Rowing Machines vs. Ellipticals: Which is Better?

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.

Rowing Machines Are Better

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.

Ellipticals are Better

Ellipticals 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.

Conclusion: Rowing Machines vs. Ellipticals

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!

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