The Hydrow Rower Review

Row your way to better health—from the comfort of your living room

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4

Hydrow Rower

Hydrow Rower Fitness Machine

Verywell / Rozalynn S. Frazier

What We Like
  • 2,383+ workouts offered

  • Instructor-led and independent workouts

  • Non-rowing workouts offered

  • Swivel 22-inch touchscreen makes off-the-rower workouts easy

  • Can be stored upright

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive, plus a monthly subscription fee to access workouts

  • Heavy

  • Occasional technical issues

Bottom Line

The Hydrow Rower offers the full-body feel of rowing on the water from the comfort of your living room. Dedicated rowers craving engaging workouts, tons of metrics, and a piece of equipment that doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb will enjoy it. Plus the companion app transforms this high-tech fitness tool into a portable workout that you can do on any rower, anywhere.

4

Hydrow Rower

Hydrow Rower Fitness Machine

Verywell / Rozalynn S. Frazier

We received the Hydrow Rower for free so our reviewer could thoroughly test it. Keep reading for our full product review.

There are so many reasons you may want to invest in a rower. For starters: It’s a killer, full-body workout—we’re talking lower body, upper body, and core. According to Hydrow, rowing engages 86% of your body’s muscles. It’s low-impact, allowing you to elevate your heart rate and improve your heart health, all while taking it easy on your joints. And research shows that users who rowed five days a week for six weeks saw a significant decrease in fat mass, percentage of total body fat, and even cholesterol.

The Hydrow Rower makes all of these things (and more) possible. The required $38-per-month subscription grants access to 2,383 available workouts and growing (they film multiple live workouts weekly, which you can take in real-time). And you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your living room or garage or wherever you choose to store this modern-looking piece of equipment. The addition of the Hydrow app, available for iOS and Android, helps you keep track of all your pertinent stats and connects you with a community of diverse, like-minded rowers.

This high-tech rowing machine could also be a sweet addition to your home gym, offering a high-end gym feel in a sleek, interactive, and multi-functional machine.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to test out the Hydrow Rower for a two-month period and rowed virtually every day during that timeframe. Read on for my take on the machine.

Setup: Grab a friend to help

If you remember just one thing, it should be this: You need a buddy to help you not only bring this 91 x 33 x 18-inch box (which is delivered through Hydrow’s delivery partner, CEVA) into your living space but also to lift the machine out of the box. It’s heavy—197 pounds heavy. Unboxed and assembled, the Hydrow Rower weighs in at 145 pounds and measures 86 x 25 x 47 inches, so make sure your space can accommodate these dimensions. Also, keep in mind that you’ll need access to an outlet. The plug is 12 feet long, though, so you have plenty of leeway there.

I opted to put the Hydrow in my parent’s dining room—much to my mother’s dismay—as I have been staying with them during the last several months. Due to the weight, assembly took place right in our home’s foyer. (Read: That’s as far as we could—or were willing— to drag it). That said, in a perfect world, the assembly on the Hydrow should be relatively simple. You just have to attach the front legs (there is a hex wrench included) and the monitor. For me, it wasn’t exactly a seamless project. While the directions say to “prop the front, curved part of Hydrow onto the cardboard block" that was included in the packaging, that did not really work for me. The cardboard block was crushed, so I had to lie on the floor, shimmy the legs under the bottom and work that way.

The Hydrow has a simple on-off switch on the front, just above the legs.  Once turned on, you connect the machine to your WIFI—as you would any other device— set up a quick profile and choose a screen name, and you're ready to row.

Hydrow Rower Fitness Machine

Verywell / Rozalynn S. Frazier

Design: It’s sleek and super comfortable

I’ve always been a fan of rowing machines—especially during my CrossFit days—so I have a great deal of experience with them. That said, the Hydrow, an electromagnetic-resistance rowing machine, is by far the sleekest and most modern-looking one I’ve ever used. 

Made from aluminum, steel, and anthracite polymer, the frame (which makes you feel as if you are sitting in an actual rowboat) is quite hefty. In fact, it is built to support users up to 375 pounds, and according to Hydrow’s  website, is “tested to last over three million cycles.”

With its 22-inch touchscreen, which swivels from left to right and tilts up and down, you can easily navigate through a library of exercise classes. And the clarity on the 1920 x 1080 pixel HD screen—which is sweat- and dust-resistant—is awesome. 

Also handy: You can store the Hydrow upright with a simple press of the quick-release button, which allows the monitor to fold down, making the machine more streamlined.

Unfortunately, you aren't able to adjust the angle of the seat, but this is typical and has been my experience with all rowers I've ever used. The seat is comfortable enough—it's not going to feel as good as sitting on a plush couch, but also not as bad as sitting on a plywood board.

According to Hydrow's website, its drag technology "makes it the closest thing to being on the water." I can't fully attest to this, because I've never been on a rowboat on the water, but I can say that the belt is super smooth, though not entirely quiet. The sound it makes isn't obnoxious, but definitely noticeable.

The rower is easy to pull—I do, however, wish it was easier to keep a good grip on the handlebars. Sometimes during an intense workout, my hands would get super sweaty and I'd find myself trying to wipe them on my pants mid-workout in order to keep my grip. The foot straps on the pedals also tend to loosen occasionally during more intense and long rows.

Hydrow Rower Fitness Machine

Verywell / Rozalynn S. Frazier

Performance: There are so. many. workouts.

When first logging in, the recommended class is an introductory rowing class to help make sure you have your technique down. Each time after, Hydrow recommends other classes you might enjoy based on what you’ve already taken.

Throughout testing, I took a ton of classes. Surprisingly, there were more than just rowing-specific workouts. Your Hydrow Rower also offers mobility, strength, yoga classes, and more. That is a definite bonus.

Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing your workout:

Instructors

There are a bunch. I took classes with seven and found them each to be equally adept, offering form cues, and all sorts of handy tips. My favorite rowing instructor, though, was Michelle Sosa. There is just something to be said about seeing someone who looks like you coaching you. It’s a big motivator—at least for me.

Duration

Classes ranged from 1 to 45 minutes, so there is a time option for everyone. Don’t be fooled, that one-minute all-out row is definitely a challenge and one I used when I wanted to squeeze in a quick-but-challenging row on my strength days

Workout Type

This category offers three main rowing workouts:

  • "Breathe"—foundational cardio workouts with structured routines that seek sustained intensity efforts.
  • "Sweat"—moderate-to-high intensity efforts that push you to right around your anaerobic threshold.
  • "Drive"—HIIT workouts meant to be fast-paced with minimal recovery.

Not to mention there are also warmups, cool-downs, journeys (with no instructor, just you and a view of the water), and the off-the-mat offerings too.

Workout Style

HIIT, endurance, pyramids, climbs, technique-based, live rows—there are so many styles from which to choose. You can also sort by beginner, intermediate, and advanced to find classes that meet your level.

Location

Hydrow offers various scenic locations for your rows that will be displayed on the rower's monitor. At the moment you can choose from Boston (Charles River), Miami Beach (Indian Creek), and some destination locations, such as the Thames River in London.

Classes

During each rowing workout, you will see a picture of your chosen instructor—there are several to choose from, including Olympian and four-time US National Team member Aquil Abdullah, Paralympic and World Champion Rower Dani Henson, and British and U.S. National Championship Rower Mike Dostal. Additionally, there is a leaderboard that indicates your position in class compared to other rowers as well as metrics such as a timer, calories, strokes per minute, time per 500 meters, and total overall rowing distance.

Other Features

There is a place for your heart rate too, but you have to connect a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor to access it—I don’t own one because I never use them, so I can’t speak to this feature. Post-class, you get an immediate prompt for a cool-down row, which I appreciate. After all, a proper cool-down is a must. You can also expect a readout of your workout, featuring all metrics. Click on the progress tab to compare your current day’s workout to all of your past performances, making keeping track of your rowing progress over time super easy.

Hydrow Rower Fitness Machine

Verywell / Rozalynn S. Frazier

Technical Kinks: Sometimes it was a “Houston, we have a problem” situation

Perhaps this was just my WiFi—though we never have this issue with any of the other gadgets we have connected to it—but I had to restart the rower a lot. It says you can turn it off completely when done or leave it on and it goes in sleep mode. However, some days when I would return to the rower, I would get a prompt saying my “internet is unstable” and I would have to flip the on/off switch to reboot. This process literally takes less than two minutes or so, but it was just annoying.

Also, there were times mid-row when apparently the WIFI connection would get wonky and a note would pop up on the screen basically saying to keep rowing and when the Internet was stable it would pop you back into the workout, but not to worry it was still keeping track of your stats. FYI: If you want the workout to count, don’t exit out of the screen or you won’t get credit.

Hydrow Rower Fitness Machine

Verywell / Rozalynn S. Frazier

Price: You are going to have to shell out some cash

There is no way around it, the Hydrow Rower is pretty pricy at $2,245 (just for the rower), $2,520 for the Starter Package (which features the machine, a large-size mat for the machine, a heart rate monitor, and headphones) and $2,705 for the Pro Package (which includes everything in the Starter Package plus yoga blocks, a foam roller, and resistance bands).

Regardless of the package you choose, you’ll also have to pay $38-per-month for the subscription. Though expensive, it’s still comparable to other connected devices currently on the market. 

Similar products: You have some options

I’ve been on my fair share of rowers, including the Concept2 (view on Amazon) and the WaterRower (view on WaterRower)—and neither is as high-tech as this one.

The most comparable rower to the Hydrow Rower in terms of features is probably the NordicTrack RW 900 model (view on NordicTrack), which I was on for a hot second at a demo show of the brand’s products in February of 2020, as they offer an immersive and connected experience with similar features: a large touchscreen that swivels on its base, a sizable library of live and on-demand workouts that go beyond just rowing and feature top athletes and instructors, the ability to make the machine more compact for storage purposes, and more.

While the NordicTrack RW 900 is going to come in cheaper ($1599 plus $39-per-month for a subscription that is free for the first year), the Hydrow Rower offers a more aesthetically pleasing, streamlined look. The choice, though, is ultimately up to you.

Final Verdict

Yes, buy it.

If you love rowing or want to get into rowing—and have space for something this size—I would say yes, buy it. Remember: You also have the option of storing it upright, too. There is a huge library of classes that is constantly being added to, featuring tons of different workouts of varying levels, so you can continue to grow as you get better and more fit.

Plus there is the bonus of having access to all the other workouts, too. And you can do everything on your own time. There’s also a sweet earth-friendly bonus: For every 60 days you row, Hydrow makes a donation to Water.org, a global nonprofit organization working to bring water and sanitation to the world. Talk about giving (more) purpose to your workout.

If you are still unsure, the Hydrow Rower comes with a 30-day risk-free trial period. That way if it doesn’t fulfill your rowing fantasy, you can send it back for a full refund.

Specs

  • Product Name Rower
  • Product Brand Hydrow
  • Price $2,245
  • Release Date August 2017
  • Weight 145 lbs.
  • Product Dimensions 25 x 86 x 33 in.
  • Subscription $38/month
  • Warranty 30-day risk-free trial and 1-year warranty
  • What's Included You can either buy the individual rower, or opt for the Starter Package (which includes the rower, a large-size mat, a heart rate monitor, and headphones), or choose the Pro Package (which includes everything in the Starter Package, plus yoga blocks, a foam roller, and resistance bands).
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