There are a lot of cardiovascular machines to choose from, and it can be hard to figure out which ones are the best cardio machines at the gym for you. Depending on your particular goals, there may be some machines that are better than others when it comes to helping you achieve the results you seek. So, what are the best cardio machines at the gym for you?
What Should You Look for in a Cardio Machine?
When deciding on which cardio machine to use, take into account your workout preferences (do you enjoy biking, hiking), any injuries you may have, your goals (weight loss, cardiovascular training), availability, and the perceived rate of exertion.
You should also take into account your flexibility, ability to balance, any joint issues, and your comfort.
Now that you’re well-versed in why you need to do cardio, let’s examine the best cardio machines to help you get the job done!
10 Best Cardio Machines at the Gym
1. Rowing Machine
This machine packs a punch when it comes to calorie burning. If you can stand to row for that length of time, rowing can burn off upwards of 1,000 calories in an hour. However, most folks will typically do shorter periods of rowing or mix up the workout with periodic “sprints,” followed by more extensive periods of slower rowing.
The rowing machine is really a full-body exercise as it engages your legs and torso as well as your entire shoulder girdle, chest, and back. While a fantastic choice for toning, you’ll also enjoy the benefits of a great cardiovascular workout as well.
*Note—rowing machines are often available and empty at the gym since it’s such a tough workout!
This old standby has been around for years and continues to be a popular machine even though it burns about half the calories per hour as the rowing machine. Comprised of two footpads that move up and down, you can adjust the size and speed of your steps.
Why is this particular piece of equipment so much less effective than other cardio machines at the gym? Folks who use this machine tend to lean on the machine and use small stepping movements involving mostly calf muscles. Since the calves are such small muscles, comparatively speaking, it won’t help you burn off a lot of calories.
To make this exercise more effective, don’t lean on the handles, and try taking giant steps, which will engage the larger leg muscles like your quads and hamstrings.
The stepmill is the more effective sibling of the Stairmaster. The stepmill looks more like an escalator with handles on the sides and involves a rotating bank of steps. You can increase the rotation speed of the steps to increase the difficulty of this machine. The stepmill also requires you to take fairly large steps as the belt moves the steps toward you, meaning a greater calorie burn.
Yes, you’re going “uphill both ways,” but the benefits are worth it.
If you just want to walk at the gym, and you’re not into all the other fancy cardio equipment, then you’re in luck. Treadmills are probably the most popular piece of equipment found in the gym.
Typically, you can walk or run on the treadmill, but many machines offer even more variety. Walking on an incline can ramp up the intensity of your workouts and have you burning many more calories over walking on a flat surface.
Many treadmills will also offer programs that will automatically change speed and incline to provide you with variety.
If the rowing machine, stair stepper, and treadmill aren’t your favorites, or if you have injuries, then you may enjoy using the elliptical. Since the elliptical moves in a circular manner, it’s incredibly easy on the joints. And, several ellipticals have attachments for your arms as well. If you pump your arms while using the elliptical, you can turn this into a fun and effective full-body workout.
Most gyms will have elliptical machines, but they might be the most popular machines because of their gentleness and ease of use.
6. Jacob’s Ladder
In sharp contrast to the elliptical, Jacob’s Ladder is a tough workout. Designed mainly as a strength and conditioning tool, this machine sports an angled ladder (a 40-degree incline) and the rungs move and rotate around as you step on them. Since it’s powered by your body weight and movement, you can go as fast or as slow as you want.
As a full-body workout, “climbing a ladder” burns significant calories, since you use both your arms and legs. And, the climbing movement requires you to stabilize yourself by engaging your core and helps you work on your balance and coordination at the same time.
7. Spin Bike
Most fitness facilities will have either a spin bike, an upright bike, or a recumbent bike. Often, gyms that offer indoor cycling classes will allow you to use the bikes when they’re not being used for classes. This type of workout is designed so you can go at your own pace by adjusting the resistance on the flywheel. Usually, folks will sprint for short periods (by cranking up the resistance so it’s harder to pedal) followed by longer “rest” periods to recover (by lessening the resistance).
8. Recumbent Bike
If the spin bike isn’t for you, you might enjoy using a recumbent bike. The recumbent bike has you positioned in a seated manner with your legs out straight in front of you. Many bikes even have armrests and a backrest with a larger seat so they are much more comfortable than your regular spin or upright bikes.
9. Lateral Trainer
This is also known by the name “Helix.” This machine takes the elliptical motion to a new level by adding in a figure-8 motion designed to tone up your glutes and legs, inner and outer thighs. Instead of moving in a circular forward motion, your legs will alternate moving forward and out to the sides.
10. Rope Climber
While most cardio machines tend to work your lower body, the rope climber works mainly your upper body, particularly your back. This machine may be hard to find at many gyms as it is unique (and it’s such a tough workout). It’s also known as the “endless rope” and allows you to pull on the rope like you would when climbing a rope attached to a ceiling. You can pull the rope at different angles, speeds, and resistance levels.