Exercise Bike Vs. Rowing Machine – What’s the Difference?

Cycling and rowing are both low-impact, effective forms of cardiovascular exercise. For people who suffer from arthritis or other joint related issues, they’re the perfect way to improve heart health.

Your choice between the two usually comes down to how you prefer to workout. If you’re the type of person who enjoys watching their favorite television show or listening to their favorite audiobook, an exercise bike is for you. Most people can pedal at a fairly fast pace without much concentration.

However a rowing machine involves several muscles group and it’s important to practice proper form.

Stationary Bike or a Rowing Machine?

We noted above that the choice usually comes down to workout preference. However there are also some other considerations.

Space and Cost of the Equipment

Exercise bikes usually have a small footprint. Even the most expensive bike is fairly compact and can fit in most rooms. However a rowing machine is rather large and usually ends up requiring ample space. You also need to keep in mind that your body needs room to extend as you go through a full stroke.

spinning indoor bike

Exercise bikes and rowing machines can vary a lot in terms of price. For instance, higher-end rowing machines like the WaterRower or Concept2 are $1000+. Exercise bikes can cost an excess of $2000+ for something like a Peloton.

Price usually is a result of how many different features or specifications you’re after. For instance, ShreddedCore lists several options for exercise bikes from the most basic beginner option to more advanced. As the features increase, so does the price.

At their most basic, both rowing machines and exercise bikes should have various levels of resistance and be durable.

Low Impact Exercise

Cycling and rowing are both low impact forms of exercise. “Low-impact” means they aren’t load bearing like running; When you run, your knees support the weight of your torso.

These aspects make both cycling and rowing perfect for cross-training and injury prevention.

Rowing involves your entire body and puts a lot less pressure on your knees and shoulders. As you row, you sit in an upright position with your legs in front of you. Your body slides horizontally rather than bouncing up and down on a vertical axis. On each stroke your quadriceps are able to rest and put less pressure on the ligaments surrounding the knee.

rowing machine close

A problem that cyclists have is strain in their shoulders and trapezius muscle group. This is a result of leaning forward. If you practice proper pull technique on a rowing machine, you won’t have any shoulder or trap related issues.

Calorie Considerations

A rowing machine and an exercise bike will help to burn a similar number of calories. Both exercises involve a similar goal, making a wheel turn. However, that wheel is turned in a different manner as they involve different kinetic chains and biomechanics.

A rowing machine works your lower body, core, and upper body. An exercise bike only works your lower body. As a result, rowing is more anaerobic because it involves more muscle groups and can have residual affects post-workout.

rowing machine black

On average, rowing for 60 minutes at a moderate pace burns roughly 400-700 calories.

Cycling for 60 minutes on a stationary bike at a moderate pace burns roughly 400-600 calories.

Both of these ranges are heavily dependent on pace and weight.


Both rowing machines and exercise bikes are great forms of exercise. They differ in terms of muscles groups being utilized however they’re both low-impact forms of cardio.

In terms of calories they’re quite similar. However, how many you burn is solely based on how much effort you put in. Your weight is also a factor too.

Lastly, it’s important to take into account how much space a rowing machine takes up and how many features you’re looking for.


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Exercise Bike Vs. Rowing Machine – What’s the Difference?