Sunday, 19 May 2024

Rowing Machines

Lifecore R100 Commercial Rowing Machine Review

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The Lifecore R100 rowing machine is an upgraded version of the R88 and R88 Pro rowers. This means you benefit from a higher weight capacity, longer warranty coverage, and twice the number of resistance levels.

But how does it compare to other bestselling home rowing machines?

To find out, our review takes a closer look at the design features, console functions, workout programs, and customer feedback. We’ll also compare the R100 to other well known rowers in this price range, to help you decide if it’s the best rowing machine for your own home workouts.

Design features

The R100 is one of only a handful of rowers that offers a combination of air and magnetic resistance (16 settings to choose from), with the air being used for lower resistance levels, and the magnetic taking over once the workout gets more challenging.

The R100 uses a combination of air and magnetic resistance

Not only does this help to maintain a smooth rowing stroke, but it also reduces the noise that’s typically associated with fan resistance rowers. There’s even a vent that lets you adjust how much of the air flows towards you to help keep you cool.

The industrial strength forged aluminum rail is designed to ensure a smooth, gliding seat movement that’s strong enough to support the 600 lb capacity, yet remains comfortable during longer workouts.

Taking a closer look at the handle design, and it’s actually attached using a belt instead of a chain, reducing the level of ongoing maintenance.

The ergonomic design of the contoured seat cushioning lacks some of the density we’re used to seeing on the WaterRower models, but is wide enough to ensure you remain stable throughout each stroke.

Although we’ve seen differences in opinion when it comes to the heel supports and foot pedal positioning , the outturned angle is designed to create a more efficient transfer of power when starting each stroke.

The nylon straps also feature a quick release mechanism that keep all shoe sizes held securely in place, while cutting down on the time it takes to get on and off the machine.

Lifecore R100 Commercial Rowing Machine

Lifecore R100 – Features Summary

  • Large LCD blue backlit computer display
  • 16 levels of magnetic resistance
  • 4 Polar compatible heart rate control programs
  • 15 challenging preset programs
  • Stores data for up to 4 users
  • Pacer and watts dependent programs
  • Adjustable cooling air vent
  • Solid steel fan/flywheel
  • Extruded aluminum frame with solid steel support
  • Silent drive system
  • Large ergonomically designed seat for added comfort
  • Folds for storage

Display console design

The VR100 display console is conveniently kept within easy reach via an adjustable monitor arm

Although you’re missing the workout tracking software that’s available with both the WaterRower and C2 models, the console still manages to provide a range of useful feedback on your performance.

This includes the current user profile, resistance level, heart rate, 500m split time, stroke count, and total number of calories burned.

There’s even a dot matrix display dedicated to showing you how far through the current profile you are if you selected one of the preset programs.

The positioning of the console at the end of a monitor arm is actually quite unusual, and very different from what we saw with Lifecore’s R900 model.

Having the console this much closer to you when rowing, and with a screen that’s colourful and backlit makes it much easier to stay updated with important information mid-workout.

You can also choose whether the console should be powered by batteries (indicator of battery power available on the monitor) or an AC adapter, and the close proximity of the buttons means you don’t have to slide your feet out of the straps to adjust the resistance.

Although there’s no numeric keypad or quick select buttons for setting up user profiles or choosing a preset program, the central selection dial makes it quick and easy to enter any information you need.

In total you can setup four unique user profiles, each storing information about your age, weight, height, and gender to help produce more accurate feedback for metrics like heart rate and calories burned.

There’s also a recovery button for quick access to the recovery fitness test, which we’ll now take a look at in more detail.

11 Preset workout programs

For any fitness equipment that uses a resistance system, whether it’s an elliptical trainer, exercise bike, or rowing machine, you will always have a certain level of workout variation.

How much variation is available will usually be based on the price and company who manufacture the equipment.

The Lifecore R100 offers 11 different programs including its heart rate control and custom options, as well as a recovery based fitness test to measure improvements in your physical conditioning.

We put together the following quick reference guide to provide a little more information about what you can expect from each one.

  • Manual – Following no preset resistance profile, this program lets you choose a target distance and time for your workout. Resistance can be changed at any point using the central selection dial.
  • White Water – Resistance follows a preset profile that resembles an interval program but with less sudden variation.
  • Ramp – Similar to the White Water program but with a slightly lower default resistance level of 4 instead of 6.
  • Pacer – This program creates a sense of competition as you race against a virtual pace boat. You’re kept updated with how many meters away from the pace you are, and you remain in complete control of the resistance throughout.
  • Interval – The level of control you have over the creation of interval programs is one of the features we were most impressed with during this review, and a feature we hadn’t come across before.Lifecore actually let you choose from two main types of interval training – one based on distance, and the other based on time.With distance-based programming, you can choose a target distance and set the interval rest time to be anything from 10 seconds to 10 minutes. You can then set the desired number of intervals.

    With time-based programming, you would instead set the duration of your workout, followed by making the same choices for rest time and number of intervals.

    These programs are a great way to quickly setup high intensity workouts that will improve your endurance.

  • User profile – If you’re looking for even more variation than the preset programs provide, you can also create your own profile.This allows you to manually set the resistance level for each segment in the display matrix, as well as a target time and distance.
  • Watts control – After selecting a target watts level, the computer will automatically adjust the resistance to ensure this level is achieved and maintained.
  • Heart rate control (3) – After selecting a target time, distance, and providing your age (for use in the maximum heart rate calculation), you can choose from three different intensity levels.These are designed to keep your heart rate at 60%, 75%, or 85% of its maximum, which will be maintained in a similar way to the Watts Control program – with the resistance automatically adjusting.

In terms of the fitness test, being recovery based means that it can only be performed after you finish your workout. For 60 seconds after the test begins, the console will then measure how quickly your heart rate returns to normal.

Whereas the YMCA testing protocol used by some exercise bikes will provide you with a METs rating, this particular test will award you a score from F1 (Excellent) to F6 (Challenge) based on your results.

Comparing the Lifecore R100

Frame profile
One of the most noticeable differences between top-of-the-line rowing machines is the variation in the height of the seat from the ground, also known as the frame profile or entry point.

WaterRower are one of the few companies who have models designed specifically for high (M1 HiRise – 20″) and low (M1 LoRise – 12″) entry points.

Whereas the BodyCraft VR500 contends with the HiRise model at a height of 19 inches, the Lifecore R100 closely matches the LoRise at 14.5 inches from the floor.

Although the entry level won’t have much of an effect on your rowing stroke, it can be worth bearing in mind if you have any mobility issues or are buying a rowing machine to reduce stress on your joints. In this situation, a high profile frame may be more desirable.

In terms of maintenance, the R100 has a slight advantage over the WaterRower as you don’t have to worry about adding purification tablets to the water or cleaning the tank every few months.

However, it’s equally important for the frames of both machines to be kept dry and free from perspiration as much as possible. For the wooden WaterRower models it’s about preventing any swelling in the frame, while for the R100 and Concept2 it’s about preventing rust and discolouration.

Weight capacity
The weight capacity is impressive at 600 lbs. Although that’s not quite the 1000 lbs stated by many of the WaterRower models, it’s 100 lb more than the Concept 2 Model D, and testament to the commercial quality construction.

Ease of assembly and maintenance

Assembly instructions for the R100 are split into sections to make them easier to follow

Although it’s not something that has a direct impact on the quality of a product, the assembly process can be surprisingly influential when it comes to writing customer reviews.

This is something we noticed recently with our review of the Diamondback 910SR, where one of the most common causes for dropped stars in the ratings was poor quality instructions.

We’re pleased to tell you that this isn’t the case with the Lifecore R100, where many of the diagrams bear a striking resemblance to those found in BodyCraft’s VR500 user manual.

The steps are clearly broken down into several sub-sections, with simple diagrams being used to show how each part fits together and the tool required.

Having the main frame and resistance system already assembled significantly reduces the time needed to get everything setup, and it shouldn’t take more than an hour before you’re ready to start your first workout.

Despite the 96 lb product weight, there isn’t a great deal of heavy lifting involved, and with the front stabilizer in place all that’s really required is to attach the rail.

If you’re short on space, a rowing machine may not seem like the best option, with upright bikes and spin bikes requiring a much smaller footprint.

However, this is one of the reasons why Lifecore have included a quick release frame lock mechanism so that you can fold the rail vertically/ This significantly reduces the amount of space required when not in use.

But while the folded footprint is very similar to that of the Concept 2, we’re yet to find an indoor rower that requires as little space as the wooden WaterRower models due to their unique center of gravity.

Once folded, you can safely tilt the frame onto the transport wheels built into the front base stabilizer and roll the machine to a different location.

Maintenance required
The low level of maintenance that’s inherent with magnetic resistance rowers is one of the major benefits of the R100 rower.

There’s no need to worry about chlorine tablets the way you would with machines that use water tanks in their resistance systems, and ongoing maintenance is little more than cleaning with a light soap solution.

When it comes to cleaning the frame and parts, a light household cleaner will be fine, but Lifecore advise against WD-40 or other silicone sprays. The unit should also be wiped dry after each use to prevent any damage caused by accumulating perspiration.

Customer reviews

As with each of our reviews we try to maintain an unbiased approach to each company and model, so that we can make fair comparisons and determine the best overall machine for your money.

As part of this process, we also pay close attention to customer reviews on other ecommerce sites, such as Amazon.

After reading through each of these reviews ourselves, we were able to put together the following lists of pros and cons based on real customer feedback.


  • Uses a combination of air and magnetic resistance (similar to the BodyCraft VR500) to produce a quiet rowing motion
  • Comfortable seat cushioning
  • Solid and stable frame design
  • Seat glides smoothly over the rail
  • Assembly tools are provided, and the process doesn’t take long
  • Significant improvements over the R900 model, including more feedback via the console
  • Warranty coverage is almost identical to higher priced rowers, and longer than that offered on the WaterRower Natural or Concept2 (both limited to 5 years on frame)
  • Wide range of resistance levels
  • Console display is easy to read
  • Transport wheels make it easier to move around once assembled and folded


  • Some taller customers (6’2″+) experienced brief loss of transmission between heart rate chest straps and the receiver in the console at full extension
  • There seems to be a slight delay in some of the feedback metrics updating. The BPM for the heart rate and rowing pace measurements seem to take a few extra strokes to update after any changes.
  • Doesn’t break down into multiple parts for easy transport like the Concept2 does
  • One review noted the slight outward angle of the foot plates positioned their knees to close to their arms on the release portion of the rowing stroke
  • Lack of online workout tracking software

A recurring theme we noticed throughout the reviews was that people buying the Lifecore R100 had already tried a Concept2 either at home or at a Crossfit box and had preferred the motion and resistance levels of the VR100.

We already made our own in-depth comparison between the two machines earlier in this review, but it’s interesting to see such a preference for the Lifecore model, despite the higher price tag.

Also, a number of reviews noted that the machine was heavy to move around. While we can see how this could be true with a weight of 96 lbs, it’s still considerably lighter than other machines in the same price range, including the WaterRower (approaching 120 lbs for wooden models with a full tank) and the Bodycraft VR500 (101 lbs).

What’s covered by the warranty?

  • Frame: Lifetime
  • Parts: 5 years
  • Labor: 1 year

Light Commercial
  • Frame: Lifetime
  • Parts: 2 years
  • Labor: 90 days

Review Overview

Overall Review Rating

4 / 5

With a lower level of ongoing maintenance, longer warranty duration, and weight capacity to rival some of the best known indoor rowers in the industry, the R100 is certainly an impressive machine.

Having such a varied collection of workouts that includes custom designed interval programs and a competitive race against a pace boat are also attractive features that we don't see often.

Overall we can really only identify two negative points about the Lifecore R100, with one being the lack of online workout tracking, and the other being the lag time between adjustments made in your workout and the changes registering on the console.

Although this isn't such a big deal during distance programs, for heart rate control options it's something that can make a big difference.

If you're looking for a stable machine that you won't need to move around too often that offers some truly unique workout programs and clear visibility of advanced feedback, such as 500m split time, then this is still an excellent machine for home workouts.

Is it better than the C2 and WaterRower? Perhaps on the warranty, and equal on workout variation, but drops behind slightly when it comes to the console features and historical performance tracking.

Product dimensions: 92" (L) x 19" (W) x 36" (H) Folded dimensions: 52" (L) x 19" (W) x 67" (H) Product weight: 96 lbs Weight capacity: 600 lbs

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