Reviews

Concept2 RowErg Review: Why This Rower Is A Must For CrossFit Home Gyms

June 7, 2022 by
concept2 row erg in a garage
Photo courtesy Garage Gym Reviews
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The Concept2 RowErg, formerly known as the Concept2 Model D Rower, is like the Subaru of rowing machines. With an exceptional build quality, this machine can withstand years of workouts, sprints, and recovery flows alike. 

Whether you’re in the market for a rowing machine for your garage gym or local affiliate, you probably want to know if some of the fancier, shmancier, pricier options, such as the coveted Hydrow or Ergatta, are better. The answer: For CrossFit, they’re not. 

Ahead, our complete Concept2 RowErg review explains why this is the best rowing machine for CrossFit (and one of the best indoor rowing machines overall). 

TL;DR: Concept2 RowErg Review

Concept2 Row Erg in a home gym
Concept2 RowErg in a home gym
Credit: Garage Gym Reviews

What we love: Truthfully, there isn’t much we don’t love about this product. It’s durable, reasonably priced, and built to accommodate athletes of a variety of heights, weights, and shoe sizes. And the ErgData app means the RowErg is more high-tech than ever before.

What we don’t: If anything could use improvement, it’s the seat and handle. The seat is less cushy on the rear than some competitor products and the handle has a reputation of causing calluses. 

The Chalk Up: Hands down, the Concept2 RowErg is the best rower on the market for CrossFit athletes, as well as any exerciser who wants an air resistance rowing machine for low-impact cardio workouts. 

Concept2 RowErg: Pros and Cons 

Pros: 

  • Approved for CrossFit-sanctioned events and workouts
  • Easy to assemble
  • Adjustable footrests 
  • Quality aluminum and steel construction
  • Ergonomic handle and seat
  • Comprehensive LCD display shows several metrics 
  • Bluetooth-compatible and ANT+ enabled
  • Multiple built-in workout options
  • Low maintenance
  • PM5 monitor connects to heart rate monitors
  • Device holder allows you to prop up phone or tablet to stream workouts or videos 
  • Monitor arm folds back when not in use 
  • Can stand vertically for easy storage

Cons:

  • Handle may cause calluses during long sessions
  • Does not have native streaming classes the way some competitor machines do
  • Seat is not padded
  • Not comfortable for people over 6’6” to use (38” inseam)
  • The Model E indoor rower is discontinued (RowErg with tall legs and 20” seat height is the replacement)
  • Requires D cell batteries
  • Air flywheels are noisy

Concept2 RowErg Specs

Product Weight57 lbs
Dimensions96” L x 24” W x 14” seat height (20” seat height for tall legs)
Max User Weight500 lbs
Max User Height6’6” (38” inseam)
MonitorPM5
BluetoothYes
Warranty5-year warranty on frame parts, 2-year warranty on other parts 

10 Reasons Why the Concept2 RowErg is a Must-Have for CrossFit Home Gyms

A Concept2 rowing machine is an incredible investment for anyone who wants to incorporate rowing into their sweat sessions, whether they’re looking to smash typical CrossFit rowing WODs or simply enjoy a full-body workout. Ahead, we outline why all sorts of exercisers would be wise to invest in this iconic machine. We also explain why this piece of exercise equipment is ideal specifically for CrossFit athletes. 

1. Easy Setup

Some exercise machines make you feel like you need to hire an engineer just to put them together. (Ever tried to set up a Peloton? It’s tough!). Far easier to put together than an IKEA dresser, the Concept2 RowErg should take you no longer than 30 minutes to put together. Best part: All the necessary screws and tools come included. 

2. Affordable

The sad truth is that, as a category, rowers are some of the most expensive CrossFit equipment (and fitness equipment in general) out there, perhaps aside from exercise bikes and treadmills

At just over $1,000, however, the Concept2 is far less expensive than other rowers on the market. The Hydrow Rower, for instance, has a list price of about $2,500, and the NordicTrack RW900 is listed at about $1,800. While these two magnetic rowing machines are fantastic for home use, they don’t make sense for people who want the simple functionality of an air rower and/or don’t have that much to spend. 

Translation: Even if you’re not a CrossFit athlete, this rower is likely still one of your best options. 

a woman using the concept2 rowerg
Concept2 RowErgs are great for any sort of home gym
Credit: Kate Meier/Garage Gym Reviews

3. Comprehensive Monitor

The monitor built into the Concept2 RowErg is called the PM5 Performance Monitor. If you’ve ever used another Concept2 product before, it will look familiar as this is the monitor on all their conditioning equipment.

This monitor allows you to track a variety of stats, including: 

  • 500m split time
  • Stokers per minute
  • Time
  • Calories
  • Watts 
  • Predicted finish

The monitor also allows you to easily program intervals and other workouts. You could, for instance, pre-program a workout like five 1000-meter rows for time with 2 minutes of rest in between. Then, you simply row when it tells you to row and rest when it tells you to rest. Much easier than playing mathematician and staring at a clock!

But don’t worry, you don’t need to be a tech master to use it: The buttons are intuitive and easy to use. 

The PM5 also stores your workout data so you can peruse old personal bests or see how far you’ve come. If you want more than the 1,000 workouts you can store on the PM5, use the ErgData app as your logbook. You can store unlimited workout data in this free app that connects to the RowErg monitor. 

4. Seat Height Options

The RowErg is available with standard legs or tall legs. With the standard legs, the seat height is 14 inches from the ground, and with the tall legs, the seat height is 20 inches from the ground. People who are taller don’t necessarily need the tall legs, but it may make the rower more comfortable to use. Anyone who has trouble getting on and off of low-sitting furniture may also benefit from the taller legs.

Concept2 RowErg 14-inch and 20-inch seat height comparison
Concept2 RowErg 14-inch and 20-inch seat height comparison. Credit: Concept2

5. Comfortable for Most Body Shapes and Sizes

The machine itself is 8 feet long and 2 feet wide. That doesn’t sound too big, but it can actually accommodate people up to 6-feet-6-inches in height and 500 pounds in weight. (Though according to rower reviews on Amazon and other places online, people taller than that make the machine work, too). 

6. Contoured Seat

Most air rowers on the market look more-or-less the same. After all, they all have a gliding seat on a monorail, a handle with a steel chain or other pulley system, and a big flywheel. But the Concept2 seat and handle are more ergonomically designed than many of the other options on the market. 

The seat is contoured to the natural shape of the rear. It’s no sofa, but it’s more comfortable than harder, less contoured seats on the market. 

It’s worth mentioning that some users complain about monkey butt (AKA dreaded butt-crack chafing) after a long endurance or interval workout. Usually, learning to rest on your sit bones will stop this issue in its tracks. But for just a few bucks, you can also buy a Concept2 Rower Seat Pad, which adds a little more squish for your seat. 

7. Ergonomic Handle 

The entire time you’re on the rower you’re holding a handle. So, you want that handle to be well-designed and comfortable to hand onto. The Concept2 rower’s handle features a 10-degree angle that allows you to grip the handle and maintain a natural wrist position. The handle also has rubber molding that is both grippy and sweat-absorbent. 

If you’re going to try rowing a marathon, however, you might want to grab some chalk. Certain reviewers have commented that they get blisters on their fingers if they row for a very long time. 

concept2 rower handle closeup
Concept2 RowErg handle. Credit: Rogue Fitness/Concept2

8. Easily Adjustable Foot Straps

If you’re a CrossFit athlete, you need foot straps that are as easily adjustable as the nylon straps on the RowErg. Why? Well, because if you’re doing a workout that requires getting in and out of the rower, you need to be able to adjust them quickly, lest you fall off of the podium.

But that doesn’t mean the straps are loosey-goosey. While it’s easy to get the strap as tight (or not) as you want against your foot, once it’s in place you don’t have to worry about it getting looser. (And that’s true no matter your shoe size!). 

Some CrossFit athletes choose to ride the Concept2 barefoot during long, steady endurance work. Is that you? If so, you’ll be happy to hear that the footpad itself is flexible and contoured to the natural shape of the foot.

9. Unlimited Resistance

First things first: Air rowers have user-dependent resistance, unlike rowers with magnetic resistance, which have defined levels of resistance. On an air rower, the harder you pull, the more resistance you create. So you have unlimited resistance, so long as your power output doesn’t peter out. 

You might be thinking: Well, what about the damper? It’s true that the Concept2 RowErg has a 

damper dial that allows you to easily toggle between 10 different settings. But Concept2 itself clarifies that the damper setting does not directly affect the resistance of the rowing machine, it just fine-tunes the airflow into the fan blades. 

10. CrossFit Comp Approved 

If you’re planning to host a local Friday Night Lights for the CrossFit Open, this is the rower you need. CrossFit does not allow people to complete Open workouts on any other type of rowing machine, not water rowers or magnetic rowers or even other air rowers. To clarify: You cannot log official scores for CrossFit-sanctioned events on any other rower than a Concept2 RowErg. 

Remember the 2018 marathon row event? Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Rowing Experience on the Concept2 RowErg

The Concept2 RowErg could not be easier to use. (And this is coming from someone who finds it difficult to turn on her television!) 

If you consider the fact that this is the rower that populates boxes and home gyms all over the world (yep, world!) that shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, if the machine required savvy to use or set up, it simply wouldn’t be suitable for CrossFit workouts, where the goal is typically to go as fast as possible. This includes getting on and off of any cardio machine as quickly as you can. 

Indeed, the damper, foot cradles, and monitor are all easy to personalize to your needs. The damper and food pedals can be easily adjusted to your desired setting. And getting the monitor going requires no more than two quick button presses. 

concept2 rower handle closeup
Concept2 RowErg handle. Credit: Rogue Fitness/Concept2

One of the most noteworthy features of the Concept2 RowErg—and arguably, the most overlooked by the average CrossFit enthusiast—is just how easy the monitor is to use.  Sure, the “Just Row” feature comes in handy during the middle of metcons. But, the fact that you can pre-program your workout makes the machine a joy to ride during interval work and timed 2K trials. 

If your coach has ever programmed a set of rowing intervals (think: 4 X 1000-meter row, 2 minutes rest in between) and you didn’t pre-program the workout into your rower, you probably spent half your rest period doing math on how fast you went last interval and when you need to start your next! 

Pre-programming the work into your machine allows you to, well, actually catch your breath between the bouts of work. 

Footprint And Portability 

The machine is 8 feet long and 2 feet wide. Concept2 recommends that you have at least 9 feet by 4 feet of space to use the machine comfortably. 

If you live in close quarters or have a box on the smaller side, you’ll be thrilled to know that the rower can be broken down into two main parts. No, you don’t need screws or other tools to disassemble it. Phew. Actually, it features a quick-release framelock mechanism that allows you to unlock the two parts fairly easily after workouts. 

concept2 rowerg set up in a living room with various gym equipment in the background
The Concept2 RowErg can fit even in a living room home gym.
Credit: Garage Gym Reviews

Another storage option is to purchase the Rogue Rower Hanger, which is a wall-mount designed to store the Concept2 off of the floor between uses. You don’t really need one if you’re not concerned about floor space, though, since the RowErg does store vertically on its own.

The machine also has two wheels built into the front of the machine for easy transport from one side of your gym to the other. The wheels are durable enough that you can even haul the rower outside on nice days for those tan-and-tone sessions all CrossFit fiends enjoy. 

Construction And Durability 

The Concept2 RowErg is a commercial-grade machine. That means that it was designed specifically to withstand the wear and tear of people using it all day long, day after day. Made from a combination of aluminum and stainless steel, this machine is durable. 

Better yet, it will last without much upkeep. 

closeup of concetp2 rowerg flywheel
Concept2 RowErgs don’t require much maintenance.
Credit: Garage Gym Reviews

The only thing this machine requires is that you oil the nickel-plated chain every once in a while. Concept2 recommends that you oil it every 50 hours of use. Depending on how many WODs you program with rowers and how many friends go in and out of your home gym, that means you’ll need to oil it about once a month to once a quarter. Easy!

After a few years, you might want to get the rower professionally serviced to ensure everything is operating smoothly. The screens get wonky sometimes, too. It’s happened at several gyms our product testers have gone to; many affiliates have someone come out once a year to check on the machines. In a home gym, a rower won’t get that much use, so you probably wouldn’t need annual checkups.

The RowErg also takes 2 D cell batteries that you’ll need to replace anywhere from once a month to once a year, depending on how frequently you ride. 

Tech Specs 

Concept2 row erg pm5 performance monitor
Concept2 RowErg PM5 performance monitor. Credit: Rogue Fitness/Concept2

The PM5 Performance Monitor, standard with every RowErg, is user-friendly, easy-to-use, and provides repeatable, comparable data for every workout. 

The mode most CrossFitters use most is the simple “Just Row” mode that allows you to get right to it. But you can also pre-program a variety of workouts, including interval sprints, timed single-distance trials, and more. 

As you row, you can toggle the monitor back and forth to see a bunch of different stats, including: pace, watts, strokes per minute, calories, estimated finish, speed, and more. 

The machine also automatically stores the data from your workout. Afterward, you can easily toggle through the monitor to learn exactly what your average pace, stroke rate, and more were throughout your session. 

Techies will also be happy to learn that the monitor can connect to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth or ANT+. This allows you to get more in-depth data on your workout, as well as a place to store them long-term. 

concept-2-rower-flywheel
Concept2 Rower flywheel. Credit: Rogue Fitness/Concept2

Customer Reviews

Every place this product is sold online (Amazon, Rogue, and directly from Concept2), it has garnered thousands and thousands of reviews—the vast majority of them positive. 

On Amazon, for example, the rower has over 9,000 reviews. Less than 5% of buyers on Amazon left something other than a 5-star review! That means 95 percent of customers were thrilled with their purchase. 

Similarly, on Rogue Fitness, the machine has garnered nearly 1,500 reviews and a 5-star average rating. Of all those reviews, only 5 of them were negative. (Some reviewers left a low rating because their machine was damaged in transit but Rogue replied, noting that their team would be reaching out to the customer to make it right). 

All in all, the reviews of the Concept2 RowErg floating around the internet make it clear that not only is it the best rower on the market, it may be the most loved piece of equipment ever. 

Remember: The RowErg is the only rowing machine allowed in CrossFit-sanctioned events. Photo courtesy of CrossFit, Inc.

Warranty, Financing, and Returns

Concept2 isn’t just spewing word salad when they say the machine is long-lasting. Actually, the frame parts (foot assembly, seat, seat frame, chain guide, front legs, etc) have a five-year warranty. Concept2 will repair or replace all other parts of the machine within two years from the date of purchase. 

Also, this warranty is fully transferable. Meaning, if you sell the machine before the two or five year warranty window is up—for instance, if you move to a new, smaller apartment—the new owner can take advantage of the remainder of your warranty.

What happens if you get the rower and you realize it’s not for you? If you purchase it directly from Concept2 (and not Rogue Fitness, for example), you can return it to Concept2 within 30 days of shipment and they will refund the cost of the machine entirely. Good to know!

Currently, Concept2 does not offer any finance plans from their website directly, but on Amazon, you can finance it interest-free with an Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card. 

Concept2 RowErg vs. Xebex Air Rower

Curious what kind of competition the Concept2 is up against? Fair. There are actually a number of brands— Xebex, NordicTrack, Hydrow, Schwinn, Stamina, ProForm—with rowing machines on the market. 

For non-CrossFitters, the far pricier Hydrow or Aviron could be decent options. After all, both smart machines have ginormous touchscreen displays and the option to tune in to coach-led virtual rowing workouts. 

But really the only other option that a CrossFit disciple might consider is the Xebex Air Rower. The Xebex Air Rower is a quality machine that is designed to handle the wear-and-tear any machine gets at a gym. 

xebex air rower on white background
Xebex Air Rower
Credit: XEBEX Fitness

Side-by-side, the Xebex machine and Concept2 look nearly identical. Both are made from high quality aluminum and sport eerily similar fans, seat glides, and frames. 

The main difference between the two are the seat and the monitor. The seat of the Xebex Air Rower is slightly cushier than the seat of the Concept2.

But the monitor on the Xebex Air Rower is less intuitive than the monitor on the Concept2. Further, it actually uses a different formula to track calories and distance than the Concept2. That doesn’t matter for the non-CrossFit athlete. However, for a CrossFit athlete that does matter. If you do iconic CrossFit workouts like Jackie, 19.1, and 15.5 on the Xebex Air Rower, for instance, you’ll get a different workout than if you did it on the Concept2. 

And it bears repeating: This rower cannot be used during CrossFit Open workouts. 

Ultimately, at just $800 the Xebex Air Rower is a decent pick for anyone at any fitness level who just wants an air rower to do general workouts on. But CrossFit athletes would be wise to drop the extra cash and get the Concept2 instead.  

Concept2 RowErg vs. AssaultRower Elite

Yep, you read that right— it says AssaultRower. Made by the manufacturers of the AssaultRunner and AssaultBike, the AssaultRower has garnered attention from athletes and box owners. But ultimately, for CrossFitters and non-CrossFitters alike, the Concept2 still comes out on top. 

For starters, the AssaultRower Elite rings up at $1,199, making it a little pricier than the Concept2. 

assault airrower on tan background
Assault AirRower Elite
Credit: Assault Fitness

Beyond that, the Concept2 offers more damper settings, is friendlier for smaller spaces (smaller footprint, can be disassembled), and offers more advanced monitor technology. The AssaultRower Elite does not have as many options for custom intervals or pre-set workouts, which is not ideal for anyone who enjoys doing interval work on their rowing machine. 

Can the sturdy AssaultRower Elite improve your fitness? Of course. But it’s less advanced than you might expect for a machine at its higher price point. 

Concept2 RowErg Review: The Chalk Up 

The bottom line is that the Concept2 RowErg didn’t become the rower that populates literally every single CrossFit box by mistake. 

The Concept2 RowErg is a high-quality machine that is built to withstand the use and abuse of athletes hour after hour, day after day. With the help of this machine, you’ll be able to reach your fitness goals, compete in CrossFit-sanctioned events, and improve your aerobic fitness. 

Concept2 RowErg FAQs

Is the Concept2 RowErg same as Model D? 

Yes: The Concept2 RowErg is the new name of the Model D rower. Meaning, the names are different but the rowing machines are the same. The only difference between the two is aesthetic; the graphic along the side of the rower says RowErg instead of Model D. 

Which Concept2 rower should I buy? 

The Concept2 RowErg! When you go online you’ll see you have two different leg height options. Opt for the standard 14-inch height; that’s their best selling rower and it provides everything you need for a great rowing workout. If you’re taller or have trouble getting up from the ground, investing in the option with tall legs could be beneficial, but it’ll cost a little more. 

How loud is the Concept2 RowErg? 

By nature, rowing machines with air flywheels can be quite noisy. However, the RowErg isn’t so loud that it should bother someone a room or two away, and it certainly won’t be heard indoors by your neighbors if you live in a single-family home. 

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