Let’s be honest, jogging isn’t fun for most of us. More often than not, it can even feel like a knee-jarring chore. Luckily, if you’re one of the people who are likely to cringe at the thought of putting one foot in front of the other quicker than you have to, there’s a solution: gym cardio machines.
These machines are your best bet for an engaging, effective workout. To help you out, we’ll cover the best cardio gym machines out there.
Table of Contents
- 1 The 6 Best Gym Machines for Cardio
- 2 Benefits of Using Machines for Cardio
- 3 Anatomy of the Cardiovascular System
- 4 FAQs
The 6 Best Gym Machines for Cardio
- Stair climber
- Rowing machine
- Stationary bike
- Air bike
Benefits of the treadmill
- Customizable intensity
- Weather-independent exercise
- Joint-friendly options
Treadmills give you a reliable and adjustable platform, so you can get consistent cardio workouts. This is why they’re a staple in many workout routines.
With adjustable speed and incline settings, the treadmill can be adapted to your level of fitness and mood on the day, from walking to intense running.
They provide a nice alternative to outdoor running, eliminating weather-related interruptions from your routine.
Many treadmills have cushioned decks which reduce the impact on joints significantly compared to outdoor surfaces.
Tips for using the treadmill
- Start with a warm-up
- Use the incline feature
- Form still matters
- Stay hydrated
- Use the safety clip (if available)
Start with a warm-up
Begin with a light walk or jog to gradually increase your heart rate and prepare your muscles for the workout.
Use the incline feature
Adding inclines can replicate outdoor running conditions to enhance the intensity and effectiveness of your workout.
Form still matters
Many think that form doesn’t matter on the treadmill but it does. Keep your posture upright and avoid leaning on the handrails.
Keep water within reach and take small sips throughout your treadmill session.
Use the safety clip (if available)
Nowadays, most treadmills come with a safety clip built in that you can attach to your clothing. It’s basically there to trigger the emergency brake should you fall off the machine.
Treadmill cardio exercises
- Sprint intervals
- Hills and flats
Start with a warm-up and then alternate between high-intensity sprints and low-intensity walking or jogging. Aim for 30 seconds to 1 minute of sprinting followed by 1-2 minutes of recovery. Repeat for 20-30 minutes.
Hills and flats
To perform this exercise, simply alternate between walking or running on an incline and a flat. Start with a moderate incline for 1-2 minutes, then switch to a flat surface for the same duration. Continue this alternation for 20-30 minutes.
Here’s a video that stresses the importance of maintaining form on the treadmill:
Benefits of a stair climber
- Effective lower body workout
- Calorie burning
- Cardiovascular fitness
Effective lower body workout
Stair steppers hit key muscles in the lower body, like the quads and calves. It’s also one of the best gym machines for glutes.
This machine is known to efficiently burn calories, which can help a lot with weight loss and management. If weight loss is your goal, then bear in mind that there are a lot of other gym machines for weight loss that you could integrate.
Can enhance heart and lung health through sustained aerobic activity.
Tips for using a stair climber
- Step fully
- Controlled pace
- Maintain proper posture
- Add weights
Make sure that your feet are fully stepping onto each stair to maximize muscle engagement and to ensure safety.
Start at a manageable pace and gradually increase the intensity as your fitness improves.
Maintain proper posture
Much like with the treadmill, posture is important here too. Avoid relying too heavily on the handrails.
To increase the level of muscle engagement, you can consider wearing a weighted vest or ankle weights, or even just holding a dumbbell in either hand. Do note that this additional weight can make the exercise a lot harder, so exercise caution and only use a weight that you can handle safely.
Steps to using a stair climber
- Before starting, adjust the settings according to your fitness level and desired intensity.
- Begin at a slow, steady pace to get used to the machine’s rhythm.
- Use the handrails only when your balance is upset, not to support your weight.
- Place your entire foot on the incoming step to engage the full range of your leg muscles.
- When you start to get comfortable, increase the speed or resistance to make the workout more challenging.
- Keep checking your form to ensure that you’re not leaning forward or slouching.
- After your workout, reduce the pace for a few minutes to cool down.
If you’re still stuck on how to most effectively use the stair stepper, check out the video below for a comprehensive breakdown:
Benefits of the rowing machine
- Good upper body engagement
- Versatility and accessibility
Good upper body engagement
The rowing machines engage multiple muscles at the same time but you can get a particularly good burn in your upper body.
Versatility and accessibility
It’s suitable for pretty much all fitness levels and because of the adjustable resistance, it can easily match individual capabilities.
Tips for using the rowing machine
- Proper form is key
- Legs, core, arms sequence
- Controlled movements
- Breathing technique
Proper form is key
Maintain a strong posture throughout the rowing motion to prevent back strain.
Legs, core, arms sequence
Power the stroke mainly through your legs, followed by engaging the core, and finishing with the arms.
Ensure your movements are smooth and controlled to maximize efficiency and lessen the risk of injury.
Coordinate your breathing with your rowing. Inhale on the recovery and exhale on the drive.
Steps to using a rowing machine
- Secure your feet in the footplates with the straps fitted snugly over the widest part of your foot.
- Choose a suitable resistance level that aligns with your workout goal and current fitness level.
- Start with your knees bent, then lean slightly forward from the hips, arms straight, and grip the handle firmly.
- Push back with your legs first, then lean to a slight angle. Finally, pull the handle towards your lower ribs.
- At the end of the drive, your legs are extended, shoulders back, and the handle is pulled to just below your chest.
- Extend your arms first, then lean forward from the hips, after which you should bend your knees to return to the position in step three.
- Establish a steady rhythm that matches your breathing and desired intensity level.
Rowing machines can be kind of intimidating at first, so if you’re a beginner or just someone looking to perfect their technique, take a look at how you should be using a rowing machine:
Benefits of the elliptical
- Muscle toning
- Full body workout
- Low impact on joints
Since an elliptical machine involves moving your entire body, it can help with toning various muscle groups to improve your overall look.
Full body workout
The elliptical machine targets both the upper body and the lower body at the same time, so you can spend less time in the gym if that’s what you want.
Low impact on joints
The elliptical has a very low impact on joints, making it ideal for those with joint-related conditions.
Tips for using the elliptical
- Use the handles
- Focus on foot placement
- Adjust the resistance
Use the handles
Actively push and pull the handles to engage the muscles in your upper body. Don’t just rely on your legs to do all the hard work.
Focus on foot placement
Make sure that your feet are flat on the pedals to evenly distribute your weight.
Adjust the resistance and incline
Increase the intensity of your session by adjusting the resistance. This is especially helpful for advanced users.
Steps to using the elliptical
- Step onto the machine and place your feet comfortably on the pedals.
- Choose a pre-set program or manually set your desired resistance suited to your fitness level.
- Firmly hold the moving handles.
- Start pedaling in a smooth, circular motion, either forward or backward.
- Keep your core muscles tight throughout the exercise for stability.
- Regularly check your posture and make sure that your core is engaged.
- Cool down by gradually reducing the pace and resistance toward the end of the workout.
For those who are still trying to wrap their heads around using the elliptical machine, watch this video. It’ll give you the concise breakdown you need to get going:
Benefits of a stationary bike
- Low-impact exercise
- Familiar motion
Works well for people recovering from injury or those struggling with joint issues due to its low impact.
The exercise bike is pretty much the same as a regular bike. This familiarity makes it easy for users to get in motion and can also be more fun to use.
Lower body strengthening
This is a great machine for really focusing on your lower body strength since it relies on the motion of your legs.
Tips for using a stationary bike
- Vary your workout
- Pay attention to your pedaling technique
Vary your workout
Always alternate between different speeds and resistance levels to challenge your body.
Pay attention to your pedaling technique
Aim for smooth, circular motions to optimize consistent muscle engagement.
Steps to using the stationary bike
- Set the seat height so that your leg has a slight bend when the pedal is at its lowest point. Adjust the handle height for comfort.
- Place your feet on the pedals and tighten the straps.
- Begin pedaling with light resistance to warm up your muscles.
- Gradually increase the resistance as you get more comfortable.
- If available, use the heart rate monitor to track your intensity.
- End your session with a few minutes of slow pedaling at low resistance to cool down.
Many folks use the exercise bike completely wrong. So, watch this video to make sure you’re not one of those people:
Benefits of the air bike
- Very low joint impact
- High-intensity cardio
Very low joint impact
As the name suggests, air bikes have a very low impact on the joints due to their non-weight-bearing nature, meaning that no additional load is placed on your joints.
Air bikes offer a vigorous workout that makes use of various muscle groups, making them ideal for improving cardiovascular health for most.
Tips for using the air bike
- Use both your arms and legs
- Adjust the seat properly
Use both your arms and legs
Engage your arms in the pushing and pulling motions while pedaling to get the most out of the workout.
Adjust the seat properly
Ensure the seat is at the correct height for your legs to ensure that they fully extend without locking the knees.
Steps to using the air bike
- Adjust the seat so that when you’re seated, your feet reach the pedals comfortably and your arms can reach the handles without overextending.
- Begin pedaling at a moderate pace to warm up your muscles.
- Alternate between high-intensity bursts and lower-intensity recovery periods for an effective workout.
- Pay attention to how much energy you’re exerting by using the bike’s display to track your speed and heart rate.
- Actively push and pull the handles while pedaling to engage the upper body.
- Gradually decrease your pace toward the end of your workout to cool down.
- After finishing, perform stretches to help your muscles recover and prevent stiffness.
Sometimes it’s better when you see a practical demonstration, instead of just reading steps. Have a look at this demonstration of how to use an air bike with proper form and technique:
Benefits of Using Machines for Cardio
- Ease of use for beginners: Cardio machines have a fixed path of motion. This makes them particularly easier to grasp for beginners who are just starting out their fitness journey. They’re also adaptable to any fitness level since you can adjust their resistance or speed accordingly.
- Focused muscle engagement: These machines allow users to target specific muscle groups, which can enhance the overall effectiveness of your cardio routine.
- Safety and low impact: Cardio equipment is generally safer than free weights and activities such as road running. A cardio exercise machine can significantly reduce the risk of injury and provide a lower-impact workout, which is key to maintaining good joint health.This is particularly true for machines like the recumbent bike, as it provides a sufficient cardio workout while being gentle on the joints.
- Customizable workouts: Exercise machines, like treadmills and elliptical trainers, offer adjustable settings. This means you can adjust them to suit your personal preference and fitness goals.
- Full-body workout options: Certain machines, like rowing machines, provide a full-body workout. This means that they engage multiple muscles throughout the body simultaneously which can translate to a variety of health benefits.
Do bear in mind that even the best cardio machines still need you to maintain a balanced diet and consistent workout routine to see the best results. Our advice: Make major changes to your routine every two to four months and minor changes every 7-10 days.
Anatomy of the Cardiovascular System
The heart is a muscular organ tasked with pumping blood throughout the body. This is why it’s so crucial for aerobic and anaerobic activities. During intense workouts, it works harder to supply the muscles with oxygen-rich blood.
Arteries and veins
Arteries carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the muscles, which is vital for maintaining the intensity of a workout. Veins return deoxygenated blood to the heart, which then completes the cycle.
In this process, blood travels to the lungs to receive oxygen, and then returns to the heart. This oxygenation is essential for muscle performance during short yet intense anaerobic bursts, like during a HIIT workout.
Oxygen-rich blood is circulated to the muscles, providing the energy you need for cardiovascular activities. This system ensures metabolic byproducts, like lactic acid, are efficiently delivered and removed.
Does cardio make you lose muscle?
Despite what a lot of gym bros may think, cardio doesn’t lead to muscle loss. In fact, according to some sources, moderate aerobic activity can improve muscle quality and even contribute to muscle growth. This is particularly the case for middle-aged and older adults. It’s all about balance. While excessive endurance activities might lead to muscle loss, this generally won’t happen with moderate cardio.
Can I do cardio at the gym every day?
Yep, you can do cardio at the gym every day. But, if you want to take this approach, it’s important to vary the intensity and the type of workouts you do. Overdoing high-intensity cardio can lead to burnout and increase the risk of injury. Try to mix in lower-intensity sessions and incorporate rest days and strength training to optimize your results.
Which cardio machines burn the most calories
According to calculations from Harvard, elliptical machines used at a moderate pace burn the most calories. But, other cardio machines – like treadmills, rowing machines, and stationary bikes – are still highly effective for burning calories. An intense workout on these machines can maximize calorie burn, especially when intervals are incorporated.
Ultimately, though, the best cardio machine for you is one that keeps you motivated and that you’re comfortable using.