Over the last few years, advancements in artificial intelligence in the fitness industry have radically revolutionized the way we work out, reinventing the concept of at-home workouts. Couple that with the global pandemic that left the vast majority of us with no option other than to work out from home, and you have a new era of fitness.
The industry was already on the rise, but COVID-19 fueled the connected fitness fire. Brands specializing in connected fitness equipment (such as hydrow and peloton) have successfully figured out how to combine our love for community and reaching our fitness goals with our desire for screens and technology.
These same brands are taking the fitness industry by storm, leveraging the right technology, styling, and programming to encourage people to invite their equipment inside their homes. As a result, people are able to recreate the experience of working out in a high-end gym or fitness studio right from their own living rooms. Connected fitness is unquestionably the future of fitness.
So the question becomes; what’s the best equipment investment for those looking to bring the gym experience inside their home? Indoor cycling and indoor rowing are two of the hottest fitness trends right now, but not everyone can afford to have one of each machine. And do you even need both?
In this article, I’m excited to begin exploring smart exercise bikes and smart rowing machines. We’ll review the benefits and experience that each can provide and then let you decide for yourself which option is going to make the biggest impact on you, your home, and your fitness goals.
Today’s Connected Cardio Machines
Before we get into the nuances and the comparison of rowing vs. spinning from home, let’s first talk about what it means to own a piece of connected fitness equipment.
Cardio machines are nothing like they used to be, they are no longer the most dreaded pieces of equipment in the gym. Why? Because today they’re interactive, fun, and provide users with new ways of challenging both their mind and their body.
Most smart equipment comes with a screen that not only tracks all your data and stats but also streams live and on-demand workouts that allow you to feel as though you’re positioned front and center in a cycling or rowing studio. You get access to a professional instructor who will push you to reach your goals while giving you an amazing experience at the same time.
Connected fitness equipment is fun, motivational, effective, and the perfect way to recreate the gym or studio experience in your own living room. The introduction of AI technology in fitness continues to add value to these machines, allowing them to create completely customized programming that’s made to suit your unique needs and goals.
To say that it’s an exciting time to be in fitness would be an understatement! Next, let’s start to discuss the benefits and spinning and rowing from home.
Smart Rowing Machine Workout Benefits
Done correctly, indoor rowing machines can help you to lose body fat, build muscle, and improve your overall fitness. And, it’s a great way to experience a different kind of workout that maybe you haven’t given a lot of merit to in the past. By the way, don’t worry if you’ve never rowed before, you don’t have to be a competitive rower to reap the benefits of these intuitive machines.
It’s a total body workout
Considering you use 86% of your muscles in a single rowing workout, it suffices to say that this is a true total-body workout. According to the AFPA (American Fitness Professionals Association), rowing strokes are 65-75% lower bodywork and 25-35% upper bodywork.
Rowing targets the following muscles:
- Upper back
It’s accessible for people of all fitness levels and abilities
Unlike some forms of cardio that are inherently intense, rowing can be as intense or low-key as you make it. Row faster to ramp up the intensity, stroke slower to take things down a notch. This is a suitable exercise for everyone from beginners to experienced athletes.
It’s low impact
Piggybacking off my last point about it being accessible for all fitness levels, rowing is very low impact which makes it a safe workout for folks of all abilities and physical needs. Unlike running which is a very jarring activity that places a lot of stress on your joints, rowing is virtually impact-free, reducing your risk of injury.
It helps improve your cardiovascular fitness
As a cardio exercise, rowing will help to strengthen your cardiovascular system, which includes your heart, lungs, and blood flow. This system is responsible for transporting important nutrients like oxygen throughout your body. The intensity of a rowing workout is great for improving your heart strength and lowering your risk of developing heart problems.
Next, let’s discuss the benefits that indoor cycling brings to the table.
Smart Exercise Bike Workout Benefits
Indoor cycling classes on a smart exercise bike are challenging and exhilarating. These tend to be fully immersive, sweaty workouts that really get your heart pumping. Indoor cycling became a megatrend over the last few years thanks to popular cycling studios across the country. However, when Covid-19 hit, more people were forced to take their spin obsession home.
Spinning is a high-intensity experience, both in and out of the studio. So whether you’re a spin class veteran or brand new to the concept, there’s something for everyone in cycling programming. Below are some of the top benefits of smart exercise bikes.
Improved cardiovascular fitness
Indoor cycling is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health. Spinning revs the heart rate and gets your blood pumping, which is proven to improve your overall physical health and endurance.
It’s low impact
Similar to the way in which rowing is low-impact, so, too, is cycling. Cycling is considered one of the most accessible forms of exercise as it doesn’t require any jarring on the body or joints. In fact, it’s a popular rehabilitation tool for those who suffered injuries.
It’s a total body experience
While you may assume that just your legs or lower body are working while you pedal away, the truth is that you’re engaging a large number of muscles in your body during the experience. This is particularly true with much of the programming that comes with smart exercise bikes these days. They use fusion workouts to incorporate ways to challenge your whole body.
Cycling target the following muscles:
- Upper body
Next, let’s begin to compare cycling and rowing when it comes to certain goals and physical needs.
Smart Exercise Bike Vs. Rowing Machine: What's your workout solution?
Choosing between smart home-gym equipment can be difficult if you aren't sure where to begin, not to mention it's a hefty investment that you don't want to mess up. I'm going to give you a few things to consider as I compare the following criteria:
- Best for weight loss
- Best for strength training
- Best choice for those with pre-existing injuries (back, neck, knee, etc.)
- Most challenging
Which is Better for Weight Loss?
Both machines offer an effective way to burn calories and lose weight, but is one better than the other?
A rowing machine and an exercise bike will generally allow you to burn the same amount of calories, and that number will depend on your unique body, how hard you work, and for how long.
The duration of the workout is where you might see the biggest impact when it comes to comparing these two popular workout modalities. In general, you can spin for a longer period of time than you can row. This is due to the extra work you need to do, particularly with your upper body, when you’re rowing. Most rowing workouts last around 20 minutes and cycling workouts can easily be 30-45 minutes or more, during which time you would accumulate a higher calorie burn.
If your number one fitness goal is to lose weight, then I would recommend an indoor smart bike as it can help you burn the most amount of calories with the least amount of extra effort.
Which is Better for Building Strength?
Rowing and cycling are cardio-based workouts that work your heart above all else. That said, they are both full-body workouts, meaning they engage and recruit muscles from all over your body, helping to firm and tone them.
Both machines will primarily work your lower body, so your hips, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. And while cycling does have the ability to engage your core and upper body muscles, too, rowing does so more efficiently and intentionally.
Rowing involves pushing and pulling, using both your upper and lower body muscles, giving you a more inclusive whole body workout as opposed to an exercise bike which may work some additional muscles, but not directly.
So, if building and toned muscles are your biggest goals, then rowing is going to be the best choice between the two. It’s a true full-body workout experience that will keep your body working from head to toe.
What’s the Best Choice for Those With Knee and/or Back Problems?
Knee and back problems are incredibly common and can be a deterrent to working out for some, however, as long as you choose a low-impact, non-jarring workout, then you may still be able to continue to work on your fitness.
Rowing and cycling are both low-impact workouts that avoid any intense pressure on your knees and back. That said, rowing tends to be a more intense workout that requires the use of your back as you push and pull, which actually serves to strengthen your back. However, if you have a bad back or a history of back problems, then you might find rowing to be a tad too aggressive and irritating. The same can be said about the knees when it comes to rowing, as you must be able to bend your knees fully as you row, which can be a challenge for those with limited knee mobility and range of motion.
Cycling, on the other hand, tends to be less aggressive on the back and knees. As long as you have enough mobility in your knees to turn them over while pedaling, then the impact on the knees is very minimal, and can even be therapeutic for those with stiff or “bad” knees.
If you experience trouble with your knees or back, then cycling is likely going to be the safest option for you.
Which is Most Challenging?
If it’s a challenge you seek, then you’ll be happy to know that both indoor spin bikes and rowing machines will provide you with plenty of opportunities to push your body and mind to the limits! Especially when you consider the programming that comes equipped with smart exercise machines and the kick-ass instructors that are pushing you throughout your entire workout.
That said, most people would agree that rowing is a more challenging workout than cycling. Cycling is quite simple to “figure out” and doesn’t take a whole lot of skill. Anyone with any ability to typically hop on a bike and start pedaling. Rowing tends to have a bit more of a learning curve to get in a good rhythm and since it works 86% of your muscles, you’ll be challenging your entire body in new ways as you navigate perfecting your form and technique.
Rowing wins the nod for the most challenging workout.
The Verdict: Which machine provides a more effective workout?
Choosing between a smart rowing machine and a smart bike is a tough decision and definitely not one that you should take lightly. You want to make sure that the choice you make matches both your fitness goals and your fitness style.
Both options are going to bring tremendous value to your life, there’s no doubt about that. And the best part is that investing in a piece of smart equipment these days means you’re joining a community and gaining access to a full library of fun, exhilarating, effective workouts
So the decision comes down to this:
Is your main goal to lose weight?
Exercise bikes are easier to sustain for longer workouts, which means more calories burned.
Want to build and define your muscles?
Rowing machines will work your entire body, challenging your muscles in new ways.
Do you have any back or knee issues?
A rowing machine workout, while low-impact, can still bear considerable weight on your joints. Choose a smart bike if you have joint problems.
Lastly, consider what sounds like the most fun to you!
In order for fitness to become a habit and something that you look forward to doing, it has to be enjoyable for you. So make sure you keep that in mind as you decide!