Rowing Machines vs. Elliptical Trainers

Both rowing machines and elliptical trainers are worthy pieces of home gym equipment, so if you are planning to build a workout room at home, you should consider investing in such devices.

However, if your space and budget are limited, you may only want to buy one of these machines. Which is better home gym equipment for your needs – the elliptical trainer or the rowing machine? Look at the comparison below to see what makes them different!

Rowing Machines vs. Elliptical Trainers – workout benefits

Just like the elliptical trainer, the rowing machine is a cardio machine that raises the heart rate and keeps it elevated for more intense calorie burning processes. In addition, it tones the muscles in the legs and butt; it strengthens the core area and helps you improve posture and develop a leaner body, although the results take more time to become visible than with more complex home gym machines.

The elliptical trainer, on the other hand, involves both the upper and lower body, but does not really require the contribution of the core areas, thus the rowing machine provides a more complete training program for all groups of muscles.

Most machines in this category come with preset programs created especially for weight loss, muscle toning or stamina building. Therefore, it is easier to control the machine’s settings in an elliptical trainer and to choose the best workout routine for meeting your weight and fitness goal.

Range of motion

The rowing machine provides a full range of motion, allowing you to extend the arms during the workout, while the elliptical trainer may or may not offer the same benefit, depending on the chosen model and manufacturer.

Some elliptical trainers just allow you to move your slightly bent arms and legs backward and forward. In this case, you have to look for a higher-end product to make sure you get a higher range of motion during the training sessions. The more complex and wider movements are, more muscles are involved, which work your body more.

Ease of use

Both the elliptical trainer and rowing machine are easy to use, but the elliptical trainer is considered a more complex piece of equipment as it allows movements that resemble walking, jogging or mountain climbing. Still, this does not mean the rowing machine does not require attention, concentration, and a willingness to learn the proper use.

Using the rowing machine wrongly can result in serious injuries. Even if this machine only allows one type of movement, it is crucial to learn the proper posture and to practice coordination between the upper and lower body. Legs and buttocks should initiate the movements and not arms and lower back.

The elliptical trainer, on the other hand, is more intuitive, meaning that you only need to pay attention to your leg position and to maintain the back straight and slightly bent forward.


Rowing machines are simple pieces of equipment, which are completely safe as long as used properly. However, many people maintain an incorrect posture while working on a rowing machine, and this causes unnecessary pressures and stress on the lower back area, leading to muscle cramps and aches, to lower-back pain and spine injuries.

The elliptical trainer, which is also a low-impact exercising machine, it is a little less comfortable than the rowing machine is so it can be considered less safe as well, due to the stress it puts on the knees, because of the legs’ position. Therefore, the winner this time is the rowing machine.


Although you may be tempted to think rowing machines are much cheaper than elliptical trainers are, the truth is they parallel elliptical trainers in price range. Both types of equipment are available at affordable prices and both of them include high-end models, which can cost several thousand dollars. However, rowing machines are generally with up to 20% cheaper than elliptical trainers are.

Therefore, the rule saying you get what you pay for applies here as well: you can get a quality rowing machine for the same price you would pay for a high-end elliptical trainer. Still, if you are on a budget and you are only planning to spend around $200 for your home gym equipment, you should not expect to receive top models with the most complex features and the greatest resistance and durability.


The last point of our comparative list of these pieces of home gym equipment is the size. Elliptical trainers usually take a more space for storage, as they are wider, longer and taller than rowing machines are, so they may not be suitable for rooms with low ceilings. Rowing machines, on the other hand, fit in most rooms, so even if you do not have a very large home, you can still include a rowing machine in your home gym for your daily cardio workouts.

However, take this with caution, since this is not the rule. There are some very large rowing machines, and there are some smaller elliptical trainers. In any case, pay attention to dimensions before buying any piece of home gym equipment.