You’ve signed up for your local health club but you have no idea what type of cardio machine is best for you. You wander over to the treadmill and hop on, but you’re kinda bored. It’s not really doing it for you. How do you find out which piece of equipment is best for you? Here’s a field guide to your local cardio center.
Great for walking and running, it’s the most popular piece of equipment in most gyms. Most treadmills have programs you can follow for “fat burning” or “hill climbing/glute” workouts. Choose this if you like to run or walk fast. You can also lift and lower the treadmill to simulate a flat surface or going up hills. I’m a big fan of setting the pace at “almost have to run” and then goosing the incline as high as the machine will go. It’s great for your butt and super heavy cardio.
A great cross-training piece of equipment. If you normally do something else, it’s good to work the elliptical in once or twice a week. It’s best for people with knee issues and for people recovering from a running injury. The movement is very smooth and easy on the joints. Some come with arm resistance as well so you can get a little arm workout in while you’re chugging along.
Get your inner athlete on with this machine, a vigorous and challenging piece of equipment. The rowing machine will get you huffing quickly if you don’t use it regularly. Excellent all-body workout; you’ll pump your legs, back, and arms to set a killer pace. Good for jocks, but also good to use as a warm up for 10 minutes and then hop onto another machine. Try it; it’s totally fun. Some rowing machines have “fishing” games where the faster you row, the more fish you catch.
The Arc Trainer is very similar to the elliptical with one big difference: the pedals are usually set a bit wider than the ellipticals. I find this a bit easier for men to work with than women. If you have a knee issue, the wider stance might not work well for you, but give it a go. If it bothers you, just pick something else, but if it doesn’t bother you, it’s a good cardio tool. I use it every once in a while for variety.
This is the bike where the pedals are forward and you’re sitting on a regular “chair” as you pedal away. Commonly used in rehab situations, this can help a lot if you have knee and/or hip problems or a cranky back. Although you can set it for people in a rehab situation, you can also get a good sweaty workout from it, so don’t write it off as too “easy” for you. Hop on every once in a while and push yourself in a new way.
Group Ex Bike
I’ve said this for years: it’s the highest calorie burn you can get in a gym. The group ex or Spin bikes can really leave you dripping with sweat. If you’re not taking a class with an instructor, try to download an audio workout with music and cues. You can stand up on it, pedal fast at lower resistance, or pedal slower at heavy resistance. You can also do “jumps” where you rise out of the seat for a 2 or 4 count and then sit back down. Going up and down for say 50 jumps will really elevate your heart rate. This is best for people who are past the sedentary stage and looking to boost their cardio, but beginners can certainly hop on too. If you’re in a group ex class with an instructor, just remember to slow down if you need to. In a week or two you’ll be able to keep up with the class.
Once ubiquitous, these have faded from gyms a bit, but they can still be found here and there. The original StairMaster is a cross between climbing stairs and scaling a ladder. It’s a great butt workout; you will definitely feel your glutes the next day! The other type is a stepmill where you are walking up real stairs that rotate at a fixed speed. I find these exhausting! I use stepmills the same way I use the rower; I’ll do them for about 10 minutes as warmup and then switch to another piece of cardio.
Which type of cardio equipment do you prefer? Which one makes you sweat the most? I’d love to hear your stories.
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