woman working out on a rowing machine in apartment

Stationary bike vs. rowing machine: which is better? | Ascend

Both rowing machines and stationary bikes are great options if you’re looking to get your heart rate up and improve your cardio fitness, but which is the better option? Well, it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve. 

If you’re confused about which cardio machine to add to your home gym, we’ve got you covered. We’ll be judging the effectiveness of both machines on 5 factors: weight loss, muscle growth, impact on joints, best home gym option and safety. We’ll also give you a pros and cons list of using both machines so you can decide for yourself which machine is best for you.

Exercise bike or rowing machine for weight loss

Both rowing machines and stationary bikes are excellent calorie burners, which is necessary if you’re looking to lose weight. Depending on your current weight, you can lose up to 600 calories on either machine. This means that, for weight loss, the machine you use will mostly depend on your preference. For instance, if you’re someone who likes to cycle outdoors, you may find using a stationary bike more enjoyable. Others may find the movement and motion in rowing more engaging as an activity. 

With that said, if you’re new to rowers, you may find this workout more challenging for a number of reasons. For one, the movement of rowing machines is more dynamic because of the positioning, leg power, and momentum required. You need to know when to use the different areas of your body when rowing and how much power should be spent by each area. If you don’t have the form down and you’re not rowing correctly, your workout won’t be as effective. In this case, you may find biking to be the better alternative because it requires a simpler set of movements. 

Finally, because rowing works your entire body, it may be draining to use this machine for extended periods of time. You’ll experience muscle fatigue and it may be difficult to continue for longer than 30 minutes to an hour. On the other hand, biking will provide a workout for your lower body that can range from a 20-minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout to an extended cardio workout lasting an hour or two. 

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Exercise bike or rowing machine for muscle growth

Biking is considered a lower-body workout since your lower body is doing all the work when you’re pedaling. On the other hand, rowing is more of a full-body workout since it engages many more areas of the body including legs, core, back and arms. If you’re hoping to tone your legs and glutes and build muscle in those areas, biking is the ideal option.If you’re looking to target several areas and muscle groups, then the full-body workout that rowing machines provide is more suitable. Both exercise machines are effective for toning your muscles, it all depends on which areas of your body you’re trying to work on more.

Exercise bike or rowing machine for impact on joints

One common issue for those that consistently do cardio exercise is that they begin to suffer from joint pain. Over time, your joints begin to experience wear and tear which eventually causes knee pain, back pain, and shoulder pain. While cardio is very important for cardiovascular health, doing a mixture of high, low, and medium-impact cardio is important for maintaining the health of your joints over time. 

Both rowing machines and bikes are considered low-impact exercises, meaning they put less stress on your joints than running outside or on a treadmill. Because your feet are strapped into both machines and the movement of your legs is fluid, your joints don’t absorb any of the impact or strain.

Exercise bike or rowing machine for your home gym    

Having a cardio machine at home is useful for a number of reasons. Not only will it encourage you to work out on a regular basis to help improve your cardiovascular fitness, but it can help reduce your expenses by cutting down the cost of a gym membership. You don’t need every exercise machine on the market either. The two most important considerations when you’re looking to add an exercise machine to your home gym is budget and space:


If you have thousands of dollars to fork out on exercise equipment, that’s great! Though not everyone has that much expendable income. If you’re looking for an affordable option, an exercise bike may be your best bet. They will run you anywhere between $150-$1500. On the other hand, rowing machines are usually in the price range of $200-$2500. Though the prices can be somewhat comparable. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, you may be able to do that with an exercise bike.


If you’re looking to build a home gym or you’re looking to have a couple of exercise machines on hand, one of the biggest factors in your decision will be the space that the equipment will take up. Many people don’t have an extra room dedicated to working out that can hold all of their gym equipment. This means where they place their equipment is usually a multi-purpose room and equipment needs to take up as little room as possible. 

On average, while in use, a stationary bike will take up less room than a rowing machine. This makes them ideal if you have limited space in your home. Most stationary bikes are between 1 to 1.5 meters long and 50 centimeters wide. Rowing machines in comparison are larger. You will need more space to use the rowing machine since it has a longer footprint. A standard rowing machine will typically be 45 to 47 inches long, 21 to 26 inches in width, and 9 to 18 inches tall, depending on the model you choose. 2.5 meters long and 60 centimeters wide.

Regarding storage, both machines require a similar amount of space.  With that said, some rowing machines are foldable which may make storage easier if this is your preferred workout.

man on stationary bike in apartment

Exercise bike or rowing machine for safety

A rowing machine can present the possibility of injury if the person using it isn’t trained on proper form. Rowers are often used incorrectly which presents the possibility of injury to your back. In order to avoid back strain, remember that the appropriate division of work is 60 percent legs, 30 percent core, and 10 percent arms.  In this case the bike is a much more approachable option, especially if you deal with some  flexibility limitations or are prone to/recovering from injuries. This is because the rower requires you to bend your knees completely and sit relatively low while maintaining a straight back.

Aside from risk of injury due to misuse, injuries can happen from losing balance and falling off equipment. With rowers, your body is required to do some stabilizing work so, though you are seated, there is a degree of balance that’s required. With that said, since your feet are strapped in and you’re seated very low to the ground, the likelihood of injury from falling is slim. With bikes this percentage of potential injury is even lower, as the machine offers handlebars that allow you to grasp on for security. Falling off a stationary bike is rather difficult, and even if you manage to, you are likewise very low to the ground and are unlikely to hurt yourself.

Pros and cons of bike vs rowing machine

As you can see, there are a number of advantages to both machines. There are also some downsides to them. Your decision will rest on what your priorities are when you work out. Below we’ve provided a breakdown of the pros and cons of using a bike vs rowing machine.

Pros of rowing machine

  • Effective for cardio exercise

  • Full body workout

  • Great for weight-loss

  • Low impact

Cons of rowing machine

  • Higher risk of back injury or back strain

  • Difficult to train on for extended periods of time

Pros of exercise bike

  • Also an excellent cardio workout

  • Improves endurance and stamina

  • Tones and build leg and glute muscles

  • Low impact

Cons of exercise bike

  • Only targets lower body

The wind down

Both rowing machines and stationary bikes are great options for a solid cardio workout and, ultimately, your decision will rest on personal preference. If you’re someone who’s injury prone, exercise bikes can help you stay fit and healthy while avoiding potential injuries. However, if risk of injury isn’t an issue for you, you may find rowing a more engaging workout because it requires more movement. 

Purchasing this exercise equipment for your home gym may also be an important factor for you, so you might be more concerned about size or price. Regardless of what you end up choosing, both machines will provide a fantastic workout. 

Shop Ascend exercise bikes and rowing machines and start improving your health, fitness, and mindset today.

Justin Tardif-Francoeur

Justin Tardif-Francoeur

With over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry, Justin has a rich background ranging from personal training in bustling gyms to practicing massage therapy in health centers, and eventually running his own practice. An avid advocate for self-improvement, he tirelessly pursues the latest research to broaden his knowledge of human physiology and the body's potential. When he isn't enriching his understanding or assisting clients, Justin can be found embracing the great outdoors through paddle boarding, yoga, and hiking, or immersing himself in a challenging workout. His passion transcends personal growth, as he's equally committed to inspiring others on their own journey of self-improvement.



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