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GGR experts explain the difference between the two types of rowers.

Rowing machines are among the best pieces of gym equipment for your home gym. They provide a low-impact workout that targets all the major muscle groups and can be quite meditative (even without the water view).

If you’re trying to decide between a WaterRower vs Concept2 RowErg, first we’ll say: tough call! Both machines come highly rated and highly recommended, including by our own team of expert product testers and fitness pros. The right model for you depends on your specific needs and preferences. Here, we’ll break down the key similarities and differences to help you make a decision.

WaterRower vs Concept2 Video Review

WaterRower vs Concept2: Quick Comparison 

For the sake of this comparison table, we’re directly comparing the WaterRower Natural with the Concept2 RowErg (which was previously named the Concept2 RowErg or Model E, depending on the leg height).

WaterRower NaturalConcept2 RowErg
Resistance typeWater resistanceAir resistance
Dimensions82.25” L x 22.25” W x 20” H96” L x 24” W x 14” or 20” seat height
Product weight66.5 lbs (dry); 103.5 lbs (with water)57 lbs (standard legs); 68 lbs (tall legs)
Max weight capacity700 lbs500 lbs
Monitor/displayBasic LCD screen (S4 Performance Monitor)Basic LCD monitor (PM5)
Price$1,199$1,100 (standard legs)
StorageDoesn’t fold or come apart for storage, but can stand up straight to reduce horizontal footprintCan be separated into two parts for storage
MaintenanceWipes down daily; Chlorine tablet added every six months to two years; if water becomes discolored, empty the tank, flush it out, and refill.Wipe down daily, lubricate chain weekly (or for every 50 hours of use), inspect chain, handle, cord, and screws monthly (or for every 250 hours of use)

Who Should Buy A WaterRower

  • Anyone who wants to mimic the on-water feel of rowing
  • Those with a bigger spending budget
  • Anyone looking for a more aesthetically pleasing rower

Rowing has long been recognized as the perfect aerobic pursuit, with naturally smooth and flowing movements that don't tax the joints but do boost the heart rate. Now you can take your rowing experience to the next level with the WaterRower Natural rowing machine. Using the same principles that govern the dynamics of a boat in water, the WaterRower Natural is outfitted with a "water flywheel" that consists of two paddles in an enclosed tank of water that provide smooth, quiet resistance, just like the paddles in an actual body of water. As a result, the machine has no moving parts that can wear out over time (even the recoil belt and pulleys don't require lubricating or maintaining). More significantly, the water tank and flywheel create a self-regulating resistance system that eliminates the need for a motor. As with real rowing, when you paddle faster, the increased drag provides more resistance. When you paddle slower, the resistance is less intense. The only limit to how fast you can row is your strength and your ability to overcome drag. And unlike conventional rowing machines, which tend to be jerky and jarring, the WaterRower Natural is remarkably smooth and fluid.From a fitness perspective, the WaterRower Natural works 84 percent of your muscle mass, helping tone and strengthen your muscles while burning far more calories than most other aerobic machines. The exercise is also low impact, as it removes all the body weight from the ankles, knees, and hips, but still moves the limbs and joints through a full range of motion--from completely extended to completely contracted.The WaterRower Natural is outfitted with a Series 4 performance monitor that's designed to balance technical sophistication with user-friendliness. The monitor--which includes six information and programming windows, six QuickSelection buttons, and three navigation buttons--displays your workout intensity, stroke rate, heart rate, zone bar, duration, and distance. Plus, the monitor is compatible with an optional heart rate chest strap and receiver, which helps you optimize your workout and achieve your exercise objectives.The WaterRower Natural is handcrafted in solid ash and stained honey oak for consistency of color. The wood was chosen due to its marvelous engineering properties, especially its ability to absorb sound and vibration, which enhances the WaterRower's quiet performance and smooth operation. Ash, like all woods used in the construction of the WaterRower, is a premium hardwood with incredible longevity and dimensional stability. In addition, the wood is harvested from replenishable forests and is hand finished with Danish oil to provide a deep luster.Other details include dual rails with four corner wheels that increase seat stability and reduce the amount of sweat buildup; a frame that flips upright for handy storage; and a weight capacity of up to 1,000 pounds. The WaterRower Natural measures 84 by 21 by 22 inches (W x H x D), weighs 117 pounds (with water), and carries a one-year warranty on the frame and components (WaterRower will upgrade the warranty to five years on the frame and three years on the components with the completion of a registration form).

Who Should Buy A Concept2 RowErg

  • Anyone looking for a lower-maintenance machine
  • Those with space constraints
  • CrossFitters training for CrossFit-sanctioned events
Concept2 RowErg
Concept2 RowErg
Concept2 RowErg

The Concept 2 Model D Rower is perhaps the most popular rowing machine on the market, found in commercial gyms and home gyms around the world.  It  provides a low-impact, full-body workout and uses air resistance generated by a fanned flywheel.  The Model D has an adjustable damper setting from 1 to 10 allowing you to move with ease or with more resistance and intensity.The Model D comes with adjustable foot-rests, a 14-inch seat height with an aluminum l-beam monorail and stainless steel track for a smooth back-and-forth slide.  This is a light cardio machine with wheels, which means you can move it with ease around your space. Also, for storage, the rower can be easily broken down into two segments, hung on a wall with a Rogue wall hanger, or simply tilted upright and stored vertically.  The PM5 Performance Monitor gives instant feedback on pace, watts, calories, distance, and rpms.  The monitor is easily adjustable, Bluetooth-compatible, and can easily connect to a heart rate monitor or the ErgData app.  

WaterRower vs Concept2: Key Similarities 

Overall, WaterRowers and Concept2 RowErgs offer a pretty similar rowing workout experience. 

“Both a WaterRower and a Concept2 RowErg will provide all of the health benefits of rowing machines and improve your fitness over time,” says Amanda Capritto, Garage Gym Reviews writer, expert product tester, and certified personal trainer. 

ergatta rower water tank

WaterRower vs Concept2: Health Benefits

We outlined all the scientifically backed perks of rowing in our rowing machine benefits guide, but here’s a quick refresh:

  • Rowing is a form of low-impact cardio exercise that provides a full-body workout. It works large muscle groups in the upper and lower body, and engages your core.
  • Because it’s a type of cardio exercise, rowing improves cardiovascular health, cardiorespiratory endurance, and muscular endurance.
  • Rowing can increase flexibility, minimize stiffness and condition your joints and muscles. There’s also little room for injury with proper rowing form.
  • Rowing is efficient and accessible to all fitness levels, including beginners.

WaterRower vs Concept2: Performance Monitors 

Both the WaterRower Natural and Concept2 RowErg come with performance monitors that can tell you a lot about your rowing fitness. 

The WaterRower has an S4 monitor, which measures stroke rate, distance, speed, time, intensity, and heart rate. The S4 also has preset workout programs, or you can save your own manual workouts and track your workout performance through downloadable software.

Note: The entry-level WaterRower (the A1) comes with a simplified monitor that doesn’t have the same advanced features.

The Concept2 RowErg has a PM5 monitor. This performance monitor shows similar metrics, like speed, stroke rate, and distance, and has the option to choose from preset workout programs or past workouts. It will also show your heart rate as long as you’re wearing a compatible heart rate monitor, thanks to its Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity. All of this data can be stored on Concept2’s app or directly on the rower.

Woman using the Model D Concept 2 Rower in her living room

WaterRower vs Concept2: Smart Features (or Lack of Smart Features)

Both of these indoor rowing machines are straight to the point. You won’t find fancy smart features or gadgets here, but you will get high-quality ergs that provide an exceptional rowing experience.

To wrap it up, these are the main similarities between WaterRower models and Concept2:

  • Provide all the health benefits of rowing
  • Have similar performance monitors
  • Don’t offer smart features other than Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity 

WaterRower vs Concept2: Key Differences 

While both provide an effective cardio workout, the WaterRower and Concept2 RowErg have more differences than similarities, especially in some pretty major areas, like type of resistance, rowing feel, and noise level.

man moving a water rowing machine

WaterRower vs Concept2: Type of Resistance

According to Amanda, the primary difference between a WaterRower and a Concept2 RowErg is the resistance mechanism. 

“WaterRowers use water to create resistance,” she says.”In any type of water rowing machine, a hydrofan spins around in a tank of water and creates resistance as the exerciser pulls on the pull mechanism.”

Rather than water resistance, the Concept2 rowing machine uses a wind flywheel, which operates on air resistance. It also has a damper to manipulate how much air enters the flywheel, which can change the feel of the stroke but doesn’t directly affect the resistance level. 

Related: Best Water Rowing Machines

WaterRower vs Concept2: Rowing Feel

Arguably the biggest draw of the WaterRower is the real-word feel. Water rowers are the indoor rowing machines that most closely mimic the rowing feel that you’d get if you were actually rowing outside on the water. Air rowers like the Concept2 can feel less smooth, but some people (including Amanda) actually prefer it.

WaterRower vs Concept2: Size

The Concept2 RowErg is longer than the WaterRower. For reference, the Concept2 is 96 inches long, while the WaterRower is just over 82 inches. But the Concept2 can be separated into two pieces for easy storage while the WaterRower doesn’t come apart so easily. You can save some floor space by storing the WaterRower upright, though.

WaterRower vs Concept2: Construction

The Concept2 rower has aluminum front legs, steel rear legs, an aluminum L-beam monorail and a stainless steel seat track. 

The WaterRower comes in different models, but the foundational models, including the WaterRower Natural, are made of solid ash wood. If you prefer aluminum or steel, you can opt for one of the upgraded models, but they’re considerably more expensive (starting around $1,900).

The Concept2’s construction gives it a maximum user capacity of 500 pounds, while the WaterRower caps out at an impressive 700 pounds.

The Concept2 Model D Rower

WaterRower vs Concept2: Noise Level

The noise level is also a big differentiator. 

“Water rowers tend to be quieter than air rowers, as wind-powered flywheels can be noisy,” explains Amanda.

The Concept2 isn’t obnoxiously loud, but if you’re trying to work out in your living room in the early morning hours and you live in close quarters with someone else, it’s something worth thinking about.

WaterRower vs Concept2: Maintenance

WaterRowers also require more maintenance than air rowing machines like the Concept2, according to Amanda. 

“If you don’t empty the water tank and clean it periodically, you could wind up with mold,” she says. You also have to maintain the water by adding chlorine tablets every six months to two years, and if the water becomes discolored, you have to drain it, rinse it out, and refill it.

On the other hand, Amanda says air rowers typically just require an infrequent oiling of the pull cord and re-tightening of bolts. The timeline for this depends on your usage, but Concept2 recommends oiling the pull cord for every 50 hours of use and checking all bolts and parts every 250 hours.

mr captain water rower

WaterRower vs Concept2: Price 

The WaterRower is more expensive than the Concept2. The WaterRower Natural is $1,199, while the Concept2 RowErg costs $1,100. The entry level WaterRower, called the A1, costs $949, but the upgraded models can go as high as $2,799.

Related: Best Budget Rowing Machines

Other Considerations

While this isn’t a difference per se, Amanda points out that the Concept2 RowErg is the only rowing machine that can be used to log scores in CrossFit-sanctioned events, including the CrossFit Open. 

“If you’re someone who wants to compete in CrossFit, even recreationally, you need a Concept2 RowErg,” she says. 

Final Verdict: WaterRower vs Concept2

WaterRowers and Concept2 rowers both offer all the health benefits of rowing, but the major differences come down to workout feel, footprint, and construction. Amanda recommends choosing the WaterRower if you want to mimic the feel of on-water rowing and prefer a more aesthetically pleasing piece of equipment. If you’re looking for a lower-maintenance rowing machine that’s easier to transport (and approved for CrossFit), go with the Concept2.

WaterRower Vs Concept2 FAQs

Are WaterRowers harder than a Concept2 RowErg?

No, there’s no difference in difficulty between the two indoor rowers. “The resistance on each type of rower is user-dependent, which essentially means that the harder the exerciser rows, the higher the resistance goes, and vice versa,” says Capritto. This is different from magnetic rowers, which have defined levels of resistance.

What’s better: WaterRower or Concept2?

Both rowing machines are highly rated and highly recommended, and each one made our list of the best rowing machines for different reasons. If you want the real-world rowing feel of cruising on water, the WaterRower is likely the better machine for you. If you’re looking for a lower maintenance, straightforward rowing machine, the Concept2 is likely the best rower for you.

Is a WaterRower worth the extra cost?

It depends on what you want. For example, Amanda thinks WaterRowers are worth the price for people who either want a more realistic feeling or for people who will be placing their rowing machine in a living space and want it to look better amongst their decor. But when given the choice, she would personally choose a Concept2 since she does CrossFit and prefers the feel of air rowers to water rowers. (Read also: air vs magnetic rowers.)

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