Choosing the Right Rowing Machine - Concept II vs the WaterRower

Posted by Eva Martens on 2018-01-08

So you’ve decided that Rowing is right for you!  This total body workout is a great exercise so you are on the right track but now its time to decide on the right one!  You will see many opinions online, but this guide will give you some real answers.  The top two rowers – Concept II and WaterRower are equivalent in many ways; both have a long history, great build, and both are proudly made in the USA!  Either way, you are getting a great machine so let’s get to what sets them apart.

Thinking inside the box: NOISE!  Even people putting these into their basement should bear this in mind.  The Concept II using air for resistance sounds like a very loud industrial fan, and that's fine in the giant volume of space of a commercial gym, but when you put it into a much smaller space like in a house that noise is concentrated.  Shift workers, young parents or anyone not a fan of noise should steer away from the Concept II.  Pun intended!  So your choice; the breeze and buffeting you get with a fan, or the soothing sound of moving water. 

SPACE:  The Concept II is a full 8' length and most homes don't have true 8' ceilings.  Often with drywall and finishing the ceiling will be 7' - 11"  or less and so you can't just stand up the rower like you can the WaterRower.  Now you can split apart the Concept II at the center joint, and FYI this is often a failure point on these if it's used frequently.  Also stood up the rower sticks out from the wall a good 40" so it's still taking up more floor space than the WaterRower that is about 22" x 19".  In comparison, the WaterRower is just 7' long and is very balanced when stored upright and very easy to maneuver.  The seat glide length is very similar so if someone is very tall (i.e. 6' - 6") they can still use it, but Waterrower does sell longer rails if needed so even the 7' tall customer can get a rower that will work for them. 

The Pull.  If you have ever tried the Concept II you will notice you have to get the fan going with a couple of short choppy pulls to really get into the rhythm.  The first pull on the WaterRower feels just like every other pull and so you don't have that initial lag in the workout.  I like this especially when doing interval programs or circuits.  Some debate over the feel throughout the pull and find the Concept II mirrors being on the water better, and others argue that Waterrower does it better.  This is something you may wish to try yourself for comparison. 

Feedback or The Computer:   The WaterRower computer is not as sophisticated as the Concept II.  The S4 that comes standard on the Dual Rail Waterrowers is great and offers all the metrics you need to get a good workout in.  But you can't link 6 rowers together and row as a team as you can with the Concept II. The one thing I do love on the Concept II rower is the fish game.  It’s a cool natural interval program that has the old-school video game feel.  If you want the standard metrics needed for rowing – both are solid for this.  Some advanced features on the Concept II do set it apart.  WaterRower is working on a program to allow for virtual rowing onlin and has the USB connection for it, however it's not set to launch at this point yet. 

The Aesthetics!   Waterrower looks more like fitness furniture and sometimes that matters.  I always tell my customers that the best equipment to buy is the one that you actually use.  And if the equipment looks nice enough to keep in the living room/den/office and its there in your face in your daily routine, the possibility of actually using it is higher.  Keeping a fitness routine going is all about making it a habit and that initial starting period is critical.  So even if you move it out of the living room after you get the routine going, the important thing is that you are actually using it!   The Concept II is as it is, the Waterrower comes in your choice of wood finish.  Ash, cherrywood or dark walnut for a gorgeous espresso finish.

Lets Talk Resistance:  This question comes up time and time again.  And both Waterrower and Concept II offer the same answer in that is comes down to pacing and intensity, not resistance.   If you are adamant you need to vary resistance then the Life Fitness HX rower offers resistance level changes with the volume of water flow.    Waterrower does allow you to reduce the water level to adjust the resistance so you can ramp up you are a deconditioned user, but most people asking about resistance are looking for maximum intensity.   So here’s the thing, try a 500m pace and go for a max sprint!  Anyone can max out their heartrate on either machine, as its in your intensity that you adjust your ‘resistance’.  That's why this product works for everyone from the elite athlete to the novice.

Both are great rowing machines and both offer great durability and phenomenal workouts.  Some features are more important than others to different individuals.  After being a fan of both products for many years I personally selected a Waterrower for my home.  But it’s a tough decision so I hope some of this feedback helps.

The non issue:  Maintenance.  The water is kept clear with the chlorine tablets and if the customer registers for their warranty they will receive a lifetime supply from Waterrower.  With the Concept II you have to lubricate the chain.

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