The Rower vs The Treadmill: Which is Best for Me

The Rower vs The Treadmill: Which is Best for Me?

Finding the best gym equipment for your specific goals is a problem many faces. Cardio isn’t always fun to do, making the decision that much more complex. In this article, we’ll look at the main differences between the treadmill and the rowing machine regarding cardio, weight loss, and muscle performance.

Most people, when they exercise, want to do it in the most efficient way possible. Whether your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or get in shape, there are more options than ever to get you there.

Many people wonder which cardio machine is the best. Two popular training devices are the treadmill and the rowing machine. Both of these pieces of equipment can provide a fantastic workout, but choosing which one to use can be tricky.

The Rower vs The Treadmill: Pros and Cons

The Rower

The Rower vs The Treadmill
The Rower vs The Treadmill: Which is Best for Me?


  • Full body workout. The rowing machine provides a full-body workout. In addition to being excellent cardiovascular exercise, training on rowing machines engages the body’s major muscles anaerobically. It works the arms, chest, back and legs.
  • Shallow impact workouts. Unlike treadmills, these machines offer shallow impact workouts. You don’t put a lot of strain on your ankles, knees and joints. Although your legs are in full motion, they don’t hit hard surfaces, which is more comfortable.
  • Intense calorie-burning exercise. You can burn up to eight hundred calories per hour working out on the rowing machine; it’s a weight loss machine.
  • Cheaper. It is less expensive than other fitness equipment such as treadmills and elliptical machines.


  • Lower back injury. This machine strains the lower back; proper technique should be used when using the device.
  • Difficult to assemble. Putting the pieces together can be frustrating for some people.
  • A lot of noise. The amount of noise produced by rowers can be significant. Water and air rowers, in particular, make a lot of noise, which makes them impractical for many people.
  • Lots of space. Rowers need a lot of space due to the flywheel or reservoir, the rails, and the need to have enough room for the entire arm and leg extension.
  • It can be boring. Consider buying a rowing machine that provides a phone or tablet space to keep you entertained while exercising.

The Treadmill


  • Easy to use. The treadmill is a relatively easy-to-use exercise device.
  • Diversity of programs. Users can design custom programs to fit the time they have to train.
  • Useful functions. Some treadmills come with unique features, such as step counters and heart rate monitors, that help track fitness progress.
  • Good calorie burn. Running on a treadmill generally burns calories faster than most other forms of home exercise, such as cycling.


  • The price. Some treadmills can be expensive.
  • High impact exercise. The cushioned surface of the treadmill can still inflict too much shock on the back or strain the joints of the hips, knees and ankles.
  • Takes up a lot of space. The most sophisticated treadmills take up a lot of space. Foldable treadmills are available, but sufficient space should be provided.
  • Maintenance. As with any other piece of equipment with computerized programs and motors, maintaining treadmills usually requires the intervention of a professional.
  • A lot of noise. Some treadmills have noisy motors that could disturb you or others around you.

The Treadmill vs The Rowing Machine: Factors to Consider

When comparing a rowing machine and a treadmill, some factors are to consider.

1. Your goals

Think carefully about your intended purpose; here are some examples:

The rowing machine or the treadmill: Which is better for building muscle mass?

These cardio machines have muscle-building potential, but let’s see which one is better if that’s your primary goal. The treadmill primarily affects lower body muscles, such as hip flexors and supporting muscles.

However, there aren’t many options for increasing the resistance on a treadmill to work your muscles better. Increase the speed or incline to get a better cardio workout, but this will only slightly increase the muscle-building potential of this exercise.

Rowers, on the other hand, are great for building muscle. You build both upper and lower body muscles by rowing, and it’s easy to make the exercise more intense by increasing the incline. Abs, back muscles, core muscles and arm strength all develop quickly on a rowing machine. For maximum deltoid and bicep results, the rowing machine is a much better exercise machine choice.

The treadmill or the rowing machine: Which is better for cardio?

Both treadmills and rowing machines provide a high-intensity cardio workout. Either fit perfectly into your HIIT routine, but which is better for purely cardio purposes?

Technically, running is the best cardio there is, and therefore treadmills are better for cardio in general. However, rowing machines have the potential to keep your heart rate elevated for longer.

As always, the cardio potential of an exercise depends on the intensity with which you approach it. The resistance of both machines can be increased to get your heart rate up and into the cardio zone.

A rowing machine may take longer to get you up to cardio because you can step on it and start running immediately on a treadmill. It means that treadmills are better than rowers for cardio, but both options have excellent cardio potential.

The rowing machine or the treadmill: Which is better for losing weight?

Weight loss is one of the main reasons people exercise, and therefore, it is essential to determine which machine is the best in this regard. Weight loss is often reduced to a matter of calories burned, but in reality, many other factors influence your weight loss journey.

Running on a treadmill has long been a favourite activity for those looking to shed a few pounds, and there’s no doubt that it’s highly effective. You burn more calories per hour on a treadmill than on a rowing machine.

However, fat loss is another matter. Using a rowing machine builds more muscle than a treadmill, and strength will help you burn more calories throughout the day. Muscle weighs more than fat, which explains why the difference on the scale is less marked.

However, your overall fitness will improve with the extra muscle mass. Both treadmills and rowing machines are excellent choices for weight loss.

Many people believe that the treadmill is more effective for weight loss because it is true that you are more likely to see your weight drop. However, we believe that the rowing machine is the better choice because it allows for more stable weight loss over time.

Building muscle while doing cardio is a great way to ensure the fat you’ve lost stays at bay. The treadmill is a better choice if you only want to lose fat. On the other hand, if you’re going to burn fat while building muscle and improving your overall fitness, rowing machines are more suitable for weight loss.

2. Price

There are two types of costs when it comes to fitness equipment. The initial fee (purchase price) and the ongoing costs (operation and maintenance). When it comes to treadmills and rowing machines, they are very different.

Initial cost

  • The initial cost is generally higher than a rowing machine for equivalent quality. 

Ongoing cost

Treadmills are motorized; they have belts, shock absorbers and a more complex computer. They are used at high speeds and intensities. In addition to annual maintenance, any repairs are likely to cost significantly more. You also have to plug in a treadmill, which increases your electricity bill slightly.

A rowing machine is a much simpler machine. The computer is equipped with an LED, there is no motor (just a chain and a flywheel), and the moving parts are limited to a simple chain, a fan and a seat. Maintenance and replacement are easy. The rowers are not plugged in; the user powers them. These factors reduce ongoing costs.

3. The possibility of injury

Another critical aspect to consider is the difference between rowing machines and treadmills regarding impact. The impact of an exercise is the pressure placed on your joints by motion and gravity.

High impact exercises put a lot of pressure on your joints and quickly lead to pain and injury. Low-impact exercises can be just as practical but are better for beginners, those with joint pain, or those who wish to avoid them.

Running is a high-impact exercise, on a treadmill or otherwise. It is possible to use a treadmill and do a low impact exercise: you can walk. However, walking does not achieve the same muscle activation or cardio levels as jogging or running and therefore is not as effective exercise.

Running at speed high enough to increase your heart rate puts a lot of strain on your knees, feet, and back, leading to many joint pains in runners.

In contrast, using a rowing machine is very low impact while providing excellent cardio. People with pre-existing injuries may want to protect their joints by doing cardio on a rowing machine instead.

The main impact of running occurs when you take a step and hit the ground hard, sending an effect throughout your body. Rowing machines still activate your muscles but in a less violent way.

One thing to focus on when using a rowing machine is proper form. The high impact of treadmill exercises increases the risk of injury, but rowing with poor posture can be just as dangerous. Be sure to keep your back straight and push off with your whole foot; lumbar and joint pain will thus be less likely.

If you maintain perfect posture throughout your exercise on the rowing machine, you shouldn’t have to worry about injury.

4. Time

If you have a very active lifestyle and find it difficult to spend hours working out at the gym every day, you need to make every second count.

It is where the rowing machine is most effective. The recommended training schedule for using a rowing machine is to do 15 minutes, 3-4 times per week, at 80% of your maximum intensity. Compared to the treadmill, which requires a much longer time sacrifice of about 1 hour on average, this represents 52 hours of training per year instead of 208 hours.

5. Space

When setting up a home gym, you need to consider space and storage. If you have a large, dedicated gym, you can skip this section, but if you don’t, keep reading.

A rowing machine has a perimeter of approximately 8′ x 2′, which means it doesn’t take up much space. It can be pushed against a wall or stood on its end, while others are foldable. A rowing machine is light and easy to move.

A treadmill can vary wildly, but most have a perimeter of around 6′ x 3′. While the size difference isn’t dramatic, it is significant if you’re in a small room, as the treadmill takes up more overhead space than a rowing machine. If you don’t have a lot of space, choose a foldable model that takes up as little space as possible or one that can be stored under the bed.


When choosing between a rowing machine and a treadmill, it will all depend on what you want to work out.

Opt for a rowing machine if you have joint pain or tender knees. Rowing machines provide high-intensity workouts without the impact, and it also offers full-body training and sculpts your muscles better than a treadmill.

If you are a runner or want to train to improve your outdoor running, the treadmill is a great idea. Even though it’s harder on your joints, it’s a great way to do your daily cardio.

Hoping to have helped you make your choice to find the best cardio machine for you!