The Hydrow is the Peloton of rowing machines. You can virtually compete with other rowers, try different workouts, or focus on developing good rowing techniques.
This Hydrow review goes over assembly, features, and the reasons the Hydrow may (or may not) be the perfect piece of exercise equipment for you.
This premium machine includes a large 22-inch touchscreen, padded seat, and adjustable footbeds. So while it’s making your muscles scream for mercy, you’ll be comfortable. The question is, is it worth the price? Because it comes with a steep one.
Pros & Cons
- It glides smooth and quiet.
- It’s well-built.
- Rowers can participate in live classes and racing challenges.
- You can compete for a spot on a leaderboard.
- The third-person view can help improve technique.
- It offers drag adjustment to mimic a one, two, or eight-person boat.
- It syncs with Bluetooth devices, including headphones and heart rate monitors.
- Hydrow makes regular donations to water.org.
- It’s expensive.
- It offers limited nonrowing workouts.
- There’s a recurring subscription expense.
- You can’t use your own music with Hydrow classes.
There are three Hydrow packages you can shop:
- Hydrow x Polar Package: $2,325 (includes Polar OH1 heart rate monitor)
- Hydrow Starter Package: $2,520 (includes machine mat, heart rate monitor, and headphones)
- Hydrow Pro Package: $2,705 (includes machine mat, heart rate monitor, headphones, workout mat, yoga blocks, foam roller, and resistance bands)
Interested in a la cart accessories? Here’s what’s available:
- Machine mat: $80
- 1-year membership: $456
- Monthly membership: $38/month
- Hydrow upright storage kit: $70
- Polar OH1 heart rate monitor: $80 (included in some packages)
Hydrow sells a few other accessories, but they’re common home gym items like a foam roller and resistance bands. Sure, you can add them to your order, but you can also get them almost anywhere that sells fitness equipment.
Setup and assembly
Think of the Hydrow like a rowing home gym, a one-stop workout shop. Machines this sophisticated (and expensive) take more setup than a traditional rowing machine.
Unfortunately, Hydrow no longer includes white-glove delivery and assembly as part of their services. It’s a COVID-19 thing. They may or may not offer that service again in the future. In the meantime, their website includes a setup video. Some of the packaging pieces, for example, act as supports during the assembly process.
Assembly isn’t hard per se, but it does require two people and careful, methodical following of the instructions to make sure you get it right. You don’t want to mess up that awesome 22-inch touchscreen, after all.
The (large) package includes all the hardware and tools needed for assembly, so you don’t necessarily need a toolbox to get it up and running. You basically attach the feet and screen, plug it in, and you’ve got a rowing machine.
In total, assembly takes about 30 to 60 minutes, not including getting it connected to your internet and updating all the software. Snail-slow internet speeds could extend setup time, but if you have adequate internet, that part should only take another 15 to 30 minutes.
Chances are, you can get it up and running within an hour of delivery.
Features and specs
A cushioned seat and adjustable footbeds let you get comfortable while you’re sweating through your shorts. The Hydrow can support a person up to 375 pounds and with a 36-inch inseam length.
In the world of rowers, there are plenty of options with better weight limits, so folks in large bodies may want to shop around.
The Hydrow has an electromagnetic drag mechanism to provide resistance. You can set it to feel like a single, double, or eight-person boat. The more people in the boat, the easier it is to row.
Now on to the touch screen. It’s big and tilts 15 degrees up or down and 25 degrees to either side. On the downside, it’s not propped up like a screen on a treadmill. The mount is closer to the floor, which is when you’ll use that 15-degree tilt. The side tilt comes into play when you’re doing mat or floor exercises away from the Hydrow.
An intuitive navigation screen helps you through the initial setup with the options listed on tabs at the bottom of the screen. Scroll through workouts or start introducing yourself in the Feed section to connect with other users. You can follow friends, encourage fellow users, and see how others are performing. It’s a great place to find a workout partner if accountability helps you stay consistent.
You can connect the Hydrow to Bluetooth devices like headphones or a heart rate monitor. Unfortunately, you can’t use your own music, which is one of the downsides of the Hydrow.
The classes include instructor-curated playlists, and some may not suit your tastes. You can turn off the music, instruction, or both if you prefer workout silence.
Once you get through the setup, starting your first row isn’t hard. Pick a class, try a guided workout, or free row (one that isn’t part of a class or guided).
The Hydrow’s body, made of durable aluminum and steel, is fairly compact. You can buy a separate wall kit to attach the body to the wall when not in use. It’s a good option if you want to save on square footage.
The Hydrow comes with a 1-year membership to the Hydrow app, which works like other premium workout apps.
There are two live classes a day, Tuesday through Saturday. You can invite one person to race against you for weekly challenges, join group or team challenges, or combine your stats with a friend to boost your weekly stats.
The app offers a social experience where you can cheer and interact with other users. Introverts can breathe a sigh of relief because you don’t have to be social if you don’t want to.
There are both minute and meter-based challenges, allowing rowers of all levels to compete and improve. You can compete on the weekly leaderboard as an individual or as a team. The Progress tab lets you check your accumulated time, calories burned, and distance, along with a calendar that tracks your workout days.
Functionality, stats, and social aside — the value of gym equipment comes down to the workouts and classes. If you can’t make Hydrow’s daily live classes, there are plenty of prerecorded workouts, including mat or floor exercises.
The vast majority are rowing workouts because, duh, it’s a rowing machine. Workouts that aren’t rowing are typically 10 to 20 minutes long, though there are a few 30-minute mat workouts. The emphasis is definitely on rowing.
Free rows (those that aren’t part of a class) are typically limited to two “locations,” so you’re not touring the world like you can with iFit. The variety of rowing workouts will keep you from getting bored even if the scenery doesn’t.
Each workout includes information like maximum rhythm and a playlist. Workouts also feature different “levels” of instruction, including original mix, more music, more athlete, and athlete only.
And here’s where Hydrow’s workouts get bonus points — they don’t leave you stranded. All workouts have a third-person viewpoint, letting you watch an instructor in front of you to match their stroke and rhythm.
Workouts are filmed live, so the water isn’t always glassy and birds make appearances.
The third-person view is awesome for rowing newbies. Part of the challenge of rowing is finding and establishing your rhythm. That’s a lot easier when you can watch someone and mimic their technique. Speaking of technique, there are rowing 101 videos to perfect your technique, too.
Buyers get a 1-year membership with the initial purchase, but it’s $465 a year after that.
Technically, you can use the Hydrow without the app. You use the Just Row setting, but there’s no scenic background, instruction, or music. It also doesn’t save your stats. You can adjust the resistance, do the 101 videos, see live metrics, and connect a heart rate monitor. But there are no classes, competitions, workout history, or scenic backgrounds.
One of the last things worth mentioning is Hydrow’s donation program. The company makes regular donations to water.org based on every 60 days of each user’s activity. It’s not just a one-time donation at purchase but continues as you consistently use the Hydrow.
Overall, the Hydrow has smooth motion, with easier navigation than similar models, and offers great rowing classes. The mat class variety is lacking and could be improved. But as far as rowing machines go, it’s comfortable, great for newbies and athletes alike with diverse rowing workout options.
Rowing works your back, shoulders, arms, abs, and legs — and almost everything else in between. You get:
- straightforward setup
- diverse rowing workouts
- live classes
- weekly challenges based on time or meters
- mat workouts
Is the Hydrow the right home gym equipment for everyone? No. But it’s a comfortable machine with classes and instruction to help your technique and motivate your workouts… for a price. A high price, but it’s worth it if rowing is your workout of choice.