Hydrow’s Luxe Design Is Impressive, But Rowing Still Isn’t Fun

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Like many forms of cardio, rowing is utterly antagonizing. Rowing doesn’t have the same varied pacing as a cycling workout and it doesn’t sync well with music. The repetitive motion should make the effort feel easier, but after 10 minutes, it’s downright robotic. Even with proper form, my upper back starts hurting after a few minutes. With its large and supportive design and smooth mechanics, the Hydrow Rower helps with all that, and a few years after my initial review, it’s made an exercise I usually hate more enjoyable than before. 

Much like a Peloton or NordicTrack cycling bike, the Hydrow Rower is an at-home luxe rower with a 22” HD screen that streams instructor workouts and tracks performance metrics. The instructors guide you on speed in timed intervals, and you pull the handle with your arms as you push with your feet and move along the smooth belt. It sounds like a typical rower, and in many ways, it is, but Hydrow takes every component and makes it premium. 

I initially tested this rower because I hated rowing every time I plopped down on a skating seat at the gym, and I wondered if a $2,500 machine could make me like it. I didn’t fall in love, but the premium features have kept me coming back even after a few years. It’s a gorgeous machine, and it executes brilliantly on delivering an experience as close as you can get to rowing the River Thames at home. 

The Hydrow’s classes are, for the most part, not my main workout. Even though they offer 5-90 minute classes on their app, you’ll never catch me spending that much time pulling and pushing on any rower. But that doesn’t mean Hydrow doesn’t serve a purpose in my routine. I often use the Hydrow as a warmup for other workouts, because as a full-body movement, rowing challenges even taller bodies to stretch out. 

After 10 minutes of pumping away on this 86” long machine, my arms, core, back, and legs are all primed for whatever is next. It fatigues many major muscle groups at once, making it efficient. My lack of lengthy rowing sessions makes this a pretty impractical addition to my home gym, and admittedly, I don’t see myself abandoning my other preferred forms of cardio for it anytime soon. If this is something you’re considering purchasing, it should be because you already know you love to row. 

One design element that separates Hydrow from other rowers is the realistic sensation of drag resistance it creates. The internal mechanisms very closely mimic the experience of pumping away on real water, with the intensity of the pushback peaking mid-stroke and lightening up the closer the handlebars get to your body. It’s a subtle feeling, but it helps it inch closer to justifying its gargantuan price tag. 

Rowing, historically, is an elite, inaccessible activity and a sport uber-wealthy mediocre college candidates have written on their applications to get a foot in the side door. It’s also a grueling activity that takes and builds a ton of brute strength over time. Hydrow is not undoing rowing’s stuffy reputation by charging $2,500 for a machine, but for those who love to row and don’t mind a hefty price tag, the money is going towards something worthwhile. 

The Hydrow is not a machine everyone needs, nor wants. Heck, I wouldn’t pay for it with my own money, but then again I don’t like rowing. The Hydrow fully delivers on its promise of creating a high-end, challenging workout at home and brings the experience of paddling on water as close as possible. For those who prefer rowing to other major forms of cardio exercise — cycling, running, HIIT classes — it’s one of the best luxe experiences you can get at home. With a hefty budget to spend and plenty of floor space, it’ll fit right in and make for a great home gym addition.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Hydrow Rower

Is the Hydrow Rower difficult to set up?

No, the Hydrow Rower is fairly simple to put together. The screen needs to be attached, which requires some handiwork, but otherwise, it’s just a matter of plugging it in and connecting to a stable WiFi network. 

Is the Hydrow Rower difficult to store?

Nope, the Hydrow Rower can be stored horizontally or tipped up and stored vertically which takes up much less floor space. It has two-wheeled legs on the front underneath the screen and a large surface perpendicular to the floor when it’s set up that gives it a stable foundation when tilted up vertically. They sell wall anchor loops that attach to the end and secure it to the wall so it won’t fall and crush anyone who bumps into it. 

Does the Hydrow Rower have water inside of it?

No, it doesn’t. Unlike many rowers that come with a base for water out front that creates resistance and moves along with the rowing, the Hydrow’s resistance is generated through magnetic mechanisms. 

Is the Hydrow Rower Worth it?

If you love to row, yes. If you have disposable income and want an efficient full-body workout, it’s a significant investment that’s worthwhile with enough use. If you’re not majorly into rowing this is not a purchase you should make. Compared to the Peloton, its flat low-to-the-ground shape make a terrible pseudo coat rack in 1-3 months.