Archive

Category Archives for "Rowing Machines"

Best Rowing Machine 2018

P.S. This is a super long article, so if you want to cheat and see the one I would recommend then click here!

Best Rowing Machine 2018

There is one often overlooked piece of equipment that you will find in almost any gym, which offers to ability to provide a complete workout whilst placing minimal stress on your joints – the rowing machine. Rowers are commonly highlighted as the most impressive athletes at any Olympic games, requiring the ability to combine raw strength and power with mind blowing endurance. The rowing machine is a staple of their training regimes and was a common foe in my own rowing career – read on as I take you through the options available to you as you look to identify the best rowing machine in 2018.

This ability to give a full body workout, in one compact machine makes the rowing machine a perfect item in any home gym, or as the only piece of exercise equipment you might want in your home. The rowing machine is perfect for all levels – from starting an exercise regime for the first time, or a seasoned pro looking to really challenge their endurance. Read on as I give a summary of the different types of rowing machines that are available on the market and my opinion on what is the best rowing machine for you.

In the video below, there is a more detailed look at six key models on the market in 2018:

  • Concept2 – Model E
  • Stamina – ATS Air Rower
  • WaterRower – Club
  • WaterRower – Gronk Edition
  • Sunny Health – Magnetic Rower
  • Stamina – 1110

The benefits of using a rowing machine

Rowing machines are a single, intuitive piece of exercise equipment which are easy to use and suitable for all fitness levels. Designed to replicate how rowing on open water feels, the best rowing machines are smooth in action, loaded with features to monitor performance, and have quick-adjust settings to amp up or slow down the session. One of the best rowing machine benefits is that you get a way to work most major upper and lower body muscle groups in the comfort of your own home. With a choice of high and low resistance training, you can build muscles or burn calories, or simply work on maintaining a toned physique.

Upper body benefits

From your hands to your buttocks, you’ve probably guessed already, but the benefits to your upper body from using an indoor rower are impressive. Expect to work your lower back, upper back, shoulders, abs, core and arms.

Lower body benefits

Some people are surprised to hear that it’s the lower body which benefits best from rowing machines. It is often cited that up to 70% of the power in a rowing stroke comes from the lower body! Really targeting the lower body can mean a greater ability to burn calories, and with the correct resistance and technique, the rowing machine can sculpt and tone all parts of your legs. Expect to feel various muscles burn, including your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.

Perfect for recovery

For anyone recovering from surgery, keeping moving is vital, but not over doing it is just as important. Recuperating after injury can be difficult, but rowers provide an easy-going option. Rowing doesn’t put joints under the same stress as many pieces of gym equipment do.

Easy on the heart

When it comes to exercise, being overweight has several risk factors: not only is there more pressure on leg and back joints, there’s extra strain on the heart too. Burning an average of 100 calories every 10 minutes, using a rower offers a gentle, low-impact option for starting a weight loss program and building cardiovascular strength and stamina.


Types of rowing machines

Like most pieces of gym equipment, rowers have seen many improvements over the years. Sold by mainstream retailers online as well in store, the best indoor rowing machines are no longer reserved for expensive gyms. Still, there’s only four main types of rowers, and they’re categorized by the mechanics they use for creating resistance: air, water, magnetic, and hydraulic. The three most popular brands all use a different type of Mechanism and I will share my thoughts on the benefits of each and I have used each of these throughout my career!

The Best Rowing Machine 2018 – Fan rowers

Fan (or air) rowing machines have been around for over 30 years and are highly popular. Using a flywheel design, fan rowers are well-known for their smooth action, and are the standard across the sport for indoor training and competition. Across international and club level rowing, scores are submitted using a Concept2 rowing machine set at a consistent drag factor in order to create a level playing field. This is why the Concept2 is a staple across all rowing clubs you will ever go in to and is largely considered as the best indoor rower.

The top models use dampers to change the airflow to alter the feel of the strokes, it’s this which give quality air rowers such a real feel. When you pull back the handles to produce the rowing stroke, the flywheel, connected by a chain to the handles, spins. Resistance is produced by air flowing over the wheel, and the harder you row, the faster it spins thus creating more resistance – just as it would in water. Concept2 are well-known for their air rowers, and their latest E model has received praise in various rowing machine reviews. It boasts many features, including a sophisticated performance monitor. It also stands the same height as a chair, making it easy to get in and out of. The Concept2 E model uses a flywheel and spiral damper combination, meaning quick-adjust airflow for changing the feel of each stroke, like the drag water gives. Fan rowers can be noisy, but Concept2 states that this is their quietest model yet!

Benefits of fan rowersConcept2

  1. Close imitations of water rowing.
  2. Smooth action and ability to change resistance.
  3. Little maintenance.

Most Popular Manufacturer – Concept2

Buy on amazon

 

 

The Best Rowing Machine 2018 – Water rowers

Water rowing machines are the new kid on the block and are fast gaining in popularity. Of course, hardcore air users are digging their heels in, but, because a water rower’s flywheel is actually in water (replicating true feel), they might change their minds soon. Water rowers create resistance similarly to air rowers, but use water instead of air. The water flywheel is housed inside a small water tank. When you pull back on the handle, the flywheel spins/paddles through the water and creates drag. Naturally, just like rowing a boat on water, the harder you row, the more resistance is created. Unlike some rowers, the action of water rowers is smooth throughout the entire stroke. The aptly named WaterRower has been mentioned in plenty of reviews looking for the best rowing machine, with buyers praising its beautiful wooden design and smooth action. The WaterRower is handmade from solid ash and has a patented water flywheel. Features include the Series 4 performance monitor, which monitors everything from heart rate to paddle rate. It will be interesting to see if Concept2 users are won over. The WaterRower is also a firm favorite of Television’s Frank Underwood as the House of Cards Rowing Machine.

Benefits of water rowersWaterRower

  1. No motorized parts: practically zero maintenance.
  2. Quieter than air rowers.
  3. Slick and stylish.

Most Popular Manufacturer – WaterRower

Buy on amazon

 

 

The Best Rowing Machine 2018 – Magnetic rowers

Magnetic rowers have always been popular and still stand strong today. Their size and quiet function makes them a favorite for home use. Resistance is created through the use of powerful magnets and a flywheel, and like all rowers, the action is performed by pulling on a handle attached to a chain. Depending on the quality and age, settings are controlled by either a digital monitor or by a hand-adjustable slide settings. Unfortunately, although the action is relatively smooth, magnetic rowers don’t imitate real rowing. However, they’re still an effective piece of fitness equipment and won’t fail to give your entire body a good workout. More budget machines like the Velocity are often overlooked when folks are looking for the best rowing machine to purchase, however for a beginner wanting to dip their toes in the water I think this is a safe investment and for the money one of the best indoor rowers available.


Benefits of magnetic rowers

  1. Virtually no noise.
  2. Decent resistance settings.
  3. Affordable.

Most Popular Manufacturer – Velocity

Buy on amazon

 

 

The Best Rowing Machine 2018 – Hydraulic rowers

Hydraulic rowing machines differ from the other rowers because they don’t use a flywheel. Instead, hydraulics create resistance through the use of pistons. The pistons are connected to the handles, and when you pull back the handles, you’re working against the air or liquid inside the piston. In the past, many rowing enthusiasts have complained about using hydraulic rowers because of poor action, saying it’s not smooth like that of flywheel rowers. This was true enough, but, and this is an ongoing debate, despite talks about it being the end of the line for hydraulics, some new designs like the Stamina Precision Rower are also getting plenty of coverage in the rowing machine reviews. So, what’s changed? The Stamina Precision Rower boasts smooth action, a padded seat mounted on a deluxe ball-bearing roller system, yet remains lightweight and affordable. It’s also got a feature-rich monitor with plenty of resistance settings at your fingertips. Maybe there’s a future for hydraulics after all when looking for the best rowing machine.

Benefits of hydraulic rowersStamina

  1. Usually more affordable.
  2. Compact: many models foldaway.
  3. Quieter than flywheel rowers.

Most Popular Manufacturer – Stamina

Buy on amazon

 

 

What else?

Apart from being an ideal way to improve your overall fitness and health, rowing machines are quick to learn and simple to use. All you need to do is climb on, pull back on the handles, slide back and forth and you get in shape. Okay, there’s newer technology and fancy-sounding designs, but same goes for anything these days. Compared with lots of sports equipment, especially the flashy stuff inside most modern gyms, rowers are friendly. Friendly but with enough gadgets on board for those who like them. As well as being an easy piece of kit to get the hang of, rowers are suitable for all ages. The low-impact resistance training isn’t hard on fragile bones, stiff joints or weak limbs. If anything, a few gentle sessions a week will help keep joints supple and strengthen limbs. Rowing is particularly good for strengthening the back too, and a strong back, amongst other things, keeps us standing tall; improves posture. Crucially, using a rower is one of the safest ways to exercise.

Rowing machines are incredibly convenient

Just thinking about exercise makes some people sweat. And if you lean toward the lazy side, exercise is a swear word. Forget the gym. But rowers are convenient, and small enough to keep in the corner of any room. You can put a towel under the machine to catch any sweat, and even set up a laptop or tv in front of it to help you pass the time and encourage you to get in shape whilst not missing your favorite shows. Try setting yourself a goal of rowing for a full episode of your current tv series for 3 days a week and you will soon see results!

Rowing machines are renowned for burning the most calories per hour of all gym equipment, with swimming its biggest competitor in this regard. With practice, rowing for up to an hour or more will become second nature and the fat will soon start flying off! There’s lots more we could discuss, we’ll get down to some serious details in future posts.

Concept2 Model D Review

If this isn’t your first time reading my site, you will be very much aware that I believe that the rowing machine is absolutely the best piece of gym equipment available either for use in a gym, or for home workouts – whatever your goals are! With this in mind, I thought I should put together a review of one of the most important machines on the market. Coming from the market leaders, the Concept2 Model D.

Concept2 Model D

Concept2 Model D (in black)

 

Concept2

First off, lets talk about about the manufacturer. Simply put, the Concept2 is the gold standard of rowing machine for rowing clubs and competitive rowers. All official scores at club and international level are done using a Concept2, and this is a fact that will keep the Concept2 rowing machine at the heart of the rowing world for decades to come. This is also why it is considered by the professionals as the best rowing machine available on the market, and by quite a margin!

Here is a video of the two fastest rowers in the World breaking big records on their Concept2 machines.

Concept2 is known for its sleek design, albeit somewhat industrial when put alongside its competitors such as the WaterRower. Its durability and reliability are unquestionable given it is built for rowing clubs who will be churning out the miles day after day, year after year. As a home user, you will not be able to wear this out for decades even with daily usage.

The Concept2 is a fan rower, and this will cause a bit of noise at home, so if you plan to use in a room around other people – they might not be too happy if they are watching tv! The good news is that both the newer models are significantly quieter than their predecessors.

One of the greatest things about Concept2 machines is the display and the level of information you can get from it – this is one of the key requirements when assessing the best rowing machine. You can track by speed, watts or calories. I personally only use speed, as my goals dictated so, but it is great at each. Using an approved heart rate strap also means you can get your HR up on the screen. I personally stick to a normal heart rate monitor (see Best Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor). You can now even download your stats via USB if you are feeling extra keen.

Concept2 Model D Review

Now, with some general background of Concept2 completed, let’s get into the detail of the Model D which is the model that saw Concept2 really step their game up a notch.

First, lets just look at some straight up facts and stats about the Model D:

Height 14” seat height (from the floor)
Monitor Adjustable angle and height
Chain Open chain cage
Legs ‘T’ shape at the front
Footstraps Adjustable height and hold

To be honest, the points above don’t really interest me that much, and I am going to focus my review across 5 areas that I think are critical to really understand:

  • Mechanism
  • Drive Feel
  • Comfort
  • Flexibility
  • Aesthetics

Mechanism

As already stated, the Concept2 Model D is a fan based rowing machine. The fan case comes with an adjustable lever to change the drag factor (see image below for my quick tips on setting the drag factor).

Concept2 Model D Drag Factor

What I really like about fan rowers is the noise that they make. By this I mean you can really get feedback on the power of your pull. If you’re putting down big strokes, you’ll be able to get audio feedback of this from the machine which for me gives a bit of an adrenaline buzz and helps me continue to push on. It is almost addictive!

Fan rowers get dusty over time, so it is important to periodically either do a mini clean (e.g. hold a vacuum nozzle to the grate on the cage) or annually take the cover off and get rid of the dust that will have accumulated.

 

Drive Feel

Given its rich and illustrious history in the rowing world, it is no wonder that the various iterations of the Concept2 have continued to give a better and better experience to the user. The drive (this is the term for taking the stroke e.g. from the front with your legs compressed and arms straight out, to the finish where your legs are flat and handle is at your chest) is a fantastic feeling, and is so smooth that you can do your long sessions with every stroke feeling exactly the same.

When you want to change the pace and put some more power down, the Concept2 Model D is incredibly responsive. There isn’t anything I would want to change about the feel of using a Concept2.

 

Comfort

Whilst the Concept2 has been built for rowers first, and home/gym users second, I do think it proves a reasonable level of comfort. When you compare the seat on a Concept2 Model D to that of an actual rowing boat, it is almost luxury. However, those who are not frequent users of a rowing boat or a rowing machine would probably struggle to adjust. Luckily there is a good market for accessories and seat pads for Concept2 machines give a level of comfort without affecting your performance. Many professional rowers also use seat pads in their boats, so don’t feel like you are cheating by using one.

 

Flexibility

The Concept2 Model D really caters for all abilities, shapes and sizes. The footplate is adjustable in height meaning anyone from a junior (13 years old +) through to adult and back through to older adult can use this with ease. Not only this, but the screen is adjustable to your preference of height and angle – even allowing you to fold it away if you wish. Finally, as mentioned above – the ability to change the drag factor with ease makes this machine 100% versatile. I would challenge anyone to state they are not able to use it! See below for a bit more information on the screen – to help you navigate what the numbers really mean.

 Concept2 Model D Display

Aesthetics

As always, aesthetics are a matter of preference. However, in the context of this review I have to say great things for the Concept2 Model D. Coming from the past moilvdels of Concept2, there really was a step change. First of all – this was the first time an all black model became available. I personally absolutely love the new all black colouring. Overall, the machine carries a look of strength, and for me this is what you want. A lot of rowing machines look lightweight, or flimsy. Some are even largely plastic or wooden. Whilst that can look good on the eye, that is not what I consider to be the ‘look’ of a rowing machine.

The Model D is also available in silver, for the purists.

 

Summary

Firstly, I really hope that this review has been useful. I have used a Concept2 for all of my time as a rower and coach but have had experience trying out others including WaterRowers and the Stamina range. I may be biased being from the rowing community but I don’t think anything can match it for quality and reputation.

This machine is a beauty and once purchased, will last a lifetime if well maintained!

Buy on amazon

 

Concept2 Model D vs Concept2 Model E

P.S. As usual, this is a long article – if you want a sneak peak at my preference of these two, see here.

By coming to this article, I will assume that you have carried out your research in many parts. First of all, on which type of mechanism of rowing machine you are most interested in – see Best Rowing Machine for more detail on the different options including fan, water and magnetic.

From here, you then likely had a look at the two biggest players in the market – Concept2 vs WaterRower which is usually settled based on whether you are looking to set competitive indoor rowing times (Concept2), or whether you want an aesthetically pleasing machine for your home (WaterRower).

Once you have narrowed down your selection to the Concept2, you are then left with new choices – do you want to get the Model D or the Model E. Both models are still made to date, however they differ from each other, whilst also carrying different price tags. Navigating these differences to help you make a choice is difficult, so I am here to provide some of my input.

 

Concept2

Simply put, the Concept2 is the gold standard of rowing machine for rowing clubs and competitive rowers. All official scores at club and international level are done on a Concept2, and this is a fact that will keep the Concept2 rowing machine at the heart of the rowing world for years to come. This is also why it is considered by the professionals as the best rowing machine available on the market, and by a margin!

Concept2 is known for its sleek design, albeit somewhat industrial when put alongside its competitors. Its durability and reliability are unquestionable given it is built for rowing clubs who will be churning out the miles day after day. As a home user, you will not be able to wear this out for decades!

The Concept2 is a fan rower, and this will cause a bit of noise at home, so if you plan to use in a room around other people – they might not be too happy if they are watching tv! The good news is that both the newer models are significantly quieter than their predecessors.

One of the greatest things about Concept2 machines is the display and the level of information you can get from it – this is one of the key requirements when assessing the best rowing machine. You can track by speed, watts or calories. I personally only use speed, as my goals dictated so, but it is great at each. Using an approved heart rate strap also means you can get your HR up on the screen. I personally stick to a normal heart rate monitor (see best Bluetooth heart rate monitor here). You can now even download your stats via USB if you are feeling extra keen.

 

Model D vs Model E

Now this is what you came to this article for! In recent years, Concept2 have adopted the approach of having two different models available, and each has subtle differences. Below is a summary comparison table covering the key differences which are:

  • Height
  • Monitor
  • Chain
  • Legs
Concept2 Model D Concept2 Model E
Height 14” seat height 20” seat height
Monitor Adjustable angle and height Fixed angle and height
Chain Open chain Enclosed chain
Legs ‘T’ shape at the front ‘V’ shape at the front

 

As you can see, there aren’t actually many differences between the two machine, however they can make quite a big difference based on how much experience you’ve had with previous models.

 

Height – The Model E is 6” higher, for a seasoned rower who has used the Model D for years, this is very noticeable! What this does mean is that getting on and off the Model E is easier on the joints, for those who need to think about this when making a purchase. Aside from this aspect, the height makes no difference to the rowing experience with the angles on the machine all remaining the same as the Model D.

 

Monitor – I found this a weird update to the Concept2 Model E – the screen is completely fixed in place meaning the height and angle can’t be changed. Whilst this doesn’t sound like a big deal, I personally found this frustrating as at 6ft 6, I used to have the screen at a height close to eye level, however the Model E’s screen is lower and I found this hard to get used to. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a big deal, but certainly something worth noting.

 

Chain – this is an update that I imagine has come from feedback from rowing clubs who get high usage of their machines. After a certain amount of miles, the chain can start to wear due to the dust and other particles that attach themselves to it. This is usually after millions of miles, and isn’t a concern to the home user. However, as updates go, it is a good one from Concept2 and one that will add to the longevity of the machine.

 

Legs – this is probably the most noticeable change, and I’ve seen mixed reviews on this. Some parties are saying the new legs are stronger and mean the machine is less likely to move when you’re putting down power, whilst some are saying that the legs are less sturdy than the Model D. Either way – I think unless you are part of a club and having a number of rowers on the machine each day, this won’t cause an issue.

 

Model D

Buy on amazon

 

 

Model E

Buy on amazon

 

 

Summary

So – hopefully my recap above is useful. My general thoughts are that the differences in the machine are only relevant at the top level, or if a machine is getting significant use (e.g. at a rowing club or in a public gym). If this is not the case, then my opinion is that the different in price (around 10% price difference) is not worth the investment, and that actually my preferences on screen and height also push me towards the Model D.

However – it is all preference, and both are top end models from the most prestigious brand of rowing machines on the market.

Once you have made this purchase, I would urge you to have a look at a couple of my other articles:

 

Simon

 

 

See below for a summary of the other head to head posts that I have done:

Powerade vs Gatorade

Polar H10 vs Wahoo Tickr X

Fitbit Charge 2 vs Garmin Vivosmart HR+

Concept2 Model D vs Concept2 Model E

Polar H7 vs Wahoo Tickr X

Concept2 vs WaterRower

What muscles do a rowing machine work

 

This is a commonly asked question, and one which causes incorrect technique on a rowing machine through misconception so here is a quick article to let you know which muscles a rowing machine works.

In my post You’ve just bought a rowing machine… what next? I briefly mention this, however I wanted to go into greater detail as I think it is important to understand. This will not only help your technique, but will help you to target the correct muscle groups for weight training.

So – whilst I know this is not scientific, this is a rough split of effort an old (and very well respected international coach!) used to drill into my squad:

  • Legs – 65%
  • Lower back/ Hips – 20%
  • Upper back – 10%
  • Arms – 5%

Now you will notice that this actually follows the order of a stroke, from the front. This is because you need to generate the majority of the power at the start, and apply in a fashion that accelerates the handle all the way to the finish. 

Biggest Misconception

“You are a rower, why don’t you have huge arms”

This is something I have heard throughout my career, as the common gym user associates rowing with the type of rowing boat you would take around a pond in Central Park, not a 2km rowing lake in the Olympics!

Now – lets look at each of these muscle groups in more detail.

Legs

At the start of a stroke, your whole body should be braced and still, with only your legs applying any force. If you imagine an actual rowing boat that might weight over 1000kg (an 8 person boat with a cox plus weight of the boat), the level of strength needed to move this up to speed can only come from the legs. Think about how much weight you can squat/ leg press against the amount you can bicep curl!

The breakdown of leg strength comes from not only the quads, but the glutes which are required to link the leg strength to the lower back, and hamstrings that are needed to pull you smoothly back to the front.

Lower Back/ Hips

This is the really explosive part of a rowing stroke. The handle/ oar is already moving and you then need to take this from its slow start and really accelerate it through. Imagine a power clean where you slowly lift the bar off the ground and then explode to get the bar up to your chest. 

Upper Back

A strong upper back is needed to continue to add power once the back is open and to really add some flair at the end. You want to imagine that you are drawing your shoulder blades back together whilst you are sat up right.

Arms

There is really not much power wise that the arms can add to a rowing stroke aside from a very final contraction at the end of a stroke. You then need to be tidy around the body as you look to carry out the ‘recovery’ part of the stroke and move back to the start.

Here is a video that explains it well. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you want to discuss in more detail!

 

 

Concept2 Drag Factor

 

This is one of the first things I ever tell newbies to the rowing machine, and I feel it warrants a quick short post.

One of the most common mistakes I see happen on a rowing machine is somebody walking up to it, throwing the damper on the wheel cover to the top and then starting to push out some very hard strokes.

This is massively incorrect, and will result in injury!

Some insider info for you – every rowing test carried out for official scores e.g. by schools, universities, clubs and internationals are doing at 135 and 125 drag factor (for men and women respectively). This is the level of resistance that mimics a coxless men’s four (seen as the pinnacle of Olympic rowing).

Consistency

By using the same drag factor every time you use your rowing machine, you know that the scores you are looking at are ‘real’ and that you are limiting other factors that would affect your time. For home users, this is unlilely to be a huge issue. For gym users – this is big as so many people will fiddle with the settings.

 

Safety

Setting the resistance too high is quite simply stupid. The resitance is far too much, and you are putting too much stress on your lower back. If you want to generate more power – just push harder when at the correct resistance. This isn’t holding you back.

 

Other Machines

Whilst this post is aimed at the Concept2 – which is pretty much standard for commercial gyms. You should note the same guidance about not going too high other machines such as the WaterRower. See my comparison of the two machines here – Concept2 vs WaterRower

 

Like I say – just a short post, but an important one!

Top 5 Rowing Machine Accessories

Using a rowing machine at home is a big step – you are committing yourself to using a particular piece of equipment for a prolonged period of time and need to get a minimum amount of usage to justify the investment.

In order to make the experience both as comfortable, and as beneficial as possible, I believe there are a couple of key accessories you should have available to you. This isn’t looking at things like heart rate monitors or clothing/ shoes, all of which I cover on my site. These are items a bit more commonly overlooked but worthy options for purchasing.

 

  1. Seat Pad

My first item here is something that I think will probably the make the biggest difference to comfort for all home rowing machine users – a seat pad. It is quite common in the world of crew rowers to use a seat pad, sometimes for adding height in the boat, but quite often for grip and comfort. Given the relative cost compared to the rowing machine, these are a must purchase if you want to get through months and years of long sessions on the rowing machine.

 

Buy on amazon

 

 

  1. Rowing Machine Mat

This really serves two key uses:

  1. Prevent slipping of the machine
  2. Protect the floor from marks/ sweat

The need for a mat is really dependent on the environment that you have set it up in, but if you feel there is a chance of the machine moving whilst you row or you want to avoid sweat or rowing machine marks on the floor then a purpose made mat is an ideal purchase. This company makes floor mats for all sorts of equipment and comes highly reviewed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buy on amazon

 

 

  1. Mirror

This is a purchase for either the more advanced user, or somebody who is very driven to perfect their rowing technique. In my time as a rower, I probably did about 50-60% of all sessions in front of a mirror. They are absolutely great for being able to see your stroke and certain key points e.g. when you draw the handle to on your chest or whether your head is wobbling from side to side. The benefits of a free standing mirror are that you can also move towards the side and look at the angle of your back and analyse many more parts of your strokes.

As I say – this is really only worth the investment if you want to work on your technique. If you are – then training with a mirror is a great way to change things up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buy on amazon

 

 

  1. Gloves

Now I have to caveat this suggestion by pointing out that no one in any rowing club wears gloves to use a rowing machine, or indeed in a boat. It is important when you need to have control of an oar to have the best possible grip in all weather, and that simply can’t come from a glove. Given the amount of training done at club or higher levels, calluses are built up quickly and the pain of rowing on the hands just becomes accepted (and we become very good at applying creams and plasters!).

 

 

 

 

 

I think the situation for a home user is completely different, and quite often you be someone who wants to avoid having blisters which might both look bad and feel bad during your day job. In this situation, I think using a lightweight glove, or something similar designed for gym users is a worthy investment. I think these palm pads look great – and they will avoid the sweatiness you might get from a full glove.

Buy on amazon

 

 

  1. Sweat Bands

Finally – something I actually rarely see, but something I think can make such a huge different to your grip and enjoyment is such a simple purchase. I always used sweat bands on my wrists, I found I would get sweaty arms, that would then drip to my hands and end up affecting my grip on the hand.

In addition to this – I also found I needed to get unobtrusive ways to mob my forehead when on a rowing machine. Again, do so with bare hands then transfers the sweat to the handle. Using a sweat band by wiping your forehead with your wrist is a great solution. For the very small price, these can make a huge different to your rowing experience!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buy on amazon

 

 

Summary

So there we have it – a wide range of items here, but I really think each one can make a huge difference based on the reasons you row and the environment you use your rowing machine in. To recap, my top 5 accessories are:

  1. Seat Pad
  2. Rowing Machine Mat
  3. Free Standing Mirror
  4. Gloves
  5. Sweat Bands

 

Enjoy!

Explaining the Concept2 Display

When first using a rowing machine (and specifically the Concept2), there is a lot of data that is shown and making sense of it is key.

Above is a quick summary of the key facets, however in reality there are only two items on this you need to understand.

Strokes per minute

This is the measure for you cadence on the rowing machine, the frequency at which you are moving the seat from the front to the back position. This number is calculated frequently, and will estimate your strokes per minute based on the time between your previous two strokes. This means when you are changing rate, you can see that you are moving speeds effectively.

My personal opinion is that the usual gym user of a rowing machine spends the majority of their time at too high of a stroke rate. As per my rowing machine workout post – I am a huge proponent of spending a lot of time around 18-20spm to build a long and powerful stroke.

Split

This is the larger part of the screen where it says “/500m” – and this is telling you how long it would theoretically take you to row 500 metres were you in an olympic class rowing boat. As you get more experienced on a machine, this point is critical to your performance. You should get in a habit of noting the averages for all sessions you do, taking the average spm, split and total time.

Rowing at low rate (approximately 18-20 spm) is a great way to get a good indicator of your ‘steady pace’ and use this to monitor how both power and fitness grow over time.

Once you are tracking and documenting your splits – you should get to a point where you know which split you can hold at each spm. A simple rule to follow is that for every stroke rate you go up by, your split should come down. This is a sign of true efficiency.

2

Concept2 vs WaterRower

The Best Rowing Machine: Concept2 vs WaterRower

You will have come to notice from my previous posts that I believe that the rowing machine is the ultimate piece of equipment for home workouts. If you could only have one piece of equipment, for me it has to be the rowing machine! With this in mind, I wanted to share my thoughts on the two main models of rowing machine, and given their completely different mechanisms we need to put them up against each other – its time to do Concept2 vs WaterRower!

P.S. If this post is too long for you, or you just can’t wait to see which one I vote the winner – click here for a sneak preview or watch the video below for a summary of this article that I have created:

Concept2 Review

Concept2

Simply put, the Concept2 is the gold standard of rowing machine for rowing clubs and competitive rowers. All official scores are done on a Concept2, and this will keep the machine as the heart of the rowing world for years to come, and for that reason is considered by the professionals as simply the best rowing machine available. The Concept2 has a sleek design and given it is built for rowing clubs who will be churning out the miles day after day, it is highly durable and reliable. As a home user, you will not be able to wear this out for decades!

Measuring 54” by 24”, it can be easily incorporated into any living area and if space is a major concern, it features a quick-release frame lock mechanism that makes it easy to disassemble and store out of the way, best done so upright in a cupboard or in the corner. Available in light grey or black, the aesthetics of this machine make it very stylish and for those with an at-home gym, it is a wonderful addition.

The Concept2 is a fan rower, and this will cause a bit of noise at home, so if you plan to use in a room around other people – they might not be too happy if they are watching tv! The good news is that newer models significantly cut down the noise.

One of the greatest things about Concept2 machines is the display and the level of information you can get from it – this is one of the key requirements when assessing the best rowing machine. You can track by speed, watts or calories. I personally only use speed, as my goals dictated so, but it is great at each. Using an approved heart rate strap also means you can get your HR up on the screen. I personally stick to a normal heart rate monitor (see my post about HR Monitors here). You can now even download your stats via USB if you are feeling extra keen.

Comfort-wise, this indoor rowing machine takes mobility considerations very seriously. The footrests are adjustable, the handle is very ergonomic and the caster wheels means it can be easily repositioned. With a seat height of 20”, little effort is needed to get on and off, which is ideal for those who suffer with knee complaints. Also, the seat is slightly tilted forwards which makes it a better option for those with lower back issues. There are now also two options that exist when you are decided on a Concept2 – the Model D or the Model E, which I have also reviewed in more detail.

All in all – for me, there is a reason that the Concept2 has been the best rowing machine for competitive rowers – it has everything you need and is genuinely suitable for all standards up to Olympic rowers!

Buy on amazon

See below for a pretty epic video of the World’s quickest pair (New Zealand) on their Concept2’s setting HUGE scores.

 

WaterRower Review

WaterRower

The WaterRower is relatively new to the market, and is causing a storm. It uses a very different method of power, but it is a great piece of equipment for those who have no intentions of moving to the river with their rowing! Aesthetically, it’s one of the best looking indoor rowing machines you can buy as it is made of solid ash wood and finished with a honey-oak stain. This is great for those who need to keep it in their living room as it is unobtrusive and is more likely to match your interior décor. An added bonus here is that if it is incorporated into a living area, you’re much more likely to use it. Even if it isn’t out on display, it easily folds up without the need to disassemble it and it has been designed to be sorted upright – perfect for saving space.

As the name suggests, this is water powered, and with the added fact that this machine is handcrafted from wood, it absorbs noise and vibrations. In fact, the only noise it produces is the gentle sloshing of the water in the tank. Much quieter than the Concept2 and could be a better option for a home gym in close proximity of others in the house.

On the subject of the tank, this wonderfully smooth rowing machine features a patented water flywheel. Enclosed in a tank of water, the flywheel is not only very quiet, but is designed to simulate the feel of being in an actual rowing boat. In a way it does, as you can’t just hammer your strokes out, you need to build the pace and be a bit more considered. However to those used to the Concept2, it is a very big change! The self-regulated resistance provided by this water flywheel means that the faster you row, the more resistance you feel.

The computer on the machine – whilst not as advanced as that on a Concept2 which is aimed at competitive rowers – is very user-friendly. The monitor tracks intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, duration, distance and other statistics. For a home user wanting just to be able to track their progress over time, it has all that you need.

Comfort-wise, the WaterRower doesn’t quite match the luxury of the Concept2. The seat is tilted backwards which puts more pressure on the lower back and the footrests are made of moulded plastic that have sharp edges – not great for those who like to row barefoot or in socks. On the plus side, the flat rail gives less knee compression and so is a bit gentler on the knees.

Finally – it is also the rowing machine of choice for Frank Underwood in House of Cards – House of Cards Rowing Machine

Buy on amazon

Below is a great video of the WaterRower in action.

Concept2 vs WaterRower – Head to Head

Concept2 WaterRower Verdict
Mechanism Fan – I have grown up using a fan based rowing machine so this is just what I am used to. I love it, and it offers scope to throw big powerful strokes in when required. Water – this makes a much more theraputic sound, at a significantly reduced volume. For home use, I think this makes the WaterRower a more pleasant option than the Concept2. Concept2 – for me as a lifelong rower – I could just never stray from a fan based rowing machine.
Drive feel Smooth – the fan and drive mechanism has been perfected over decades to make a machine that is responsive to any change in power of the drive. Requires more feel – you need to be gentle and purposeful with the water. What I don’t like about the feel of a WaterRower is the lack of height for the handle – it just doesn’t feel as it should do for my liking. Concept2 – I still struggle to find the feel of a WaterRower to be what I want. The Concept2 is just so much smoother than the WaterRower.
Comfort The Concept2 is not really built for comfort, it has to be said. A lot of people I know purchase seat cushions, although I have yet to do so myself. I love the change of handle they made, which is much more ergonomic than older models. The WaterRower has been primarily designed for the home user, and for this reason is much more tailored for casual use. As with the Concept2, seat cushions are a great supplemental purchase. WaterRower – this machine has been designed with the home user in mind and for this reason beats the Concept2 for comfort.
Flexibility Drag and Foot Height – the ability to make this machine well suited for different heights and different abilities so easily is a major plus. Adjusting the resistance in the water tank is arduous and the foot straps are a lot less moveable than the Concept2 Concept2 – over the years, developments to this machine have made is customisable to all abilities of user.
Aesthetics For me, the Concept2 is what a rowing machine should look like – mechanical and strong – ready for you to get on and do your best to break it as you aim for a new Personal Best. For a nice house location, rather than out in a garage, I could see the WaterRower being a much better looking machine to have hanging around. Plus it stores upright a lot better. WaterRower – for pure aesthetics, the WaterRower is much sleeker and eye catching than the Concept2

Conclusion

All in all, the decision for which is the best rowing machine really comes down to the individual. Both of these indoor rowing machines are fantastic pieces of equipment and offer many benefits that make them ideal additions to any fitness-conscious home. If it’s aesthetics that concern you, the WaterRower is definitely the best choice as the oak frame is very pleasing to the eye and it is far less mechanical than the Concept2 – plus it is available in two shades of wood. On the other hand, for those who are more serious about fitness, the Concept2 is definitely the way to go as the monitor provides more detail, and the Concept2 is the benchmark for comparing your times over various distances to others.

For me, as an ex rower, I would never stray from a Concept2, especially as they now do a black version!

 

See below for a summary of the other head to head posts that I have done:

Powerade vs Gatorade

Polar H10 vs Wahoo Tickr X

Fitbit Charge 2 vs Garmin Vivosmart HR+

Concept2 Model D vs Concept2 Model E

Polar H7 vs Wahoo Tickr X

Concept2 vs WaterRower

Concept2 Model D Review

Best Rowing Machine 2018

House of Cards Rowing Machine

I get asked this A LOT! What is that rowing machine being used by Frank Underwood in House of Cards?

Well, this is a machine that is now getting a lot more popular – and its sales are spiking during every appearance on the show. However, you still don’t see it in many gyms, and you especially don’t see it in many rowing clubs.

Anyway, to cut to the case. Frank Underwood is using the imaginatively named WaterRower – which is an innovative addition to the rowing machine market. It is an incredibly sleek looking machine, and one with a novel propulsion system given typical rowing machines use air or magnets – the WaterRower uses an enclosed case of water to act as the main resistance. It is a machine that has a lot of traction as a rowing machine for home use given its reduced noise output compared to fan/ air rowers. I would also suggest that the scene where it breaks is definitely a shot for tv – these machines are of a very high quality!

I have written a review comparing this to the most popular rowing machine on the market (Concept2 vs WaterRower) if you wanted to see some more thoughts on it as a long term investment. I think there is a reason that sales are soaring for WaterRower, and that is because this really is a high quality piece of gym equipment.

Buy on amazon

Aesthetically, it’s one of the best looking indoor rowing machines you can buy as it is made of solid ash wood and finished with a honey-oak stain. This is great for those who need to keep it in their living room as it is unobtrusive and is more likely to match your interior décor. An added bonus here is that if it is incorporated into a living area, you’re much more likely to use it. Even if it isn’t out on display, it easily folds up without the need to disassemble it and it has been designed to be sorted upright – perfect for saving space.

As the name suggests, this is water powered, and with the added fact that this machine is handcrafted from wood, it absorbs noise and vibrations. In fact, the only noise it produces is the gentle sloshing of the water in the tank. Much quieter than the Concept2 and could be a better option for a home gym in close proximity of others in the house.

On the subject of the tank, this wonderfully smooth rowing machine features a patented water flywheel. Enclosed in a tank of water, the flywheel is not only very quiet, but is designed to simulate the feel of being in an actual rowing boat. In a way it does, as you can’t just hammer your strokes out, you need to build the pace and be a bit more considered. However to those used to the Concept2, it is a very big change! The self-regulated resistance provided by this water flywheel means that the faster you row, the more resistance you feel.

The computer on the machine – whilst not as advanced as that on a Concept2 which is aimed at competitive rowers – is very user-friendly. The monitor tracks intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, duration, distance and other statistics. For a home user wanting just to be able to track their progress over time, it has all that you need.

Hope this helps answer the question!

 

Below is a great video of the WaterRower in action.

You’ve just bought a rowing machine… what next?

First of all – congratulations on your purchase of what in my opinion is the greatest piece of cardio equipment a person can own!

Now you are wondering where to start.. In the early days I would advise concentrating on a couple of things:

  • Form/ Technique
  • Base endurance
  • Progress tracking
  • Flexibility

Technique

Rowing with correct technique is key for being able to put the most power possible into each stroke, being able to maintain this and ensuring you minimise risk of injury. The main thing that helps understand the stroke is to think of which muscles generate the power – an old coach of mine estimates it to be along the lines of:

  • Legs – 65%
  • Lower back – 20%
  • Upper back – 10%
  • Arms – 5%

I like this video for seeing a stroke broken down in visual form – he makes it sound simple, and that’s because it is! You just need to work on co-ordination. I’ll break the stroke down into two parts – the drive and the recovery.

The Drive

Starting at the front, from a side on view you want to imagine that your body is at about 1 o clock angle. Given this is where you will start the stroke, you need to be in a strong position – have a neutral spine, sit up, hold your core tight and have balance in your feet.

When you take the stroke, it is key that you don’t fire off your legs and move the seat without moving the handle – this is wasted energy. You want to imagine that the handle is only moving at the start when the seat is moving.

Opening the back – you want to wait until you have almost got the legs flat before you start opening out, at this point you still have your arms locked out, and then once the legs are flat and you are opening the back (to about 11 o clock angle) you can then bring the arms in to finish the stoke.

For the stoke, you want to imagine that you are accelerating the handle the whole time so don’t jab it too hard at the start and then slow down, you want to really work on building power throughout the stoke.

The Recovery

Now that you’ve taken the stoke, you want to use the recovery (moving back to the start) to again be done efficiently and with poise to allow you to take in oxygen and get ready for the next stroke.

The recovery is essentially done in reverse – from the back of the stroke you want to move the arms back to fully extended, lean from your 11 o clock back to 1 o clock and then start breaking the legs. On the body rock is it essential that you do this from the hips, not the back. You want a completely neutral spine and not to be hunched. It should feel like you are sitting on a different part of your glutes as you rock over.

As you are breaking your knees and coming back to the front, you want to ensure your body is already in the position you want it to be at the front – don’t leave it too late and lean forwards at the front, this is again wasted effort and that all adds up in tests or long sessions.

Putting it together

Once you have a good grasp of both aspects of the stroke you want to turn it into a fluent stroke that you can repeat over and over. If you imagine that a stroke takes 3 seconds (imagine rowing at 20 strokes a minute) then the drive should take 1 second and the recover should take 2 seconds. This will help you find your rhythm.

There are drills you can do to build a stronger stroke, but I will do a further post on advanced technique and drills you can do.

Base Endurance

Whilst it is always tempting to get on and smash it – you will be setting yourself up well by spending your first 6-8 weeks focussing on longer sessions where you really bed in correct technique. I am a strong believer in taking breaks during long sessions to stretch/ take on water/ regroup but it is important to get the miles in!

I would suggest breaking down all initial sessions by time intervals – and I think 20 minutes is best to do so. I personally like a session like the below but to start you can do 2 x 20 mins before moving to a longer session.

 

3 x 20 minutes @ 18-20 strokes per minute with 3 minute break between each.

 

Stroke rate – if you want to row for a long period of time, you need to keep the rate low and you still have the opportunity to take really powerful strokes and take time to recover before the next one.

Heart rate – I really advocate using a HR monitor and you want to try and keep yourself around 65% of your max to ensure that you are not doing to much

On long sessions on the rowing machine, hydration is paramount. Check my post Powerade vs Gatorade for some thoughts about best hydration strategies.

Building experience of powerful strokes at low rate will mean that when you step up to high rate the speed will really show!

Progress Tracking

Something I see a lot of is people trying to do a 2km row too often. Either they are trying to improve their time weekly, or they are doing it after a gym session. If you are doing a 2k test properly, you shouldn’t be able to do anything else in the gym afterwards!

There are 3 tests I advocate for doing to measure progress:

  1. 30 @ 20 test. This is 30 minutes at a max stroke rate of 20. In here you want to measure your total distance. I would advocate doing this every 2-3 weeks to test the progress of your power and endurance.
  2. 2km test. This is an ‘all out’ test of speed over the typical rowing distance. You should do this no more than once every 6 weeks to allow time to build enough progress to beat it the next time. Aim to keep your stroke rate at a minimum of 32.
  3. 5km test. This is similar to the 2k test but over a longer distance and with a greater need to pace yourself. I would aim to keep stroke rate around 28-32 depending how well you can do this.

Flexibility

So much of the stroke is influenced by the flexibility of your hips and hamstrings. Do not neglect this aspect and spend time afterwards stretching properly – I fully recommend a foam roller to help you with this. Check out this post for a few thoughts on foam rollers.

Hopefully this gives a good flavour of the technique to row with, and some sessions to start off with.

Happy rowing!