Since the pandemic, many of us have discovered the joys of home workouts: no travel time, showering in your own bathroom, making a protein shake for a matter of pennies as opposed to spending five quid plus on one - the list goes on. Yep, there’s no disputing that there are benefits to smashing a sweat session within your own four walls (it's pretty much what lead me to the Hydrow Rower).
But let’s not overlook the drawbacks; no emotionally valuable face-to-face time with actual humans, a lack of the motivation that exercising around others gives, and, in most cases, substandard kit.
But this last point is becoming less of a factor. You can’t escape the rapidly growing home gym equipment market. For those lucky enough to have the space and the cash, cardio machines and weights that wouldn’t look out of place on a gym floor are now widely available. The latest hi-tech kit competing to make it into your garage or spare room gym is the Hydrow.
What is the Hydrow rowing machine?
As a long-time rowing fanatic, I was super excited to try this sleek looking offering. And I was not disappointed. So, let’s get down to the basics.
The Hydrow looks endlessly more stylish than the rowers you’re used to seeing in the gym. With rounded edges, a 22" touch screen at the front and not a chain or water drum insight, it looks like a rowing machine from the future.
And that’s exactly what the experience of using it feels like too. The brand’s founder, Bruce Smith – former coach of the US National team no less – was determined Hydrow would be something different. He used his years of experience to create a machine where the resistance is computer-controlled, and the seat is specially engineered with 12 rollers, so the glide forward and back is smooth and relatively quiet.
How is the Hydrow different to other rowing machines?
It certainly feels different to the many rowers I’ve used before. The smoothness of the glide lends itself to a better rowing technique (more on this later) because the urge to yank on the handles is not there. Instead, you instinctively want to use your legs more.
How much is the Hydrow?
Is it worth the money? That would depend entirely on your circumstances. It’s expensive if you’re forking out for a gym membership as well but, as a busy working mother, I need exercise to be convenient enough to fit in with my extremely full-on life. The workouts are challenging, the scenery is stunning, and I feel amazing when I get to the finishing line in that top five per cent. What’s not to love?
In hard numbers, Hydrow is £1,995 with a £38 a month subscription. You can snap it up at hydrow.co.uk.
What are the classes like on the Hydrow rowing machine?
Let’s talk about the classes. There are over 2,500 live and on-demand sessions – the shortest being five minutes and the longest 90.
The 'Live Outdoor Reality' technology has you taking part in open water rows in beautiful and often iconic locations, Miami, or New Orleans one day, the River Nile the next. There’s even a row past London Bridge on the Thames.
Like other home workout systems, you can choose a class based on your music choice, your favourite instructor, and your goals. If HIIT’s your thing, you’re sorted. More of an endurance athlete? They've got that too. There’s also a sweat rating for each class to give you an idea of how hard it’s going to be and a leader board so you can compete with your fellow rowers.
The trainers are all elite rowers and very warm and friendly. Their instructions are clear and easy to follow. My favourites so far, and I’ve by no means exhausted the roster, are Aquil Abdullah, Michelle Sosa and Mac Evans.
Is Hydrow a decent workout?
Let’s get one thing straight, rowing is tough. If you’re rowing effectively, using the correct technique (legs, core, arms, arms core legs – there are technique starter classes if you’re not confident) rowing is the most efficient all over body workout.
Using 86% of muscles in one session with a 70% aerobic, 30% strength ratio, I find rowing for 20 minutes much harder than running or using a bike for the same time. It requires huge lower body strength, a strong core and decent upper body strength to row with power.
It also requires mental dexterity to get the most out of each pull. If you let your mind wander during a session your split time will drop. Not the one.
My verdict on the Hydrow rowing machine
I’m super competitive so I set myself a target of coming in the top 10 per cent of each class on the leader board. I’m now getting into the top 5 per cent.
I’m really impressed with Hydrow. I love that the classes are on open water, so offering a break from a studio environment. Admittedly, due to the nature of being filmed outside, the sessions feel more rustic and less polished than other online class-based workouts, but that’s part of the attraction and charm. The machine itself is beautiful and offers a truly enjoyable rowing experience. Sold? 100%.
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