Treadmill Versus Rowing Machine: Which Is Better?

Treadmill versus rowing machine, two super-popular pieces of cardio equipment – but also quite different. Like many others, you probably wonder which one you should choose?

The truth is, both machines offer their unique benefits, so the one you choose should depend on factors like your:

  • Preferences
  • Goals
  • Experience
  • Weight

In other words, context matters most. In the following points, we’ll take a more in-depth look at both devices, what benefits they offer, and who they suit better.

By the end, you’ll have a much better idea of which one is ideal for YOU.

The Treadmill: An In-Depth Look

The treadmill is a popular cardio machine, and you’ve probably used one in the past. You can find these in most gyms, and getting one for your home is more affordable than ever.

The most notable benefit of treadmills is that you can run indoors. For instance, if the weather is bad, you can still have a great running workout in the comfort of your home or local gym.

Another benefit of treadmill training is that you can burn many calories in a relatively short period (1). So, if your goal is to lose weight, adding some treadmill training can be fantastic for putting yourself in a calorie deficit (2).

Treadmills are also quite versatile. You can walk, jog, do intervals, and even sprint on them. You can also increase the incline angle on more expensive models to burn extra calories and train your posterior chain better (3). Of course, you should always be careful on a treadmill because there is also a risk of falling off if you’re not in complete control.

The primary drawback of a treadmill is that they tend to take up a bit more space and are sometimes noisy. If you want to get one for your home, you need to be mindful of these facts. For instance, you can put the treadmill in an exercise room or in the basement, where you can always go for a workout without worrying about the noise.

As far as who treadmills are for – everyone can benefit from them. Beginner or advanced, you can use a treadmill to improve your endurance, lose weight, and make regular exercise a habit. The only thing worth mentioning here is that running is a highly impacting activity. If you are overweight, it might be better to use a rowing machine instead or only use the treadmill for walking. Once you reach average weight, you can start jogging.

If you are looking to buy your own treadmill, be sure to read my best treadmill for home use reviews.

The Rowing Machine: Your Better Choice?

Rowing machines are not as popular as treadmills, and you aren’t as likely to come across one in the gyms you visit. They also tend to be more expensive to get for home use.

With that said, rowing machines are excellent pieces of equipment and offer a lot, so long as you’re willing to push yourself hard and work consistently. Most notably, the rowing machine emphasizes your upper body pulling muscles – your back and biceps. It also trains and develops your shoulders, chest, core, and legs. Thanks to its potent effects, it burns many calories and helps you build whole-body strength and muscle mass.

Many athletes choose the rowing machine because it allows them to train with high intensity, develop the whole body, and build great aerobic capacity. Plus, the rowing machine is quite engaging because there are all sorts of fun challenges you can set up and push yourself to your limits.

Unlike treadmills, the rowing machine also tends to be safer for high-intensity work because the potential risks are much smaller. There is no risk of falling off, and all you have to pay attention to is to keep your lower back from rounding too much.

Treadmill Versus Rowing Machine: Comparison Table



The Pros

  • Versatile

  • Ecxellent for weight loss

  • Easy to use

The Pros

  • Builds whole body strength

  • Low impact on joints

  • Ecxellent for weight loss

The Cons

  • Large

  • Can be noisy

The Cons

  • Expensive

  • Requires good technique

Final Words: Treadmill Versus Rowing Machine

The treadmill and rowing machine are both excellent cardio devices. Most people can go with either of the two, and it wouldn’t be a mistake. For instance, the treadmill is great for people who enjoy running and are looking for a significant caloric burn. In contrast, the rowing machine is more suited for overweight beginners because its impact on our joints is smaller.

You should also consider if training your upper or lower body is more important. Some people care more about leg development, where others want to grow their upper body better. It comes down to you to decide which is more important for you. Care to build up your legs and butt better? Get a treadmill. Interested in emphasizing your upper body? A rowing machine is an excellent tool.

And, of course, you should always consider your preferences. If you enjoy one device over the other, don’t let this guide stop you from making the right choice for you. Enjoying your training is vital for consistency and longevity. If you’re not sure which of the two machines you prefer, it might be worth it to try both out in a gym setting for a few workouts to determine that.

Hopefully, you now have all of the information you need to decide for yourself. If you’re looking to buy either of the two for home use, consider trying them out in a gym for a few workouts to get a better feel before deciding.

Or why not consider doing your cardio WITHOUT investing in expensive exercise equipment? In my massive cardio exercise and workout archive, you will find TRUCKLOADS of tips, science, and super-effective workout routines – where no equipment other than your body is required.

See you there!

Other Helpful Resources


  1. Hall C, Figueroa A, Fernhall B, Kanaley JA. Energy expenditure of walking and running: comparison with prediction equations. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Dec;36(12):2128-34. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000147584.87788.0e. PMID: 15570150.
  2. Strasser B, Spreitzer A, Haber P. Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(5):428-32. doi: 10.1159/000111162. Epub 2007 Nov 20. PMID: 18025815.
  3. Wall-Scheffler, Cara M et al. “Electromyography activity across gait and incline: The impact of muscular activity on human morphology.” American journal of physical anthropology vol. 143,4 (2010): 601-11. doi:10.1002/ajpa.21356