rowing machine vs stationary bike

Rowing Machine Vs Stationary Bike – Which Is Better for Burning Calories?

Hi, there friends! It’s Kathleen with another fascinating subject (well, fascinating for those of us who like burning calories).

Today, I’m going to compare the number of calories burned on a rowing machine vs stationary bike. OK, I’m even going to compare some of the variations here, such as spin bikes, rowing on the water, biking outdoors, and even recumbent bikes.

No matter what type of cardio machine you prefer, chances are that you’re getting in your cardio exercise because you want to burn calories and either lose weight or maintain your current body weight.

While for some of us, that’s the ONLY reason we get on those cardio machines, we should care more about our heart health and all the other benefits that come with regular exercise. Anyway, I suppose the motive isn’t nearly as important as getting off our butts and exercising, right? As long as you exercise, you should be fine.

Now do you want to know which fitness machines really burn fat and are a better workout? I’ve got some cold hard facts for you so keep reading!

Rowing Vs Cycling, Calories Burned

If you’ve read any of my other articles before, then you know that figuring out the exact number of calories burned can be a bit tricky. Everything comes into play and makes a difference, including your age, weight, sex, room temperature, and how hard you’re exercising.

For purposes of discussion, I’m using a 175-pound person in the comparisons I’m going to make. Your actual calorie burn number will vary, of course, but this will give you an idea.

Comparison of Calories Burned – Rowing Vs Cycling

Activity / Moderate Workout Calories Burned Per Hour
Indoor Rowing Machine 685
On-the-Water Rowing 795
Outdoor Cycling 484
Stationary Exercise Bike (12 MPH) 401
Spin Bike
Recumbent Bike

Bet you had no idea that you could burn this many calories, right? Even a recumbent bike burns a good number of calories!

As you can see, in addition to cardiovascular fitness, rowing on the water is the best workout when it comes to burning calories, hands down.

Now for most of us, yours truly included, rowing on the water most days of the week is not really possible. We’ve got the next best thing, right? Our trusty rowing machine.

Is Rowing a Better Workout Than Spinning?

I suppose that would depend on what “better” means to you.

In addition to the number of calories burned, I think rowing is better because this piece of exercise equipment gives you a complete body workout.

rower vs stationary bike

Spinning, or any biking exercise variation for that matter, is great for aerobic fitness, but it doesn’t work the entire body. Your lower body gets a good workout, true, and those thigh muscles are certainly going to get bigger, but there is no upper body workout.

Rowing not only works the lower body, but it will also work the back muscles, shoulders, chest, even your core muscles (read more on what muscles a rowing machine works).

Both rowing machine and exercise bike are great for weight loss, but as you can see from the above chart, rowing will burn more calories overall.

Combine the extra calorie burn and the whole body workout, and I think that definitely makes rowing the better workout.

One Little Thing about Exercise Bikes

I want to mention one little thing that may not matter to some people, but it certainly makes a big difference for me.

I used to love running on my treadmill and going bike-riding with my kids. Occasionally, I would even use the exercise bikes at the gym.

Once I started rowing, I noticed one really big difference (besides the fact that my arms and chest were getting a huge workout). When you’re using a stationary bike, you are going all the time – I mean, your knees and leg muscles never get a break. You would think that the pure energy expenditure you’re putting out would burn more calories, but since you aren’t getting a total body workout I suppose that makes the difference.

When I’m rowing, however, I do get one tiny break when doing the rowing strokes – it’s during the final stroke position called the Recovery, and there’s a reason for that.

You really can spend just a second (or less) letting your body return to the start (the Catch) position. This doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a big difference for me. Rowing workouts give you that little moment’s breather that seems to make rowing feel a bit easier.

Try it and see if I’m right.

Is Rowing Harder Than Cycling?

As I just mentioned above, I think that rowing is actually a bit easier than an exercise bike, but there’s one little catch.

With exercise bikes, you just sit down and start pedaling. There’s really not much technique to learn or anything like that.

You can’t say the same thing about rowing machines. While they aren’t complicated, there is a bit of a learning curve to this exercise machine. You will need to learn the proper form and technique of performing the rowing strokes so that you don’t hurt yourself.

Overall, however, learning to use a rowing machine isn’t as hard as learning to ride a bike outdoors. There is no balancing to learn, and I think that most people pick up the pendulum movement of the torso in just a matter of an hour or so.

So is a rowing machine harder to learn than an exercise bike? Only during the time it takes you to learn the strokes, then it’s smooth-sailing afterwards. It’s a great full-body workout that you will actually enjoy.

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Is Rowing Better Than an Exercise Bike?

Again, that would depend on what you want to accomplish.

If you don’t care about exercising the entire body, and you’re only interested in burning calories and working out your lower body, you might want to go for an exercise bike. There are no new skills to learn, and you don’t have to worry about the significant knee bending that occurs with a rowing machine.

Let’s face it, stationary bikes do burn a lot of calories!

While both these exercise machines are low impact, a rowing machine does bend the knees further than an exercise bike will. If you have problems bending your knees, you might also want to consider using an exercise bike.

However, if you want to exercise your entire body and do so in less time than it takes to ride an exercise bike, and if you want more than just a cardio workout and burning calories, then a rowing machine might be what you are looking for.

I’ve personally found that an exercise bike gets pretty boring after a while. Of course, you can watch TV or use a fitness app, but indoor cycling just doesn’t do it for me. I’ve used plenty of other exercise machines, including stationary bikes, but there doesn’t seem to be much pizazz, you know what I mean?

I’ve come to really love and appreciate the newer connected fitness equipment that you can buy. These smart rowers, such as Ergatta (read more on Ergatta vs Concept2), not only provide you with tons of data regarding your workout, but they also have video games and racing that make workouts more fun.

I never anticipate getting back on an exercise bike, but I sure do look forward to the time when I can complete my next rowing race and hopefully win the next time around!

There is also Hydrow (read more Hydrow vs Concept2), which offers the most beautiful and realistic rowing experience on the planet. If you want to see the waterways of the world from your living room, the Hydrow can take you there!

Yes, there’s always Peloton but unless you love spin classes, you’ll be bored with that as well. At least I would. Some people love their spin classes, and if you’re one of them, more power to you!

When it comes to a rowing machine vs exercise bike, I’ll take that rowing machine any day!

Does Rowing Help Cycling?

If you’re a true athlete, or you just love cycling, then chances are that you know about cross-training and how it can help you reach your fitness goals.

Cross-training is vital not only for weight loss but for improving your overall fitness.

When we do the same routine over and over, our bodies become accustomed to them, and they learn to do that workout more efficiently (meaning fewer calories burned and less muscle built).

When you do cross-training, you can work muscles you haven’t used while you cycle (such as the abdominal muscles), and you can continue to burn a major number of calories.

Try doing a rowing workout at least two days per week. You won’t need to do any strength training, and your knees will get a break from the constant movement of cycling.

Rowing is also the perfect exercise for those who have been injured or those who have other health issues. If you’ve had a recent knee surgery, hip surgery, or other types of knee problems, you will find that rowing is super low-impact. After I injured my back, it was the only exercise that I could do for months that didn’t cause me more pain.

Rowing is done seated, which means that if you do the strokes properly, you have very little risk of injuring anything and still get an intense workout like you can’t imagine!

Improve your cycling game by adding a rowing machine to your workout routine.

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The Final Takeaway on a Rower vs Bike

When it comes to rowing machine vs stationary bike, you will find that both offer an intense cardio workout and work those thigh muscles (heck, the entire leg muscles for that matter) like crazy.

However, there is only one fitness machine that will give you a full-body workout, improve your cardiovascular system, build more muscle groups than any other workout routine, AND help you lose weight at the same time. That, my friends, is a rowing machine.

Of course, if you love riding your stationary bike or spin bike and have fun cycling outdoors, you don’t have to stop. It’s more important that you do something you enjoy than struggle with an exercise that you don’t really like.

You can add rowing workouts to your exercise routine and make the most of every single day!

Whether you have a few pounds to lose or a lot of Krispy Kreme spare tires to lose, a rowing machine can help get you in shape faster than you ever thought possible. Just 20-30 minutes most days of the week is all you need!

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did, please share it, old Kathleen here won’t mind.

Stay happy and healthy, friends. Life is too short for anything else.