Treadmill vs Elliptical vs Bike vs Rowing Machine – Which is the ultimate form of training?

Are you maybe considering creating a home gym in your apartment or basement? Could you be looking for the ultimate home training equipment? Well, this here is for you.

Fixing up your home gym is a huge investment and naturally, for bargain shoppers like myself, we are concerned about getting the most effective and affordable equipment for our home.

The most important aspect of the training unit we buy is that it has to exercise our whole body reaching to the joints and muscles that are problematic. Your options don’t get any better than the choicebetween the treadmill, elliptical, bike or rowing machines.

These four have and will continue to dominate all the training spaces you could think of in the world. New brands keep popping up everyday so the equipment keeps getting better and ore affordable too.

Here’s what I know about them and my opinion of the best overall.

Which Fitness Goal Does Treadmill, Bike, Elliptical and Rowing Machine Handle Better?

Fitness Goal
Best Equipment
Stronger Leg Muscles
Bike / Treadmill
Building Abs
Rowing Machine
Physical Strength
Least risk and danger
With terminal Illness
Rowing Machine
With muscle or joint injury
VO2 Intake
Treadmill / Bike
Calories Burned
Elliptical at 680 calories
Cardio Workout

The Elliptical, Treadmill, Bike and Rowing Machine – How they differ

Muscles Worked 

When strength training, you have to work against resistance and this repetitive and forceful action develops and tones your muscles.

While running on the treadmill, there is no resistance and the only weight is your body. Running highly impacts the knees, joints and muscles like your glutes, quads, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors.

If you have a goal to lose weight, you should get on the treadmill but if you are interested in toning, avoid it all costs because it causes great muscle waste.

Your quads and hamstrings get stronger every time you hop on the bike.  It is an ideal toning and strengthening training because it focuses on the lower body.

On the elliptical, you get a full body workout because of the movable handlebars which require you to pull on as you keep pedaling. This motion increases the resistance as your energy increases. Your chest, back, quads, core, arms, hamstrings will get a worthy stretch.

A rowing machines workout is intensive at the least. It engages your entire body from your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abs, obliques, pecs, biceps, triceps, deltoids, upper back, shoulders and neck.

The most holistic training alternative between the four units is the rowing machine because you get a more extensive full body stretch, tone and strengthening compared to the other equipment.

Joint Impact

There is a difference between high impact and low impact exercises. They are both beneficial in strengthening bones but high impact training is detrimental to your muscle, joint and muscle health.

The bike is also a high-impact exercise equipment and due to the knee jerk motions made as you pedal quickly especially while standing will irritate an injured or ailing knee.

While the elliptical does require some push and pull, it is largely a low impact training that wouldn’t further impact your aching limbs with the right posture and some manageable resistance.

A rowing machine is considered a low impact type of training meaning that your joins, though engaged, are not stretched out in technique as compared to cycling or running.

Ellipticals and rowing machines have a similar effect on joints because they are both low impact training as compared to the high impact treadmill or bike alternatives.

Calories Burned 

While running on the treadmill, an individual with 130 pounds running for an hour at a 5mph pace, will lose about 578 calories and if you weigh 200 pounds, you will burn about 1080 calories.

If the same two individuals decide to go cycling instead and at a 12-mph pace, the one weighing 130 pounds will lose about 500 calories compared to the one weighing 200 pounds who will lose about 800 calories per hour.

The elliptical is the only training equipment that engages upper and lower limbs and this why training on it could help you burn more calories than the other three. If you weigh about 155 pounds and you choose to workout on the elliptical at a moderate intensity, you could burn up to 680 calories every hour.

Training on the rowing machine for an hour, if you weigh the same as the guy on the elliptical, you could lose up to 630 calories. This means that if you work out for just three days a week, you will burn about 1800 calories which is more than a pound per week.

With all four equipment, you can get some calories shredded but to get the most out of your workout, you must maintain the right posture, speed, and accuracy in the movement to keep you from injury or strain. 


Having a versatile piece of training equipment in your home is one of the best luxuries you can afford yourself. There is no use buying a unit you never use so the more you can do on it, the more you will find use for it.

The treadmill only allows you to run, jog, or walk on plain or inclined plane in the simulation of uphill climbs.

Most of these machines have heart rate monitors that will display your vital information that is gotten from the chest strap you have to wear.

Treadmills give great cardio and if done consistently right, increase bone strength in the hips, legs, and spine.

Stationary bikes are versatile in their training intensity and they also cater to cardio workouts. The idea that you can pedal while standing upright on your bike is awesome for most of us.

This is because you give your back a break while working other muscles that are inaccessible while seated.

The elliptical gives you the ability to go backward and forwards either on a flat, shallow, or steep incline.

I believe the rowing machine to be the most versatile option of the four we are reviewing today because you can work out way more muscles than any other equipment.

With small alterations to how you grip the handlebars or the direction and angle of the rowing motion, creates a whole new technique that works you even harder.

The most versatile could be the elliptical because of the wide range of movement that is possible and in varied angles of incline or decline.


If you love to keep fit and you don’t really have any specific training goal in mind nor do you intend to start one, then any of this equipment would do for you.

The motions or movements done on either of them varies from one to another. You just have to choose the motion you don’t mind repeating and go for it.

For professional athletes, treadmill and bikes are favorite go-to units but for body builders, the rower or elliptical are the best alternatives.

To pick one from the rest, consider your training goal, your preferred motion and your available space. Then go get yourself one.

Verdict: So, which is better, Treadmill, Elliptical, Bike or Rowing Machine?

It would appear that the answer to which equipment provides the ultimate training, would be the Elliptical Machine. Not only is it highly effective at weight reduction because of high calorie burning, it also provides the most holistic training, even with aches or pains with just the right resistance to match.