Rowing Machine Vs Elliptical: Which Is Better

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There is a lot of debate in the fitness community about which type of cardio machine is better: the rowing machine or the elliptical. Both devices offer low-impact cardio workouts that are easy on the joints and can give you a great workout. So, which one is better?

The answer depends on your goals and personal preferences.

The elliptical may be better if you want to lose weight because it burns more calories. If you want to build muscle, the rowing machine may be better because it workouts your arms and legs.

Both machines have pros and cons, so it comes down to personal preference. In this article, we will compare the two devices side-by-side to help you decide which one is right for you.

Key Differences

When deciding between a rowing machine and an elliptical, there are several key factors to consider.

Fitness goals

First, think about your fitness goals. Rowing machines provide a great cardio workout and can help you build strength and endurance, while ellipticals are ideal for those who want a low-impact exercise that still provides a challenge.


Second, consider the space you have available. Ellipticals are generally larger than the rowing machine, so a rowing machine may be the better option if you’re short on space.


Finally, think about your budget. Ellipticals tend to be more expensive than rowing machines, but there are several affordable options on the market.

No matter which machine you choose, test it at a local gym before buying it.

Pros of rowing machine

Here are some advantages of rowing machine:

Full-body workout: Rowing is a full-body workout so that you will be working your arms, legs, back, and core all at the same time. It is perfect for building that 3d back.

Compact: Rowing machines can be very compact, so they don’t take up a lot of space.

Budget-friendly: They’re relatively inexpensive compared to other exercise equipment.

Low-maintenance: Another advantage of rowing machines is that they’re relatively low-maintenance. You don’t need to oil or grease them as you do with other fitness equipment.

Low impact: Rowing is a low-impact activity, meaning it’s easy on the joints and ideal for people with joint pain or other orthopedic issues.

Cons of rowing machine

Here are some disadvantages of rowing machines:

Difficult to learn proper form: First, it can be challenging to get the correct form. There are many moving parts; if you don’t have good form, you could injure yourself.

Repetitive: Rowing Machine workouts can be repetitive and boring. You’re making the same motion repeatedly, so it’s easy to get bored and quit before you’ve got a good workout.

Pros of elliptical

Here are some advantages of elliptical:

Variety: Most elliptical trainers have a variety of programs that you can use to mix up your workouts and keep them interesting. Most will also have adjustable resistance levels so that you can make your workouts more challenging as you get fitter.

More features: Many elliptical trainers come with built-in heart rate monitors and other features that help track your progress and keep you motivated to reach your fitness goals.

Easy to use: Ellipticals are easy to use and tend to be less intimidating than rowing machines. If you’re new to working out at home, an elliptical may be better.

Low impact: It is easy on your joints because your feet never leave the pedals. There is no impact on your knees or ankles.

Cons of elliptical

Here are some disadvantages of elliptical:

Expensive: Elliptical trainers can be expensive, especially if you buy a top-of-the-line model with all the bells and whistles. If you’re on a budget, you may want to consider another piece of cardio equipment, such as a treadmill or stationary bike.

Muscle Worked by Rowing

The main muscles worked by rowing are the latissimus dorsi (lats), which are the large, flat muscles on either side of your back. Your lats help to move your arms back and forth and also work to stabilize your shoulders.

Other muscles worked include the biceps, triceps, and forearms (used to grip the oars) and your core muscles (abs, obliques, and lower back), which stabilize your body while rowing. You’ll also use some of the smaller muscles in your feet and ankles to push off the footplates during the rowing stroke.

Muscle Worked by Elliptical

The elliptical targets the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core muscles. You can also work your arms by holding onto the moving handles.

Which One is Better for Strength Training?

Rowing machines are great for strength training because they simultaneously work your arms, legs, and core. They also force you to use your stabilizer muscles to keep yourself upright, which makes them great for toning your entire body.

Elliptical trainers are also great for strength training but focus more on your lower body. Ellipticals are ideal for people who want to focus on their legs and glutes or who have knee or hip problems that make impact exercises difficult.

Which One is Better for Weight Loss?

The answer depends on a few factors. First, let’s look at how each machine burns calories.

Calories Burned by Rowing

According to a study conducted by Harvard, the number of calories burned while using a rowing machine for 30 minutes is about:

  • 210 cal for a person weighing 155 pounds
  • 256 cal for a person weighing 185 pounds
  • 342 cal for a person weighing 225 pounds.

Calories Burned by Elliptical

According to a study conducted by Harvard, the number of calories burned while using an elliptical machine for 30 minutes is about:

  • 272 cal for a person weighing 155 pounds
  • 333 cal for a person weighing 185 pounds
  • 444 cal for a person weighing 225 pounds.

Calorie Burn After Exercise (EPOC)

Rowing also provides a greater after burn effect than ellipticals (a phenomenon known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC). That’s because rowing is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercise, and HIIT has been shown to boost metabolism for hours after your workout.

It comes down to your lifestyle, diet, and how much effort you put into losing weight.

Final Verdict

The answer depends on your individual fitness goals and preferences. An elliptical might be a good choice if you’re looking for a low-impact cardio workout that works your upper body. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a workout that will get your heart rate up and challenge your muscles, then a rowing machine may be a better option.

Whatever you decide, mix up your workouts to keep your body challenged and avoid boredom. And most importantly, have fun!


Fawad Ahmad is the founder and chief editor at, a website dedicated to helping people make informed decisions about their health and fitness. Through clear, concise writing and a commitment to cutting through industry jargon, Fawad and his team strive to provide valuable guidance on topics such as bodybuilding, home gym equipment, and more.