Treadmill vs. Bike vs. Elliptical vs. Rowing Machine: Which Is Best?

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Home gyms are important to keep up with consistent workout routines. No doubt gym or outdoor workouts are a lot more fun, but you will have your sanctum to turn to when you encounter unfavorable situations.

However, you need to choose the equipment carefully as the exercise machines are expensive. If you can plan to derive maximum benefit from them, you will be on the right track.

You should consider the budget and the value you are getting for the price you are paying.

What Each Exercise Machine Targets

We already narrowed down your cardiovascular training needs to rower, elliptical, treadmill, and bike, but you still need to choose the one that suits your needs closely. While they are all great machines, it is hard to purchase them all together and also need a lot of space to keep them.

So, it is best to understand which machine is great at what and what to expect with each of these machines. Let us see what do they target in detail.


Treadmill helps you walk or run indoors in the safety of your home and without anyone around. The treadmill is one of the best low-impact exercise machines that offer low-impact workouts as the deck absorbs the impact and gives you the benefit of a simple workout.

You get speed and incline settings that offer a challenge on various levels. And the average speed of a treadmill usually goes from 0.5 mph to 12 mph, which is enough for most walkers and runners.

However, it offers a lesser calorie burn than a rower but higher than the other two machines. The best part about it is it is very easy to use and gives you optimum fitness in a shorter time.

You get to burn 50 to 250 calories more than a bike and stationary machine per hour and hence stand second in line for calorie burn from the machines considered here. It focuses on lower body exercise.

Exercise bikes

Like treadmills, exercise bikes are also focused on the lower body and offer low-impact workouts, but they are not as effective as a treadmill. The cardio they offer with non-weight-bearing exercise is an enjoyable experience, especially for those who love cycling.

They come in last in the rate of calorie burn among these machines when used for moderate activity. But if you can push your limits and go for fast pedaling in a standing position, you can push up to 600 calories per hour.

It helps you become fit and gain control over your weight through gentle workouts. It is also helpful for post-rehabilitation workouts.


Elliptical machines work using full body weight as you work standing on them. They have a unique movement that offers your arms and legs the benefit of multiple actions. It requires coordination of limbs and the ability to balance while you stand and move on it.

Apart from that, you need to be flexible with your knees, hips, and ankles to enjoy the workout on this machine. Based on your weight and intensity, you can burn from 600 to 1000 calories per hour.

They are capable of offering you a full-body workout or isolated workout by targeting only the lower body or add in the upper body if required.


Rowing machines are fat-burning machines with intense involvement of major muscle groups. It is suitable for people familiar with rowing or those who are enthusiastic about training themselves in a new method of training.

The excellent calorie burns it offers backed up by short time workout requirement and makes it an attractive option. However, you can be easily injured if not done correctly, so learning it well before using it is important.

How to Choose the Right Types of Exercise Machine?

You need to consider four important factors before you settle for one or two exercise machines for your home gym. Check out the below.

Fitness goals

Noting down the goals, you are aiming to achieve a good place to start. It can look like building strength, improving endurance, restart workouts after injury, or any such needs. This list helps you identify your primary concerns and helps you to map them to one of the machines better.

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For instance, you are aiming to gather strength after an ankle injury opting for a stationary bike is the right choice rather than choosing an elliptical. A bike allows you to sit and exercise, lowering the stress over the ankle while you need to stand on an elliptical.

Similarly, if your goal is to work only your lower body, then a bike is sufficient, but a full-body workout requires a rower. A rower is efficient for improving performance if you are training for an event, but you just need to make sure you have enough physical ability to manage it.


When not done properly or overdone, exercise has a risk of injury due to stress over your muscles and leads to pain. You could prevent it by maintaining proper form and using a machine for the prescribed time only.

The exercise machines are safer than outdoor activity, and you work out in a controlled environment with adjustable parameters to suit your capacity. However, you need to keep observing your body for unpleasant experiences and call for immediate medical attention in case of pain.

Also, individuals with pre-existing medical history should consult their physicist before they purchase an exercise machine and be fully aware of post-workout effects.  Ensuring that the machine is safe to use for those conditions will help you get fit rather than sick again.

A bike is considered the right choice for restoring balance and strength in the lower extremities for lower-body injuries. However easy and elliptical might sound to operate, it requires standing, and it is not safe to use it for lower body workouts during recovery.

Also, remembering to start slowly and then increase the frequency as you build strength. Progress only as your body gets familiar with the workout and do not push it too hard in the initial days. Novices might experience lower back pain, but it is due to poor posture or wrong seat position.

You need proper rest between injuries for the tissue to recover before you start your workouts again. Use anti-inflammatory medicines and supports such as wrist splints to aid the fast recovery of exercise injuries.

If the damage is high and does not resolve with medicines, you might need to use a cortisone injection. It would only be necessary for those who overwork their muscles and joints obsessively. Otherwise, there are lesser chances of you needing it.

Right posture is the key to avoid several injuries. Remember to in between each week and not to forget stretching before and after a workout to balance out the opposing muscles.

Space Consideration

Coming to space, it is the biggest constraint around which you need to decide your exercise equipment unless you have plenty of it. Even a few inches could make a lot of difference. Also, for equipment such as elliptical and rower, you need all-around clearance.

So, you need to consider the footprint of a machine and the space you can afford around it. Apart from a machine type, you also need to check out the specific brands of the machine you choose as a general measurement might be off in few cms, which are enough to ruin your plans.

You can research online and find plenty of information in this regard. It is also best to consider foldable or disassemble able machines if you are short on space or need to use them efficiently.


Few machines need flexibility, and few need training. Some of them feel weird and some work using your body weight. So, if you find a certain criterion enjoyable, that must be your machine of choice as it helps you go back to it consistently.

There is no hard and fast rule to point you to a particular machine in this regard. It is purely personal for every individual and their choices. But keep in mind that even if you buy something you think is best, but you know you hate it, trust me, you will stop using it soon.

Benefits of Using Treadmill

  • Enhance your cardiovascular activity as you can perform cardio exercise
  • Aids in weight loss by improving your metabolism
  • Effective in burning 50 to 250 more calories an hour than an elliptical or stationary bike
  • Incline/decline features ass customizability to training programs
  • Advantageous over outdoor workout as it lessens the impact on joints
  • Electronic features for easy modification of settings
  • Consoles allow you to view workout results or customize parameters to your preference
  • Gain almost all benefits of natural walking in the safety and privacy of your home
  • Requires only a short period to achieve optimum fitness
  • Offers aerobic workout that improves the functioning of the circulatory system
  • As hands are free, you can multitask while working out
  • Require low clearance, meaning suitable for areas with low-ceiling space
  • It comes in foldable models, also allowing you to save little space
  • Uncomplicated and simple to learn as it is based on basic natural motion
  • Works your major muscle groups like hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, glutes, and more
  • Running helps in toning your abdominal muscles
  • Pectorals, back, arms and shoulders are also impacted but at a lower strength
  • In comparison to a high-intensity rower, you can utilize a treadmill for a longer time
  • Burns 200 to 400 calories per hour depending on various incline and speed settings
  • Gradually builds strength, gives better fitness levels, and increases your endurance
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Disadvantage of Treadmill

  • Works out only the lower body
  • Does not engage as many muscle groups as a rower
  • It offers lesser resistance than jogging outside
  • Expensive when they come with modern technology
  • Have large footprint and occupy more space
  • Heavy equipment and not easily maneuverable
  • Possibility of injury if not utilized properly
  • Cannot do high-intensity workouts
  • Requires maintenance such as tightening nuts and lubrication from time to time

Benefits of Using Indoor Exercise Bike

  • It comes at an affordable price
  • It has little to no learning curve as it is simple cycling, a well-acquainted movement
  • Mimics outdoor biking activity at the comfort of home
  • Useful for rehabilitation purposes for recovering from an injury
  • It causes zero to low impact on joints, making it suitable for the elderly also
  • Does not put stress on knees, ankles, hips, or feet
  • Available in upright and recumbent models for various uses
  • Offers non-weight-bearing experience along with increased heart rate
  • Customizable resistance attributes to imitate various terrains for a challenge
  • Few bikes come with the advanced technology with programmable training goals
  • Suitable for various performance levels as you can control your speed with peddling
  • They occupy considerably less space in a room as they have a slim profile
  • Adjustable slope and resistance are handy to obtain variations in workout
  • Scope to burn 400 – 600 calories per hour when peddled at high intensity by standing up
  • Obtain considerable cardiovascular benefits as you work your legs and glutes
  • Increase endurance by strengthening your lungs and heart
  • It burns calories and aids in weight loss goals
  • Safer than all the exercise equipment mentioned here
  • Suitable for long term workouts, i.e., up to years, as they have an extremely low impact
  • Workout comfortably by sitting yet provide exercise to your legs
  • Improves brain functioning, offers better sleep, and gives more energy
  • Reduces blood sugar levels, lowers stress, strengthens the immune system
  • Need not stop exercising even in harsh weather conditions

The Disadvantage of Stationary Bike

  • Provides lowest-calorie burn in comparison to other treadmill and elliptical
  • Suitable only for leg workouts and no arm exercise
  • Need to lubricate chain regularly
  • Most of them come with a low warranty

Benefits of Using Elliptical

  • Highly safe option with low chances of injury to workout total body
  • Workout causes a low impact that keeps your joints pain free and safe
  • Works your lower body as well as the upper body using versatile moves
  • The easy to use equipment is suitable for technical and non-technical people
  • Simpler than all the 4 exercise equipment mentioned here
  • Functions as partially as each of treadmill, Stairmaster, and pedaling activity
  • Multiple benefits of various fitness machines
  • Low impact on back, hip, joints, and knees despite being a weight-bearing exercise
  • Builds bone strength by improving its thickness better than non-weight-bearing exercises
  • When using a cross-training-machine, you can set particular fitness goals electronically
  • Supports forward and backward motion allowing engagement of different muscles
  • Gain more by utilizing body weight without causing stress to your joints
  • Occupies less space when not in use but requires all-round clearance when in use
  • Some elliptical trainers come with arm resistance that exercises upper and lower body
  • Though it gives you a funny feeling of drifting in mid-air, you cannot exercise wrongly with it
  • It helps you burn 650 calories per hour when working at maximum intensity
  • Equips you to improve cardiovascular health and to achieve healthy glutes
  • Feels effortless while you burn more calories giving you a comfortable workout
  • Works your triceps, biceps, hip flexors, glutes, quads, and hamstrings effectively
  • Improves your endurance as you train consistently on this machine daily
  • Safe to use by people suffering from back pain, osteoporosis, and joint inflammation
  • Adjustable resistance allows you to tune it to your capability
  • Requires less maintenance to keep it in good shape

Disadvantage of Elliptical

  • Lower calorie consumption per hour when compared with treadmill or rower
  • Expensive machine
  • Newbies find the recurring motion odd and rigid
  • It does not offer a lot of challenges
  • Moving an elliptical is labor-intensive
  • It does not force you to work in a healthy posture allowing a chance for injury
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Benefits of Using Rowing Machine

  • A rowing machine is economical than a treadmill
  • It burns more calories in a shorter time as it offers a high intense workout
  • Uses entire body by engaging every important muscle group
  • They operate quietly, especially the magnetic rower type
  • Offers full-body workout in just 20 minutes allowing you to gain maximum benefit
  • It gives you low impact workout
  • Works without electricity allowing you better freedom to place the equipment
  • Builds muscles efficiently all over your body by offering variable workouts
  • Requires complete focus and does not allow multitasking leading to mindfulness
  • Offers an excellent cardio workout that elevates your heart rate, promoting rapid fat burning
  • Significant improvement in reducing cardiovascular risks as well as improving heart health
  • Mimics rowing action that involves several muscles in a single go
  • The adjustable damper setting helps you in setting the required resistance
  • They do not have a lot of moving components that wear over time
  • Can perform cardiovascular training with greater efficiency than a bike
  • Supports you to burn 700 to 900 calories an hour when working at full intensity
  • Beneficial to back, shoulder muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, tibial muscles, and calf bone
  • You also get to tone your triceps, arms, abdomen, trapezoid, dorsal, and rhombus muscles
  • Not to forget your quads and hip flexors, making it the most muscle group targeting machine

The Disadvantage of Rowing Machine

  • Has a steep learning curve
  • You need to get hold of each action before starting your workout full-fledged
  • Occupies larger space than the exercise bike
  • Unless you are accustomed to rowing movements are all new and requires a lot of practice
  • Easily causes back injury if not used with proper movement
  • Not suitable for recovery from an upper-body injury
  • Rowers are large and require good clearance on at least three sides of the machine
  • Inappropriate posture does not allow you to gain complete benefits of a rower

Which Is More Effective: the Elliptical or Treadmill Exercise Bike?

Among the three exercise machines, treadmills offer the lowest resistance than an elliptical or a bike. If you are targeting the lower body, then a stationary bike is the winner, but if you want a total body workout, then elliptical is the best.

Which Burns More Calories: Stationary Bike or Rowing Machine?

When considering each of them working at maximum intensity, a rowing machine offers to burn 700 – 900 calories/hour, and a stationary bike can give you the benefit of burning 400 – 600 calories/hour.

Do Exercise Bikes Offer the Same Benefits as Walking?

Not really, as an exercise bike burns 400 – 600 calories per hour, whereas brisk walking burns 210 – 360 calories per hour. Checking the numbers, an exercise bike burns more calories than walking, making it a better choice.

Which Is Better for Weight Loss: Cycling or Rowing?

While each of them comes with its own set of pros and cons, rowing offers better calorie burn. On the other hand, cycling does not require any learning curve and is workable for longer times allowing you to burn more calories than a rowing machine.

However, a rower gives you results in a short time if you are capable of doing it right. So, it all depends on your capability and preferences to choose what works better for you and how much time you can spend.

Final Verdict: Treadmill vs.Bike vs.Elliptical vs.Rowing Machine

The four prominent exercise machines being checked here have various strengths and drawbacks. You need to understand that no one machine can be suggested as right for an individual as their needs are different.

However, if you are keen on a single-line summary of each of them, here it is. Rowers Offer full-body workouts in a short span but require a good understanding of the process. Stationary bikes are less expensive, occupy less space but take more time to burn calories, and work only legs.

Ellipticals offer lower and upper body exercise but have fewer challenges to offer. Treadmills offer the least calorie burn unless you work on an incline and occupy a lot of space, but they are safer, easy to use, and allow multi-tasking.

Home workout offers you the benefits of working on your own time and in private. When you can have the machines that you can truly enjoy working on, only then can you keep working consistently. So, you must select what is workable than what is best.

Also, your goals do matter. You might need to lose weight, rehabilitate or maintain a healthy weight. Even these requirements determine which is the best exercise machine suitable for you among a rower, elliptical, bike, and treadmill.

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