Which One is Better – Elliptical Trainer vs. Rowing Machine

Which One is Better – Elliptical Trainer vs. Rowing Machine

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Rowing Machines and Ellipticals are the two fantastic machines that you will find in a fitness club. They are the new and preferred machines over traditional machines. They both offer a great variety of exercises in different intensities and style of use.

They give a non-impact workout and also help in burning a lot of calories. But, if you are deciding which one to buy for your home, you have come to the right place. In this article, I will help you understand how both the machines work and which body part they affect.

Then you will be able to decide which one you need that suits your requirement. There are some of the best ellipticals to use at home and top-rated rowers for home use. You can choose the one which suits your need and budget.

Both ellipticals and rowers, deliver aerobic workouts, but the main difference between them is different. Elliptical machines work on the whole body, but mainly they focus on the lower body because of the pedaling motion.

Whereas, a rowing machine works on the whole body because of the push-pull method they use in their operation. Now, this differentiates their purpose – Ellipticals help in losing weight by burning calories and Rowing Machines concentrate on increasing muscle strength along with burning calories.

Hence, if you want a substantial factor in your cardio workout, then buy a rower, else ellipticals are perfect. Here are some of the factors based on which we will discuss ellipticals and rowing machines.

Also based on these you will be able to decide which one is Better from Elliptical Trainer and Rowing Machine depending on your requirements.

Repetitive Stress

When it comes to using a piece of equipment, you must understand the muscle groups you are targeting and how other muscles are being affected due to repetition. Now, if we start with ellipticals, they put a high force on your feet because they take your whole body weight, but due to the pedals tied to the feet.

It makes the workout less impactful. But, the entire movement while using an elliptical puts repetitive stress on the muscles, irrespective of the movement of the pedals be it backward or forward. This surely has no impact on your hips, knees, and ankles, but many users face issues with the knee, lower back, and shin.

Rowers, on the other hand, are also non-impactful. But with the resistance levels it offers and the effort it involves in pushing and pulling your body’s weight along with the adjustable seat.

It does put some repetitive stress on the hips, ankles, and lower back.  So, it is essential to understand the good and bad of both the machines before finalizing one.

Difficulty of Use

Before buying a piece of equipment for home, it is vital to know how to use it effectively to get better results. An elliptical trainer is an easy machine to use in which you have to step on the pedals and start moving your feet with the pedals.

Then, you have to hold the handlebars and move your arms as well. There is nothing that can go wrong in this and it is straightforward to use. Rowers, on the other hand, needs some practice and proper posture. It can lead to injuries if not used properly.

Follow the following points when using a rowing machine:

  • Sit on the seat, stretch the arms, forward, bend the knees, straighten the back. Remember to keep the back straight to avoid pain.
  • With the help of your legs, push yourself backwards and lean back while doing so.
  • At an angle of 45 degrees posture, pull the bar back, towards your chest.
  • Keep the arms straight and move in reverse. After this, bend your knees.

Note the angle of your posture as it is essential to avoid hurting other muscles.

Bearing the Weight

Pedaling is a weight-bearing exercise, and as per the study by MayoClinic.com, it is recommended that people with Osteoporosis must stay safe while exercising. When you pedal an elliptical trainer, there is a slow loss of the minerals from the legs, bones, lower sine, and hips.

This is highly beneficial. On the other hand, Rowing Machines do not deliver a weight-bearing exercise. But, people who have Osteoporosis benefit from rowers as they strengthen the back and combat Osteoporosis.

So, if you have Osteoporosis, then it is ideal to buy the best elliptical bike that you can use in the comfort of your homes.

Muscle Use

Elliptical cross-trainers are of many types, one which comes without levers and thus only works on the lower body and gives no benefit to arm, back, shoulder, or chest. Others come with levers and resistance to build upper body muscles.

Still, they are not as efficient as rowers when it comes to the use of muscles. Rowing Machines are more active in making muscles as they emphasize different muscle groups by the use of arm and leg use.

You can increase or decrease the leg and arm pressure to work on different muscles. But, overuse of this practice may put a strain on your back.

When it comes to the muscles of the arms and shoulders, rowers work effectively than ellipticals because ellipticals work better on calves (lower body).

Thus, If you want more use of the muscles then go in for the best rowing machine in the market. Also, learn the technique of using it to avoid straining the bike.

Number of Calories Burned

Whichever machine you use or exercise you do, everything boils down to one vital thing, i.e. Burning of Calories. This is the main priority of a cardio and strength workout. The number of calories you burn per hour is essential to achieve a leaner body.

As per the study by the Harvard School of Public Health, an elliptical is more effective in burning calories than a rowing machine. They found out that in one hour an elliptical gave a more calorie burn count than a rower.

This is mainly because of the more use of the muscles due to which there is high-calorie burn after the workout. They compared that for a person weighing 155 lbs, an elliptical could burn 670 calories per hour whereas a rowing machine could burn 520 calories per hour.

Elliptical Trainer: Just like running, ellipticals also help in burning a lot of calories. They are beneficial over running because they reduce the impact on the joints and burn about 600-750 calories in one hour, provided the rate of workout speed is high.

Rowing Machine: Rowers burn more calories than other machines and are preferred for the same reason. In an hour, the rower can burn about 600-900 calories.

As you can see, the lower amount of calories burned is same in both the machines, i.e., 600, but if you push a little bit more on a rower, then you will burn more calories in an hour since its higher range is 900 calories.

Miscellaneous Aspects


1. Maintenance: Ellipticals need less maintenance, maybe just a daily cleaning with a dry cloth after every use. But, rowers may require a little extra maintenance depending on the kind of rower you have bought as there are some of the best rowing machines with beautiful features.

2. Ease of Use: As discussed before, ellipticals are very simple to use and do not need any specific technique. Just step on the pedals and move with them, then hold the handlebars (if it has) and move the arms in the same motion.

Rowing machines need a bit of expertise and guidance if using for the first time. Learn the technique before starting working on it as it may affect your back severely.

3. Cost: Ellipticals and Rowers, both have affordable rates for lower models. There are some of the cheap ellipticals that are readily available in the market which provide great functionality. But rowing machines may get a bit expensive after mid-range and higher models.

An Elliptical Trainer is a good option if:

  • You are suffering from joint issues.
  • You want an upper and lower body workout.
  • You are in the process of recovering from an injury.
  • You are overweight and want to burn calories.
  • You are bored with running and cycling.
  • You want to aerobic fitness every day.

A Rowing Machine is a good choice if:

  • You want a whole body workout.
  • You want great cardiovascular health.
  • You want to burn calories at a fast rate.
  • You have less space at home.
  • You enjoy the action of rowing.
  • You have a limited budget.


I have, more or less, covered every aspect of comparison between an elliptical cross-trainer and a rowing machine. It is clear that both work on the upper and lower body, but if we compare them in compactness then the market has got some of the best foldable rowers which are compact and can fit in any house.

Ellipticals are also foldable, but even after folding they take more space than rowers. But, there are some of the top cheap ellipticals available in the market if you want to buy one. Rowers burn more calories than ellipticals if you use more power so if you want weight loss and fitness together, then buy a rowing machine.

If you need a simple yet effective cardio workout while watching a TV or iPad, then there are some of the best ellipticals for commercial use too. I am sure this detailed review will help you understand your needs and enable you to buy the right product.

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