Hydrow vs. Concept2: How Do These Two Rowing Machines Compare?

Bruce Smith

If you’re in the market for a new rowing machine for your at-home gym, you’ve likely been spending quite a bit of time comparing all of the fitness equipment options out there to try to figure out which rowing machine will work best for you. 

When weighing Hydrow vs. Concept2 rowing machines, there are several factors to keep in mind, including where these machines came from, how they were made, and components like their ergonomics, footprint in your home, and their screens.

Check out our analysis on the Concept2 rower vs. Hydrow below: 

Hydrow vs. Concept2: A history

Rowing machines (or indoor rowers) are generally accepted as one of the very best and most efficient exercise modalities available today, and the Concept2 model was one of the original high-quality rowing machines on the market starting in the late 1980s. Founded in Vermont, the first Concept2 (C2 to rowers) was built out of a steel rail and bicycle wheel the founders used to combat the long winters up north. When rowers couldn’t get out on the water, they could sit down on the Concept2 to get their hours of training done. 

Hydrow was founded in 2018 and has established itself as the next generation of rowing machines, with new technology that makes the rowing experience deeply engaging and fun.

Many people who used to see a Concept2 rower at the gym started with the question, “How do I do this?” Hydrow has played a key role in making rowing accessible to everyone — even if you’ve never rowed before in your life, Hydrow’s Athletes are right there onscreen to teach you how to get the most out of rowing from the very first stroke. 

Hydrow vs. Concept2: How they work

The current iterations of the Concept2 rower — the “Model D” and the “Model E” — use a mechanism that is very similar to their original “Model A” machine. The user sits on a narrow rail with three rollers and pulls a handle that is attached by a bicycle chain to a bungee cord. The chain spins a fan with multiple small blades (actually, more of a turbine), which creates the resistance. Just like the early days, you can adjust the amount of air the fans move to adjust the “drag” factor.

Hydrow represents a radical departure from loud fans and bumpy bicycle chains. The Hydrow Wave and the Hydrow Original rower both use a pair of electromagnetics to control resistance. The electromagnets are controlled by a small, sophisticated computer that adjusts the resistance 240 times per second to match the resistance exactly to the amount of pressure each individual rower applies to the handle. 

Because of this revolutionary patented resistance mechanism, the feeling on the machine is very smooth. It feels very much like the resistance of the water when you’re out rowing in a real boat! The machine is also very quiet, emitting a gentle purr that is tuned to avoid disruption to other people in your home. 

Hydrow vs. Concept2: Their ergonomics

Biomechanically, both C2 and the Hydrow rowing machine are engineered to provide best-in-class ergonomics. The footrests are set at 42 degrees, and the height of the foot position is adjustable through a wide range to accommodate Women’s Size 4 all the way through Men’s Size 16 sneakers.  

Hydrow vs. Concept2: Their footprint

The footprint of the C2 is about the same as the Hydrow Original, while the Hydrow Wave is designed to fit in smaller spaces. It is just 80 inches long and 19 inches wide and it is delivered in a box via regular delivery.  Assembly of both the Wave and the original Hydrow are very simple, and white-glove delivery service is available.  

Both the Hydrow Wave and the Hydrow Original rower are also packaged in a beautiful, sleek form factor that has earned multiple design awards around the world. 

Hydrow vs. Concept2: Their screens

The biggest difference between the C2 and Hydrow is the screen. 

C2 has a small liquid crystal display that shows your workout statistics, including time, watts, and split. This small readout is the original reason that the machine was so popular with rowers:  It provided a reliable indication of fitness that coaches relied on for training during the off-season. 

Hydrow includes these statistics, but the screen also delivers a truly immersive experience that includes instruction, motivation and a wide variety of modalities and workouts for all fitness levels. The original Hydrow features a 22-inch HD screen, and the Hydrow Wave features a 16-inch HD screen with super-crisp colors and very smooth motion. Both screens deliver a workout experience broadcast directly from waterways around the world, as well as many other experiences, including: 

Hydrow’s workouts also include all different lengths, types, and intensities, and the software package provides comprehensive instruction on how to row for people who are new to the sport.  

Hydrow vs. Concept2: Final thoughts

In the final analysis, Concept2 is a venerable brand and the machine is a reliable workhorse, but it needs its own space in the basement or the garage. If you aren’t already a rowing expert, you’ll need to get some lessons to learn how to operate your Concept2 correctly. 

Hydrow takes the best of what rowing has to offer — whole-body workouts, immersive experiences, and amazing instruction — and delivers it in a beautiful package that belongs upstairs.

Bruce Smith

Bruce is a lifelong entrepreneur and an accomplished rower and coach. A former Head of the Charles winner, Bruce coached the US Lightweight Eight to a Bronze medal at the 2015 World Rowing Championships. He is the former Executive Director of Community Rowing – Boston. He holds a BA in English Literature and Theory from McGill University.