elliptical vs rowing machine

Your time spent at the gym, trying to achieve your fitness goals, comes with the need for precise know-how on how varying workout equipment work and the concentrated impact these machines have on body molding. It’s only natural that keeping in mind your workout goals, you have queries on different workout equipment and what serves best to achieve said goals.

Here we discuss the difference and similarities of elliptical vs rowing machine, so it can help you decide in favor of one.

Comparing Elliptical vs Rowing Machine

Rowing Machine Elliptical Machine
Usage Easy usage from the get-go Requires trainer assistance or tutorial video viewing
Weight Bearing Workout Delivers a weight-bearing workout wherein upper body weight impacts lower body No weight bearing impacts on the lower body
Calorie Count Burns 800 calories per hour on average It burns 700 calories per hour on average
Full body workout Delivers upper and lower body workout Delivers upper and lower body workout
Muscle Focus Engages quadriceps, calves, glutes, hamstrings, obliques, abs, pecs, upper back, abs, deltoids, triceps Strengthens your glutes, quads, hamstrings, back, chest, biceps, core muscles, and triceps
Caution Caution advised for those with weak back and tightness in the chest Caution advised for those with osteoporosis
Health Benefits Strengthens core, corrects weak posture and curved spine Mild yet effective weight-bearing workout for those with osteoporosis
Cost Costs ranging from $600 to $800 Costs start at $1000

Either you are a big guy or a tall person an elliptical machine is definitely out there for you. you are tall and looking for an elliptical? The best elliptical machine for a tall person should have a sturdy structure and more weight-bearing capacity, long stride, and adjustable padels. 

The Gym Trend: elliptical vs rowing machine

Among a range of commonly used fitness equipment, the elliptical and rowing machines are standard fixtures in any modern gym setup. And as such, any discerning fitness enthusiast or even a newbie is likely to have questions about both these machines’ efficacy, which trumps the other.

This informative write-up attempts to put those questions to bed with an in-depth comparison between the elliptical and rowing machine, emphasizing enhancing aerobic capacity, fat loss, and risk reduction for a wide range of diseases through cardiovascular exercise.

i) Usage

True! Elliptical machines do resemble machines you’ve probably seen in a sci-fi movie, but using the same is easy-peasy. All you do is step on the pedals and replicate walking or running movements while you hold on to the handles, simultaneously moving your arms back and forth in tandem with your lower body.

On the other hand, a rowing machine takes some getting used to. One cannot expect to achieve proper technique at the get-go. Experts recommend a single session with a qualified trainer or referencing a reliable workout video to get your workout motions on a rowing machine right.

It’s worth noting that falling back on the default back and forth scooting motions that most newbies are susceptible to does not produce the required results. So while comparing elliptical vs rowing machine it’s become clear that ellipticals are easy to use and more beneficial.

ii) Benefits from Weight Borne During Workouts

The elliptical machine requires that you work out while standing, and as such, the weight of your upper body, borne by your lower body, does have an impact on your extreme ends.

On the other hand, you remain seated on your posterior while using a rowing machine, and there’s no impact of your upper body weight on your lower body. As such, it’s fair to say that the rowing machine does not facilitate a weight-bearing workout.

iii) A Full Body Workout

Best elliptical for small spaces and apartments

It’s only fair to emphasize the full-body workout facilitated by an elliptical machine when comparing a rowing machine. While you work out on an elliptical machine while remaining standing, a combination of back-and-forth movements of the upper and lower body exerted against the resistance offered by the machine ensures a full-body workout. As a result, the elliptical quite effectively strengthens your glutes, quads, hamstrings, back, chest, biceps, core muscles, and triceps.

Conversely, the rowing machine facilitates an upper body workout and a lower body. But there is no weight bearing on the lower body, and as such, this workout has a little weight-bearing impact on your person below the waist.

However, the gliding seat, the back-and-forth strokes, and the bending and unbending at the knees proactively engage quadriceps, calves, glutes, hamstrings, obliques, abs pecs, upper back, abs, deltoids, triceps.

iv) Calorie Counting

If you are working out with the goal of weight loss and happen to be proactively counting calories burned while on a rowing or elliptical machine, it is worth looking into the calorie burn count that each machine helps you achieve. While on an elliptical, an hour’s worth of working out can help burn up to 700 calories on average.

Conversely, the rowing machine significantly works out the glutes, core, back, and arms, and as a result, you are likely to burn up to 800 calories for every hour of working out.

v) Caution

While any workout is intended to increase fitness levels, awareness of one’s own health status is significant when engaging with workout equipment. Individuals experiencing frequent tightness in the chest region and symptoms of a weak back, including pain and inflammation, are best advised to engage cautiously with an elliptical machine.

However, and if, for any medical reasons, you wish to avoid strenuous workouts that can cause significant exertion, an elliptical machine delivers a gentler workout in comparison to a rowing machine.

vi) Muscle Focus

Both rowing and ellipticals are likely to engage similar muscles in the upper and lower body. However, it is worth noting that the rowing machine facilitates a significantly more effective core strengthening workout.

Your core strength ensures that your torso remains straight with every stroke on a rowing machine, and as such, this machine actively engages and enhances your core strength.

Conversely, and as mentioned before, the elliptical effectively strengthens your glutes, quads, hamstrings, back, chest, biceps, core muscles, and triceps but does not deliver the same core strengthening workout that a rowing machine does.

vii) Health Benefits

Any form of workout comes with potential health benefits. It does help to note the varying health benefits of a rowing machine compared to an elliptical workout. The rowing machine has a significant training impact on the back and arms.

This form of exercise can help strengthen the arms and back and is also instrumental in correcting poor posture. Unfortunately, fatigue can lead to a hunched posture for desk workers, which then leads to a weak lower back. A commonly seen sign of this widespread health issue is a curved spine.

The rowing machine requires a straight-back posture to train the muscles, correct postural issues, strengthen a weak back and correct a curved spine.

While the rowing machine has positive impacts on various muscle groups in the upper and lower body, it does not have the same impact on the skeleton system. So when it comes to elliptical vs rowing machine you might find different thoughts on different forums, but the reality is ellipticals are more useful for skeletons.

This is especially true for those with osteoporosis who can benefit significantly more from a weight-bearing workout on a rowing machine, which is also a significantly milder exercise routine.

In some cases, rowing machine use can prove adverse for seniors; thus, consulting a doctor before taking up strenuous rowing machine workouts is advised.

viii) Cost

If you are reading this comparison of rowing vs. elliptical machines with the intention of purchasing one or the other, it does help to understand cost variations between the two.

Compared to an elliptical, the mechanical simplicity of a rowing machine often means that the rowing machine is likely to cost significantly lesser.

However, it is important to avoid purchasing a low-end rowing machine with poor construction that does not sustain regular use. The same applies to elliptical machines that come at a lower cost but do not deliver the service or longevity you require to get your money’s worth.

On average, purchasing a rowing machine is likely to come at a pocket pinch ranging from $600 to $800. On the other hand, an elliptical purchase can set you back by $1000 for a quality product or even more.

We also research the possible side effects of elliptical machines and find that their benefits are far bigger than the side effects; moreover, the side effects of ellipticals are different for different age groups.

Pros and Cons

elliptical vs rowing machine

Your purchase of either a rowing machine or an elliptical machine should be preceded by careful consideration of the pros and cons of each, as detailed in the infographics below.

Furthermore, included here is a complete infographic overview of this comparison of elliptical vs rowing machine for your careful consideration.

Pros Cons
Rowing Machine ⦁ Effective for muscle and cardio training ⦁ Effective usage preceded by technical learning
⦁Lower and upper body workout ⦁ Limited workout duration owing to strain on the arms
⦁ Zero articulations impact ⦁ Heart rate monitor unavailable
⦁ An effective form of interval training ⦁ Usually unsuitable for those with osteoporosis and seniors
⦁ Runs manually without electricity ⦁ Workout variations limited, leading to monotony
Elliptical Machine ⦁ Easy to use ⦁ It comes at a steep price
⦁ Variable motion options ⦁ Requires more floor space
⦁ Heart rate monitor available ⦁ Unsuitable for those with back issues
⦁ Runs on electricity


With an overview of all there is to know when comparing rowing and elliptical machines; it works best to make your choice based on your workout goals. Similarly, bear in mind the pros and cons of both common workout equipment when using them at the gym or when making a purchase decision.

Consider space requirements, cautionary advice, personal fitness levels, and other equally important factors, as mentioned above, when choosing between the two.

Elliptical vs walking, which one should get preference? can go side by side, and one can get better results while working out on the elliptical and adding a walk-in daily routine. 

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