If you have ever done Assault Bike sprints or an all-out 500-meter row, you probably know just how excruciating these machines can be, not to mention effective in getting your heart rate to a near max in a matter of seconds.
But which machine is better for fitness?
The answer is: It depends.
It depends on the individual and it depends on the intended stimulus of any given training session.
The airbike—be it an Assault AirBike or the Rogue Echo bike—and the Concept 2 ergometer are both great tools for fitness, not just for improving the aerobic and anaerobic systems, but also for providing a full body, low impact workout. That being said, each has its time and place.
Let’s take a look at their pros and cons.
The High Power Effort King
Due to having a fast turnover (there’s nowhere to rest on the bike), the airbike is arguably one of the easiest, most effective tools for training high power, anaerobic alactic and lactic efforts, thus an effective tool to train power expression and improve your lactate threshold.
Easy to Recover
The eccentric portion of a movement—often called the negative portion of the movement, when the muscle lengthens—has the ability to cause more muscle damage and soreness than the concentric portion of the movement—when the force is generated.
Effective for Novices
The airbike is a great tool, not just for intermediate and advanced athletes, but also for novice athletes, as it’s simple to use, non-technical, low impact and ultimately safe to use. In fact, we use it for all new clients in our OPEX Work initial assessment.
Unlike the rowing machine, which provides a useful way to measure performance via the split time—the goal being to hold a consistent split time across any given time domain—the airbike lacks a similar metric. As a result, it’s much more difficult to measure consistent wattage through a piece as it is to see consistent power as measured by a split time on the rowing machine.
Pairing Movement Challenge
Though not necessarily the wrong programming choice, depending on the intended stimulus of a training session or workout, it can be challenging to pair the airbike—which involves a considerable amount of hip and knee flexion, as well as pushing and pulling of the upper body—with other movements that involve knee flexion (such as a squat or step-up), or with other dynamic pushing or pulling movements, such as kipping pull-ups or muscle-ups.
Tough for Small Folks
Though most adults are well over five-feet tall, even at its lowest seat setting, the airbike is simply too big for small individuals. Further, it’s a heavy machine, thus favoring heavier individuals, which can make it difficult for lightweights to generate enough power to achieve the intended stimulus.
Rowing Machine Pros
Metrics that Foster Consistency
As already mentioned, unlike the airbike, the Concept 2 ergometer has the ability to offer a split time (typically based on a 500 meter distance) to measure your speed and power output. This metric is a useful way for the athlete to develop consistent power application from stroke to stroke, and the more consistent the stroke, the more efficient the athlete will be.
Not unlike the air bike, the rowing machine is also low impact, providing less pressure on various joints of the body as compared to running, for example. This also makes it a useful tool for those recovering from lower body injuries that prevent them from handling high impact movements.
The term power endurance is one that’s familiar to the rowing community, as the rowing machine has the ability to develop power endurance.
Rowing Machine Cons
Unlike the non-technical air bike, the rowing machine is a much more technical movement that requires time and repetitions to develop proficiency. This often means novice athletes simply aren’t able to generate enough power in order for them to hit a particular intended stimulus of any given workout.
Pairing Movement Challenge
While subtle, each rowing stroke essentially involves a bend, as well as a hard pull with the arms. This can make pairing rowing with other movements that require a lot of bending or pulling, such as a kettlebell swing, deadlift or rope climb, particularly challenging, especially if the goal is to maintain a certain intensity in the workout.
High Power Effort Challenge
Because the turn over between strokes is slower on the rowing machine than the air bike, high power, anaerobic alactic, efforts can be more challenging than the bike, especially for more novice rowers.
The take home: Both the rowing machine and the airbike are great tools for fitness—and when used wisely in that you consider both the unique individual using the machine and the intended stimulus of any given training program—each has a great ability to help improve various aspects of fitness, from lactate power to the aerobic system, and even to muscular endurance and power endurance.
Whether you opt for the Assault Bike or the Rower, a piece of exercise equipment is only as good as the way you use it.
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