Updated: Jan 15
Exercising has a huge variety of health benefits for both your mental and physical well-being. An indoor rowing machine is an excellent addition to any home gym for a good upper and lower body workout - whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been working out from home for years.
Best Indoor Rowing Machines: 5 Hydrow Rower Alternatives
If you've done any research on the topic, you know that the Hydrow rower is one of the most popular indoor rowing machines on the market. This is thanks to its innovative technology and on-demand workout classes.
The price tag on the rowing machine might leave you in search of the best Hydrow rower alternative - luckily, there are plenty of other rowing machines! You just need to know what features to look for. Here are the top options for the best indoor rowing machine out there.
What Are the 4 Types of Indoor Rowing Machines?
While the Hydrow rower is an electromagnetic rower, there are actually four different types of rowing machines to choose from. Understanding each type can help you choose the best indoor rower for your needs. [*]
Magnetic Rowing Machine
Most rowing machines derive resistance from a different source. With a magnetic rower, the resistance comes from a series of magnets. This makes for a very quiet experience. It also allows the machine to have a compact structural frame, making it smaller than any other type of rowing machine.
While the size of this compact rowing machine, as well as its quiet nature, makes it one of the most popular, it's also appealing thanks to a wide range of resistance levels. If you get a good quality one, like the Hydrow, you can effectively work key muscle groups for a full body exercise.
You can do a lot of alternative exercises, ensuring additional fitness benefits. It's a great way to work your upper back muscles and help keep your posture straight.
What's more, a magnetic row machine helps target areas like your shoulder blades, too, allowing for a good cardio workout while ensuring core muscles get plenty of attention. Other cardio machines can do these things, as well, so keep reading below to see how they compare.
Hydraulic Rowing Machine
Hydraulic rowing machines get their resistance from pistons that are attached to the machine's handles, which connect to the fluid inside the cylinder. While other rowers tend to have one handle, hydraulic rowers often have two.
Some people find that multiple handles create a similar experience to a real rowing motion, while others disagree. It ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Hydraulic resistance machines are usually quieter than water or air machines, and can also be compact and affordable. There is one downside to note: if you plan to work out for longer, this type of machine might not be best for you.
This is because the fluid in the cylinder can heat up over time, which decreases resistance, potentially limiting the effectiveness of your workout. And as such, the same muscle groups targeted in other cardio equipment might not get the workout needed for you to gain muscle mass and lose weight.
Water Rowing Machine
Water rowing machines are fairly loud thanks to the round drum full of water that provides their resistance. While many people enjoy the whooshing sound of the water, some may find it too disturbing, especially if there are others living under the same roof.
The machines are more aesthetically pleasing than others as they're often made of wood. Plus, they do a great job of replicating a real rowing motion for an intense workout.
However, these rowers won't fold or split into two pieces, so you'll need a fair amount of space. They're also heavy, and they don't typically have adjustable resistance.
So if you're looking for rowing machine alternatives that will help you improve cardiovascular health and burn calories, a water rowing machine might limit your results.
Air Rowing Machine
The air rower gets its resistance from air moving through the slats on a wheel, often called a flywheel. The air resistance offers a smooth rowing experience, and most machines have adjustable resistance.
Air rowers have been on the market since the 1980s. The Concept2 Model A was the first, using a bicycle wheel and chain to create the resistance. Now, the Concept2 Model D is one of the most popular, with a standard measurement used in indoor rowing competitions.
While air rowing machines are among the most popular, they're also the loudest. If you live with other people, this might not be the best rowing machine option for you.
Still, you're sure to get a good workout on your leg muscles or even your entire body, depending on your movement pattern and fitness goals.
Hydrow Rower Workout Machine Overview
What makes the Hydrow rowing machine so popular? This piece of fitness equipment checks almost every box in terms of a smart rowing machine. [*]
Rowing Machine Build
The Hydrow’s design is sleek, complimenting any workout space. It's easy to put together and it can be stored vertically in more compact spaces.
It's also comfortable. It has ten rollers under the cushioned seat, allowing you to slide silently and without friction as you row, making for a realistic experience. The machine has wide footrests to accommodate anyone. Plus, the seat height and handle are perfectly placed for optimal comfort to your back and knees.
This smart rower uses magnetic resistance, so you’ll enjoy a quiet workout experience. The magnetic resistance gives you a strength and cardiovascular fitness workout that engages 86% of your muscles.
Advanced Technology Software
The Hydrow is also one of the first to advance the indoor rowing machine in terms of interactive rowing workouts. If you get on any other cardio machine - from treadmills to stair climbers - you'll find a variety of programming to guide your lower and upper body workouts.
While rowers previously lagged behind this category, the Hydrow finally offers interactive classes, making cardio fitness fun with live classes and on-demand workouts through wi-fi . You access these full-body workouts via a 22-inch HD touchscreen monitor and sound system. Choose from over 3,000 workouts with elite athlete instructors and views from around the world.
You can also adjust resistance levels from the same home screen, setting your workout intensity to as low or high as fits your fitness level. Either way, you can get an interactive rowing experience with the Hydrow rowing machine to get a good workout.
Indoor Rowing Machine Price
The Hydrow is the most expensive rowing machine out there at $2,495. If you want the Hydrow Works Package, which includes all the attachments you'll need to get a full-body workout on and off the machine, you'll pay $3,045.
You might be able to get it on sale around the holidays, but even then, it's much pricier than the cheaper alternative options we'll discuss below.
Top 5 Alternatives to the Hydrow Rower Indoor Rowing Machine
There are lots of rowing machines on the market, so what's the best alternative? Here are the top five best rowing machine options in terms of features and price.
*This rower is now on closeout on the NordicTrack website!!
While many of the Hydrow alternative rowing machines lack rowing workout programs, the NordicTrack RW900 delivers on all fronts. Like the Hydrow, it has a HD interactive touchscreen display which you can use to connect to on-demand rowing workouts through a monthly membership on the Hydrow app.
This indoor rower also has 26 digital resistance levels, using a mix of water and magnetic resistance. You can connect via Bluetooth to get an even better experience.
This is one of the best rowing machines in terms of quality, features, and comfort, though that does come with a price tag of $1,599. It's also easy to store with SpaceSaver design.
It has a limited weight capacity of 250 pounds, while the Hydrow rowing machines allow up to 375. Still, the NordicTrack RW900 is one of the closest in quality and training programs but is more affordable.
The Concept2 Model D is one of the best quality rowing machines on the market, which is why you can find them in gyms everywhere. It is an air rower, so it does include a flywheel. It's fairly quiet, but not as quiet as a magnetic indoor rowing machine.
The Concept2 model also comes with a PM5 computer and LCD screen, which include a variety of rowing programs. You can connect the machine via Bluetooth to your phone and then track workout progress in Concept2's free ErgData app.
This rower also includes a 13-inch seat height with an adjustable handle and footrests. It has a 500-pound weight capacity, so it can fit just about anyone. Plus, it’s made of sturdy, high-quality aluminum and breaks into two pieces for easy storage. At $990, it's less than half the price of the Hydrow but relatively equal in quality.
The Sunny Health and Fitness magnetic rowing machine offers a sleeker design than the XTERRA, but is similar in that it has eight magnetic resistance levels. It also has an extra-long slide rail that is 48 inches long and a 44-inch inseam length with a weight capacity of 250 pounds.
This indoor rowing machine has an LCD monitor to track your workout progress on. You won't get any exercise programs, but you will get a deal for this indoor rowing machine at just $289.
Thanks to the low-impact workout that this machine provides, you can easily target your main muscles while fully extended. Overall, it's a great workout for a good price.
The XTERRA ERG200 is one of the best cheaper alternative options to the Hydrow, with great build quality at $269. It offers a slim, sleek design that folds up for easy storage to save space. This rowing machine has eight levels of magnetic resistance, providing you with a quiet workout.
It also has an adjustable monitor to track your rowing stroke, calories, time, and more. While this budget rowing machine doesn't have the interactive live workouts of the Hydrow, it makes the list of the best rowing machines thanks to its price and quality.
You can effectively work the same muscles as other machines but for a fraction of the price. If you've ever worked on a machine that uses a resistance band, you'll feel right at home here. Burning calories is a breeze, just like on a cable machine.
When you have your knees bent or your knees slightly bent, the resistance of the magnetic system is very similar to resistance bands.
This home rowing machine gives you an even more extensive full-body workout than the Hydrow rower, working 92% of your body's muscles. It has 16 levels of quiet magnetic resistance.
For a piece of fitness equipment, it is also fairly compact, taking up 4.3 cubic feet when folded and stored. Despite the size, it has a weight capacity of 350 pounds, so it's ideal for most users.
While this magnetic rower doesn't have the interactive classes of the Hydrow, it does have three levels of exercise: activation, aerobic, and strength, as well as an adjustable LCD monitor to track your stats. At just $259, it's a great alternative to more pricey options, like the Concept2 Model D or Hydrow.
Workouts to Add to Your Rower
Once you've chosen a new rower to add to your personal gym, you may find that you're missing some essential exercises for your body. Since rowers primarily target your lower body, you'll want to add in some upper-body workouts as well. Your rower is capable of amazing things, but these added workouts will ensure that you're getting every vital part of your body.
Resistance-Band Deadlift: The basic principle behind it is to keep you centered and upright while pulling a resistance band from the floor. To avoid hurting your lower back, find a sturdy object nearby to hold on to for support. This is a great exercise to tone your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.
Alternating Dumbbell Row: This exercise is great for your upper back, shoulders, and arms. You'll need to choose a pair of light dumbbells first but simply start with your right arm out at a 45-degree angle. Then, use your left hand to pull it back until the dumbbell is level with your chest. For best results, make sure that the dumbbell stays close to your body, so you don't risk injuring your back or arm.
Free Weight Exercises: Whether dumbbell exercises or weight bench workouts, free weights are the most effective way to tone your legs and entire body. Starting with squats will give you a great leg workout by targeting the muscles in your thighs, glutes, and hamstrings. You can use one to three dumbbells to lift over your head while standing upright to build both upper and lower body strength.
Add a Rower to Your Workout Routine
There's no doubt about it - rowing machines can provide one of the best lower and upper body workouts compared to other gym equipment, like a stationary bike. They make for great additions to your home gym and can support a variety of fitness goals for women's health, from cardio training and weight loss to strength training and muscle building.
While there are plenty of alternatives to the Hydrow at home rowers, all of which do ultimately result in calories burned, the Hydrow is still the best rowing exercise machine on the market. It's a high-quality machine that's easy to store, comfortable to use, and challenging, with excellent interactive and on-demand workouts built right in. Still, finding the right rowing machine that fits into your home and budget - and gives you a full-body workout - is what's most important above all else.
*If you are looking to achieve your health goals in a manner customized for you, Beyond Body may be something to add to your daily wellness routine.
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