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First Degree Fitness Vortex VX-2 Review

Quick Take

The Vortex VX-2 from First Degree Fitness is one of a series of commercial rowing machines of high specifications, including a good range of variable resistance, significant weight capacity, and the ability to fit taller rowers as well. The belt-driven unit is backed by a commercial warranty, and its tubular aluminum frame is clearly designed and engineered to last a lifetime; this is something that can’t be said for the majority of lower-budget rowers out there. It’s very much an example of ‘you get what you pay for’ in the space as well, as the retail price of the Vortex VX-2 is above the $2,000 mark. For the majority of home fitness enthusiasts this machine really is overkill, but for those seeking out the best of the best, and wanting to build out their home gym with proper commercial grade equipment, it could be the right way to go. Read on below for our comprehensive review.


Variable Water Resistance



Our Review

The First Degree Fitness Vortex VX-2 is a commercial rowing machine that uses water resistance. This steel and aluminum model is mid-priced for the commercial Vortex Series, which also has the cheaper Vortex VX-1 and the pricier VX-3. The VX-2 is very similar to the top-of-the-line model: It has a similar frame, the same type of resistance and the same computer monitor with preset programs. Some main differences are that the VX-2 is a few inches longer, has 16 resistance levels instead of 20, and uses a belt drive instead of a chain. Two features that distinguish First Degree Fitness water rowers from others are 1) preset variable resistance and 2) USB ports for data management.


First Degree Fitness Vortex VX-2 rowing machines are built to accommodate virtually all body sizes and skill levels. They have steel frames that can support up to 450 pounds. Their aluminum beams are extra long to suit most riders up to 6’6” tall, plus the footplates have adjustable height. The 16-level resistance system can provide anyone with an effective cardio workout, and for strength training it can challenge all but the most elite athletes. This rower is raised relatively high for easy access by those with limited mobility.

Is this the best rower for your commercial workout center or home gym? Here are points to consider.


  • Good Looking: Vortex rowing machine frames look modern and are high quality. The VX-2 features a glossy painted steel frame and a sleek aluminum beam. It’s topped with a pleasant ocean-colored water tank.
  • Small Size: Vortex frames are relatively small for commercial rowers. The First Degree Fitness VX-2 is about 79-inches long. It has wheels for easy repositioning.
  • Resistance: The Vortex VX-2 indoor rower has a “water flywheel,” or paddles that are housed in a water tank, to simulate the sensation of on-the-water rowing. Riders can choose from 16 levels of resistance. In contrast, other brands of water rowers do not have preset levels.
  • Low Impact: Rowing machines in general are gentle on joints. High quality commercial rowing machines like those from First Degree Fitness can provide especially smooth rides that avoid jarring the body. At the same time, the Vortex VX-2 is designed to recruit every major muscle group for efficient full-body workouts.
  • Data: The machine’s Interactive Performance Monitor provides six preset programs, including three for interval training, and lets trainees save their workout data to a USB drive. It can also save six consecutive workout sessions for comparison and as “quick start” workout options. The monitor displays a pacer, time, speed, distance, stroke rate, calories per hour, watts and the resistance level. It can show heart rate and measure heart rate recovery if used with a compatible chest strap.
  • Heart Rate Monitor: The Vortex VX-2 has a wireless heart rate receiver. Data from the monitor can be saved to a USB port for use with fitness apps.
  • Long-Lasting: First Degree Fitness  water rowers are designed for minimal maintenance. They have high quality parts and the Vortex carries a good warranty, as presented below.
  • Very High Capacity: The First Degree Fitness Vortex VX-2 water rower has a maximum user weight capacity of 450 pounds .
  • Good Warranty: The Vortex VX-2 is backed by a 10-year frame warranty and a three-year tank warranty. Other parts are under warranty for two years.


  • Price: Water rowers are the most expensive type of rowing machine. Those from First Degree Fitness are often priced higher than competitors’ products.
  • Belt: The First Degree Fitness VX-2 handlebar system uses a cord instead of a chain. The fabric cord option helps keep the machine quiet during use, but it will probably need to be replaced someday. The VX-3, on the other hand, uses a chain that could be noisy but will endure longer if oiled regularly.

Our Conclusion

The First Degree Fitness Vortex VX-2 water rowing machine offers an appealing combination of smooth water resistance, preset challenge levels and data management. It is relatively expensive but is built for reliability and long-term performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How large is the First Degree Fitness Vortex VX-2?
A: The Vortex VX-2 rower is 80.71" L x 31.89" W x 39.57" H.
Q: What is the First Degree Fitness Vortex VX-2 rower's maximum weight capacity?
A: The Vortex VX-2 rower can hold up to 330 lbs.
Q: Does the First Degree Fitness Vortex VX-2 fold?
A: The Vortex VX-2 rower does not fold but can be stored upright.

Rating: 83%

Resistance Type


Resistance Level


Dimensions (inches)

80.71" L x 31.89" W x 39.57" H



Maximum User Weight Capacity

330 lbs

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