Rowing vs. Running – Which is the better Workout?

So you’re sitting in your gym trying to figure out what’s better on rowing vs. running?

Any exercise is better than nothing, however, the truth is that Rowing is a total body banger, and it engages almost 84% muscles of your body. Since Rowing is a resistance-based exercise, you will not only build cardiovascular endurance but you will put up some muscle mass too.

Consider a 150 pound person, if he rows for half an hour, he’ll burn 158 calories whereas running for the same amount of time will help him burn a whopping 181 calories.

But more on calories below. (Calculate your body type and exact calories in this post)

While you are running, all your body is involved too, but your primary focus remains on the lower body, rowing is working more of the muscles of your body than running is. Running, especially sprinting will also help you put on some muscle but considering long durations on rowing vs. running, rowing will certainly help you lose more calories and build greater muscle mass.

After reading this article you shall be able to choose what’s best for you and you’ll extensively get to know why rowing is better than running.

Difference between Rowing and Running:

Rowing and Running Difference

Both rowing and running are very viable forms of exercise. Both of them are very technical exercises that require proper instruction and training.

Now that you are already aware of the fact that rowing is better than running, here are some specific reasons and cases where you might prefer going for either of them.

Impact on your Body:

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While you are running, you have greater chances of injuries than rowing. Rowing is sort of a lifelong exercise, the major benefit it comes with is that it’s a no-impact exercise, compared to running which is an extremely impactful exercise.

The bigger and taller you are and the more weight you carry, the more impactful running becomes. As you improve your cardiovascular fitness and your ability to run faster, that puts even more wear and tear on your body as you start running faster.

Although some people can run for decades, it’s a clear fact that running is a more impactful exercise than rowing. You might hurt your joints or crash your knees while running but rowing has a  totally smooth and fluent motion which makes it impact-free.

Rowing is better than running if you have those orthopedic issues that have dealt with any sort of knee pain or joint pain in the past.

You can also get injured while rowing if your form isn’t correct, rowing is a more dynamic motion that uses numerous muscle groups in your body and that too is a repetitive motion, so injuries tend to happen with rowing as well.

However generally, as whole rowing is less impactful and that is why the top athletes of rowing can easily put in 30,000 meters plus daily which compared to running is a much higher number.

Due to its less impactful nature, it allows you to rack up more miles than running allows you to do.

The cost and investment: A barrier to entry

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The accessibility and cost of rowing is a bit of a barrier to entry.

If rowing is an exercise that you are planning to do often, then you are going to want to invest a significant amount of money in either a good rowing machine or into a rowing club.

A normal rowing machine can cost anywhere from $300 to $2000 or in some cases even more. If you looking to use rowing seriously as an exercise and as something you want to progress and improve, you should stay away from those cheap $300 rowing machines, as they aren’t just as good and long-lasting.

Besides that, if you are planning to grow in water, the expenses are even higher, and you’ll need to get those rowing shells and boats and most importantly you’ll need access to a body of water and in most cases is very difficult to find around you.

With running, there’s a smaller barrier to entry, you are only going need a nice pair of running shoes.

If you are considering buying a treadmill, then of course it’s going to cost you a lot but if you already have a gym membership, most of the gyms already have a treadmill.

So to conclude this point, I’d just say that if you are trying to get started with rowing, there’s a huge monetary price attached to it and if that is not an issue, rowing is just the most perfect thing for you.

Full body workout with Both:

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If you combine the 2, you get the full body workout out of them.

For an impressive physique, you need to engage those quadriceps, gluteus, abdominals, trapezius, arms, and forearms. Rowing engages 80% of your muscles including all these.

Each and every rowing stroke that you take work them in the proper sequence.

On the other side, running is a totally cardiovascular exercise and the muscle building is focused on your lower body while you run.

So it’s a fact that Rowing engages more muscles than running does, it can help put up muscle mass to a higher percentage than running would.

Rowing strengthens the core, the upper body, and the back:

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Running and rowing both engage your core helping you tone those abdominal muscles. However, rowing gives you more core strength than running. That’s because all those arms, shoulders and the back is engaged while you row.

You might feel a pump in those muscles while you run but it doesn’t engage them as well as the forward and back motion with rowing does.

It just drives the whole move in a better and more effective way helping you strengthen your back, your upper body and most importantly your core.

Moreover, if you are one of those people who sit hunched over all, rowing can also help you retain your posture back. While you row, you scrunch your shoulders forward which is totally the opposite of hunching and hence strengthens your back too.

Number of Calories burnt; a statistical comparison

Benefits of working your whole body out daily

Although these exercises are completely different in nature as discussed already, Running slightly burns more calories than rowing.

Consider a 150 pound person, if he rows for half an hour, he’ll burn 158 calories whereas running for the same amount of time will help him burn a whopping 181 calories.

There’s just a mere difference between the numbers of calories burnt and in addition to that, the calories burnt mainly depend upon the intensity of your workout.

Many people find it easier to push themselves harder in rowing rather than running so they are able to burn more calories while rowing.

Also consider the fact that running outside on the turf burns more calories than running on a treadmill. Similarly rowing in water aids better in cutting down those calories than rowing on a machine.

However, compared to running outside vs. rowing in water, rowing burns more calories in the same amount of time, but as access to water is difficult in most of your cases so by rowing we mostly mean rowing using a machine and in that case running just simply burns more calories on paper.


Major drawbacks of working out every day

From a safety point of view, rowing is considered better than running. This is because rowing removes impact which means that you get the ability to move well without an injury.

You need to have kinesthetic awareness which means that you are aware of where your body, however, the risk of injury still remains pretty low.

Rowing is considered one of the safest cardiovascular exercises ever developed whereas running does come with fair chances of injuries.

Ability to induce work

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If you have some specified physique related goals, this point matters a lot to you.

Rowing is great for any fitness level.  Rowing can be scaled based on your fitness levels. Whether you’ve never exercised in your life or you are a professional athlete, you can make rowing as hard and as easy as you like.

Basically, you can make the machine adapt to what you desire. The harder you row, the more resistance you’ll feel and vice versa. Although that happens while you are running too, the levels of resistance simply don’t go up by that measure and are really hard to estimate too besides that you’re on a treadmill.


So considering both these modalities of producing work and creating anaerobic work that is good for your cardiovascular health, rowing clearly stands a victor. Rowing certainly offers you the ease to introduce your body to high and low-intensity levels in a much safer way than running and this is what makes it better on the Rowing vs. Running comparison.