Top 5 Cardio Machines

best cardio machineThe Top 5 Cardio Machines You’ve Likely Never Used Before

While cardio machines have been around for dozens of years and even though small improvements often occur, it is rare to see an innovative, brand new type of machine introduced to the market. New or old, here are the top 5 cardio machines you’ve likely never used before.

5. Water Rowing Machines

The Closest You Will Get to Actual Rowing Without Getting Wet

Water Rowing MachineWhile not the most popular type of cardio machine, there is no doubt that rowing machines are one of best. Rowing is a almost a full body exercise in which you are using a significant portion of the muscles in your legs, back, and arms.

What makes water rowing machines one of the top 5 cardio machines is that they come very close to simulating rowing in the water. The fluid motion and natural feeling of resistance that machines offer can have a positive psychological effect on its users in addition to being a terrific way to burn calories.

Exercise Tips: How to get the most out of using Water Rowing Machines

Master the form first. Without using proper form, you will never be able to challenge yourself fully on any rowing machine. Once you are able to consistently use proper form, then you must challenge yourself by using the built-in programs on the rower which are based on pace more than anything.

Why You’ve Probably Never Used This Cardio Machine Before

Sadly, since it’s not possible to drink energy drinks, read magazines or talk on your cell phone while on a rowing machine, they have never been the most popular machine in the gym! If your local gym does happen to have a rowing machine, this usually means an old, beat-up concept 2 rower or equivalent.  For these reasons you’ve likely never used one of these wonderful water rowers and unfortunately may never get the opportunity to do so unless you purchase your own.

4. Incline Trainers (High Incline Treadmills)

Because Walking is Easier than Running, or is it?

Incline Trainer (High Incline Treadmill)Traditional treadmills allow the user to set the incline from a 0-15% grade which is more than enough for runners, however, what about those people who for whatever reason don’t like to jog or run?

In comparison, incline trainers are treadmills with maximum inclines of 30-40% which allow users to burn the same amount of calories walking than they would via jogging or running on a standard treadmill.

What makes incline trainers one of the top 5 cardio machines is not the maximum incline but the variety of training you can perform on them. You are able to perform standard high incline walking (hiking), running, walking, and various stepping motions to target your full lower body.

Exercise Tips: How to get the most out of using High Incline Treadmills

First and foremost, don’t over rely on the handles for support. The handles are there to help you keep your balance, not support your body weight. By not using the handles you are essentially pulling a significant percentage of your body weight up the hill. If you do find yourself leaning on the handles, simply lower the incline until you build up your cardiovascular endurance.

Additionally, make sure you have proper fitting footwear when using an incline trainer as the high inclines can be hard on the feet, ankles, and muscles attaching to them.

Why You’ve Probably Never Used This Cardio Machine Before

The first producers of incline trainers Nordic Track and Free Motion are not the usual suppliers of cardio equipment to most gyms. For whatever reason, the primary suppliers to most gyms like Precor, Lifefitness and Cybex haven’t jumped on the incline trainer bandwagon as of yet which is likely why you haven’t used an incline trainer before.

3. Technogym Cardio Wave

“Multiplanar Cardio Exercise”

Technogym Cardio WaveOne thing in common with almost all as well as 4 of the 5 top cardio machines on this list is the plane of motion. The plane of motion for everything from bicycles, rowing machines, to ellipticals is straight forward in the sagittal plane. The problem with this is that in real life during daily activities and sports we don’t move in a straight line for long periods of time. This is where the Techno Gym Cardio Wave comes in as the motion of movement is in the frontal (lateral movement) and sagittal (front to back) planes.

The cardio wave has an amazing 25 levels of difficulty. With the extremely smooth motion of the Cardio Wave, levels 1-5 are enough for the average fitness enthusiast. Spend a couple minutes on the Cardio Wave and the foot plates seemingly disappear leaving only you with your heart & lungs getting a great pulse-pounding and non-impact workout.

Exercise Tips: How to get the most out of using the Technogym Cardio Wave

The motion of the cardio wave is designed to work your leg muscles in multiple planes of motion as well as your core. Rather than just getting on the machine and stepping away, to maximize your time on the Cardio Wave, learn the various hand and foot placements you can do to change the emphasis of which leg muscles you target before you start using it regularly as you will no doubt want to do.

Why You’ve Probably Never Used This Cardio Machine Before

Technogym is a company in Italy which makes ‘high-end’ products, therefore their equipment costs significantly more than other major brands. Does being the Ferrari of exercise equipment make Technogym products better than other brands such as Precor or Lifefitness? Probably not, and the brand choices of most gym’s exercise equipment reflects this which is probably why you’ve never used this great piece of exercise equipment before.

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2. Precor Adaptive Motion Trainer

“Follows What You do Rather Than Telling You to Follow it”

Precor Adaptive Motion TrainerWhen elliptical trainers hit the market in the 1990’s, they quickly populated gyms and became the most popular cardio machines. The combination of offering a non-impact upper and lower body exercise was an instant favorite to many, so much so that they’ve been going strong for something like 20 years. Flashing forward to today, the time of the elliptical has finally come to an end.

The beginning of the end to elliptical machines was the introduction of the Precor Adaptive Motion Trainer (AMT). The AMT is everything an elliptical is and more. Users can use the elliptical motion, use even longer strikes or even a stair stepping motion. Best of all, the motion can even be switched on the fly. For most people this makes workouts more fun and less monotonous and we all know that people are more likely to stick with something they enjoy over something they dislike doing.

It’s too bad I don’t see more of these amazing machines at the local gyms in my area. Adaptive Motion Trainers are a superior machine in my opinion, however, arc trainers appear to be the popular kid on the block where I live.  Every local Snap Fitness I frequent uses arc trainers because they are a Cybex player, however, I’ve seen Anytime Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness gyms using AMTs in other areas.  Whether or not you will get to experience the Precor Adaptive Motion Trainer is really going to depend on the gym. Either way though, it’s great to see arc trainers and AMTs phasing out older elliptical machines.

Exercise Tips: How to get the most out of using the Precor Adaptive Motion Trainer

The Adaptive Motion Trainer was designed to be the most user friendly cardio machine of all time. Take advantage of this and use multiple forms of movement during each workout. By using different combinations of movement patterns along with the handlebars and interval programs, you’re going to keep your workouts ‘fresh’ and avoid plateau and boredom!

Why You’ve Probably Never Used This Cardio Machine Before

Many gyms (especially small local gyms) may already have a couple dozen elliptical machines and could possibly even still be paying for them.  This means they will either wait to get the new Adaptive Motion Trainer or possibly even pick up arc trainers (depending on their supplier) when it comes time to replace their elliptical machines. Why? Adaptive Motion Trainer’s come at a pretty hefty price. While almost everyone who uses the Precor AMT likes it better than the elliptical, stair climber or even the arc trainer, it is simply not enough reason for many gyms to replace all the aforementioned cardio machines. Of course, if you don’t want to wait for your local gym or your local gym doesn’t use Precor products, you can always order one for your own use at home but be prepared for it will not come cheap.

1. Versa Climber

“It’s All the Fitness You Need”

Versa ClimberWhile the Versa Climber may not have all the bells & whistles of the previous cardio machines on this list, when it comes down to it, what you want in a cardio machine is results and that is what the Versa Climber offers best.

Rather than simulating an activity going forward and backward or side to side, the Versa Climber simulates climbing straight up. This vertical exercise puts high demand on almost every muscle in the body.

Performing ‘cardio’ on the Versa Climber also means you are working your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, shoulders, triceps, biceps, and forearms as well.

Since using the Versa Climber recruits such a large amount of muscles, it causes your heart rate to elevate faster than any other cardio machine which is why it is the favorite amongst many elite athletes and personal trainers. Another reason why the Versa Climber is #1 of the top 5 best cardio machines is its simplicity.

As well as being very easy and quick to adjust, the actual machine will last for a very long time with minimal care and maintenance. It takes up the least floor space out of any cardio machine as well.

Exercise Tips: How to get the most out of using the Versa Climber

While the Versa Climber may seem pretty straight forward and simple to use (which it is), there are many ways you can modify the exercise to emphasize or deemphasize certain muscles, joints and body parts if desired. Learn how to position yourself, control range of motion, and set up the Versa Climber to be consistent with your goals before you spend time using it.

Why You’ve Probably Never Used This Cardio Machine Before

In addition to being hard on almost every level, the Versa Climber is not on anyone’s list as the most glamorous cardio machine. It is plain looking and there is no way to look at a TV as your face is within a few inches from the console, which is probably the reason few gyms have more than a couple if any of these tremendous cardio machines, and if they do, it’s usually one of the last pieces of gym equipment people will try out.

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So tell us, have you used any of these cardio machines before? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!

Author Profile: Mike Behnken

Mike Behnken is a personal trainer who holds multiple NASM certifications and a MS in Exercise Science. Mike loves fitness, travel, and photography among many other interests.

Disclaimer: The views of the author are his or her own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ask The Trainer.
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