Exercise Machine

Rowing Machine vs. Elliptical: Which Tool Is Better to Use?

Are you torn between elliptical trainers and rowing machines? Can’t decide which is better for your needs? We understand. After all, These two pieces of exercise equipment each have their charm and workout focus.

If you need to pick one, however, this article will help you decide between a rowing machine vs. elliptical machine.

We will go through how the two pieces of exercise equipment work, what they contribute to your physical fitness, their similarities and differences, and everything you need to make an informed choice.

Overview of the Rowing Machine

Overview of the Rowing Machine

Benefits of a Rowing Machine

  • Improves your cardiovascular and circulatory system
  • Provides strength training and light resistance
  • Increases muscular endurance
  • More affordable than an elliptical trainer
  • Improves posture
  • Helps burn calories

Downsides of a Rowing Machine

  • Requires a lot of space
  • It might cause stress or injury to your vertebral column with an incorrect form

Rowing is one of the best machines for cardio workouts, but it doesn’t stop there. Done with proper technique and form, your rowing machine can also give you a full-body workout.

This fitness equipment is designed to imitate the rowing motion of a boat on the water.

You gain many benefits when using indoor rowers with proper position and posture. Just remember to perfect your position first before engaging in any resistance training.

Overview of the Elliptical Machine

Overview of the Elliptical Machine

Benefits of an Elliptical Machine

  • Builds cardiovascular endurance
  • Versatile cardio equipment
  • Best for beginners and people with joint pain
  • Works both the upper and lower body
  • Burns more calories than a normal cardio workout routine

Downsides of an Elliptical Machine

  • Low-impact cardio workout may cause your joints not to get stronger
  • Requires space
  • Pricey

Elliptical trainers are another crowd favorite, and for a very good reason. Aside from burning calories, an elliptical workout provides an aerobic exercise beneficial to those with joint pain.

They are also advisable for those undergoing physical therapy, those who cannot exercise with flexion, or people with physical trauma or injury.

Elliptical machines also have movable arms that help you perform full-body workouts.

If you don’t know where to find the best elliptical trainers in your area, here’s an buying guide about the top elliptical trainer machines out there.

Rowing Machines vs. Elliptical Machines: Full Comparison

Rowing Machines vs. Elliptical Machines

While similar, rowers and ellipticals are fundamentally different in some aspects. This section should help you decide between the two.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the rowing machine vs. the elliptical machine.

Calories Burned

Which machine yields more calories burned depends on many factors, such as user body weight, composition, and fitness levels.

A moderate-intensity workout on both rowing machines and elliptical burns almost the same number of calories.

However, a study by the Harvard School of Medicine revealed that a person who weighs 185 pounds burns more calories using elliptical trainers than rowing machines in the same period.

Here is another article to help you decide if ellipticals produce an effective workout.

WINNER: Elliptical Trainers

Duration of Your Workout Session

A good rowing session lasting about an hour will burn around 311 calories. On the other hand, elliptical training for the same amount of time will burn about 400 calories.

Given proper form and utilizing your full range of motion, a longer workout session with a quality rowing machine will burn fewer calories than elliptical trainers in the same amount of time.

WINNER: Elliptical Trainers

Muscle Groups Activated

Aside from building cardiovascular endurance, an elliptical machine will produce an excellent workout for your lower body.

This includes your gluteus maximus, calf muscles, hamstrings, and quadriceps. You can also make it an upper-body workout by tightening your abdominal muscles and using the hand grips.

On the other hand, using rowing machines will not just work the lower or the upper body but the entire body at once.

A rowing workout has two phases: the catch and the drive. The catch, or the initial phase, works with the core muscles of your lower body, such as the hamstrings, to push off the base.

The pulling phase, or the “drive,” works the wrist extensors, trapezius, deltoid muscles, triceps, flexors, and even the glutes as you pull the handle to your torso.

Overall, different muscle groups are trained by rowing machines, leading to an effective full-body workout.

WINNER: Rowing Machines

Floor Space

When expanded, most elliptical trainers and rowing machines take up a lot of space, especially since elliptical trainers are used in an upright position.

But, one thing that we appreciate about a rowing machine is that many rowing machines are foldable.

Elliptical training takes up much more vertical space from the two exercise machines. Not only do you have to allocate horizontal space, but you also have to check the vertical clearance.

If the ceiling and floor space are considerations, a rowing machine might be what you need.

WINNER: Rowing Machines

Price Considerations

Cardio machines such as rowing and elliptical machines are undeniably expensive. However, elliptical training costs more than rowing.

For instance, the RW900 Rower from NordicTrack costs about $1,499, while the FS14i top-of-the-line elliptical training machine starts at about $2,499.

If you can only choose one machine based on affordability, a rowing machine would be better price-wise.

WINNER:Rowing Machines

What Do Rowing and Elliptical Machines Have In Common?

Rowing and Elliptical Machines Common

They might look different, but since they are both equipments for cardio, rowers and ellipticals have much more in common than you think.

Here are the similarities between rowing machines and ellipticals.

#1 Total Body Workout

We mentioned earlier that having the correct rowing technique will work more skeletal muscles than elliptical training.

While that is true, both types of equipment can offer a workout for the whole body. The movement pattern may differ, but the lower and upper body work together.

Your upper back muscles, core muscles, and lower body muscle groups will work on both machines as if you were weight training and simultaneously get your heart rate up.

#2 Quick Weight Loss

If you stick to a targeted training program, you won’t need to ask, “how many calories do I need to burn today?” because, trust us, your weight loss journey will be rather quick.

More calories will be burnt if you stay consistent, regardless of which machine you use.

When you make those repetitive motions, you go through muscle activation and burn fat.

#3 Increased Cardiovascular Fitness

Both machines support your cardiovascular system by improving your heart health.

A rowing machine and an elliptical engage your chest muscles, too, providing low-impact cardiovascular training.

#4 Beginner-Friendly

Although the workouts of the two machines are of moderate intensity, they are beginner-friendly.

The important step is to get the proper execution. Once you have memorized the proper form, your workout session will be much more effective.

#5 Versatile

Whether you are going hard to lose weight or want steady-state cardio for recovery or gentle exercise, you can use both machines.

The difficulty and intensity of each machine are totally up to you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are the most common questions that we receive in the rowing machine vs. elliptical machine debate.

Is an Elliptical or Rowing Better for Weight Loss?

Weight loss is not just about the number of reps you make or the intensity of your workout. It’s also about your consistency, nutrition, and other factors.

However, if we compare an elliptical to a rowing machine, we would say that neither is better than the other in terms of weight loss.

The good news is that you will lose weight using the rowing or elliptical machine.

The speed with which you lose weight will depend on your consistency, duration, current weight, nutrition, and the like.

Do Rowing Machines Reduce Belly Fat?

Yes, rowing engages more muscles compared to elliptical training. This means that more muscles are targeted and are bound to shed off excess fat.

When done effectively, rowing can burn belly fat. However, it is important to know that no specific exercise can reduce belly fat.

The only way to lose excess fat is to lose weight overall. To ensure that you are getting the most out of your reps, engage your core with each stroke.

On your way back and forward, activate your abdominal muscles. Think of it as doing a horizontal deadlift or a kettlebell swing.

You will know your abdominal muscles are engaged when the power from your legs transfers to the handle of the rowing machine.

Which Exercise Machine Is Easier on the Joints?

Before we say anything, please consult and check in with your doctor about what exercises you can perform. This is important regardless of the machine or type of training you will do.

A cross-trainer or an elliptical trainer is much more feasible for people with injuries, physical traumas, and the like.

While it engages the upper and lower body, it offers a low-impact aerobic workout. It is easier on the joints.

Unlike rowing machines, elliptical trainers do not put much pressure on the knees. People with achy knees often prefer ellipticals to rowers.

Aside from this, what you also wear is important. Your shoes must be able to grip the elliptical pedals, so you won’t accidentally slip in the middle of a workout.

It’s important to wear the right kinds of elliptical shoes to get the most grip and support during yiour elliptical training.

Do Rowing Machines, Ellipticals, or Exercise Bikes Offer the Best Cardiovascular Exercise?

Yes, rowers and ellipticals provide the best forms of cardiovascular exercise.

Aside from improving overall heart health, rowers, for instance, also improve chest muscles and increase one’s resistance to cardiovascular ailments.

You can also increase your workout intensity to utilize these machines’ benefits.

Not only do they get your blood flowing, they get your heart rate up and are big burners of calories and fat.

Final Verdict: Rowing Machine vs. Elliptical Machine – Which Is Better?

Based on the information above, rowing machines can be considered better and more versatile than ellipticals.

However, we still encourage you to determine which fitness aspect you prioritize.

We will be enumerating the strengths of each machine, determining which is better depending on the situation.

Whether you are going for the rowing machine or the elliptical machine, the better equipment is the one that will meet your needs and preferences.

Get a Rowing Machine If…

  • You want to work both the upper and lower parts of your body
  • You are comfortable with flexion
  • You want to improve muscular endurance
  • You can work with a little bit of resistance training

Get an Elliptical Machine If…

  • You want to have a more gentle exercise
  • You have enough space and vertical clearance
  • You want to build cardiovascular endurance
  • You are suffering from joint stress, physical trauma, or undergoing physical therapy

Final Thoughts

We hope you learned something and that we helped you decide between a rowing machine or an elliptical.Remember that what might be better for one person might not be best for you. Make sure to consider your own needs and preferences first before the opinion of others.