The Top 30 CrossFit Rowing WODs

Last update:

A lot of people (myself included) have a very “love-hate” kind of relationship with rowing.

Truth be told, putting in the time to perfect your technique, breathing, and pacing can greatly improve your experience. And what better way to practice than to hit one of the 30 best CrossFit rowing WODs?!

crossfit rowing wods
@timiiiii_

We’ll go over some technique content later on in the article, but if you’ve got a Concept2 Rower, you’re comfortable with your stroke, and are ready to suffer a bit, we’ll get right to it!

Table of Contents

The 30 Best CrossFit Rowing WODs

The list of the 30 Best CrossFit Rowing WODs combines “pure” rowing workouts and WODs infused with common CrossFit movements. Whichever option you opt for is bound to leave you with an elevated lung capacity and a better appreciation for dry land!

2K Row

Equipment: Concept2 rower

The 2K row is pretty much the gold standard in the rowing community and perfectly tests power, endurance, and grit. For pure rowing workouts, height and weight are major contributing factors, but if you’re able to finish up in under 7 minutes, you’re definitely doing on the right track!

Last year, I finally broke 7 minutes. Not to bad for a 5’7″. 163-pound, 39 year-old guy!

Need some pointers on maximizing your effort? Listen to Coach, Dr. Cam Nichol; he’s the best rowing coach in the business!

Cindy with a Twist

Equipment: Concept2 rower

Cindy…a beloved CrossFit WOD that is tough enough on a good day. Throw in 20 calories of rowing to start every round and…Cindy gets really tough.

The worst part? In “normal” Cindy, you have that sweet, sweet 20-minute time cap in sight at all times. In this mutation, every second you rest is one second you’re not getting closer to finishing!

Jackie

Equipment: Concept2 rower, barbell, pull-up bar/rack

Jackie is one of those “CrossFit Girls” who always manages to sneak her way into your workouts. She is kinda like an “Easter Egg” with her row, thruster, pull-up combo.

The irony? OG Jackie is enough of a sprint challenge by herself. One of the greatest CrossFit benchmark WODs; if you want to see how much you’ve improved, compare your Jackie times.

Moreno

Equipment: Concept2 rower

You remember how I said that the 2K row is the gold standard in rowing? Well, as you can imagine, most people leave it all on the rower; collapsing in a heap of sweat, lactic acid, and short-term, induced emphysema after finishing that gauntlet.

Now, imagine being that out of it and still having to do 50-plus burpees.

Thankfully they’re not burpees over the rower; 100 percent guarantee you’d eat it on at least one of those jumps!

Sting

Equipment: Concept2 rower

If the man himself is really watching “…every breath you take…”, he is probably gonna get pretty bored. Between those burpees and that rowing, you’re going to be taking lot of big huffing breaths!

Make sure you try to regulate your breathing on those walking lunges; they’re only real “break” you get. You might just need to send out and S.O.S….(sorry; had to do it!)

5K Row

Equipment: Concept2 rower

While not as revered of a distance as its running counterpart, the 5K row is nonetheless a popular rowing benchmark. In contrast to the 2K (and shorter) rowing tests, the 5K row slips more into the endurance capacity territory.

Finding a sustainable stroke rate and cadence is key with this test. Also, less-than-efficient row technique is more heavily “penalized” in the longer time domain.

Tabata This

Equipment: Concept2 rower

If you like your rowing in shorter intervals and mixed with a number of other movements, Tabata is the way to go. The caveat is, only rowing for 20 seconds at a clip…you really gotta push yourself with each of these 5 segments.

100 seconds of rowing is pretty manageable…right?

Small

Equipment: Concept2 rower, plyo box, air runner

This is the kind of devastatingly difficult CrossFit Hero WOD you wonder why you don’t hear more about! There is literally zero opportunity for rest in this one (maybe you take it slow on the box jumps…?) Moving directly from running, to rowing, to burpees each round…just brutal.

One piece of advice: don’t try to be a hero on those rows!

Double Trouble

Equipment: Concept2 rower, Assault Bike

The Concept2 Rower might be the second most difficult and gruelling cardio implement used in CrossFit.

The most difficult cardio implement? The Assault Bike!

Oh brother; thankfully the rep counts aren’t too high (if you DO want high-rep Assault Bike workouts, check out our list here. We have a ton of them!)

Slob

Equipment: Concept2 rower, pull-up bar/rack, barbell, bumper plates, air runner

So you gutted through the run, rested a little bit on the pull-ups, and knocked out the “light” thrusters in 5 moderate sets.

Your reward? A (heavily fatigued) 2K rowing test.

You break 7 minutes on this version of the benchmark and you deserve a medal!

2018 CrossFit Games WOD 4

Equipment: Concept2 rower

This is the one where they rowed a marathon.

One of the best CrossFit rowing WODs is…a marathon

I really don’t have a comment for this other than to say that if you attempt this workout, see if you can rig up “Braveheart” onto the monitor as you row. Don’t worry; you’ll finish the movie before you finish the workout!

And when you do…

Ebba

Equipment: Concept2 rower, jump rope, barbell, bumper plates

What you’ll find with Ebba is that just when you get into a good groove with any of the individual movements, it’s time to start the next one.

(I know that this was almost certainly the intention when this WOD was designed)

This is a good excuse to settle in and to find a good pace and cadence throughout. Don’t even worry about the transition from power cleans to shoulder-to-overheads (like you might in DT). When it’s all said and done, it’s going to be the least of your problems!

2018 French Throwdown Qualifier WOD 2

Equipment: Concept2 rower, barbell, bumper plates

To be honest, I don’t think most people who attempt this WOD are going to need that 18-minute time cap, but I thank the French for providing it, nonetheless!

This is a sprint WOD at its core, but that still doesn’t give you permission to blow yourself up on the bar-facing burpees. Probably better to ball out on the row and make a “quick” transition into the cleans (don’t let the bar roll away on that last rep!)

Triple Sweat

Equipment: Concept2 rower

Those 30 squats are going to seem like such a relief every 3 minutes…but you still need to make decent time with them if you want to get any rest in this WOD.

The burpee/row combo is featured in a number of lethal WODS…and with good reason. It…sucks (sorry, couldn’t think of a better word to describe that feeling!)

Second Cut

Equipment: Concept2 rower, kettlebells

Another CrossFit Games workout, although the row here is a bit more manageable than the marathon from 2018!

See that handstand walk at the end? See that arm-heavy kettlebell overhead movement in the middle?

Please keep these items in mind with each rowing stroke…use those legs!

Robert McPadden

Equipment: Concept2 rower, barbell, bumper plates, wall ball

Sure, elite people can do this one pretty fast. For the rest of us mortals, slipping into a moderate rowing pace to offset the effects of the burpees and wall balls is the way to go.

Strong guy? Maybe you blow through those snatches. Not the strongest guy? No shame in (decently) fast singles.

CrossFit Open Workout 15.5

Equipment: Concept2 rower, barbell, bumper plates

“Yeah, just 4 rounds”, you’re probably thinking.

4 rounds of “no joke” to be more specific.

I mean, just check out the video (skip to 26:00). CrossFit heartthrob Camille Leblanc-Bazinet…the then defending CrossFit Games champion at the time had some struggles with this:

If you can make those thrusters look easier than Camille did, I want to see you at the next Open announcement!

CrossFit Open Workout 19.1

Equipment: Concept2 rower, wall ball

From one Open WOD to another (the Open sure produces a lot of the best CrossFit rowing WODs!)

Being a short guy, this is one of my most hated CrossFit Open workouts. To be honest, this is another one of those “find your pace, find your cadence” types of workouts and perfecting your rowing and wall ball forms will help, a lot!

Make sure to set that rower up directly next to the ball; no excuses to waste time and energy running around the gym.

Dork

Equipment: Concept2 rower, barbell, bumper plates, climbing rope

“Resting” on the rope climbs and on the row? Yeah, I never thought I would say it either. Plus, at 15-feet, you really want to make sure you’re good to go every time you jump on the rope.

Split up those deadlifts (6,5,4?) and pace that row.

And remember…even the elite guys are only getting 6+ rounds!

Heather

Equipment: Concept2 rower, barbell, bumper plates, gymnastics rings

I promise I didn’t even plan it this way, but if you think about it, Heather is kind of a light version of Dork. The row is about the same, the deadlifts are only slightly fewer and the rings dips might go by quicker than the rope climbs.

Best part, only 3 rounds until you get to bask in post-Heather glory.

Nautical Nancy

Equipment: Concept2 rower, barbell, bumper plates

Everyone is different, but I personally run 400 meters a lot faster than I row 500. Additionally, my legs don’t wear out when I run near as much as they do when I row.

Again, everyone is different, but plan on this version of the (in)famous CrossFit Girl to be a bit more difficult than her OG brethren.

Mint Julep

Equipment: Concept2 rower, barbell, bumper plates

Relevant: if you’re not from the South and think people actually drink these outside of, like, The Kentucky Derby, I can assure you…they (we) don’t.

With that oh, so important announcement aside…

…rest on those sit-ups. Sure, you only get 14 of them, but in a 20 minute AMRAP where rowing and thrustering is involved…yeah, rest on the sit-ups.

Jerry

Equipment: Concept2 rower, air runner

Any time you have those mile-run bookends (ex. Murph), the workout just feels a little more…intimidating.

I mean, who really wants to finish up with 5,280 feet of anguish?

And that middle portion…seeing a pattern with this 2K row thing…seems like there is one in every other one of the best CrossFit rowing WODs!

Brehm

Equipment: Concept2 rower, climbing rope, barbell, bumper plates

Now here is a true wildcard: a rowing CrossFit workout where the row is the easy part!

So you know you gotta pace those rope climbs and then sprint, right? Good. Now let’s say that this is a bit too “easy” for you, tough guy. What is a tough guy to do?

Take that barbell from the floor.

/ thread

Michael Clarke

Equipment: Concept2 rower, barbell, bumper plates, plyo box

To be honest, this is one of the “easier” Crossfit rowing WODs on here. Probably the hardest part is keeping the overhead squat and box jump rep schemes straight.

Push those rows, but expect the lactic to pumping into overdrive throughout your legs.

Matlovich

Equipment: Concept2 rower, barbell, bumper plates

Yeah, those front squats in the middle. They make you pretty much ignore everything else in this WOD.

I don’t have much to say about those, but maybe break in 10’s (possibly even 5’s, but that’s another 15 power cleans…). Take your time on that first 1,000-meter row; the few seconds you might save pushing it will cost you minutes when squat time comes.

Life Thyme CrossFit WOD 1

Equipment: Concept2 rower, barbell, bumper plates

Not gonna lie; the squat cleans are going to be heavy for everybody. If it takes some time to get through these, don’t feel like you gotta sprint the rows to make up for it.

Think about it; you only have 1,000 meters of rowing. Save what you got for those squat cleans!

Dude Where’s My Bar?

Equipment: Concept2 rower, jump rope, air runner

I honestly think Stifler’s (yes, I call him Stifler no matter what) talents were wasted in this movie. He should never be playing second fiddle to the likes of dorks like Ashton Kutcher.

As it is, you essentially have an oddly partitioned version of the Triple 3 here. If you prefer running to rowing, you’re in business with this one!

Carl Bini

Equipment: Concept2 rower, jump rope, barbell, bumper plates

It all seems all well and good until you see those 5 clusters at the end of each round.

(Honestly, how did this not make it into the Cluster WODs portion of that article?!)

Those aren’t just any clusters, either. Those are heavy clusters.

Don’t try to downplay them; the clusters are the workout. Remember this when you’re rowing and jumping.

Chipper Christine

Equipment: Concept2 rower, barbell, bumper plates, plyo box

As long as you keep moving on the box jumps and are smart with your deadlift breaks, you’re not gonna get time-capped (unless you just want to get capped…no shame in that!)

Another one of those “you can lose it on the row, but you can’t win it”, unless you’re only breaking, like, once on your deadlifts, save your legs and chill out on the row. We don’t need any more pictures of scuffed shins than we already have floating around the Interwebz!

Damper Setting and Drag Factor

Tried one of the best CrossFit rowing WODs or jumped straight to the info section? In either case, let’s start with the elephant in the room:

The Concept2 rower damper setting.

Two closely-related terms associated with resistance on rowing machines are damper setting and drag factor.

The damper is the adjustable lever most notably found on Concept2 and other standard rowers. The lever can be moved to levels between 1 and 10.

The higher the damper setting, the more air is allowed into the flywheel. Although this always leads to greater resistance, the specific amount of resistance each damper level creates will differ, sometimes greatly, with each rower.

Rowers that are not well maintained or cleaned accumulate dirt, grime, and dust in their flywheels. This debris impedes the air flow, leading to less resistance than would be created in a perfectly clean rower. Keep this in mind when using any rower other than your own, well-maintained, garage gym rower (you are regularly cleaning your rower, aren’t you?)

So…if every rower is affected by different levels of cleanliness and upkeep, how are you to know what damper level setting to use with any given rower?

Enter the drag factor

A rower’s drag factor provides an exact measurement of the flywheel’s air load, taking into account the cleanliness, or lack thereof, of the machine. A brand new or perfectly clean rower will provide drag factors anywhere from around 90 to slightly above 200.

So…how do you know what drag factor your rower is on?

Thankfully, this process is incredibly easy on a Concept2 and should be done every time you strap into a rower.

  • Hit the bottom button on the rower monitor to light it up and hit it again to select “More Options”
  • Hit the top button to select “Display Drag Factor”
  • Strap yourself in, grab the handle, and take 2 or 3 strokes. The drag factor will instantly calculate and display

Great! Now you know what drag factor you are at with your current damper setting selected. So…the next burning question: what drag factor should you use to create the ideal resistance for your workout?

This question is a bit trickier and answers will vary depending on your size, gender, ability to create power, fitness level, and rowing ability. As a rule of thumb, “non-competitive” men should stick between 115-125 while women should shoot for between 105-115.

@flyart0036.png

Perfect your pre-rowing damper and drag customizing and you’ll find yourself hitting PRs without even trying!

Rowing Technique

Got your damper setting and drag factors figured? Time to strap in and get rowing!

Sure, you can just pull, pull, pull ’til the cows come home, but utilizing proper rowing machine form is going to save you a lot of time and energy.

In a nutshell, you want to:

  • kick with your legs before you pull with your arms during the “pull” portion of the row. Try to straighten your legs as quickly as possible.
  • let your arms come back before you bend your knees/return to the starting position during the “recovery” portion of the row
  • keep arms in (don’t “chickenwing” these; you lose power and waste energy)
  • generally keep your torso upright and between “11 o’clock and 1 o’clock” (no excessive bending forward or backwards)
  • maintain a level stroke (don’t pull the handle way high or low)
@LydiaMarentette.png

Go tackle one of the Best CrossFit Rowing WODs…now!

During Corona, if you had a Concept 2 rower, you were set. The ability to do as much tough cardio work as you want in a roughly 10 square-meter space is a very nice perk and leaves you no excuse for not developing a bulletproof engine!

And Coach Cam even says rowing is more effective than running.

Got a rower and a barbell, dumbbell, and/or a pull-up bar? As we’ve seen from the list of the Best CrossFit rowing WODs, you can really push the limit in terms of the challenging metcons you have at your disposal. Knock out a few of these and you’ll be the most feared oarsman on the high seas!

(actually…probably not, but close!)

Have too many friends and too few rowers? Save your nautical adventure for another day and tackle one of the top CrossFit partner WODs on land!

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

Leave a Comment