Treadmill or Rowing Machine: Which is Better?

For years, I loved running. And I would find a way to run no matter what the weather was like. Whether indoors or outdoors, I just couldn’t start my day any other way than with a run.

But all that changed several years ago when I injured my leg and was no longer able to run like I had for so long. It was devastating. But I knew I had to find another way to continue exercising.

And what’s when I discovered the benefits of using an indoor rowing machine. For the first time in my life, ‘running’ had a genuine competitor in my exercise regime.

But which exercise is better? I’m sure that I’m not the only person who’s asked this question. In fact, if you’ve stumbled on this article, you’re probably asking this question.

Are treadmills or rowing machines more effective?

Well, when looking at these two forms of exercise, it would be wise for us to ask what we mean by ‘more effective.’ After all, different people would define this term differently. Some might see a more effective exercise as one that develops muscle mass more quickly. Others might think of it as the exercise that burns more calories.

So, how will we be looking at this question today?

We’re going to ask three major questions about treadmills and rowing machines, then we will determine which of these devices answers these questions the best.

Do Treadmills or Rowing Machines Provide a Better Overall Workout?

The fact is, both treadmills and rowing machines will help you achieve a fantastic cardiovascular workout that will…

  • Burn calories
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce your risk of heart disease
  • Leave you with increased energy
  • Strengthen your cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • And more.

It should be clear that both machines will help you reach your fitness goals. But one machine tends to edge the other out by sheer versatility and comprehensiveness.

While treadmills will allow you to adjust speed and incline, rowing machines also allow you to adjust arm resistance. This means that while the treadmill will give all of your leg muscles a great workout (including your quads, calves, glutes, and hamstrings), the rowing machine will help you exercise your entire body, including your abs and arms.

In other words, rowing is a more comprehensive exercise than treadmills.

A machine that can only give half of your body a workout will never compare to one that will utilize more of your muscles. In other words, more muscles means more effective.

The really great thing about the rowing machines is that, while treadmills will leave you with a great cardiovascular workout, only the rowing machine will give you that in addition to building muscle mass.

And if that isn’t all, rowing machines have the added benefit of elevating your metabolism for longer than equivalent time on a treadmill.

So the more effective workout is not just a question of which will burn the more calories. All of these different aspects must be looked at as we try to determine the most effective exercise machine.

Verdict: Rowing Machine

Is the Treadmill or Rowing Machine Better For You?

Now, you may be wondering what we mean by ‘better for you’ in this question. After all, we’ve just gotten through looking at how the rowing machine is a more effective exercise option. Shouldn’t that answer the question of which is better for you? Not quite.

You see, some exercises are weight-bearing exercises while others aren’t.

But what is a weight-bearing exercise, you ask?

When you run, you put pressure that’s equivalent to four to eight times your weight on your joints with each and every step. And though your joints can take a lot, eventually all of this force can add up to serious injury.

Countless runners end up with joint-related injuries every year. And while many of these injuries are due to people trying to over-do it or not running properly, injuries can happen to anyone at any time. And running injuries can leave you with damaged knees, ankles, hips, and more.

This is the danger of running on a treadmill.

On the other hand, rowing machines allow you to exercise in a manner that is non weight-bearing. Since you’re able to row while seated, you’ll put minimal stress and pressure on your joints. Rowing won’t leave your knee or other joints battered and the chance for injury is much smaller.

This is why many people who are recovering from injuries are able to use a rowing machine when they can’t run on a treadmill.

You can actually feel the difference if you exercise on both machines for an equivalent period of time. After a long run, you’ll feel worn out. But you’ll probably also feel beat up. Your hips, knees, and ankles may pound. You will feel the result of all of that pressure. After rowing, on the other hand, you’ll still feel exhausted but the pounding will be missing. You’ll find that your ankles don’t ache and aren’t nearly as sore as they would’ve been if you would have run instead.

Treadmills (and running in general) are simply more brutal on your body. Rowing machines will give you an equivalent workout with significantly less danger of injury.

Verdict: Rowing Machine

Is a Treadmill or a Rowing Machine a Better Value?

We could look at the total cost of both machines. But it’s usually better to ask which will give you a better return on your investment. And though some might think that this would be a tough question to answer, if you’ll go back and read the first part of this article, you’ll find that the answer to this question is obvious.

Rowing machines will provide a solid cardiovascular workout. It will build muscle mass in your whole body. And it’s a non-weight bearing exercise that is unlikely to leave you injured.

By now it should be obvious why injured people use rowing machines rather than treadmills while recuperating after surgery.

And though treadmills will leave you with a great workout – and you can run for free – the winner is clear.

Verdict: Rowing Machine

If you decide to buy a rowing machine from an online store like Amazon, you’ll find that prices are similar. Both high and low-end treadmills and rowing machines are available.

#1 Overall Rowing Machine: Concept2 Model D

#1 Overall Treadmill: LifeSpan TR1200i Folding Treadmill

Whichever machine you end up with, remember that variety in your workouts is key. Don’t always use the same machine in the same way or your body will get used to it and it will become less effective. Always keep your body guessing.