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When it comes to a well-rounded fitness program, a lot can be gained by adding a rowing machine. As a former Olympic powerlifter and sports performance coach, I believe that rowing machines have an important place in athletes’ cardio training. I tested one of the most popular rowing machines on the market, the Hydrow, to see how this can elevate at-home workouts. As you read on, keep your own specific needs and fitness goals in mind. Users might be looking to advance their speed on the water or decrease the number of strokes they need by increasing power output. A Hydrow machine can give easy access to a low-impact recovery session or a high intensity cardio workout.
Why do I love rowers? The hinge-and-pull mechanics are foundational to most compound movements for strength training — as well as for everyday health. Envision, for a moment, the motions you make as you pick up or pull objects. These same movements are mimicked in rowing. It’s these types of movements that make rowing a full-body workout that can especially help strengthen your upper back and posture.
A rowing program can be a great full body workout on its own or supplement a more comprehensive program. I often use a rower as a warm up, cool down or a high intensity interval training (HIIT) finisher.
When I look for the right high intensity fitness equipment, I’m putting comfort and function at the top of my list. Part of my expertise lies in the fact that I’ve been on bad rower machines. Rowers with uncomfortable seats, loud whooshing water rowers and metal chain rowers — you name it, I’ve tried it. I want my rower to feature smooth electromagnetic resistance, include tutorials and interactivity, offer live rowing classes, include strong customer service and be worth the price tag.
The Hydrow rower machine is best for intermediate to advanced rowers. Before you decide to drop $2,495 on the Hydrow, I recommend first regularly using the rower at your gym or taking a rowing class. This equipment is a great accessory to many fitness regimens, but the intensity of the rower isn’t for everyone. Hydrow is likely the best fit for:
The price of the standalone Hydrow Rower is $2,495, but the company also offers four packages that include accessories and special features: the Basics Package ($2,560), the Essentials Package ($2,625), the Launch Package ($2765) and the Works Package ($2,895).
Each Hydrow package includes a variation of accessories like floor mats, heart rate monitors and wireless headphones. You can also purchase the rower on its own and buy any needed accessories separately. Every package comes with a limited trial of Hydrow’s 1:1 personal training, which helps new users get to know their machine. After the trial, you can add the personal coach for $79 per month or opt for the live classes with a $38 monthly membership.
Hydrow offers financing through Klarna, where users can pay $70 per month with $0 down and 0% financing. Note that this does not include the cost of the monthly membership.
The Hydrow rower is considered a piece of smart fitness equipment, and its classes are designed to make you feel as if you're right on the water. And I have to admit, I was impressed with how immersive the classes displayed on its screen feel. What makes them stand out compared to other “smart” equipment we’ve tested? The classes aren’t shot studio-style. Instead, your instructor is actually rowing on water while they instruct you—adding to the engaging feel of the class.
Hydrow offers three types of workouts to get the most out of your machine:
Real-time rowing classes with an instructor who is being filmed while rowing on the water. For the competitive or just curious, a leaderboard allows you to view the progress of other users.
Hydrow “athletes,” the company’s instructors, also create their own workouts and lead sessions from beautiful waterways all over the world. Unlike the live-streamed workouts, these classes are pre-recorded and can be accessed any time.
This feature gives a beautiful backdrop to your no-frills row feature. There’s no guidance, no instructor and no music, for those times you just want to concentrate on your stroke and your rowing experience. As you row, you’ll see a front-facing view of the bow or stern of the boat and the surrounding scenery.
The Hydrow system isn’t just rowing. Its “on the mat” workouts consist of stretching, strength and conditioning, yoga and pilates and are led by experts in those fitness specialities. Overall, these classes feel like a nice add-on but not essential. What is unique about the program is that new classes are added every week to complement your rowing workout—but the actual rowing classes on the water are Hydrow’s stars.
Dimensions, 86”L x 25”W x 47”H; weight, 145 lbs; height, 36” inseam
22” display touchscreen with HD resolution
The system connects by Bluetooth to your heart rate monitor and wireless earbuds or speakers.
The warranty on the structural frame and upright storage kit lasts five years. The components, screen and other electronics (including the handle, drag mechanism, seat assembly and screen hinge) have a warranty of just 12 months.
The Hydrow rower comes with a 30-day trial — although it’s not what I would call “risk-free.” If you find that this machine isn’t for you, you can request a refund and return, however, the company does not offer refunds on shipping, delivery or installation charges. Additionally, Hydrow deducts a $250 return fee from the refund amount. If any damages were incurred or parts were found missing, the company may charge a penalty restocking fee or refuse the refund altogether.
The Hydrow rower is a high quality machine that can seriously elevate your at-home workouts. I found it comparable to other popular machines like the Peloton in terms of price, warranty, aesthetics and even interactive features. All of the classes are immersive and beginner friendly. Deciding if it’s the right machine for you really comes down to the type of workout you enjoy doing: Do you enjoy rowing? Are you looking for a solid cardio workout? Do you enjoy looking for rhythmic, scenic rowing that makes you feel like you’re on the water? Then this is probably a good purchase for you.
Prices are accurate and items in stock at time of publishing.
D’Annette Stephens is a certified NASM sports performance and nutrition coach, philanthropist, and public speaker.