Why CrossFit Boxes Have Rowing Machines? and Why The Concept 2 Rower?

Rowing machines are the pinnacle of non-impact, intensive cardio machine that has brought in actual results for people using them – at home or gym. CrossFit is a tough routine of exercise practiced throughout the globe. As a testament to its ability for giving you the ultimate cardio workout, CrossFit considers rowing as one of the cornerstones of a complete routine.

Rowing workouts are a great way to step off the beaten track and try a more stimulating challenge. If you’re just getting into fitness or are new to Crossfit, you may be wondering how a rower fits into this type of workout. Rowing machines have become increasingly popular as they are an excellent way to engage your legs, back, core and arms.

Rowing machines deliver an intense full-body cardio experience, without putting as much stress on your knee and hip joints as other forms of exercise. There is a common misconception that rowing develops mainly upper body strength, but it actually makes use of the legs. Check out in detail the benefits of rowing machines:

Why Does CrossFit Use Rowers?

To say that CrossFit has taken the world by storm would be quite an understatement. In a short time, CrossFit has become a lifestyle choice for people wanting to be really fit.

CrossFit as a regime has been pretty successful, there are hundreds and thousands of people all over the globe who are exponents of this style of training. There are over 10,000 places that are known CrossFit affiliates. Multiply that number by a 100, the average number of people frequenting a CrossFit box in a month, you get how popular CrossFit has become.

One of the most preferred machines when it comes to intensive CrossFit are rowing machines and for a good number of reasons. Several in fact.

A rowing machine is typically a zero-impact cardio workout but can get pretty intensive. This is perfect for people of all ages or those who are returning from injury. Every CrossFit box worth its salt has a rowing machine on their floor. Rowing works the whole body and helps you exert muscles all throughout the body.

What Muscles Does A Rowing Machine Work?

Rowing is a full-body workout and it uses the body’s major muscle groups. It hits the upper body, lower body, core, and arms. Whew! Since you are exerting all these groups of muscles, your heartbeat elevates to your targeted heart rate and give you a complete and proper workout. This means that a total of about 84% of all muscles work during a session of rowing!

Let’s look at what a rowing machine can do for you in a bit more detail.

When it comes to the rowing machine, both halves of your body, the top and the lower half has to work in coordination for complete motion on the machine. Regardless of your fitness levels, this will get you sweating when you do it long enough. When you compare this to the other cardio machines like maybe an elliptical, you need not hold the handles and still the machine will complete the cycle. No such luck with rowers! You need to be at it all the time and it never lets up.

A complete rowing stroke has 4 phases that you need to be aware of and they are:

  • The Catch
  • The Drive
  • The Finish
  • The Recovery

Different muscles are worked during different phases of the rowing motion. Let’s break it down a bit and see what exactly are the muscles that are worked.


The Catch would be the beginning of the rowing stroke. The knees are bent, arms are straight, shins perpendicular, with a slight forward lean. In this position, you will need to exert your calves, hamstring, abs, lower back, along with deltoids, triceps and traps. That’s a lot of muscle groups engaged in just the initial movement.


The Drive is made up of 3 sub-phases because it is a complex motion. It consists of using your upper and lower body alternatively to achieve balance and motion.

Initially, you need to push off with your legs, which means that a lot of muscles in your lower body get recruited like glutes, hamstring, quads, and calves. Since you have a bit of your upper body also engaged for support, you also rely on your deltoids, traps, and upper back here.

Next comes the body swing emphasis phase. Here the major movement is going to be your upper body as you lean back into the action. The pulling motion requires that you exert your forearms, biceps, lats, mid-back in the upper body. It has to be noted that your lower body is still pushing off and so the same muscles are working in this phase as well.

The final sub-phase would be the pulling in the arms. As you must’ve guessed from the name, this mostly has to do with the arms, delts, and traps in the upper body. Since the lower body is in the final stages of pushing away, only the quads have to work with straightening the leg.


The finish of the movement is the point where there is furthest lean. You need to pull back as well as support your upper body with your legs. Here, you will engage your delts, upper back, traps, biceps and forearms. The support comes from glutes and quads which are exerted to the max during the lean.


The Recovery phase is when you are returning to the “Catch” phase. This is an almost entirely upper body movement with traps, triceps, forearms and abdominal supported by calves and hamstring. This will enable the transition into the Catch phase with the movement being repeated all over again.

Significant Benefits of Rowing As An Exercise

Let’s take an in-depth look at why rowers can be beneficial for you as a cardio exercise.

Intense Full Body Cardio

Full Body Cardio

It is difficult to find an exercise that is as useful for your whole body as a rowing machine. Many people make the mistake of assuming that rowing focuses only on the upper body. Rowing involves and engages all part of your body to good effect. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about static weighted cable rows here, I mean the full-blown rowing machine.

Cable rows only engage a small percentage of the muscles a rowing machine does. Because of this misconception, there are a lot of people who think that rowing machines only work the back and are not as great as some other cardio machines, say, ellipticals. The truth though is that it is several times better than any other cardio machines out there. It just isn’t that popular because it is hard to get into at first.

Rowing is a complete workout and it uses your body’s major muscle groups. It works the upper body, lower body, core, glutes and arms. Whew! Since you are exerting all these groups of muscles, your heartbeat elevates to your targeted heart rate and give you a complete and proper workout. In fact, rowing machines are one the best cardio machines that can get you to your targeted heart rate and keep it there for extended periods of time while being gentle on your joints.

I’ve found that it is a much better form of exercise than either running or sprinting, both which utilize the lower body. Another problem with running is that not all age groups can do it without risks of injury. There are a lot of movies that expound the virtues of sometimes dangerous exercises like running up long flights of stairs (Rocky, I’m looking at you!). This can result in a lot of knee injuries. Seriously, don’t do that!

Rowing Improves Stamina and Power

A lot of people don’t seem to believe that rowing can improve your endurance, strength and your physique. All you need to do is search for Olympic rowers and you’ll find the answer right in those images. Rowing builds strong sinewy bodies, trimmed of excess fat with good overall development even from an aesthetic standpoint. You could even describe their physique as Herculean!

Rowing is pretty challenging, and the best part of this bit is that you can increase or decrease that challenge according to how you are able to progress, simple by rowing faster or slower. You will never outgrow a rowing machine and it can scale along with you. Several rowing machines featured on our website has control to increase or decrease resistance as you see fit. You keep improving your cardiovascular health, endurance and overall strength proportional to the amount of time you spend on the rower.

Rowing Burns Stubborn Fat

Rowing Burns Stubborn Fat

A lot of people are surprised that a rowing machine burns the number of calories that it does. Their argument usually goes “So, all you do is sit down and pull and you’re telling me you’re losing calories?” Well, that’s what I’m telling you, but here’s where you’re wrong: “rowing is just about you sitting on a moving platform and pulling back”.

Allow me to explain.

Though you might not be aware of the fact that rowing burns a lot of calories, it does. You might wonder how sitting down could do that, but the fact is rowing is an exercise that promotes your metabolism and challenges your body in ways you never thought possible. It has been found to burn over 1000 calories an hour and gets your heart pumping the quickest.

The same thing on a treadmill would end up you pushing too hard and injuring yourself. Plus, it only helps you with your lower body. So, my advice to you is, if you’ve decided to get fit and put in the time at the gym you might as well get the most benefit out of it rather than just working on your lower body while burning a lot more calories than a traditional run or a jog.

Another point in favor of the rowing machine is the fact that the best method to reduce body fat would be to concentrate on HIIT training. High-intensity training to be more specific. Not everyone can partake in HIIT when it comes to other cardio exercises like running because of the strain it puts on the joints. But HIIT on your rowing machine will only exert your stamina leaving your joints intact.

Rowing Machines Are A Sensible Purchase

Rowing side

When you go to the gym, there are several types of equipment that can replace their real-life counterparts. For example, a treadmill exists as an alternative to bad weather spoiling your daily run. But, if you had good weather, you’d rather step out for a run, wouldn’t you? But here’s the rub: not everyone (me included) has access to ACTUAL rowing on a body of water, at least on a daily basis. The easiest way some of us can get rowing is on a good rowing machine.

Rowing machines are definitely required if you ever want to pursue your dreams of having the body of a Greek god. And one of the best parts is that it only costs as much as a standard (non-magnetic) treadmill. It is not that bad on maintenance and typically has a lot less moving parts than a treadmill. So, you see, getting an indoor rowing machine is well within your interest. Plus, a good rower doesn’t cost the earth and can give you many years of strict cardio workouts.

Rowers Are Comparatively Cheaper

Back in the day when they were first introduced, rowing machines cost the Earth and then some. This is typical “new product” syndrome – things do cost a lot when they’ve only been introduced to the market just then. The first rowing machines were also big and unwieldy. This meant that they were out of the reach of the average person.

Fast forward to now things have improved drastically. A high-quality commercial row machine can be yours for a reasonable price and it will last a lifetime of use with correct maintenance. When you compare this price to a commercial treadmill, recumbent bike or an elliptical machine, you’ll find a lot of extra cash left over. To give you some idea, the best rower is about five to six times cheaper than the equivalent treadmill.

In fact, a lot of CrossFit boxes now have no treadmills around as some feel it is an expensive proposition for what it delivers. If you owned a gym and had to get the best cardio equipment for your CrossFit members, what would you prefer? Rowers for a decent sum of money that offered a much better, full-body exercise, or those expensive, giant magnetic treadmills or elliptical they hog space and cost 6 rowers?

Is Concept 2 The Most Popular CrossFit Rower?

concept 2 rowing machine

Throughout this article, we’ve only been talking about one type of rower – the Concept 2 Model D. we normally do not dedicate an entire article to just a single model. Unless, that model is heads and shoulders above the rest of the competition. Which is where the Concept 2 is when you compare it with its rivals.

You might have noticed of late that CrossFit has taken a life of its own and there are a lot of people expounding its virtues. The Concept 2 has also found itself in the headline because of the emergence of CrossFit.

Now the question on everyone’s mind is: how did this happen because there are other rowers on the market as well?

The answer is simple really, the Concept 2 Model D is one of the best in the market. This is the only rower I’ve ever seen used commercially and offers immense value. It is also the model a lot of fitness retailers push on their catalog. And, I’ve never seen on a garage sale or on the used market yet. Most of my friends use the same rower and think it’s awesome for the price.

Few reasons why the Concept 2 is the only rower anyone needs:

Sturdy and Functional

Any piece of gym equipment is going to be subject to a lot of stresses and strains. You need a machine that can stand by you during your most strenuous HIIT phase as well as the longer endurance routines. Concept 2 is that machine. It is built sturdy and it really goes a long, long way before you need to shop for parts. The fact that a lot of gyms use them should be proof enough that they last through several years of wear and tear sessions.

I’m used to seeing bearings needing to be replaced every month or even week sometimes never from the Concept 2 though. Even if they do need replacement, I’ve found that the parts are readily available and come at reasonable prices from the manufacturers. Plus, you also have the comfort of having all this backed by a warranty as well.

Concept 2 Rowers


When it comes to exercise, people like to know how much they’ve worked out. This gives them a point of reference when it comes to working out and can they can easily improve upon this. When it comes to rowers, the better-quality ones like Concept 2 has their own ergometer or performance monitor which is the key to measuring your performance on the machine.

Even if you don’t upgrade to the PM4 and you stick with the PM3 you are actually getting a lot more features by default when compared to any of the other models. In addition to measurements like distance and calorie tracking, there are fun activities like games, races and also an ability to log your data. Most cheap rowers on the market do not have any sort of performance monitors at all.

Additional Accessories

The Concept 2 has some pretty useful and interesting features that are not available with other models. It has a receiver for a polar heart monitor and slides for a more authentic feeling of on-the-water rowing, a dynamic link for enabling team rowing. The upgrade to PM4 gets you the ability to race between two machines. Super cool!

There are also floor mats, chain oil, phone cradles, equipment covers and other useful stuff that are available for the rower. They increase the functionality of your rower and make it a much more rounded fitness equipment.

Concept 2 Performance Monitor


When you are talking about prices, the Concept 2 Model D will set you back only a reasonable amount of money. This is a pretty good price point for a commercial-quality rower. No other cardio equipment available commercially can match it. The performance monitor upgrade bumps up the cost a bit. If you’re comparing it to one of those high tech magnetic treadmills which are in gyms everywhere, this will only cost you a fraction of that.

Summarizing It

Whether you are a CrossFit beginner or pro, rowing is a great way to make the most of your workouts. As with all forms of exercise, it is recommended to choose any equipment with your physique, budget and space in mind. The Concept 2 Model D is an excellent choice and will definitely provide you with great workouts for many years to come. This model is available online and from several retailers at competitive prices. If you have further questions, do leave them in the comments section below.

A rower is a cardio machine that can also work brilliantly on improving your physique. Not a lot of cardio equipment out there can make that claim. It can also improve your endurance which will help you perform strenuous activities for a longer duration before tiring out. To make the experience even better, choose the right accessories for your rower. For example, you could add a heart rate monitor that can sync with the performance monitor on your Concept 2 to give you detailed readouts of your heart stats during exercise.

While there are a lot of options to getting cardio exercises done, you need to choose the best equipment according to your physique and your wallet. If you are new to CrossFit and are not familiar with the Concept 2 Model D, I suggest you check online reviews of the rower. You are bound to be impressed with it.