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Air bikes and rowers are both excellent fitness machines designed to improve your cardiovascular fitness, work your muscles, and give you a full-body workout. But which one is best? While there are pros and cons with each machine, ultimately it comes down to which one is best for you, your preference, and your goals.
Air bikes, also known as fan bikes, assault bikes, and airdyne bikes, are different than stationary bikes because they have a large fan attached to the front, as well as moving handlebars. The handles and pedals move together against the fan which creates tension. The faster you pedal and harder you push and pull the handles, the more resistance you get.
Rowing Machines are long machines that sit close to the floor and are meant to simulate the experience of using a rowing shell on the water. There is a belt or chain attached to a flywheel that you pull against using your whole body. Some rowing machines use air resistance like air bikes, while others use different forms of resistance.
Now that you have a very brief overview of air bikes and rowers, let’s get into how they compare.
Rowers vs Air Bikes Similarities
Even though these machines are vastly different looking than each other, they do have a lot of similarities. They are even both featured in the Crossfit Games.
I guarantee that if you were to sit on both of these pieces of equipment for just a few minutes, you’d be sweating – that is if you’re working hard. I know whenever I’m on an assault bike or a rower, I’m out of breath within minutes. Fan bikes and rowers are extremely impressive in the level of exercise they provide, and they can both be very humbling. You’re sure to burn a large number of calories using either machine.
They provide full-body workouts
If you’re wanting an exercise that works your entire body, then an air bike or a rower is the way to go. Whoever said that bikes only work your lower body, never met an air bike. Their handlebars move in conjunction with the pedals so you’ll work your lower body as well as your upper body. Rowers work over 80% of the muscles in your body as well. They require you to use your legs, core, back, and arms with every rowing stroke.
Unlike running which places an impact on your joints every time each foot hits the ground, riding an air bike and using a rowing machine are both low-impact activities. There is no jumping, jolting, or pounding involved on either machine. Instead, both generate smooth, fluid body motions that are friendlier on the joints. This makes them both a better alternative to running if you have joint issues.
They require being seated
On both rowers and air bikes, you sit on a seat. Air bikes usually have a bit wider seats than exercise bikes to offer a little bit more support. Rowers often feature square or rectangular padded seats. Both seat types are usually contoured to support your tailbone, too.
They can both use air resistance (mostly)
Air bikes are often called fan bikes because they have a large fan on the front. A belt or chain connects the fan to the pedals, so when you’re riding, the blades in the fan move. As the blades move, the air is sucked in to create resistance. The fans found on air bikes offer unlimited resistance so you can never outwork an air bike. There are rowing machines, called air rowers, that also use unlimited air resistance, too. The flywheels on air rowers work similarly to air bike fans. As you row, the air is pulled into the flywheel. This creates resistance that gets harder the faster you row. There are also rowers that use other types of resistance, like magnetic or water resistance, not all rowers use air resistance.
Differences Between Rowing Machines and Air Bikes
Now let’s break down how they differ.
Air bikes can be easier to use
I don’t mean easier as in less challenging to use. I already mentioned that both of these machines provide intense workouts. Air bikes can be easier in the sense that they are a bit less technical to use. Rowing can require more practice to perfect your form and properly use and engage your muscles. This makes air bikes a little more beginner-friendly. Rowers also sit lower to the ground, making them a bit harder to get on and off of.
Rowers are better for steady-state cardio
This doesn’t mean that you can’t do interval training on a rower, you most certainly can. However, compared to an air bike, you’ll be able to use the machine for longer periods of time. There is also a recovery period built into the rowing position. So, even though it is brief, you get a slight rest in every stroke. The motion on an air bike doesn’t have a rest portion.
Air bikes are better for HIIT training
Because all assault bikes generate an unlimited amount of resistance, this makes them ideal for high-intensity interval training. When you’re pushing hard, it can take just seconds to get your heart soaring on an air bike. Of course, you can use an air bike for steady-state cardio too, but they’re more commonly used for short bursts of time. They typically have wider seats that are better for short periods of time, too.
Rowers can be stored to save space
Air bikes don’t fold up and are stored as they’re used. Rowers however come in different types. Some can fold in half, while others can be stored upright when they’re not in use. This helps to save space.
Air bikes allow targetted training
The activity of rowing is consistent and constantly requires you to use your upper body, lower body, back, and core, as mentioned above. Air bikes, however, can let you target your lower or upper body in the way they’re designed. You can simply just push the pedals with your feet, or just push and pull the handles with your arms. When focusing on upper body training, there are footpegs on either side of the fan to rest your legs.
Rowers have multiple resistance types
In addition to air rowers, there are water rowers and magnetic rowers. Water rowers have water in the flywheel to row against. These often feel the most realistic to rowing outdoors and generate a water-sloshing sound that most users find relaxing to use. Magnetic rowers are the quietest rower type and have adjustable resistance levels. These can be great for shared spaces and beginners because you can get more tension without having to row harder.
Air bikes don’t require wifi or electricity
Air bikes don’t require wifi or electrical outlets to use. They have battery-powered consoles that turn on when you begin pedaling. Some rowers don’t require wifi or electricity to use and have similar consoles to air bikes. There are rowers that require being plugged in and an internet connection, though.
Rowers can include attached touch screens
It is pretty common nowadays to find large touch screens attached to rowing machines. These often include a fitness subscription that the user can subscribe to in order to get full access to the screen. Rowers like the Hydrow, have a large attached screen that streams trainer-led workouts. Rowers from ProForm and NordicTrack also have rowers like these with similar programming. Alternatively, the Ergatta Water Rower has computerized games and competitions on the screen to keep you engaged while rowing. Air bikes typically come with a simple console attached, that has limited technology compared to these touch screens.
Assault Bike vs Rower – Which One Is Best For You?
In addition to your personal preference and goals, your home space should be taken into account when determining if you should get a rower or an air bike.
Noise is a big reason why air bikes can’t be used in some homes. The noise that is generated from the fan is loud. We don’t recommend them for shared spaces like apartments because they might be too disruptive to your neighbors. They’re commonly found in garage gyms. Air rowers are similar because they also produce a lot of noise and might only be suitable for garage gyms and areas in the home where sound output isn’t a problem. If noise is a factor for you, then you have some options with rowing machines. Magnetic rowers and even water rowers are quiet and more suitable for shared spaces.
Air bikes and rowers both require a good amount of area to use. Rowers take up more space when they’re in use because of their long footprint. However, you can find many models that fold in half or even store upright. They require a high enough ceiling to be stored upright though. Air bikes don’t fold up and are stored the same way they’re used. They are nowhere near as long as rowers though. Both types of machines typically come with transportation wheels so you can move them around if needed.
If you have certain ailments or mobility issues, one of these machines might be better for you. Rowers are seated closer to the ground and can be harder to get on and off of. They can also be harder on your back. Therefore the positioning on an air bike might be a better option if you have back issues. If you have shoulder problems though, a rower might be the better choice. As always, consult with your health care provider before getting into either activity if you’re a beginner or are recovering from a previous injury.
The Bottom Line – Rowers vs Air Bikes
Air bikes and rowers provide challenging workouts that can definitely benefit your overall health. One isn’t better than the other, but one will most likely be better for you. We want you to take home a piece of equipment that you love to use and use regularly. Whether you prefer riding an air bike, or find that a quiet rower works better for your space, you can’t go wrong with either of these machines. And maybe if you’re still unsure of which one is right for you, you get both?