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Hydrow Eyes Strength Training, AI With Speede Fitness Acquisition

Hydrow Eyes Strength Training, AI With Speede Fitness Acquisition

The connected rowing brand will add AI-driven strength training as it looks to evolve into a “whole health” company

Hydrow is rowing over to the booming strength training and longevity spaces, acquiring a majority stake in Speede Fitness, a strength training and analytics company.

The move is part of Hydrow’s plan to evolve into a whole-body health company and create a digitally variable resistance product with adaptive feedback in 2025.

Speede’s two products — Speede Challenger, an adaptive, in-home strength trainer with AI-powered cameras, and Speede Pro, a commercial strength trainer — may provide a hint as to what an upcoming product might look like, as Hydrow indicates it wants to make waves using data and AI to provide personalized workouts and “whole health” experiences.

Analytics and AI appear to be segments that Speede has mastered, incorporating muscle science and isokinetic and eccentric training in its data-driven and full-body workouts.

Speede Challenger (credit: Speede Fitness)

The New-Look Hydrow

As part of the move, Bruce Smith, Hydrow’s founder and CEO, is transitioning to chair of Hydrow’s board while passing the chief executive baton to John Stellato, currently Hydrow’s president and chief financial officer.

The Boston-based and celebrity-backed Hydrow confirms it retains the option to acquire the remainder of Speede. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

In an exclusive interview with Athletech News last fall, Smith refrained from commenting on rumors that Hydrow was in talks to acquire rival CityRow, but he did indicate that the company was eyeing additional partnerships and new products in 2024 in the strength category.

“Ultimately, rowing isn’t about rowing,” Smith told ATN last October. “It’s about full health and community, and we’ll be bringing more products into the world that will help people feel better and build community.”

Greg Tepas, co-founder of Speede Fitness, posted on LinkedIn that he and Dan Mooney began with a vision of developing the most effective and efficient strength training machine available on the market.

“After years of building Speede, we now enter a new chapter to take it to the next level by joining forces with Hydrow, Inc.,” he wrote. “We are confident this will help to accelerate getting our equipment to the masses to change strength training as we know it. We couldn’t be happier working with Bruce Smith, John Stellato and the entire Hydrow team to do massive things together.”

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Can Connected Fitness Be Saved?

While it remains to be seen what comes of Hydrow from adding a strength category, other connected fitness companies, most notably Peloton, have not fared well as of late. The pandemic-era darling of fitness has been grappling with mounting losses, including the departure of CEO Barry McCarthy and a wave of layoffs. There is also speculation that Peloton may be nearing a private equity buyout

Despite the woes of Peloton and others, Hydrow reports that delivered unit sales for its rowing machine increased 23% this year when compared to last and that sales on Amazon jumped 273% in the period that ended March 31 versus the prior-year period.

Still, the term “connected fitness” has become somewhat sullied in a post-pandemic world as consumers have returned in large numbers to in-person fitness experiences. At-home fitness equipment companies have sought to separate themselves from the label. 

Smart home gym company Tonal, which offers a strength training system in the same category as Speede, is one such example. Once dubbed “the Peloton of weightlifting,” Tonal CEO Krystal Zell has made clear the mission of the company is about developing an intelligent experience rather than a connected one.

“We’re not trying to create this class experience where you’re connected. Instead, we have a very different philosophy: we are trying to bring intelligent strength to the market,” Zell has told ATN. 

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