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My prior rowing experience is limited to a summer spent canoeing at Girl Scout camp in the early 90s, but the Hydrow makes me feel like I’m ready to race the Charles.

Black woman smiling and sitting on Hydrow rowing exercise machine in her living roomShare on Pinterest
Photo Courtesy of Hydrow

The Hydrow is a sleek, low profile rowing machine that uses patented electromagnetic technology to simulate drag, so you feel like you’re actually on the water.

It has a built-in, 22-inch (56-cm) touchscreen display that offers streaming workouts filmed on the water around the world.

A quick look at the pros and cons

Pros

  • sleek, modern aesthetic
  • comfortable, quiet, and easy to use
  • good variety in streaming workouts, with beautiful backdrops
  • engaging coaches
  • excellent workout, targeting many muscle groups
  • low impact exercise that builds strength

Cons

  • expensive
  • lineup of coaches could be more age- and body-diverse
  • monthly membership not included in initial cost

I’m Saralyn Ward, a fitness editor at Healthline.

Healthline Media product testing profile for Saralyn WardShare on Pinterest
Graphic by Ruth Basagoitia

To be honest, rowing has never been my favorite exercise. To begin with, I live in landlocked Colorado, so rowing on water isn’t really an option.

At the gym, I always felt like the ergometers were clunky and loud (“Hellllooooooo everyone, I’m exercising!”), and I never wanted to draw attention to myself on the cardio floor.

So before getting a Hydrow, my rowing experience was limited to a weekend kayaking trip in college (a quick way to complete all the required PE credits) and my summers at Girl Scout camp — not exactly making me regatta material.

The Hydrow is long but slim. I was actually very surprised at how little space it required.

It measures 86 inches (218 cm) long, 25 inches (63 cm) wide, and 47 inches (119 cm) tall. It weighs 145 pounds (about 66 kg), but the wheels make it reasonably easy to move.

In fact, with an upright storage conversion kit, you can even store the Hydrow vertically.

This is where the review gets a little less rosy — the Hydrow comes at a hefty price. You can expect to spend more than $2,000 on this machine.

Then there are additional accessories available on the company’s website to consider. These include a:

  • a performance foam roller ($40)
  • yoga block ($30)
  • multi-use workout mat ($80)
  • heart rate monitor ($90)
  • wireless headphones ($150)
  • machine mat ($90)
  • upright storage kit ($80)
  • multi-resistance band kit ($100)

If you’re interested in the Hydrow plus accessories, you may want to consider the company’s preset packages.

For example, the essentials package listed on Hydrow’s website includes the machine, a machine mat, a heart rate monitor, and 1:1 personal coaching. It will set you back $2,625 at the time of publication.

When deciding if this fits in your budget, don’t forget, you’ll also spend $38 per month or $456 per year for the Hydrow membership, which delivers the workouts either to your machine or the mobile app.

The good news? You can create multiple profiles with one membership, so both my husband and I have access to the workouts and can track our progress individually.

For someone who has never rowed for fitness, I found it easy to start with the Hydrow. It’s so far from the rowing machines I remember using at the gym — even those with actual water in the pulley system.

The seat is cushioned and comfortable, the drag feels like you’re actually in water, and the machine is quiet and smooth.

Working out on the Hydrow feels great, and I’m honestly finding myself looking forward to my rowing workouts. They’re challenging — did you know rowing uses 86% of your muscles?!

But while rowing is cardio exercise that will make you sweat, the workout is still low impact and feels equally like strength training for my core, legs, upper back, and shoulders. Working out on the Hydrow strikes a good balance between accessibility and challenge.

In fact, about a month after using the Hydrow regularly, I tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a ski accident, and after a few weeks of letting the swelling go down, I was back on the Hydrow for pre-hab before surgery.

When you first get started, the Hydrow prompts you through three simple workouts for learning proper technique, understanding the onscreen metrics, and getting used to the cues.

Those workouts, while super helpful and necessary, aren’t really an accurate indicator of how you’ll feel when you get into the meat of the exercise library. In the beginning, I even wondered whether the Hydrow was going to raise my heart rate, but I was sorely (pun intended) mistaken.

Once I started trying all the options in the library, I was excited to get back on the Hydrow time and again. New workouts are added every day, and they run the gamut from 59-minute “journey” rows without a coach to 15-minute yoga and Pilates mat sessions to 5-minute cooldowns and plank challenges.

The majority of the rowing workouts with Hydrow Athletes (coaches) last 15 or 20 minutes, which is perfect for busy parents like me or for people doing mix-and-match custom workouts. Plus, the scenery is breathtaking.

You’ll row everywhere from New Orleans to the iconic Charles River, from Lake Winnipesaukee to Miami Beach, and everywhere in between. I’ve seen a few places that I’m inspired to check out in real life (anyone know anything about camping at Apache Lake in Arizona?).

A quick look at the Hydrow’s specs:

Dimensions

86″L x 25″W x 47″H (218 cm x 63 cm x 119 cm)

Weight

145 pounds (66 kg); 197 pounds (89 kg) boxed

Height limit

Fits up to a 36” (91-cm) inseam

Weight limit

Holds up to 375 pounds (170 kg)

Screen resolution

1920 x 1080 Full HD

Screen size

22” (56 cm)

Another thing I love is that the Hydrow Athletes are refreshingly real. They aren’t reading from a script, and the workouts aren’t overly produced.

Sometimes the Athletes tell personal stories or wear mismatched socks, and sometimes they veer off course (literally) and have to adjust the boat. Many are professional or collegiate rowers, and they’re all upbeat and engaging.

I will say, there’s not a ton of diversity in the Athlete lineup. It would be great to see some older coaches.

These days I’m no longer ID’d when I buy alcohol (goodbye 30s), so I’d like to see someone like me steering the ship, so to speak. It would motivate me just a little bit more to know there are people out there who are older than I am pushing their split times.

That said, the Hydrow features a leaderboard function that allows you to see who you’re racing against. You can filter the leaderboard view to show people of your gender and age, so you get a clear picture of where you stand. Plus, you can even interact with and follow other Hydrow members via the app.

While the machine itself isn’t portable, the app obviously is. For those who travel and prefer to have a coach telling them what exercises to do, the 15-minute strengthening workouts on the app are a great way to keep fit anywhere.

In full disclosure, I didn’t expect to like the Hydrow as much as I do. It makes workouts quick, effective, and entertaining, and I honestly look forward to using it.

But the real testament to how great it is? The Hydrow is the first exercise equipment that my husband uses daily — and that’s saying something when you’re married to a fitness editor who brings home a good amount of gear.

For as long as I’ve known him, my husband has only liked to exercise if it has involved chasing a ball. Now, he’s rowing every day after the kids go to bed. So, I have the Hydrow to thank for keeping our whole family healthy.

Absolutely. I’ll be back on the Hydrow again within a day or two. And I look forward to checking out what new workouts have dropped.

Ready to shop for the Hydrow?

Visit the shop page on Hydrow’s website to see the most current equipment packages available.

The Hydrow is well worth the money, if you have the money to spend. You’ll get a better upper body and core workout on the Hydrow than you would on a stationary bike, and it takes up way less space than a treadmill.

What’s more, you’ll get more variety from the workouts than you would with other cardio equipment like an elliptical or stair climber, and the core work alone is something that’ll immediately benefit your daily activity and functionality.

If you’re considering the Hydrow, you won’t be disappointed.

Hydrow was founded in 2017. Although it is a relatively young company, it has acquired a celebrity following including Whitney Cummings, Aaron Rodgers, and Travis Kelce as investors. Comedian Kevin Hart was even named creative director.

While it is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, it has a B+ rating from the organization. According to the organization, it has 8 complaints closed in the last 3 years and 5 closed in the last 12 months.

Hydrow also has an “excellent” rating from Trustpilot. With 9,177 reviews, it boasts a 4.7 out of 5 star average. Of those star ratings, 84% are 5 out of 5, and less than 3% of the ratings are 2 out of 5 or 1 out of 5.

Wondering how Hydrow stacks up to the competition? Here’s a quick breakdown:

PriceSize and weightBest forConsiderations
Hydrow$2,49586″ x 25″ x 47″ (218 cm x 63 cm x 119 cm)

145 lbs (66 kg)
those who enjoy scenic views while doing their rowing workoutsIt costs an additional $38/month or $456/year for the Hydrow membership.

You’ll need internet and an electrical outlet to use this machine even on the Just Row (no membership) mode.
Ergatta$2,19986″ x 23″ x 40″ (218 cm x 58 cm x 102 cm)

103 lbs (47 kg) with water and 76.5 lbs (35 kg) empty
those wanting to compete against other home rowersIt costs an additional $28/month or $319 for the first year ($348 for subsequent years) for the Ergatta membership.
Concept2 RowErg$900 for the standard legs version

$1,050 for the tall legs version
96″ x 24″ x 14″ (244 cm x 61 cm x 35 cm) for standard legs

96″ x 24″x 20″ (244 cm x 61 cm x 51 cm) for tall legs

57 lbs (26 kg) with standard legs; 68 lbs (31 kg) with tall legs
those who want to save some money and don’t care about having all the latest technology features
Both versions can fit inseams up to 38” (96.5 cm), so you don’t have to buy the tall leg version based on your height.

This rower does not have a touchscreen. You’ll have to connect another device or app to it if you want to do live workouts.
NordicTrack RW900$1,79982″ x 22″ x 54″ (208 cm x 56 cm x 137 cm)

163 lbs (74 kg) in box
those who already have an iFit membership and are looking for devices that will work with itIt includes a free 30-day iFit membership, then iFit membership will cost $39/month. (Individual membership plans can be purchased for $180/year or Family memberships for $396/year.)
CityRow Go Max$2,19583.5″ x 22.25″ x 20″ (212 cm x 57 cm x 51 cm)

61 lbs (28 kg) without water or 98 lbs (44.5 kg) with water
those who love a wide variety of exercise classes.The touchscreen tablet on the Max will only work with the CityRow Go App. The app costs $29/month or $348/year (after a 14-day free trial).

Can I use Hydrow without a membership?

If you don’t have a membership, you can use Hydrow in Just Row mode. In this mode, you’ll be able to adjust resistance levels, view Hydrow 101 and introductory materials, use the onscreen rowing metrics during the workout, and connect with Bluetooth for the heart rate monitor only.

You’ll need a membership to access prerecorded and live workouts, music, any stored records of progress (you also won’t be able to save your current results), weekly challenges, and access to the leaderboard.

One thing to keep in mind is that even Just Row mode requires internet access and a working electrical outlet.

How does Ergatta compare to Hydrow?

Ergatta and Hydrow are both high end rowing machines. While Hydrow focuses on personal training and coaching, Ergatta has an approach that’s slightly more competition focused.

Perhaps the biggest physical difference between the two machines is that Ergatta uses water resistance, while the Hydrow uses magnetic resistance. This means that you won’t choose specific resistance levels on the Ergatta like you would on the Hydrow. Instead, the pace of your rowing will naturally increase or decrease the resistance you feel.

For a more detailed look at how these two rowing machines compare, you can check the chart above.

Is the Hydrow easy to move around?

The Hydrow has two front wheels to make it relatively easy for one person to move short distances. For longer moves, an unboxed assembled machine weighs about 145 pounds (66 kg, and can be lifted by two people. If you just want to move the display screen so you can do a workout on the floor, it will swivel without needing to shift the machine.

Can you play music on Hydrow?

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to play your own music on Hydrow. It is not currently designed to receive audio from your phone or a third party app like Spotify or Pandora.

I give the Hydrow two thumbs up. As someone who hasn’t rowed much before, I’m surprised at how much I like it. Now I’m a convert. If you need me, I’ll be in my basement at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, imagining myself on the open water.