Rowing Machine Vs. Exercise Bike, Which Should You Buy?

Investing in an exercise machine is a commitment to your health that makes it much easier to stick with an exercise routine and can save you thousands of dollars throughout the years in place of a traditional gym membership.

Not having an entire gymnasium in your house, it’s crucial to get the right exercise machine so you can really make the most of it and get fit.

Rowing machines and exercise bikes are two of the most popular options for home exercise machines, but which one is the best? It depends largely on your goals because each machine does a different but very specific thing.

In this article we’ll compare the two machines based on a few criteria: ease of use, workout routines, calorie burning power, influence on cardio strength and muscle tone, and cost of equipment. 

Ease of Use

The ease of use depends largely on the specific brand and model you choose, but most people will find an exercise bike easier to use than a rowing machine. An exercise bike is much closer to a real bike than any rowing machine is to the real sensation of rowing. In addition, recumbent exercise bike models provide you with back support so they’re great if you do have a history of back issues.

If you already know something about proper rowing technique a rowing machine will also be quite easy to use. Water and air powered rowing machines are the rowing machines most often recommended and generally allow you to increase resistance levels by increasing the speed of your own rowing, whereas rowing machines that use magnetic resistance usually have a dampener lever you can use to adjust the setting.

Workout Routines

The cheapest models of both machines are likely to come without any workout routines at all, but high quality exercise bikes usually have at least a couple different exercise routines for you to choose from. Rowing machines are much less likely to have preprogrammed workout routines, even once you get into the more professional machines.

Calorie Burning Power

The exact calorie burning potential depends largely on your own physical fitness, the length of your workouts and the intensity of each workout. Still, you can generally expect to lose a slightly higher calorie content on an exercise bike than on a rowing machine.

Muscle Improvement

Here is where the rowing machine is a clear winner. While exercise bikes do a limited amount for your core and nothing at all for your arm or shoulder muscles, a rowing machine works out every major muscle group including your biceps and triceps. You’ll also get a much more impressive stomach and back workout, helping eliminate belly fat and create muscle tone throughout your entire body more quickly. If you’re only going to do one type of exercise, rowing is the workout for you.

Cost of Equipment

There are many different brands and models of exercise bikes and rowing machines, with the cheapest of both being roughly $100-200. These machines might be a great way to test out whether or not you’ll actually use an exercise bike or rowing machine but they won’t last a serious athlete very long and often don’t offer high enough levels of resistance.

If you want to invest in a really high quality rowing machine you can expect to spend $900-1200. A top quality exercise bike will cost $1200-1500. You can expect these machines to last for many years and some even come with impressive warranties that make them almost entirely risk free purchases.

The Verdict

If you can only fit one exercise machine into your home or you only have time for one type of workout a rowing machine is a clear winner, providing an impressive full body workout and excellent cardio strengthening power. An exercise bike is excellent for people who already actively lift weights or have equipment designed to strengthen their upper body as well.

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