Concept2 Rower Makes Open Debut

March 23, 2014

James Toland

“The rower is one of the few pieces of metabolic-conditioning equipment that comes from an actual sport. It is also a multi-joint, full-body movement. It fits in very well with the wave of muscular contraction seen in Olympic lifting.”
Landscape image courtesy of Austin Cronnelly

When Open Workout 14.4 was announced last Thursday, there were mixed feelings among the CrossFit community.

Some were excited to see the rower make an appearance for the first time in the Open, while others were shocked to have a new movement introduced in this stage of the season.

One thing’s for sure: Employees at Concept2, a company in Morrisville, Vt., specializing in rowing equipment such as indoor rowers, couldn’t have been more thrilled.

“I could not tell anyone until after the announcement happened and then I emailed everyone that it was going on,” said Greg Hammond, a marketing representative at Concept2. “Concept2 is not a big company and we have a large percentage of employees doing CrossFit now so (being a part of the Open) means more to everyone than ever before. We really enjoy playing a part in the CrossFit community.”

Hammond said CrossFit has made a huge impact on the family-owned business.

“Not just on the sales side but also the quality and caliber of the people we get to work with on a daily basis,” he said. “The big difference is that in 2007, we knew most of the (CrossFit) affiliates personally. Now, it is impossible to keep up.”

History of the Concept2 Rower and the CrossFit Games

The rower has been around long before CrossFit or the inception of the Games. Concept2 began in 1976 in the back of a bread truck when brothers Dick and Pete Dreissigacker, fresh from Olympic training, started making composite racing oars, according to the company’s website. In 1981, the Dreissigacker brothers created the Concept2 Indoor Rower, which swiftly became the best-selling rowing machine in the world.

While the rower existed before the CrossFit Games, the Games have never existed without the rower. In 2007, athletes were required to complete a 1,000-m row in the first workout. From that moment, the C2 has been a fixture at the Games.

Open Debut

Few people are allowed to know the details of the Open workouts before they are released, but Hammond was one of the lucky few last week.

“I was never told the actual (workout),” he said. “I got some vague questions about how long would it take for an ‘average CrossFitter’ to row 60 calories. I knew something was up. I just went into our workout room and rowed a bunch of different splits to get them the answers they needed.” 

Although it has been a part of four of the seven CrossFit Games, this is the first time the indoor rower has made an appearance in the Open. It’s the first component of the 14.4 chipper: 60-calorie row, 50 toes-to-bars, 40 wall-ball shots, 30 cleans and 20 muscle-ups. 

Why now?

“There are some movements that are staples in determining and testing fitness. The rower is one of them,” said Dave Castro, CrossFit Games Director. “The trend for the past three years of Open workouts is that 99.9 percent of all Open submissions are done at affiliates. And in my experience from traveling the world and visiting affiliates, almost every affiliate I have ever been to has a C2 rower. … The time was right.”

For those athletes without access to a rower, 14.4 is an opportunity to make new friends. Affiliates around the world took to social media sites inviting other CrossFit athletes to “make friends with a box who owns a rower,” or “search your area to find a rower near you, ask around.” 

“(The reaction) has been overwhelmingly positive,” Hammond said. “I think people that have been (doing CrossFit) for a while realize the row was more of a buy-in to the chipper. If you set out to PR the row, then I am sure you struggled the rest of the (workout). The sport of CrossFit is so big. I agree with Dave (Castro) that the Open has to be more of a filter for what people might see in the Games.”

Hammond, a CrossFit athlete at Champlain Valley CrossFit in Williston, Vt., knows firsthand the benefits the Concept2 has when it comes to training.

“The rower is one of the few pieces of metabolic-conditioning equipment that comes from an actual sport,” he said. “It is also a multi-joint, full-body movement. It fits in very well with the wave of muscular contraction seen in Olympic lifting.”

When the initial scuttlebutt subsided and Josh Bridges and Scott Panchik finished their workout, CrossFit athletes worldwide began to figure out and study the best ways they could maximize their time and energy output during the row portion. Hammond began fielding questions from all over on how to be an efficient rower.

“I got a ton of emails and texts from friends asking this same question about five seconds after the announcement,” he said. “The advice I gave was always the same:

1. Don't stress the row.

2. Reduce the damper setting to help save grip.

3. Most importantly, don't blow up on the row to get off five seconds quicker and then spend 10 seconds staring at the bar before you start toes-to-bars.”

Hammond said the flywheel damper setting, the foot number setting and foot strap techniques won’t have a huge impact on the overall rowing performance.

“It doesn't matter that much in this short of a row that is built into a chipper,” he said. “People should be worrying about the toes-to-bars and how they break up their cleans. I hope if nothing else this will force people to practice the rower like we practice Oly lifting and double-unders.”

Here’s where else we’ve seen the rower at the Games:

·      2007 – The Hopper, 1,000-m row

·      2009 – Event 4, two 500-m rows

·      2011 – The End (Parts 1,2,3), 20-calorie rows

·      2013 – Row 1 and Row 2, 2,000-m row and 21,097-m row

·      2013 – “2007,” 1,000-m row