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

The Best Shoes for a Rowing Machine

P.S. As always, here is a sneaky peak of my top choice in case you are limited on time and don’t want to read my post!

This has been a topic of big debate in every rowing club/ squad that I have been a member of. Everyone will look for anything that they believe can give them an advantage on the rowing machine. I believe there are a couple of key things you need to look for in a shoe for using when indoor rowing, and will share a couple of examples of shoes that are most suited.

  1. Solid Sole
  2. Breathable
  3. Comfortable
  4. Versatile

Solid Sole

This is probably the feature that causes such debate in what makes for the best shoe for indoor rowing. However – watch any of the internationals and they are either barefoot (aka no sole!) or in their weight lifting shoes (completely solid sole). For us mortals, what this means is simple – avoid trainers/ running shoes that have massive air pockets in. If you imagine the first bit of pressure you put down in your stroke, this is being absorbed into the shoe’s sole and therefore not all being transferred into the rowing stroke. I also feel it risks placing uneven effort and pressure into each sole therefore potentially causing unbalance and even injury.

Breathable

If like me, you do a lot of long sessions on the rowing machine, you will get very warm and sweaty. As with running shoes, you want to have good airflow for all-round foot health. This is why I often suggest people don’t use a shoe like Converse or other plimsole type shoes. Even though they are good from the sole’s point of view, in long sessions your feet can get very stuffy which can cause some long term problems like the risk of athletes foot.

Comfortable

Almost as importantly as the previous two points, the shoes you get need to be comfortable. Feet come in all different sizes and widths. You should be sure that you are not going to cause yourself needless pain by buying a shoe that is not a good fit.

Versatile

I have a theory here, and that is this. Unless you are using a rowing machine 4-5 times a week, you most likely don’t need a specific shoe just for using it, but want one that you can also use for other gym workouts. Of course, there is nothing stopping you having a collection of shoes best suited for this machine, for which I am going to share some contenders!

The Best Shoes for Indoor Rowing

  1. Reebok Crossfit Nano
  2. Vibram Fivefingers
  3. Adidas Power
  4. Nike Free

Reebok Crossfit Nano

If I were looking specifically looking for a shoe to wear on the showing machine, this is without doubt the one I would buy. It ticks all of the boxes I have highlighted and has been designed, tested, iterated and updated continuously by Reebok in association with Crossfit who have rowing as a key element of a number of their workouts. The heel is rock solid, and it designed to be used in workouts that might include a mix of weight lifting and cardio. This is a rare shoe in existence that has a sock solid sole but the ability to be used in a number of different ways

 

Buy on amazon

Vibram Fivefingers

In the quest for finding a ‘free’ shoe, Vibram really changed the market. Whilst 100% guaranteed to make a statement, I have heard some great reviews for the comfort of these shoes. The lack of padding and air pockets means you are guaranteed to have maximum balance and stability, and in rowing machine terms you can be sure that all of your power is being transmitted into the footplate.

 

Buy on amazon

Adidas Power

Now these are really aimed at the elite, or those who want to have the best of the best when it comes to equipment. These weightlifting shoes by Adidas are used at the top end of the sport – at my club they were an essential purchase for those with Intenational aspirations who were doing such intense weights sessions and pushing the boundaries. At International level, you see a lot of rowers using these same shoes on the rowing machine (seen below), typically due to the rock solid heel and support/ comfort provided. As mentioned, these are a fantastic shoe – and can fulfil dual roles if you do a lot of lifting but do come in rather pricey.

I used to have these in my rowing boat and can vouch for the comfort!

Buy on amazon

Nike Free

Now these are a shoe you see a lot on runners and gym users. They have continued to grow in popularity since Nike got involved in the move towards gym shoes that don’t contain air pockets. The Nike Free range are also designed to have an easier level of flex in the sole.

Going by my criteria earlier, I think a shoe should be bought that is multi functional, but at least with the aim of bringing the right benefits to the rowing machine. For this reason, I think these are a great option. They avoid the dreaded air cushioning but are suitable for everything else in the gym, in addition to being quite popular and accepted from a casual fashion option too.

Buy on amazon

 

Concept2 Model D Review

Best Rowing Machine 2018

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. I will also share tips on how to improve strength in those muscles.

I have been part of competitive rowing teams for years and within these circles it is complete unanimous agreement with which muscles make you a quicker and more powerful rower. Looking at it simply, the power of a stroke comes roughly from these muscle groups:

  • 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 where you pick up as much ‘weight’ as possible and then look to accelerate this weight through a stroke. Kind of like turning a bike pedal in a higher gear. You then need to ensure that you accelerate the stroke (the pace of the rowing machine handle) all the way to the end.

When you do weight training for rowing squads you also focus on these key groups – i’ve never had a training plan that featured bicep curls!

  • Squats
  • Split Squats / Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Hip Thrusts
  • Bent Over Rows
  • Bench Press

The 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! This is why those who are not within these groups, or power-users of a rowing machine do not understand which muscles are used on a rowing machine.

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.

If you want to improve your leg strength there are a couple of key exercises to do (both weighted and upweighted):

  • Squats (all variations)
  • Lunges
  • Glute exercises

If you want to do this at home there are a host of products that would help this – depending on the amount of room and investment you have.

How To Master The Barbell Back Squat | Coach

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. 

I have always found (especially as a tall person) that my lower back has been weaker than most and so having a stronger back can make such a huge difference.

Ways to build lower back strength include deadlifts and kettlebell swings.

How to Do a Kettlebell Swing Plus Form Tips, Variations and Workouts | Coach

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.

Bent over rows and pull up/ chin ups are the best way to build this strength.

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!

Finally – in my post You’ve just bought a rowing machine… what next? I touch on this topic but then go into a lot more detail about how to use this technique and get those rowing scores much much quicker.

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!

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.

Polar H7 vs Wahoo Tickr X with Memory

P.S. This is a long article, so click here for a sneak peak of my choice!

P.P.S. I have since written a new article for Polar H10 vs Wahoo Tickr

In the new world of Bluetooth heart rate straps, there are two clear leaders that have both carved their route to the top through having quite different key characteristics.

The Polar H7 and the Wahoo Tickr

Best Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor

Why heart rate?

Before we step in to this, I should recap why I am such a proponent of training based on heart rate (especially in rowing and cycling). In short – I truly believe that heart rate is the most important metric that you can measure and pay attention to. Much more important than many others touted in the industry these days:

  • Calories burned
  • Weight
  • BMI
  • Steps

All of the above are often seen as features on gadgets, or in training plans and challenges. However, I believe that all of the above are either meaningless (steps, BMI), gross approximations (calories burned) or lead to odd behaviours (weight).

Here are three key areas that heart rate is the best measure for making progress in the most efficient way possible.

  • Health
  • Cardiovascular Fitness / Endurance
  • Weight Loss

Health

This is how I first saw the light with measuring heart rate, and it came from one of my first ever rowing club captains at University. He had a training spreadsheet and one metric we were all required to fill in was resting heart rate every morning. This was especially important during winter when cold, flu and other easily spreadable illnesses go around. If a spike in resting heart rate was noticed for 2 days or more, we would be put on a reduced training plan, and we were told that if we felt groggy or the onset of illness coming, to focus on getting better (increased intake of greens and water) and to stay away from the squad.

This was such a simple indicator to help you keep on top of general health and it is one that I still often track in the winter when training so that I know when I need to pay attention to myself. I would totally recommend giving this a go – it can be easy to do by throwing the heart strap on and logging the HR in a note on your phone or a spreadsheet that you update each day. For the sake of 60-90 seconds each morning – this is a simple and easy way to monitor health!

Resting heart rate is an incredible indicator of overall health, and being able to monitor it, and watch it improve over time can lead to a much better long term, healthy future.

“The best time to measure it is before you get out of bed in the morning.” Harvard Health

Cardiovascular Fitness / Endurance

I am a strong believer that you should do the majority of your cardio training based strictly on heart rate – keep this constance and measure fitness improvement through seeing how your power/ distance improves over time with your heart rate being fixed.

Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)

This is a form of cardio training designed to keep you in that ‘fat burn’ zone. My simple description of the science here is that it is low enough that you can repeat it very frequently as recovery is short, but it is high enough that you are getting a sweat on. This should be targeted to be completed at 60-65% of your maximum heart rate. As a rule of thumb, use 220 minus your age as max HR. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes for LISS, and if you can, try getting up to 60-90 minutes (the odd 1 minute break for water/ stretch is fine!)

High Intensity Steady State (HIIT)

This is a popular word in the training world, and HIIT is getting a lot of attention as it can be such a good use of time if you don’t have that much to play with. The aim of the game here it so get your heart rate as high as possible for short stints of exercise, followed by a rest, and then another interval (and repeat).

As example HIIT workout on a rowing machine would be intervals of 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off. Try and do 12-15 minutes of HIIT – if you can do longer, you aren’t working hard enough!

The benefits of HIIT are that the ‘after burn’ is longer, as your metabolic rate increases for a substantial period. However, recovery takes longer and you should limit this to 2 or 3 sessions a week.

Weight Loss

As per my points above – I think that training needs to be done as efficiently as possible. If you use LISS correctly, you aren’t working too hard, which will impact your recovery and also the duration you’re able to train for. If you do HIIT correctly, you keep sessions efficient and maximize long term calorie burning.

If weight loss is the aim – being considerate about how you train and monitoring what you are doing is essential. Why pay a personal trainer to tell you to train harder if you have a watch letting you know exactly how much harder you need to go!

 

Polar H7 vs Wahoo Tickr

Right, I’ve given my thoughts on why tracking heart rate is so important for a multitude of reasons. Now lets get to the main focus of this article – how do the Polar H7 strap and the Wahoo Tickr compare to each other?

Polar H7

First up – it is the Polar H7. This is one of the newest developments by Polar who really are one of the giants (if not THE giant) in the heart rate industry. Having seen that the proliferation of devices was disrupting the industry, and new players coming in (like Wahoo, who we will get to shortly) – they knew they needed an answer for those who want a heart rate strap but don’t necessarily want to be tied in to needing a watch to go with it. 

It is hard to say too much about a heart rate strap – but here are some of its main features:

  • Bluetooth enabled
  • Waterproof
  • Long battery life, ideal for those who might be doing long sessions over multiple days
  • Available in multiple colours

Here is a video giving a better summary than I could do with words.

 

To summarise the Polar H7 – it is a high quality piece of equipment created by one of the most established brands in heart rate electronics. You really can’t go wrong with this.

Buy on amazon

 

 

Wahoo Tickr X with Memory

The first thing I need to mention here is that you have two options with the Wahoo Tickr – one with memory and one without. The difference in price is pretty marginal so I am writing this review for the Wahoo Tickr X with Memory. This also makes is a different product to the Polar H7 and more worthy of being reviewed and compared as the Polar H7 does not have memory. What this means is that you can use the Wahoo Tickr without being connected to any device and it will store what you’ve done and sync to your preferred device later on. Ideal!

Before we get too into the review. Lets take a step back. Wahoo is a relatively new company to this industry, however they have made an instant impact by bringing out a range of products aimed straight at serious athletes that meet requirements no other company had yet approached. Think motion analysis, in-memory heart rate and much more. There is a reason the Team Sky Cycling Team (Current Tour De France champions) swear by Wahoo – it is phenomenal.

Some key features:

  • Bluetooth enabled
  • Built in memory
  • Connect to an array of watches including Garmin and Polar (and Concept 2 PM5 screens)

 

To summarise – this is a seriously impressive piece of technology. For me it ticks all the boxes and is a nice change from the usual suspects for tracking heart rate. Wahoo also have a huge range of apps, one of which allows you to use the Wahoo Device to count your reps!

Buy on amazon

 

 

Final comparison

I could summarise easily by saying this – both the Polar H7 and the Wahoo Tickr are incredible bits of kit and neither would do you wrong. Below is a quick summary table that might help you to make that choice

 

Feature Polar H7 Wahoo Tickr Recommendation
Established Brand Polar have been around for as long as athletes have been using electronics for tracking heart rate Wahoo is new to the game, they are the disruptor causing brands like Polar to innovate If you want a trusted brand, Polar are a titan in the industry
Aesthetics Comes in various colours including pink, blue and black Only currently available with a single colour strap If you care about the look of the strap, then Polar have done well to bring out a number of eye catching colours
Memory The H7 does not come with any in built memory This is the biggest advantage of the Wahoo Tickr X (with memory) Wahoo’s product innovation here gives it a special USP
Native Apps Polar Beat is a great little app that helps you track and manager your sessions and heart rate throughout. Wahoo have done a great job on creating a range of apps for different activities. They really know their audience. For innovation in their apps, which will drive usage of the strap from users it has to be Wahoo here for me.

 

So there we have it – overall it’s a tie, but it really depends what you are looking for in a heart rate strap, and what your ambitions are. I think Wahoo is aimed more at serious athletes who want to do more analysis, whilst the Polar H7 is a reliable heart rate strap for anyone.

Let me know if you found this review helpful!

Simon

P.S. for a wider view of available heart rate monitors, see my post Best Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor 

 

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

My Top 5 Favourite Rowing Videos

There comes a time in every rower’s life when he/she spends an entire afternoon or evening watching hundreds of rowing videos on YouTube. There is a lot out there, and if anything it is not getting much much better due to the popularity of GoPros and Drones.

Anyway, I wanted to do a quick post to share my favourite videos – these are ones that I watch over and over and find incredibly motivating.

5. James Cracknell vs Matthew Pinsent

Head to head in the GB Squad televised and public 2km trial, this was the shoot out between its two biggest guns. Their ergs connected via cables to show relative position to each other. I love this video to see just how the best of the best use a rowing machine and the herculean level of power, endurance, resilience and competitiveness between the two.

4. Drew Ginn – Will It Make The Boat Go Faster

This one takes a bit of concentration, but it is an incredible speech and philosophy from Drew Ginn, an absolute legend of International Rowing from Australia. In true Aussie style, his approach is calm and laid back – at a complete anthesis to Team GB!

3. Husky Power

If you ever in a slump about long ergs, winter miles and general lack of training motivation – this will get you straight back on it. Imagine training in a room of so many teammates with one common goal and purpose. I could imagine breaking all PBs in such an environment. It is no wonder Washington Huskies are such a dominating force in College Rowing.

2. South Africa Lightweight 4 Training

This video is just brilliant. For those that remember the 2012 LM4- final, the South Africa crew (in this video) came from nowhere to absolutely burn through the pack in the final 200m and claim gold. Incredible scenes. In this training video you can see their training philosophies which show just the intensity that they trained to. Also – that lake they train on. Stunning!

1. Abingdon vs Belmont Hill Cox Video – Henley Royal Regatta

For anyone who has ever raced in a crew, this video needs watching. The coxing in this race from Rory Copus is just insane. The way he owns his crew is brilliant. I don’t want to say too much – please just watch this.

 

1

Best Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor

One of the most popular trends in the market for fitness accessories at the moment is activity trackers. Whilst these are great for encouraging an active lifestyle, what is absolutely music to my ears is the growth in the market for heart rate monitors. The advent of new technologies means there are now ways other than just having a strap and a watch (although this is still my method of choice).

What this means, is you have a much more convenient way of storing and comparing your heart rate, whilst also adding more insightful data to this e.g. distance run/ cycled etc. What I want to do is give some thoughts on what I think are the clear market leaders and best bluetooth heart rate monitors.

Best Bluetooth Heart Rate Strap

1. Polar H7

For me, Polar are one of the absolute giants in heart rate technology and they continue to lead the way and embrace new technologies and methods of training. With the Polar H7 strap, they have made what I believe is the best Bluetooth heart rate strap. What I like about this, is its ability to connect to a multitude of different devices including Polar’s own watches, Concept2 PM5 monitors and the iPhone and Android App – Polar Beat.

Key features:

  • Provides live and accurate heart rate to all Bluetooth enabled devices
  • Waterproof
  • Compatible with iOS (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch) and Android devices
  • Strong battery life – ideal for endurance athletes and those who do long active holidays with lots of running/ cycling/ swimming.
  • Connects to majority of gym machines you might use e.g. stationary bike, treadmill, elliptical, stepper
  • Incredibly comfortable, adjustable and durable strap
  • Available in multiple colours – black, blue and pink.
Check price on amazon

 

 

Below is a great video giving an introduction and summary, better than I ever could!

2. Wahoo TICKR

The Wahoo is very much the new kid on the block, but it is making huge waves and disrupting the old guard including Suunto, Garmin et al making them a real contender for the best Bluetooth heart rate strap.

The Wahoo TICKR is now the official heart rate monitor for Team Sky – current Tour de France champions, and an event where live tracking of heart rate is more important than any other.

For the tech savvy and ‘early adopters’ of new technology, I would recommend the Wahoo TICKR!

Key features:

  • Live and real time heart rate data
  • Bluetooth and ANT+ compatible
  • Built in memory meaning you can use without having your device with you (and sync later)
  • Ability to connect also to GPS watches including Garmin and Polar.
  • Rep counting for interval training when used with the Wahoo App
Check price on amazon

 

 

As with the Polar, here is a great video for the Wahoo TICKR.

Best Strapless Heart Rate Monitor

Staying on the theme of new technology – wrist based heart rate monitors are becoming big news as they get more and more accurate. As with above – I believe that there are two clear leaders here (excluding highly priced GPS watches geared more towards runners & cyclists), and both are on their second release, where they have built on the feedback from their initial entries into this market.

1. Mio Alpha 2

This is a chunky watch that tracks your heart rate and is geared towards serious athletes. The company is pretty new, but they are gaining credibility quickly for the quality of their technology. I absolutely love the look of this watch, and it comes packed with features.

Key features

  • Wrist based heart rate, even when sweating through exercise
  • Track activity including steps, distance and calories
  • Sync to Bluetooth enabled apps
  • Water resistant up to 100ft / 30 m
Check price on amazon

 

 

2. Fitbit Charge 2

If you are in the market for a strapless heart rate monitor, then there is no way that you have escaped hearing about the Fitbit. It has been a bit of a game changer, and is very much the most popular out there.

Fitbit do a number of models, but the Fitbit Charge 2 is the latest and best rated so far (plus I think looks much better than the original). For even more info on the Fitbit Charge 2, see my review Fitbit Charge 2 vs Garmin Vivosmart HR+

Key features:

  • Wrist based heart rate tracking, carried out continuously throughout the day
  • Ability to give heart rate zones including Fat Burn, Cardio and Peak
  • Smart functionality to link to your mobile device (connected via Bluetooth)
Check price on amazon

 

 

Best Heart Rate Monitor for iPhone

If you have made it this far, then you’ve been introduced to a number of market leading products that exist. If you are looking to track and monitor your heart rate on your iPhone then you need to make one big decision that we have covered – do you want to use a strap or do you want to use wrist based heart rate monitor.

The devices mentioned above all come with their own native apps for both iPhone and Android and this also feeds into the decision. However, I believe that by far the best heart rate monitor for iPhone is the Wahoo TICKR. As you can imagine, you need the strap, but you should connect it to the Wahoo Fitness App, and the suite of other apps available from Wahoo.

Key App Features

  • 7 Minute Workout – workouts loaded into the app, with logic to count your reps based on movement in the strap
  • Utility – ability to test and check up on your Bluetooth heart rate strap
  • Wellness – track your weight and BMI over time
  • Runfit – GPS fitness tracking for cardio, running and walking etc.
  • Wahoo Fitness – GPS app for running and cycling
Check price on amazon

Best Equipment for Weight Loss at Home

So it is that time of year again, and there are thousands of articles, guides and companies wanting your money on the promise of helping you shift some of that gut. But what really is the best equipment for weight loss at home?

Well, this is a position I too have been in before. Believe it or not, the biggest problem with being an ex-rower at times is eating like a rower, but not doing the 2+ hours of training a day that used to go with it!

Anyway, I am going to summarise key pieces of equipment that are in my opinion essential for long term health and fitness, which should be considered along with any weight loss plan. I am dividing them into four categories:

  • Cardio Fitness
  • Strength
  • Mobility
  • Flexibility

 

Best Equipment for Weight Loss – Cardio

So this really depends on what your situation is. If you have access to a gym, or to the outdoors then you really need to mix it up. Running, Cycling etc. However, if you are looking to get a single piece of equipment for your home then there is only one choice that works all major muscle groups whilst being low impact on the joints. The rowing machine.

Rowing Machine

As seen in this article I have previously written, there are many types of rowing machines. I would personally always choose a Concept2 over any competitor, but there are other options that might fit a tighter budget. Rowers are quite simply the fittest athletes on the plant, and typically have low bloody pressure 

Rowing machines can be used for both HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) which need to be combined for the most effective results.

Buy on amazon

 

 

Heart Rate (HR) Monitor

If you are doing any form of training with a goal in mind, I think it is crazy to be doing so without knowing what your heart is doing. Training can be made much more efficient and effective if you train in certain heart rate zones. For this reason, a heart rate monitor is one of the best pieces of equipment for weight loss.

Again, I have done a bit of a run down on models available here – my personal favourite comes in quite low cost in the masses of HR watches available. The Polar FT80. It does exactly what you need it to do and is a very well trusted brand. You can always upgrade to a fancier one once you have shifted some of that gut!

Buy on amazon

 

 

Best Equipment For Weight Loss – Strength

Kettle Bell

Different approaches work for different people, and completely depends on your starting point and ability. Building lean muscle is a great long term approach for weight loss as in short, when you build more muscle your body burns more calories at rest. Doing this at home is tricky as there are so many specific exercises for different muscle groups. If this is your plan, you either need a very big space for multiple pieces of equipment or a very specific routine to uses just a couple of pieces.

However, for the newcomer to weight loss, just working the right muscles in an easy manner to build a routine is most important. For this, I think the humble kettlebell can be utilized to work almost any muscle group. You can buy them in varying sizes, or just get one and work out your sets & reps ranges around that. This range of cast iron kettlebells from CAP are the ones I would personally go for.

Even with a gym membership, I have a kettlebell at home to be used for the odd morning or evening when I don’t have time to gym but can fit in a quick 10-15 minute workout.

Buy on amazon

 

 

Resistance Bands

As mentioned in a prior article, there are a number of new sets of resistance bands being released into the market, all with different focuses. I love the look of this set as the resistance is enough that you can get a good strength workout in using just this single piece of equipment that costs the price of one meal!

This set from Black Mountain looks great, but there are others on amazon that meet the same criteria. With this all you need is to scour youtube for people filming 10-15 minute workouts using these bands. Perfect to fit into any schedule or into a suitcase if you travel with work.

Buy on amazon

 

 

Best Equipment For Weight Loss – Mobility

Resistance Bands

On a similar theme to above, resistance bands are becoming huge now – and for good reason. In my opinion, if you are trying to get into a new regime of health and fitness, mobility is essential to work on as like most of us who are desk bound day in day out, there are massive gains to be made.

For the purpose of mobility, I don’t think you need to go to extravagant on bands to use for this. I personally use the set from Limm here. See my article previously published on the subject for some more ideas about this. 

Improving mobility can be addictive, and for me I look at it like this – every joint effects those north of it on the body. So if you have had hips, your ankles are probably impacting them. If you have a bad lower back, your hips and ankles are contributing. Etc.

Buy on amazon

 

 

Best Equipment for Weight Loss – Flexibility

Foam Roller

This is my final recommendation, and again I think this is a key item for any portfolio of home equipment. If you are moving into a new workout routine, recovery is key. In the past, simply stretching was the only option available however advances in technology mean you can now get equipment that is much better at this.

I take my foam roller on any trip abroad I do either with my rowing team or with my bike. It is great for releasing tension and massaging muscles. There are a number of different types. I personally use this model by Trigger Point, but as a newbie there are entry level versions which are still effective. the best foam roller

Buy on amazon

 

 

Summary

So, in short – if you are setting up to lose weight from home, these are the pieces of equipment you should be looking to get into your armoury.

  • Rowing Machine
  • HR Monitor
  • Kettle Bell
  • Resistance Bands
  • Foam Roller

If you get all of this, you really are making a great investment into long term health and fitness. Now – check out some of my other posts that will be helpful.

  1. So you’ve bought a rowing machine – what next?
  2. Rowing Machine Workouts
  3. Which muscles does a rowing machine use?

 

Until next time.

Simon

 

Best Resistance Bands

In the world of home workouts, there is are a few new toys that are simply a must and one of these that is gaining great infamy is the humble resistance band.

Now, this might not be an item that can have a direct input into muscle growth or cardio fitness, however I feel it it needs to be used in a short and frequently carried out set of routines to help with mobility and flexibility.

If you’ve ever felt niggles in your back, hips, ankles, shoulders – I guarantee these would be improved and even removed through being more mobile.

There are floods of companies offering different types and models of resistance bands, and my aim here is to give a quick summary of the different types so that you can understand what is the best resistance band for your needs. I have identified three key areas that resistance bands have been aimed at targeting:

  1. Mobility & Flexibility
  2. Full Body Workouts
  3. Olympic Lifts

Mobility & Flexibility

At a later date I plan to dig much deeper into this subject but in short:

  • Mobility – the freedom at which a joint can move through its range of motion. Typically combatted through a range of exercises that require good posture and work on improving this range of motion.
  • Flexibility – the length of a muscle. Typically combatted through stretching.

If this is an area that interests you, I can recommend this site Mobility WOD as the best source of information out there on the subject.

So, back to this post – in order to improve mobility you need to have a routine that helps you work on expanding your range of motion in key places. I personally like to work my way up as I believe the mobility of a joint affects everything above that joint. So for me I would do ankles > hips > lower back > shoulders > wrists. As a rower, mobility is paramount and means you can get much better hip power and rock over to engage more muscle groups.

Resistance bands for mobility don’t need to be over engineered, and are generally there to
provide some tension that can be adjusted easily. There are a number of sets out there, and I think that this set by Limm gives exactly what you need. There are 5 bands offering different levels of resistance that can be inter changed by body part or as strength improves.

Buy on amazon
I will start suggesting my favourite and most effective routines for improving mobility. Watch this space.

Full Body Workouts

Now this isn’t totally new – people have been using some type of resistance bands for getting in a home workout for decades, however the equipment available for this is always improving.

These days you can get sets that come with handles and grips that attach to a host of different bands of different resistances. This means the number of exercises you can do effectively is much greater. If workout out at home is something you do a lot, I think this can be a very good investment.

There are a number of sets on the market, and I think that this set by Black Mountain is both high quality and great value – what more can you want!

Buy on amazon

See below for a great 10 minute session you can do with just one resistance band set at home.

10 minute resistance band workout

Olympic Lifting

This is for the serious lifter, and one that will typically already have a strength & conditioning coach. One way to add extra resistance to a lift that escalates through the movement is using a real heavy duty band. This is commonly done for Deadlifts or Bench Press – I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone without an experienced spotter or coach. However – these are the final set of resistance bands I said I would share information on.

These bands from WOD Fitters are ones I have seen used in my gym.
I can’t say I have been brave enough to use them but they are incredibly heavy duty – and they need to be if you are lifting weights that require the use of bands to help you through plateaus and pace of lifts. They are expensive, and the price is PER BAND, but if this is something you are looking to invest in then look no further.

Buy on amazon

Conclusion

To summarise – there are a number of key types of resistance band, however from my perspective they should be used primarily for mobility as there are much better pieces of equipment you can buy to support full body workouts. So for me, the best resistance band set is the Limm and I think you’ll be surprised at how much improved mobility affects not only exercising, but all over posture.

 

Until next time,

Simon