Hydrow Rowing Machine Review

I’ve finally managed to get my hands on a Hydrow! They took a long time to come to the UK, but they’re here now, and good to go and so I couldn’t wait to bring you my full unadulterated Hydrow review.

I love rowing machines. Though I’m no great rower, and actually don’t enjoy longer distance rowing that much, my athletic disciplines (powerlifting and martial arts) require great explosive power and intense cardiovascular capability. Rowing sprints are everything I need from conditioning – full body power output, with heart rates in the 85%+ range.

This also makes them tremendous fat loss tools, as they allow you to hit the ‘Orange Zone’ heart rate range, giving you a great amount of afterburn – you will burn calories for hours after you’ve finished.

They are also great for endurance athletes. Simply dial down the intensity and go for long stretches, in comfort, with your whole posterior chain engaging throughout.

Hydrow have taken all of these positive facets and run with them (well, rowed… but you know what I mean) – so let’s see what I made of it and more importantly whether it’s well suited for you in this Hydrow rowing machine review.

The Concept Of The Hydrow Rowing Machine

man using hydrow rowerIf you don’t know what they are, Hydrows are kind of like the rowing machine’s answer to Peloton – high-spec, high-tech rowing machines, incredibly well made, beautifully designed, with a fantastic range of media.

A Hydrow is incredibly pricey – in fact, Hydrows are amongst the most expensive commercially available rowing machines on the market. This is very much deliberate, of course – like Peloton, Hydrow are aiming at the higher end of the market, looking to deliver exquisite service to those willing and able to pay for it.

It’s not all about the machine itself, either (though this is epic, make no mistake). Again, as with Peloton, it’s the access to the wider community and training options you get with the Hydrow where it really comes into its own – classes, both in real time, and pre-recorded, will keep your training effective, varied and fun, whilst the data readouts you can call up are insane.

It’s unashamedly high-end. It’s an absolute delight.

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First Impressions Of The Hydrow

The Hydrow doesn’t disappoint, especially at first glance.

I was excited to use it, but I was also sceptical. Being fully aware of the price tag, I needed it to be something spectacular. Otherwise, it risks simply being another overpriced gadget for rich folks to buy as a prestige piece.

Hydrow HD monitorThe utility you need from a machine needs to match or exceed its cost, no matter which end of the market you’re searching in.

The first thing you will notice about the Hydrow is how beautiful it is – all sweeping lines, well-moulded panels, futuristic attachments and elegant chic. It looks like it belongs on the USS Enterprise, or in an art gallery, or both.

Everything looks set up to impress. In reality, this means it’s set up to maximise user comfort and enjoyment.

That utility is looking good – on first impressions, the Hydrow really did seem to be earning its keep.

For example, the screen is one of the main components, and it needs to be good. As mentioned, there is a lot more to the Hydrow than simply being a rower. You buy it in large part for the extra media. This is faultlessly displayed on a large 22 inch HD monitor. The display is crisp, with a resolution of 1920x1080p (which I’m assured by my techier friends is good – it certainly seemed so to me!)

Then there is the quality of every functional part – the handles, the seat, the frame itself… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s have a look at the specs.

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Hydrow Rowing Machine Specs

The Hydrow will likely dominate any room you put it in. This isn’t always a good thing. You may more often want a degree of discretion from your cardio equipment. Indeed, it’s easy enough to get foldable kits that you can put away after use.

I doubt anyone would mind having the Hydrow sitting front and centre anywhere in their house. It’s impressive and it’s beautiful – you get one hell of a statement from it, in a very good way.

rowing machine imageThis is in large part due to the sheer size of the thing. It stands at 120cm tall, which is a little taller than some of its direct, cheaper competitors. It is 219cm long and 64cm wide. This all puts it roughly on par with something like the Concept 2. Then there is the weight. At a whopping 66kg, it’s heavier than most athletic women and many men. You probably won’t be shifting it around – once it’s in place, the Hydrow tends to stay there!

The Hydrow uses digitally controlled magnetic resistance. Many others, like the Concept 2, use a flywheel and chain, which I don’t like; others use water, which I love. I would generally always prefer water. However, the Hydrow’s resistance is so well done and smooth that I really wouldn’t change a thing. It gives you a really broad range of resistance, at tiny increments, all very easily controlled, whilst also delivering an incredibly smooth, quiet operation. Ten specially designed rollers further provide an incredibly smooth glide to the seat, which itself is very well padded for comfort. There is a webbed strap that attaches the handles to the machine itself which is pretty much silent – it is far nicer to use than some of the clanking chains you get with cheaper models.

The frame is a combination of steel and aluminium (hence the weight – many cardio machines make use of lots of cheap, lightweight plastic). This makes it incredibly strong and robust, with a maximum user weight of 170kg. This is incredible in itself – many cardio machines tap out around 100-120kg, which leaves out plenty of larger athletes.

Then there is the display. As above, it’s a very high definition, high quality screen. You can use it to access the interactive workouts that bring the Hydrow in line with things like Peloton.

There is a pretty steep monthly subscription (almost forty quid!) to pay on top of the already expensive price of the model itself, which I’m not a fan of. However, this subscription is still well worthwhile. You gain access to a couple of live workouts every day, alongside a massive back catalogue of different workouts.

These workouts are great. They really do what they say – which isn’t always a given in the fitness world. If you want an efficient, hard, worthwhile training regime, and a comfortable way in which to perform it, the Hydrow is an excellent choice.

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Using the Hydrow

This section is a bit of a foregone conclusion. How do you think the Hydrow is to use?

It’s bloody brilliant.

This isn’t quite what I’m looking to measure, however. If it was simply a case of getting a superlative workout, it’s thumbs up all round. However, as I mentioned above, the Hydrow has one hell of a price tag to warrant.

So, does it?

lady using hydrowEverything it does, it does perfectly. The machine is incredibly well-built. It glides silently, smoothly, and offers a wonderful range of resistance, all built up over small, subtle increments. Though the basic mechanisms share the same DNA as any rowing machine, everything is executed to such perfection that it feels completely different. The foot straps are very comfortable, the handlebars are slightly large, which makes them very comfortable, and the seat is padded and sculpted so that it, too, is very comfortable.

This alone doesn’t warrant the price – in terms of basic utility, you can get all of this a lot cheaper. In fact, a basic model will give you a good workout without giving you a sore bum. The Hydrow is nicely made, and you’ll feel pampered, but none of its superlatively good build quality is strictly necessary.

The display and the all-in-one integrated live workouts are where the magic happens. I’m still unsure whether the base price tag plus the monthly membership (which could get you a gym membership, plus another for your mate) are worth it. They might be. It’s tight. But either way, it’s good – very, very good.

The workouts are run by real athletes, rowing on real water, not by a silly fitness instructor jumping around in a studio. The community that surrounds the Hydrow is incredibly active and inclusive (if a little cult-like, as tends to happen in fitness circles). Everything is controlled via the HD touchscreen, which is intuitive to use and operates kind of like a tablet or smartphone. There is no lag at all in the operation, and the hard-and soft-ware seem perfectly integrated. You can store your data in the cloud and create as many profiles as you like, so that multiple people can use the same model.

The Hydrow also learns your behaviour. It will recommend sessions and classes based on your previous workouts and training goals. There are options for all fitness levels.

One thing that really comes close to putting me off is the lack of ability to use the machine to simply row. They have recently added a ‘Just Row’ feature, but you still need a membership for it. There really is no escape from that monthly bill if you want to use your Hydrow…

Hydrow membership gives you a lot. It’s actually very worth the money, given the quality and range of classes on offer. Just know that you will have to keep paying for it as long as you want to use your machine.

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Verdict

This is a wonderful machine.

As above, I’m undecided on quite how worth the money it is – only in terms of the monthly subscription, as the machine itself is so wonderfully crafted I’d happily recommend it at twice the price.

However, it gives you everything you need and more to hit your fitness goals in style, efficiently, on one of the best-made cardio machines the world has ever seen.

If you’ve got the money, and you don’t mind being tied into monthly payments, go and get a Hydrow. Your life will be better for it, I promise.

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