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Hydrow Review: A modern rower to beat the home workout blues

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Hydrow Review: A modern rower to beat the home workout blues
MSRP $2,245.00
“Hydrow is a modern rower that takes you to faraway places while you row your way to better health.”
Pros
  • Convenient vertical storage
  • Videos improve rowing form
  • Diversity of workouts
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Can row with friends
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Limited workouts without subscription

The rowing machine is known for its full-body training, but many people are hesitant to adopt a rower into their workout routine because the act of rowing is foreign to them. Hydrow promises to transform rowing into a life-changing workout accessible to everyone, even those who have never rowed before. Does the connected rower really reach out to new users? Is it worth the high price tag and monthly membership? To find out, we put the Hydrow rower to the test in our home gym and invited others to try it.

Installation and setup

Hydrow typically offers two types of delivery options — a standard delivery and a white-glove, in-home delivery. Because of COVID-19, the in-home delivery has been suspended and “will not be available anytime in the near future,” says Hydrow. The standard delivery leaves the Hydrow at a safe, dry location outside your home or building.

Moving the rower can be challenging. It is packaged into smaller boxes, so you don’t have to worry about height and width limitations. But the rower weighs just under 200 pounds packed, so it is cumbersome for one person to move without assistance from a moving dolly or a good friend.

Installation of the Hydrow is relatively easy, and the company provides both a list of steps and a detailed video. Give yourself about an hour for assembly. It also helps to have a second person to stabilize the rower, especially when installing the legs.

Design

The Hydrow has a fresh, modern design that brightens up any exercise room. Similar to the Ergatta, it looks fashionable and eschews the industrial style you see in a gym. Its curvy, silver shell covers a rugged aluminum and steel frame. The rower felt extremely solid and did not bend or flex, even when rowing at high intensity.

Like most rowers, the Hydrow is long, occupying a space of 87 inches by 22 inches by 47 inches. You can store it vertically, but it requires an optional mounting kit that lets you attach the rower to the wall for storage. It’s not perfect, but it does reduce the footprint when you are not using it.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Hydrow has a 22-inch touchscreen display that can tilt up and down for comfort while rowing. It also adjusts 25-degrees to the left or right, letting you watch the trainer while exercising off the machine. This display is big enough for you to see all your statistics, but is not so big that it gets in the way. Connection to Wi-Fi is required for workout content, while Bluetooth is on board for earbuds and third-party heart rate monitors. This is especially convenient as I was able to connect my wireless earbuds via Bluetooth when someone else was in the room. This connectivity makes the Hydrow ideal for a co-living situation, allowing you to row while your roommate watches TV.

Rowing performance

The Hydrow uses electromagnetic resistance with an adjustable drag to simulate the feel of rowing alone or with a crew of eight. You can change your drag level from 1 to 300 for each rowing session. The electromagnetic resistance provides a smooth, strong pull that I felt in my back and core. It had such a satisfying feeling that I found it easy to get into a steady rhythm.

One benefit of the electromagnetic resistance concerns noise, or lack thereof. The Hydrow was incredibly quiet. The sound of the rower never overpowered the integrated speakers. I could listen to the instructor-chosen music, hear the natural sounds of the outside rows, and follow the trainer’s instructions without interference. It also meant other household members were not bothered by the repetitive sound of me rowing.

Hydrow interface

The Hydrow interface is easy to navigate and intuitive to use. It launches by default into the home screen, where you can find a recommended row, upcoming live rows, and other featured content. You can then navigate options like Library, Feed, Racing, Progress, Profile, Help, and Settings using the icons at the bottom.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The library is where you’ll spend the bulk of your time as you explore the growing selection of on-demand workouts. Each video workout is displayed in a grid with a thumbnail photo and the important workout details. You have to scroll through the videos, which can be tedious and slow as the videos load.

Thankfully, Hydrow lets you filter the library by athlete/trainer, duration (up to 45 minutes), workout type, and location. Workout type reflects intensity, so I could easily find an activity that matched how hard I wanted to work out.

Workouts for all levels

With many people ditching the gym in favor of a home workout, there is a growing interest in home exercise equipment, including rowers. Instead of letting these new rowers flounder, Hydrow embraces the beginning rower. When I first fired up the machine, I was guided through a series of trainer-led video tutorials that introduced me to the form and mechanics of rowing.

Being able to see the trainer and mimic their technique made me a much better rower.

After I learned the basics of rowing, I was able to jump right into more difficult video workouts. There were short sprints, casual rows, and long endurance rows, as well as rows for beginners and activities that challenge both intermediate and advanced rowers.

Live and on-demand workouts

Hydrow has a growing library of content to keep your workouts new and exciting. You can choose a studio workout where the focus is on the trainer or an outside session where you’ll catch all the unexpected sights and sounds of the outdoors. From other boats to low bridges, I enjoyed the spontaneity of never knowing what I will see.

The real-time interaction with the trainer and other participants during a live row was a huge motivator. 

You also can choose a live workout to join a trainer and fellow rowers in real time, much like yu can with Peloton. You don’t have to register in advance — you just need to join at least five minutes before the row is slated to begin. Hydrow offers two live rows a day from Tuesday to Saturday and publishes its schedule weekly on its blog. If you miss a row, you can find it at a later date in the on-demand catalog. I found it hard to constantly join a live row as the schedule often didn’t match my availability. When I was able to join a live row, the real-time interaction with the trainer and other participants was a huge motivator.

Third-person view is a game-changer

The Hydrow video sessions are recorded in a third-person view, allowing you to see the trainers as they are rowing. I found this view to be incredibly helpful, as I could mimic the trainer’s form and match their pace by watching them. It made me a much better rower and boosted my confidence as I rowed alongside the pros.

Racing with friends

The buddy system is an effective way to motivate people to work out, which is why the racing section on the Hydrow was one of my favorites. In this area, you can create a team and invite teammates to join you in weekly challenges. There are two challenges each week, one for minutes rowed and one for meters rowed. Each challenge has a leaderboard to keep track of the winning team.

Hydrow Rower
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The hardest part of these race challenges is finding people to join your team, especially if you are new to the platform. You have to invite a person you see in a live row or your feed and hope they agree to join you. Be prepared to send out a lot of invites and only get a few back. Once you have an established team, that is when the fun begins.

Mat-based workouts

Hydrow provides an intense full-body workout, but not everyone wants a killer workout each day. Hydrow includes short off-machine exercises in functional movement, Pilates, core strength, yoga, and more. I liked the diversity of these exercises and used them to both cool down after a workout and to keep active on a rest day.

Charitable donations

Hydrow is more than just rowing. It’s also about helping others. Every 60 days you are active, Hydrow will donate to Water.org, a nonprofit organization that provides safe water and improves sanitation in impoverished countries. You also can earn a Hydrow water bottle after rowing 100,000 meters. You can follow your work toward these goals in the Progress tab. You not only are rowing, you also are doing something to help others in communities around the world.

Our take

You can’t go wrong with the Hydrow rower. It delivers a smooth rowing experience and provides a full-body workout tailor-made to your fitness level. At $2,245, the Hydrow is one of the most expensive rowing machines on the market. If the out-the-door price is too steep, you can finance it over 36 months for $63 monthly. Hydrow offers a 30-day trial period where you can return the machine if it doesn’t live up to your expectations.

Like most smart gym equipment, the Hydrow does require a monthly membership of $38. The membership includes access to both live and on-demand workouts, head-to-head races, and more. It also allows you to set up an unlimited number of accounts so each person in your household can track their statistics.

Is there a better alternative?

The $2,199 Ergatta is an outstanding alternative to the Hydrow. It has a smaller footprint and stores vertically to save space. It also has gamelike rowing challenges that draw you in and encourage you to row every day. Another alternative is the NordicTrack RW900. Powered by iFit, the smart rower automatically adjusts the resistance, allowing you to row at the same intensity as the trainers. It also offers a much larger workout library, with videos from more than 40 countries that span all seven continents. With an MSRP price tag of $1,600, the NordicTrack rower is significantly less expensive than either the Ergatta or the Hydrow.

How long will it last?

The Hydrow is a reliable rowing machine that’ll deliver years of at-home rowing. Hydrow is continually adding new workouts and upgrading the software to add new features. Hardware-wise, the Hydrow has a five-year structural warranty on the frame and one-year warranty on components such as the handle, strap, seat assembly, screen hinge, screen, and other electronics. There’s also a one-year labor warranty.

Should you buy it?

Yes, you should buy the Hydrow for its modern looks, reliable performance, and the growing library of live and on-demand video workout sessions

Kelly Hodgkins
Kelly's been writing online for ten years, working at Gizmodo, TUAW, and BGR among others. Living near the White Mountains of…
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