You’ve pep-talked yourself into going to the gym, your water bottle is full, and your pump-up playlist is ready. Time to get your sweat on!
But with so many gym machines gleaming at you, how do you know which one to choose? Which machines burn the most fat — and which are you better off avoiding?
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Here are our top five gym machines for improving your cardiovascular endurance and overall fitness.
The most widely available and popular piece of equipment is incredibly simple to use — and wildly effective when utilized correctly. The treadmill lands on our list because walking and jogging are as essential an exercise as you can get. Adjust the speed and incline to make your workout more challenging, and get running! The best part? It’s easy to incorporate HIIT into treadmill workouts by adding 30-second sprints. Try one of these 15-minute HIIT treadmill workouts on days when you haven’t got a ton of time, but still want to get in a solid workout.
2. Stair Climber
One of the best ways to blast fat is by targeting and working the largest and most powerful muscle group in the body: the glutes. Few machines are able to do this quite like the stair climber. Doing stairs really fires up your lower body like nothing else, and you’ll begin to feel the burn rather quickly. Similar to the treadmill, the stair climber is a functional machine; we go up and down stairs all the time in our every day movements, so improving our ability to climb stairs is extremely useful. And, just like the treadmill, you set the pace for how far you want to push yourself. Want a great cardio workout and a firm, toned backside and thighs? The stair climber is your best bet. Try this 30-minute stair climber cardio workout to see results.
3. Rowing Machine
The rowing machine does not get the attention it deserves, and that’s a darn shame. Combining both cardio and strength training, the rowing machine is one most efficient exercises out there, sculpting your entire upper body — shoulders, back, biceps and even your core — in one easy, fluid motion.
Like the treadmill, the rowing machine can also benefit from high-intensity intervals. Unlike the treadmill, however, the rowing machine is low-impact, and is great for those who have bad knees or other injuries that prevent them from running. Next time you’re at the gym, try some of these rowing workouts on for size. Just be sure you’re using proper rowing form to prevent injury.
4. Stationary Bike
Thanks to spinning classes and places like SoulCycle and Spokehaus, a stationary bike is no longer an easy or mundane piece of equipment. Like the stair climber, cycling utilizes the largest and most essential muscle groups, including your legs, glutes and even core. A class environment can challenge you to increase your intensity, guide you to use the various incline and speed options, and inspire you to push through the challenges of your workout to get the desired results.
What About The Worst?
Despite it being one of the most popular gym machines, many personal trainers despise the elliptical trainer. The heart-rate read-outs on these machines are often inaccurate, especially if you rely on leaning on the handles. (The same can be said for most built-in heart rate monitors, so you’re often better off measuring your heart rate yourself, the old-fashioned way, by checking your pulse and doing some simple math.) Another problem with the elliptical is that it’s rather ineffective: the inertia of the machine, once in motion, carries you through the movements. Furthermore, elliptical machines are not based on functional fitness. Think about the motion you perform on an elliptical: it’s an unnatural, swinging-type movement that you don’t really do in real life.
And yet, we see this over and over again: People get on the elliptical machine for an hour, sometimes while reading a book or watching TV, and they think they’ve gotten a great workout. They haven’t. If you’re not exhausted, sweating and panting at the end of your workout, you’re probably not burning fat effectively.
Once you’ve chosen your preferred machine, don’t get too comfortable. Find ways to push your body out of its comfort zone. If your body gets used to one of these machines, challenge yourself to try another. Or mix it up and break an hour into 12-minute high-intensity segments with all five of them. Just remember to keep yourself safe by having good form.