This is a review of the most important rowing machine accessories you need to get the best performance out of your rowing workouts.
I’ve been a personal fitness trainer since 1987. Over the past three and a half decades I’ve trained hundreds of people to achieve their cardiovascular and fat loss goals, with the rowing machine being critical to that process. I’ve seen first-hand what difference accessories can make to optimizing a rowing workout. I’ve used, reviewed, and recommended lots of rowing machine accessories over the years and, to put this review together, I’ve done a deep dive on the best accessories on the market right now.
The difference between a good and a great rowing machine workout comes down to the details; the comfort of the seat, the stability of the base, and the firmness of your grip. Accessories such as a seat cushion, a heavy-duty non-slip mat, and rowing gloves allow you to eliminate the negatives that can drag your workout down so that you can make the most of every second of your training time.
In this article, I’ll lay out the best indoor rowing machine accessories on today’s market. I’ll start with accessories that are brand specific, such as those for Concept2. Then I’ll focus on non-specific accessories such as heart rate monitors, seat cushions, non-slip mats, clothing, shoes, and wireless headphones. By the time you finish reading, you’ll know precisely what you need to get the most out of your rowing experience.
Keep reading to get the full story.
The Concept2 RowErg is the most popular indoor rowing machine on the planet. So it should come as no surprise that the Concept2 guys have released a full range of training accessories. There are at least 10 different Concept2 accessories, including seat pads, gloves, and chain oil. Here are the two most important Concept2 accessories, in my opinion:
Slides are an innovative training accessory that is unique to Concept2. They allow you to transform your machine from a static to a dynamic rower. This provides you with a more realistic on-the-water rowing experience.
Concept2 Slides consist of a pair of frames that are placed on the floor under your Concept2 rowing machine. Each frame consists of a steel base with rails and a wheeled carriage. When your rowing machine is fitted onto the slides, you’ll have the rowing machine moving under you just as if you were moving through the water. So, rather than just moving your body mass, you’ll be moving the entire mass of the rowing machine. As a result, you’ll be able to realize a faster catch and a higher stroke rate.
Concept2 sells two versions of the slide. The first is the Slide Single, designed for use with one Concept2 Rowing Machine. The other is the Team Boat Slide, which connects Models D, C, and E rowers together to simulate a team rowing experience. Another option to connect rowers together to create a crew rowing experience is the Dynamic Link.
The Concept2 Slide is compatible with Concept2 Rower models A, B, C, D, and E.
Concept2 Slides are quite large, so you’ll need to have a floor space of around 11’ x 4’ to accommodate this accessory. If you’re a beginning or intermediate level rower, you’ll probably find that the Concept2 RowErg, by itself, will provide you with everything you need to get a great workout. However, if you’re an experienced rower who is after as close to an on-the-water rowing experience as possible, then slides will allow you to take your training to the next level.
Because the mass of the rowing machine is moving under your body, Concept2 slides will improve your workout by …
- Getting a faster catch
- Exerting a greater power application
- Achieving a higher stroke rate
Concept2 Slides can be bought from the official Concept2 website for $290 per pair.
Concept2 USB Memory Stick for the PM5 Performance Monitor
The PM5 Performance Monitor that comes with your Concept2 Rowing machine is among the best on the market. It allows you to store all of your workout data for easy retrieval. But what if you’re using more than one rowing machine or if you share your Concept 2 rower with other people? That’s where the Concept2 USB memory stick comes into its own.
A Concept2 USB Memory Stick allows you to store your workout data so that you can take it with you when training on different rowers. So, if you are doing some rowing workouts at home and some down at the local gym, you’re able to access your training diagnostics at either location. Using a USB flash drive will also allow you to update your PM5 firmware without having to connect the PM5 to a computer. The PM5 monitor will work with FAT and FAT32 USB formats only.
The Concept2 USB Flash Drive sells for $22.00.
LiveRowing iPhone Connector
The LiveRowing iPhone Connector allows you to connect your PM5 monitor to your iOS device. It enables you to directly upload your training data to the LiveRowing app on your iPhone. LiveRowing is a vibrant fitness community built around rowing where members compete against each other.
The LiveRowing Connector is only for iPhones. It is compatible with all Apple iOS devices with lightning connectors, from iPhone 4S to iPhone 9, iPod Touch 5th+ generations. To securely attach your iPhone to the PM5 monitor, you will also need a LiveRower Smart Cradle, which is sold separately.
General Rowing Machine Accessories
Let’s switch now from Concept2 specific accessories to general-purpose indoor rowing machine accessories. I’ve put together the following list of the 13 best rowing machine accessories to take your workouts to the next level.
Heart Rate Monitor
Unlike many other cardio workout machines, rowing machines do not provide you with a built-in heart monitoring ability. While some of them will supply you with a complimentary chest strap pulse monitor, most will be chest strap enabled but won’t supply the monitor. You’ll have to buy it yourself.
Tracking your training pulse is an important component of your workout. It will allow you to adjust your training intensity in line with your target training heart rate.
My favorite chest strap heart rate monitor for rowing is the Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor. Not only is the Polar H10 one of the most accurate monitors on the market, but it’s also one of the most comfortable to wear. The biggest problem with chest strap monitors is that they can cause chaffing and feel constricting. You won’t get any of that with the Polar H10.
The H10 comes in different sizes and is stretchable to provide a comfortable fit that doesn’t feel like it’s crushing your chest. It features a soft textile strap for enhanced comfort, non-slip silicone spots, and a firm buckle to keep the sensor in place. It has an internal memory allowing you to save the data for later analysis.
When it comes to the accuracy of pulse rate monitoring the H10 stands out due to its use of electrocardiogram (ECG) technology. This measures the electrical pulses coming from your heart, which has proven to be the most accurate method to precisely track the heart rate.
With the H10 you’ll be getting real-time data with no lag despite how hard you’re training. This contrasts with lesser monitors which aren’t able to handle the demands of an intense workout. The Polar H10 monitor works in conjunction with the Polar Beat app which you can download to your smartphone. Unlike the previous model, the Polar H7, the H10 makes use of ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart technology so you can connect with a greater range of apps and other digital devices.
The Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor is machine washable. It is also waterproof up to 30 meters and has a battery that will last up to 400 hours.
Rowing Machine Seat Cushion
Regardless of how good a rowing machine is, if it feels like you’re sitting on a rock, you’re not going to use it as often as you should. By investing in a seat cushion, you can give your butt the love it needs so that the rest of your body can get on with the job.
A rowing machine seat cushion will make a huge difference when you’re doing those long rows that see you plonked down for 30 minutes or longer. That’s because it will relieve the pressure on your tailbone while also boosting the blood circulation to your hard-working glute and hamstrings.
The great thing about a rowing machine seat cushion is that it can also be used while you’re sitting at your desk or watching TV on the couch.
When shopping for a rowing machine seat cushion, look for a material that is fitted with a high-quality foam or gel material. It should provide comfort without sinking to the degree that your ergonomics are altered and you feel that you’re not sitting on a solid base.
The outer material of the seat cushion should be sweat and odor resistant.
My favorite rowing machine seat cover is the Skwoosh AIR-FLOW3D, which is filled with patented TEKPAD lightweight pressure relieving gel. It is covered in a 3-D fabric that is breathable, while also being odor, sweat, and moisture resistant. It’s also waterproof and has a non-skid bottom to keep you firmly in place while you’re rowing.
Heavy Duty Non-Slip Mat
Rowing machines can be damaging to floor surfaces. Depending on the rigidity of the frame, they may also slide around when you begin to push your training intensity. The remedy for both of these issues is a quality heavy-duty non-slip mat. A mat will also help to protect the underside of your rowing machine from dust and debris.
When shopping for a rowing machine mat, I recommend going for recycled rubber or PVC. These are the most durable materials that are odor-resistant and won’t curl at the edges. Make sure that it is non-slip, with a textured surface. The mat needs to be large enough to fit your entire rowing machine with a decent amount of room around the edge to protect your flooring.
My favorite heavy-duty non-slip mat is the SuperMats 29GS Indoor Rowing Machine Mat.
Your feet provide one of the 3 points of contact while rowing. To get the best performance you need a different shoe to the one you use to run and walk around. Those shoes have impact-reducing cushioning, which is what you don’t need on a rowing machine. Being a closed chain movement, rowing requires a solid, secure, cushion-free contact. Too much cushioning will negatively affect your rowing stroke and may even throw off your ergonomics.
Look for a shoe that has minimal cushioning and a zero heel-to-toe drop. The shoe should also be lightweight, breathable, and flexible. There are a lot of great minimalist rowing machines on the market and most of them are suitable for rowing machine workouts. My personal favorite is the Merrell Glove 3 Minimal.
Check out our article for more information on the best rowing shoes.
Rowing Machine Gloves
While rowing does very good things for your heart, lungs, back, biceps, and legs, it can be pretty hard on your hands. Investing in a pair of rowing gloves will help to prevent calluses and other hand pain points while also shoring up your grip.
There are several options when it comes to hand coverings for rowing. General workout fingerless gloves will do the job nicely. The best gloves are made from sweat and odor-resistant leather with strong velcro fasteners and a decent amount of padding in the palm. For a more minimalist feel, you can buy pads that only cover the palm. However, these may slide in your hand, so are not recommended. Grips are a combination between pads and gloves, featuring finger tabs to hold them in place.
My favorite rowing machine workout glove is the Crewstop Sculling and Rowing glove.
Check out our article for more information on the best rowing gloves.
Clothing for Indoor Rowing
Some brands, such as Concept2, sell a range of rowing machine clothing. Of course, you don’t need custom clothing to get a good workout, but you do need to follow some basic clothing guidelines:
- Choose a form-fitting shirt that will not interfere with your rowing movement. If your shirt hangs down, tuck it in so that it doesn’t interfere with the seat roller action.
- Wear shorts that are flexible and breathable. Spandex and Lycra are good materials to choose from. Avoid baggy shorts that nay hand down over the rail.
- Wear socks to prevent heel chaffing.
- If you’ve got long hair, consider tying it back.
Go here to check out the Concept2 clothing range.
Rowing Machine Chain Oil
The chains on rowing machines require regular lubrication. You can use an off-the-shelf bicycle oil but some manufacturers recommend not using WD-40. Concept2 sells their own branded rowing machine oil, their 3-in-1 Multi-Purpose Oil. Another option is Treadlife Fitness Rowing Machine Chain Oil, which comes in a 4-oz bottle and is odorless.
Attaching your Smartphone to your rowing machine monitor provides an expanded level of technology and feedback during your workout. There are several solid, reliable holders on the market.
Vapor 5 makes a great phone holder that features ribs in the holder to keep the phone secure and prevents the volume and power buttons from being pressed inadvertently. It fits most Smartphones and works great with PM5 monitors.
Earphones are not an essential rowing accessory but they will make your training session a whole lot more enjoyable. There are plenty of options when it comes to wireless earphones, from earbuds to over headphones and bone-conducting headphones. Make sure that the style you choose won’t budge when you’re rowing intensely. They should also be sweat resistant.
My personal favorite earbuds are Google Pixel Buds A Series. I love their cool auto sound adjustment feature which adjusts the volume to suit your environment without you doing anything!
Rowing Machine Cover
A rowing machine cover is an essential accessory if you plan to keep the rowing machine outside or in the garage. Look for a rowing machine cover that is dustproof, waterproof, and windproof. It should be made of polyester, vinyl/ laminate, and have strong velcro tanks to keep it in place.
Concept2 sells two rowing machine covers to fit all of their models, with prices ranging from $55 to $76.
You need to keep hydrated while working out, so a good wattle bottle is a must when rowing. There are literally hundreds of water bottle options out there. To narrow your choice here are some things to look out for …
- Stainless steel water bottles are the most durable
- Choose a non-insulated bottle
- Go for a bottle that has a leak-proof lid
There are some excellent rowing books that will provide you with the motivation and the skills to deliver on your workout. Here are my three favorites …
- Biomechanics of Rowing, Valery Kleshnev
- The Kiwi Pair by Eric Murray and Hamish Bond
- The Complete Guide to Indoor Rowing, by Jim Flood and Charles Simpson
Rowing Machine Poster/Chart
Hanging a rowing machine poster in your workout den can enhance your training environment, provide motivation to do the job, and give you training reminders while you’re exercising.
The best poster that I have come across is the rowing machine poster/chart produced by Mike Jesperson. It includes a complete rowing machine guide as well as showing the muscles used and providing an easy-to-use heart rate guide. It’s also got beautiful illustrations to enhance your understanding.
You can quickly become overwhelmed with the wide array of rowing machine accessories that are out there. In this article, I’ve zoomed in on the best accessories from the best manufacturers to lift your rowing game and make your workouts more comfortable and enjoyable.
I recommend starting with rowing machine gloves and then adding extra accessories from the list as your budget allows.
What does every rower need?
To get a good rowing workout, you first need a quality rowing machine that will allow you to move through a complete range of motion and that allows for fluid, jerk-free rowing action. After that, you need to wear clothing that will not impede your workout. Purchase a pair of workout gloves to protect your hands and prevent them from slipping and a minimalist pair of shoes with a zero heel-to-toe rise and very little cushioning in the heel.
I also recommend investing in a Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor to track your pulse rate and a quality seat cushion to keep you comfortable during those long ridges.
What do you put under a rower?
You should purchase a rowing machine mat to place under your rowing machine. A quality mat will serve three purposes:
- Prevent the rowing machine from damaging your floor
- Stop the machine from moving around while you’re rowing
- Stop dust and debris from getting into the underside of the rowing machine
Look for a rowing machine mat that is non-slip, having a textured surface. The best mat material is recycled rubber. This material is very strong while also being flexible. It won’t curl at the edges and is also sweat and odor resistant.
What do you wear on an indoor rower?
The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to clothing and rowing is that you do not want loose-fitting or baggy clothes. These may impede your rowing action and could even get caught up in the mechanism. A form-fitting, moisture-wicking t-shirt and lycra or spandex shorts are ideal, Gloves and minimalist footwear should also be worn. Socks will avoid heel chaffing. Finally, if you have long hair, you should tie it back to prevent it from getting on your face.