- Working out is never fun, but a high-quality rowing machine can make it more enjoyable that you keep coming back. It should also mimic the proper rowing motion and work most of your muscles for a full-body routine.
- I like the Hydrow Rowing Machine because there are live and on-demand workouts that cater to the level of intensity you want, and you can compare your performance to others for extra encouragement.
- Though it’s an investment at $2,200, the Hydrow comes with a six-year warranty on the frame, and the company is constantly improving the software for better user experience.
At-home workout machines are not new, but they’re definitely getting better and becoming more accessible for people who don’t live in McMansions.
Take Peloton, for example. It started off as a group cycling class seven years ago, but has since expanded into at-home stationary bikes with videos and classes that you can follow at home. It’s revolutionized our relationship with the stationary bike, and the startup is now estimated to be worth $4 billion. But one major flaw with Peloton is that the machine neglects your upper body – this is where the Hydrow Rowing Machine comes in.
Hydrow is poised to become the Peloton of rowing. But, unlike cycling, rowing is said to engage 86% of your muscles. With this $2,200 at-home unit, you can participate in live or on-demand rowing classes led by world-class athletes – all in the comfort of your living room.
My wife and I had the opportunity to try a Hydrow prototype for a month. Below are my experiences with it.
Read more: The best rowing machines you can buy
Specs for the Hydrow Rowing Machine
The Hydrow is an 86-inch-long x 25-inch wide rowing machine with an easily-accessible 22-inch HD touchscreen mounted on the front. The monitor is sweatproof and features Hi-Fi speakers, a two-megapixel camera, a microphone, USB 2.0 connection, and both Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities.
Here are some other important specifications:
- Aluminum and steel frame with a flat anthracite polymer body
- Soft rubberized feet to protect floors
- Low-stress handle grip with ergonomic design
- Screen resolution: 1920 by 1080 Full HD
- 500+ pre-recorded river and studio rowing sessions
- 4 types of videos: Live Rowing, Rows on Demand, Serene River Rowing, Whole Body Fitness
- Readings displayed: calories burned, distance, elapsed time, time, wattage
- Quiet, electromagnetic resistance that adjusts 240 times per second
- Heart rate monitoring: Bluetooth and ANT+ enabled
- 10-roller seat roller system facilitating smooth operation
- 25-degree monitor pivot in each direction
- Tested to last over 3 million cycles
- Warranties: 18-month labor warranty; 2-year wear items, screen, and other electronics warranty; and 6-year structural frame warranty
You can view the full spec sheet on Best Buy.
You’d have to purchase a monthly membership to experience the full functionality of the Hydrow. At the time of my testing, membership cost $38 per month. This includes live virtual outdoor rows with instructors and athletes (including ones from the U.S. National Rowing Team), access to the live leaderboard during classes, access to the full on-demand library, and other exclusive off-machine fitness content. For more details, check out the Hydrow site.
I didn’t get the full set-up experience as my test unit was coordinated by the Hydrow team, so I can’t really speak to that.
Instead, Hydrow sent a technician from its headquarters in Massachusetts to deliver and set up the rowing machine for me. The rower was fully assembled when it arrived, so the technician just needed to screw the screen onto the frame, plug in the machine, and connect to my Wi-Fi.
The technician made sure I knew how to use the machine before he left and even showed me how to access the rowing tutorials, all of which I found really helpful.
Fortunately, you can get the “white glove” treatment too. Best Buy offers a delivery and installation option just about everywhere in the US for $249.99. There’s a flat $69.99 delivery charge, but that gets waived if you go with the delivery and installation option – which Best Buy strongly encourages using. You might also qualify for completely free installation and delivery if you reach out to customer service.
If you go with the full-installation route, a Geek Squad member will deliver and set up your Hydrow wherever you want it in your apartment or house, and will also connect it to your Wi-Fi and ensure the rower is workout-ready before they leave.
What makes the rower stand out
To get the most out of my month of testing the Hydrow, I challenged my wife to see who could put in the most mileage during the testing period. My wife is pretty sedentary while I’m very active, yet the competition and ease of use motivated her to give me a run for my money.
I enjoyed “hitting the water” first thing in the morning with the video classes. All of the trainers had upbeat attitudes, which started my day off on the right foot, but they also weren’t annoyingly positive. Their encouragement got me to push a little harder while focusing on my form.
There are several different levels of intensity, and it took a little experimentation to figure out the intensity level and workout length that were ideal for my exercise needs. I felt the Warm-Up, Breathe, and Sweat videos were pretty light and didn’t get my heart going as much as I wanted. Instead, I was more into the Push videos – the first 20-minute interval session really worked out my body.
My favorite part was the real-time leaderboard that appears on the right side of the screen as you’re going through a Live Rowing. It compares your distance to the distances rowed by other users at each point of the video.
My wife also enjoyed the leaderboard and found it pushed her to go harder, but some of her favorite sessions didn’t have live instructors. She liked the Serene River Rowing sessions in which you go through beautiful natural areas and hear nothing but the water. There’s still a leaderboard, but no one is pushing you, so you’re more likely to go at your own pace.
I was impressed with the video streaming quality. There’s nothing worse than having a video freeze in the middle of a guided workout, especially when you’re challenging for the top of the leaderboard. During my month-long testing, the screen only froze once, and my wife had the same experience at the same point in the same video. If this happens, you can press the help icon on the screen and instantly send feedback to the team at Hydrow, who were responsive.
Cons to consider
The Hydrow is large with a 15-square-foot footprint. I kept it in my living room for the short term, but in the long term, you’d want a dedicated workout area.
You can store the Hydrow vertically if you want to free up some room; this will only take up a 33-inch by 25-inch patch of space. I did this a few times, and with the front wheels, it was easy enough for me to move and stand up the 145-pound machine without help.
The Hydrow is quiet, which is nice if you live in an apartment with paper-thin walls. The only time it wasn’t quiet was when I had the resistance cranked up to 100% and was trying to do a high stroke rate. I’d hear a knocking sound where the foot pedals met the machine. My wife never experienced this, but I weigh 250 pounds, which is 80 pounds more than her, so it might’ve been a just-me issue. Either way, I brought this issue up to Hydrow, and it told me that they’d fixed it in subsequent versions of the machine.
The price might also give you sticker shock. At $2,199, it’s definitely not cheap but a Peleton bike costs $1,995 so I’d say it’s comparable. You’re also getting a full-body workout as opposed to just cardio.
But in addition to the price of the machine, there’s also a $38 monthly membership fee if you want to access certain videos, leaderboards, and more. This will definitely add up, and depending on how often you’d use the machine, might be an unnecessary and sunk cost – or a financial motivator.
The bottom line
Overall, I loved the Hydrow, and I was sad when the technicians came to take it away.
However, on my humble freelance writer wages, I would be unlikely to buy it at its current price of $2,200 plus membership fees – I just can’t afford it. But if I had $2,200 to put toward my physical fitness or was willing to part with $61 per month with Best Buy’s financing payment, I’d buy the Hydrow today.
At a comparable price to the Peloton, the Hydrow gives you a full-body workout. Plus, with its software updates, a new app, and constant improvements, Hydrow has demonstrated that it’s committed to producing a top-quality experience.
If you have the money and are looking for a way to stay motivated with a fun and challenging full-body exercise, I strongly recommend giving the Hydrow Rowing Machine a try.
Pros: More than 500 on-demand videos of varying lengths and intensities, live broadcasts with live leaderboards, full-body workout, durable construction, quiet and precise electromagnetic resistance
Cons: Expensive, requires membership for access to all of the features, takes up a lot of space