WaterRower vs Concept2 rowing machine: Which Rower is Best and Why?

Waterrower vs concept 2

Before I ever found Crossfit, I was deeply acquainted with the rower, or ergometer, as rowers call them. I was a competitive swimmer and rower, both sports used the rowing machine for cross-training. So when I found Crossfit, my experience on the rower meant that I could smash most workouts that had a rowing element.

But all my experience can’t save me from the absolute torturous workouts the rower can dish out. The rowing machine might be the best torture device disguised as a piece of gym equipment that has ever been created. 

In this article, we looked at the two most common types of rowing machines, the WaterRower, which uses water as resistance, and the Concept2 (a flywheel rower).

So let’s see how these 2 compares”:

Water rower and Concept 2 Comparison

 Product's nameDimensionWeightsCost USDMore Info
WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine in Cherry with S4 MonitorVariable Resistance
WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine in Cherry with S4 Monitor
82.28 x 22.44 x 20.08 inches53kg$1,460 Check Price
Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor, BlackSimplicity
Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor, Black
54 x 33 x 24 inches26kg$945Check Price

The Contenders

WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine in Cherry with S4 Monitor

Variable Resistance

#1- WaterRower Oxbridge Rowing Machine in Cherry with S4 Monitor

Check Price

WaterRower is a US-based rowing machine manufacturer. They use verified sustainable Appalachian Hardwood in their designs to limit their overall environmental footprint. WaterRower has been creating rowing machines for over 30 years, operating in Rhode Island, Maine. The WaterRower was originally designed by Yale rower John Duke, as a training tool for elite rowers. 

Resistance

As the name suggests, the WaterRower uses a special water wheel design. This is different from most rowing machines you may have used, which typically use a flywheel. By using water in the mechanics, the WaterRower simulates the feeling of rowing on the water, much better than other rowing machines. The water allows each pull to flow smoothly into the next, instead of having jerks or jarring, typical in flywheel machines. This even, smooth stroke, allows the body to properly use all major muscle groups, and the lack of jarring reduces injury risk. 

Unlike a typical flywheel setup, the Water Flywheel does not have resistance settings. You control how hard you work by…how hard you work, just like if you were really rowing. The Water Flywheel also makes this rower much more quiet than other brands.

Design

The WaterRower comes with an incredible ergonomic design. The footholds are adjustable, and the seat and handle are comfortable. The WaterRower also tips upright, onto wheels, making storage a breeze. 

Unlike a typical rower, the WaterRower is also absolutely beautiful. The wood and water design makes the machine look more like nice furniture than a piece of exercise equipment. You could easily have this rower against your wall and not have your home look tacky or cluttered. 

WaterRower also makes a digital tracking device which is fixed to the rower. The device tracks your distance and time while you row. 

The WaterRower Oxbridge currently sells for $1460 USD.

Pros

  • Beautiful design
  • Ergonomic 
  • Simulates real rowing
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Digital readings
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Price
  • Doesn’t track calories
Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor, Black

Simplicity

#2- Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor, Black

Check Price

If you’ve seen a rower in a gym, especially a Crossfit gym, chances are, it was a Concept 2 rower. Started as a rowing oar company in 1976 by olympic rowers, Concept2 began developing their rowing ergs in 1981. From there, the name Concept2 has become synonymous with rowing machines. Concept2s goal is to promote rowing, indoor and out, across the world, and making rowing accessible to all. 

Design

The Concept2 Model D is built to fit most rowers. It has an ergonomic handle attached to a chain, which pulls a flywheel. You can set the resistance of the flywheel using a damper toggle, depending on your relative strength and experience. The footholds are widely adjustable to fit your feet. 

Once you get going, the flywheel becomes quite smooth, assuming you keep it oiled. 

Some of the best features of Concept2 rowers come in the digital device. You can set the monitor to track distance, time, and calories, in a wide array of configurations. You can track the total number of calories you’ve rowed, you can track calories per hour, you can have a countdown of your calories, the list is endless.

Features

Rowing on a machine can be quite monotonous, so Concept2 even created games you can play on the device to motivate you during training! Another cool feature of Concept2 is their worldwide leaderboard. You can compete with people around the world in a variety of challenges including total distance or time for a specific distance. Concept2 even releases a WOD every day for you to try. 

The Model D is designed to be stored upright, taking up minimal space. 

The Model D retails for $945. 

Pros

  • Comfortable and ergonomic design
  • Great tracking features
  • Easy storage
  • Durable

Cons

  • A bit different from real rowing
  • Can be a bit jarring

The Main Differences Between the WaterRower and the Concept2

Resistance 

What are the main design differences between the WaterRower and the Concept2?

The WaterRower is a fan-based resistance rower, with the flywheel sitting in a cage behind the boat. The blades that are attached to the wheel are designed to mimic paddling through water. A plugboard with adjustable footrests sits on top of the rower to allow for proper use of leg drive and technique.

The Concept2 is a magnetic resistance machine. The flywheel sits under the seat, and pushes against two magnets that are attached to the frame. It’s designed to be used without handles for maximum functionality in Crossfit-style workouts.

Noise Level 

What noise level should I expect from one of these rowing machines?

The Concept2 is a fan-based rower, so while it’s offers a smoother feeling, it will be considerably louder.

The WaterRower, since it’s water-based, will be quieter than a flywheel. So if noise is an important factor for you, I’d go with this one.

Seat and Design

What kind of seat does each rower have? How comfortable is the seat, and how well do they stay in place when in use? Which rower would be best for someone with a bad back or a sensitive pelvis bone?

The Concept2 has a molded plastic seat that moves on a sliding rail. It’s got a nice textured surface to keep things from getting too slippery, and the seat itself is designed to be ergonomic and comfortable for long workouts.


The WaterRower comes with either a padded leather or hardwood seat. Both sit on top of an unstepped wooden base, and have a sliding track to allow for proper leg drive. The leather seats are easier on the feet during long workouts, but the hardwood is definitely more comfortable over time.


Dimensions

What are the dimensions of each rower? How much space will they take up in my house?

The WaterRower is 86″ long x 20″ wide x 27.5″ tall when assembled. You can break it down into two pieces for easier storage, but the whole package still takes up about 3’x2′.

The Concept2 is 83.125″ long x 19.25″ wide x 20″ tall when assembled. It’s also got two pieces to break it down into, but the entire unit still takes up about 3’x2′.

Weight and Resistance

What kind of weights and resistance can each rowing machine take? Which one would be best for high-intensity interval training?

The Concept2 can take up to a 470 pound weight, with the option of adding on plastic plates. It’s great for HIIT workouts, or just long low-intensity workouts designed to stress your aerobic system.

The WaterRower tops out at about 250 pounds. This makes it more suited for low-intensity, aerobic workouts. Because it’s fan is fully open when rowing, you can get a workout in very quickly, and easily engage your anaerobic system by sprinting at the end of your sets.

Price and Warranty

How much does each rower cost? What kind of warranty do they have? Which one would be a better investment for me, based on my budget and fitness goals?

The Concept2 is the more expensive option, as it costs about $100 more than the WaterRower. It’s got a 10 year warranty on frame damage, two years on parts, and 90 days on wear items like the belt, cable, and frame. It also comes with a 2-year warranty on labor costs.

The WaterRower is about $100 cheaper than the Concept2, but has no warranty at all for parts or included accessories (seat). You can purchase extended warranties separately that will cover everything except for normal wear and tear.

Overall Review

Which rower would I recommend to my best friend? Which one will be my personal machine of choice in the next six months?

The Concept2 is definitely built for long workouts, and can handle HIIT just as well. It’s got a comfy seat, a sleek design, and can take on heavy weights if you upgrade.

The WaterRower is the smaller, cheaper option that I would recommend to most people. It works great for low-intensity workouts if you’re just getting started, but really excels when used in conjunction with HIIT or sprinting at the end of your sets.

Which one is the best rower for Crossfit, the WaterRower or the Concept2?

Well, this one is easy. If you want to easily calculate your calories in a standard way for a Crossfit workout, you have to go with the COncept 2. The way it calculate calories and distanced is standardized. You won’t be able to have a reliable way to count calories on the WaterRower.

So for those of you that like HIIT workouts or sprints as part of your Crossfit training program, I’d suggest going with the Concept2. It’s great for long workouts too, but really excels at quick high-intensity sets.

So, Which one is Better?

Well like anything, it depends. If you’re training for Crossfit, you really need to go with the Concept2 Rower. This is because many Crossfit workouts require the tracking of calories instead of distance. This might be fine if you are a casual exerciser, but if you are competing in WODs, or competing in the Crossfit open, you need to be able to track that metric. The easy straps on the Concept2 also allows you to more easily jump on and off the rower if you are completing a WOD where you are combining rowing with other activities. 

If, however, you are looking for a rower for casual exercise, and if you want a rowing machine that looks great and mimics the feel of rowing in the water better, we recommend the WaterRower Oxbridge. The WaterRower’s Water Flywheel produces a much smoother, quieter pull, and really feels like you’re rowing in the water (because you are actually pulling water). The WaterRower also looks great with its hardwood construction. 

Still not sure which rower is right for you? Check out the buying guide below for more tips.

Rower Buying Guide

What to look for when buying a rowing machine

Ask yourself what you need a rowing machine to do for you. Are you looking to complete WODs RX’d? Are you just looking for a reliable cardio machine? Are you hoping to simulate rowing on the water as best as you can? How often do you want to maintain your rower? Are you mainly working out in a home gym, or is the rower going to live in your living room? 

Design

If you’re going to be looking at the rower every single day, you’ll probably want one that looks good in your home. If this is the case, we recommend the WaterRower Oxbridge. All WaterRowers are made from high quality, sustainable hardwood, and they look like gorgeous pieces of home furniture. 

Upkeep

The upkeep and maintenance of any rowing machine is vital to ensure you get as many years as possible out of your machine. The WaterRower is the simpler option. You just drop a tablet into the water flywheel once every six months. The Concept2 is a bit more involved. You need to take the rowerg apart once a year and oil the chain to ensure your pulling stays smooth. While only once per year, you will spend significantly more time maintaining the Concept2 than the WaterRower. If you’re looking for a casual exercise machine, this might mean you should go with the WaterRower. 

Feel

As discussed earlier, the feel of each rower is a bit different. The Concept2 feels like a fitness machine, while the WaterRower feels more like actually rowing on the water. If you are trying to simulate real rowing, the WaterRower is your best bet. 

Workouts

Are you a serious or semi-serious Crossfit athlete? Then you pretty well have to go with the Concept2 Model D. The fact that you can’t track calories on the WaterRower means that it will be useless for half the rowing WODs you encounter. Additionally, because Crossfit uses Concept2, even in workouts where distance is tracked instead of calories, they might deem your score invalid from a WaterRower. If, however, you are looking for a smooth, low-impact full-body workout, and you don’t care so much about posting your WOD scores, the WaterRower might be a viable option. 

FAQs for Indoor Rower

What is a Rowerg?

A rowerg, or row ergometer, is a machine that simulates rowing. There are also bikers and skiergs. 

What is a WaterRower?

WaterRower is a company that makes rowing machines that simulate rowing on the water. 

Is rowing on a machine similar to rowing on the water?

Similar, but there are many differences. For example, on a machine you won’t get your oar stuck underwater. 

How to Row

Rowing is not as easy as just pulling the handle as hard as you can. There is a very specific way to row to ensure you have a high-quality workout, and that you don’t hurt yourself. 

  1. Ensure that the foot straps fit your feet and are tight. Turn on your monitor. 
  2. Grab the handle with your knees bent, then sit up a bit with a slight bend forward. 
  3. Keeping your arms straight, initiate the pull with your legs. Think of the first pull in a clean. 
  4. Just before your legs reach full extension, finish the pull by leaning back a bit, and pulling the handle to your sternum. 
  5. Go right into the catchphrase by reversing the pull. Straighten your arms, bend forward, pull yourself towards the monitor.
  6. Repeat. 

Tips for Efficient Rowing

  1. Really focus on the leg drive and using your legs and back. You finish the pull with your arms, but most of your force should be generated from your legs. 
  2. If you are starting a workout with a very short row or completing a quick time trial, when the clock starts, do a few quick pulls on the chain before your first full pull. This gets the flywheel going so that your first pull is smoother and easier. 
  3. Rowing is one of the toughest activities there are, both physically, and mentally. Especially if you are rowing on a machine, where all you have to look at is the gym walls and your monitor. Try not to focus too much on what’s happening on your monitor. I like to have a soft gaze into the distance once I’ve settled into my stroke. This helps the mental aspect of rowing, especially if you are doing any rowing over 5k. 

Rowing WODs

Here are a few rowing workouts to try to get you started:

  1. Time Trial: Pick one of the following distances and complete as fast as you can. On a Concept2, you can have the distance go down as you workout. 250m, 500m, 1K, 2K, 5K, 10K, 21.1K, 42.2K. 
  2. With a partner: Row 1000m. One partner must be performing a deadlift hold (225/155) while the other is rowing. Anytime the deadlift is dropped, you must stop rowing and switch. 
  3. 5 Rounds: Row 500m, 50 air squats.

Conclusion

Hopefully this list has helped you make informed decisions when it comes to purchasing a rowing machine. Rowing is a fantastic exercise that targets your full body, and no matter which machine you choose, you’re in for some healthy torture.