The Complete Guide to Cardio Machines

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Within this post, I’m going to talk about the various types of cardio machines to know which is the most suitable for you.

I remember when I started working out about two decades ago, I focused only on weight lifting. You know, I wanted to be muscular and strong. I didn’t really care about cardio training. And that was a huge mistake.


Firstly, being big doesn’t mean you have endurance and lung capacity. What is it good for if you huff and puff after 2 minutes of jogging. That isn’t a healthy body. On top of that, aerobic workouts are the best to burn fat to build lean muscle mass.

It took me time to understand and accept these facts.

So, I started using various cardio workout machines. I tried all and learned everything about them, their pros, and cons. Frankly, I hated most of them since I found them boring. Nowadays I only use the jump rope and the rower, because I enjoy them the most.

With this short story, I’d just wanted to say that you don’t need to care about the bells and whistles of a certain machine. Use the one which you enjoy the most. (Because for most of us cardiovascular training is boring :))

Within this guide, I’m going to list all types of cardio equipment with there pros and cons, so you will know if it is suitable for you or not.

(The list isn’t ordered by effectiveness.)

1. Treadmill

treadmills cardio

| Good for: beginner-advanced

I believe running, jogging, or walking outdoors in the fresh air is much better than exercising indoors. But, in bad weather, what can you do?

However, treadmills of the 21 century are so professional that a lot choose them instead of running outdoor.


  • They are equipped with a shock absorption belt that protects your joints.
  • Get all sorts of information via the performance monitor about your workout, such as the distance, time, calories burned, heart rate, etc. that keep you motivated.
  • They have many inbuilt programs made for different fitness levels, goals, and type. For example, cardio workouts that burn fat.
  • Of course, you can also create your own personalized workout program such as intervals (HIIT).
  • Thanks to the incline levels, you can get similar training as if you were going up on a heel.

Without a doubt, a treadmill is a versatile machine that is suitable for everyone since we can choose from a wide range of difficulty.

What are the cons?

  • Some people find it boring. I create my plan with sessions (high-intensity interval training) to avoid that.
  • The moving treadmill belt gives a little help while you run. You can’t experience that while running outdoor. I regularly get out to avoid being dependent on the machine.

2. Stair Stepper

stair stepper

My rating: | Good for: beginners

I’m not talking about the climbers here, but the classic steppers.

The problem with this type of cardio machine is the short range of motion. It would imitate the move of stair climbing, but the steps it creates is far from that. The stepping motion is unnatural that doesn’t build proper functional strength.

Ok, it increases your heart rate, so it may help to burn calories, but there are many better options at the gym.

On the other hand, it’s not a bad idea to get one for home. While you watch TV, you make a few hundreds of steps instead of sitting on the sofa.

3. Stair Climber (Stairmaster)

stair climber machine

Rating: | Good for: intermediate-advanced

Everyone experienced what a tough activity is to climb hundreds of steps. And, that is what these cardio exercise machines try to give back. What makes them even better than real-life climbing is that we can change the speed and choose from various programs.

The stair climber provides a very effective cardiovascular workout and shapes your hams and glutes well. And, it let us burn a lot of calories in a relatively short time, hence perfect for weight loss.

One downside is the support handles on which we tend to hang around. This way, the exercise isn’t the same as if we were climbing stairs in reality. However, with practice, we can get rid of it.

I have to mention that climbing put stress on the knee joints, so it is not recommended for people with knee problems.

4. Jump Rope

jump roping

Rating: | Good for: beginner-advanced

It is my favorite cardio exercise equipment that I enjoy the most. Ok, it took some time to learn the various jumps. It quickly increases my heart rate. Plus, I can use it anywhere and cheap.

Besides the cardiovascular and fat-burning benefits, it improves your bone density and coordination. And, believe it or not, jump roping makes you smarter since it enhances the connection between your left and right brain hemispheres.

I usually combine jump roping with strength training (intervals) to increase my endurance.

5. Stationary Exercise Bike

bike cardio workout gym woman

Rating: | Good for: beginner-advanced

I put the exercise bikes into 4 groups: upright, recumbent, spin bike, and air bike.

The stationary upright bikes are the “classic” cardio machines for home. They come with different levels of resistance and maybe some inbuilt programs. My problem with the upright bike is that they don’t give back the real biking experience and engage only the legs. In spite of all this, intense cycling burns a lot of calories.

The stationary recumbent bikes are low-impact cardio machines. Since we sit in a comfortable seat, it doesn’t put much stress on the back. Also, the pedaling is safe and healthy for the joints. That is why it is used for rehabilitation, loved by seniors, and easy on knees. But because of the “comfort,” it gives the least cardiovascular and weight loss benefits.

And finally, the spinning bike is the winner as it gives back the real speed cycling activity the most. Actually, it’s the same as a professional bike, just static. It can be adjusted in several ways to mimic outdoor conditions such as hill climbing or sprint. Hence, it builds functional power, suitable for enhanced calorie burning and extreme training.

The air bike is a sort of hybrid machine with moving handles. Hence, you can exercise your upper body a bit more. I don’t think it is such a big “boom” as it is promoted.

6. Rowing Machine

rowing machines

Rating: | Good for: beginner-advanced

For me, besides the jumping rope, the rower is the winner.

The rowing exercise is a full-body motion engaging all the major muscle groups. That is beneficial for two reasons. Firstly, the more muscles are activated, the more energy they need, so more calories are burned. Moreover, such a compound move develops functional strength and coordination.

There are various types of rowing machines, depending on the resistance type. The wind flywheel (Concept2), and the magnetic resistance rowers are perfect home cardio equipment considering the price. The high-end devices are the water rowers that give back the sound of splashing water.

This is important, though!

Learn the correct rowing technique because that is the only way you can enjoy the fantastic benefits of the exercise. It seems to be clear how to use the rower, but it’s a compound move that requires practice.

7. Vertical Climber (VersaClimber/MaxiClimber)

vertical climber

Rating: | Good for: beginner-advanced

This odd-looking cardio gym equipment tries to mimic climbing, which is a complex movement with many benefits.

Firstly, both the lower and upper body is engaged, this way we talk about full-body training. Because of that, a lot of energy is required, which leads to enhanced calorie burning.

Moreover, the vertical climber strengthens the muscles effectively since we have to handle our entire body weight. So, we can call it a combination of strength and cardio training, which is the best way to build a “real” fit body.

Finally, because we have to coordinate the movements of the legs and arms, it works your brain.

To conclude, if you are searching for an all in one machine to shape your body, lose weight, get stronger and healthier, the vertical climber is an excellent pick.

8. Elliptical trainer

elliptical trainers

Rating: | Good for: beginner-intermediate

Frankly, among the gym cardio machines, the elliptical that I don’t like the most. I think it controls the motion too much (the movement is fixed). It’s also not functional because such there is no such move in reality. Plus, once you get familiar with it, it isn’t challenging.

Ok, the elliptical is suitable for low impact cardio. But, I can’t imagine how I could have intense training with it similar to the treadmill or the indoor rowing machine.

Most of the people use the elliptical because it feels easier than the treadmill or the rower.

Maybe, I’m alone with my opinion, but that is what I have experienced. Maybe I was too tall for the machines at the gym, which is usually a problem.

9. Arc Trainer

Rating: | Good for: beginner-advanced

The Arc Trainer is an enhanced elliptical that provides a more natural movement for the body, particularly for taller people. Because of the enhanced mechanism, it also provides a more effective cardio workout, safer for the lower body, puts less stress on the joints, and engages more muscles.

I prefer the ARC trainer because of the movement of the legs is closer to walking and running. Another benefit is that we can pick from different zones to make the workout harder or easier.

10. Boxing Equipment

home boxing equipment

If you are bored with all the workout machines above, try boxing.

You will enjoy every minute of your training because it is such a versatile, challenging, and exciting way of exercising that works your body and mind completely.

Of course, in the beginning, you need some time to learn the basics such as punches, stance, combinations, etc. But with each session, you will enjoy it more and more.

You can start without anything, just by shadowboxing. Then, you can get a pair of boxing gloves and a heavy punching bag to have the feeling of being in the ring. ­čÖé

Some benefits of boxing are enjoyable aerobic exercise, best cardio for fat loss, stress release, better endurance, strong core muscles, better coordination, and endurance.

+ Your body

Rating: | Good for: beginner-advanced

As you see, there are many cardiovascular machines you can use, but what if for a reason you can’t use any of them. There is your body!

There are so many cardio exercises out there that don’t require anything at all. Let me give you some examples:

  • Running, jogging, walking, hiking.
  • Plyometrics exercises, such as high jumps.
  • Swimming.
  • Bodyweight exercises like jumping jacks, burpees, etc.
  • Dancing.
  • Team sports.

What is the best cardio machine?

The one which you like using!

It’s painful when you have to do something which bores or annoys you. Don’t care about what the fitness experts tell, pick the one you enjoy the most.

Still, want to know my opinion?

With a treadmill, rowing machine, vertical climber, bike, or boxing, you can’t go wrong. Each is versatile, gives fantastic cardiovascular training, and the best cardio machines that burn the most calories.

But, it’s better if you tell your goals, your current state of fitness, other info within the comment section below so I can give personalized tips.


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James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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