Rowing, the best full body workout

  • health
  • fitness
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2 min read / 464 words

Shortly after my interactive indoor bike setup, I got a new Concept2 rower. While biking can be a great workout for legs, rowing is a full body exercise. With this combo plus some weights, you don't need a gym subscription anymore. I've been using the Concept2 model D with the PM5 computer for a year now and can definitely recommend it over cheaper rowers. On top of the solid construction, battle-tested in thousands of gyms worldwide, the main reason for me was the interactivity and performance metrics coming out of the PM5 onboard computer (as well as compatibility with third-party systems). It takes around half an hour of unpacking and setting up the stainless steel rower. The PM5 monitor can then be connected to your smartphone via bluetooth or to your computer via a USB cable (A-B printer cable).

I've experimented with both setups. Here's a list of compatible third-party apps.

For desktop apps, I have tried RowPro (90s style software) on a Mac connected to a projector, with the projection screen in front of the rower. This is very useful when rowing as the PM5 or smartphone screens can get tiny during a full stroke. I've since switched to smartphone-only apps (still connected to a projector via AirPlay).

I'm waiting for Zwift to add full support for the PM5 (rowing on lakes and rivers instead of biking on roads). If you want to make use of your Zwift subscription with the rower it is possible via apps like PainSled or RowedBiker. It's an hack as Zwift will think you have connected a bike interactive trainer and you will effectively row while there's a bike on the screen. Still it can be fun.

Smartphone apps

I've found the best Apple Watch app to be the italian Selfloops. With this app you can connect your watch to the PM5 and use that as a heart rate monitor (it's as precise as a chest band for me).

On top of the (too) basic ErgData app, I've found the best basic free app to be LiveRowing. It also has Apple Watch support.

For more advanced training and an engaging workout, for now I recommend Asensei. I started using it sometime ago when they didn't have heart rate support. I've suggested them to add the feature and it is now available, although it's a bit of an afterthought as the training videos where recorded without heart rate in mind. With this app you have training and workout videos by an olympic medalist, with live data coming from the PM5 like split time and meters, etc. The training will be customized by the app depending on how you perform during the workouts. If you prefer a more Peloton-style and gym-like workout, there's Regatta.

Here's a video on basic technique