Should you invest in a home spin bike or a rowing machine?

bike vs rower

It really depends what your specific fitness goals are. (Picture: Echelon/

The world may be starting to open up again, but for many people working out at home is something they will stick with after lockdown ends.

Many people are reporting that they won’t be returning to gyms and classes, and that they enjoy the flexibility and immediacy of working out in their own homes – as well as the money it saves them in the long term.

But beyond buying a couple of dumbbells and some resistance bands – what other pieces of fitness kit should you be investing in?

If you rely on machines to help you get your cardio fix, you might be considering a treadmill, a bike, or a rower – if you’re lucky enough to have the space.

The costs for these big pieces of kit can feel like a lot at first, but if you’re able to replace your pricey monthly gym membership and get a lot of use out of them, they can be a solid investment in your health and wellbeing.

But which one should you go for?

Michael Browne, a cycling and rowing instructor for at-home interactive fitness technology providers Echelon Fitness, takes a look at spin bikes and rowing machines to help you make a decision:

‘The rowing machine and exercise bike are two excellent pieces of equipment that provide many fitness benefits. Whether you’re a beginner, a general fitness enthusiast or are training for a specific event or sport, both machines are ideal for any fitness level,’ Michael tells

‘Not sure which is right for you? Here are a few things to keep in mind.’

Benefits of a home rowing machine

‘A rowing machine provides a total body workout, building strength and tone of the lower body, core, and upper body, working harmoniously with all three muscle groups in a combined effort,’ says Michael.

‘The flowing motion can create a zen-like state leading to a strong mind-body connection, a calm and focus, as if on a chilly morning row on the water.’

Most importantly, Michael says it helps improve the cardiovascular system from a steady-state conversational approach to an intense heart-pumping sprint session.

Echelon rower

All the mod cons (Picture: Echelon)

Topiom rower

We love the wooden design (Picture: Topiom)

rowing machine

A slightly less expensive option (Picture: JTX)

Benefits of a home spin bike

But what about the classic exercise bike? Can bringing your spin class home be super effective for your overall fitness goals? Michael thinks so.

‘Like the rowing machine, the bike, or exercise bike also improves the cardiovascular system in a similar fashion from long smooth rides to powerful interval sessions and hill climbs,’ he explains.

‘Another plus? You can still easily ride inside if the weather isn’t to your fancy, or if busy roads aren’t your scene.

‘Lastly, the exercise bike mostly strengthens and tones the lower body, with some light toning of the core and upper body.’

Modern spin bikes with all the digital attachments are great because you can play your music, follow scenic routes, log in to compete with other people online and even join live spin classes all from the comfort of your home.

Echelon bike

A great cardio workout (Picture: Echelon)

Peloton bike

A big price tag – but a solid investment (Picture: Peloton)


You don’t have to break the bank (Picture: Bodytrain)

Spin bike vs rowing machine – which is better?

‘Both the rowing machine and exercise bike are low-impact devices reducing stress and strain to the body,’ says Michael.

‘Either will promote recovery from high-intensity training sessions and help build endurance capacity to sustain effort in other exercises and training.’

Michael says that the key benefit of low-impact machines is that they can be used by people of all fitness levels, and even people recovering from injury.

‘They are both ideal options for not only building muscle, but also improving bone and joint strength by using a variety of resistance over the course of your workouts,’ he adds.

‘While the benefits are similar, there are differences. Let us figure out which cardio-based device is best for your fitness journey and goals.’

For a complete total body workout, Michael says the rowing machine covers it all.

‘Developing the biceps, back muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals, and shoulders – rowing demands more of the body in totality than biking because of the utilisation of the entire body,’ he says.

‘The movement pattern and total body recruitment on a row are like “pulling” and “jumping” barbell strength exercises of the deadlift, snatch, clean, and jerk.

‘Conversely, the row puts a lot less stress on the body. Because of this, the rowing machine compliments similar muscle groups exercised as the barbell.’

So, if you looking for the whole package to build a strong body, the rowing machine is for you.

Michael says that for a high-revolution leg pump, the exercise bike does the job.

‘Using the lower body, the largest muscle group of the body, biking demands more of the legs than rowing and can burn more calories in a session due to a higher frequency rate,’ he says.

‘The movement pattern and primary leg drive on a bike are like running on the road or trail. Contrarily, the bike is drastically less strain to the hips, knees and ankles.

‘The exercise bike is great when used standing or “out of the saddle”, training similar muscle groups as running.’

So if you are looking for high output, or if your goal is to burn calories – the exercise bike is your go-to.

‘In a perfect world, it would be ideal to have both,’ says Michael. ‘Use them separately for the gains mentioned, together for a cool cross-training cardio adventure or in combination along with off-device exercises.’

Maybe we can work towards a full home-gym in the future – but space and cost will always be a big consideration.

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