When it comes to cardio machines, you will not struggle for choice. Most commercial gyms have rows upon rows of treadmills, rowing machines, ellipticals, and exercise bikes.

The tricky thing is finding the one that works for you. Some people have a preferred machine to do cardio on; others will prefer to pick a machine based on what will burn the most calories or work out a specific muscle group.

In this head to head, we will be examining two of the most common and well-loved cardio machines: the Exercise Bike and the Rowing Machine. Specifically, we will be investigating which machine is the better choice for home gym users.


  • Great for beginners with a wide range of different programs and workout plans.
  • Can be used for cardio and interval training.
  • Heavily targets the legs and thighs, making it the perfect cardio for those who want their squats and deadlifts to improve.
  • Can burn between 400-800 calories an hour, depending on your effort levels.
  • Easy to use for longer periods of time.
  • Easy on the joints.


  • Doesn’t work the upper body as much.
  • Takes longer to be as effective as a rowing machine.

Exploring Rowing Machines


  • Targets a wide range of muscle groups, including the legs, lower back, shoulders, and abs.
  • Most workouts only last 20 minutes.
  • Regular use helps improve posture.
  • Great for strength training and core workouts.


  • Trickier to learn the correct form and movement.
  • Very demanding – tough on the hips and knees.
Exercise Bike Vs Rowing Machine

Comparing Exercise Bikes Vs. Rowing Machines

Which Machine is Better For Cardio?

As these are both machines designed under the cardio label, you are probably curious as to which machine is better.

Both machines come with the ability to increase or decrease resistance depending upon the effort you want to put in. This means that they are both very similar in terms of calories burnt per hour. Both the rowing machine and the exercise bike burn 400-800 calories per hour. Where exactly the needle falls will depend upon you.

This means that the best choice in terms of pure cardio value will depend on which machine you will be more likely to put a larger amount of effort into. If you already know which machine is, then great; if not, then the following categories might help swing your vote.

You should bear in mind that it is much easier to use an exercise bike for a prolonged period. Rowing machines require a lot more strength and energy and rarely get used for more than 20 minutes at a time.

If your primary goal here is to lose weight, then the exercise bike will be the better choice.

Related Article - Different Types Of Rowing Machines

Which Machine is Better for Strength?

In terms of the muscles used, the rowing machine takes the lead. While the exercise bike gives you a great targeted workout in the quads and hamstrings, the rower utilizes your lower back, shoulders, and arms, as well as your legs.

For those that are bulking or maintaining, this makes the rower the more attractive choice of the two. You may not burn as many calories, but your workout will lead to more retained muscle mass and a stronger overall upper body strength if you use a rower as part of your training.

The only exception to this is if you are trying to build a large amount of mass in your legs. If your goal is stronger squats, you may want to use the exercise bike for the more targeted training that it gives the relevant muscle groups.

The rowing machine is the superior of the two machines when it comes to strength training.

Which is Better for Toning Legs, Bums and Tums?

If your main goals in the gym are to tone up your lower body like your bum or your legs, then you will want to pick the machine that works the muscle groups in these areas the most effectively.

The rowing machine may be the superior of the two when it comes to building upper body strength, but it does take a lot of the strain off your glutes and your calves. This means you will activate those muscles less while activating your upper back and arms more.

For toning of the legs and bum, you will want to stick to the exercise bike. When using an exercise bike, almost all of the hard work is being done by your lower body. This means you will build a stronger lower body during your cardio work.

The exercise bike is the better choice for those who want to develop a toned lower body.

Which Machine is Better for Getting Abs?

One of the main goals people are looking to achieve when looking at cardio machines is to build those chiseled washboard abs that make everyone jealous.

Unfortunately, we cannot lose weight from one specific spot at once. The only way to achieve abs is to work on lowering body fat, and that means burning more calories than you consume during the day.

This means that the best machine for achieving those abs is the machine that you are willing to invest the time, blood, sweat, and tears into using.

If you dislike the rowing machine, you won't use it every day, which will equate to less fat loss overall. The same is true in reverse.

Pick the machine that you are willing to use every single session with the same intensity.

Calories Burned On Exercise Bike Vs Rowing Machine

Which is More Cost-Effective?

If you are looking at filling a home gym, the cost is probably high on your priority list. Cardio machines are one of the more expensive purchases you will have to stomach, so it is worth taking some time to do some proper research and shop around before purchasing anything.

If you are planning on buying brand new, then you will probably find that exercise bikes are relatively cheap at the entry level. The more advanced bikes like assault and spin bikes will be dramatically more expensive, but for the majority of users, you will be able to find a good exercise bike for a few hundred dollars.

Finding a decent brand new rowing machine for a low price is much harder. High-quality rowing machines are expensive to buy brand new, and the cheaper ones aren't worth their salt.

In terms of the second-hand market, both machines are pretty similar in their price range and resale value. You will be able to find an excellent rower and an excellent exercise bike for relatively cheap if you know where to look. Craigslist is a great place to find people or gyms that are getting rid of their old equipment.

Which is More Practical for the Average Home Gym?

In terms of practicality, the exercise bike will take up a lot less space than a rowing machine due to the position that you sit on each piece of equipment. This means that if your home gym is tight on space, then you might be better off choosing the exercise bike for your home gym.

Rowing machines often come with the ability to be folded up, however, and this can make them easy to pack away into a cupboard or out of the way. They do, however, tend to make more noise than exercise bikes.

If you have the floor space and somewhere to store them, a rowing machine may allow you to have more floor space available, but exercise bikes are better for those that want to put their machine in their gym and then leave it there.

For those with Joint or Back Pain?

If you suffer from back pain or injuries that affect your joints, you will be glad to know that both of these machines can be used in a low-impact way that is great for recovery and rehabilitation.

If your problems originate in the back area, you should look at the exercise bike. Cycling has a low impact on your back and will be less jarring than the rowing machine. As long as your knees can handle the repetitive motion, then it is the perfect choice for those with back injuries.

The rowing machine spreads the stress over multiple muscle groups making it better for those who want to apply small amounts of pressure to the muscles in their back. Rowing requires good mobility in the knees, however, and it may be too jarring for many people who struggle with their joints.

In terms of rehabilitation, these are both great machines for helping people recover from injury.

Rowing Machines & Exercise Bikes Vs Other Cardio Equipment


Treadmills are superior when it comes to pure calorie burn. If you have the ability to put the right amount of energy in for the right amount of time, you will burn more calories running on a treadmill than any other machine.

The treadmill does have some significant downsides, though. Running is difficult on joints. Over time this can lead to problems in the ankles, hips, and shins, especially if you run on the road or on a poor quality treadmill.

Related Article - Best Under Desk Treadmills

Cross Trainer

On the other hand, the cross trainer is easier on the joints and is a more straightforward exercise as it allows you to split the effort between your arms and your legs.

You will have to work particularly hard on a cross-trainer to get the same kind of calorie burn and workout that you would on the other machines we have talked about, but it is a great place to start as a beginner. If you are looking to build a base-level foundation for your cardio ability, a cross-trainer could be perfect for you.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

When is the rowing machine better?

The rowing machine is better for you if you like working your whole body and prefer HIIT workouts. It is the better machine if you are a larger, more overweight person and don't want to do long periods of steady-state cardio or love rowing.

When is the exercise bike better?

The exercise bike is better for those with injuries and joint pain and who prefer steady-state cardio. It is also the better machine for toning your legs and your bum.


If you were on the fence and were struggling to decide which of these two machines is better for you, I hope you found this article helpful. For a more detailed discussion, a great place to look is on Reddit.

Both machines are excellent choices and will help you achieve that dream body in no time.

Last Updated on April 16, 2024

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Andrew White

Andrew White is the co-founder of Garage Gym Pro. As an expert fitness professional (gym building nerd) with over 10 years of industry experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern fitness & the newest market innovations for garage gyms. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually out surfing or playing basketball.