Rowing Machines vs Elliptical Machines | Comparison

The main difference between rowing machines and elliptical machines is the impact on the body. While both these fitness equipment provide full body workouts, elliptical machines have less impact on the back and knees compared to rowing machines. On the other hand. ellipticals are vertically taller and heavier so they require more effort to move from one place to another compared to rowing machines.

Now, let’s dive deeper into other little differences between elliptical machines vs rowing machines. This is an age-old question in the fitness equipment industry: rowing machines or elliptical machines? They are two of the most popular types of fitness equipment, and nearly anyone can use either of them without much training.

Both types of machine provide cardiovascular and strength training in one convenient package. There is no correct answer to this question, but there are certainly arguments that can be made for both sides. As with most things in fitness, it will come down to your personal preference and situation.

Ellipticals vs Rowing MachinesEpic battle
Size and WeightTransportation and floor space
ImpactLess impact on the back and knees
PriceMore expensive
StorageWhich one takes less space when stored
NoiseWhich one is louder when in used
MaintenanceWhich one needs more upkeep
HIIT WorkoutsWhich is better for high intensity interval training
More CaloriesWhich burns more calories

Rowing Machines


Rowing machines are very popular amongst athletes and for those of us who are looking for an intense, total body workout. Rowing is an excellent workout for your arms, shoulders, back, and legs, while at the same time improving your cardio levels. But it’s not just that it targets all different muscle groups in one workout motion, it’s that rowing is actually a lot of fun! You can’t always say that about total body workouts, so you can definitely put fun and enjoyment into the column for benefits of a rowing machine.

Rowing also tends to burn more calories for users, particularly if the resistance is cranked up on the machine. In fact, rowing machines are one of the top calorie-burning fitness machines on the market. Using the machine itself is relatively low impact, although prolonged improper usage can lead to damage to your back and shoulders. One of the most important parts to using a rowing machine is to use it properly, otherwise the repetitive action can potentially cause damage in the future.

The fact that rowing machines target your back and shoulder muscles is definitely beneficial for those of us who sit hunched in front of a computer all day at work. While rowing doesn’t quite have as robust of a simultaneous upper body and lower body workout as ellipticals, it definitely adds more of a muscle building component out of the two types of fitness machines.

Rowing Machine Pros

  • Total body workout that strengthens muscle groups that are often overworked.
  • Rowing can be fun when done correctly!
  • Rowing burns more calories per workout than an elliptical does.
  • Builds more muscle than an elliptical.

Elliptical Machines

Life Fitness Elliptical machines

Ellipticals have many benefits. They provide an excellent aerobic workout for both your upper body and lower body. It is an extremely low impact machine that is popular amongst people who don’t have time for a full circuit of exercises, and need a fast total body workout. Ellipticals don’t quite provide the level of calorie burning that rowing machines do, but are still a respectable way to burn fat and strengthen multiple muscle groups at the same time.

Ellipticals generally take up less space than rowing machines as well, making them friendlier for at-home workouts. Since rowing machines require quite a long base to accommodate the flywheel and the rail, they usually have a larger footprint making it difficult to find space in smaller living spaces. In the grand scheme of things, rowing machines are also more difficult to operate, and require some training in what is the safe and proper way to use the machine.

Finally, the elliptical definitely has a wider user range, as it is often used as a machine for physical therapy for those who are working their way back from injury. The elliptical is also friendlier for elderly users, as it has a much lower impact on joints and does not require as much strength to use. For those with bone disorders like osteoporosis, the low impact of an elliptical can do wonders in slowing mineral loss in the bones of your lower body especially.

Elliptical Pros:

  • Simultaneous upper and lower body workouts in addition to cardio.
  • Low impact and less stress on your joints and back than a rowing machine.
  • Ellipticals take up less space and are easier to accommodate at home.
  • Ellipticals are generally easier to operate especially for injury rehab and elderly users.


As you can see, both types of fitness machines offer advantages over the other. My recommendation is to determine what type of workout you are looking for, and what type of user you are. If you are looking to gain muscle and strength while burning fat, I would recommend looking at rowing machines. If you have the space to store it in your house, a rowing machine is an excellent way to get a quick, total body workout in the comfort of your own home. Rowers burn more calories per workout and in my opinion, are more fun to use than ellipticals!

If you are looking for a low impact way to get in a workout, then I would consider looking at ellipticals. They are much easier on your body, particularly if you are prone to injury or an elderly user that does not have as much need for strength training. To be honest, either machine is an excellent way to improve your strength and cardiovascular systems, so you really can’t go wrong no matter which machine you choose!

Sayed Hamed Hosseiny
Sayed Hamed Hosseiny

Hi, my name is Sayed Hamed Hosseiny. I am a professional health and fitness trainer with nearly 20 years of experience using ellipticals, rowing machines, and spin bikes. I also have my own EU-based Rock Fitness Pro fitness brand where I design, import and sell exercise equipment such as rowing machines and spin bikes. I and writers on my team also often receive fitness equipment to review and evaluate their functionalities and performance from tens of different exercise machines manufacturers. Fitness equipment tips, guides, reviews, and comparisons on this website are my opinion (and opinions of my fitness expert colleagues) based on tens of criteria. I never accept payment to write reviews of products or say positive things about fitness equipment products. If brands are interested to have me review their rowers, ellipticals, or spin bikes, they can get in touch with me via email provided on the contact page and send a sample of their product.