Treadmill vs Rowing Machine: Which One Is Better?

So you want to get fit.

But you can’t decide between a treadmill vs. rowing machine.

Well, both have their own advantages.

And disadvantages too.

Let’s look at rowing.

Rowing works 86% percent of the muscle groups in your body. You get a full-body workout. Most of it is cardio but you also build strength with a consistent workout routine.

See how rowing can literally change your body:

rowing before and after


Imagine going through a transformation like this:

rowing machine vs treadmill

Amazing, right?!

Whether you want to get toned, build muscle or just get in a better mindset, rowing can do it all.

Rowing has become the new trend – for good reason. Even though running has been the go-to exercise people chose for years, rowing gives a slight advantage.

Well two, if we look closely.

1. Rowing works more muscles than running.

Want proof?

An Olympic athlete literally measured it using electrodes.

Rowing engages your upper and lower body, tones your arms and strengthens your back.

Imagine getting a full-body workout in 20 minutes.

Yes, you don’t need to sweat in the gym for one hour and do a separate cardio session.

2. Rowing is not as hard on your joints as running.

We all love the runner’s high. But all runners know that running can cause strain on your joints. Professional runners need a lot of recovery time to heal their joints after a race.

You don’t want to go to work while feeling sore in your joints.

It is not fun.

Rowing is low-impact.

You sit down, practice the rowing stroke for 20-30 minutes.

And done.

But don’t mistake low-impact for easy.

A good rowing workout will leave you exhausted. It will just not hurt your knees or your back.

And who doesn’t want that, right?

If you are recovering from an injury, rowing can help you rehabilitate, improve movement and build strength. Rowing is also better for the elderly or people with disabilities.

3. Rowing gives you a wide range of intensity

Rowing allows you to choose from a larger range of resistance. Most rowing machines allow you to choose from as many as 8 resistance levels. You can also row faster to increase the resistance and vice-versa.

Running doesn’t give such a broad range of intensity, you can either jog, run or sprint. Sure, you can vary the speed but there is little range of intensity as compared to rowing.

Imagine coming home in the evening after a long day.

Would you rather run on a treadmill or sit on the rower’s seat and do some low-impact workout?

Running on a Treadmill

Now let’s talk about running.

Running can give you a different kind of high. It feels powerful.

But running engages only your lower muscles – quads, hamstrings and glutes.

See the difference?

Treadmill Burns More Calories than a Rowing Machine

But running isn’t bad at all.

In fact, it burns more calories than rowing – about 16 percent more. But it is hard on your joints. It takes a toll on your body. Runners have to deal with pain in knees, back, foot and other areas.

Buying a treadmill may limit your workout options, though. This is because you can always go outdoors for a run.

But rowing requires a proper setup in terms of a boat, oars, seats and sculls. Learning the proper form on the water is also more complex than just going for a run in a nearby park.

The point is – when you buy a rowing machine, running is always an option.

But not vice-versa.

So choose wisely.

Running Helps You Retain Minerals

One lesser known benefit of running is that it slows down the loss of minerals in your legs, hips and lower spine. This happens with all exercises that require you to use your weight. You cannot get this benefit with rowing.


Rowing requires you to learn the proper form and technique. There are four phases you need to learn: catch, drive, release and recovery.

A slight variation of the technique allows you to get a vigorous workout too.

Running, on the other hand, is straight-forward. It doesn’t have any learning curve.