The treadmill and the rowing machine have their own individual capabilities. However, when it comes to core strength, which among the two popular fitness equipment ranks best?

We will discuss the treadmill vs rowing machine argument at length thru this post and see which device is more ideal for strength training. We will also throw in other fitness goals to better check each piece of equipment’s differences.

Functions Of The Treadmill And Rowing Machine: The Basics

The treadmill and the rowing machine vary significantly when it comes to the muscle groups it targets. The former works out the quads, glutes, and hamstrings primarily.

The latter, meanwhile, works out the same muscles as the ones targeted by the treadmill. However, it also includes the upper body during use. This means your upper back, arms, and shoulders are also utilised during rower use along with the legs.

Both machines provide lots of benefits to keep the body toned and fit. But they work differently, so we will expound more on how each device suits a variety of fitness goals from core strength to weight loss.

Rowing Machine And Treadmill Comparison Using Fitness Goals

1. For Strength Training:


The treadmill can provide a nice high-intensity workout. Its speed and incline can be modified to increase resistance, therefore the higher incline will train the glutes and quads effectively. However, the treadmill is not actually made to increase core strength since its functions are meant to target the cardiovascular system and the lower body.

Rowing Machine

The rowing machine, unlike the treadmill, can give users a full-body workout. As long as you train using the correct form, you can achieve maximum body conditioning. Rowing machines work out not only the hamstrings, glutes, calves and quads, but they also engage your abdominals, the pecs, obliques, deltoids, biceps, triceps, lats and the upper back.

When more muscles are activated, strength and endurance increase as well. In fact, the use of a rowing machine can be considered a HIIT workout – this means that it’s also good for burning fat and cardio. To row properly, you need to use the leg muscles in order to push the body back while the arms do the rowing – such actions require power and regular rower workouts, in turn, boost stamina and power.

Thus, when it comes to equipment for core strength, the rowing machine wins this round.

2. For Muscle Building


Treadmills are made to mimic the act of running. The equipment also comes with options to modify the resistance so users can run at a more rapid pace. Running utilizes the whole body however it only works out muscles typically found in the lower body. Thus, this means your quads, glutes and hamstrings are built up with regular use.

If you want to increase endurance while running or develop and tone your leg muscles, then the treadmill is for you. However, if you are after muscle building and core strength, the rowing machine is your better bet.

Rowing Machine

Rowing has been considered a total body workout since it builds up several muscle groups at once. Rowing strokes engage not only the lower body but also facilitate your upper body and the core to exert effort during the process as well.

The rower primarily works out the lats, deltoids, abs, glutes and quadriceps. Rowing methods like The Catch activate back muscles – the latissimus dorsi in particular. Since the rowing machine works out a bigger set of muscles compared to the treadmill, for goals involving serious core strength and muscle-building goals, the rower should be your top pick.

3. For Weight Loss


People begin workout routines due to weight concerns, and many hop on the treadmill or consider rowing machines to make their goals happen. But is the treadmill more ideal for weight loss compared to a rower?

Yes, this equipment should be your go-to piece in case you want to start a weight loss regimen. That is if you only want to lose fat without gaining too much muscle. Its effectiveness for weight loss has a high success rate. Also, running on a treadmill is a cardio workout after all, so it’s a great way to lose all that excess fat.

You can adjust the pace of your treadmill routine if you want to up the challenge and let your body work harder for the best results. Boosting your heart rate eventually leads to shedding more calories.

Rowing Machine

The rowing machine develops plenty of muscle groups compared to the treadmill. These muscles assist in burning calories over the course of the day. Keep in mind, though, that muscles weigh more compared to fat. You might suspect that your rower workouts are not making you lose weight, but chances are it’s just the muscle buildup that happened during rower routines.

Furthermore, using the rower along with cardio guarantees that the fats shed during your workouts will be prevented from accumulating again. If you are after toned muscles while at the same time, burning calories, then the rowing machine is a nice choice.

4. For Cardio


Treadmills are used specifically for running, and running is of course considered to be the best cardio workout there is. Hence, the equipment is excellent for cardio routines. Then again, you have to put into consideration your workout’s intensity – the treadmill has options where you can set the resistance you’re after to boost the heart rate. The treadmill is also a piece of no-fuss equipment since you can just get on the platform and begin running.

Rowing Machine

A rower can also give you excellent cardio, however, this involves perfecting your form first. As soon as you have mastered your form, you can get into a high-intensity workout that will increase your heart rate.

Other Considerations

1. Impact


Running on a treadmill still puts strain on body parts like the ankles, hips, back and knees. Thus, if you have previously experienced an injury or have a health condition involving the joints, it is best that you consult with your physician first before using a treadmill. You can also reduce the impact by just using a slower pace during workouts.

Rowing Machine

Rowing, on the other hand, is a lower impact exercise. You are in a sitting position the whole time thus it’s kinder on your joints. Then again, you have to perfect your form first – using the equipment incorrectly might lead to injury.

2. Price


High-quality treadmills are built with technologies and features that are made to lessen the impact on the body, and many invest in this equipment for convenience, safety and better results. The treadmill is also a powered machine which means it includes a motor so it can move. Thus, treadmills are more expensive in general compared to rowing machines.

Rowing Machine

Lots of rowing machines come at prices that you can afford. For one, they are not motorized and only make use of a few features, unlike treadmills. Whether second-hand or brand new, you can get a rower that perfectly fits your budget.

3. Time


Treadmills are great for cardio – it’s a great way to keep your heart in top shape. However, it can take a while to get the results you need especially if you are pressed for time.

Rowing Machine

The rowing machine provides a full-body workout thus it’s great for building muscle and a choice of equipment for core strength. It can be used for HIIT training as well which is a routine that boosts heart rate thus more calories are burned following a strenuous workout.


Both machines have their own amazing benefits – the equipment you need is something that fits your fitness goals.

To end this treadmill vs rowing machine debate, if you are after core strength, you can rely on the rowing machine. The rowing machine is also excellent for building muscle. Whereas if you want to lose weight or maintain weight without lots of muscle, you can opt for a treadmill.

1. Can you get a good workout from a cheap rower?

Rowing machines in general provide low-impact, total-body workouts. Affordable ones are highly recommended for people who are after essential features. You can check out several models here and compare ones that you are interested in.

2. How long should I use the treadmill per day?

The time you spend on a treadmill will always depend on your fitness level and goals. 30 minutes is the most basic but if you want to lose weight, you may need to work out a bit longer.

3. What is the correct posture when using a rowing machine?

First, make sure that your back is kept straight. Engage the core, keep the balls of the feet planted firmly in the rower’s straps, propel back first using the lower body then utilize the upper back to haul the hands to the direction of the chest. Let go of your arms in the direction of the base then bend the knees to go back to the starting position.

Emma Pyke
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