Review: After 6 Months, The Hydrow Is Still One of My Favorite Pieces of Fitness Equipment

Hydrow rower review
Courtesy of Hydrow

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I get the chance to review a lot of smart gym products as an editor at SPY. Some are totally worthwhile, and come with features that push you, challenge you and bring you back time and again in a way a simpler machine can’t. Others are needlessly expensive and don’t justify their price tags. The Hydrow is the latter, and a beautifully-designed machine made for people who love to row, and are ready to make an investment.

This luxury rowing machine comes with a large HD touchscreen and an extensive library of classes led by world-class instructors. Hydrow sent SPY the Hydrow for testing, and I used it for three months straight before deciding that it’s a machine I’ll want in my home gym forever. And since then, it’s been a somewhat regular part of my routine. Do I use it as often as I hop on my Peloton? No, but it definitely hasn’t been just sitting there either. It’s fun to use, well designed, gives you an effective workout I don’t think I could replicate for myself on any old rower at the gym. Plus, it doesn’t take up too much space.

Does the Hydrow justify its price tag? That depends on how much you love to row and how much you’ll miss $2,500. Rowing is a great, low-impact, full-body workout that exercises your legs, arms, core and back while being a great cardio movement at the same time. Can you get the same benefits from a less expensive rowing machine on Amazon? Sure, but you’ll probably have a harder time coaching yourself through a workout that’s equally as efficient.

You can find my full Hydrow Rower review below, but if you’d rather skip to my verdict, then I’ll tell you this: if you’re willing to pay top dollar for gym equipment, need guidance during high-intensity workouts, and if you really love to row, then the Hydrow is a great choice for your home gym.

Hydrow rower review Courtesy of Hydrow

Hydrow Rower: At a Glance

  • Magnetic resistance mechanism
  • 86 x 25 x 47 inches (LxWxH)
  • 145 pounds
  • Aluminum frame
  • Maximum weight of 375 Pounds
  • 22-inch HD display (1920 x 1080)
  • Bluetooth compatible audio
  

Hydrow rower video screen Taylor Galla | SPY.com

Hydrow Review: How We Tested This Rower

I tested the Hydrow over the course of 90 days before my initial review, and now I’ve had it as part of my home gym setup for almost six months. WIth a high-ticket piece of equipment like this one, I like to test it for a while before either recommending it to you or not, since the investment is larger than for a pair of adjustable dumbbells or ankle weights.

For this Hydrow review, I will be judging the machine based on the following criteria, giving each a score out of five:

  • Design of Machine
  • User Friendliness
  • Instructors + Variety of Classes
  • Health Routine Factor
  • Price

During testing, I took a variety of the classes they offer and made a deliberate effort to implement rowing into my fitness routine on a regular basis. Overall, I wanted to see how practical it was for the home gyms of the average fitness enthusiast, how easy it was to use and how likely it is that you’ll use it regularly. With an expensive fitness investment like this one, the question on most people’s minds is — “But will I use this?” My answer to that question for the Hydrow is? It depends. For the right person, this could be the perfect fitness machine, but it won’t be for everyone.

  

Hydrow Design

This rower is designed beautifully. The angles are polished, the seat and handle work seamlessly, the HD monitor is large without adding too much bulk, and the length of the belt will work for most people. Pay special attention to the length of the inseam if you’re very tall, but otherwise, this rower will work for you.

It’s stable, doesn’t make a lot of noise during use and was very easy to set up. Most rowers are straightforward and less intimidating than other fitness machines, but still, Hydrow has designed a very impressive rowing machine.

Hydrow Review Hydrow’s smart rower is long, but its slim design doesn’t take up extraneous floor space. Taylor Galla | SPY

The Hydrow also has a very easy-to-use class library. The touchscreen is large and responsive, and it’s not hard to find a class to get you started once you turn it on. A key usability aspect of any piece of smart home equipment is a class library that’s simple to navigate. The machine can be expertly crafted, but if you can’t start a class easily? You’re less likely to return day after day. The Hydrow makes this process easy.

The installation and setup process also went very smoothly during my Hydrow review. It took two people to carry it into my apartment and only one person to set up. The whole thing came together in about 15-20 minutes, with the only technical step being attaching the monitor to the body of the rower. It has a relatively slim body, the heaviest part being at the front where the screen is supported. It takes up more floor space than a spin bike or yoga mat does, because it’s longer, but it not unnecessarily bulky or larger than it needs to be. The seat arrived attached, as well as the footbed and handle, so once the screen was on and the machine was plugged in, it was ready to use.

  

User Friendliness:

This machine is very easy to use as a beginner. Aside from a few strokes here and there at gyms over the years, I’ve never rowed in any official capacity. I knew to sit down, grab the handle and push off with my legs, but otherwise, I was a newbie with Hydrow. The machine’s design makes the movement feel very intuitive, and they’ve got an excellent introductory course of classes for beginners in their streaming library. I took all four sessions and definitely felt like I had the hang of it at the end.

Hydrow screen, Hydrow rower review Image Courtesy of the Author

It’s very easy to begin using the Hydrow machine, and while it takes some time (and muscle!) to master your form, they guide you through the process every step of the way. You sit on the seat that’s attached to a moving belt, so getting on and off does require stability, but once you strap in your shoes and grab the handle of the rower you’re good to go.

The class screen is very elaborate and filled with useful information including the time elapsed, strokes per minute, pace, meters traveled and calories burned. There’s also a running leaderboard on the right side of the screen where you can see how your pace stacks up against other Hydrow rowers, much like the one Peloton uses on their bike and treadmill.

 

As I mentioned above, selecting a class is very easy on the large HD touchscreen, and the audio comes through very clearly through headphones or through the built-in speakers. Like many smart fitness machines, you can filter by the length of the class, instructor, style of class and difficulty level, and the classes I’ve taken have been what they claimed. If you select a beginner level class, you’ll be working but it’ll feel do-able.

Read More: How to Use a Rowing Machine

  

Instructors + Variety of Classes

The Hydrow library of classes comes with more than 3,000 rowing, yoga and strength classes of varying lengths and difficulty levels. During my Hydrow review, I never felt like I couldn’t take the type of class I was craving, whether it was a more chill rowing session or an intense cardio workout. No matter what, you’re rowing, but rowing can be hard or incredibly hard depending on the pace and resistance you’re working against.

I’ve tried many fitness platforms from Peloton to Equinox+, Fight Camp, iFit and MIRROR. The instructors that work for Hydrow are qualified, friendly and lead you through their workouts with poise and enthusiasm. The instructors are all professional rowers, Olympic medalists, frequent competitors and globally-renowned athletes. You can take classes of a variety of lengths, difficulties and styles that include scenic rows down famous waterways in London, Boston, the Netherlands and more.

Despite Hydrow’s best efforts, there are only so many ways to mix up a rowing workout routine, so the actual content of the different training sessions doesn’t always feel super different. However, since many of the benefits of rowing as a cardiovascular exercise come from endurance, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing health-wise. It just might get a little boring after a while.

Read More: MIRROR Fitness Mirror Review

  

Hydrow foot pedals, Hydrow review Taylor Galla | SPY

Health Routine Factor

What do I mean by “Health Routine Factor?”

How realistic is it that this machine will become a regular part of your health and fitness routine? If you’re not a person who loves rowing or already does it a bunch, spending $2,500 right off the bat might be a bit of a gamble. The movement is repetitive, and you don’t really move to the rhythm of music like you can in other workouts like spinning and HIIT cardio.

However, one of the reasons why Hydrow could be a better investment is because the instructors are engaging and helpful, and having that external coaching can help you stay motivated.

If you already use a rower at the gym and want to splurge on a high-end one for home, or feel like getting some instruction on how to row properly and being coached through a session would be helpful, this is the one to buy. It’s well-built and the classes are very engaging. I have a lot of different equipment in my apartment including a spin bike, full weight lifting gym, a punching bag and a fitness mirror. I found myself using this rower way more than I thought I would.

  

Price

The Hydrow Rower is not cheap. It usually costs upwards of $2,500, but you can sometimes find it discounted by $300 during seasonal sales. This is still a very expensive machine, largely because of the HD touchscreen and the addition of guided rowing classes.

Is it worth the price? It’s hard to say, because I haven’t tested Hydrow’s competitors yet. It’s definitely a steep price to pay for a fancy rower, and this is coming from someone who will defend the price of a Peloton until the end of days.

There’s also an additional $38 monthly charge for the all-access membership that allows you to stream those guided classes anytime you want, an additional expense that’s justified given the variety of content they offer, and strangely $2 cheaper than other smart fitness equipment. (The membership fees for MIRROR and Peloton are $40 a month).

Still, when you factor in the monthly membership, this is a piece of home fitness equipment that requires a hefty investment.

  

Hydrow Review: Can You Get the Same Workout on a Less Expensive Rower?

Heading into my Hydrow review, I asked myself a question I ask about every piece of smart fitness equipment I review:

Can I get the same workout on a machine that doesn’t have a huge touchscreen or guided classes and doesn’t cost thousands of dollars?

I’ll answer this question with a question to you, reader. Are you going to work out harder on a spin bike if someone is telling you to pedal at a certain pace for a certain amount of time? Or on a treadmill, if they’re asking for a certain speed and incline level? My answer is yes, absolutely. This is the main benefit of using the Hydrow. 

I believe a piece of smart fitness equipment that’s more expensive that you’ll actually use is more worthwhile than a cheaper machine you won’t. The reason I hop on my Peloton every day is because it gives me a super efficient workout, one that I couldn’t lead myself through on a regular bike. The Hydrow does a similar thing for rowing. A 30-minute rowing workout could be very tedious, and without someone leading you through it you may want to quit, but the Hydrow makes it fun. The machine is also incredibly well-made and comfortable to use, which is not the case for every rower. It’s held up after hours of use, and I expect it will continue to do so.

  

Hydrow seat, Hydrow review Taylor Galla | SPY

Hydrow Review: Should You Buy It?

If you love to row — and don’t mind paying more for the finer things in life — then the Hydrow is a worthwhile splurge. If you’ve used rowers at gyms before and enjoyed the low-impact movement they provide, there’s a lot to be gained from a rower that comes with guided classes, especially since the repetitive movements of rowing can get boring after a while.

I was a frequent user of rowers without a ton of enthusiasm. After getting the Hydrow, I frequently use it to warm up for my strength workouts or to get a little bit of cardio in on the days when I’m taking a break from cycling, kickboxing or running outdoors. I enjoy the energy of the instructors, and my time is spent more efficiently under their guidance.

If you don’t like rowing and prefer other cardio machines, then I wouldn’t recommend Hydrow — the price is just too steep to justify a purchase. If you’re on the fence, then I’d recommend using a rowing machine more than once and potentially rowing along with one of Hydrow’s workouts on their mobile app before purchasing the rower itself.

Pros:

  • Very easy to set up
  • Has wheels that make moving it around your home easier
  • Belt is durable and quiet
  • Large touchscreen that’s responsive, bright and vividly clear
  • Comfortable, wide seat that slides back and forth easily
  • Qualified, clear, energetic instructors that guide you through the movement
  • A variety of classes you can take

Cons

  • Very expensive price tag
  • Takes up floor space
  • Can’t be stored compactly between uses
Hydrow rowing machine, Oprah's favorite things 2021 Courtesy of Amazon

  

More on the Benefits of a Rowing Machine

You can certainly find many cheap rowing machines for sale on sites like Amazon, but in recent years we’ve also seen the rise of luxury home rowers such as the Hydrow, a $2,500 rowing machine that’s sometimes compared to Peloton.

Rowing is a great way to get your heart rate up, and cardiovascular exercise has a ton of well-documented benefits. Regular cardio workouts can boost your energy levels, improve your resting blood pressure and heart rate, increase blood flow and even decrease the chances of erectile dysfunction. Cardio minutes are an important part of any well-rounded training session, and there are thankfully many different ways to get them in. Running on a treadmill, cycling on a spin bike or kickboxing — just to name a few.

However, unlike a treadmill or spin bike, the best indoor rowing machines give you an almost full-body workout with nothing more than a belt, a handle and a set of foot straps. The slim design also gives you easy options for home storage. Using a rowing machine properly involves your legs, arms and core, which are all muscle groups that are important to target in strength training as well. This is why rowing, whether on the water or on a smart home gym machine, has quickly become a popular addition to fitness routines across the country.