Rowing vs Treadmill For Weight Loss: 8 Workout Guides

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Rowing vs Treadmill For Weight Loss

In the quest for fitness, selecting the optimal exercise regimen holds the key to success. Among the numerous options available, two popular options that often come to mind are rowing and treadmill workouts. Both of these exercises offer cardiovascular benefits and can help you shed those extra pounds.

In this article, we will compare rowing vs treadmill for weight loss and explore which one is more effective. So, let’s dive in and find out the key differences, benefits, and drawbacks of each exercise.

Understanding Rowing And Treadmill Workouts

Before we delve into the comparison, it’s essential to understand the mechanics and benefits of rowing and treadmill workouts individually.

Rowing Workouts

Rowing, performed on actual boats instead of machines, offers a unique and invigorating experience on the water. It provides a full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups and provides both aerobic and anaerobic benefits, making them an excellent choice for weight loss and overall fitness. It’s a great way to stay active, challenge yourself, and immerse yourself in the beauty of rowing on the open water.

Treadmill Workouts

Treadmill workouts, on the other hand, are a type of cardio workout performed on a stationary machine that replicates walking, jogging, or running. By adjusting the speed and incline settings, you have the flexibility to customize the intensity of your cardio workouts. These treadmill workouts primarily target the engagement of lower body muscles and promote the development of cardiovascular endurance.

Calorie Burn And Weight Loss

One of the main factors to consider in any weight loss program is calorie burn. Let’s examine how rowing and treadmill workouts compare in terms of calorie expenditure.

Rowing Calorie Burn

Rowing is often hailed as a highly effective calorie-burning exercise. It engages large muscle groups like the legs, back, and arms, resulting in a higher energy expenditure. According to Harvard Health Publishing, rowing at a moderate intensity can burn around 500-600 calories per hour for an average individual weighing 155-185 pounds1.

Treadmill Calorie Burn

Treadmill workouts can also contribute to significant calorie burn, but the exact amount depends on several factors, like intensity, speed, and duration. On average, a person weighing 155-185 pounds can burn approximately 500-700 calories per hour while running on a treadmill at a moderate pace1.

Impact On Joints And Injury Risk

Exercise-related injuries are a common concern, especially for individuals with joint issues or those starting a new fitness routine. Let’s explore how rowing and treadmill workouts differ in terms of impact on joints and injury risk.

Rowing and Joint Impact

Rowing is a low-impact exercise that significantly reduces stress on the joints. The smooth, gliding motion of rowing minimizes the risk of injuries to the knees, hips, and ankles. This makes it an excellent choice for individuals with joint problems or those recovering from an injury.

Treadmill and Joint Impact

Treadmill workouts, particularly running or jogging, involve repetitive impact on the joints. While treadmills offer cushioned surfaces to minimize shock, the constant pounding can still put strain on the knees, hips, and ankles. Individuals with joint issues should proceed with caution when engaging in high-impact treadmill workouts.

Muscle Engagement And Toning

Apart from calorie burn and weight loss, it’s essential to consider muscle engagement and toning benefits when comparing rowing and treadmill workouts.

Rowing Muscle Engagement

Rowing is a full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. The leg drive provides power, the core muscles stabilize the body, and the arms and back complete the pulling motion. Rowing helps build strength and tone muscles in the legs, core, back, shoulders, and arms.

Treadmill Muscle Engagement

Treadmill workouts primarily focus on lower body engagement, targeting muscles in the legs, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. Although treadmill workouts may not engage the upper body muscles to the same extent as rowing, they can still contribute to leg muscle development and toning.

Targeting Different Body Parts

In this section, we will explore further the body parts each exercise machine primarily targets and how they contribute to overall weight loss.

Rowing Workouts

As a full-body exercise that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously, rowing offers a comprehensive approach to weight loss and toning. Here are the key body parts that benefit from rowing:

  • Legs – rowing requires a powerful leg drive, making it an effective workout for the muscles in your thighs, hamstrings, and calves. The repeated pushing motion against resistance helps to strengthen and tone these lower body muscles.
  • Core – a strong core is essential for maintaining stability and proper form during rowing. The abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis, are actively engaged to stabilize the body throughout the rowing motion. Rowing can contribute to toning and strengthening your core.
  • Back – the pulling motion involved in rowing heavily targets the muscles in your upper and lower back. The latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius muscles are all engaged during the rowing stroke, helping to improve posture and develop a strong back.
  • Arms – your arms play a significant role in rowing, particularly during the “finish” phase of the stroke. The biceps, triceps, and forearms are actively involved in pulling the handle towards your body, leading to improved strength and definition in these areas.

Treadmill Workouts

While a treadmill may not offer the same full-body workout as rowing, they still provide specific benefits for weight loss. Here’s how treadmill workouts target different body parts:

  • Legs – walking, jogging, or running on a treadmill primarily engages the muscles in your legs, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. The continuous movement against resistance helps to tone and strengthen these muscles, contributing to weight loss and improved lower body definition.
  • Cardiovascular System – treadmill workouts elevate your heart rate and increase cardiovascular endurance. This form of aerobic exercise helps burn calories and promotes overall weight loss. Regular treadmill workouts can enhance your cardiovascular fitness and improve the efficiency of your heart and lungs.
  • Core (to a lesser extent) – while treadmill workouts are not as focused on core engagement as rowing, they do require some level of core stability and control. Your core muscles are activated to maintain proper posture and balance during treadmill workouts, contributing to overall core strength.

It’s important to note that both a treadmill and rowing can aid in weight loss throughout your entire body. While they may have specific target areas, the overall calorie burn and fat loss from these exercises can lead to a reduction in body fat from various regions.

Variety And Mental Stimulation

Maintaining a consistent exercise routine is easier when you enjoy the workout and find it mentally stimulating. Let’s explore how rowing and treadmill workouts differ in terms of variety and mental engagement.

Rowing Variety and Mental Stimulation

Rowing workouts offer a variety of options to keep you mentally engaged. You can experiment with different rowing techniques, intensities, and durations. Additionally, if you happen to have rowing machines, they often come with built-in programs and settings that simulate various water conditions and race scenarios, adding excitement and motivation to your workouts.

Treadmill Variety and Mental Stimulation

Treadmill workouts can also be versatile, especially if you incorporate interval training, hill sprints, or varying speed and incline levels. Additionally, many treadmills offer pre-set workout programs to help you stay motivated and engaged. However, the repetitive nature of treadmill workouts may be less mentally stimulating for some individuals compared to the rhythmic motion of rowing.

Accessibility And Convenience

The accessibility and convenience of an exercise method can significantly impact your ability to stick to a weight loss routine. Let’s compare rowing and treadmill workouts in terms of accessibility and convenience.

Rowing Accessibility and Convenience

Rowing provides accessibility and convenience, whether you choose to row on water or use a machine. Water rowing allows you to connect with nature and engage socially, while rowing machines offer the convenience of home or gym workouts that adapt to your schedule. It’s important to note that not all fitness centers have rowing machines readily available, and having one at home may be necessary. However, rowing machines are typically compact and easy to store or fold away when not in use.

Treadmill Accessibility and Convenience

A treadmill is a widely available gym equipment that can be found in fitness centers and can even be used at home. They offer convenience in terms of accessibility and ease of use. Many people prefer the convenience of running or walking indoors, regardless of the weather conditions outside.

Examining The Evidence

When it comes to choosing the most effective exercise to lose weight, scientific studies play a crucial role in guiding our decisions. In this section, we will explore more on some notable studies that have examined the impact of rowing and treadmill workouts on weight loss. By delving into the research, you can gain a better understanding of the effectiveness of these exercises in helping shed those unwanted pounds.

Rowing Studies

A study investigated the metabolic response to rowing exercise. The researchers discovered that rowing not only leads to significant energy expenditure but also enhances fat oxidation, making it an effective exercise for fat loss and weight management2.

In a research, researchers explored the effects of rowing on body composition and cardiovascular fitness. The study found that participants who engaged in rowing exercises three times per week experienced a reduction in body fat percentage, an increase in lean muscle mass, and improved cardiovascular fitness3.

Treadmill Studies

In one study, researchers examined the effects of treadmill walking on weight loss and body composition in overweight and obese individuals. The results showed that regular treadmill exercise, especially one that was done at high intensity, led to significant reductions in body weight, body fat percentage, and waist circumference4.

Additionally, a review based on seven studies showed that in all the studies, aerobic training was a common feature in improving weight management. Whether it was on treadmills, stationary bikes, rowing machines, or cross-trainers, all of these exercises showed significant improvements in body composition and physical function. However, it was found that treadmill exercise had the most significant impact on reducing weight and body fat5.

Rowing vs Treadmill For Weight Loss

Both treadmill and rowing, even done in a rowing machine, have their unique benefits and can contribute to weight loss and overall fitness. Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on your personal preferences, fitness goals, and any specific considerations such as joint health.

Rowing stands out as an excellent option for those seeking a full-body workout with low joint impact. It engages multiple muscle groups, offers variety, and can be mentally stimulating. On the other hand, treadmills are accessible, convenient, and primarily focus on lower body engagement.

For maximum weight loss and overall fitness, consider incorporating both rowing and treadmill workouts into your routine. Alternating between these exercises can help you enjoy the benefits of both while minimizing the risk of overuse injuries.


In the debate between rowing and treadmill workouts for weight loss, it becomes evident that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Rather than declaring a definitive winner for the perfect weight loss exercise equipment, the choice between these two rests on a variety of factors, including personal preference, accessibility, and individual fitness objectives.

Both rowing and treadmill workouts have proven to be valuable tools in the pursuit of weight loss, each offering unique advantages and benefits. Ultimately, the key lies in selecting the exercise that resonates with your personal preferences and aligns with your overall fitness goals.

By embracing the workout that sparks your motivation and enthusiasm, you pave the way for a more enjoyable and sustainable weight loss journey. So, whether you find solace in the rhythmic strokes of rowing or the steady pace of a treadmill run, embrace the exercise that brings you joy and embark on the path towards a healthier, fitter version of yourself. The choice is yours, and the possibilities for transformation await.

Bonus: Rowing And Treadmill Workout Guide

Now that you are armed with knowledge about the targeted muscle groups, calorie-burning potential, and overall impact on weight loss, you can now make an informed choice based on your personal preferences.

To assist you further, here is a list of rowing workouts and treadmill workouts. These will offer a glimpse into the diverse array of exercises available to help you reach your weight loss goals.

Rowing Workouts

1. Steady State Rowing – this workout involves maintaining a consistent pace and intensity for an extended period. It helps improve endurance, burn calories, and develop cardiovascular fitness.

2. Interval Rowing – interval training alternates between periods of high-intensity rowing and active recovery. For example, rowing at maximum effort for 1 minute, followed by 1 minute of light rowing or rest. It boosts calorie burn, increases metabolism, and improves cardiovascular capacity.

3. Pyramid Rowing – in this workout, you gradually increase and then decrease the intensity or duration of rowing intervals. For instance, rowing at moderate intensity for 1 minute, then increasing to high intensity for 2 minutes, and then returning to moderate intensity. Pyramid rowing helps build endurance, improve strength, and add variety to your routine.

4. Tabata Rowing – Tabata training involves alternating between 20 seconds of maximum effort rowing and 10 seconds of rest, repeated for several rounds. It is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) method that enhances calorie burn, improves cardiovascular fitness, and boosts metabolism.

Treadmill Workouts

1. Walking/Jogging/Running – these basic treadmill workouts involve walking, jogging, or running at a consistent pace. You can adjust the speed and incline based on your fitness level and goals. These workouts improve cardiovascular health, burn calories, and strengthen the lower body muscles.

2. Incline Intervals – this workout involves alternating between periods of walking or jogging on an incline and flat surfaces. For example, walking uphill for 2 minutes and then moving to a flat surface for 1 minute. Incline intervals challenge the muscles, increase calorie burn, and improve endurance.

3. HIIT Treadmill Sprints – High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on a treadmill includes short bursts of all-out sprints followed by periods of active recovery. For instance, sprinting at maximum speed for 30 seconds, then walking or jogging for 1 minute. HIIT treadmill sprints are effective for calorie burning, improving cardiovascular fitness, and boosting metabolism.

4.Hill Repeats – this workout involves running or walking uphill at a challenging incline for a certain duration or distance, followed by a recovery period on a flat surface. Repeating this cycle helps build leg strength, increases endurance, and burns calories.

Remember to warm up before any workout, adjust the settings to match your fitness level, and gradually increase the intensity over time. It’s essential to listen to your body, maintain proper form, and stay hydrated during exercise. Additionally, consult with a fitness professional to tailor these workouts to your specific needs and goals.


1 Harvard Health. (2021, March 8). Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-for-people-of-three-different-weights

2 Egan, B., Ashley, D. T., Kennedy, E., O’Connor, P., & O’gorman, D. J. (2015). Higher rate of fat oxidation during rowing compared with cycling ergometer exercise across a range of exercise intensities. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 26(6), 630–637. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12498

3 Gavala-González J, Gálvez-Fernández I, Mercadé-Melé P, Fernández-García JC. Rowing Training in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Longitudinal Study of Physical Fitness. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jul 9;17(14):4938. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17144938. PMID: 32659900; PMCID: PMC7400517.

4 Chiu, CH., Ko, MC., Wu, LS. et al. Benefits of different intensity of aerobic exercise in modulating body composition among obese young adults: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Health Qual Life Outcomes 15, 168 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12955-017-0743-4

5 Barrow, D.R., Abbate, L.M., Paquette, M.R. et al. Exercise prescription for weight management in obese adults at risk for osteoarthritis: synthesis from a systematic review. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 20, 610 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-019-3004-3


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