Rowing Machine VS Elliptical: The Differences And How To Make The Most Of Each

We all know how important cardiovascular exercise is. You can buy two of the best machines in your gym are the rowing machine and the elliptical. It will be excellent for your cardiovascular health. 

Yet, there is still an ongoing argument about which is superior over the other. In this rowing machine vs. elliptical article, you’ll find out the key differences. Also, you can determine which one is best for you. So, keep reading for more information!

Benefits Of Rowing Machines And Elliptical Trainers

Concept 2 Rower D

Before I walk you through the differences between a rowing machine and an elliptical. Let us first discuss their uses. 

Both of these exercise machines offer low-impact cardiovascular stimulation. This helps reduce your body fat and manage your body weight. Thus, it also improves your heart health, and lungs’ aerobic capacity. and reduces your risk of acquiring or developing many diseases. 

Maintain a high-speed movement on either machine for at least thirty minutes. It will help you to reap the most cardio machine rewards. Set the resistance on low if using an elliptical trainer, or set the damper settings to low on a rowing machine. 

If you perform 30 minutes of aerobics, it can help you live a healthier, longer, and more independent life. You will find it in the “Aerobic Exercise: Top 10 Reasons to get Physical” article by 

The other amazing benefits of regular cardio and aerobic exercise also include:

  • Improved mood
  • Higher energy levels
  • Great for fat loss
  • Can reduce belly fat
  • Stronger cardiovascular system
  • Better stamina and endurance
  • Boosted immune system strength

Rowing Machine Vs. Elliptical: Posture

Women with Ellipticals

Both the rowing machine and elliptical offer low-impact full-body cardio workouts. Also, these are excellent ways to strengthen your lower and upper body. 

Their main difference lies in the posture you maintain each of them and the body workout styles. When using a rowing machine, you remain seated throughout the workout. The motion also mimics how you would row as if propelling a boat through the water. 

So, you will be standing erect while striding with an elliptical machine. You can adjust some machines to simulate climbing or walking against some resistance.

Workout Style And Target Muscles 

There is also a difference in how a rowing machine and an elliptical machine work your muscles.  Rowing machines focus more on your upper body than an elliptical workout. Some ellipticals may not even come with moving arms.

Rowing machines are more effective in strengthening your arms and core muscles. You will be using your abs to keep your torso straight and maintain the proper form if you work out. It works as an exercise bike. 

An elliptical cross trainer does not offer this core-strengthening benefit. But, it does target the triceps and chest muscles more than a rowing machine would. Note that an elliptical trainer is not a basic strength-training tool. 

Still, depending on how hard you push against the handlebars as you pedal. You can involve yourself and work on your chest and triceps. It will help you to know elliptical vs bike for seniors.

Caloric Burn 

For burning calories, you would generally burn fewer calories on a rowing machine. It works better than on an elliptical trainer. Of course, the number of calories you will burn will still depend on other factors. 

The other factors are your entire body weight and your workout intensity. A person with 155 pounds can burn around 670 calories per hour on an elliptical trainer. And around 630 calories per hour on a rowing machine. 

Again, both machines offer a low-impact body workout, which means your feet and hands. It must stay in contact with the machine as you exercise. So, when it comes to stress on the joints and caloric burn, they are pretty much the same.

Rowing Machine Vs. Elliptical: Space Requirement

Concept 2 Rower Review

Rowing machines generally take up more space than elliptical machines. It is the footprint and design, r because they are longer. This design allows you to sit on the rower with extended legs. 

There is also a flywheel connected to the handle, which you will pull a few feet in front of you. Rowing machines are long, narrow, and lower in height. This cardio exercise bike makes them ideal for spaces with low ceilings and is longer than they are wide. You will also find some compact rowers for places with minimal floor areas. 

So, ellipticals need more vertical clearance if you will stand up instead of sitting down. Also, elliptical pedals have the design to keep you elevated at least a few inches from the floor.

You will need the height for an elliptical machine is your height plus anywhere between 15 to 20 inches. Some manufacturers produce ellipticals suitable for low-ceiling environments. If you practice this, you will know about rowing machines vs elliptical calories.

Muscle Gain And Toning 

The movement on a rowing machine is a two combination of cardio and weightlifting. Still, the intensity of the exercise bike. It comes from a repeated alternating movement with a brief recovery.

You push with the legs and pull through your arms and core. Thus, the muscles can target when you are lifting weights. The movement on a rowing machine allows you to build your core, legs, arms, and back, muscle group. 

Moreover, the movement on an elliptical trainer is more of the circular type. A continuous stepping stride without a distinct starting point or stopping point. But don’t worry because you will still feel your leg muscles burn.

It is also helpful for weight loss. An elliptical trainer is more versatile than a rowing machine. You have to adjust the resistance. And the shape and length of each stride, the incline, and even the reverse of the pedaling. 

This allows you to target a different group of muscles of the legs, core, back, and arms. The elliptical machine is a piece of valuable fitness equipment. You can use it for a moderate-intensity workout.

Learning Curve


Whenever you use an exercise machine, there is always a learning curve: your rate of progress. You have to be consistent with it. get the hang of using it. Elliptical trainers are more comfortable and straightforward to use. 

Step on the pedals and start moving as if walking or running. Hold the handlebars and move your arms back and forth for a whole-body cardio workout. Yet, intuition and instinct are not quite enough to be able to use a rowing machine. 

You might need at least one session with an informative training video. Besides, you can follow a good trainer to learn the proper form and stroke motion. 

Weight-Bearing and Osteoporosis 

Weight-bearing exercises such as using an elliptical cross trainer can help slow down. Or helps to reduce mineral loss in the bones of the hips, legs, and lower body. Also with a lower spine for people with osteoporosis. 

Elliptical training can also help improve your bone density. Rowing machines do not have this benefit if rowing is not a weight-bearing exercise. But, it does help strengthen the back, which can also help prevent osteoporosis. 

You have to check the calories burned with the rowing machines. Apart from that, you can keep it for your home gym. Making a workout routine can help you out. You need to track how many calories are burning. It will help you to understand rowing machines or ellipticals for weight loss. 

Reliability And Operation 

The operation of rowing machines is simple. They are pretty straightforward to use and need no electricity. It is one of the important gym machines. You can operate some versions of the elliptical machine. 

Still, they often come with programmable electronic settings, which makes them so versatile. The more complex operation of elliptical machines also needs more maintenance. They are less reliable for longevity. 

Instead of a treadmill, you can choose elliptical machines. It can be great exercise equipment for upper body workouts and lower body workouts. 


Since the mechanism of rowing machines work is much simpler than elliptical trainers. The latter are generally more expensive. You also have to find a machine that will withstand regular use with a rowing machine. 

It is better than an elliptical cross-trainer. Low-end rowers and low-end elliptical trainers include the same problems as less-than-smooth operations. and motion, flimsy construction, and a noisy drive mechanism. 

If you follow the proper technique, it will help you to strengthen your core muscles. A good quality rowing machine can cost anywhere between $600 to $800.

Find the best rowing machine that is a bang for your buck here. The prices of a decent elliptical trainer may start at a similar approximate price range. Still, they can go as high as $1000 or more for quality models. 

To know which type of exercise equipment is suitable for you, watch this video:


In summary, you understand the idea of a rowing machine vs an elliptical machine. It will depend on your personal needs, fitness goals, weight loss, and preferences. Both offer similar and amazing advantages that even the healthiest person can enjoy. 

 A rowing machine could be your best option if you want to work on your back, chest, and core. Otherwise, if you want a more gentle workout for your whole body, then, by all means, go for an elliptical machine. 

At the end of the day, your exercise results will depend on your perseverance. And the amount of effort you put in, no matter what machine you use. So, I hope you find what you’re looking for with the help of the information you learned from this article!


  • Kelly Clanton

    Hi there! I'm Kelly Clanton. I am an educated fitness coach with a master degree in Sports Education, and more than ​9 years of working in fitness industry. I love doing and teaching fitness because in my own little way, I am able to encourage people to take health back into their own hands. I'm a Mom,Wife, Fitness Instructor at Fitness Instructor.

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