In the quest for weight loss, cardio equipment reigns supreme. But with the abundance of options, choosing between an exercise bike and a rowing machine can be daunting. Both machines offer a compelling case for their effectiveness, leaving many wondering: which one is more effective for weight loss?

This head-to-head comparison gets into the effectiveness of calorie burn, muscle engagement and other considerations you need to know about each machine. This article should help you to make an informed decision based on your individual goals and preferences.

Calorie-Burning Showdown: Pedals vs Paddles

Both exercise bikes and rowing machines offer solid platforms for burning calories and contributing to weight loss. However, their approaches differ slightly.

Exercise Bike

Average Calorie BurnCycling consistently burns around 400-500 calories per hour, depending on intensity and individual factors.
Exercise Bike TypeSpin bikes tend to burn the most calories due to their high-intensity focus, while upright and recumbent bikes offer slightly lower rates.
HIIT AdvantageHigh-intensity interval training (HIIT) can significantly boost calorie burn on any bike, potentially reaching 600-700 calories per hour.

Rowing Machine

Full-Body Calorie BurnRowing engages major muscle groups throughout the body, potentially burning 500-600 calories per hour on average.
Intensity MattersSimilar to cycling, intensity plays a big role in calorie expenditure on a rowing machine.
HIIT PotentialHIIT rowing workouts can significantly elevate calorie burn, pushing it past 700 calories per hour for some individuals.

Verdict on Calorie Burn

While both machines deliver solid calorie-burning results, the rowing machine holds a slight edge due to its full-body engagement and potential for higher HIIT-driven calorie expenditure. However, remember that consistency and individual effort ultimately determine the overall impact on your weight loss journey.

The article continues below.

My Favourite Rower

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Fit Muscles

Beyond Calories: Building Muscle and Fitness

While calorie burning is crucial for weight loss, muscle engagement and overall fitness play equally important roles. Here’s how both machines stack up:

Exercise Bike

Lower-Body FocusCycling primarily targets leg muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings, calves) and glutes, promoting strength and endurance.
Effective CardioCycling effectively strengthens the cardiovascular system, improving heart health and stamina.
Upper-Body BonusUpright bikes, with handlebars, can engage core and upper body muscles to a lesser extent, enhancing overall balance.

Rowing Machine

Full-Body EngagementRowing engages virtually every major muscle group – legs, core, back, and upper body – leading to a more comprehensive workout.
Muscle-Building StarThe full-body engagement of rowing promotes muscle growth and improved overall strength, boosting metabolism and aiding in weight loss.
Coordination and BalanceRowing requires coordinated movements and balance, enhancing these skills and improving overall functional fitness.

Verdict on Building Muscle and Fitness

In terms of muscle engagement and overall fitness benefits, the rowing machine emerges as the clear winner due to its full-body workout and potential for muscle building. However, exercise bikes still offer valuable cardio and leg-strengthening benefits, making them a good choice for individuals with specific goals or preferences.

Full-Body Workout Benefits

Types of Exercise Bikes and Rowing Machines You Should Know

There are several types of exercise bikes and rowing machines in the market and picking the right one for your fitness goal may help you achieve it sooner.

Exercise bikes

  • Upright bikes: These are the most common type of exercise bike. They have a seat that is positioned upright and handlebars that are positioned in front of the rider. Upright bikes are a good choice for people who are looking for a low-impact workout that is easy to get started with.
  • Spin bikes: These bikes are designed to simulate the experience of riding a road bike. They have a heavier flywheel than upright bikes, and they often have adjustable resistance. Spin bikes are a good choice for people who are looking for a more challenging workout.
  • Recumbent bikes: These bikes have a seat that is reclined, and the pedals are positioned in front of the rider. Recumbent bikes are a good choice for people who have back problems or who want a more comfortable workout.

To learn about the types of exercise bikes in more detail, check out our post on which type of exercise bike is best for your fitness goals.

Rowing machines

  • Magnetic rowers: Magnetic rowers use a flywheel with magnets to create resistance instead of air or water. This provides a smooth, consistent rowing motion that is gentle on your joints.
  • Water rowers: These rowing machines use water resistance to simulate the feel of rowing on a lake. They are a good choice for people who want a more natural-feeling rowing experience.
  • Air rowers: These rowing machines use air resistance to provide resistance. They are a good choice for people who want a more adjustable rowing machine.

You can see our post on which type of rowing machine suits you best in our previous post.

Other Considerations

Beyond the Burn: Other Considerations for Your Choice

While calorie burning and muscle engagement are key factors, several other considerations can influence your machine choice:

Injury Risk and Joint Impact

Both machines offer gentler, low-impact exercise compared to running or high-impact sports, making them suitable for various fitness levels.

However, rowing carries slightly more risk of back or knee strain if improper form is used. Proper technique and gradual progression are essential to reduce the risk of potential injury.

Space and Budget

Exercise bikes generally require less storage space than rowing machines, which can be longer and bulkier.

Budget-wise, entry-level bikes are typically more affordable than rowing machines, though high-end models for both can be costlier. Consider your available space and budget when making your decision.

Personal Preference and Enjoyment

Eventually, the most effective machine is the one you’ll use consistently. Choose the one you find more enjoyable and motivating.

Consistency is key to reaching your fitness and weight loss goals, so pick the machine that inspires you to keep moving!

Final Words: Choosing Your Weight-Loss Cardio Machine

The battle between exercise bikes and rowing machines for weight loss depends on your individual goals and preferences. Both machines offer potent calorie-burning potential, with the rowing machine holding a slight edge due to its full-body engagement and HIIT possibilities. However, the exercise bike shines for its lower-body focus and cardio benefits.

But remember, no machine alone can guarantee weight loss. A healthy diet and consistent exercise are the true cornerstones of success. So, choose the machine that motivates you, inspires you to move, and complements your overall fitness goals.

Whether you choose a rowing machine or an exercise bike, step onto your chosen machine with confidence, knowing you’ve made the best choice for your weight loss journey.

See the best rowing machine in Australia below:

Best rowing machine Australia

See the best exercise bikes in Australia below:

FAQs on Exercise Bike vs Rowing Machine

Which machine (exercise bike or rower) is better for building upper body muscle?

While both machines engage the upper body to some extent, the rowing machine offers a much more comprehensive workout, targeting your back, shoulders, and arms along with your core.

I have knee problems. Which machine (bike or rower) is gentler on my joints?

Both machines are low-impact and easier on your joints than running or high-impact sports. However, if you have specific knee concerns, consulting a physician or physical therapist may be helpful in choosing the machine that best suits your needs.

I’m short on time. Which one (exercise bike or rowing machine) offers a quicker workout?

Both machines can offer efficient workouts, especially through HIIT routines. High-intensity interval training on either machine can provide significant calorie burn in a shorter timeframe.

Is an exercise bike or rowing machine better for beginners?

Both machines can be suitable for beginners, but exercise bikes generally have a lower learning curve due to their simpler mechanics. Rowing requires a proper form to maximise benefits and minimise risk, so consider seeking guidance from a trainer initially.

How often should I exercise on the chosen machine for weight loss?

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. You can gradually increase the duration and intensity as you become more comfortable.

Can I use both an exercise bike and a rowing machine in my workout routine?

Absolutely! Cross-training can keep your workouts engaging and prevent plateaus. You can alternate between bike and rowing sessions or even incorporate both into a single workout for a full-body challenge.