Review Gym Equipment

CONCEPT2 RowErg Review – A Detailed Breakdown

Indoor rowers have become more popular in commercial and home gym environments as a way to provide an ‘on the water’ rowing experience. If you’re familiar with indoor rowing, chances are you’ve heard of the Concept2 Model D Indoor Rower.

With Concept2 setting the standard, I’ve done a detailed Concept2 Rower review. I’ve looked at the key factors that make the rower great and compared it to other popular indoor rowing machines.

CONCEPT2 RowErg sample

Concept2 Model D Review Quick Summary

Below I’ve done one of the most detailed Concept2 Model D reviews you’ll find online. First, Let’s look at Concept2 in more detail and the main specs of their Model D rower.

Concept2 Model D Rower

Founded in 1976, Concept2 began by making composite racing oars from the back of a bread truck. Years later, the two founders designed the Concept2 indoor tower that’s now become so popular today.

The brand focuses on promoting indoor and outdoor rowing with innovative product designs and providing customers with the best value products.

Concept2 Rowerg
  • Resistance Type: Air Resistance
  • Max User Weight: 500 lbs
  • Dimensions: 96″ L x 24″ W
  • Machine Weight: Standard Legs 57 lbs, Tall Legs 68 lbs
  • Drive Mechanism: Flywheel
  • Display: Advanced PM5 Performance Monitor
  • Materials: Aluminum Monorail, Stainless Steel Track, Plastic Housings
  • Additional Features: Device Holder, Adjustable Monitor Arm, Caster Wheel, Flex foot Footrests

As far as indoor rowing machines go, Concept2 has been setting the standard for several years. Their Concept2 Model D with PM5 Rower is manufactured in America and built with quality in mind. It may not be the cheapest rowing machine out there, but in my opinion, it’s certainly worth the extra cost with the added durability and extra features.

The Concept2 rower Model D uses air resistance with a damper that controls the amount of air going through. With this, the harder you pull, the more force you generate. Technically the Concept2 has no maximum resistance which makes it a great choice for competitive rowers and rowing enthusiasts alike.

The Concept2 rower Model D in gym sample
photo by @progymsupply

The Concept2 Rower with PM5 provides a full-body, low-impact rowing workout using a combination of steel, aluminum, and plastic casing materials. It features an advanced PM5 performance monitor that tracks and stores a range of performance measures for you to see your progress and set new rowing goals.

Other added features include ergonomically designed handles and adjustable foot rests. The foldable design allows you to break the rower down into two pieces and conveniently store them away using the transportation wheels. A space-saving wall hanger can be purchased at extra cost.

58 EXPERT SCORE

The Concept 2 RowErg is a highly regarded rowing machine with a durable build, ergonomic design, and versatile features, including a PM5 monitor and adjustable air resistance.


Resistance Mechanism:0
Ease of Use:0
Adjustability:0
Design:0
Materials and Quality:0
Value for Money:0

Positives:

  • The 500 lb weight limit is enough to accommodate all athlete sizes
  • The frame can be broken down into two parts for easy storage using the transport wheels
  • The rower is battery operated meaning their is no need for an electrical outlet
  • The PM5 performance monitor measures a large range of performance metrics and offer a range of pre programed games and workouts

Could be better:

  • The noise produced by the air resistance mechanism may not be suited to quieter environments
  • The initial price point may be quite high for normal gym goers

The Concept2 Model D - Key Specs and Features

Now that I’ve given you a quick overview of the Concept2 Model D Rowing machine, here are the key features in more detail:

1. Materials and Quality

The Concept2 Model D is a commercial-grade rower that’s been constructed from durable materials made for heavy use. The frame comprises steel back legs and aluminum front legs with the aluminum monorail sitting on top. A stainless steel track runs along the 54" monorail allowing the rowing seat to slide up and down effortlessly.

At the front of the frame, the flywheel housing is made of high-impact ABS thermoplastic that’s designed to withstand the heat generated at high power outputs when rowing.

The frame weighs 57-68 pounds depending on which model you choose, with both supporting 500 pounds of user weight and accommodating users up to 6.6 ft. With this, the Model D will have no trouble at all supporting larger users or those athletes with longer legs.

In terms of footprint, the Model D has a fairly large surface area of 96" L x 24" W x 14" H when fully assembled. This may be an issue if you’ve got a smaller gym space but the frame does break up into two pieces for convenient storage.

Combined with the transport wheels, this may mean it’s still suitable even with a smaller home space. When folded, it measures 33" L x 25" W x 54" H.

 Concept2 Model D and athlete

2. Resistance Mechanism

The Model D Rower uses air resistance that’s generated using a fanned flywheel. As you pull the handle, the flywheel spins and displaces the air in front which causes resistance. The harder you pull, the more resistance you feel.

The air resistance mechanism does produce some noise when in use, especially at higher rowing intensities. Whilst it isn’t much, it might not be suitable if you’re looking to work out in a very quiet home environment.

This variable resistance system means that the rower allows you to row at your own intensity and adjusts accordingly. In theory, this means that the Model D has no maximum resistance, giving you the freedom to row as hard as you want!

At the side of the flywheel, Concept2 has included a damper that controls the ‘feel’ of the resistance, mainly the stroke movement involving the catch, drive, and finish.

The Model D has 10 damper levels to choose from. At levels 1-3, the rowing stroke feels fairly normal like it would on a smaller, faster boat. At the higher levels (7-10), rowing should feel like a slower heavier boat moving on the water.

Basically, the amount of air resistance is determined by your pull, with the damper modifying how the resistance feels. Both these factors combine to give you extensive freedom over your rowing resistance. This improves your overall experience and allows you to personalize each workout according to how you feel.

3. Design

The frame features an ergonomic design with the PM5 monitor arm extending out from the flywheel housing. Both feet have non-slip protective rubber feet, with the whole unit finished in a black powder coating to provide protection from the environment and repeated use.

The rower is nicely branded with the Concept2 logo on the monorail in green and white. I particularly like how Concept2 has given you the option to purchase the 20" seat height model if you have longer legs, ensuring a comfortable workout experience. It does, however, come at an additional cost.

the Concept2 monitor sample

4. Ease of Use

A common mistake by some brands is placing too much focus on added features in turn forgetting about user comfort and ease of use. Even with an amazing drive mechanism and lots of interactive monitor features, a rower can be useless if you have to continually focus on getting comfortable or struggle to use it correctly

Concept2 has done a great job with its Model D by giving the user multiple adjustment options and a comfortable rowing experience.

The molded rower pedals feature wide adjustable straps that keep your feet securely fastened. Underneath, the footboard gives you a solid platform to work from whilst allowing for some toe flex as you row. The ridged overlays stop your feet from sliding around, with several notched heel positions to accommodate different foot sizes.

The Model D Rower handle features soft over-molded rubber grips for a comfortable hold without the build-up of sweat during exercise. The center handle vents allow you to row unilaterally for a different rowing experience.

Concept2 has designed the Model D rowing seat with a scooped-out back portion to reduce the likelihood of saddle rub on your tailbone. The seat surface is gently padded for a comfortable workout experience and can be easily wiped down after each use.

If you enjoy following along to your favorite rowing workout, a handy device holder is located near the PM5 monitor.

5. Performance Monitor

The PM5 performance monitor is one of the stand-out features of the model D, offering a great range of workout choices and readouts when rowing.

The PM5 is powered by the rowing motion meaning it will start up as soon as you start your first rowing stroke. Whilst the backlit screen features a fairly simple design, it offers a range of functions and screen choices.

The screen displays your time, strokes per minute, strokes per 500m, average 500m pace, split time, and projected completion time.

If you can’t decide what to do, Concept2 has included five pre-set rowing programs. If you prefer to customize your workout, the custom list allows you to set your own goals for each metric.

Concept2 Model D rower and athlete working out

Once you’ve finished your workout, you’re able to save it to the memory list and select it the next time you row and try to beat your previous time or distance. The data can be saved to an internal memory base or an external USB device that can be plugged into the back of the monitor.

If you’re someone who likes to play games whilst you exercise, Concept2 has you covered. The PM5 offers five game choices for a more engaging rowing experience. This is actually a really cool feature that most other rowers don’t use. With the Concept2, you have five choices to choose from which include a fish game, darts, target training, racing, and a biathlon. You use the rowing motion to move the character or play the game. The use of games may have possible beneficial performance effects as a way to provide visual feedback.

6. Value for Money

As far as rower machine prices go, the Model D is on the higher end. With this higher price point, you get a well-designed machine that’s constructed of high-quality materials with lots of added convenience features.

If you're looking for a budget option, this probably isn’t the rowing machine for you. But if you can save up and hold off purchasing, it’s definitely worth the extra investment.

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7. Set-Up

For a large and expensive rower, the Model D is surprisingly easy to assemble. It comes with all the screws and tools needed to assemble it within 30 minutes. 

Concept2 has an easy assembly video you can follow along to on their website if you’re having trouble reading the instructions.

In terms of warranty, Concept2 offers a five-year limited frame warranty and two-year frame warranty.

Concept2 Model D and athlete working out

8. Added Features

The PM5 is BlueTooth compatible meaning you’re able to use a heart rate strap to monitor your pulse as you row. It’s also compatible with ANT+, Suunto, and Garmin devices.

If you want to keep track of your workout data on your phone, you can sync it to the Model D using the ErgData app which shows a breakdown of your performance measures and keeps a daily record.

The Model D doesn’t have a powered fan meaning it might not offer as much cooling airflow as other rower choices.

9. Overall Verdict

In my opinion, Concept2 has really set the standard with its Model D Rowing Machine. It’s the gold standard for competitive rowers and recreational gym goers doing competitive races, team events, and recreational rowing.

With the Model D, you can really see that Concept2 has thought about every step of the design process from durability to added comfort features. The frame is built from durable materials that can withstand years of use and provides excellent user comfort with the ergonomic seat, padded handles, adjustable footrests, and fluid rowing motion.

The PM5 console provides an enjoyable rowing experience, with rowing challenges, personalized user settings, and a wide range of workout metrics displayed.

With the Model D frame breaking down into two, you can easily store it away using the transportation wheels and wall hanger that can be purchased at an additional cost.

When purchasing a Concept2 Rower, you know you're getting a rower designed by a proven brand with years of industry experience. If you’re looking for a durable indoor rower with a fluid rowing motion and high-quality performance monitor, go with the Model D to take your rowing to the next level.

Concept2 Rower and athlete in gym working out

What Is the CONCEPT2 Model D Rower?

The Concept2 Model D Rower, now more commonly known as the RowERG, is an indoor rowing machine that’s designed to provide an ‘on the water’ rowing experience from the comfort of your own home.

It combines a durable frame, interactive monitor, and variable air resistance mechanism to give you a high-quality rowing machine that’s extremely responsive, easy to use, and comfortable to sit on.

It provides a full-body strength and conditioning workout alongside a host of other health and fitness benefits.

A rowing stroke can be split into three distinct phases that work different muscle groups.

1. The Catch

This is the initial movement portion where you pick up the handle as your body sits close to the monitor. Muscles worked include your traps, shoulders, erector spinae, hamstrings, calves, and triceps.

 Concept2 Model D Rower and athlete working out

2. The Drive

As you initiate the pull, you need to push through your feet and drive backward maintaining the correct body position. This involves your rhomboids, trapezius, lats, shoulders, arms, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles.

3. The Finish

Once you’ve completed the pull, your legs should now be locked out with your torso lent back slightly. During this phase, your arms, shoulders, traps, lats, quads, and glute muscles are engaged.

When rowing, performing the correct technique as stated above may have an impact on force output, especially important if you’re a competitive tower.

The Concept2 Model D is well-suited to a wide range of people which include:

Recreational Gym Goers - The wide range of adjustable foot positions and different seat height choices provide a comfortable rowing experience to new gym users of different shapes and sizes.

Competitive Rowers - The air resistance fan + damper provides a variable range of resistances allowing you to challenge yourself as much or as little as you need/ want.

Rehabilitation Settings/ Older Populations - The Concept2 Rower offers a great low-impact workout option that could be well suited in rehabilitation settings where you need to work around an injury or paralysis of the lower limbs. This also makes the Model D rower good for seniors to improve muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular health, and bone strength.

The Concept2 Model D Rowing Machine is perfect for beginners all the way to elite-level athletes looking to improve their strength and conditioning, sports performance, general health, and recovery from injury.

Concept2 Rower Model D rower foot position sample
  • Recreational Gym Goers - The wide range of adjustable foot positions and different seat height choices provide a comfortable rowing experience to new gym users of different shapes and sizes.
  • Competitive Rowers - The air resistance fan + damper provides a variable range of resistances allowing you to challenge yourself as much or as little as you need/ want.
  • Rehabilitation Settings/ Older Populations - The Concept2 Rower offers a great low-impact workout option that could be well suited in rehabilitation settings where you need to work around an injury or paralysis of the lower limbs. This also makes the Model D rower good for seniors to improve muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular health, and bone strength.

The Concept2 Model D Rowing Machine is perfect for beginners all the way to elite-level athletes looking to improve their strength and conditioning, sports performance, general health, and recovery from injury.

Comparison With Other Rowing Machines

Both rowers use resistance to provide a full-body rowing workout with non-slip handlebars, a wide cushioned seat, and adjustable footplates.

Compared to the Concept2, the Sunny Health and Fitness Dual Function Rower can be used as an upper body strength training unit to target your arms and core. This allows you to perform strength training before or after rowing if you want to combine two exercise modes into one.

Sunny Health and Fitness Dual Function Rower sample

However, with a much lower price point, the Sunny Health and Fitness Rower offers far less functionality than the Model D. The digital monitor features a simple display that measures several workout metrics as you row, with no built-in games or pre-set workouts.

It also has no damper like the Concept2, with a resistance knob offering eight different magnetic resistance settings. With the lower price point also comes a much lower weight limit of 275 pounds which may be too small for some users.

It does, however, offer a quieter resistance mechanism and folds up allowing you to store it easier when not in use.

Compared to the Concept2 Model D Rower, the Sunny Health and Fitness Dual Function Rower comes at a much lower price point but offers a much simpler rowing experience. It’s quieter to operate and foldable but has a smaller range of monitor functions, fewer resistance settings, and a lower weight limit.

CONCEPT2 vs Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Water Rower

The Sunny Health and Fitness Obsidian Water Rower offers a mid-range option that uses high-density hydro blades that provide a more natural water rowing experience compared to air resistance.

Sunny health and fitness osidian water rower sample and athlete

Both rowing machines have built-in performance monitors that offer a good range of pre-set rowing programs and workout metrics as you exercise. Other shared features include non-slip foot plates, padded handles, and transportation wheels.

Compared to the Concept2 Rower, the Obsidian Water Rower has a lower weight limit, a fixed monitor, and no folding functionality. It can be stored upright when not in use if you have a larger cupboard space.

Overall, the Obsidian Rower offers a more natural rowing experience with 16 hydro blades pushing against the water. It has similar monitor functionality to the Concept2 but offers a lower weight limit, less portability, and fewer resistance options.

FAQ

Is the CONCEPT2 Model D Rower Safe to Use?

Due to the low-impact nature of the Concept2 Model D Rower, it’s safer to use than other high-impact activities. With this, still take care to use the correct rowing technique at all times and stop immediately if you notice a problem with yourself or the rower.

Is the CONCEPT2 Model D Rower Good for Beginners?

The Concept2 Model D rower is a great option for beginners. The low-impact nature combined with the small initial learning curve makes it great for gym goers who are new to exercise and are looking for a fun activity.

What’s the Difference Between the CONCEPT2 Model D and the Rowerg?

In April 2021, Concept2 rebranded its Model D rower as the RowERG. Whilst they have a different name, both are the same product and can be used interchangeably depending on the advertising name still being used.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a high-quality rowing machine built by a proven brand, the Concept2 Model D Rower is the way to go. It does come at a higher price point compared to other indoor rowers but offers excellent durability, functionality, and a wide range of resistance options.

In terms of competition rowers, the Concept2 model D is the gold standard with an air resistance mechanism and damper that responds to each stroke. The range of adjustment options and added comfort features provide an enjoyable rowing experience for beginners up to elite-level athletes.

Have you used the Concept2 Model D rower before? What do you think of my Concept2 Rowing Machine Review?

Let’s discuss this in the comments section below.

Also read:

References:

  1. Indoor rower // Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indoor_rower
  2. About Concept2 // Concept2: https://www.concept2.com/company/about-concept2
  3. Damper Setting 101// Concept2: https://www.concept2.com/indoor-rowers/training/tips-and-general-info/damper-setting-101
  4. The Benefits of a Rowing Machine// Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-rowing-machine
  5. Eccentric Workloads Generated by a Powered Rowing Machine and its Effects on Muscular Contraction and Metabolic Cost // Ohiolink: https://etd.ohiolink.edu/apexprod/rws_olink/r/1501/10
  6. Initial Evaluation of the Concept-2 Rowing Ergometer's Accuracy Using a Motorized Test Rig // Ncbi: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8821892/
  7. MODIFIED CONCEPT 2TM ROWING MACHINE WITH MANUAL FES CONTROLLER FOR TOTAL BODY EXERCISE IN PARAPLEGIA // Ifess: https://ifess.org/files/proceedings/IFESS2001/IFESS2001_041_Davoodi.pdf
  8. Investigating the Effects of Typical Rowing Strength Training Practices on Strength and Power Development and 2,000 m Rowing Performance // Ncbi: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5260651/
  9. WATER ROWER VS AIR ROWER: A COMPLETE GUIDE // Fitnesstown: https://fitnesstown.ca/blog/water-rower-vs-air-rower-a-complete-guide/

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Ihor Shymechko

Author: Ihor Shymechko
Pro Olympic Weightlifter, Coach

Experience: 26 years
Best Results: Snatch – 208 kg,
C&J – 240 kg

Ihor has been a professional weightlifter since 1996, boasting over two decades of competition experience. His notable achievements include clinching the European Championship in 2009 and securing a silver medal in the 105kg division at the Senior World Championships in 2011. Ihor represented his country in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Summer Olympics. After retiring from competitive weightlifting, he transitioned to coaching, leveraging his vast experience to guide athletes who now compete on both national and international stages.

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