Rowing Machine vs Treadmill: Detailed Comparison, Pros & Cons

Are you considering adding a rowing machine or treadmill to your home gym? You are not alone! The sales of both rowers and treadmills for home use have experienced substantial growth over the past few years. Both pieces of exercise equipment are a large investment; still, both offer the ability to exercise in the privacy of your home, whenever you want, and regardless of the weather.

While a rowing machine has the advantage of working your entire body, a treadmill uses the large muscle groups of your lower body, burning more calories per hour than you would on a rower. Both machines promote healthy exercise, but when facing the choice of one over the other, rowing machine vs. treadmill, which should you choose? Let’s consider each:

Treadmills

Treadmill

During the late 1800s, treadmills were used to harness animals’ energy to simple farm or manufacturing equipment. Horses, mules, or dogs would walk on large treadmills and turn grain into flour or milk into butter. As early as 1952, cardiologists began to realize the potential of treadmills for improving cardiovascular exercise. Today, you can purchase a home treadmill with many of the same features as most commercial models.

When shopping for (or comparing) treadmills, consider:

  1. Motor Size – The typical range in horsepower is 2.25 to 3.5. A 2.5 to 3.0 horsepower motor should be sufficient. You CAN buy a manual (non-motorized) treadmill, but you probably won’t use it.
  2. Running Area – Treadmill running areas range from 55 inches to 60 inches long and are usually at least 20 inches wide. The taller you are, the longer running length you need.
  3. Speed and Incline – Treadmill speeds range from 10 to 12 miles per hour. If you prefer sprinting, look for a treadmill with top speeds of 12 mph or more. If you intend to walk or jog, 10 mph is more than sufficient. The ability to increase or decrease your treadmill’s incline (tilt) will allow you to vary your workout intensity.
  4. Folding – A treadmill that folds can save space in your home. Treadmills that fold may fold flat or fold upright. The flat-folding treadmill folds flat to the ground, so it’s easy to store under a bed while an upright folding treadmill folds vertically for easy storage in a closet. Likewise, there are compact rowing models that can be folded to save space.
  5. Maximum Weight – Most treadmills have weight capacities in the range of 250 to 300 pounds. Treadmills with a maximum user weight of 350 pounds or higher may provide a more robust and more durable frame.
  6. Warranty – Look for treadmills with a lifetime warranty on both the frame and motor.

Why you should consider a treadmill

  • Time Savings – Set your workout schedule without having to worry about traveling to a gym early enough to find an open machine; yours is always available.
  • Eliminate Excuses – The treadmill is in your house, so get off your butt and use it.
  • Make Exercise Family Time – Your children can work on homework or coloring books while you exercise with no daycare or babysitter to worry about.
  • Eliminate Expensive Monthly Gym Fees – Your home treadmill can improve your health and save you money by eliminating your monthly gym membership, especially if you are spending that money every month and NOT going.
  • Safety – Running indoors on a quality treadmill is safer than running on the streets!

Things that you may not like

  • Cost – Quality made treadmills can be expensive, ranging from $1000 to $4,000.
  • Space – Treadmills have a large “footprint” and are often too large and heavy to move quickly.
  • Boredom – Running for extended periods can become tiresome. However, most treadmills have options to include music, television, or even interactive video training.
XTERRA Fitness TRX3500 Treadmill
4.7

It combines quality, performance, and great looks with the premium features you desire in a home treadmill. The console display features a large 6.5” LCD display.

Pros:
  • Connects to third-party apps like Zwift via Bluetooth FTMS
  • Quiet and powerful high torque 3.0 HP motor
  • Large 6.5” Blue Backlit LCD display
  • XTRASoft cushion technology for maximum impact absorption
  • Lifetime Frame & Motor warranty
  • Handlebar speed & incline controls
Cons:
  • A few users complained about the XTERRA support
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Horizon Fitness T101 Treadmill
4.6

An excellent value-for-money but quality treadmill from a very known brand. The motor can run at lower RPMs to minimize noise and enhance durability.

Pros:
  • Unique easy one-step folding frame
  • Space-saving design and little weight (only 165 lbs)
  • Doesn’t wobble or shake at a steeper incline or higher speeds
  • Longer & spacious running deck
  • High-quality drive motor can reach a speed of 10 miles per hour
Cons:
  • Fewer workout programs than other premium treadmills
  • Not the sturdiest or strongest build treadmill
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Rowing Machine

rower

As with any fitness machine (including treadmills), there are advantages and disadvantages in using a rowing machine.

Why you should consider a rower

  • Full Body Workout – Rowing machines provide a full-body workout, working your arms, legs, chest, and back while also training your cardiorespiratory system (heart and lungs).
  • Low Impact Training – Unlike treadmills, rowing machines provide very low impact workouts without stress on your ankles, knees, and joints.
  • Lower Risk For Injury – Rowing machines put minimal stress on your joints and reduce your risk of injuries. There is also no risk of falling because you are seated as you train.
  • Slightly Less Expensive – There are four basic types of rowing machines; air resistance, magnetic resistance, piston resistance, and water resistance rowing machines (You can read about the differences in our detailed article). A good quality (and time tested) rowing machine uses a fan to provide resistance, and if you focus solely on the fan quality and a smooth gliding seat, a rowing machine can be less expensive when compared to treadmills.

Things that you may not like

  • Difficult To Store – Most quality rowers (especially those with a fan resistance) do not fold or collapse and may become permanent fixtures in your room.
  • Back Pain – When you use your rowing machine for 30 minutes or more, you will feel it in your lower back. If you suffer from lower back pain or previous lower back injury, a rowing machine may not be your best option.
  • Shipping And Assembly – Larger rowers may require costly shipping and may also require assembly, which can be frustrating.
Concept2 Model D Rowing Machine
4.9

Easy to fold and store with an impressive build quality makes this an excellent choice for those who want to work out at home without worrying about space issues.

Pros:
  • Used by professional athletes across the world
  • Almost real rowing feeling
  • Framelock mechanism for easy storage
  • Sturdy design and excellent build
  • Lightweight and wheeled from the front, making it super portable and easy to move.
Cons:
  • The seat is not the most comfortable.
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Sunny Health Magnetic Rower
4.6

Comes with a newly improved quieter magnetic tension system with 8 levels of adjustable tension, a large LCD console, a fully padded seat and larger anti-slip foot pedals.

Pros:
  • Large LCD console
  • Extra-long slide rail
  • Built-in transportation wheels for easy portability
  • Textured non-slip foot pedals
  • Cushioned seat for a comfortable rowing experience
Cons:
  • Cannot offer the near-real feeling of rowing that an air or a water premium rower provides
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Rowing Machine vs. Treadmill: Which Should You Choose?

If you are in the market for a calorie-burning, cardio workout machine, both options are excellent choices! Rowing machines and treadmills have similar costs, similar space requirements, and even comparable calorie burns at roughly 600+ calories per hour. Your choice comes down to personal preference.

  • Treadmill: If you are a runner, love running, or want to burn calories in front of your television – a treadmill is your best option. A treadmill also allows you to progress through your training from walking to jogging and finally to running and sprinting. You can also combine weights, kettlebells, resistance bands, and bodyweight training into your Bootcamp or HIIT workout by running for a set time, then alternating resistance training, and then back to the treadmill.
  • Rower: If you prefer calorie burning and toning with a full-body workout, a rowing machine maybe your best option. Rowers are affordable and offer a full-body training with minimal impact. If you are spending an hour a day using aerobic exercise equipment, then consider using a rowing machine and get all the extra benefits.