Spin Bike Vs Rower – Which One Gives a Better Workout?

Choosing the right indoor exercise machine is based on personal needs and preferences. When you have a spin bike and a rower in front of you, don’t worry if you find yourself struggling to figure out which one to pick. This spin bike vs rower comparison tells you which one to pick and why.

I have been going to the same gym for years and have always noticed the rowing machine was not nearly as popular as the spin bikes. Lately I’ve noticed that gym users are using the rowing machine just as much or more than the bikes.

In this spin bike vs rower comparison we tell you what each indoor exercise machine has to offer and which one would be a better choice for a quick, wholesome workout.

 What Are The Differences Between Spin Bikes And Rowers?

Spin bike
Work out quality
Lower body only
Full body (upper and lower)
Technique required
Little or no learning curve ( no learning needed)
Technique learning required ( must learn to row correctly)
Adjustable/ Multiple levels
Single level (Dependent on type of machine)
Maximum user weight
Up to 350 lbs.
Up to 500 lbs.
User height adjustment
Not necessary


Spin Bikes Vs Rowers – How Do They Compare?

Full Body Workout

Any fitness enthusiast will agree that the more muscles an exercise machine works at a time, the better for you.

With a spin bike it is predominantly the lower body at work. The main muscles in action are quadriceps, hamstrings and the calf. These contract in the sequence which creates pedaling action.

A rower on the other hand involves about 85% of your body’s muscles in order to achieve a full stroke.Some of the major muscle groups targeted include those mentioned for spin bikes as well as upper body muscles such as abdominal muscles, obliques, biceps and abs.

You get a full body work out without having to use one machine after another to work on different parts of your body.

Learning Curve

A spin bike is a motionless bike. If you learned to ride a bike as a child, a spin bike takes no learning. You know how to mount the bike and start pedaling. It’s so easy you never have to think about technique. It is even easier than an outdoor bike because with an outdoor you had to learn how to maintain your balance and steer.

Come to a rowing machine. It looks easy when you watch someone else do it but if you are totally new to this kind of exercise machine, you will realize that there is a technique to it which you have to learn. You have to watch someone else doing it right and imitate to learn or like most people, have someone teach you as you practice.

Rowing motion is divided into two parts; the drive and the recovery. The drive starts by bending your knees as the seat glides towards the front of the machine. Don’t hunch your shoulders forward and be careful not to get pushed into an uncomfortable stretch.

The recovery stroke is basically the drive in reverse. Allow your arms to extend then hinge your torso forward slightly. Finally, let your legs bend as you glide forward to the front of the machine.

If you throw correct technique to the wind, you don’t get the potential benefits of a rower and you risk strain or injury to muscles. Correct technique is essential for effective rowing workouts.


Resistance refers to difficulty level in an exercise machine. In a spin bike it is how easy or difficult it is to pedal or achieve afull rotation of the pedals. In a rower it is how difficult it is to pull to a full stretch.

With a spin bike, resistance is adjustable. Bikes generally have multiple resistance levels, some with as many as 24 levels. Resistance is adjusted using a knob, a dial or a lever.

In a rowing machine resistance is dependent on the kind of machine you have. You can choose from 4 different resistance types. These are magnetic, water, air and hydraulic-piston. A new type which combines air and magnetic is now available.

User Weight Capacity

The maximum weight an exercise machine is important to note. It compromises your safety to use a machine with a weight capacity lower than your weight. In fact it is best to allow a good percentage of leeway with any machine.

Spin bikes generally have maximum weigh capacities ranging from 220 pounds to 350 pounds. Rowers have a much higher capacity. They can take up to 500 pounds. Anyone locked out of spin bike use can use a rower without any safety concerns.

Height Adjustments Required

When you get on to a spin bike (especially if it is at the gym) the first thing you need to do is adjust it to fit your height. This involves adjusting the seat vertically and/or horizontally as well as the handlebars. Attempting to ride using another user’s levels can make your ride very uncomfortable if not unbearable.

With a rowing machine, no adjustments are required.

Spin Bikes Vs Rowers – A Comparison Overview

Spin Bikes Overview

Schwinn Spin bikes are an effective and convenient way to achieve your fitness goals. Although there are many different types of spin bikes, the benefits are more or less the same.

With spinning you improve cardiovascular health because it gets your heart racing in the same way other exercises like running or swimming do. Most bikes have a monitor through which you can keep track of your heat rate throughout the workout.

Spin bikes are low impact exercise machines. This means cycling does not involve significant force exerted on joints. Other low impact exercises include swimming, yoga and walking. This makes spin bikes ideal for people with or recovering from muscle injuries.

Spinning is also an effective way to burn calories. Fitness expert Will Torres says an average spin class or work out session which lasts between 45 and 60 minutes helps you burn between 400 and 600 calories.

Like any other indoor exercise machine, spin bikes give you the convenience to work out at any time of day or night. It is really up to you. You don’t have to worry about bad weather or dread the commute to and from the gym.

If you have a high-end bike like the Peloton, you can get access to live workout sessions streamed from their studio. With this you get the feel of a gym and even get to interact with the instructor and other members of the class.


  • Convenient
  • No learning required
  • Low impact exercise
  • Easy resistance adjustment


  • Only lower body workout
  • Moderate risk of injury

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Rowers Overview


Indoor Rowing Machine

The rower is also a low impact exercise machine. This makes it a favorite for sports people and fitness enthusiasts who cannot afford to put much strain on leg or arm muscles after an injury.

It is also very good for cardiovascular exercise and strength building. It is quite intense so the heart has to work harder to transport blood around the body.

For people who spend many hours of the day sitting at a desk, posture can become an increasingly worrisome problem. Rowers are known to be effective in improving posture. It activates the posterior chain which is important in correcting bad posture as well as reducing risk of injury.

Although it might take some time to get the hang of it, once you do, the gliding forward and pulling back can be done subconsciously. It is at this point that you can also enjoy indoor rowing as a meditative exercise. When your movements allow your mind to switch to auto-pilot mode, you can just keep going. At the end of it you are both physically and mentally rejuvenated.

How much space your exercise machines need and how you store them is an important selling point in today’s market. Space is scarce and the less space needed the better. Rowing machines need an average of 9ft by 4ft (108 by 48 inches) to be sufficiently accommodated.

If you have a large space then this doesn’t seem like much to ask but if you, like many users, have little or no space to spare, it is a lot to ask. This is why most rowers are made such that they can be folded to allow for more convenient storage. You can fold it and store it away when it’s not in use. When you need to use it, push aside some furniture and put everything back when you are done.


  • Convenient
  • Full body work out
  • Most are foldable for storage
  • Low impact exercise
  • High user weight capacity


  • No resistance adjustments
  • Risk of back strain with improper form
  • Significant learning required
  • Some take up significant space

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Spin bikes and rowers are both great ways to build muscle strength and achieve that crucial cardiovascular exercise we all need. They are both very efficient ways to burn calories and lose weight.

For users who for whatever reason cannotafford to place too much pressure on muscles, the two are also good for low impact exercise. Both are indoor machines so you can work out at any time of day regardless of the weather.

Verdict: So Which One Is Better Spin Bikes Or Rowers?

Despite all these great benefits, if you had to choose one or the other it would be most advisable to go with a rower. This is primarily because it allows you to achieve a full body work out when a spin bike does a great job of exercising only lower body muscles. With a spin bike, you have to then use other machines or exercises to reach the upper body. This is why weights are so popular with spin bike users because they can use these to work on upper body muscles as they pedal.


How often should I use a rowing machine?

Frequency depends on your personal goals. If you are looking to get fit and stay healthy then 30 minutes a day with moderate intensity is sufficient. If weight loss is your goal then you will need to increase duration and intensity.

What kind of maintenance do spin bikes require?

Spin bikes require very little maintenance. If it has a chain -drive then it will require occasional oiling. Other than that, just make sure it is clean by wiping sweat off the handlebars and other surfaces to prevent corrosion.