You may have wondered to yourself, “why does CrossFit utilize the rower rather than say a climber, treadmill, spin bike, or really any other piece of cardio equipment out there?” When you go to a commercial gym you see almost everything but rowers, right? I mean, perhaps the gym has a couple off in the corner, but they definitely do not dominate the gym’s cardio space. So why did CrossFit decide to go with the rower when so few others have?
Well as it turns out there is more than one reason why CrossFit has adopted the rower over run-of-the-mill cardio machines, and we’ll talk about them all. Following that, I’ll tell you why the Concept 2 Rower is the rower of choice and the most popular rower in the marketplace. Then we’ll talk about who has the best overall pricing on the Concept 2 Model D rower, the model of choice for CrossFit.
Last updated December 2017 – minor spelling and grammar revisions.
Rowing is a full body movement
At first glance, you may think that rowing is just a different kind of cardio that focuses on the upper body rather than the lower like stair climbers, treadmills or spin bikes do. It would be logical to assume that the back does most of the work in a pulling movement, and while that may be the case in static exercise like a weighted row, that is certainly not the case when it comes to rowing on a row machine.
Rowing is definitely a full body movement; it uses almost every major muscle group in your body including the lats, quads, hamstrings, glutes, abs, obliques, the lower back, shoulders, and arms – both biceps and triceps. And since you’re using so many muscles at once, you will most certainly be elevating your heart rate. This makes it a much more efficient workout than running in place or spinning; both of which primarily use only the lower body.
Rowing is an efficient calorie burner
You might not think that a movement that involves sitting could burn all that many calories per hour, but you might be surprised. Rowing is metabolically challenging, and it can burn upwards of 1000 calories per hour. Just consider how many muscles are working together in harmony to complete each stroke. You’d have to push yourself pretty damn hard using an elliptical to hit those numbers, and you’d still only be challenging (I use the word challenge loosely in this case) your lower body.
So if you’re going to put in the time, you may as well be working the whole body rather than just the bottom half. You can burn just as many calories in less time, or better yet, you can burn twice as many calories in the same time.
Rowing develops strength and endurance
The beauty of rowing is that it never becomes obsolete simply because your endurance or strength improves. Rowing can be as breezy or as challenging as you choose to make it, as the simple act of rowing harder or rowing faster increases difficulty exponentially. Be it on a water rower or the Concept 2 rower, the resistance becomes greater the harder you pull, so push yourself on a rower and your cardiovascular health, endurance, and overall strength will always continue to improve.
Rowing is a low impact exercise
Rowing is an extremely safe form of cardio. It’s easy on your joints; especially those knees and ankles; and it can be performed at high endurance levels by nearly everyone, and with no fear of injury. It’s also beneficial for joint health since rowing moves your joints through such a large range of motion.
Rowing is the only movement you need a machine for
Most people don’t have access to true outdoor rowing; at least on a regular basis. I mean, how many of us have homes that back up to a lake? So if you want the health and fitness benefits of rowing, you’ll probably need access to a rowing machine.
On the other hand, if you want to run, jog, walk, cycle, or climb, you don’t necessarily need a treadmill, spin bike, or stair climber. You can just go outside and jog down the street, hop on a bicycle and go for a ride, or find some stairs or a big hill to climb. Owning machines for any of these activities is simply due to a preference to be indoors rather than out. That’s all fine and good, of course, but the advantage of the indoor rower is that it’s a full body cardio exercise that you probably couldn’t do without the machine.
Commercial row machines are affordable
A commercial, high-quality row machine that will last a lifetime can be had for around $900. Compare that price to a commercial treadmill, recumbent bike, elliptical machine, climber, or any other cardio machine and you’ll see a rower is much more affordable. Some of the better pieces of cardio equipment out there can cost five or six times what a rower will cost you.
So if you had to provide a dozen or more identical pieces of cardio equipment for your gym or CrossFit affiliate members, what would you prefer? Rowers that cost roughly $900 each that offered an efficient, full body exercise, or the typicl space-stealing treadmills or climbers that sell for at the very least a few thousand dollars each and offer nothing in the way of fitness that couldn’t be achieved by simply going outside and running around the building?
Why is the Concept 2 the rower of choice for Crossfit?
Now that CrossFit is such a big deal, you have probably seen more than your fair share of Concept2 rowers out there, but it’s not the only rower on the market. Google search rowers or get on Amazon and you’ll see there are dozens of various brands and models to choose from. However, the Concept 2 is still the most prominent. Heck it is the only rower I’ve ever seen in a commercial gym, it’s the only rower most fitness retailers offer for sale, and I have yet to see a different rower in anyone’s garage gym. How can this be?
Superior Design – I think the primary reason the Concept 2 is so popular is it’s design. It’s designed so well that even the wearable parts last for many years even with constant use. A Concept2 Rower just does not break down like cheaper rowers do. Even if you use your rower every day of the week for years and finally need to replace a bearing or some other wearable part, the parts are readily available from the manufacturer at very fair prices. Each Concept2 model is backed by a warranty as well.
Cost – Speaking of fair prices, the MSRP of $900 for the Concept 2 Model D Rower is just amazing considering this is a commercial rower. No other commercial cardio equipment can come close to that price. Those LifeFitness and Precor cardio machines at the gym sell for upwards of $5000 a piece, so $900 is nothing by comparison. Even the upgraded Model D with the PM4 Performance Monitor is only $1050.
Performance Monitors – The Performance Monitor is yet another reason I believe that the Concept 2 is so popular. Even if you don’t upgrade yours to the PM5 and you stick with the PM4, you’re still getting a lot more features than you would with other rowers. In addition to the obvious distance and calories tracking, there are games, races, and ability to log and track your workout data. Many rowers don’t come with any monitor at all; you just row until you feel like you’re done.
Accessories – FInally, the Concept 2 has some very interesting accessories not available with other brands including such things as a receiver for Polar heart rate monitors, slides for making your indoor rowing feel more like real on-the-water rowing, a dynamic link for team rowing, and the previously mentioned PM5 that allows racing between different machines. Check out the video below to see what the slides and dynamic link are all about. Pretty neat stuff.
Where is the best price for the Concept 2?
The MSRP for the Concept 2 Model D Rower in either black or grey is $900 plus shipping, but many retailers ask more than that. Rogue never asks more than MSRP, and even often times has rowers from events on sale for a bit less than MSRP. I suggest snatching one of those up if you’re in the market as they typically were only used for a couple days.
Concept2 Rower Review Summary
There are a lot of options when it comes to indoor cardio, and there are also many options when it comes to choosing where to buy your equipment. If you’re new to CrossFit or the fitness world in general and you are not familiar with the Concept 2 rower, I suggest that you check out some fitness sites, the CrossFit forums, and even just ask around. I think you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t agree that the best cardio you’re going to get on a machine is going to be on the Concept 2 Rower.
- Concept 2 Rower vs the WaterRower – Very structured and well-written post comparing these two brand name rowers. I recommend reading this if you’re considering buying either of these rowers.
- Why Rowing? Crossfit.com – Get the opinions of other Crossfitters regarding the benefits of rowing. Users cover all kinds of benefits; some of which weren’t addressed here.
- Concept2 Website – Check this site out for more technical data on the rowers like specifications, warranty information, and shopping for replacement parts.