The concept2 rowing machine also known as ergometer.
I myself quit often use the Concept2 rowing machine. In my view one of the best cardio equipment machines you can find in a gym.
Why? Using this machine works a large portion of our mucle, most other cardio equipment like for instance treadmills, steppers, skiers, in fact almost all of them mainly focus on using the legs. The rowing machine makes you use legs, buttocks, back and rear of the shoulders. Even the arms do some kind of work, although if you row like it has to be done, not that much. Working a lot of muscle together makes it also perfect for aerobic training. You van work hard on it if you want to.
You can use the concept2 to do very relaxed aerobic work, but you can also go all the way via hard sprint work and everything in-between. In short, virtually everyone can use this machine and benefit from it.
The machine is also relative cheap, other cardio machines are often much more expensive, it lasts for years and requires little maintenance. Only the hood containing the flywheel requires regular "de-dusting", because in time the sucked in air accumulates dust. But this can easily be fixed with a vacuum cleaner.
How did the machine come about? It was originally made for rowers to overcome the period when they couldn't row due to the weather. It is still commonly used for this purpose. It can also be used for purely measuring how much power a rower can generate and to compare rowers with each other. The machine never lies ;-) Many rowers have therefore a secretly hate/love relationship with the machine. In a boat you can hide, but here on the machine you can't, you are on your own and can't blame anyone or anything but yourself. Good or bad, it's only you who is to blame or praise.
For years now, the machine is also commollyn seen in gyms and due to the price it's also a great device to buy for yourself at home. They are relatively inexpensive, price-wise comparable with a good bike and the second hand value is also high, if you would ever want to sell it. For more information about buying/renting you could go to the Concept2 website.
The first generation machines was called A, the newest one is model E, but that one is actually still just the old D with a great more firm body. The basic way the computer works on the machines hasn't changed over the years.
What you did on one machine, you can always compare to what you do on another. At the moment C2 is developing a new model, a dynamic erg.
How to use the concept2 ergometer:
With proper use the machine mainly trains your endurance/stamina, as mentioned above the legs, buttocks, back and the back of the shoulders can do a lot of work. But if you do fast short work or hard low rate work, you can also train your power and strength.
The computer (PM3 and PM4) gives you many opportunities to train.
What can you see on the PM? The amount of work you do is shown in the "speed" you are rowing at 500. The faster you go the more work you do. This speed is derived from the amount of watts that you transmit via the chain onto the flywheel. There is a direct relationship between watts and speed per 500 meters.
You can also read how many calories you are using. But just like any other cardio machines this is just a rough approximation. Every person is different because every human uses a different amount of energy for the same amount of work performed. The better trained and the better technique one has, the less energy one uses to do the same amount of work.
The lever on the side requires special attention. Many people think the higher you move the slider the more work you do. This is quite simply not true. You can set the lever high but work out very easy. How hard you work depends only on how much energy you get into the flywheel via the chain. You can do this with the lever high (10) and low (1). More about that later.
The lever on the side controls how much air can get in the fan and with this how much resistance the flywheel gets. The higher the lever, the more open the cage gets, the easier the air can get in the machine, and the faster the flywheel slows down. With this also comes a minus of the machine: sucking in dust!
This lever setting or resistance can be defined into "drag factor", which can be found on the menu of the PM of the machine. On a clean new concept2 that will be approximately 100 on the lowest lever setting 1, and 200 on the highest setting 10. But this figure will get lower as the machine collects dust. So check this drag every now and then to see if the machine needs dedusting. In gyms I come across in more than 90% of the cases this dedusting is not done properly and the machines are full of dust. I have often seen the drag was less than 100 at the maximum lever setting. This dedusting is something that can be done in 5 minutes: take the cover off, vacuum the flywheel and the little holes in the metal cover, put it back, and you are done. For most people, a good dragfactor would be around 120/130, which corresponds approximately to position 4 on a clean machine.
To make the comparison with a rowing boat. A fast little boat doesn't slow down much in the water and that corresponds with a low dragfactor and thus a low lever position. A heavy slow boat slows down fast in the water, this due to the high water resistance, which corresponds to a high drag/lever setting. In both boats you can do hard work, but only in fast boat you can row fast, for this you do need good technique. To row in fast boat, you need to have a fast stroke to catch the water running below you, corresponding with low drag. In a slow boat, the water under you runs slow, so you can get away with a sloppy slow stroke.
Strokes per minute or spm often get compared with a bike. The more strokes / cycles per minute you make, the faster you go. This is true on a bike because you have a fixed amount of meters you make with every cycle you do. But on a rowing machine that is far from true. One spm on a rowing machine or in a boat does not give a fixed amount of meters.
That's because the rowing stroke has two parts. A stroke phase and a recovery phase.
Both phases together make one stroke cycle. But only during the drive phase you can give energy to the machine/boat. So it is possible to have a slow weak stroke and a hurried rapid recovery phase, this together gives a high stroke rate but all in all it won't take you far and does not give you a proper training. In gyms 90/95% of the people use this stroke often together with a high drag, lever setting.
On the other hand you can also use a heavy, long stroke and a slow relax recovery phase, this together will give a slow stroke rate but a fast pace, and you are working hard and using lots of energy. Speed per 500m or watts are the only units that indicate how hard you are working, not stroke rate. That in itself says more or less nothing.
Roughly you can take as an indication that a 2km, which is the standard distance in rowing, at full speed gives a rating of 30/35, longer endurance training is done at rating 18/24. Only pure sprinting is done on rating 40 or even higher. nI the gym I often see rating 30/40 with a very short stroke and slow pace per 500m. In itself there is little harm doing this, but unfortunately also not much good. It's a nice effort to watch some tv while you are "working out" ;-)
For people who regularly want to use a rowing machine in the gym during their work out, 20 minutes is a good time sloth to use. You should row with an intensity that feels like a good workout but after 5 minutes you should be able to do it again. After this 20 minutes you should have a good sweat. If not, you are not working hard enough. Use the first 5 minutes to slowly accelerate, the middle 10 to work hard and the last 5 to slow down again. After this you are nicely warmed up to do some weights work.
A good guideline to be met is 2.00/500m, this gives 5000 meters in 20 minutes for a man and for a woman 2.20/500m, giving 4280m; for a taller man/woman faster, and if you smaller somewhat slower.
If a man can row 1.45/500m averaged over 20 minutes, he is really fit. For a woman over 2.00/500 over 20 minutes is very good. Don't take this number too serious, those are rough number. But if a man rows 2.30/500 meter he is not doing much, for a woman 3.00 per 500 meter is to slow.
A good instructional video explaining the proper technique is the following clip on youtube: video
For training for rowing click on the image. Click here for rowing tests