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Flexrower exercise machine review: The community and workouts are great, but will it survive post pandemic?

At Rs 59,999, the water-powered Flexrower+ is an expensive buy. The lower-priced variant is available at Rs 35,999, but it isn’t foldable and it's air-powered.

July 30, 2022 / 09:07 AM IST
Most air-powered machines tend to make a whirring sound with each stroke. The Concept 2 rower is an exception, but it costs thrice as much as Flexrower+. (Representational image: Bastien Plu via Unsplash)

Most air-powered machines tend to make a whirring sound with each stroke. The Concept 2 rower is an exception, but it costs thrice as much as Flexrower+. (Representational image: Bastien Plu via Unsplash)

Unlike the treadmill, elliptical, and cycling, rowing is a relatively less popular exercise. While a few gyms have a rowing machine, almost none have a smart one.

The Flexrower+ is a smart rowing machine that features personal on-demand training and an engaging experience.

Flexnest, the manufacturer of the Flexrower and the Flexrower+, was founded during peak pandemic in 2020 with the idea of delivering premium fitness products for a home gym. Remember, this was a time when it appeared that no gyms or sports arenas would reopen anytime soon.

Peloton, the American company that sparked the home workout equipment revolution, saw explosive growth during the pandemic but has since been struggling to keep up with the initial excitement.

In contrast, FlexNest’s growth seems to have been more organic. It gained visibility around mid-2021, during the second wave of Covid-19, when it slowly expanded its offerings from the FlexBike to the FlexRower and other gym equipment such as the FlexiKettle, FlexiBell, and Flex Barbell – weight-adjustable kettle ball, dumbbell, and barbell, respectively.

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Flexrower+ weighs 42 kilos. The Flexrower+ weighs 42 kilos.

The Flexrower and Flexrower+ are smart rowing machine variants: one is air-powered and non-foldable and the other, the premium variant, is water-powered and foldable.

Even though it may seem daunting, setting up the Flexrower+ isn’t rocket science. Flexnest provides you with the tools to set it up and the process itself is quite simple. The Flexrower+ is foldable, and can be moved around with ease and put away in a corner. To be sure, it still takes up a fair bit of space, and unless you have a fitness room in your home, it will most certainly clash with the décor.

At 42 kg, the Flexrower+ is also tad bit unwieldy to open up every time you need to work out. However, it remains the only one of its kind in India: a foldable, water-powered, smart rowing machine.

What types of rowing machines are available in India?

The majority of rowing machines available today are air-powered. This means that unlike the FlexRower+, they don’t have a water tank. Most air-powered machines tend to make a whirring sound with each stroke. The Concept 2 rower remains a happy exception but also because it’s a professional machine that costs thrice as much as Flexrower+.

Water-powered machines have a strong catch at the beginning of each stoke because you’re mimicking the rowing action in the water. In that they’re tad more challenging to operate than the air-powered rower. The whirring is replaced by sounds of water splashing about in the tank, which again, comes close to the real rowing experience.

What are the benefits of the FlexRower+ rowing machine?

As impressive as it is, the Flexrower+ design is more common than you might think. It is not unusual to find the exact same machine on Chinese shopping sites such as Alibaba. Yesoul, a Quanzhou-based fitness equipment manufacturer, has the same models of exercise bicycles and rowing machines on its website as FlexNest. The vR2 Valor Water Rower too is the exact same design as the Flexrower.

This is not to suggest that the Flexrower’s design is copied but rather that it’s simply not unique. It is likely that a single manufacturer has been supplying the same products to several companies such as FlexNest, merely changing the branding on the machines. Again, this is not an uncommon practice. Small OEMs work as vendors for large brands, supplying fully assembled products that these brands then market as their own.

In any case what makes the Flexrower and Flexrower+ stand out is what’s on the app. Since these are smart machines, they connect via Bluetooth to to the Flexnest app where you can avail of workout programmes for beginner, intermediary and advanced levels. The app is available for both iOS and Android tablets and mobile phones.

You can also pick rowing workouts depending on how much time you have – from sub-20 minutes to over 40-minutes. If you’d rather just prefer a leisurely ride, pick the Virtual Row option to row through the canals of Venice, mangroves of Palawan, the River Kwai, or the Dubai Marina, among others.

The app will also measure your stroke length and power, displaying how far you’ve rowed and how many calories you’ve burnt. It also serves the larger Flexnest ecosystem so you can join a live class or a pre-recorded video for rowing, cycling, elliptical, and other Flexnest products such as barbell, dumbbell, and kettlebell depending on what equipment you own. It all ties into the Flexnest smart scale which measures your body weight, body fat and several other parameters.

FlexRower+ review: Should you buy?

It’s tempting to say yes mostly because barring CultFit’s rower, there exist no smart rowing machines in India. The features and programmes that you can access through the Flexnest app and the community it gives you access to, is what makes the Flexrower+ stand apart.

However, at Rs 59,999, the Flexrower+, while priced competitively in its segment, is an expensive buy. The lower variant is available at Rs 35,999 but it isn’t foldable, which means it’s going to occupy a large part of whatever room you decide to leave it in.

Ultimately, you will likely need to consider whether you see yourself working out in isolation, at home, or you’d rather be around people in a gym. There is no doubt that Flexrower+ will be a great addition to your home gym but as with Peloton, it remains to be seen whether it will endure our post-pandemic workout routines.
Abhishek Mande Bhot is a freelance journalist.
first published: Jul 30, 2022 09:07 am
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