What You Need to Know About the Best Cardio Machines
Your Body is Always Ultimately Going to be the Best Cardio Machine!
Whether a cardiovascular exercise is effective or not has less to do with the machine than you would think. Cardio exercise is not fun for most people, especially avid weight trainers.
If you have not visited the best cardio exercise page, you probably should check it out. Knowledge is power, and it could save you hundreds of hours of sweating in the gym.
The Main Purpose of Any Cardio Machine is to Raise Your Heart Rate
With the best cardio exercises, you are moving the large muscles in your body which require a lot of oxygen. Oxygen is circulated throughout the body in your blood.
When you get your blood pumping, your heart rate rises to pump the blood to your working muscles. If you are out of shape and look to get back into it, your extremities may fatigue before your heart does. If you have the knowledge about which cardio machines are best for your goals, you can maximize your cardiovascular exercise.
Cardio Machines and Weight Loss
Cardio machines are a fantastic way to help you lose weight and achieve peak cardiovascular health, but cardio in general is only part of the equation when it comes to weight loss. If your primary goal is to lose weight, you’re going to want to combine regular cardio exercise with a healthy diet.
What, how much, and how you eat is going to be one of the most important pieces of the puzzle for effective weight loss. In a nutshell, this means a healthy diet rich in diversity and optimal caloric intake. A balanced combination of healthy fruits, vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates will be necessary. Check out our many nutrition articles for tons of tips and ideas.
Supplements can also play an important role in your weight loss. For example, ketone supplements which boost weight loss and reduce hunger are a popular option. Keep in mind though that supplements are simply that, supplements. Supplements are meant to supplement healthy nutrition, not replace it.
How Do You Find Which Cardio Machine is Best for You?
The Best Cardio Machines for Your Best Friend May Not Be the Best for You
You already know that the most important aspect of successful cardiovascular exercise is to raise your heart rate. Even though you can raise your heart rate on any cardio machine, there is a cardio machine which is best for you.
The Best Cardio Machine for You Depends on a Few Factors
Whether You Enjoy it or Not
It may seem amateurish to have such an obvious solution but it is very important to enjoy the exercise. If you enjoy (or hate less) a certain cardio machine, it is best for you. You get absolutely no benefit if you don’t use the best cardio machines.
Whether the Cardio Machine Exacerbates Any Physical Problems
As the old saying goes, “everything in moderation.” It holds true when using the best cardio machines. If you perform the same motion over and over again, it will lead to muscle imbalances, which lead to static and dynamic posture problems. If you sit all day at work in front of a desk, the stationary bike is not the best choice for a cardio machine. If you have extremely bad knee problems the stair master is most likely going to do more harm than good.
Whether the Cardio Machine is Consistent with Your Goals
If you look to burn fat and improve and maintain your cardiovascular fitness, all of the best cardio machines will help you. If your goals are performance related, you should predominantly use cardio machines which most closely relate to your given activity. For example, if you are a marathon runner, the majority of your cardio exercise should be running. This does not mean that you shouldn’t use the stationary bike every so often for the sake of variety and balance.
Whether the Machine is Conductive for a Productive Workout
Even though you can get cardiovascular benefits from any cardio machine, some are just more difficult. Some cardio machines are more difficult than others simply because they force you to remain active instead of be lazy.
Why are There So Many Different Types of Cardio Machines?
Cardio Machines Were First Developed for Training Purposes, Not Fat Burning Devices
Cardio machines used to be predominantly used for training. Treadmills were used by people who couldn’t get outside to run. Rowing machines were used by people who wanted to train their rowing ability without the inconvenience of getting to the river.
Due to changing lifestyle and dietary factors, people started to become overweight at an alarming rate and the fitness revolution happened in the 1980s. Cardio machines were designed to simulate daily physical activities which could be done in place on a machine.
Later on in the 1990s, elliptical machines were designed specifically for non-impact exercise.
Here is an Overview of Cardio Machines You Will Find in a Gym (in no particular order)
Treadmills are for for the most basic impact exercises: walking, jogging and running. Every quality treadmill has the ability to change the speed and incline (level of hill) to about 10-15% incline. Treadmills usually have safety features such as an auto stop switch and side handles to make sure you don’t hurt yourself.
Another feature of the best treadmills is a remote heart rate monitor. It is not convenient to put your hands on the hand heart rate monitors when you running if you are serious about your exercise intensity.
The best treadmills allow you to put a strap around your sternum which will send your heart rate to the treadmill by remote.
Exercise Tip: If you do not like running, walking on the treadmill can be very effective for burning calories and fat and getting cardiovascular benefits. If you choose to walk rather than run on the treadmill, the key is to set the treadmill at a significant incline. Working against gravity will increase difficulty and caloric expenditure.
Do not pull on the handles when you have an incline.. If you grab the handles, it completely defeats the purpose of the incline. The “calories burned” meter on the machine will also be inaccurate. If you feel like you need to hold on for dear life, you should slow down the machine.
Recumbent Stationary Bikes
Recumbent bikes are the lazy person’s favorite cardio machine.
If you make the trek to your local gym, you will definitely see a few people read a magazine while they watch TV and talk on their cell phone on a recumbent bike.
This does not have to be the case. Like any of the best cardio machines, you can elevate your heart rate significantly on the recumbent bike, but you have to put out more effort than you see most folks giving.
Exercise Tips: If you want to get the best cardio workout on a recumbent bike, use one of the hill profiles. These are interval programs which raise and lower the resistance for periods of time, using the principles behind interval training.
At the top of some hills you will want to quit because your legs burn so bad, but just as you are ready to quit, the interval will be over and you will be coasting again.
Make sure you set up the distance to the pedals properly. Your legs should come to almost full extension, but not lock out. If the pedals are too close you will most likely burn out your leg muscles more than increase your heart rate.
Elliptical machines are famous for non-impact exercise. Non-impact exercise means there are minimal compressive forces on your bones and joints.
There are two main varieties of elliptical machines. One variety has handles, which allow upper- and lower-body concurrent push-pull movement. The intensity is increased by adding resistance.
The other variety does not have handles and usually allows the incline level of the foot rests to be adjusted as well as the resistance level.
Exercise Tips: Do not make the elliptical machine your only source of cardio. If you perform only non-impact exercise your bone mass and strength, could suffer in the long term.
To get the best workout on an elliptical machine with handles, set the resistance high so you have to use your arms as well as your legs.
Stairmasters / Stair Stepper Machines
Stairmaster is actually just a brand of stair stepper machine. The motion of a Stairmaster is similar to climbing up steps, but your body weight is actually pushing the steps down. If the difficulty of the Stairmaster is increased, the steps will fall faster which will cause you to step faster.
On a Stairmaster, you’re are working directly against gravity and your body weight. Any time a cardio exercise has a vertical component it will be more difficult than horizontal-only activities.
Stairmasters have been known to be hard on the knees. If you have any major muscle imbalances and posture problems the Stairmaster is probably not your best cardio machine.
Exercise Tips: Like most of the best cardio machines, it is better for you to avoid overgripping the handles. The handles are for balance only. If you need to support your body weight with the Stairmaster, you should lower the intensity level.
To get the most effective workout on a Stairmaster, use an interval program. As with most cardio exercises on machines, the interval programs will allow you to burn the most calories a shorter amount of time.
Interval programs are great because they work your aerobic and anaerobic systems together, producing a significant effect on your metabolism.
Stepmills or Stairmills are like the escalators from Hell. It is just like you are climbing up your local stadium steps, except they are never-ending.
Stepmills are not for the beginner. Even at very low settings, Stepmills get your heart rate up very quickly. When you increase the difficulty level, the escalator goes faster.
Also note that the steps are pretty narrow. If you have feet over size 12, it may be awkward to exercise on the Stepmill. This is unfortunate, because the Stepmill is definitely one of the best cardio machines to get your heart rate up and keep it up.
Exercise Tips: Do not support your entire body weight with the handles. You should hold them for safety reasons, but they are not meant to support your body weight. This takes away from the intended effects of the exercise.
You can also step up sideways both ways on Stepmills. This is a great way to help functionally strengthen your legs’ stabilization mechanism, the inner and outer thighs. Do not try this if you have any ligament problems in your knees.
Adaptive Motion Trainers
Adaptive motion trainers are a fairly new type of exercise technology. Two of the original brands are the Precor Adaptive Motion Trainer and the Technogym Vario.
Adaptive motion trainers represent the evolution of cardio machines and a huge step up from elliptical and arc trainers due to the freedom of movement.
As the name suggests, adaptive motion trainers adapt the motion of the exercise to your movements. Rather than traveling in a same motion such as an ellipse, you are free to move whichever way you like.
While there is some limitation, you can perform movements ranging from stepping up and down, to short-stride rowing, to long-strike running and elliptical-like motions.
All this freedom comes with a price, as these types of the best cardio machines are very expensive and the price is unlikely to come down until there is more competition.
Exercise Tips: Get the most out of the adaptive motion trainer by varying the types of strides you take. Since you can perform different types of motions, and you have control over how long you perform them, use the timers on the machines programs to avoid performing too much of a single motion. This will encourage a more balanced workout.
The Versa climber is one of the best cardio machines you have never heard of. If you do have a Versa climber in your local gym, you’ll notice that it tends to be one of the least popular cardio machines. It may even be collecting dust. That’s a shame, because it truly is one of the best cardio machines out there.
The Versa climber is such a good cardio machine because you are climbing vertically, directly against gravity. You also use your upper and lower body equally, which increases heart rate quickly.
To increase the difficulty of the versa climber, you can add more resistance. When you add more resistance, you can push and pull, which will not only work your muscles, but will give you a tremendous cardio workout.
Exercise Tip: The versa climber is a fantastic cardio machine to use for interval training. At a decent intensity level, the Versa Climber can be tough even for just 5 minutes.
It is possibly the best cardio workout to alternate a few minutes on the Versa climber with a couple minutes on a stationary bike or any other cardio machine to which you can make a quick transition, never allowing your heart rate to drop.
The treadclimber is one of the newer cardio machines on our list to hit the market. Upon its release, there were immediate claims that it was one of the “best cardio machines,” but its popularity never quite took off, at least in the commercial gym setting that is. This is likely because the treadclimber is basically an awkward combination of a Stairmaster and treadmill, and these two traditional machines are already commonplace in many gyms.
This cardio machine has independent treadmills which raise and lower every time your foot strikes. There is no running on the tread climber, only walking, which makes it a comfortable way to burn calories if you are significantly overweight or have health issues that may prevent you from being able to do more intense, cardio workouts.
So while the treadclimber may have its limitations (e.g., walking only) and may feel awkward until you get used to exercising on it, it is a great machine if you’re looking for one that is capable of offering an admirable cardiovascular workout. This is especially true for those of you who are significantly overweight or have health issues, as mentioned previously.
Is a treadclimber worth the cost of admission? For many of you it will be a great investment but for others there will definitely be better options for you. If you are looking for one of the best treadclimber machines on the market and want to determine if in fact a treadclimber is a good investment for you personally, be sure to check out our Bowflex TreadClimber review to learn everything you need to know.
Exercise Tips: The up and down motion of each independent treadmill is not controlled by the machine but rather the strikes of your foot. Unless you want a wild, unproductive cardio workout make sure you plant each foot evenly and don’t stomp.
Like most of the best cardio machines, you should not support the majority of your body weight on the handles. Because of the awkwardness, make sure you hold to the handles when you first try the tread climber.
Incline trainers are simply treadmills with the ability to increase the incline past the usual 15% all the way to 30-40%.
Having a higher maximum incline allows you to burn the same amount of calories walking on a high incline than jogging or running on a lower incline. This makes incline trainers the best cardio machines for people who don’t like running or jogging.
While the amount of calories burned is always going to depend on the effort you exert, many people are uncomfortable running, which makes incline trainers superior to standard treadmills as they will allow you to burn more calories walking.
The incline trainers also allow more advanced exercisers the ability to exercise at higher intensities and inclines, which is important for people who train for hiking and other high incline, high intensity events.
Exercise Tip: As with regular treadmills, the handlebars are mainly present as a safety precaution to aid balance. Holding on and leaning much of your body weight with the handles defeats the purpose of increasing the intensity of the machine. If you find yourself holding on the handles for dear life, lower the incline or speed, or choose a different cardio machine.
There are about a million different models of stationary bikes. Stationary bikes are upright with no back rest. Every gym in the world has at least a few stationary bikes.
The way to increase the intensity of a stationary bike is to increase the resistance of the pedals. Most stationary bikes have many different programs.
Some programs increase the resistance at preset intervals and some depend on your heart rate as the cue to increase resistance. The programs which use your heart rate increase the resistance to keep you at your target heart rate. The machine usually determines your target heart rate for you from the information which you input before you start the program.
Exercise Tip: Make sure you sit upright and do not slouch when using the stationary bike. If you work a job or live a lifestyle where you sit for many hours during the day, you should probably not use the stationary bike. Choose a standing machine instead.
Your hip flexors are most likely tight, which would cause posture problems if you overdo workouts on the stationary bike. The best cardio machines can hurt you as well as help you.
The Schwinn Airdyne exercise bike was the first patented fan exercise bike to provide a full total body workout. They were brought on the market in the 1980s and have endured to this day. As far as fan bike enthusiasts are concerned, Schwinn Airdyne bikes are hands down the best cardio machines around.
“Fan bikes” or “dual action bikes” made by other brands are often referred to as Airdyne bikes after the Schwinn model, which has been around the longest.
Airdyne bikes are an upright exercise bicycle which incorporates arm movement. The exerciser has to push and pull to aid in moving the machine at higher resistances.
The giant fan which is powered by your feet pedaling and arms pushing and pulling blows at the exerciser which can be great during difficult, sweaty workouts.
Exercise Tip: Since Airdyne bikes are designed with concurrent upper and lower body in mind, performing one at a time is not the best way to use them. Set the resistance level high enough to where you cannot perform the exercise comfortably without using your arms. Now you will get the most out of the Airdyne bike, as you are using your arms as well as your legs.
The rowing machine is the most underrated cardio machine in the gym. Most people do not understand the correct way to use the rowing machine.
Rowing machines are obviously the best cardio machines for simulating rowing but they are great for cardio as well if you know how to use them.
Rowing machines are not meant to be a resistance exercise. When people improperly use them they are usually pull very hard with their arms and have bad form.
The difference between rowing machines and all other cardio machines is you are in complete control of the intensity of your session. The faster you go, the more intense your cardio workout will be.
Since you must have motivation and put out effort to get the full benefit from rowing machines, rowing machines are not the most popular cardio machine among the many people who like to read magazines or watch TV while exercising.
Want to determine if a rowing machine is a good option for you? Looking for one of the best rowers on the market? Be sure to check out our Concept2 Rower review for all the details.
Exercise Tips: To get full cardio benefit of the rowing machine, you should use one of the built-in programs. These programs will show you intervals which allow you to pace yourself so you don’t get burned out too quickly.
The arc trainer is another non-impact cardio machine. They are one of the newer types of cardio machines in your local gym and are probably most popular.
You step on two platforms and basically swing your legs back and forth in a similar fashion to the gazelle freestyle, which has been a top selling home workout machine for many years.
The adjustable resistance as well as the speed at which you choose to swing your legs back and forth in the scissor-like motion adjusts the intensity of your cardio workout.
Exercise Tips: Non-impact machines are the best cardio machines for people with chronic joint problems. The arc trainer can get your heart rate up effectively without putting too much stress on your legs.
Don’t let the non-impact style cardio machine sabotage your results. Make sure you work hard and keep your heart rate up higher than your target zone. If you are free of joint problems, make sure you also use forms of impact exercise such as jogging to keep your bones strong and your bone mass at optimal levels.
Hand ergometers or hand bikes are not anybody’s favorite cardio machines. When you are forced to use a hand ergometer it usually means you either have a broken leg, sprained ankle, surgically repaired knee or are bound to a wheel chair.
Hand ergometers can actually get your heart rate up faster than leg cardio machines because your arms are closer to your heart than your legs.
Hand ergometers have been used often in research about heart rate response.
Exercise Tip: Think happy thoughts. The hand bike is not very fun and can be quite boring. Very few people choose to use the hand bike as a form of cardio.
Looking for the Best Value Cardio Machine and the Best Possible Workout?
If you do not have or want a gym membership, a cardio machine at your home is a great idea. To make sure it doesn’t turn out to be the most expensive coat rack you’ve ever owned, make sure you have performed thorough research.
You can find new and used (mostly refurbished) cardio machines on the world’s largest online vendor. A refurbished gym-quality cardio machine is better than picking up a piece of junk from a garage sale or getting a cheap machine at your local sporting goods store, which will probably break in a month. The best cardio machines, designed for commercial gym use, will last up to 10 times longer.
The Best Cardio Machines for Fat Burning
It has been said multiple times, but any cardio machine can be used for fat burning. This does not mean that some machines are not better than others for fat burning. It means the effects of the best cardio machines depend on how you use them.
The best cardio machines such as Stepmill and Versa climber are not easy to cheat on. Even at a very basic level, they are still challenging and can help you raise your heart rate. Combining these factors makes the Stepmill and Versa climber the best cardio machines for fat burning.
- How to Get the Most out of your Cardio Exercise
If you do not know the basics of cardiovascular exercise, you should check out this page. You will find information that will help you chose one of the best cardio machines.
- Challenging Interval and Cross Training Cardio Workouts
Find fun, exciting, and intense ways to get a great cardio workout with or without the best cardio machines. There are also tips which you can use to get the best workout on a single cardio machine or a combination of multiple machines. Remember, complete workout routines with resistance training and a healthy diet will help you burn fat most efficiently. You can learn about more pieces of equipment to go along with the best cardio machines to get the most out of your training.
- Gym Equipment Overview
Become familiar with the different styles of gym equipment. Learn why some of the machines may do more harm than good.
- Home Gym Equipment
If you workout solely at home, you may be interested in the cheapest and most effective equipment which can help you burn fat, gain muscle or simply tone up and be more fit.