Rowing vs Treadmill: Which is Best for You

There is definitely a lot of equipment to choose from when you go to the gym. In this article, we compare two of the most commonly used cardio machines you will see in a gym, the rowing machine vs treadmill to help you decide which is best for your fitness goals.

In general, rowing is best for cardio because it offers more of a full body workout, can be done in varying intensities, and is easier on the joints than running on a treadmill.

Walking or running on a treadmill and rowing can all be part of a workout routine, but each machine has specific features that offer different results. 

Below we explain the benefits and drawbacks of both pieces of equipment, informed by common features of each machine and our user review research. 

If you have a home gym, we have also compared costs of rowing machines and treadmills, along with important features you should consider like size, impact on joints, average calories burned, and even storage capabilities.  

Rowing vs Treadmill Which is Best for You Featured Photo

Rowing machines and treadmills are two very different pieces of equipment that can give you a good workout session.

If you love a good cardio workout, you might want to consider giving the rowing machine or treadmill a try the next time you hit the gym.

Aside from the cardio workout, both pieces of equipment can also be complementary to your strength training regimen to build your muscles. 

Since each machine affects different muscles of the body, read on to learn which will fit best in your workout routine. 

Rowing Machine vs Treadmill: Benefits and Drawbacks


Rowing is one of the good options if you want your dose of cardio workout.

Rowing Machine vs Treadmill Benefits and Drawbacks

According to a New York Times article, it is used by people who want to get that endurance training. Since it is a form of cardio exercise, it can improve endurance in your heart and lungs, and improve oxygen flow in your body.

Rowing can give you a total body workout as it can work a lot of muscle groups especially when done properly.

Usually, people think that the upper body is the only one working when you use a rowing machine. The muscles in the legs, arms, back, and core are the primary targets of this equipment and can really give you a sweat!

A rowing machine is also very beginner friendly, and with the proper form, it will strengthen and tone your muscles.

Now, let’s have a look at the benefits and drawbacks of a rowing machine.

Benefits of rowing

Unlike weightlifting, rowing is a low-impact workout. It is very forgiving especially with people who have joint issues.

This is also good for beginners who want to have that full body workout experience before doing intense strength workouts.

While low impact, rowing is a full-body strength and conditioning workout that levels up your fitness journey. It gets your heart rate up and definitely works on your stamina. Rowing works the major muscle groups – core, legs, arms, back, shoulders, and chest.

A single pull on the rowing machine can give a lot of impact in your workout.

According to Harvard Health, for a 125-pound person, a 30-minute moderate stationary rowing can burn 120 calories. It can be a great way of burning calories depending on how intense you want your workout to be.

Drawbacks of rowing machines

Of course, there must be a drawback to using a rowing machine.

Well, there are a few that we will be covering in this article.

While we have already established that rowing is a low impact exercise, it can still put a strain on your lower back especially if you have poor form.

If you are a beginner in rowing, have someone to guide you on how to row properly. This will save you time and will prevent injuries from happening.

If you have a home gym and are planning to buy one to add to your equipment, it is best to know now that rowing machines can get loud. When you pull the cord back, it creates resistance causing the machine to make a noise.

This is probably a minor drawback if you have your own house, but it might not be best in an apartment setting. Your neighbors might not be happy with the noise, especially if you are one to work out at night.

Another drawback of a rowing machine is it takes up a lot of space. It is a very long piece of equipment. Some rowing machines have a big tank in front, also called the flywheel, which makes it look a lot bigger.

There are foldable rowing machines out in the market if you do not mind the space it will take up once unfolded.

According to this article, the average size of a rowing machine is 83.1″ in length, 21.99″ in width, and 34.4″ in height. You might want to measure your space first if you are planning on buying one.

Rowing pros and cons

Low impactLow back strain if form is poor
Good for the jointsCan be noisy
Is a strength and endurance workoutTakes up a lot of space


Now, let’s move on to the treadmill. 

Man on a Treadmill

A treadmill is a stationary machine you can use for a cardio workout. Whether it be walking, jogging, or running.

If you like to run, a treadmill is definitely good to use when you are at the gym, or even add to your home gym equipment!

The treadmill is especially good for you if you live in a place with unpredictable weather. There might be times when you wanted to go for a run but then it suddenly starts to rain. Well, the treadmill is your friend in cases like this.

Read on to find out the benefits and drawbacks of a treadmill.

Benefits of the treadmill

If you are thinking, why even use a treadmill when I can go out and go for a run?

Most treadmills have cushioning or shock absorptions that help your muscles absorb the shock that your legs get while running. This cushioning system can be less stressful for your legs when you run on a treadmill.

Unlike a rowing machine, treadmills offer more variation. It has adjustable speed to accommodate your training needs. You can go for a moderate walking pace and go up into a high intensity workout.

The slope can also be adjusted depending on your preference. You can run on a flat surface or on an incline, which gives you the feeling of running up a hill.

Most treadmills nowadays have built-in screens where you can press a button to start or pause the machine. If you get bored while using the treadmill, some allow you to watch tv or stream your favorite show all on that built-in screen. You get your workout done while getting some entertainment!

Entertainment aside, treadmills can also help burn calories. According to this article, you can burn 240 calories in 30 minutes when you run at 5mph.

Drawbacks of the treadmill

If you are looking for a total body workout, a treadmill might not be the best equipment to use.

While your whole body is working, it is usually the lower body that gets the most out of a treadmill workout. It mostly works your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. The upper body still works, of course, but with lesser intensity than when you work out with a rowing machine.

Even with a cushioning system in place, running on a treadmill can still put a lot of stress on your joints since it is a weight-bearing exercise.

Treadmill Pros and Cons

Can be a low-impact workoutPuts stress on the joints
Easy to useCan take up space
Can burn caloriesMore focus on the lower body

Working out on a rowing machine vs treadmill

Working out on a rowing machine vs treadmill

As with any kind of workout, consistency is key if you want to achieve results. Doing your workouts regularly will help you achieve your fitness goals.

Aim for at least 20 to 30 minutes of a workout either with a rowing machine or a treadmill. You can do your exercises 3 to 5 times a week for optimal results.

Rest is essential to repair your muscles to get them going for your next workout. Make sure to include rest days between your training days to be in top shape.

Rowing machine vs Treadmill storage

If you want to get a rowing machine or treadmill for your home gym, keep this in mind:

Both the rowing machine and treadmill can take up a lot of space. An average rowing machine can be 6 ft to 8 ft long.

For treadmills, the average home treadmills are about 7 ft. long and 5 ft high.

There are foldable rowing machines and treadmills which can make it easier for you to store the machine when not in use. Even though it is foldable, the whole equipment might be a tight fit if your space is limited.

Rowing machine vs Treadmill cost

The cost of equipment is one of the biggest factors when it comes to buying.

Both rowing machines and treadmills can cost you a couple of hundred dollars up to a thousand dollars.

With the treadmill, you have to take into consideration the kind of machine you want to buy. Treadmills with built-in screens that you can use to stream shows can be more expensive than regular treadmills.

Make sure to look at different options before you buy a rowing machine or treadmill. It can be a good investment in your fitness journey to find the right equipment for you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Which is better? Treadmill or rowing machine

Rowing is definitely better if you want to have a full-body workout.

You can work major muscles with the same level of intensity with a rowing machine.

That being said, a treadmill can still give you a sweat.

If you are looking for more variation in your workout, a treadmill is a better option than a rowing machine. You can achieve a low-impact or high-intensity workout with the treadmill.

Is running or rowing better for fat loss?

Exercising on a rowing machine or running on a treadmill can be an effective way of burning calories. But, do not expect to lose weight just with exercise. Eating healthy alongside exercising is the most effective way if you want to lose weight.

That is not to say you should diet and eat less. No. You need food to fuel your body especially if you like doing intense workouts all the time.

So if you pair rowing or running on a treadmill with a healthy meal, you can achieve the toned body you want. 

Is it better to row faster?

In my experience of doing exercises, faster does not always mean better.

If you want to get faster, you should start rowing slower first.  Slow rowing means better form and better connection between your mind and your body.

Especially as a beginner, get a feel of how a rowing machine will work with your body before doing any quick movements

You will be able to feel if your exercise is going right or wrong. Once you get better doing things slowly, then you can go faster at rowing.

It is always better to slow down and have consistent strokes than going fast and being sloppy.

Is it better to run longer or faster on a treadmill?

Like in rowing, it is better to start slow first and then go faster when you are more comfortable with your present speed.

With regard to the run time, it is good to run both short and long distances. It can help build your stamina.

With both rowing and running, it is best to give your body a chance to rest no matter if you are doing short or long bouts of workout sessions.

Is rowing or running hard on the knees?

Rowing is easier on the knees while running is harder on our joints. That is because running is a weight-bearing exercise.

If you have joint problems, it is best to do rowing rather than running.


Between a treadmill and rowing machine, a rowing machine will offer more of a full-body workout. Rowing machines are also easier on the knees than running. We think a rowing machine is the better option if you want to add cardio to your workout, especially in quick bursts for a HIIT workout.

In a comparison of exercise machines for burning fat, the treadmill wins in calories burned, as long as you’re a runner who can maintain a moderate to fast speed. Also, if you want to take long walks, but live in an uncomfortable climate, the treadmill will be the best option for you. 

Ultimately, your choice of equipment will always depend on your fitness goals. Hopefully this detailed comparison will help you plan your workouts to be most efficient and enjoyable!