Before testing out the Hydrow rower, I was a rowing newbie. It was probably one of the only major exercise modalities I haven’t tried, and I’ve dabbled in a whole bunch.

In fact, if I were to sum up my workout history in one word, it would probably be eclectic. As a kid, I tried ballet, tennis, and kung fu, and ultimately realized I didn’t really enjoy any of them. I picked up walking and bodyweight workouts in high school, and got to know cardio equipment, weight machines, and dumbbells pretty well in college. Then came an endless stream of TRX, HIIT, and dance classes, a yoga certification, a love/hate relationship with the Pilates reformer, and a hard-core Peloton addiction. 

In all that time, though, I haven’t really dipped my toe into rowing. The one time I did attempt to operate an indoor rower, my fiancé—who spent a semester on his university crew team—had some, um, notes. My form was off, and it made the experience not so pleasant. I had no real concept of how to position my body, and I walked away from a five-minute session with achy traps and a sore lower back. 

So when Hydrow offered to send me its Original Rower to test, I felt a bit out of my league—but excited to give it a shot. As rowing has risen in popularity thanks to its strength-building benefits and aptitude for efficient cardiovascular conditioning, I felt like this opportunity might allow me to really find out what all the fuss is about. 

About the Hydrow

Because Hydrow is a smart rower, it offers a ton of rowing classes—including many which are instructional and geared toward beginners, as well as Journey-style classes, which don’t give set paces, callouts, or even feature an instructor—so I thought it would be a great way to ease in. Plus, the platform also goes beyond rowing, offering classes for strength, yoga, stretching, and more, which fit right in line with my regular fitness routine.

Over the span of a pretty steep three-week learning curve, I learned I actually enjoy a lot of aspects about rowing—and specifically, Hydrow. While the machine has a bit of room for modest improvements, it formally (and successfully) introduced me to a workout modality I’d written off as too technical and difficult for my level, and helped me hone my form, confidence, and power. Here’s my full Hydrow rower review.

How I Tested

I based my review off the criteria SELF’s panel of fitness experts recommended for evaluating rowing machines, including things like noise level, ease of maintenance, size and storage, and special features. The original Hydrow rower that I tested retails for $2,495, and I tested it with its membership. While the company says a membership isn’t required, it’s “strongly encouraged” because that’s the only way users can gain access to the exclusive library of live and on-demand classes. That membership will set you back another $44 a month (or $528 per year if you pay annually), but you only need to purchase one membership for your household, so if you have multiple family members or roommates using the machine, everyone can create their own profile under a single membership.