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Rowing Machine Vs Treadmill [A Detailed Comparison]

People who are planning to do their workouts at home might be asking this question, which equipment to buy, rowing machine or treadmill etc. By answering this question they will be able to determine which piece of equipment to go for. Although it is a tough match up, we tried to figure out which equipment has the edge through this rowing machine vs. treadmill post.

Let’s start comparing this two equipment by discussing what is rowing machine and treadmill and their benefits respectively.

What Is a Rowing Machine?

rowing machine vs treadmill

The rowing machine also referred to as an ergometer is a good workout equipment with unique features. This is designed to imitate the actions of rowers who paddle the boats in the water.

While using the machine, you need to sit on a sliding seat first, then stretch your legs from the front of the machine. Next, the pulling action, using the core and then with your arms. You are now at the back of the machine. Reverse the movement to return to the front - extend your arms, your body and contract your legs. Repeat the movement several times to complete your daily routine.

The movement done in the rowing machine provides full-body workouts as drawing energy from all the major muscle groups of the body.

What Is a Treadmill?

A treadmill is an equipment where you can do your aerobic workout efficiently. It is a good equipment to start a new workout routine since walking is well tolerated by majority no matter what your fitness level is and for many back conditions. You can develop strength and endurance in the treadmill.

Treadmills are easy to use. If you have trouble walking uphill or worry about uneven terrain, you can do it on the treadmill safely since it has a flat surface. Most of the treadmills have built-in workout programs. These workouts have different speeds or inclines to make your session more challenging.

Rowing Machine vs. Treadmill - The Deciding Factors

To make it easier for you to decide, we have made this comparison as comprehensive as possible by focusing on the important factors that you need to consider when buying.

Overall Workout

Both treadmill and rowing machine provide a great cardiovascular workout that will:

  • Brighten up mood
  • Burn calories
  • Improve sleeping conditions
  • Increase bone density
  • Increase confidence
  • Increase energy level
  • Promote weight loss
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer
  • Strengthen heart and lungs

In the treadmills, you can easily adjust your running speed and incline levels to make the workout more challenging. The muscles worked out using the treadmill are your leg muscles like glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.

Rowing machines on the other hand have adjustable resistance depending on the user’s strength level and they can row as fast as they can. Working out in this machine makes use most of the muscles in your entire body.

The rowing machine works on your lower and upper body simultaneously while the treadmill works only on your lower body. If you are after your total weight loss, a rowing machine is a good option since it provides the same cardio workout to a treadmill but likewise builds more muscle. The rowing machine can likewise elevate metabolism for hours after a workout.

Cardio and Weight Loss

In terms of burning calories, these two machines work in very different ways. The cardio benefits you can get will depend on how vigorously you use the machine. To burn a number of calories you need to run at a pace of 5 MPH on the treadmill to be comparable to those that you can burn on a rowing machine. 

But, if you add an incline to your treadmill session, the number of calories you can burn will be much higher as compared to rowing.

Muscle Gain and ​Tone

Rowing machines work on the entire body - upper, core and lower, unlike the treadmill. The treadmill works mostly on the leg muscles. You can increase your strength and muscle tone in your hamstrings, calves, and glutes but not as much as you can do on a rowing machine.

The rowing machine works on more muscles as compared to a treadmill. Therefore, when it comes to muscle gain, rowing machine has an edge over treadmill.


The treadmill is less reliable than rowing machines because it uses electricity, have a treadbelt and large motors.

Treadbelts are the area you are running on, and they may wear out and requires replacement depending on how heavy the user is.

Treadmill motors may malfunction and this is the reason why manufacturers don’t usually provide longer warranty for the motor units.

Rowing machines are more reliable than treadmill since it does not require electricity, don’t require motors and don’t have tread belts. It is obvious that the rowing machine is the winner when it comes to reliability.

Gentle to Joints

Working out on a treadmill is considered low impact, but if you do it on an extended period of time it is not beneficial for people with sensitive ankles, backs and knees.

Another low-impact workout is rowing. It is also non-weight bearing, thus it causes less wear and tears on your joints. If you have weak joints or have arthritis, rowing is more recommended than running or jogging in a treadmill.

Just make sure you maintain a proper form when exercising. Push off your entire foot when rowing, not just with your toes but include your heels as well. This will not strain your knee joints. 

Calories Burned

A person that weighs 155 pounds that rows at a moderate pace will burn 529 calories per hour. If you do it at a vigorous pace, you will be able to burn 632 calories per hour.

On the other hand, if you do an hour of brisk walking on a treadmill at 3.5 mph, you will burn around 300 calories. If you jog at 5 mph, you will burn around 600 calories. If you do the running at 8 mph per hour, you will burn an estimated 1100 calories.

Impact and Stress

If you run at low speed in the treadmill, it provides a low-impact workout and if you run or jog a high-impact workout is what you get. The deck is cushioned, thus it will be easier for your joints as compared to running on the streets or sidewalks.

A rowing machine, on the other hand, creates no impact at all since your feet remains in contact with the machine. The back and forth movement will cause stress on your ankles, back, feet, hips and knees as you use your muscles to push and pull against resistance.

Shift Mood

The best thing about the rowing machine is that it does not only increase your aerobic skills and makes your muscle powerful. It can help shift your mood completely, if you are dealing with a lot of stress.

It’s because the cardio workouts that you do every day can help increase the production of endorphins. The endorphins are feel-good chemicals in the brain that is released every time you do an intense workout. These chemicals can help fight off fatigue, improve your thinking capabilities and keep you protected from debilitating feelings of stress.

Fitness Level and Motivation

One of the simplest machines you can use at home for your workout is the treadmill. Learning how to brisk walk, jog and run on a treadmill is much easier as compared to learning to row on a rowing machine. It will take time to master the motion needed in a rowing machine.

If you are working out in a gym, you can start with treadmill walking. As your confidence improves, you can do the rowing to add variety to your cardio workout. For runner or cyclist, choose a machine that will match the mode of exercise you want to master. A runner can benefit from a short one per week workout on a rowing machine to use muscles not normally used during running.

Final Thought

Both treadmills and rowing machines can help you burn your calories and improve your cardiovascular system. If you have the budget and space, the deciding factor as to which machine you will purchase for home use will depend on what results you want to achieve. There is no sense in purchasing a rowing machine if you find it less helpful. The same goes for treadmills.

After comparing between rowing machine vs treadmill, we find that the rowing machine more beneficial than the treadmill. Rowing machines work not just on your lower body but on your upper body as well. Although you can burn more calories on the treadmill, it is not recommended if you have a joint problem or arthritis. The best thing about rowing machines is that it helps your body to produce more feel-good chemicals endorphins. The chemical will help you fight fatigue and helps you think better.

If you think the other way around and you find the treadmill as the best workout machine, you can comment below. Moreover, if you find this post helpful, feel free to share this with others.

    Verner Ellen

    Hi, my name is Verner Ellen. I am a homebody whose interest is in getting the best home tools and equipments to help with the the everyday house chores. I also love fitness, cooking and grilling. Maintaining a clean and comfortable home is my lifelong passion.