CrossFit® training has become very popular in recent years. This type of overall training is a core strength and toning program. It is designed to optimize strength, stamina, endurance, and other key components of complete, total body exercise and conditioning for any age or fitness level.
One key component of Crossfit training is rowing. The reason is that it simulates so many core movements of your body and uses so many muscles.
Rowing is full body movement that exercises every muscle group in your body. Whether your goal is to get fit, lose weight, or both, a rowing machine can help get you there.
Click the item in the table below to skip to your most pressing question, or continue to read the whole article.
- 1 What is a Rower Machine?
- 2 Why Use an Air Rowing Machine?
- 3 Why Use a Rowing Machine?
- 4 What Are Rowing Machine Benefits?
- 5 We Highly Recommend the Concept 2 Model D
- 6 Why Use a Rower at Home?
- 7 How to use a Rowing Machine
- 8 What Not to do with a Rowing Machine
- 9 Interval Training on a Rower
- 10 What is the Best Rowing Machine?
What is a Rower Machine?
A rower is an ergometer or erg machine, so called because it measures the amount of energy used as you exercise.
All rower machine designs have a brake or energy damper mechanism connected to some sort of handle. Rowers put their feet on a surface that is connected to the damper. Usually, a seat is attached to a rail mechanism, where it slides back and forth as a rowing motion is simulated. The machine’s display will calculate the user’s energy usage, and other workout data.
Why Use an Air Rowing Machine?
Air rowers are the prevalent type of rower made today. We believe air resistance is superior to the constant pressure of magnetic resistance.
Air rowing machines use a flywheel to generate air resistance. With air resistance, your stroke begins at one level of force. Momentum builds and as you pull back all the way at the end of your stroke. Resistance increases as you pull harder.
Resistance is adjustable, letting you select the force compatible with your fitness needs and your physical capabilities. But as stated above, this is not the only way resistance is created. Resistance will increase if you pull harder and row faster. So as you build muscle mass, and increase your fitness, you are able to increase resistance as you row. It can be a never-ending cycle, in a good way.
This is the main benefit of an air rowing machine. You are not stuck at any given level. You control the machine as you become more fit. You are able to expend a lot more effort than you would with the constant pressure of a magnetic resistance unit.
If you are primarily concerned with your health and wellness, this is the best rower machine for you. However, some people feel that the noise generated by the flywheel is a concern. If noise is a primary concern of yours, this might not be the type of rower you should choose.
A magnetic resistance rower uses a brake in the flywheel to generate resistance. Electromagnets engage the brake in the flywheel, creating the resistance, which remains constant. So no matter how hard you pull or how fast you row, the amount of energy you use stays the same.
Air rowers mimic a real rowing action, giving more responsive resistance and more freedom of movement.
And since the resistance increases with the intensity of your workout, you will burn more calories stroke for stroke than with a magnetic resistance machine.
Why Use a Rowing Machine?
On the market long before treadmills, ellipticals, and stair climbers, rowers lost popularity when these other types of exercise machines were developed. But recently they have been recognized as a complete full-body exercise machine, and rowing machines have come back in vogue.
Low impact, they are great for those with arthritis or other conditions that make walking or running impossible. Many orthopedists recommend rowers for their patients who should not be putting frequent or more pressure on already injured joints.
Which muscles are used? It’s easier to answer which muscles aren’t used! By simulating the motion of rowing, both your upper and lower body get a complete workout. From hamstrings and calves to your abs and back. Your entire body gets used, and therefore, you can quickly raise your heart rate for some great aerobic exercise.
What Are Rowing Machine Benefits?
You don’t just use your legs, as with a treadmill. A rower machine is a total fitness machine. You get a full body, low impact workout, burning between 300-400 calories in just a half hour. This is of course, dependent on your size and the intensity of the workout.
Weight loss, muscle tone, cardio, low impact, an indoor rowing machine gives you the benefits of several other exercise machines combined into one moderately priced, compact, and convenient piece of equipment.
We Highly Recommend the Concept 2 Model D
We have looked at other brands and other Concept 2 models. For a number of reasons, which you will see below, the Model D what we recommend as the best rowing machine for home use.
The best-selling rowing machine in the world, the Concept 2 rower sets the standard for indoor rowing machines. Engineered by a former Olympic rower, this model is the same one used by athletes to train for Olympic rowing. If it takes that abuse, you know it will last a lifetime in your home.
And since this is the machine that you will find in most gyms, you can rest assured that it is well constructed and a unit that keeps most people who exercise regularly quite challenged.
At first glance, it may seem that this unit is expensive, but users overwhelmingly say it is well worth the purchase price. It has an exceptionally smooth motion, and users love it. You can look at cheaper models, but if you compare the quality and features, there is just no contest.
One of our favorite features is the Performance Monitor 5 (PM5). This is THE feature that sets the Concept 2 rower above the competition. The PM5 lets you track all your fitness data, such as distance, speed, watts, and calories burned. ErgData is the PM5 app which will run on iOS and Android devices. Once connected, it uploads your data to the Concept 2 Online Logbook.
It is pre-programmed with five standard and five custom workouts. With the two connectivity features of ANT+ and Bluetooth, you can pair with compatible heart rate monitors wirelessly.
The PM5 allows you to set distances and track your rowing times over a specified time period. This is a good feature to easily see how you are progressing toward your fitness goals. If you are visually impaired, there is a verbal feature. There is also a video for beginners, which is helpful if you have never used a rowing machine before.
There is an adjustable monitor arm for the display so that you can position the monitor where you desire.
The PM5 provides the capability for machine-to-machine racing, which really puts a kink in the boredom factor of exercise at home. It also provides connectivity to smartphones and/or computers (Apple or PC via a USB flash drive which is not included). However, a separate USB flash drive is needed for each user.
A really fun feature of this rower is the games. Each of the 3 games provides a fun way to vary your workout. The Fish Game is designed for intensity modulation. The Darts Game works towards consistency in power and tempo. Target Training is similar to Darts, working towards maintaining a consistent tempo and pace, but this game lets you set your targets. Biathlon combines two sports, with races.
Another big plus with the PM5 is that it can connect to compatible RowPro software, which is sold separately. You can project the software onto your TV screen while you compete against your own previous rows, or compete with others around the world. One user described it as a virtual on-line competition. To the best of our knowledge, this feature is only available with Concept 2 rowers.
Concept 2 is a unique company. They have set up different challenges throughout the year where you can win prizes. That is a very motivating program that no other company we are aware of provides for their customers.
The display screen is backlit and lights up automatically when you start your workout routine. Though the display is small, the numbers are large and very easy to read.
The seat is a comfortable 14” high. Though several users have complained that the seat is somewhat hard and uncomfortable, others find it okay. If it doesn’t suit you, consider a small cushion. If you have never used a rowing machine, you may prefer a softer seat. But as your muscles tone, you will probably abandon the cushion.
This model features adjustable footrests and an easy-to-use rowing handle with a 10-degree bend that swivels toward or away from the user.
Engineered with a spiral damper, you can adjust the airflow to the flywheel, changing the feel of the stroke.
Some complain about the noise, which is common with an air rower. But others say how quiet it is. It may be best described as if you were outside the door of the room, you hear a muffled vacuum cleaner. Just for comparison, a treadmill is considerably more-noisy than the Model D.
The chain is nickel-plated, letting you go longer between oiling. Instructions say that you should wipe the rail daily with a cloth. If you have pets, this is probably something you will want to do.
Regular maintenance on the Model D consists of lubricating the chain after 50 hours of use. After 250 hours of use, you should perform an inspection of the chain, cord, and check for tightness of screws and nuts. You should also inspect the flywheel for dust and vacuum if necessary.
The Concept 2 is rated for a 500-pound user. Built solid, there is no wiggle on this rowing machine. The rail is 54”. Users with an inseam of 38” or greater may need an extra-long monorail. Concept 2 can provide additional information on availability if needed.
We seriously doubt that there has never been an easier machine to assemble. They even give you a screwdriver, which is the only tool you will need! Most users reported around 10 minutes for assembly.
Somewhat large at roughly 8’ x 2’, make sure you have adequate space around the rower so that it is comfortable when in use. We suggest at least 9’ x 4’ so that your arms don’t hit or rub against any obstructions. The rower easily separates into two pieces for convenient storage. The caster wheels on the front make it easy to move from your exercise location to your storage area.
When separated, the end is free standing. So beware if you have small children who could knock it over. Be sure and place it out of their reach. It can even be stored, hanging on a wall if you so choose.
It is available in either light gray or black.
If you use the feature for team training or on-water-simulation, there is an accessory which you may want. The Concept2 Slide, which is sold separately, gives you an on-water feel and allows you to connect with multiple other Concept 2 models for team training.
The warranty is 5-years on the frame, and 2-years on the PM5 and moving parts.
We have to say, that in looking over all the reviews for this model, we did not find any complaints about the Concept 2 company, which is very unusual. In fact, users report that Concept 2 is a great company to deal with. You can actually talk to a real person if you have questions or issues.
If you want to try before you buy, most YMCAs have Concept 2 rowers, and will let you check them out. Contact your local YMCA to find out if they offer this service.
Why Use a Rower at Home?
Today’s most popular lifestyle is BUSY. We all are on the run, and often just don’t have time to make it to a gym. And very, very few of us live on a lake, so we aren’t able to reap the benefits of real-life rowing.
Enter the indoor rowing machine. With the Concept 2 Model D, you can cancel that gym membership and save that monthly fee. Also, save the time and energy going to and from the gym, which is about how long it will take you to get a whole-body aerobic workout on the Concept rower. So using a rower at home can actually free up some time for other things!
It is a fun way to tone your whole body while watching the TV or listening to your favorite tunes.
You don’t have to have wear the latest gym-wear clothes, just throw on a T-shirt or some sweats, and sweat!
How to use a Rowing Machine
The first rule is to wear tight-fitting clothes. You don’t want to get material caught in the rail.
Next, center your body when you sit. Then position your feet in the footrests. Don’t let your toes hang over the top. Put both hands on the rowing bar about shoulder width apart. Put your arms out straight in front of you. Bend your knees, straighten your spine, and lean back slightly.
While you have to bend over and lean back as you row, you should always keep your spine straight. This is a very important thing to remember as you row.
Push with your feet, extending your legs while pulling with the handle bar. Then put your arms out, lean forward, and bend your legs. Aim for a flowing, smooth movement while rowing.
Use a relaxed grip on the handle bar. You don’t need to hold on for dear life. That won’t help your workout in any way.
Your knees should be aligned with your ankles. Your arms should be straight when your legs are bent, and vice versa.
A video is worth a thousand words.
Start off with a low resistance. You can adjust it higher as you feel comfortable. Start with a low number of strokes per minute, 20 per minute maximum at first. You can increase as your fitness level increase and you feel comfortable with the routine.
What Not to do with a Rowing Machine
Don’t row with your arms only.
Don’t hunch your back. Though you have to bend over, you don’t have to bend your spine.
Don’t use your arms and legs at the same time. Don’t lean back while your legs are still pushing. Don’t straighten your arms until your legs are bent.
Don’t overestimate your capability. Often people want a challenge, so they set the air flow too high. This will exhaust you before you get the benefits. A lower setting more resembles actual rowing on water.
Don’t go fast. As with any kind of strength training, you want to go slow and steady. Develop a smooth rhythm as you row.
Again, a video is priceless!
Interval Training on a Rower
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become very popular. For those not familiar with this kind of training, it is a type of exercise where you alternate short bursts of very intense exercise with longer periods of low intensity and/or rest. The intense bursts can last from a few seconds to several minutes. It may not sound hard, but if you have never tried it you will find that it is very challenging.
HIIT has been shown to improve blood pressure, heart health, and insulin sensitivity. You will lose abdominal fat, lose weight, and gain muscle mass. It is a great way to supercharge your workout on a rowing machine.
What is the Best Rowing Machine?
Our Verdict: We highly recommend the Concept 2 Rowing Machine. It is the best-selling indoor rower in the world, for good reason. The most common complaint from users is that they didn’t buy it sooner! Health is a habit, and the Model D is a great way to start. The only way this machine could get any better is if it rowed for you!
Over 800 people on Amazon have given it a 5-star rating. That is a testimonial that users are happy with this rower. We are convinced that you just won’t find a better machine. The quality of construction, all the great bells and whistles, and a workout that rivals any other, the Concept 2 Model D is a great value in home exercise equipment. CLICK HERE to buy it on Amazon.