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I tried the 'Peloton of rowing' and it was the best workout I've gotten from home

The CityRow Go Max Rower ended up being the perfect addition to my home gym.
I felt the low impact, strength and conditioning workout in all of my major muscle groups.
I felt the low impact, strength and conditioning workout in all of my major muscle groups.TODAY Illustration / Danielle Page
/ Source: TMRW

There are workouts you can master in just a few classes — and then there's rowing.

As someone who's always up for a new challenge, I especially appreciate the practice needed to master rowing, especially when I used to take CityRow classes in person. The instructors were another big draw for me. Not only were they diligent about breaking down the stroke steps before each class, but they'd also correct form to ensure every participant was getting the full benefits of the workout — and not working out in a way that could cause injury.

As the pandemic wore on and a return to in-person workout classes seemed less and less likely, I thought about what my ideal piece of at-home equipment would be. I knew I loved rowing, that my form needed work and that having a rower at home would give me a fitness goal to work toward. The new CityRow Go Max Rower ended up being the perfect addition to my home gym.

Cost and equipment

This state-of-the-art rower retails at $2,195 with delivery and installation included in that cost. Your rower arrives fully assembled and ready to go; all you'll need to do is add water with a siphon and toss in a water purification tablet, both of which come with the rower.

You'll also need a CityRow Go subscription. The subscription comes with a two-week free trial. After that, it's either $29 per month or $289 for the year, which is around 17% in savings if you choose the annual plan.

To get the most out of this workout, you'll need a set of light and heavy hand weights, as well as a mat for warmups and floor work. If you have downstairs neighbors who are sensitive to noise, you may want to consider getting a mat to place underneath your rowing machine as well.

Navigating the app

The CityRow Go Max Rower features a touchscreen Bluetooth tablet that's sweat-resistant and can be paired with compatible headphones and heart-rate monitors while in use. Once you turn on the screen and connect it to the internet, you'll log in with your CityRow Go app credentials. From there, you'll be asked to set a workout frequency goal, as well as select the types of workouts you're interested in (options include endurance, HIIT, strength, yoga and mobility, to name a few).

From there, you'll be brought to a home screen that features the latest workouts, as well as recommended workouts and programs to try. Your first stop should be the tutorial section. This three-part series of short videos teach proper rowing form, show you how to adjust the foot straps to your foot size, explain the performance metrics and numbers on the screen for your workout and show you how to start time and distance intervals using the touch screen. The final video in this series shows you how to put all of this information together during your first workout.

The rower stores vertically against the wall when not in use to save you some floor space.

What the workout entails

There are so many ways to navigate the workouts offered on the CityRow Go Max Rower. You can search by newest classes, by category (HIIT, endurance, strength, yoga or mobility-focused workouts), experience level (beginner or advanced), duration (20 minutes, 30 minutes or 50 minutes), equipment needed (with or without weights or the rower) and instructor. New classes are added weekly, including weekly challenges and programs that focus on the different workout categories.

CityRow Go's signature workout is 50 minutes long. It consists of a brief warmup, a series of rowing intervals interspersed with mat work (sometimes weighted, depending on which class you select), a rowing "finisher" that pushes you to challenge yourself by either time or distance (or both) and a cool down. Shorter versions are available and still pack a punch — expect to sweat just as much during a 20-minute workout as you would during a 50-minute class.

And don't equate "beginner" with "easy" when selecting a class or program. Beginner program classes spend more time on form and move slower through transitions to ensure you're doing everything correctly, but they're absolutely still a challenge.

My experience using the CityRow Go Max Rower

I've never rowed out on the open seas, but I have to imagine this is the closest thing you can get to having that experience from the comfort of home. The machine uses water for resistance, which simulates the feeling of pulling back on actual oars. This presents an added challenge since you'll need to adjust your pace manually to match your stroke rate to the instructor's suggested stroke rate for each rowing interval. (Your speed is measured in strokes per minute and determined by how quickly you're moving back and forth on the rower.) The machine also measures your split time (the pace you're able to move per 500 meters), watt power (your power output) and intensity (a signature CityRow Go metric that measures your level of effort) — all of which is captured by a sensor on the top deck of the rower.

After watching each tutorial video to refresh myself on form, I opted for a quick 30-minute Cardio + Core beginner class to ease myself in. Nothing about this workout was easy, and by the end of class that same familiar burn had returned to my core, legs, arms and butt.

I tried a HIIT rower class the following day — another quick class that lasted just 20 minutes, but still incorporated intense rowing and mat intervals that pushed me throughout.

Something I appreciated about the machine itself was how easy it was to quickly swivel the monitor head in the direction of my mat as the workout transitioned from rower to floor and back. This was especially helpful for the short 20-minute classes offered on the app, as those rower-to-mat transitions happen extra quickly.

With literally hundreds of workouts to choose from on the app, there wasn't a day that I found myself bored. Some days I had trouble deciding which class I felt like taking; at which point I'd use the "Just Row" feature that allows you to row at whatever pace you choose while warming up and thinking about which class I wanted to try. "Just Row" has its own music playlist that you can listen to or mute. Not having sea shanties as background music for this rowing feature is a missed opportunity, in my opinion.

The pros

I've seen the CityRow Go Max Rower referred to as the "Peloton of rowing,” which I'd have to agree. It's the closest thing you're going to get to the excitement and energy of an in-person rowing class from home. Having your instructor right there in front of you on an almost 20-inch monitor, seeing your performance metrics in real time and working with you to beat your best time and stroke rate (which you earn badges for!) are all incredibly motivating components of this workout.

While certain workout formats are similar, the instructors consistently put their fresh takes on the moves they incorporate on and off the rower. Pair that with hundreds of workouts from which to choose (with new workouts added weekly), and it makes turning on the CityRow Go Max Rower a fresh experience every time.

When done right, rowing is an effective total-body workout. It's a calorie-burning, low impact, strength and conditioning workout that activates all of your major muscle groups. But you only reap those benefits when using proper form and technique. The CityRow Go Max Rower provided me with all the tutorials and beginner-paced workouts necessary to not only learn proper form, but know how to correct it when something felt off. That's something you won't get from an older rowing machine model.

Having the instructor and your real-time performance metrics in front of you on a 20-inch monitor is incredibly motivating.

The cons

The CityRow Go Max Rower is a significant investment in many ways. Not only is its price point on the high end for at-home fitness equipment and an app subscription, but it's also not a workout you can master the first time you try it. And while this machine stores vertically in a corner without taking up too much space, you'll still need a workout area large enough to accommodate it while in use (the machine spans 83.5 inches long and 22.25 inches wide).

That said, if you're committed to learning proper technique through plenty of practice, this machine is the only fitness equipment you need to achieve almost any fitness goal you have in mind (save for power lifting). The CityRow Go Max Rower can help you improve your strength, endurance and cardiovascular stamina, as well as build muscle and lose weight.

I would recommend the CityRow Go Max Rower to:

  • Anyone with deep pockets and ample space
  • People who want to purchase just one piece of at-home equipment to transform their bodies
  • Those who are committed to learning and mastering a new workout
  • Someone who gets bored easily and needs a wide variety of workout options from which to choose