joke), it has now grown to a respectable yet still-humble company of under 100 employees who manufacture, market, and sell their erg rowers and rowing equipment.

The price for these high-quality machines remains reasonable, as you can purchase directly from the company or through Amazon for essentially the same price. By cutting out numerous middlemen, what you are paying for is the quality of the machine rather than a bunch of bogus marketing hype.

I have a lot of respect for the corporate citizenship of the Concept2 company. All of their products are made in the USA in the state of Vermont. Unlike other fitness equipment manufacturers who either don’t seem to care about the environment or just talk the talk, Concept2 really walks the walk of an eco-friendly business. Their goal is to become a zero-carbon footprint factory; solar panels supply over a quarter of their plant’s electricity; they recycle paper, plastic, foam, and carbon, and the PM5 performance monitors from their machines can be recycled as eWaste rather than simply thrown away if they stop working. This is a company you can feel good about supporting when you buy their products, which is somewhat unique in the fitness industry at large.

Popular Concept2 Rower Models on the Market

concept2 indoor rowing machine reviewThough you can still find used older models on the market, there are three still being produced at the time of our Concept 2 rower review: the Model D, the Model E, and the Dynamic. You can expect to spend between $950 to around $1300 for a brand new Concept2 depending on which model you go for. Amazon offers free Prime shipping which cuts down on the overall cost of procuring one for your home gym.

The Model D is the most basic and inexpensive model. It’s also the model most commonly seen in commercial gyms. Features include a sturdy chain, rail, and body as well as a flywheel housed within a solid case for safety during operation. While the Model D sits pretty low-slung to the ground, the Model E sits up a bit higher, making it easier for folks with joint issues or weaker leg muscles to get up and down. It has a slightly higher price tag, but boasts boosted features such as an upgraded chain and body as well as a fancier finish. Aesthetically, the Model E could be said to look a little nicer, so it’s probably a better choice if your home gym space consists of a high-traffic zone such as a corner of your living room or bedroom.

Finally, the Dynamic is the newest Concept2 indoor rower available. While the Model D and Model E have your feet in a fixed position while the seat slides back and forth along a rail, the Dynamic has the feet actually moving while the butt is fixed in place. If you’re really used to the motion of the Model D and E like I was, expect a bit of a learning curve when trying the Dynamic!

If you’re wanting to most closely approximate the body dynamics of rowing on actual water, i.e., you are actually a competitive or recreational rower and plan to use a Concept2 for some of your training, you will do best to go for the Dynamic rather than the Model D or Model E, as the Dynamic has been designed to feel a lot like actually rowing.

All models currently include a PM5 performance monitor so you can track things like distance, speed, pace, watts, and calories and access preset workouts. You can also save your workouts either in internal memory or on a flash drive to compare your performance over time. There are also cute little games to help motivate kids (or grown ups who want a little break from regular training). Two D batteries last a long time in the PM5 because the monitor also draws power from the spinning flywheel.

Benefits of Rowing Workouts on the Concept2

If you haven’t tried indoor rowing, you might wonder if it’s really a good workout, if it’s safe for people of different levels, and if it’s enjoyable. I say a great big YES to all of the above. And out of all the indoor rower models I have tried, I think Concept2 is absolutely the best value for your money.

Quick benefits of indoor rowing workouts, best performed on a Concept2 Rower:

Many Muscles Are Trained During Rowing Workouts

muscles trained rowing machinesA major myth about rowing workouts is that they just work the upper body. False! Rowing workouts call heavily upon the lower body as well. When you finish a good rowing session, if you’re doing it right, your glutes, quads, and hams should feel toasted, not just your arms and back. In fact, rowing workouts train both pushing and pulling movement patterns and significantly work nine-plus major muscle groups: lats, mid-back, biceps, quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, shoulders, and triceps all get up in the mix during a good row.

Rowing Workouts are Great for Cardio Training and Cross Training

rowing workouts cardio trainingWhether you want to get better at actually rowing on water, you want to cross train for other sports like running, cycling, martial arts, and weightlifting, or you just want to get in better shape in general, you’ll find that the Concept2 Rower will be of great assistance in advancing you toward your goals. No matter what you want to accomplish, you will want some form of cardio training, and rowing is an excellent choice either as your main form of cardio or as an adjunct modality to give your body and mind some much-needed variety.

Rowing is Fun, Accessible, and Meditative

concept2 rowers are funWhether you’re rowing alone or in a group exercise setting, many people, myself included, really enjoy indoor rowing. Compared to other indoor cardio machine options, it gives you a break from the monotony of running on a treadmill, pedaling on an elliptical, or pumping away on a stationary bike. With as little as 10 minutes of instruction and practice, almost anyone can learn the correct way to row so they can exercise on the Concept2 rower safely and effectively. Additionally, the repetitive yet not-boring motion, the gliding feeling, and the soft whirring of the flywheel all add up to what I consider a pleasantly meditative experience!

Who Can Benefit From Using the Concept2?

Who Can Benefit From Using the Concept2?As I’ve mentioned, the Concept2 Rower is an appropriate choice for exercisers of all different levels. Anyone from an absolute beginner up to an elite athlete can get something out of adding rowing workouts to their fitness program. With a little bit of instruction and practice, a newbie can learn to row safely and effectively in just one session. Through increasing workload by rowing faster or at higher resistances, advanced exercisers can train their cardiovascular system, their competitive rowing skills, and nine-plus major muscle groups.

The Concept2 Rower is suitable even for folks who have a significant amount of weight to lose, which you cannot say of all cardio equipment out there, especially affordable models for the home. All Concept2 models currently on the market can bear a user weight of up to 500 pounds. A lot of other cardio equipment I see has a max user weight of only 250 or 300 pounds. Since rowing burns a lot of calories while building up lean mass, it’s a great choice for people seeking to lose a good deal of weight or just those last five pounds.

Six Reasons Why I Personally Love the Concept2 Rower

Why I Love the Concept2 RowerAs you might have already ascertained so far in this article, I’m a pretty big fan of the Concept2 Rower! I have been using it for years for my own workouts and also when instructing my personal training clients. I don’t have one in my own home merely because of space issues and the fact that I essentially live in commercial gyms so I have easy access to them at work. But if my life situation was different and I was going to invest in a full home gym setup, the Concept2 would be at the top of my list.

The Concept2 truly stands out from the competition in many ways, and is a great investment for home gyms, commercial gyms, and personal training studios.

Six reasons I’m so into rowing workouts in general and the Concept2 in particular:

#1. Low-Impact and Suitable for Folks of All Levels

Rowing workouts are low impact and should not be at all troubling on your joints unless you have certain pre-existing issues or your rowing form is way off.  Rowing is also suitable for beginning through advanced exercisers; beginners can scale it down by keeping the resistance low, and rowing slow and steady. More advanced exercisers can work with higher resistances, faster rates of speed, and interval training schemes.

#2. Great for Cross Training

Many different types of athletes will benefit from adding rowing to their regimen. For example, rowing is a low-impact alternative to running that allows you to continue training your cardiovascular system without overtaxing your joints. For cyclists, rowing strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, and low back which may suffer from the ongoing quad emphasis during bike workouts.

#3. Easily Fits Different Body Sizes

Rowing is a friendly option for people of different heights and limb lengths. Even people with very short or very long legs should find the Concept2 quite amenable to their personal dimensions. I have a small female client with quite short legs who gets frustrated with other machines’ inability to really fit her right. She loves the Concept2 because it accommodates her size.

#4. Provides an Efficient Cardio, Strength, and Fat Loss Workout

Rowing combines cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory training with strength/endurance training for your back, legs, and core muscles. Since so many muscles are being recruited to complete the movement, rowing burns a lot of calories, making it a great choice for fat loss while sparing muscle. An hour of rowing burns between 400-800 calories. Since you’ll be building lean muscle during rowing workouts, especially in the lower body and the back, you’ll be burning more calories all the time, making weight easier to take off and keep off over time.

#5. Improves Functional Strength, Core Strength, and Posture

Rowing gives you a lot of bang for your buck. You will be pushing and pulling while engaging your core, improving all of these movement patterns. Through strengthening the core and the mid, low, and upper back muscles, regular rowing goes a long way toward developing good posture and a healthy and toned back.

#6. Durability and Ease of Maintenance

As I mentioned above, I have been using various Concept2 models for years. During my time as a gym floor staff employee, I was also directly in charge of ensuring their maintenance (hint: none really). Beyond simply wiping off sweat and accumulated dust and oiling the chain regularly with food-grade mineral oil (which is nontoxic, cheap, and can be bought at the hardware store or kitchen store) these things are essentially hassle-free. There should be no major maintenance required unless something really wacky and unexpected goes down. There is a lot that can go wrong with heavy use on other types of cardio equipment, but these Concept2s are serious tanks that can take day-in and day-out commercial use with little complaint. Home gym users in particular can expect incredible longevity from this machine with precious little effort. Models also offer between a two-year and five-year warranty period.

Drawbacks to the Concept2 Rower

Drawbacks to the Concept2 RowerNo product can do everything all the time; every rose, no matter how lovely, has its thorns! Of course, the Concept2 Rower is no exception. However, there are only a couple issues worth pointing out, and neither one is even close to insurmountable with proper planning.

The first potential drawback of the Concept2 Rower is that it’s not exactly small. You will need about 9 feet of floor space lengthwise to operate the D and E models (though the Dynamic only requires about 7.5 feet). This could be problematic if you have only a very small floor space to work with. However, the Concept2s can all be easily stored standing upright, which means their floor space profile is only a fraction of the above when not in use.

The second item of note (and you probably know this already) is that while the Concept2 provides an amazing cardio workout and muscle strength/endurance workout, it’s not the only piece of equipment you could possibly need for your total body fitness. It ranks among the elite few pieces of all-time best cardio equipment out there, but if you’re setting up an all-bases-covered home gym, you’ll need to set aside some of your budget for (as an example) some quality dumbbells, kettlebells, a weight bench, a pull up bar (with Monster bands if you can’t pull your own body weight yet), and various accoutrements. If you’re budget is a little higher, you can also flesh out your setup with complete home gym options such as a Total Gym or a Bowflex Home gym.

My point is that cardio alone (even high-quality cardio that includes a full-body strength component like that which is offered by the Concept2) simply does not substitute for proper strength training and flexibility training, so bear that in mind when fitness planning and budgeting for home exercise equipment.

Concept2 Rower Review: The Trainer’s Takeaway

Concept2 Rower verdictIndoor rowing is safe and effective for almost anyone looking to lose weight, build lean muscle, and train their cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory systems. It can work well as the foundation of your cardio training program and is also awesome for cross training or just adding variety if you get bored with more traditional forms of cardio.

If you want a lot of bang for your buck when investing in the cardio component of your home gym, look no further than the Concept2 Rower. In my opinion, this is the best indoor rower on the market and the price is completely reasonable for what you’re getting.

Thank you for reading our Concept2 Rower review, happy rowing! 🙂

Author Profile: Mike Behnken

Mike Behnken is a personal trainer who holds multiple NASM certifications and a MS in Exercise Science. Mike loves fitness, travel, and photography among many other interests.

Disclaimer: The views of the author are his or her own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ask The Trainer.
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