Cycling and rowing - complimentary?

So I am wondering what people’s thougths will be on this?

I am debating whether to:

  1. Get a new bike next spring - a lighter bike. Prob carbon and likely in the region of say £1500-£2000 total. Would need to spread costs.
  2. Get a concept 2 rowing machine. £8-£900

Initial plan was - if I train hard all winter I might get a new bike (on the simplistic basis that I’ve proven the consistency of approach to training).

Now, having done some further reading about the actual impact of a lighter bike I am less ‘fixated’ on that idea. I have lost 21lbs this year and intend on losing another ten to take me to 186-188lbs at 6ft 2.

I’m conscious that cycling doesn’t work the whole body and I’d like to improve my overall core strength and would also be keen on improvements to upper body strength and conditioning. I used to do lots of weights years ago but just have no motivation to do this kind of work. The rowing attracts me because of the ability to work both aerobic and anaerobic systems.

Option 2 - the rowing - it seems to me that it is not working against the cycling. It’s still a leg heavy workout and so I imagine it will compliment. But as above works the whole system. I’ve read 83% of body’s muscles are activated.

NOTE - I am not a hard core cyclist and don’t train for specific kinds of races etc. At moment I am doing base and will follow through to a general build and probably just a road speciality. I say that in anticipation of possible responses along the lines of -‘if you want to improve cycling, cycle’.


@mcneese.chad @Ian @julianoliver @JCorfield

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Depends on your goals. Like you say, you don’t have a specific goal in mind other than being fit. Anything that’s going to keep you active and healthy is a good idea. Splitting your time between the bike and rowing could be good to give you a mental break from one or the other so you don’t burn out?

Could you perhaps buy both? :stuck_out_tongue: Or buy the bike and go to the gym for a few months and see if you actually enjoy the rowing and can stay consistent? Could be better spending £100 on membership over a few months compared to £900 on a rower and not actually using it?


I had a rower and used it along side the trainer for a few winters. It absolutely did what you describe: core workout plus building a bit of strength for cycling.

I did find I needed to be a little more careful about how I sequenced workouts.

A kettlebell is a much less expensive option. Using it regularly would support cycling strength (think squats and 1 leg deadlifts) and core strength (think swings, halos, orbits, etc).

Finally, I like rollers for variety. I sold my rower and I enjoy using a combination of rollers and kettlebell instead.


I suggest you look at the Concept2 SkiErg instead of the rower. I love the rower, but it’s 70% legs, 20% core and 10% arms. If you’re a cyclist mainly, I think something more top-end focused will give you a broader workout.

The SkiErg really works the front of your body in a way that cycling and rowing work the back. And get the new bike as well. You’re worth it :sunglasses:


Haha :joy: worth it I may be but it will be one or other!!

The kettle bell idea is def right from financial perspective but it’s the idea of doing a full body
workout/motion that appeals to me.

I have thought about the idea of trying it at gym for a couple months first… might check with a guy I know to see if there gym has it and if he will me use it for a few quid a time or something.

Def does seem like they’d work okay together…

I train almost exclusively on the C2 from September to February and then cycle almost exclusively from February to August. The C2 definitely complements the cycling. No problem switching from one to the other. You need about a month of adaption during transition from one to the other. If you buy a C2 and decide it’s not for you, you can sell it in an instant for a good price. Best place to buy a C2 is from the C2 races (usually February) when they bring in machines for the day, having pre-sold them to buyers in advance. You pay in advance and pick it up at the end of the race day. Check Ebay for used units and you can see what they are selling for. The machines are indestructible so usually no problem buying a used one either.

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Tuning in for this as I am having this exact same deliberation myself to help break up the winter months.

I prefer training on the C2 in the winter months to training on the bike. Too much cycling would make me feel stale on the bike by late spring. C2 training hits all physiological systems that cycling does and provides added core strength and builds stabilizer muscles. I don’t race on the bike but I like to be strong for a cycling camp in early April in the Brevard, NC area.

Last year was my first year on TR although I always train hard on some type of program and have used coaches in the past. I gear up for the Canadian Indoor Rowing Champs in early Feb every year but start adding more time to the bike around Xmas although still focused on erging. Last year I started into SSB HV 1 and then 2 though Feb, March and the first week of April. The April camp week resulted in a 900+ TSS and I had no problems with riding every day. Recovery during and after the week was not a problem either. I felt stronger on the bike than ever, likely due to the SSB programs.

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Is the C2 a rowing machine or ski erg machine?


They make both to be fair.
I think most in this thread are talking about rowing.

Except me :grinning: I think the SkiErg is better if you’re already cycling and giving the legs a good thrashing. Depends what you’re after though. I think the SkiErg is better if you want to put more focus on core and arms, and balance what you’re doing with the bike. Rowing may be better if you’re doubling-down on legs.


Thanks for bringing this to my attention :slight_smile:

This from the Concept2 blog:

What may be less obvious is that the two motions are highly complementary. […] They’re nearly exactly opposite, as shown in the table below.


I have a Concept 2 rower and have starting rowing 30 mins 6000 metres several times a week. Im 54 and feel its good for my core, but the 30 mins session doesn’t impact my legs/cause me significant fatigue compared to my cycling sessions.

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compared to nothing at all (resting) rowing is complementary but its lacks specificity to really help cycling. Just look at Wiggins struggling to make the pro rowing grade. Whats helps cycling in the off season, is more cycling

I have a C2 and Neo. I love using both and find my back / glutes / core get a great work out from the rowing machine. The only drawback of the rower, is that its much more boring than a turbo can be (I do TR/Zwift combo) and, even with a PM5 and the iphone app, the data upload to Strava (etc) is not super enlightening.

Thanks for feedback.

Are there any TR equivalent for rowing?

Most rowers i know just do boring 2k or 8k ergos. I used to use ProRow for some added virtual scenery but it was very basic at the time (c 2011) and didn’t do work outs; this might have changed. Depending on where you are (in the UK you can, I think) you may be able to rent a C2 by the month to try it out.

I’ve been really focused on cycling over the past few seasons and most of my indoor workouts are riding on my Neo. I do tend to do some core work and stretching with some cycling specific yoga that is easy to fit in.

I do have a Concept 2 and it is a great machine. They are well built and honestly one of the better values in terms of fitness equipment compared to what some other stuff out there costs. I do find I get a good upper body workout with it. Because my legs are so much stronger than my upper body, I tend not to fatigue my legs much rowing as the limiting factor is upper body strength.

I’ve also done kettlebell’s at times and recently reincorporated a once a week total body kettlebell workout. This definitely covers a lot of muscle groups and I find it works my legs quite a bit. It tends to hit muscles the cycling misses, so I do feel some soreness after. I have a couple of kettlebell workout DVD’s that take you through the exercises and make it easy to follow and do the workouts. I’ve also found doing the kettlebell work really helps for my 1 or 2 trips in the winter to the mountains for skiing.

Deciding what is best really comes down to your goals, plan, and time. Doing a mid-volume plan I find it really hard to dedicate more than one day a week to strength training or rowing. I try and slip in pushups and short yoga work during the week, but the rest is dominated by cycling.

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I spent about 5 years either rowing exclusively or running and rowing and I don’t think I was ever fitter.
It can be boring - even more so than on the turbo.
The only software I am aware of is RowPro (referred to as ProRow earlier, which is probably a better name). Rather basic but allows you to race against others online. Most training is quite basic really and you can normally set any intervals up on the PM4/5 (make sure you get one that supports a HR monitor)

If you can get a C2 for £900 you will do well but whatever you pay you will be able to resell it very easily.

It might be worth getting a couple of coaching sessions on technique although you can self-coach.
Ensure you have an objective - 5K in sub 20, an hour at 20spm or whatever. As a cyclist you will probably gravitate towards the longer workouts rather than intervals. Quite a few training plans available online including on the C2 site.