“Hearst Magazines and Verizon Media may earn commission or revenue on some items through the links below.”
There are a lot of cool things out there that make us wonder — do they really work? In our I Tried It series, we set out to use them in the real world and have determined that, in fact, they really do.
On Trial: Hydrow Rower
The Tester: Brandon Carte, former daily gymgoer looking to torch more calories at home
The Brief: The pandemic flipped my fitness regimen upside-down. Since I didn’t feel safe exercising in public, I succumbed to working out at home over the last year. I tried the Hydrow rowing machine to see if its $2,245 starting price is worth the investment.
Dimensions: 86 x 25 x 47 inches
Weight: 145 pounds
Monitor: 22-inch 1920 x 1080 Full HD swiveling touchscreen display
Speakers: Front-facing, 3-watt, 8 ohms, Amplifier x2 channel speakers
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0-enabled for heart rate monitors and audio, Wi-Fi, Ethernet
Other Features: Built-in microphone and camera (both have been disabled via software at time of publishing)
I’ve been using the Hydrow for 3 months now and have been impressed by the rower’s build quality and svelte design, its huge immersive touchscreen display, its consistently up-to-date extensive catalog of classes, and its personable coaches.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Hydrow is a feature-filled rowing machine with a screen mounted to its front that helps simulate the feeling of rowing on water with a personal trainer. You sync your movements with your instructor — which Hydrow calls “Athletes” — compete against other Hydrow owners on the leaderboard, and you can easily track your progress and stats over time.
I can’t recommend rowing enough for folks looking for an effective cardio and strength-training workout. It’s quieter than a treadmill, strengthens the heart and lungs, and is easy enough for anybody to learn. Not to mention, since rowing is low-impact, you won’t add any extra strain on your joints, either!
I ended each of my rows with a sweat-drenched T-shirt feeling a sense of accomplishment — both of which had me wanting to keep going back to the rower each day.
An Elegant Machine, Not an Eyesore
The Hydrow is primarily made from aluminum and stainless steel. It has a modern-looking design that was inspired by classic cars and furniture. To me, it looks like a sleek sculpture, not a piece of exercise equipment.
Measuring in at 86 inches long and 25 inches wide, it takes up quite a bit of space (15 square feet), but it should fit in nicely with your home décor. For those who are tight on space, Hydrow sells a kit that allows you to wall-mount and store your rower vertically.
The rower rests on soft, rubberized feet to prevent scratches on your floor and it has wheels on its front side which makes it easier to move. It weighs 145 pounds but I was able to move and stand it up on my own without any issue.
The first time I straddled the glider seat, I found it to be quite comfortable and surprisingly smooth. It supports users up to 375 pounds with a 36-inch maximum inseam. The Hydrow’s footbeds are large, sturdy, and adjustable. The Hydrow uses an electromagnetic resistance drag mechanism. Its handle feels ergonomic and has a nice grip to it, but can sometimes get slippery when your palms get sweaty.
An Immersive Display and an Intuitive Interface
The Hydrow is outfitted with a large and bright swiveling 22-inch Full HD touchscreen monitor that provides a highly immersive and interactive experience. Since rowing is such a repetitive motion, I’d zero in on the screen, my mind occasionally would go on autopilot, and I would temporarily forget I was in my home office.
The Hydrow is packed with more than 2,000 workouts that are separated into distinct categories. Drive workouts are designed to build strength and speed. Sweat workouts use time-based intervals to help you feel the burn. Breathe workouts are low- to moderate-intensity classes that help you build endurance by limiting rest periods. Cooldowns help keep you from feeling stiff and sore after working out, plus they help remove lactic acid buildup. Journeys are first-person point of view rows that allow you to explore the sights and sounds of being on the water by yourself as you row throughout waterways anywhere from the Thames in London, to the Scottish Highlands, to Indian Creek in Miami.
Additionally, the Hydrow has “On the Mat” classes which consist of aerobic exercises that focus on strength, stretching, and mobility. In these, you can do yoga, Pilates, and high-intensity interval workouts. When deciding on a class, users can filter by Athlete, workout type, duration, and location.
Stressed about what class to take? Just enroll in one of Hydrow’s many Training Camps. These are a convenient curated mix of all the different workouts that you take sequentially over the span of several weeks.
What It’s Like to Work Out With Hydrow
When selecting a workout, you can read a short description of the class to get a sense of what it entails, its max rhythm (strokes per minute), and even a playlist of the songs featured in the row.
If you’re a music lover like me, you’ll appreciate that several rows center around a single music artist or genre. As someone who grew up watching Pop Up Video on VH1 each morning, I loved the Alanis Morrisette row.
Every Hydrow class begins with the Athlete explaining the metrics on the screen — strokes per minute, your projected time to row 500 meters, and your total distance rowed. The display also shows your speed, your total calorie output, heart rate, and the time remaining in the class.
The coaches break down the class so you know what you’re getting into, guide you as time progresses, and encourage you to do better. Hydrow’s videography team records using multiple angles to make it a little easier to match the Athletes’ stroke rate and form.
The majority of classes are filmed on the water with a single coach in a scull. Classes have been filmed in more than 30 locations in lakes, rivers, ponds, and bays primarily across the United States.
Since classes are recorded on-scene, anything can happen. There are dolphin encounters, rough waters, and harsh winds, and it’s always entertaining to watch the Athletes dodge stubborn ducks.
On the right side of the screen is a leaderboard that compares your distance to the distances rowed by other Hydrow users and it shows you an estimate of how many meters you’ll row upon completing the class. I’m a competitive person so the leaderboard kept me motivated to row harder and faster, so much so that the machine actually scooted a bit on my hard floors. Maybe I should have invested in a long mat for it!
Entertaining Trainers and a Wonderful Community
Hydrow has a roster of 13 Athletes of all different backgrounds, and who are incredibly personable, knowledgeable, and energetic. Aquil Abdullah, an Olympian, and four-time U.S. National Team member is so inspiring, uplifting, and wise. Dani Hansen, an accomplished Paralympic athlete, always knows how to get me amped. Nick Karwoski was on the U.S. National Triathlon Team, and when I take classes with him, it almost feels like I’m hanging out with an old friend from college.
Each trainer motivates me in their own unique way. As you row along with them, they oftentimes share stories from their own lives and careers to help pass the time. The more you row, the better you get to know them.
Hydrow also has an incredibly active online community. I joined a Facebook group and loved how helpful everybody is. Example posts I’ve seen can be anything from how to prevent and treat blisters, useful products that make the Hydrow even better, and members oftentimes share helpful videos of proper form and tips to improve your Hydrow experience.
I feel like in other fitness communities, many members complain and use social media groups as an additional customer support channel, but I didn’t have this experience at all with Hydrow. Everyone uplifts and supports one another, which is really special.
How Hydrow Misses the Boat in Some Ways
As much as I appreciated how enthusiastic Hydrow’s trainers are, I felt as though the actual fundamentals of the class and rowing itself can occasionally fall by the wayside. I would have liked to receive more guidance to better understand stroke rate, receive tips on proper form and breathing techniques, explanations of the most common mistakes and how to fix them, and assistance on lowering my split.
Given each Athlete’s long list of accomplishments and impressive pedigrees, I know these are all things they could do during classes — but oftentimes the trainers go off on tangents or would get sidetracked telling stories, and they even sometimes forgot to remind users when to increase or decrease stroke rate.
This wouldn’t be as big of a problem if there were some sort of on-screen countdown timer to visually represent when you need to adjust your rhythm or rest, which is something I’d like to see in a future update. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Hydrow’s trainers — I just think classes can better showcase their expertise.
With a starting price of $2,245, the Hydrow rower is quite the investment. There’s also a mandatory $38 per month membership fee to access the live and on-demand classes. It's worth mentioning that this fee isn't per user, but per household — meaning families or roommates can share a membership. One membership gives you unlimited member profiles.
Hydrow also sells two other packages filled with various accessories for an upcharge. The Starter Package costs $2,520 and it includes a heart rate monitor, a pair of Bluetooth earbuds, and a heavy-duty fitness equipment mat that reduces sliding, noise, and protects your floors. The Hydrow Pro Package includes those three accessories in addition to a workout mat, yoga blocks, a foam roller, and some resistance bands for a total price of $2,705. Shipping is included in the cost for all packages — even if you just purchase the Hydrow by itself.
At a minimum, a Hydrow rower will cost you $2,700 after your first year of ownership. For comparison's sake, the average annual gym membership in the United States will cost around $500 your first year.
The Peloton costs roughly $2,500 for your first year of ownership and the competing NordicTrack xRW900, CITYROW GO Max, and Ergatta smart rowers cost $1,798, $2,195, and $2,688 respectively for your first year of use.
Hydrow offers interested buyers the option to finance your unit over 36 months with varying interest rates at payments as low as $63 each month, which may help lessen the blow.
Hydrow is a luxurious, easy-to-use, and fun rowing machine that brings the on-water experience to people who might not otherwise have access, time, or inclination to go sculling. It puts you face to face with extremely charismatic but knowledgeable trainers and introduces you to a helpful community that will support you on your fitness journey.
The machine itself is an attractive-looking, well-made, and surprisingly quiet piece of high-end equipment. Its prerecorded classes are plentiful, and its live classes are consistent and spread out to accommodate your busy schedule.
You Might Also Like