The main difference between a rowing machine and a treadmill is that they exercise your body differently, and that means they have different advantages.
You need to have your goals very precisely outlined in your mind. You have to know what you’re capable of, what you want to achieve, and what exercise you like. As such, you have to be very aware of your preferences but also of your limitations.
With that in mind, let’s look at some goals you may have:
The cardio point of view is essential if you want to:
- Keep your heart and lungs healthy
- Increase your endurance
- Improve your fitness without overexerting yourself
- You have preexisting heart issues
So, which machine is the safest and can improve your cardiovascular health the best?
- Both machines can increase your endurance because they will bring your heart rate up in the fat-burning zone without making too much effort. For instance, a 130-pound 35yo woman can get her heart rate up at 180 bpm by simply walking at 6 km/h.
- The perceived effort is higher if you’re running on the treadmill. As such, you will improve your breathing faster if you’re running or doing any other sort of high-impact exercise.
- If you have preexisting heart issues, consider low-impact cardio like walking or rowing.
If you’re looking at rowers vs treadmills MO’s, you can infer that rowing machines are better for your joints. After all, you’re sitting down, so there’s not much pressure on your knees and ankles.
However, that’s a simplistic way of looking at the problem. Consider these things as well:
- Rowing machines can put more pressure on your lower back.
- If you’re not maintaining the correct posture while you’re rowing, you can strain your shoulders.
- High-quality treadmills offer superior cushioning, which can prevent and even alleviate some chronic pain.
- Walking and running are weight-bearing exercises that strengthen your bones and, as a result, prevent bone loss in the long term. This problem becomes acute once you get older, and you need to be proactive about it.
Remember: More intense exercise with improper form will damage your joints.
So, ask your doctor, consider what exercise you want to do, and your other goals. For example, simply walking on the treadmill is:
- Better for strengthening your bones than rowing
- Relatively low-impact
- Excellent for heart health
- Less calorie consuming than intense rowing
By contrast, rowing is:
- Better for total body sculpting
- Less impactful on your joints
- Tougher on your lower back
- Less suitable for bone strengthening
For Weight Loss
You can burn about 600-800 calories/ hour whether you’re rowing or exercising on the treadmill at moderate intensity. Of course, that number is an average; your calorie burn may look completely different depending on:
- Your age
- Biological sex
- Existing metabolic conditions
- Current weight
- Muscle vs fat ratio
Here’s another thing to consider:
You’ll have to do different things to achieve the same intensity level on a treadmill vs on a rower.
For instance, running at 10 km/h is considered moderate intensity for the treadmill – but not everybody likes to run or can run that fast. Running doesn’t just depend on your lower body muscle strength; it also depends on your current lung capacity. That’s why some people can have beautifully sculpted bodies but can only do low-impact exercise.
By comparison, rowing seems easier.
Increasing your rower’s resistance makes your muscles work harder without affecting your breathing too much. And that’s an advantage because many people who are new to exercise panic when their breathing gets faster and their heart rates accelerate.
That’s completely normal; your body confuses those things for anxiety.
And since rowing doesn’t affect your breathing as much, your brain will perceive this exercise as more manageable and more pleasant.
In the meantime, your body will burn more calories as you increase the resistance and use all your muscles to execute the rowing motions.
Pro tip: If you want to lose more weight on the treadmill without running, consider:
- Walking at an incline
- Holding on to free weights or using resistance bands to work your upper body too
Rowing Machine Vs Treadmill For Fat Loss
Fat loss entails a different process than simple weight loss, and that’s why some people experience plateaus after an intense weight-loss period.
For example, running can help you lose 5-10 kg/ month, depending on how strict your diet is. But after a few weeks, you’ll notice you’ll have to run for longer and restrict your diet even more to get the same results.
By comparison, strength training builds muscle.
According to several studies, that muscle will help you burn through your fat stores even when you’re resting.
So, which machine is better for strength training?
The answer to that question is arguably rowing machines because you can increase their resistance to practice resistance training.
But here’s the thing:
You can also practice strength training on your treadmill by increasing the incline or using a weighted vest if you want to tone your legs. Use resistance bands or free weights to build upper body strength.
You can also combine strength and intense cardio on your rowing machine:
Set your rower’s resistance on the lowest setting for intense cardio or HIIT, but increase that resistance when you want to practice strength training.
Remember: Vary your workouts to get the best results, and wear a heart-rate monitor to ensure you’re exercising in your fat-burning zone.
For Belly Fat Loss
Firstly, remember that you can’t just lose belly fat preferentially. As you’re gaining more muscle and toning your entire body, your belly fat will disappear too.
However, some exercises target your belly area more than others.
The question is whether you can target your core better on a treadmill or a rower.
- When you’re rowing, you’re making multiple crunch-and-release motions. These movements will strengthen your abs more if you increase your rower’s resistance.
- When you’re walking/ running, your core acts as a supporting muscle group. So, you’ll contract your abs and lower back to keep a correct posture. The more incline you add, the more your core will have to work.
Thus, rowing targets your belly more specifically, but the problem is your core will do the same movement repeatedly. Conversely, you’re gaining more functional strength on the treadmill.
So, at the end of the day, both rowers and treadmills can strengthen your abs so that you can lose belly fat, but neither machine is perfect for belly fat loss.
Rowers and treadmills increase your heart health and your endurance. Both machines help you lose weight – especially fat weight. However, you have to use them correctly depending on your goal.
- Adjust your machine’s cardio intensity from low to high according to how much you can handle.
- Consider preexisting conditions. For example, if you have joint pain or lower back pain, pick an ergonomic model. Make sure your rower offers plenty of adjustments or get a treadmill with superior cushioning.
- If you want to lose more weight in the short term, choose a treadmill for running – especially running at an incline. Alternatively, consider an air rower for HIIT.
- If your focus is long-term fat loss, choose a rowing machine and row at high resistances. Alternatively, select a treadmill with incline and upper body resistance bands or use free weights/ weighted vests.