Rowing Machine Vs Exercise Bike – Comparing Pros And Cons

Sydney KaiserSydney Kaiser

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Rowing machines and exercise bikes are both really great cardio equipment that are beneficial towards your overall health. But which one comes out on top?

It all depends on you. What are your goals? Do you have any physical limitations or ailments? Which exercise do you like to do? These factors can help determine the machine that is right for you. So, while one isn’t necessarily better than the other, one is best for you.

Rowing Machine vs Exercise Bike Comparison

Before I get into helping you make the ultimate choice of being on team rower or team bike, let’s dive into comparing the pros and cons of the rowing machine vs exercise bike.

Rowing Machine Pros & Cons

As mentioned above, rowing is an excellent cardio workout, but it also can tone your muscles. It works your entire body, and doesn’t require much time to get your heart pumping. There’s also different types of resistance that rowers use. You can learn more about the different types of rowers as well as find our list where we ranked the best rowing machines.

Pros
  • Burns calories
  • Strengthens cardiovascular system
  • Great for short high intensity workouts
  • Full body workout
  • Low impact workout
  • Some can be folded in half or stored upright
Cons
  • Can put strain on your lower back and knees
  • Requires mobility through the hips to sit close to the floor
  • Not great if you have poor posture
  • The machine can be loud depending on the resistance
  • Long footprint

Exercise Bike Pros & Cons

The exercise bike shares similar health benefits as the rower, although it primarily works and tones the muscles in your lower body versus entire body. Depending on the resistance added and intensity level, riding an exercise bike can get your heart rate up pretty quickly too. There are other types of exercise bikes that you can learn about here. In this comparison however, I am referring to exercise bikes that are used in indoor cycling classes. You can check out our list of best exercise bikes to find which ones is best for you!

Pros
  • Burns calories
  • Strengthens cardiovascular system
  • Great for longer endurance workouts
  • Low impact workout
  • Better for knee and back problems
  • The noise output is relatively low
Cons
  • Can’t be folded or stored a different way to take up less space
  • Large footprint isn’t great for smaller spaces
  • Primarily just works your lower body

Is An Exercise Bike Or Rower Better For You?

Now that you’ve gotten to know each of the machines more and how they compare and differ, it’s time to figure out which one is the better option for you.

Physical Limitations

We strongly encourage you to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you are recovering from an injury or just getting into fitness. Over time, prior injuries or even just aches and pains can creep up and affect your body and how it moves.

This is where the exercise bike might be the better choice. While both machines are low-impact especially when compared to running, the exercise bike tends to be more forgiving than the rowing machine. Back and knee issues can get exacerbated, especially if your form is poor. Exercise bikes are typically gentler on the joints and muscles.

Your Home

What kind of space do you have for your machine at home? Is there room for it to remain while it’s not in use? Will it need to be moved and stored? How large is the space? There’s nothing worse than purchasing a piece of fitness equipment and then unboxing it at home only to realize you don’t have enough room to use it.

Although rowing machines are long and tend to take up a good amount of space, many come with storage options. Some fold in half, while others can be stored upright. Storing upright won’t work if your ceiling is too low though. Exercise bikes however don’t fold and are stored in the same position that they are used.

Both types of these machines often come with transport wheels so you can move them if needed. Overall though, they both require a bit of room to use.

Another factor in your home to consider is noise. In general, exercise bikes can be relatively quiet and even silent depending on their resistance type. Some magnetic resistance bikes are practically silent. In comparison, rowers typically generate more sound. The level of sound depends on the resistance that they use. Air rowers are louder, while water rowers can be more quiet and soothing.

Your Goals

What are your fitness goals? More importantly: what kind of exercise do you prefer? No matter which machine you choose, you want to be sure you’ll use it regularly. Without regular use of either type of equipment, won’t let you reap their health benefits.

Also, how long do you like to work out? Rowing machines are great for shorter, high-intensity workouts rather than long periods of time because they work your entire body and require a good amount of effort.

This is not to say that riding an exercise is easy! If you’ve ever taken a trainer-led class you know that they’re anything but. However, indoor cycling can be easier to maintain over a longer period of time than rowing.

Both machines can aid in weight loss, and they certainly can burn a lot of calories. But at the end of the day, if you love cycling you’re probably going to use an exercise bike more than a rower, and vice versa.

Bottom Line: Rower vs Exercise Bike

While rowing machines and exercise bikes have similar health benefits and are great cardio options, they each have aspects that are better or worse for certain individuals. If you have back or knee problems, riding an indoor cycling bike might be better for you. If you’re short on time and want a full-body workout, rowing is a solid option. No matter which machine you choose, however, you’re sure to get a killer workout.

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