The Ultimate Concept 2 Buying Guide (for 2020)

The  Concept 2 rowing machine is the best indoor rower that money can buy. Concept 2’s machines are durable, easy to use, and devastating when it comes to working out hard.

Usually when choosing between fitness gear brands, the choice is difficult to pick which product has the best features, build quality, etc…

When it comes to rowing, Concept 2 makes the best rower on the market.

Simply put, the Concept 2 Model D Rower is the best indoor rowing machine for CrossFit-style workouts, as well as pure rowing workouts.

Why Is Are Concept 2 Rowing Machines The Best?

Concept 2 is the gold standard for indoor rowing machines. They have over 40 years experience designing and building exercise equipment that can be used by novices, world-class athletes, or anybody in between.

Therefore we think this is the best indoor rower – specifically the Concept2 Model D Indoor Rower. It’s our recommended model for use at your home or in the garage. It’s compact (requires only 9 x 4 feet of space), ergonomically designed, and pulls smooth.

Also – if you plan on doing the CrossFit Open 2019 workouts – The Concept 2 rower is the only acceptable type of rower – Xebex and other brands are not accepted.

In fact, the very first Open workout for 2019 (19.1) required a Concept 2 rower. So there’s a long history of use in Crossfit. It’s also the rower that has been used at the Games every year.

Benefits of Using an Indoor Rowing Machine

If you’re researching rowing machines, then you probably know all about the benefits of using one. I’ll recap them here though:

•Low Impact Cardio: 

Rowing allows you to get a cardiovascular workout in without the wear and tear of pounding the pavement. With a rower, you simply glide back and forth on the machine. It’s easy on your joints while also challenging your cardiovascular system. I’d also mention that it’s fairly low-skill to learn how to row, especially compared to swimming (the other main form of low impact cardio) which tends to be very technical.

•Full Body Workout:

Using an indoor rower gives you a full body workout. Other cardio machines, such as an elliptical or bike, work only your legs. Not so with the Concept2 rower, it works your entire body, from your legs to your back. This is a win-win as it works your cardiovascular system, as well as providing some muscle stimulus (especially in your back and arms).

•Training Variety:

Indoor rowing machines allow you to engage in large variety of workout styles. Want to do high intensity interval training (HIIT) for fat loss? The Concept2 has your back. Interesting in slow steady state cardio to build your endurance? The Concept 2 can do that too. It’s great at any modality, whether long and slow or short and fast.

•The Concept 2 Is The Gold Standard

If you plan on doing Crossfit-style workouts, then your going to want a Concept 2 Model D rower. Most Crossfit workouts that involve rowing were designed to be done with a Concept 2 machine. The model D is the machine that is used at the Crossfit Games, as well as what is required for Crossfit Open workouts. If you plan to compete in Crossfit (or simply to compare times), you’re going to want a C2 rower.

Concept 2 Model D Features:

As the leading indoor rowing machine, the Model D has a variety of features that make it stand out from its competitors. Below are some of the key features of the Concept 2 Model D:

  • Durable Build Quality – Concept 2 machines are built to last and require minimal maintenance. They are made with high end materials, you can really feel the quality when you get on the machine. In addition, C2 stand behind their machines, each machine comes with a 2 year total warranty and a 5 year frame warranty. A C2 rower will be the last rower you will ever need to buy. With my heavy personal use of a C2 rower, I can assure you that you will have minimal upkeep issues. These machines are designed to be used.
  • PM5 Monitor – The PM5 computer performance monitor (which comes standard on the Model D) tracks and displays all of your workout data – Strokes Per Minute (SPM), Time, Distance, Power Output, Calories burned, and more. You can also use various plugins to pull your data from the monitor and track your progress. C2 even has an online community where you can interact with fellow rowing aficionados.
  • Easy, Compact Storage – The C2 rower easily folds up for convenient storage, this makes it perfect for home gym owners with tight gym space. It also has wheels which allow you to easily move it around your gym. This is a major benefit as rowers in general take up a large footprint, especially in home gym settings.
  • Perfectly Designed Ergonomics – Rowing machines can be tough to get comfortable on. Not so with the Concept 2! At 6’3” I’ve been able to row alongside people a foot shorter than me with no problem. The glide rails and seat fit perfectly suit every sized body
  • Holds Its Value/Easy To Sell – Concept 2 rowers are very easy to sell (whether it’s via Craigslist or FB Marketplace). They also hold their value extremely well. It’s not uncommon for a 5 year old C2 rower to sell for $200 less than the price of a new one. These are durable, well regarded machines!

Concept 2 has also created a great onlnie community for their users. They have the Concept 2 Online Logbook which allows you to record and compare your rowing workouts. The Logbook also lets you compare your workout on C2’s other products, their SkiErg and BikeErg.

You can keep track of your meters covered, analyze your progress, take part in challenges, and compare against others worldwide. You can even find an online training partner!

Where To Buy A Rowing Machine

There are many stores that sell Concept 2 Model D and Model E Rowers. No matter where you buy, the product will be the same, so the key thing is to look for convenience and free shipping when buying.

Unfortunately, C2 rowers never go on sale, due to the fact that Concept 2 owns a major portion of the indoor rower market. Despite the lack of deals, it’s a good product. A C2 rower is worth every penny.

Since there are no special deals to be had (even on Black Friday!), the best way to buy a Concept 2 rower is on Amazon. Amazon includes free, fast shipping, as well a lenient return policy and excellent customer service.

I always recommend making big gym purchases (if possible) through Amazon. They do the best job of getting the shipment out quickly, and they minimize most shipping & handling issues.

As a note, if you do see a website popup that’s offering hundreds off a new Concept 2 rower, run! There have been many scam sites over the years that have popped up selling C2 rowers. They have all been found to be frauds. 

If you want a new Concept 2 rower, bite the bullet and get the real thing from a reputable website (like Amazon). 

If you are wanting to save a few bucks, you can look for a used one, see below for more details about how to buy a used Concept 2 indoor rower.

How To Buy A Used Concept 2 Rower

Buying a used indoor rower is a great option if you’re on a budget. The C2 rower is a durable exercise machine – on the secondary market, any lightly used machine, such as in a home or garage gym has the potential to be a good deal. 

I recommend keeping an eye on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for a Concept 2 rower – you’ll occasionally see them for sale in your area. Be warned, Concept 2 machines tend to sell quickly, especially if it’s a good deal. I suggest setting up search alerts (on Marketplace and Craigslist) for keywords such as “concept 2”, “rowing machine”, that way you’ll be the first to know when a new rower pops up for sale in your area. 

Here’s a guide on how to setup search alerts on Facebook Marketplace. Here’s how to do it for Craigslist.

Getting a great deal on a used Concept 2 rowing machine isn’t easy, but it is possible. I’ve personally seen machines sell for $300-$500 in my area. Deal are out there, you just have to be patient to find them. And if you see a deal, jump on it right away!

What To Look For When Buying A Used Concept 2 Rower

If you are planning on buying a used rower, here are a few things to look at when you check it out:

  • Make sure the monitor is functioning properly. Bring an extra battery with you – just in case the owner claims “dead batteries”.
  • Check the track for dents (which can interfere with your glide path)
  • See if there is any sign of chain rust
  • Look at the total mileage on the machine (i.e. how many meters the machine has one it). You can access this info on the PM5 monitor by going to *Information>Utilities>Next*. A well cared for machine should easily last for millions meters.
  • Take it for a spin! Does the chain pull smoothly? Does the seat glide easily on the rails? Does the monitor consistently track meters? Are there any loose parts? Do you hear any creaking noises?

Armed with these tips, you might be able to get a better deal on a used Concept 2 rower! Similar to buying a used car, you’ll want to clearly point out anything that’s sub-optimal and use that as negotiation ammo.

Concept 2 Rower Durability

With the high cost of a Concept 2 and the reputation of its manufacturer, you’d expect it to be a durable machine.

And you’d be right!

Concept 2 rowers are KNOWN for their durability. Machines have been known to last for 10+ million meters. They are loved by everyone from home gym owners, to high volume commercial gyms, to olympic training centers. 

There’s even a video floating around the internet were Connor McGregor works out on a Concept 2 rower (just don’t use his form, it’s pretty bad!)

While it’s hard to specifically know how many meters a Concept 2 will last – they have been known to last for years in heavy use in commercial gym facilities, and millions of meters rowed.

If you’ve already tried out a Concept 2 rower, you’ll know that nothing on the machine feels cheap or wobbly. There are no cheap plastic parts on the machine. The rower base has steel rear legs, an aluminum front, and an aluminum I-beam monorail with a stainless-steel seat track. The chain is nickel plated, which is a nice touch.

If something does break or wear out on your machine– replacement parts are readily available from Concept 2. 

Due to their durability, C2 rowers hold their value very well (you may have seen this when checking for used rowers in your area). It’s not farfetched to see a 5 year old used rower for sale for only a few hundred less than the cost of a brand new one – C2 machines are that durable and tough!

As you can see, the durability on Concept 2 rowing machines is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it’ll last you forever, it’s a curse because it adds to the initial upfront cost. However, once you have one, you’ll be pleased.

Indoor Rowing Machine Accessories

I have made a separate guide with the Best Rowing Machine Accessories, however, I’ll go over a few of the highlights below.

•Rower Mat

If you row indoors, I highly recommend getting a floor mat/sweat guard for underneath your rower.

You sweat a LOT when you row. Getting a mat will help to protect your floors from sweat. It will also help to protect your rowing machine from getting dinged by hard surfaces (like cement).

Grab one of these floor mats by Super Mats and protect your floor.

High quality materials, long lasting, and easy to clean. You’ll definitely want one of these!

•Rowing Machine Seat Pad

The worst thing about sitting on a rower for a long period of time is the plastic seat.

They’re pretty hard (especially on the Concept 2, as it’s designed last forever).

Getting a seat cover is a great way to add some comfort, especially during long rowing sessions.

I recommend this seat cover by 2K Fit. It’s a great seat cover, designed to work perfectly with Concept 2 machines. It easily slides over the seat, it provides just the right amount of padding, and is made of durable materials.

•Concept 2 Smartphone Holder

Adding a smartphone holder to your concept 2 rowing machine makes life so much easier.

Nothing is better than catching up on your shows while getting your workout in.

I highly recommend getting this smarphone holder by LiveRowing. It fits most iPhones and Android phones.

If you spend a good amount of time on a rower, you’re going to want one of these attachments.

What is the Difference Between the Concept 2 Model C and Model D Rower?

If you are searching for a used Concept 2 rower, you may come across a previous model of rower called the Model C. The Model C is an early generation rower that C2 made from 1993 to 2003. While you can’t buy a Model C new anymore, you can find them on the secondary market.

Similar to the stalwart Model D, the mechanical aspects are quite good. The Model C was made with similar high end materials as the Model D.

If you do find a used one, make sure the original PM2 electronic monitor still works. If it does, then you’ve found yourself a solid piece of equipment. While the older PM2 monitor doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the newer PM5 monitor on the Model D, it is still a functional indoor rower and will provide you with as much of a workout as you can handle.

As a note, you can also find parts to update/upgrade a Model C. These are viable machines, just not optimal if you are looking to keep track of workouts, data, etc…

What is the Difference Between The Model D and Model E Rower?

While the Model D is the standard rower that I recommend (it’s awesome!), Concept 2 also offers the Model E

The Model E offers a few additional benefits, with the main difference being that it has a higher seat position than the Model D (20’’ versus 14”). This 6 inch difference makes the Model E more comfortable for some people, especially taller or older users. For reference, 20’’ is the height of a normal chair (whereas 14’’ feels much lower to the ground).

Another upgrade is that the chain housing on the Concept 2 Model E Rower is fully enclosed. This helps to keep the nickel-plated chain clean (and out of the way).

The Model E also has a longer monitor arm (i.e. it holds the monitor closer to the user for better readability). Keep in mind that this monitor arm is fixed in place, which makes it a bit trickier to breakdown and store the Model E. The monitor arm on the Model D folds down for easier storage (another small reason why I prefer the Model D).

Despite these differences, both machines have the same rowing action and monitor/computer. They are both commercial grades pieces of equipment and are designed to give you a thorough workout each and every time you hop on.

The Model E goes for about $200 more than the Model D ($1,160 vs. $945). This is another reason why I prefer the Model D, it’s a bit cheaper while being practically the same machine.

Here’s a video that shows the differences between the two machines up close:

Concept 2 Indoor Rower Maintenance

Maintenance for a Concept 2 rowing machine is very basic and easy. You’ll want to periodically wipe down the monorail with disinfectant (it tends to collect sweat when you’re doing a hard workout).

You’ll also want to wash off the seat. It also tends to collect sweat.

You’ll also want to oil the chain every few weeks. Here’s a chain oil I recommend using. To oil the chain, simply place some chain oil on a cloth and wipe the cloth over the chain (get as much of the chain as you can).

That’s basically it. These machines require minimal maintenance and upkeep.

Best Concept 2 Rowing Machine Workout Programs

Depending on your fitness preference, there are many different ways to integrate rowing into your exercise routine.

As a company, Concept 2 is very involved in the rowing community. They have a great resource page here that includes rowing programs, training guides, etc… From beginner to expert, this is a great resource and can help you to improve your fitness.

If you’re looking for a few quick workout ideas, here are some ideas:

If you’re looking for a rowing training program, there are a wide array of programs available (some free, some paid). 

Below are a few of the top free rower training programs:

8 Week Beginner Training Program

British Rowing: Beginner Program

Rathburne: Indoor Rower Training Guide

Training Peaks: 12 Week Rowing Plan

If you’re looking for direct coaching, or a tailored program, below are two of the top resources.

The Gains Lab (more of an elite Crossfit program with a big focus on rowing)

Dark Horse Rowing (coaching and programming for all levels, from beginner to expert)