Defining Hydrow Rows: 'Breathe', 'Sweat' and 'Drive'

Pete Donohoe

Hydrow offers three main categories of rowing workouts: Breathe, Sweat, and Drive. Within these categories, you can find workouts ranging in duration from 10 to 45 minutes. Each one of these workouts is great on its own, or you can do multiple workouts in one sitting to personalize your workout to what works best for you. Every workout at Hydrow is written with a specific goal in mind, and each of the three categories has a set of criteria for different fitness and training types, and above all else- they’re all going to give you a really great workout. 

Rowing is a hybrid exercise, where every workout provides both aerobic fitness and strength benefits. This means that rowing workouts can have a large amount of variety and provide different types of training for just about any fitness goal. Whether you’re looking for a “cardio” workout or High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Hydrow releases over 20 new workouts every week and offers several options from every category and workout duration.  Before we dive into the different types of rowing workouts at Hydrow, let’s start with some basics:

Rhythm + Effort = Split

Every Hydrow rowing workout is built on the foundation of moving in rhythm together. This rhythm is also known as stroke rate, measured in strokes per minute. The way we measure the intensity of a workout is taking into consideration rhythm, duration, and effort. The split, measured as the time it would take to row 500 meters at the current intensity at which you’re rowing, is a good indicator of your effort, and is a great way for you to compare your own performance workout to workout.

Now, moving into the Hydrow rowing workouts. What are the differences between Breathe, Sweat and Drive workouts at Hydrow?


Breathe workouts are Hydrow’s foundational cardio workouts. The bulk of the rhythms are between 20 and 24 strokes per minute, and the workouts are structured so that it’s really like a cardio session, where you keep your intensity sustained, without any rest. But don’t worry- while you don’t get any breaks, these workouts are low- to moderate-intensity, in the jog and run pacing (based on your five-minute assessment pacing- or see below for more guidance), where your heart rate target is between 60 and 85% of your maximal heart rate. Because of the lower rhythm range and moderate intensity, Breathe workouts are a great option for people wanting to build their aerobic endurance and exercise in the fat-burning zone. Also, given the lower overall intensity, these workouts are a great option for you if you’re new to fitness, or are working on building up your fitness after some time off. 

Fun fact- the majority of workouts done by athletes training for the Olympics are like Breathe workouts!


Craving a real burn, a good sweat, and a challenge to your endurance? Hydrow’s Sweat workouts are a good choice. These workouts are designed to be moderate- to high-intensity. This is right around your anaerobic threshold, and at run and sprint pace (based on your 5 minute assessment pacing). The bulk of the rhythms for the higher intervals are between 24 and 28 strokes per minute, and the workouts are structured so that the “on” intervals range from 2 to 7 minutes in duration, with short rests in between. These workouts target mid to higher range heart rate zones, where you’ll see your heart rate somewhere between 85 and 95% of your maximal heart rate. In a Sweat workout, you’ll develop the resilience to keep pushing through harder intervals, and resist the urge to go to your max pace. The point of training right around, or above, your anaerobic threshold is so that you can increase it- meaning you'll eventually be able to exercise at higher intensities in the aerobic zone, ie the more comfortable zone.

Fun fact- Competitive rowers spend most of the fall season training for longer distance races, so most of their training workouts during that time are like Hydrow’s Sweat!


These workouts are the ones that you’ll find yourself testing your limits. Hydrow’s Drive workouts are designed to push you to see your lowest (ie fastest) splits, highest rhythms, and shortest intervals. If you’re familiar with High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), you have a good idea of what to expect from most of these workouts. Unlike Sweat workouts, which have a higher work to rest ratio, you can expect to see closer to equal work to rest time in Drive workouts. That means that while the bulk of the rhythms for intervals in these workouts are the highest of the three categories- between 26 and 32 strokes per minute- the intervals are shorter, and spaced out with lower intensity recovery periods. In these workouts, you’ll target the sprint and max paces (based on your 5-minute assessment pacing), and your highest heart rate zones. In a Drive workout, you’ll boost your fitness, your ability to push yourself, and feel the thrill of racing the leaderboard. 

Fun fact- your average split is usually not too different for a Drive and a Sweat workout. This is because there are more lower-intensity rest periods built into Drive workouts than Sweats, so your average split is often similar for the two.

So which workout is right for you?

The bottom line is this: the best workout you can possibly do is the one you enjoy doing. We all have different motivations and goals at Hydrow, and by trying the different types of Hydrow rowing workouts, you will learn which ones are right for you. Make sure to check out Hydrow’s strength and yoga workouts to round out your exercise routine. All the On the Mat workouts promote healthy movement patterns, flexibility, and build functional strength and can be done as a standalone or as a complement to a rowing workout. See you on the water!

Hydrow Effort Zones