The rowing machine and stationary bike are both highly effective cardio exercise equipment that is suitable for any level of fitness. Rowing and cycling can get your heart pumping quickly, burning those calories and improving your heart health. They are also more gentle on the knees and hip joints compared to other cardio machines like the treadmill. With all these similar benefits, you may be wondering which exercise equipment will give you a better workout.
The short answer is it depends on your personal goals and preference. If you’re a beginner who wants to lose weight, the exercise bike is likely a better choice since rowing requires greater skill to perfect. If you want an efficient full body workout that will continually improve your fitness, then a rowing machine may be preferable. In any case, a bike and rower can produce similar results depending on how you use them. In the following, you will be able to decide which is the better choice for you.
Exercise Bike vs. Rowing Machine Comparison
Stationary bikes appear almost like the regular road bikes, although with different riding positions depending on the type of bike. To mimic the natural motion of riding outdoors, exercise bikes feature a weighted flywheel which rotates and provides resistance as you pedal. Like traditional bikes, indoor bikes target the muscles in your lower body.
On the other hand, rowing machines simulate the action of rowing on a boat in water, focusing on a wider range of muscles in your body. Likewise, rowing machines use a flywheel to provide a smooth rowing action and adjustable resistance.
Both rowing and cycling can get your heart rate up and improve your cardiovascular endurance while burning a lot of calories. Since these exercises involve seating positions, they put less stress on the knees, ankles, and hip joints, as opposed to running (on a treadmill or otherwise).
The main difference of the rowing machine and stationary bike is the particular muscles they work out. While both of them work the lower body, the bike puts most of the work on your thighs and legs. In contrast, your entire body can get a lot of work when rowing.
Is a Rower or Stationary Bike better for weight loss?
Both the rowing machine and stationary bike provide highly effective fat-burning cardio workouts. If you have weight loss goals you’d like to meet, you can adjust the resistance to increase the workout intensity on either machine.
Although, as mentioned, the rower offers a more demanding workout than an exercise bike since the former requires greater skills and engages more muscle groups differently. The rowing movement is more challenging for most people due to the seated position, bending of the knees, and the added work for the upper body and core to maintain proper form. You typically work out for 20 to 30 minutes on a rower and burn anywhere from 200 to 400 calories depending on your body weight and the intensity of your workout.
On the other hand, the exercise bike offers a more intuitive and comfortable riding position and leg movement. While indoor cycling also engages your arms and abdominal muscles to some extent, it heavily focuses on your lower body. You can burn up to 300 calories in 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise on a stationary bike, and even work for a maximum of one hour, burning up to 600 calories.
Rower and stationary bike workouts will burn roughly the same number of calories at the same intensity and duration. However, the greater effort you need for rowing may tire you out faster than biking. And so, if your goal is to burn fat quickly, then a stationary bike may be the best cardio exercise for you. But, if you want to burn body fat and also tone muscles throughout your body, then we’d recommend the rower.
Rower or Stationary Bike for People with Back and Knee Problems
Both machines provide effective low-impact cardio workouts suitable for a range of fitness levels. However, some physical conditions or previous injury may pose limitations to your body’s capability to perform certain movements on your exercise machine.
For instance, the rowing machine demands you to sustain your form as you push and pull with your legs and arms, while your seating position offers little support to your back. This offers a good stability workout for your back and core, but if you have a pre-exisitng back issue and poor posture, then it may increase the pain and cause further harm. Rowing also requires you to bend your knees to complete the movement, which may not be ideal if you’re already dealing with knee problems.
On the other hand, the stationary bike puts less strain on the back and knees. Cycling involves a more comfortable seating position, and recumbent bikes even include a backrest for better support. While a stationary bike does put a bit of strain on your knees, it is much less than running and you can limit the impact by pedaling with moderate to light resistance. Therefore, the exercise bike is more suitable for older people, those with back or knee problems, or for recovery and rehabilitation after knee surgery.
What’s Better for a Full Body Workout?
Again, both the exercise bike and the rowing machine provide a highly effective heart-pumping cardio workout. With regular exercise, they also help tone up and strengthen your muscles, which should be a critical factor in losing weight and staying fit.
In particular, both fitness machines target your lower body muscles, strengthening your legs, thighs, and buttocks. When you pedal on the bike, your quadriceps and hamstrings (the front and back muscles of your thighs) do most of the work in bending your knees and pushing the pedals down with your feet. In addition, your calves and gluteal muscles work hard to sustain this pedaling motion. Maintaining your balance also works your upper body and core muscles, although at a lesser extent compared to outdoor cycling.
On the other hand, the rowing machine engages more of your body muscles than the stationary bike. While your lower body works to push your body back and extend your knees, your shoulders and back muscles work to pull your arms back and your back and abdominal muscles provide stability. Thus, you can get a more complete full-body workout with a rowing machine.
Rowing Machine Pros and Cons
The rowing machine is suitable for those who want an efficient full body workout. Rowers come in different types and sizes with a good range of resistance levels adjustable through manual or digital controls.
Rowing is great for toning your upper body and abs, compared to the bike, which mainly focuses on your legs, thighs, and buttocks. Easily adjustable resistance also allows for HIIT workouts.
On the downside, rowing workouts can be more challenging than cycling due to the position and form you need to maintain when rowing, which can tire out your arms more quickly. And so, although they burn around the same amount of calories, you may not lose as much weight on the rower if you continue working without proper form.
Rowing is not the most beginner-friendly cardio machine. You must know the right rowing techniques to avoid back pain and get more from your workout.
Stationary Bike Pros and Cons
The stationary bike can give you a great cardio workout, but the main benefit is for toning the muscles in your lower body. Depending on the type of bike, you may also target specific upper body and abdominal muscles.
Biking proves to be a more intuitive and less demanding workout for most people, making it suitable for almost anyone at any level of fitness. It puts little strain on the joints and provides better support for the back. The adjustable resistance levels also allows you to perform HIIT workouts on a stationary bike.
However, if you’re looking to tone up your entire body, this may take longer to achieve with a stationary bike alone. You’ll need additional fitness accessories such as free weights to target other muscle groups.
Summary — Which is the Better Workout?
Rowing and cycling are both amazing low-impact cardio workouts, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. If you want either a high-intensity workout to lose weight or a gentle cardio workout for bad knees, then a stationary bike may be more suitable. But if you want a complete workout for the whole body, then a rowing machine will be well worth all of your investment. Ultimately, the choice depends on your personal preference. Both machines are available with many different features and a range of sizes that can fit every budget. You must pick the exercise you enjoy more so that you can stick with your routine consistently.