From classic rowing technique to an explosive strength-building machine at the twist of a dial
- A solid, imposing machine
- Beautiful rowing feel
- Crisp display and app support
- Frightfully expensive
- Takes up a lot of space
- Not as entertaining as rival rowers
Rowing is often cited as one of the most efficient and all-encompassing physical pursuits for those looking to make gains in their strength, cardiovascular fitness, and overall conditioning. After all, according to Men’s Health, every stroke you perform on a rower works 85% of the body’s musculature.
Technogym is a company founded upon improving overall body conditioning in the most efficient ways possible and much of its fitness machinery – although wildly expensive – is incredibly good at producing results. Its multi-gyms, weights, and cable stations can be found in the most elite of fitness centres, and its unique Skillrun treadmill and specialist elliptical machines are used by professional athletes across the globe.
Although historically a gym-centric brand, it has been making moves into the home fitness space of late – producing products to compete with the likes of Wahoo and Tacx – and the Skillrow sits somewhere in the middle, combining commercial build quality with the sort of support and tuition home users look for. So, in this case, you invest in a rower which wouldn’t look out of place in a commercial gym and also gain access to the Technogym Skillrow app, which offers live racing, explosive training programmes, and a virtual training partner or instructor.
TechnoGym Skillrow review: What do you get for the money?
It’s very difficult to talk about the Technogym Skillrow without mentioning the £4,150 price tag. That’s over three times the cost of WaterRower’s top tier Performance Ergometer machine, more than four times the cost of a Concept2 RowErg, and a lot more expensive than Hydrow’s connected rower. It’s even pricier than Peloton’s much-anticipated Row, which is still yet to land in the UK but is available across the pond with an asking price of $3,195.
So why the huge cost? Well, it’s Technogym for a start, but it’s the patent-pending MultiDrive technology at play that is the likely culprit. Using a mix of air resistance and magnetic braking, the Skillrow is able to transform from a beautifully fluid rower, replete with numerous micro adjustments in resistance, to a power building machine with three distinct settings.
This Power Mode really cranks up resistance beyond any other rower we’ve tried and starts creeping into the same territory as a seated cable row machine you might find at a professional gym. For that reason, it’s great for building strength and power, and for allowing progressive overload.
But Technogym also uses this setting within its “TNT power programmes” to teach proper rowing form, breaking down the technique into bite-sized chunks and allowing the user to build power in the legs, abs, back, and upper body over separate workouts.
What’s more, Technogym has ensured the “Aquafeel” technology of its regular rowing mode – we will get into this later – is also carried over to this Power Mode, so it never feels overly clunky or jerky to use.
Of course, it’s perfectly fine to also argue that much of the money goes on the build quality, with everything – from the foot straps to the ergonomically designed handlebar – exuding a premium feel.
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TechnoGym Skillrow review: What’s the technology like?
The seven-inch LCD display with backlight looks pretty simple and, arguably, it is, but it delivers all of the information you need when simply rowing for pleasure. A workout timer, distance covered, average calories burned, and a few split time metrics are all shown. As is live heart rate, if you strap on an external Bluetooth or ANT+ heart rate monitor; we had no trouble connecting monitors from a number of brands, including Garmin and Polar, to this machine.
There’s also an integrated phone holder that sits atop the display, securely holding smartphones up to 3.06in / 77.8mm wide. This can also be upgraded to a larger unit that will hold a bigger tablet, if you want more screen real estate.
Bear in mind this isn’t built in, like you’ll find on a Hydrow system or the upcoming Peloton Row, but then Technogym doesn’t really offer the same kind of online experience. There’s a lot less personal trainer chit-chat and a lot more in-depth rowing metrics to digest.
TechnoGym Skillrow review: Is there an online workout element?
Yes, there is, but don’t expect the level of Hollywood gloss that people now associate with at-home fitness equipment. While Hydrow or Peloton offer workouts to the latest hip-hop jams, or live rows on real waterways, Technogym instead offers insanely informative and in-depth virtual training videos hosted by real athletes, but these are set against a plain white background and accompanied by softly played lift music.
Things get more entertaining when you start to explore the online racing and live leaderboards. While you might be controlling the most basic of avatars, it’s tough and competitive – a good way to get the heart pumping.
But again, the Technogym Skillrow comes to life when you want detailed feedback on your stroke length, force peak, and other performance metrics. It is akin to strapping power metres to your bicycle cranks and the feedback in the app is just as nerdy as anything you’ll find in two-wheeled circles.
The structured workouts are also great if you like things straight to the point and are all about the details, with the app able to determine how well you stuck to a particular cadence or even where your power is tailing off in a specific phase of the surprisingly technical rowing motion. This allows the user to build programmes around weaknesses and generally get better at rowing.
TechnoGym Skillrow review: How much experience do I need to use it?
This neatly brings us around to experience because, although it is perfectly suited to a complete indoor rowing newcomer, we feel it is priced and geared towards those with plenty of prior rowing experience. The fact that Technogym developed its Aquafeel technology to replicate a smoother, more realistic “on-water” experience gives you some indication that it is aiming at those connoisseurs that can actually sense these things and tell the difference.
The point is further rammed home when you start diving into the detailed metrics and explosive TNT power programmes that the companion training app provides. It’s clearly not aimed at someone strapping into a rower for the very first time, but rather those looking to improve.
That’s not to say that it is in any way off-putting for the uninitiated, just that they may be better served by something cheaper, or with more entertaining online workout offerings, as the geeky rowing statistics won’t be for everyone.
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TechnoGym Skillrow review: How does the rowing machine compare to rivals?
When it comes to build quality, quietness of use, robustness, and overall aesthetics, it’s in a league of its own. Especially when compared to more common rowing machines, like the Concept 2 RowErg or the JTX Freedom Air Rower 2, it’s just so much quieter to use, the seat roller system is much smoother, and the overall rowing experience feels that much more realistic.
While WaterRower products are arguably more elegant in their execution (and the natural wood is a nice touch) and there’s something cool about the Hydrow Rower’s shapely design and slick touchscreen, there’s something inherently muscular about the 61kg heft and 2,345mm length of Technogym’s product.
But then it should be, because it is upwards of four-times the cost of many of those aforementioned machines.
It should also be noted that while it does split in two for storage, it uses a locking pin system that requires a bit of fiddling to disconnect the two halves. It’s certainly not the easiest experience and it could become grating if you have to do this before and after every use. Alternatively, you can store it upright, but then you will need fairly high ceilings to accommodate its length.
TechnoGym Skillrow review: Should I buy one?
If you are very much into perfecting your technique, gorging on metrics and data, building explosive power, and enjoying one of the most fluid and realistic rowing experiences around, then yes, you should buy one.
But we imagine that the majority of Technogym Skillrow customers need little persuasion to purchase and would have already decided to buy long in advance.
For those new to the indoor rowing machine, there are myriad much cheaper options we would recommend. And those on a more general fitness journey would probably benefit from the interactive workout experience offered by Hydrow, or an iFit membership alongside a machine with a built-in screen, like those offered by NordicTrack, for example.
We have also tested the Ergatta Rower, which fuses WaterRower’s slick wood and water resistance set-up with Ergatta’s gamified online rowing experience. It’s a fantastic way to remain motivated to workout regularly and is great for those who are perhaps not avid rowers per se.