Indoor Rowing is excellent exercise – full body but low-impact. And it can be used for steady state cardio or interval training such as HIIT.
To row indoors you will need an indoor rower.
We recommend the Concept 2 Model D Rower – it’s the one you see at the CrossFit box.
Concept 2 is the gold standard for indoor rowing machines. They have over 40 years experience designing and building exercise equipment that can be used by the novice, a world-class athlete, or anybody in between.
Therefore we think this is the best indoor rower. It’s our recommended model for use at your home or in the garage. It’s compact (requires only 9 x 4 feet of space), ergonomically designed, and works great:
And the Concept 2 Model D Rower (Click to see price at Rogue Fitness) is the best indoor rower for CrossFit style workouts, as well as rowing workouts.
Also – if you plan on doing the CrossFit Open 2019 workouts – The Concept 2 rower is the only acceptable type of rower – Xebex and others are not accepted.
In fact, the very first Open workout for 2019 (19.1) required a Concept 2 rower.
Here’s some more features:
- PM5 Performance Monitoring – The PM5 performance monitor tracks and displays all the key information you need for a great workout – Strokes Per Minute (SPM), Power Output, Time, Distance, Calories burned, and more.
- Compact storage – The unit easily separates into two pieces for storage. Caster wheels make it mobile.
- Ergonomics and Quality – Concept 2 models simply have the best ergonomics and a build quality that can’t be matched. In addition, there’s a 2 year total warranty and a 5 year frame warranty. This is well-designed, durable equipment.
The Concept 2 Online Logbook allows you to record your workouts on the Concept 2 indoor rower, and their other products (the SkiErg and BikeErg.) You can keep track of your total meters, analyze your progress, take part in challenges, and compare your results against others worldwide. You can even find a virtual (online) training partner.
Concept 2 Indoor Rower
Here’s a video showing many of the robust features of the Concept 2 Model D indoor rower.
Water Rower or Concept 2?
If you are looking for an indoor rower for your home or garage gym, you’re going to run across water rowers.
The water tank seems like a logical means of resistance since rowing is done on the water, but it does not scale in difficulty like air resistance.
You’ll also need to add water to add resistance.
And, water rowers are prone to messy failures – like the water tank breaking or otherwise leaking.
The Concept 2 is the rower used by rowing clubs, commercial gyms, etc.
The Concept 2 is easy to store, some of the water rowers are not.
We do not recommend water rowers, unless your budget is severely constrained.
And, in that case you are probably better off with a used Concept 2 rower.
Lastly, remember that the Concept 2 is the gold standard used in CrossFit competitions and the Open.
Scores from non-Concept2 rowers are not accepted.
Where To Buy A Rowing Machine
Many vendors sell the Concept 2 Model D and Model E Rowers. And you are going to get the same product no matter where you buy it. So what should you look for in the best rowing machine for sale? The best price, and ideally look for free shipping or reduced cost shipping.
Buying a used rowing machine is also a good option. The Concept 2 is a tough piece of equipment – and any unit in use for light duty, such as in a home or garage gym is going to be a good deal. Keep an eye on your local classified ads or craigslist – these rowers come up occasionally – but they go fast, sometimes selling in as little as 2 hours.
Finding a used Concept 2 rower for sale isn’t easy – but it’s not impossible and can be a great deal.
Buying a Concept 2 Rower used? Here’s some tips for checking out a used rower:
- Make sure the monitor works. Bring a battery with you – just in case the owner claims “dead batteries”.
- Look at the chain for rust
- Check the track for dents
- Check total kilometers to see how much “mileage” is on the unit. From the PM5 monitor you can access this under Information > Utilities > Next
- Jump on it and row! Does the seat glide well on the rails?
What’s the lifespan of a Concept 2 Indoor Rower?
This is hard to answer in specifics – but the Concept 2 rowers are known to last for years in heavy use commercial facilities, and hundreds of thousands of meters rowed.
This is the rower used by collegiate rowing teams, CrossFit gyms, and commercial facilities. It will stand up to daily use by dozens or hundreds of people with minimal issue.
And, if something does break or wear out – replacement parts are available directly from Concept 2 – for everything.
All this means that these rowers hold their value very well. It’s not uncommon to see a 5 year old used rower for sale for only $200 less than cost of new – they are that rugged.
Additionally, this drives down the price of other brands of used rower – because EVERYONE wants a Concept 2.
Learn How To Row with Dark Horse Academy
Once you have the rower, it’s easy to get started – just watch a few YouTube clips and start flailing away…
Or, you could enroll in the Launch Your Rowing e-Course from Dark Horse Academy.
This online course, which you can access on your computer, phone, or tablet starts with the basics.
They explain step-by-step how to get the perfect form for rowing – and they explain all the relevant terminology along the way.
What does it include? Lots of of video instruction – and this works great on your phone or a tablet like an iPad.
What drag factor should you use? What’s your 2K time? Exactly what is perfect rowing form anyways?
You can definitely figure this all out (eventually) on your own – but I found this video course to be a fun way to learn – and a great way to get motivated.
I’m happy to say after completing the course – my 2K times have improved greatly.
And perhaps more importantly, I feel like I know what I’m doing – and how I can reach my fitness goals on the rower.
Indoor Rowing Machine Accessories
A rower is a heavy piece of equipment, and you can use it indoors, but make sure to protect your flooring. The E-Z Kleen Vinyl Rower Mat is just the product you need. It’s affordable enough for home gym use, but also tough enough for pro and collegiate facilities. Sized at 3 ft. x 8-½ ft. cut (⅛” thick) it is perfect for the Concept 2 line of rowers. The industrial-strength vinyl mat protects vulnerable hardwood and laminate flooring without permanently trapping dirt and debris in the process. A unique 100% Koroseal vinyl material, combined with round rib corrugations, make the E-Z Kleen resistant to oils and easy to clean with simple soap and water. A non-slip, skid-resistant backing also ensures a stable foundation as you use your rowing machine or other comparable equipment.
Here’s another nice piece of kit that any regular indoor rower user is going to need – a Concept 2 Rower Smartphone Cradle from Rogue Fitness. It provides a convenient, safe way to keep your mobile device accessible while training. The cradle slides securely onto the top of the performance monitor (works with the PM5, PM4, or PM3), and is sized to accommodate smartphones of various lengths. The adjustable arm can hold phones as narrow as 2.25 inches in width and can stretch open to 3.5 inches in width for oversized devices such as the iPhone Plus sizes.
For an increase in comfort, check out the Rower Seat Pad. It’s die-cut ⅜” foam and uses self-adhesive backing for a quick and secure install. It offers a nice extra bit of cushion for your workout, and works with any Concept 2 rower model (A through E).
What is the Difference Between the Concept 2 Model C and Model D Rower?
Concept 2’s previous model of rower is the Model C. It was manufactured from 1993 to 2003, and is therefore no longer for sale as new equipment.
However, it’s possible you will run across a used Model C rower for sale.
Like the Model D, the mechanical aspects are quite good.
If you should find one for sale, the biggest question will be: Does the PM2 electronic monitor still work?
Upgrading a Model C to Model D specs isn’t really feasible (the monitor, handle, chain, and sprocket are all improved on the Model D), but if you find a used Model C for sale and the monitor works, it’ll probably be a solid piece of equipment.
What is the Difference Between The Model D and Model E Rower?
Also for comfort getting on and off the device check out the Model E rower.
What’s the difference between the Model D and the Model E? The Model E’s raised 20″ seat height is 6″ above the Model D position.
This allows people with balance or mobility concerns to get on and off the machine with less effort.
The chain housing on the Model E Rower is fully enclosed, helping to keep the nickel-plated chain clean and out of harm’s way.
Concept 2 Model D Rower Assembly Instructions
You might be wondering, is the Concept 2 Model D rower hard to assemble?
No, it’s quite easy. The only tool necessary is the included screwdriver, and there are only 8 screws that need to be used.
You should be able to assemble it in 15 minutes or less. Here’s a rough overview of the steps.
The Model D Rower ships in a compact but robust shipping container. It’s quite light-weight and can be moved by one person.
Inside, you can see that the rower comes mostly assembled – and the key components are packed in a robust fashion with styrofoam.
Complete and detailed assembly instructions (in multiple languages) are included. You can also see the high quality screwdriver (branded with the Concept 2 logo) and the small number of screws to be used. This is going to be a piece of cake.
The main steps require piecing together the support leg from 3 different pieces. This is quick and easy.
Once fully assembled, the support leg will be attached to the underside of the rower (which is why the components are upside down in the shipping styrofoam).
After attaching the support leg, the remaining task is to simply connect the seat rail to the fan housing. This is done with a simple latch.
The unit can easily be broken back down into 2 pieces for space efficient storage.
How long does this take? Assuming you aren’t stopping to take pictures – you should be able to assemble the rower in less than 15 minutes. It’s really easy.
Here’s an up close shot of the PM5 Electronic Monitor – batteries were already installed and the unit was already mounted, so there were no assembly steps for this part.
In Summary – Indoor Rowing with Concept 2
Indoor rowing is a fabulous fitness method to have in your arsenal. There is a little bit of a technique learning curve to deal with, and you need the equipment, but we think you’ll quickly grow to love this exercise.
The Concept 2 Model D Rower is the world-class standard for rowing exercise.
You may also want to read our guide to air bikes, which are also an excellent cardio training tool.
- Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights
- Enhancement of fat metabolism by repeated bouts of moderate endurance exercise
- Aerobic Interval Training Versus Continuous Moderate Exercise as a Treatment for the Metabolic Syndrome. A Pilot Study
- 4 THINGS YOU CAN APPLY TO INSTANTLY IMPROVE YOUR ROWING (Dark Horse Academy)
- CrossFit 2019 Games season Rulebook
Photo and Image Credits
- The Rogue Fitness logo and some product imagery on this page is property of Rogue Fitness and provided by Rogue Fitness.
- We are an affiliate of Dark Horse Academy – because we believe in their product. If you purchase their rowing course after clicking lines in this article, we’ll get a small commission – at no additional cost to you.
- Some additional product imagery is courtesy of Concept 2, Inc.
- This website is not affiliated or associated with CrossFit, Inc. CrossFit is a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc.
Tim is the founder of FitAtMidlife.com – an avid gym rat for 30+ years, he’s a reviewer of many, many shoes – and founder of the Speed Bag Gathering – the world’s only gathering of speed bag punching enthusiasts. See more gym reviews at Tim’s YouTube channel.