The Best Cardio Machine for Every Fitness Goal
If you’ve been eyeing a certain fitness goal, or have been a long-time gym buff, cardio certainly plays a key role in your weekly routine.
In case you are still unsure what exactly constitutes cardio, we define it as an activity that elevates your breathing and heartbeat, and takes place within a certain heart rate range.
Cardio training utilises large muscle movements over a sustained period of time, aiming to keep your heart rate at 50% to 70% of its maximum range (for a moderate workout). Make sure not to exceed the 85% mark, as that will no longer count as cardio. You can easily calculate your max range - simply subtract your age from 220.
It is recommended that you engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio every week, to stay on the right side of healthy.
Getting your heart pumping is also a great way to torch fat and get lean. This is why most people head straight over to the treadmill to work up a sweat when they first start exercising and chasing their fitness goals. Incorporating cardiovascular exercise into your routine will have numerous benefits, and if you stay consistent, results will not fail to show.
However, as the treadmill is not the only cardio machine at your disposal, how can you tell which one will help you achieve what you have set out to accomplish? As with everything in life, having too many options can make it harder to choose, especially if you are new to the fitness arena. Many will end up asking themselves the same question:
What are the best cardio machines for my specific fitness goal?
It is a common misconception that cardio is only a warm-up before you move on to the bigger, bulkier exercises, like weightlifting. And while you can certainly run a couple of miles before you lift, treating cardio as a warm-up alone would not be doing it justice.
No matter what your goal is: losing weight, bulking up, running faster, swimming longer, jumping higher: cardio will have a very specific place in your routine.
To help you figure out which machine is best suited to your personal goal, we’ve broken down several of the most popular ones available in most gyms. There is no saying you can’t use all of them in turn: but instead of wandering aimlessly from one to the other, after reading our comprehensive guide, you will know exactly which one to hone in on.
Here are some of the most popular cardio exercise machines available on the market, how you can use each, and which fitness goal they are perfect for:
The treadmill is the quintessential staple of every gym, big or small. It is what you think of when you first start to plan on working out, and for good reason! The classic, reliable treadmill is timeless and will always be a great addition to any workout.
This cardio machine is perfect if you’re gearing up for a marathon, or aiming to lose weight. Running on a treadmill can burn around 500-800 calories per hour, depending on your fitness levels and weight, as well as your speed, incline and the settings you use. This is actually a full body workout, since it incorporates your arms as well, and gets your body moving the way it’s supposed to! Getting on the treadmill is a great way to get your heart pumping and for boosting weight loss.
We recommend that you run on an incline in order to boost your metabolism. Just remember that the more work you put it in, the better results you’ll be seeing. Of course, if you opt to just walk on the machine, you’ll still be able to burn around 150 – 300 calories per hour.
If you are a beginner, you should start slow and work your way up to higher speeds and higher inclines. We suggest that you look up an interval training program for the treadmill that will alternate between faster and slower runs, and demand more of your body than a steady jog. The alternation of high- and low-intensity exertions will get your heart pumping, your muscles more engaged, and you will be burning more calories as well. Just remember to adjust the intensity to your own fitness level, and not demand too much of your body in the very first week.
PRO TIP: Avoid the common mistake of holding on to the handrails during your run or jog. This holds you back from burning some much-needed calories! The handrails are only there for support when you need it, when you are switching between speeds, or are slightly off balance.
Modern treadmills can also easily fit into the smallest of apartments, so if you feel you don’t have time to go to the gym, and would prefer to run inside, you can find a model that will fit into the space you have at home.
We’ve stressed the power of cardiovascular exercise machines to boost your weight loss, but that’s not all they can do.
Cardio equipment also has the ability to strengthen your muscles. If you’re not looking to pump iron during your entire time at the gym, then opting to take a ride on the bike may just be the thing for you.
Bikes are steadily making a comeback, with more and more studios offering spin classes based around different themes that get people excited for their workout. It may look like your garden variety ride through the park, or a stationary and uneventful time at the gym, but that is certainly not what spinning is. It is an intense workout that gets your muscles activated in the best way.
The muscles that you put to work while on a spinning bike are some of the largest in your body. You’ll be able to feel your workout in your gluteus maximus, hamstrings and quadriceps, which means that you’ll be using up a lot of energy.
A spin bike requires a consistently high amount of energy and stamina. A study from Sweden has actually found that just 1 hour on the spin bike is able to release blood chemicals that are linked to heart stress and change. Don’t let the word “stress” fool you – in this case, it does you good, and not harm.
These signals are an indicator that the heart is getting a good workout. They are commonly signs that are found in prolonged exertion such as running marathons, and the study was able to find that it could potentially lead to blood vessel repair and renewal.
A spin bike isn’t just good for your heart, either! It can also greatly improve your body composition, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as get rid of body fat.
While not as compact as your treadmill, if you are looking to work up a sweat, getting one of these bikes for your home gym will certainly help you achieve your lean goals.
Much like the treadmill, the elliptical also provides an effective workout, improves aerobic capacities, and burns calories. However, they aren’t exactly the same and you may find that the elliptical meets your goals better than a treadmill.
The elliptical also allows your body to engage in a running motion. However, the biggest advantage of the elliptical is that it is a non-impact weight-bearing aerobic activity with lower joint stress than running.
Its movable handles also allow you to exercise both your upper and lower body at the same time. The elliptical also allows for a reverse stride, which can activate various muscle groups on your body, as well as put more work into your quads.
In spite of being an intense full body workout, the perceived exertion on an elliptical is actually lower. This means that no matter how much work you think you’re putting in, you are actually doing more, and there is a study to prove it. Thus, the elliptical is able to burn a lot of calories with considerably less effort.
If this is what you are looking for, investing in an elliptical for your home gym will certainly get you to move more, and the results will not be far behind.
The Rowing Machine
The rowing machine provides one of the most effective and most underrated cardiovascular exercises you can choose to do. Even if you get on this machine for only 10 minutes of interval training, you’ll find yourself sweating more and burning a notable number of calories.
All you need to do is keep an eye on your technique. Remember: it’s the quality, not the number of reps you do that counts.
Unlike the workouts you engage in on the bike, elliptical and treadmill, those on the rowing machine are not the usual movements your body performs. This means your muscles are working in new and exciting ways. You can modify your strokes, speed, resistance and the length of the exercise itself, and achieve faster results. You don’t have to row for hours to burn a significant amount of calories.
Your legs, back and arms are all benefiting from this exercise: not in equal measure of course, but since your entire body is working on each movement, you get a type of exercise no other cardio machine can provide.
A rowing machine might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of cardio, but it is certainly a choice worth pursuing.
With any type of cardiovascular equipment or exercise, it’s always important to switch things up regularly. If you stick to one piece of equipment alone, and use the same setting forever, you will find yourself plateauing and unable to meet your fitness goals. Consider incorporating new forms of cardio into your workout to keep yourself constantly challenged!
Have you been thinking about burning those calories and getting your heart pumping in the comfort of your own home gym? Flex Fitness Equipment can help you find the perfect cardio machine for your needs and space.