Cardio is critical—it absolutely needs to have a place in your weekly training regimen, but it’s not as straightforward as people think.
While you’re doing your cardio workout, you could also be working out other muscle groups, increasing your lung capacity, and treating your endurance (which could in turn help your weightlifting).
It’s like performing bodily efficiency maintenance on yourself.
But when you start looking at cardio machines to use in your home, one thing becomes very apparent: there’s a war of the exercise bike vs indoor rower, and it’s difficult to choose which one works best for your needs.
Fortunately, you have Weston Fit. We’ve gone through all the main benefits down to pricing, ease of use, and overall benefits ( as well as drawbacks) of each of these cardio machine types.
- Exercise Bikes
- Indoor Rowers
- Choosing the Right Cardio Machine for You
Exercise bikes offer one of the best possible ways to burn fat, allowing up to 850 calories burned per hour at a high intensity.
The thing is, against rowing machines, you might not engage with as many dynamic movements.
They’re best for cardio, but depending on the type of exercise bike you choose, they might not be the best bet for a full-body workout.
Ease of Use
Almost everyone you know has the ability to ride a bike. You can just hop on, get to work, and start burning calories right away.
Now, this heavily depends on the type of bike you’re using.
Since they feature resistance types that are the same as indoor rowers, it’s easy to pit air bikes against air resistance rowers, and so on.
I don’t think there’s any comparison when it comes to defending proper form on a bike versus proper form on a rowing machine.
Rowing machines are inherently more difficult to use, but as a result, you’ll also see more full-body benefits than you do with an exercise bike, so there’s that toss-up to consider.
Rowing machines are expensive. There’s no way around it.
Since we have similar resistance types to discuss, it should be noted that you can pay $1,100 for a quality water tank rowing machine, whereas one of the best magnetic exercise bikes, which includes a 10-year frame warranty, can be purchased for about $600.
To be fair, exercise bikes are a lot smaller and easier to manufacture than the complex resistance methods in rowing machines.
When you consider the moving parts of a rowing machine, such as the seat, foot boards and handle, as well as the resistance and how it ties into it, you can see how it would be more complex, and therefore much more expensive, to manufacture.
Exercise bikes are primarily used for cardio, but if you switch to an air or spin bike, you can actually work out seven to ten muscle groups on average.
It all depends on your form and level of engagement, but it’s not unheard of to work out your shoulders, lower abdomen, calves, lower lumbar, and additional muscles all at the same time.
Where rowing machines work out your full body, and that can be beneficial, they are not 100% designed for cardio. They’re a hybrid machine that also works for strength training.
Because of that, exercise bikes allow you to put in more time in your cardio workout (no more than 90 minutes per day) at an even pace, so you can continually burn calories without feeling fatigued.
You’re limiting the number of muscle groups that you can engage when compared to a rowing machine.
Yes, spin bikes can provide a great workout, but not all exercise bikes that are within a budget-friendly price range have the capacity to do what a rowing machine can.
While exercise bikes are great for helping you lose weight, they will eventually help you maintain a weight and lean fitness level, but a rowing machine will help you build muscle and shape a physique in a way that bikes just cannot do.
Exercise bikes are best suited for people who exclusively want to lose weight with a minor focus on building muscle.
If you’re trying to change your life for the better and want or need to include cardio in that life change, exercise bikes are consistently useful.
These are also best for anyone who has genuine fun on a bicycle.
Yes, it’s different, but it’s similar enough to an activity that you already enjoy, so you won’t be bored or feel like repetition is a bad thing.
Rowing machines can be difficult to get the hang of, but offer a full-body workout with a heavy influence on cardio.
Just like exercise bikes, you can find different types, from magnetic to air, to magnetic and more.
Because there are so many similarities in resistance types with exercise bikes, we’re going to keep that in mind when displaying their benefits and drawbacks.
Ease of Use
Rowers are by no means easy to use, but then again, when were the best things in life easy?
If you’re using a rowing machine, it’s because you want a more challenging workout that’s going to benefit you in extreme ways.
Rowing machines have a steep learning curve.
By that, I mean it will take longer to maintain proper form during a high number of reps, but once you get to the level that you’re using a rowing machine properly, it becomes easier to use with monumental benefits.
Form is everything with a rowing machine, and that’s where most of the learning comes from.
Rowing machines can either be $200 for a decent magnetic flywheel resistance type, or $1,100 for a water tank rower, which many believe to be a lot better than any other resistance type.
These aren’t just ballpark numbers, either: if you check out our rowing machine buying guide, you’ll see five machines across the price spectrum that I just listed.
With that being said, it wouldn’t be fair to talk about price without discussing durability.
Your rowing machine is likely to outlast everything else that you have in your home gym, so it’s definitely worth the investment, it’s just a matter of how much you’re willing to sink into a machine, even knowing that it’s designed to last.
A rowing machine not only provides a full-body workout, but it’s part of any good resistance training regimen that aims to sculpt your body.
Your shoulders, arms, lower abdomen, legs and back muscles are all engaged during your time on a rowing machine.
If you’re already lean, rowing machines offer a way to keep multiple muscles zones of your body nice and fit.
While rowing has a steep learning curve, you’re also getting core engagement that combines the benefits of multiple other machines in any gym, all in one place.
It takes a while to learn your proper form. I would like to say that rowing machines are easy, but since I’ve been using one for a while, there might be some bias there.
Getting started with anything new can be frustrating.
Rowing machines have very high maintenance costs, and even though many manufacturers might give you a one-year warranty, nearly all of them have an additional labor cost associated with getting those repairs.
Some might say that those are arbitrary complaints when posed against the benefits, but it’s still important to know the full scope of any downsides you might encounter.
Rowing machines are excellent if you want to sculpt a physique, not just lose weight.
They offer dynamic movements that engage more muscle groups, and can help to eliminate more time spent in the gym.
While rowing machines are efficient, they’re also convenient. Most rowing machines will have attached rolling wheels on the front axle, so you can position them upright and store them.
For anyone with a small home gym, this is a must-have machine.
Last but not least, if you’re someone who doesn’t have the time in any given day to devote to exercise, rowing machines can be used for fifteen minutes a day to improve your health and aesthetic appeal.
We can all find a way to work fifteen minutes in every day.
Choosing the Right Cardio Machine for You
It’s not always clear what works for you at this very moment, so take your time and sleep on it.
Figure out what’s going to work for your day-in, day-out workout regimen in the comfort of your own home.
When you’re ready, check out our buying guides on different types of exercise bikes, as well as indoor rowing machines, and narrow down your decision.
Either way, you’re investing in your health. There’s no time like the present to take control of your health.