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Which Is Better - Stationary Bike Or Rowing Machine? Find Out Here!

Published by Kieran
Last Updated on March 28, 2021

Two Great Fitness Machines, But Which Comes Out on Top?

For building fitness as well as muscle strength, you’ll need to do a combination of muscle-targeting exercises such as weightlifting or other resistance-based exercises, as well as some cardio. While many kinds of workouts aim to improve either your muscle strength or your level of fitness, some exercises and machines can help us to do both.

Stationary bikes and rowing machines are both excellent options for toning your muscles as well as improving your lung capacity and stamina. Each machine has its own advantages and disadvantages, and you might find that one option is more suitable for your goals and capabilities than the other.

If you’re trying to tip yourself over the edge one way or the other, this article will outline some of the key differences between the two, as well as their main pros and cons. Hopefully after reading this, you’ll have a better idea of which exercise machine is going to be the best for you!

Stationary Bikes

Stationary bikes come in many forms and with many different features across models. Generally speaking, they consist of a frame, seat with adjustable height, and pedals that you can either rest your feet on or strap into. Majority of stationary bikes these days also have digital displays and controls, however one without a display will do the same job.

Stationary bikes are fantastic for cardio as they can be pedalled as fast as you can manage, and with increased resistance levels, your workout is even more intensive. You also have the benefit of being able to pedal forwards or backwards to target different parts of your muscles.


  • Most models allow you to change the resistance level to suit the kind of workout intensity you’re after, giving you more control over your exercise.
  • One of the most popular cardio workouts available, great for burning calories and if you want to lose weight.
  • It is easier to do an hour of cycling than it is to do an hour of rowing, meaning you can burn more calories and keep your body and muscles moving for longer.
  • Adjustable seat height and pedals enable the user to tailor the bike to their own height and leg length – helping to optimise workout effectiveness.
  • Cycling is a relatively low-impact workout for people with joint problems or back and hip pain.
  • Most stationary bikes have specific holders for water bottles, sweat towels, and phones/music devices so you can have all your workout gear easily handy.


  • Don’t target as many muscle groups as rowing – the main focus is on calves, thighs, and glute muscles whereas the core, back, and arms are not activated as much.
  • Pedalling for an hour non-stop can become monotonous and boring for some people, and there aren’t many ways to change up a cycling workout to make it more interesting.
  • Cheaper stationary bikes can be a bit rudimental and possibly less reliable than more expensive models meaning the quality of your workout might be affected.

Rowing Machines

There are four main types of rowing machines: air, water, hydraulic-piston, and magnetic. Each of these offers its own benefits and disadvantages but we’ll consider the group as a whole for the purpose of this comparison with stationary bikes.

Most rowing machines consist of a sliding seat connected to a track, a flywheel connected to rowing cords, and a display and controls panel, although there will be some older, cheaper models without a display. Again, these will work about as well as ones with a display.

Rowing machines also provide a full-body workout and are great for cardio too.


  • Most rowing machines are relatively quiet compared with other cardio machines, and some are virtually silent, which aids focus and minimises distractions.
  • Provides an excellent full-body cardio workout comparable to that of a stationary bike, and similar amounts of calories are burnt with similar amounts of energy expenditure.
  • Many models are foldable to allow easy storage, and most rowing machines are very compact/slim, so they don’t take up a lot of room even when in use.
  • Don’t require electricity so you’re not limited as to where you can place a rowing machine or when you can use it.
  • Rowing machines target all main muscle groups including back, legs, glutes, arms and core, giving a better-rounded workout than a stationary bike.
  • Rowing is a fairly low impact workout as there is no shock or jarring effect on joints and bones.


  • There are fewer options for workout customisation than with a stationary bike as most rowing machine models rely on your own effort to dictate resistance levels.
  • The average person cannot spend as long rowing as they can cycling, meaning fewer calories may be burned during a workout.
  • The motion of rowing might not be ideal for people who suffer from back pain as the necessity to lean forward might aggravate spine problems.

Why is Cardio Necessary and What is it Good For?

Cardio exercises are any exercises that get your blood pumping and increase your heart rate. Increasing your heart rate allows more blood to circulate around the body more quickly which means ore oxygen is being delivered to different parts of your body more efficiently.

Cardio is also one of the top types of exercise for burning calories and fat, and so is the go-to standard for people trying to shed those extra few pounds or generally get in better shape. When we talk about getting in shape, our minds tend to spring immediately to improving our literal, physical shape, however what happens on the inside is even more important.

Cardio exercise helps to improve lung capacity and can help protect you against heart and lung diseases. As your heart rate increases, your heart (which is a muscle) is forced to pump harder to keep the bloody going round at a sufficient rate. This means your heart is basically getting a workout too which makes it healthier and can lower your resting heart rate in the long run.

The Importance of Muscle-Building

Looking like Miss or Mr Universe is probably not on everyone’s bucket list but even if we don’t want to end up looking like a Roman statue, muscle building is still very important. We use our muscles every day to do all the things we do, so keeping them stretched, exercised, and toned is key!

Exercises that consist of resistance of any kind are the ones that are going to tone or build your muscles. The obvious ones are things like lifting weights and doing bodyweight exercises like press-ups and squats, but there are many kinds of exercise that target muscles hat we don’t always consider.

Most cardio-based exercises will also require some degree of muscular activation (as said above, we use our muscles for everything) but many people don’t realise that these exercises also help us to strengthen and tone these muscles. Even something as simple as walking is a workout for your muscles.

On a Balance

Both of these fitness machines will give you a strong cardio workout that will also help you to work out different muscles. You might not be increasing muscle mass in the sense of body-building, but any movement you do using a rowing machine or stationary bike will help to strengthen and tone your muscles.

With continued use, both machines will give you greater stamina and speed, as well as a healthier heart and lungs – who could complain about that?

If we’re looking at specific situations, then there might be one machine that stands out more to you. For example, if you’re currently very unfit, a stationary bike might be a better option as you can tailor the settings more easily and will likely be able to work out for longer than if using a rowing machine.

However, if you’re looking to target all main muscle groups then a rowing machine is definitely a better call. The bottom line is really just to think about what you want to achieve, as your goals will likely help you to narrow down the search for the ideal fitness machine!

About the author
Published by Kieran
A star athlete during his school days, Kieran quickly excelled at sports and in particular; football. Kieran's true passion lies in home exercise equipment, and so was was built as a source for all of Kieran's thoughts to be put down on a medium. Here he guides you through various nuances of working out at home, tips, guides, reviews and more.The only other thing Kieran enjoys more than working out, is writing about it.
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