Air Bike Vs Rowing Machine – Which is the best? [2022]

Both the air bike and the rowing machine are fantastic pieces of gym kit. Great for getting in shape, and maintaining (not really building) muscle mass in both the upper and lower body. They are also both pretty versatile in terms of the types of workouts you can do – from Long Slow Distance (LSD), to Hight Intensity Intermittent Training (HIIT), including 4-minute Tabatas.

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If you have got the money and the space available, then I’d recommend buying both an air bike and a rowing machine. If you don’t have the space or money, and you go to a commercial or work-based gym, think about what you already have access to. If you go to a commercial gym that has a rowing machine, but not an air bike for example, then you’ll probably want to buy an air bike for your home gym. Unless you’re looking to compete as a rower or something.

Do you enjoy using the air bike or the rowing machine the most?

If you enjoy using the air bike, more than the rowing machine, for example, then you’ll probably want to buy an air bike, as you’re more likely to use it. Unless you’re a David Goggins fan and you’re looking to do what you hate to do, to find greatness etc.

Tight Hips from a Desk Job?

If you’re like me and you sit on your bum all day at work, then you’ll probably have tight hip flexors. For this reason, I don’t use an air bike if I can use a rower or a ski machine, as forcefully pedalling in a seated position with bent legs, seems to make my hips feel even tighter after I use it. The affect is small, but if I was using the bike each morning and evening for 10 minutes, it’ll probably make my hip flexors tighter and my back stiffer.

Storing an Air Bike Vs Rower

If you’re struggling for space, rowing machines tend to fold up to make them easier to store. Air bikes, generally don’t fold up or stack or anything, so they’ll use more space when not in use

There are a lot of crap Rowing Machines on the Market

From what I’ve used, and what I’ve been told, air bikes are quite similar in terms of their build, performance etc across different brands. Rowing machines can vary in price, but you’ll want to opt for a Concept 2 or a METIS Fury model whenever possible. The fact that there’s only a handful of rowing machines touted as high-quality, may mean it’s much more difficult to find a good deal or a rowing machine at a knock-down price.

Rowing Requires More Technique

To be efficient and effective on a rowing machine, you do need to learn a bit of technique. This isn’t to say that you can’t get fit and lose weight on a rowing machine – even if your technique is terrible and really inefficient, you’ll still be burning calories.

However, the main thing to be aware of, is that you don’t lock your knees out – at least not at speed, as you’ll likely injure them over time. In addition, there’s a “catch phase” to the rowing movement. You want to push off with your feet, extend your legs (not fully as you don’t want to lock those knees out), and then, pull with your arms and extend your back slightly.

The Air Bike Doesn’t Let You Rest!

One fundamental difference between an air bike and a rowing machine, is that you can coast a little bit on a rower. On a rowing machine your drive with your legs, pull with your arms, extend your back and then kind of glide back to the starting position.

For this reason, I prefer the air bike for short, intense workouts, like HIIT and tabata intervals. If I use the rowing machine, I prefer to do longer workouts, or stints on it, that are at least 10 minutes long. I know, 10 minutes isn’t exactly rowing the Atlantic, but you can get a good, high intensity workout from using an air bike for 4 minutes, if you adhere to a Tabata protocol – 20 secs max effort, 10 secs rest x 8. I like to do this once, sometimes twice or three times per day. I’ll often throw a “warm up” 1 or 2 minutes of steady state cycling before I go for it with the Tabata.

What burns more calories the air bike or rower?

Because you get zero rest on an air bike, it will tend to burn more calories per minute, or hiur, than a rower. On a rower, to some extent, your body has a rest when you finish the pulling face and glide back to the starting position. On an air bike you also have to use your upper and lower body, at high intensity, simultaneously, whereas on a rower, you push off with your legs, then pull with your arms and back. So the air bike again, tends to burn more calories. Personal preference and fitness levels will also be a factor, not many people will use an air bike for durations of 30mins plus, its just too hard!

Bad Back – Rowing Machines Might Help or Hinder

If you have a bad back, you’ll at least want to give the rowing machine a go before investing in one. For some back conditions, the stretching and strengthening will probably help (I guess, I’m not a physio), whilst it might aggravate other injuries, such as disc problems.

If you have a bad back, the air bike is possibly the better option – but I’d say have a go of each machine first if possible and speak to your physio.


Both rowers and assault bikes are great, low impact cardio machines. You can’t really go wrong with either. I’d look around for some bargains and knock down prices. I’d also advise you to try each at the gym or in a shop showroom, to see if it “feels good” – especially if you have pre-existing injuries like a bad back or dodgy knees.

About Drew

MMA, Fitness & Marketing enthusiast from North Wales, UK. A Stoic Hippy with no hair. Not to boast but - 1st Class Degree in Sports Science from Loughborough, MSc in Nutrition from the University of Liverpool. 20 years experience of weight & fitness training.
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