Rowing is one of the best exercises you can do for your entire body.
It’s up there with deadlifts and squats with the more effective total body exercises. Work both your upper back, lower back, legs and arms all while getting that heartrate up!
So much win.
Since it’s such a complete exercise, rowing machines are great options for home gyms.
We will be comparing two of the most popular and effective rowing machines, the WaterRower vs Concept 2, fully compared with pros and cons .
About the Companies and Machines
Both machines are made by dedicated rowing machine companies. These aren’t generic brand X machines; they are designed by manufacturers who are serious about fitness and rowing’s benefits.
WaterRower is a company that puts quality, ethos and style above all else. They are kind of like fitness hipsters but in a good way. They have spent nearly 30 years handcrafting their exercise machines locally in the USA.
The good folks at WaterRower are also friends of the environment. They use a minimal amount of synthetic materials, and many of their machines are made primarily from wood. The timber they use is certified sustainable Appalachian hardwood.
Concept 2 is a rowing company, not just a rowing machine company. Founded by Olympic rowers in 1981, this company knows how to make tools for a successful rower. Besides rowing machines, they also make oars and skiing machines for training.
Their machines are made mostly of high quality steel and composites. The components are built with quality in mind. For example, Concept 2’s machines are finished to resist scratching, and their nickel plated chains require less frequent oiling.
So as you can see, these machines are quite different in construction and appearance, but how do they perform? Let’s take a look at some of the unique ways these machines help you row.
The WaterRower, as the name implies, uses actual water to simulate rowing on an open lake or river . The pull rope is connected to a paddle immersed in a water chamber at the front of the machine. The paddle rotates when you pull the cable and spins smoothly through the water.
The main benefit of this is a more uniform and even exercise. There’s no “jerk” as the chain catches the flywheel. Your exercises become more (pardon the pun) fluid, and your body experiences less impact. It’s the closest you can get to rowing without getting in a boat.
This is our number 1 big difference.
More unique features include:
- Built-in dolly wheels for transport
- Foldable design for upright storage
- Dual rails with four corner wheels (increases seat stability and reduces the buildup of sweat)
- 1,000-pound weight capacity
- Sophisticated performance monitor with an optional heart rate chest strap and receiver
Concept 2 machines aren’t some fancy luxury items; they are designed with performance in mind. They are meant to give you control and information vital to your exercises.
For control, the Concept 2’s offer on the fly air resistance adjustment so you can quickly and easily adjust the stroke to your preference.
If information is what you want, they have that covered. Their PM5 performance monitors (standard with all machines) give you an almost dizzying array of workout information as well as pre-made workout routine choices.
You can also connect your smartphone via Bluetooth and track your workouts on the free ErgData app. Furthermore, you can upload your workouts online on Concept 2’s Online Logbook.
This is another big difference, you can connect the Concept 2 to simulators online and see visualizations of you rowing.
More unique features include:
- Higher than average seat height for ease of use
- Quick release frame lock for fast and tool-free breakdown and vertical storage
- Enclosed flywheel housing and nickel plated chain for lowered maintenance requirement
- Solid one-piece front and rear leg design for increased stability
- Adjustable footrests and ergonomic handle
- Multiple machine connectivity possible for team training
Pros and Cons
Both of these rowing machines are well made, but they also lack in their unique areas. Let’s take a look and some of the pros and cons of these two machines when compared to each other.
- Smooth and relaxing workout
- No fan so no loud air blowing around workout area
- Wide array of aesthetically pleasing construction options
- Lower impact and less mechanical exercise
- Low profile (no flywheel jutting up, water container stored below rail)
- Quick and easy folding and storage
- Not as durable as other rowers (water tank can wear after prolonged and heavy use, necessitating the purchase of a repair kit)
- Somewhat difficult to assemble for the first time
- Functional but relatively unsophisticated performance monitor
- Less control over stroke strength and intensity
Concept 2 Pros
- PM5 performance monitor highly functional with a wealth of features
- Smartphone and online log connectivity
- Precision control over stroke speed and resistance.
- High seat for limited mobility users
- Top quality and durable materials that last
- Highly adjustable
- Somewhat loud operation
- Seat not as comfortable or big as other models
- Performance tracking programs not compatible with other systems (Apple Fitness etc.) and can be difficult to use for the technologically challenged
- Comparable in price to WaterRower despite not being made of premium materials and not overwhelming with features
Different Stroke for Different Folks
When comparing the WaterRower and Concept 2, know that both of these machines have their places in the gym, but it depends heavily on who plans on using them. They may both be rowing machines, but their intended audience and functions are quite far apart.
The WaterRower is best for the casual rower who wants a good workout that won’t impact the back and knees too much.
This machine fits best in a home or office where its quiet operation and aesthetically pleasing design will add to atmosphere instead of detracting from it. You can count on a smooth, relaxing and productive workout with the WaterRower.
On the other hand, if you are serious about fitness and especially rowing, you’ll probably prefer the Concept 2.
The loud flywheel won’t be a problem for you because you are already grunting through a heavy workout. This machine gives you the control, resistance and data you need to get your body in shape for that sporting or fitness event you are training for.
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