Are you interested in exercising at home but get overwhelmed with the so many options out there?
Especially as far as cardio equipment goes, treadmills are no longer the best option for everyone.
Rowing machines are getting more and more popular, which is great because their price dropped, making even the best rowing machines very affordable.
Besides being great machines for doing cardio and an excellent way to lose weight, they are also pretty good for strength training.
But how do Rowing Machines compare with elliptical trainers, recumbent exercise bikes, and treadmills?
That's what we are going to cover in this article! And in great depth, covering every aspect and all the differences between the machines.
We even compare each machine against the other and rate on a scale of 1 to 5 of how good they are for weight loss, strength & muscle building, ease of use and affordability.
Want to know which machine should you get? Read on.
What we'll talk about here
You can jump to any section of this article or just read through it.
WHAT ARE ROWING MACHINES?
The rowing machine, also called an ergometer, is not a complex piece of exercise equipment. However, it does have unique features that require some background knowledge.
The machine was designed to simulate the actions of rowers who propel boats through water.
While grasping a bar, which acts as the oar, you sit on a sliding seat.
The first movement is a push with your legs away from the front of the machine.
The second movement uses a pulling action, first with the core and then with the arms. Now, you’re at the back of the machine.
To return to the front, reverse the movement: extend the arms, then the body and finally, contract the legs.
The damper is the main adjustment you can make while using the rowing machine. A higher damper setting will give the effect of a slower, heavier boat, while a lower damper setting will feel make the machine act like a lightweight boat.
BENEFITS OF ROWING MACHINES
ROWING MACHINE TECHNIQUE
It's important to have a proper technique when using any exercise equipment, but it's even more important when using rowing machines.
Learning the fundamentals of proper rowing technique will serve you in the long run. Be patient with yourself as you take time to completely understand how to use the machine.
Rowing Technique Video
If you really want to take it seriously, you can ask a friend or a family member to record yourself in action and analyze your technique, but it's not something that is required. With just a bit of practice and self-correction, your body will learn to automatically carry you in proper form so you’ll be rowing like a pro.
Take a moment to understand how mastering correct technique will help you work more efficiently and safely.
Efficiency - You will gain an awareness of how the body coordinates to move most efficiently during the rowing motions. Extra movements that don’t thrust your “boat” through “water” take away from the productivity of your workout. Use only the muscles that are actually needed.
Employ the correct order and coordination of movements. The precise alignment, positions and actions of perfect rowing technique are not arbitrary. They are based on physics and will give you the most potent strength using the least amount of force.
Safety - After learning proper technique, you’ll be able to push your limits without risking injury. For example, in the position with your legs extended, be sure to keep your back at an angle of 110 degrees. It your back goes beyond this angle, there is a greater chance of pulling your muscles.
ROWING MACHINE VS. ELLIPTICAL TRAINER
Both machines offer a whole-body workout with low impact, so the elliptical have many benefits similar to rowing machines. The main differences appear in posture and practicality.
For the rowing machine, you’ll remain in a seated position. The movements come directly from a real-life scenario, modeled after the functional activity of manually driving a boat through water.
In contrast, with an elliptical, you stride while being erect. The movements used on this machine are unlike those you are likely to experience in a practical setting, though beneficial nonetheless.
ROWING MACHINE VS ELLIPTICAL - HOME SPACE REQUIREMENTS
By design, rowing machines have to take up more length than elliptical machines. When you sit on the rower, your legs are extended, and the handle you pull is connected to the flywheel which is a couple of feet ahead of you.
Rowing machines are characterized by being long in length, narrow in width and very short in height.
This makes rowing machines ideal for tall users who have to place the machine in a room with a very low ceiling.
In contrast, ellipticals require much more height than rowers, that's because, first, you are standing rather than sitting, and second, the elliptical pedals keep you elevated a few inches above the floor. The total height requirements of ellipticals are generally your own height plus 15-20 inches.
Most users should be comfortable with either machine.
If you prefer an elliptical, some manufacturers design their elliptical machines to be used in low-ceiling environments.
For the top home ellipticals (even for small places) click here.
ROWING MACHINE VS ELLIPTICAL - FOR CARDIO & WEIGHT LOSS
You can easily achieve a successful cardio workout on either machine. These two machines are similar; the labor comes from enlisting both pushing and pulling actions.
Set the damper low on the rowing machine and set the resistance low on the elliptical. Keep a continuous high speed of movement for at least 30 minutes and you’ll reap the cardio rewards.
ROWING MACHINE VS ELLIPTICAL - FOR MUSCLE GAIN AND MUSCLE TONE
The rowing machine’s intensity comes from repetitively alternating an exertion of strength with a brief moment of recovery.
The movement used on a rowing machine is 2 dimensional, with a distinct pushing of the legs and a pulling of the core and arms.
As a result, the muscles will pump in a similar mechanism as lifting weights. Using a rowing machine will actively build muscles in back, arms, legs and core. Think of the rowing machine as a hybrid apparatus that fuses weightlifting and cardio.
The movement used on an elliptical trainer is more circular. The continuous stepping movements don’t ever start, stop and reverse. Nevertheless, your muscles will still feel the burn.
This machine is a bit more versatile than the rower. You can choose to only work the lower body, leaving the arms stationary. Also, you’re able to adjust the length and shape of stride, increase the incline, and reverse the pedaling. All of these options target slightly different muscles. Overall, you’ll be firing up the arms, back, core and legs.
ROWING MACHINE VS ELLIPTICAL - RELIABILITY
In general these machines take up relatively the same amount of space.
Compact rowers are available for those who have truly limited floor area. Rowing machines are simple and manually operated.
The elliptical is generally a little bit more expensive (although you can find some very affordable ellipticals too), and often comes with electronic, programmable settings. Generally, the elliptical, with its more complex operation, requires more maintenance as the machine ages. You can find the most recommended elliptical machines by clicking here.
ROWING MACHINE VS ELLIPTICAL - PROS & CONS
Rowing Machine Pros
Rowing Machine Cons
ROWING MACHINE VS. TREADMILL
Running is a high-impact weight-bearing exercise that can be stressful on the joints.
As you launch your entire physical being through space, you slam down four to eight times your own body weight with each step.
As you can imagine, knee injuries are common among runners.
Rowing on the other hand, offers a low-impact cardio alternative, with proper technique injury is unlikely.
ROWING MACHINE VS TREADMILL - FOR CARDIO & WEIGHT LOSS
These machines demonstrate two very different ways in which to burn calories.
The specific cardio benefits you gain will depend on how vigorously you use each machine. You’ll need to be running at a pace of at least 5 mph on the treadmill for number of burned calories to be comparable to those burned on a rowing machine.
However, once you add an incline to your treadmill program, your total calories burned will be greater than even a vigorous rowing session
As running is essentially launching your entire body through space over and over, it demands some of the highest energy outputs of any physical activity.
ROWING MACHINE VS TREADMILL - FOR MUSCLE GAIN AND MUSCLE TONE
Unlike the treadmill, rowing machines work the whole body - upper, lower and core.
The treadmill mostly works out the leg muscles. Since you remain upright while running, you’ll also need to engage the core to some extent. You'll increase strength and muscle tone in your quads, hamstrings, glues, and calves, but you not nearly as much as you would on a rowing machine.
The rowing machine works so many more muscles than the treadmill. Rowing develops the back muscles, the arms, particularly the biceps as well as shoulders and legs (quads, hamstrings and calves).
In terms of muscle gain there is no question about it, rowing machine is the winner.
ROWING MACHINE VS TREADMILL - RELIABILITY
Treadmills are inherently less reliable than rowing machines because they require electricity, have large motors and have a treadbelt.
Treadbelts are the surface you are running on, and they tend to wear out and need replacement depending on how heavy the use is.
Treadmill motors are another part that may malfunction which is why treadmill manufacturers don't typically give long warranty for motor units.
Rowing machines on the other hand, don't need electricity, don't have treadbelts and don't require motors. The rowing machine is the winner in terms of reliability.
ROWING MACHINE VS TREADMILL - PROS & CONS
Rowing Machine Pros
Rowing Machine Cons
ROWING MACHINE VS. EXERCISE BIKE
The rowing machine and the exercise bike are both based on recreating an indoor experience from an outdoor activity. The machines regulate drag, simulating the effects of water or wind.
Through these settings, you can change the heaviness of operation. But ultimately, you decide how much effort to produce with each stroke or pedal you take.
UPRIGHT BIKE & RECUMBENT EXERCISE BIKE
An exercise bike is a general term used to describe any stationary bike.
Every stationary bike is essentially an exercise bike.
However, there are three major types of exercise bikes: recumbent bikes, upright bike and spin bikes. There are several differences between recumbent and upright bikes.
However, the main difference between them is that the recumbent bike has a backrest and the seated position reminds sitting on a regular chair, while the upright bike has no backrest and is very much like a standard road sports bike.
In terms of comfort, there's hardly any cardio equipment that can beat the comfortable seated position of the recumbent bike.
As for how many calories are burned during the workout, a recumbent bike and an upright bike will burn more or less the same amount of calories as a rowing machine, though spin bike may burn more calories than other types of exercise bikes.
ROWING MACHINE VS EXERCISE BIKE- FOR CARDIO & WEIGHT LOSS
Because cycling relies primarily on the heftiest muscles in the body, it requires more effort and energy expenditure.
This difference is expressed in the overall calorie count, with cycling racking up greater numbers per same time spent on the machine.
If you want the calories burned on a rowing machine to match that of an upright or recumbent exercise bike, you should increase your intensity.
Make sure your cycling speed hits at least 14 mph to surpass the calories burned during a lively rowing session.
ROWING MACHINE VS EXERCISE BIKE - FOR MUSCLE GAIN AND MUSCLE TONE
By now we know that rowing provides opportunities for the upper, middle and lower body to gain muscle.
Stationary bikes allow just the lower body to shine. The muscles used while cycling include the quads, hamstrings, groin and glutes.
Unlike the rowing machine, elliptical and treadmill, the passive sitting position used on an exercise bike means that your core is not working. This piece of equipment truly isolates the legs. The winner here is clearly the rowing machine.
ROWING MACHINE VS EXERCISE BIKE - RELIABILITY
Exercise bikes and rowing machines come in a comparable price range. They both fit snuggly into limited spaces.
They are both reasonable when it comes to noise production, although the magnetic rower models definitely win the quietest machine award.
Many stationary bicycles have built in programs, in which the machine delivers a pre-set workout with automatic changes in resistance.
ROWING MACHINE VS EXERCISE
BIKE- PROS & CONS
Rowing Machine Pros
Rowing Machine Cons
Exercise Bike Pros
Exercise Bike Cons
COMPARISON & RATINGS
When deciding on which exercise machine best fits your needs, you’ll need to sift through a lot of information.
We’ve complied everything you need to know in an easy-to-review comparison chart so you can quickly and easily decide which machine is perfect for your home gym. We rated each machine out of 5 stars.
FAT BURNING - WEIGHT LOSS
Winner: Treadmill. According to research, you will burn the most calories on a treadmill compared to the other gym machines. This study determines that your perception of effort on a treadmill is actually less than your actual effort, making it easier for you to push extra hard.
STRENGTH & MUSCLE
Winner: Rowing Machine. You’ll gain lots of pure strength from using the rower. Also, this is the only machine listed that targets the back and core muscles.
EASY OF USE
Winner: Exercise Bicycle & Treadmills. We’ve been pedaling since we were kids and been walking since we were babies. What could be easier?
Winner: Rowing Machine. High quality rowers are available for under $150. Other machines require more complex motors, moving parts, and programs, bolstering the overall price.
FINAL WORDS OF ADVICE
So, which machine is right for you?
If you're already relatively strong and healthy and you're looking to burn fat as quickly as possible, running on an inclined treadmill can't be beat.
You can find the most recommended treadmills in this link : best treadmills for any weight.
If you need to go for a high-intensity cardio workout without pounding weight on your joints, head over to the elliptical, where your whole body gets involved in the low-impact action.
If you are looking for the best ellipticals for home, click here.
We also reviewed ultra low budget ellipticals which you can find here.
Are you looking for a gentle easy workout session? One that's not too stressful and may have your hands free for using your mobile phone than go for the classic exercise bicycle.
If you are looking to cross train.
If you are bored with the usual gym equipment.
If you want to get stronger.
If you want to work out your whole body and increase muscle mass which long term can burn more fat than:
Try out the rowing machine!!
For a list of the Top 10 Rowing Machines click here.
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