The gym is home to an array of cardio machines. The most popular of the bunch are the cross trainer, exercise bike, and treadmill. But which of these famed calorie burning contraptions is the most effective?
Is a Cross Trainer Good for Cardio?
The cross trainer (or elliptical if you’re from the States), is a unique cardio machine designed to reduce impact on the users’ joints. A clever mechanism with attached foot plates and handles emulates a running motion as if there were no gravity.
This means cardio on the cross trainer can be done very easily. The effort level for exercise on this machine is very low. Not only does it save your joints, but it’s an easy way to get moving and burn some calories.
However, the easiness of the cross trainer isn’t all good news. If you want to burn a notable amount of calories, you’ll be moonwalking on the cross trainer for quite some time. This is great for low intensity steady state cardio (LISS). This involves doing low impact, easier cardio over an extended period of time. LISS is often beneficial for trainees looking to lose fat but maintain muscle during a cutting phase. It’s also good if you don’t have the energy for high intensity cardio, or if you are suffering from joint or muscle pain.
Is an Exercise Bike Good for Cardio?
The exercise bike is a fixed, freestanding machine designed to simulate the exact motion of cycling.
Unlike the cross trainer, an exercise bike can be adjusted to have a higher or lower effort level, depending on the user’s desire. LISS on an exercise bike is probably the most convenient and easiest way to do it; you can sit down and watch TV on the screen whilst burning calories at the same time, what’s not to like?
You can also adjust the difficulty to make pedalling harder, or you can pedal faster, or both. This means you can use an exercise bike for moderate, regular cardio, or high intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT involves pushing yourself to the point of anaerobic respiration with intense cardio for short, alternating periods. The advantage of this is that you can burn high amounts of calories over a shorter period of time.
There is one main drawback of the exercise bike when compared to the cross trainer. The exercise bike requires a lot of effort from your quads and can leave you feeling sore. This hinders muscle recovery and may interfere with your regular gym routine. For example, if you use the exercise bike the day before you train legs, you might be stiffer and weaker than normal.
Is a Rowing Machine Good for Cardio?
The rowing machine is designed to imitate the motion of rowing. It uses a seat on tracks which moves back and forth as you pull the rowing handle towards yourself.
The effort level of the rowing machine can be adjusted, but it is relatively intense at all levels. This is due to its emphasis on working your entire body. The motion of rowing on the machine uses your legs, back, and biceps, whilst also hitting smaller muscles like the traps and rear delts. This helps you to build strength whilst also improving your stamina and burning calories.
This may sound ideal, and for some trainees, it is. But, if you are frequently working the muscles used by the rowing machine, then rowing will undoubtedly hinder your recovery from these workouts (e.g a back and bis session).
Is a Stair CIimber Good for Cardio?
The stair climber is one of the most intimidating and feared pieces of cardio equipment. It is an absolute monster of a machine, and definitely not one for the light-hearted. It works similarly to a treadmill, but instead of a flat belt, steep stairs rotate underneath your feet as you climb.
You can adjust the speed of a stair climber, but it will always be relatively intense. Like the rowing machine, the stair climber works your muscles as well as improving your stamina and burning calories. It hits your quads and glutes hard, whilst also working your hamstrings and abductors.
This again will hinder your recovery from traditional leg work. However, if you’re short for time and want to combine some cardio into your leg session, spending some time on the stair climber at the end is a great option.
Is a Treadmill Good for Cardio?
Arguably the most popular choice of cardio equipment, the treadmill uses a revolving belt so the user can run for as long as desired, in a single spot.
Similarly to the exercise bike, the effort level can be adjusted. This makes the treadmill perfect for LISS, moderate intensity cardio, and HIIT. It’s easily the most versatile of the three. You can use it for regular walking, a heavy incline walk, a steady jog, or even sprinting. As well as this, most treadmills have built in exercise programs/sessions for you to complete depending on your goals.
Using a treadmill does take more effort than using a cross trainer or exercise bike. Running in general can also damage your joints over time. But most treadmills use technology underneath the belt to absorb the impact of your strides and preserve your joints.
What is the Best Cardio Machine?
The treadmill is undeniably the best cardio machine. Its impressive versatility sets it apart from the cross trainer and exercise bike. It’s suitable for a huge array of users with different goals and mindsets.
The only valid criticism of the treadmill is that it can damage your joints, but most modern treadmills have now tackled this issue, meaning it’s even safer for your joints than running outside.
The cross trainer and exercise bike do certainly have their uses. If you’re wanting to do steady state cardio without much effort or stress on your joints, the cross trainer is perfect. If you want to do LISS or HIIT and aren’t worried about getting your quads involved, jump on an exercise bike.
The rowing machine and stair climber are definitely the most intense of the bunch. They’re great for burning calories. They also uniquely can help you to build muscle and strength at the same time as your cardio. If you do decide to use either of these two, bare in mind how the high intensity placed on your muscles will likely hinder your recovery from weight training.
Overall though, the classic, simplistic treadmill remains the best option to get your blood pumping in the gym.
Here at MuscleSquad we have a fantastic line of treadmills available:
The P100 treadmill is great for the casual runner or beginner cardio enthusiast. However, don’t let this fool you. It’s still packed with tech and has a 2.5HP motor allowing it to reach a maximum speed of 15km/h. The P100 also has wheels and can be conveniently folded for relocation or to save space in your home gym.
Next in the range is the P200 treadmill. It has all the basics of the P100 but comes with a 10 inch LCD screen to display your stats and more. As well as this, the P200 includes a cushioning system to protect your joints. It can also be folded to save space in your home gym.
The P300 treadmill is developed for the most advanced of runners. It’s the fastest and highest incline treadmill in the range. On top of this, it’s absolutely packed with technology and has extremely in-depth statistics and tracking features so you can make sure you’re performing at the top of your game.
Jamie Grover, Fitness Journalist from Bristol.