Assault Bike Versus Rowing Machine: Which one is Best for You?

Assault Bike Versus Rowing Machine: Which one is Best for You?

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.

AirBike Pros


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. 

  • And while this isn’t always a bad thing, if we’re looking to avoid this muscle damage, the airbike is a great tool for this, as it should limit soreness and ensure better recovery. This also makes it an effective tool for sustainable, longer, slowery recovery-focused blood flow. 

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.

  • And because it’s non-technical, the airbike is an ideal way to get even a novice athlete to be able to express high power efforts, which can be difficult to do using other cyclical, more technical exercises, such as rowing, swimming, or even running.

AirBike Cons

Metric Challenge

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.

  • A high-level rower, for example, can easily hold, for example, a 1:50/500 m split for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes etc, with each stroke reading exactly 1:50/500 m. 
  • Further, unlike the rowing machine that allows you to look back at a piece of work to check for consistency, the airbike doesn’t offer this memory feature, and is generally less convenient for creating various workouts or intervals on the monitor. 

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. 

  • Also as mentioned in the airbike section, the rowing machine has a memory function that allows you to analyze the consistency of a piece of work after-the-fact, and an easy-to-use monitor to help set up various types of interval-style workouts.

Low Impact

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. 

Power Endurance

The term power endurance is one that’s familiar to the rowing community, as the rowing machine has the ability to develop power endurance. 

  • What is meant by this is that, because the rowing stroke essentially has a built in rest portion (aka the recovery portion of the stroke), it allows you to ever so slightly rest on the recovery, which, in turns, makes it easier to develop and maintain your power output on the drive portion of the stroke. In contrast, the airbike has no such rest portion.

Rowing Machine Cons

Technically Complex

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. 

  • Case in point: Ever seen an experienced rower do a 500-meter or a 2-km row? An all-out effort has them writhing in pain by the end. Give the same test to a novice rower, even one with a good base of strength, and often their heart rate is barely elevated by the end of the piece. “That wasn’t so bad,” they shrug. 

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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