Rowing Machines – Are They Worth It?

Home > Rowing Machines > Rowing Machines – Are They Worth It?
By Natalie Martin

If you’ve never noticed or thought about rowing machines before, you are not alone. These exercise machines commonly sat unused at the gym or turned into handy clothes hangers at home, but this isn’t true anymore.

People are starting to realize that a rowing machine can provide them with a full cardio workout. What’s even more surprising, is that a rower might even be able to give you a better workout than a spin bike. This might be one of the reasons why many people are putting aside their spinning bikes to give rowing machines a try.

If you’ve ever wondered if a rowing machine is worth it, here are a few reasons why you might want to consider getting in a workout on one.


Top 3 Benefits of a Rowing Machine



You can get a good cardio workout on a rowing machine or spin bike. Both are also easy on joints, making them relatively safe for almost everyone. While spin bikes are often considered easier to use, rowing machines aren’t that difficult once you get used to working your arms and legs.

A spinning bike targets the muscles in the front and back of your thighs, along with your glutes. On the other hand, a rowing machine will force you to use your legs, arms, shoulders and core muscles. Unlike a stationary bike, a rowing machine can give you a full body cardio workout and this benefits your overall health.



Avid cyclists, professional rowers and anyone else that wants to build strength and endurance can improve their athletic performance on an indoor rower. This also applies to “CrossFitters” that might need to increase their stamina to make it through the grueling WODs.

You will be responsible for the intensity level of your workout on a spinning bike and rowing machine, since they rarely come with training programs preprogrammed in. This does allow you to safely increase the intensity of your workouts, and minimizes your risk for injury. The main advantage a rowing machine has over a spin bike is that it works upper and lower muscles, instead of only your glutes and thighs. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, working upper and lower body muscles is key to successful training.


The number of calories you burn working out on a rowing machine, will depend on how hard you push yourself. This is also true for a spinning bike, though it is estimated that you do burn more pedaling indoors. Where the rowing machine comes out ahead is that you typically continue to burn calories after the workout, unlike on a spinning bike.

If burning extra calories and losing weight are part of your fitness goals, there are a few things to consider before you chose one exercise machine over the other. Your weight and fitness level, along with your body’s composition of muscle versus fat will play a role in the number of calories burned. This also includes the type of workout. HIIT workouts on a rowing machine will burn more calories than pedaling at a slow and steady pace on a spin bike.


Getting the Best Workout on a Rowing Machine


If you want to get the best work out on a rowing machine, the intensity level must be occasionally increased. Otherwise, you will plateau and stop seeing results.

Air resistant rowing machines are the most popular, and easy to adjust. All you have to do to increase the intensity of the workout is to row harder, after adjusting the dampener. Some magnetic and hydraulic rowers will allow you to adjust the resistance from the console, while others come with a knob or dial.

When it comes to choosing the best rowing machine for you, it usually depends on what type you feel the most comfortable using. All can provide you with a full cardio workout, while also increasing strength and stamina.


Tips on Using a Rowing Machine


There are a few things to remember before you hop on a rowing machine, whether it is your first time or you’re an experienced user. The National Strength and Conditioning Association states that having correct form is crucial if you really want your workout on a rowing machine to be worth your time and effort.

A rowing machine is comprised of a flywheel that is connected to the handle. You use your leg muscle to push your body backwards, and this movement is assisted by the pulley. To return to the starting position, use your arm muscles. This also requires the use of your back, shoulder and abdominal muscles.

Your back and neck should be held straight up, and your arms out. You also want the knees to be flexed, since this is where the movement starts. Simply remembering your form can dramatically improve the results you get from a rowing machine, while also reducing your risk for joint or muscle injuries.


The Bottom Line


If you want to work the muscles in your upper and lower body almost simultaneously, without putting a lot of strain on your joints a rowing machine is worth it. This also doesn’t mean that you should give up your spin bike, only consider adding some variety to your workout plan. Spinning does come with its own healthy benefits that shouldn’t be discounted.

The bottom line on rowing machines is that they can help you burn more calories and strengthen muscles, but this activity might not be for everyone. If you don’t enjoy rowing or adding upper body strength isn’t a fitness goal, you will probably want to save your time and stick with the exercise machines you know and love. Before you start rowing or make any changes to your exercise routine it is important to speak with a licensed healthcare professional.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure

BodyGearGuide is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to In simpler terms, we get a small commission when you buy a product through