Rowing machine VS Spin Bike – Introduction
Spin Bike vs Rowing Machine: Which Exercise Is Best for Fitness?
Getting fit and losing weight often means deciding between two different options.
Because of time constraints, your budget, space available, or just your personal preferences, you’ll probably need to choose between things like:
- Training at home or joining a gym
- Doing cardio or lifting weights
- Free weights or bodyweight exercises
- Low-fat or low-carb dieting
- Time-restricted eating or three meals and snacks per day
Ultimately, all these options can help you get fit and lose weight, but unless you have an inexhaustible supply of time, money, and energy, you will probably need to pick one option in favor of another.
In most cases, this will be the dietary or exercise approach that you can stick with.
After all, your results are almost entirely dependent on consistency.
Whether you exercise at home or in a gym, one decision you’ll probably face is choosing between using a spin bike or a rowing machine for your cardio workout.
This is not an easy decision to make!
To help you with your choice, in this article, we reveal the benefits, pros, and cons of spin bikes vs rowing machines so you can choose the best one for you.
Spin Bike 101
Spinning bikes are stationary exercise bikes with a large, heavy flywheel for resistance.
They have mechanical friction or electromagnetic brakes, so you can quickly and easily adjust the pedaling resistance.
Most spin bikes are set up like road racing bikes.
They have narrow saddles, sporty handlebars and are usually fitted with toe clips.
However, unlike a regular bike, the pedals and flywheel are fixed, meaning you cannot stop pedaling and freewheel (coast) forward.
Spin bikes are ideal for a wide variety of workouts, including:
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
- Sprint interval training (SIT)
- Low-intensity steady state (LISS) cardio
There are also online spin classes to follow, and you can mimic an outdoor bike ride by imagining a route and changing the resistance up and down to simulate hills and flat sections.
Rowing Machine 101
While spin bikes come in a pretty standard design, rowing machines are more varied.
For example, there are machines with hydraulic arms, fans, water tanks, and rowers that use electromagnetics for resistance.
However, while the braking systems vary, rowing basics remain the same.
You sit on a seat, hold the handles, and bend and straighten your legs as you pull with your arms.
Like spinning bikes, rowers can be used for a range of workouts, including HIIT, LISS, and SIT.
Spin Bike vs Rowing Machine
Now that you know a little more about these different workout machines, let’s take a look at their fitness and weight loss effects to see which is best!
Contrary to what you might think, both of these fitness machines work your lower and upper body.
Admittedly spinning is primarily a lower body exercise, but you can’t avoid using your arms and core, too, especially during sprints and climbs.
However, rowing uses your lower and upper body equally.
It’s virtually a full-body exercise.
Winner: Rowing machine!
While neither spinning nor rowing will give you massive muscles, both have the potential to increase muscle size and strength, albeit quite modestly.
Using a spin bike will tone and strengthen your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes while giving your upper body a small but worthwhile workout.
In contrast, rowing works your entire lower body, core, arms, and back.
However, spinning could develop your legs more, especially if you do high-resistance climbs and sprints.
Winner: Rowing machine, but only just
Both of these exercise machines have the potential to increase your fitness.
You can use them for training aerobically and anaerobically as preferred.
They can be used for short, intense workouts like HIIT or longer, slower workouts such as LISS.
Providing you use them frequently, consistently, and at the right level of intensity, you can spin or row your way to improved fitness.
Winner: It’s a draw!
Calorie and fat burning
Like all forms of training, rowing and spinning increase your caloric expenditure.
They both involve large muscle groups, which means it takes a lot of energy to perform these exercises.
However, because rowing uses more total muscle mass, it has the potential to burn more calories per minute.
But, of course, the actual number of calories burnt will depend on how hard and long you exercise.
Winner: Rowing machine!
Ease of use
Spinning bikes are straightforward to use.
Once you’ve adjusted the height of your saddle and handlebars, all you need to do is strap your feet in and get pedaling.
There are no tricky techniques to master, and you can place your upper body in almost any position to enjoy a comfortable and productive workout.
In contrast, rowing is a more coordinated activity, and you’ll need to learn how to row correctly for a safe and effective workout.
The trick to rowing is starting each stroke with a powerful leg thrust and only pulling with your arms as the handle passes over your knees.
Using your arms too soon will reduce power output, make your workout harder than it needs to be, and could even tire your arms out, so you have to stop your workout prematurely.
That’s not to say that rowing is hard or that you need to hire a crew coach to teach you how to do it.
Most people can master rowing in a couple of workouts.
However, it is a more technical exercise.
Winner: Spin bike!
Comfort is very subjective and depends on your spin bike or rowing machine and also how you use them.
Some people find spin bike saddles are too firm and narrow and that long workouts cause unnecessary pain.
However, any discomfort can be relieved by using a gel saddle cover or wearing cycling shorts and standing up on the pedals from time to time to give your butt a break.
On the other hand, rowing seats are usually wider, padded, and more contoured for comfort.
However, you cannot shift around so easily if your butt starts to ache.
Again, though, you can buy an aftermarket gel seat pad, which will make your workout more comfortable.
So, it’s impossible to say whether you’ll find a spin bike or a rower more comfortable.
However, in most cases, comfort will improve as you get used to your chosen workout machine, and there are always steps you can take to reduce levels of discomfort.
Winner: It’s a draw!
Rowers are long and low while spinning bikes have a smaller footprint but are taller.
That said, most rowers can be stood upright or even folded for easier storage, while this is not usually the case with spin bikes.
However, spin bikes are typically fitted with roller wheels, so you can move them easily should it be necessary for storage.
Ultimately, you should measure your training area to see how much space you’ve got and whether a spin bike or rower is the best fit.
Winner: It’s a draw!
Noise during use
Depending on where you plan on using your workout machine and who you share your home with, noise during use can be a real issue.
For example, treadmills are notoriously loud, and all that pounding can aggravate not just your housemates but your neighbors, too.
Spinning bikes tend to be very quiet. The flywheels spin smoothly, and even mechanical friction brakes make very little noise.
The only sound should be a light whirring and your increasingly heavy breathing!
In contrast, some rowers can be noisy, especially those that use a fan for resistance.
Electromagnetic rowers are quieter, so it really depends on the type of rowing machine you use.
Winner: Spin bikes (but some rowers are pretty quiet, too)
Spin Bike vs Rowing Machine – Closing Thoughts
Choosing between a spin bike and a rowing machine is no easy thing; both of them can help you get fit and lose weight.
Rowing and spinning offer many of the same advantages and have a similar number of drawbacks.
Either would be a good choice for a home gym.
Ideally, the best way to decide between these two different machines is to try them both.
Not for a day but for a couple of weeks to see which one you prefer.
A long-term trial like this is arguably the best way to determine which one is right for you.
Regardless of which one you pick, providing you use it regularly, consistently, and at the right level of intensity, you’ll be rewarded with a great workout and improved fitness and weight loss.
After all, there is a reason that both of these machines are so popular!
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