Cardio sucks. Let’s go ahead and get that minor detail out of the way. That said, if you don’t want to do HIIT exercises to replace your cardio then best full body cardio machine is probably a…
This might not be as fancy as some of the newer elliptical-rowing-fan-peanut-butter-making machines, but this is one of the best methods to do aerobic exercise. Not every gym includes a rowing machine , but it is a full-body, big range-of-motion movement which can be challenging as hell. Only 10 minutes of intervals on this little guy will torch some significant calories. But unless you’re a serious rower, then it is not always a movement your body needs to be good at executing.
The biggest drawback to the machine is that poor technique can limit its effectiveness. Pulling the bar way above your head serves no other function than to make other people look and wonder “what the…?”
What about treadmills and stair climbing machines? A stair climbing machine doesn’t really make the cut because you’re primarily focusing on your lower body. Treadmills sort of count because you are swinging your arms to propel yourself forward, but you already know what a treadmill is and you’re here because you’ve presumably ruled that out already for one reason or another.
This isn’t a favorite of ours but it does work, even if it’s not functionally the most useful movement. What we mean by this is the movement of pedaling while swinging your arms will be used in the real world exactly zero times, ever. Rowing, on the other hand, is useful if you’re taking a boat out to the middle of a lake to have a picnic with your babe, or maybe if you find yourself in an Animus machine and you’re being chased by Romans in the middle of Egypt 🇪🇬 and that boat nearby is your quickest vehicle for a getaway.
An Airdyne bike can be a crappy experience. The harder you pedal and swing your little arms, the more difficult it is to pedal and swing your arms because the added wind resistance makes it more difficult. It also looks like it came from several decades ago, but it can cause you to do some serious work.
This isn’t the recommended way to get your cardio in, but if you really want to incorporate one of these into your home gym equipment rotation, you can pick one up for just over $100 on Amazon .
That’s it. That’s the list – it’s not much of one but really there aren’t very many quality machines that will give you a true, full body workout. Spin bikes only focus on your lower body. Jacob’s ladder (an infinite climbing machine) is a full body workout, but it’s rarely available in a commercial setting and it can be awkward to get used to. Compare this to a row machine where you just pull. And pull, and pull…
A “Skeirg” machine (think NordicTrack) gives you a good upper body workout, but not much in terms of a lower body workout. You can sort of put your self in a squat position while you’re going through the skiing motion the machine requires you to do, but this is a mediocre leg workout at best. We won’t even start on the arc trainer, which was the elliptical-rowing-fan-peanut-butter-making machine that was abstractly referred to earlier. Personally I hate these things, being of the taller variety because they just don’t fit us. Ellipticals don’t really start to work until you turn the resistance up quite a ways. If you’re not going to do this you may as well walk. Yes, it’s low-impact, but you have other options like biking or swimming or perhaps even rowing depending on how bad your injury is. They’re just not that effective. Not convinced? Hop on an elliptical for 2 minutes, and then compare that to how you feel after doing 2 minutes on a rowing machine. You’re welcome.
Still, your best bet in terms of energy expenditure is a treadmill. Research comparing this machine to the others mentioned above found that walking or running on the treadmill beat out everything else (Airdyne, cross-country-skiing simulator, cycling, stair stepper, and rowing). Out of the group, only rowing and the treadmill were the only two pieces of equipment that resulted in enhanced cardiorespitorary fitness based on measured VO2-max values. So, our recommendation for the rowing machine is in fact, based on science and is why we happen to think it is the best.
- Zeni, A. I., Hoffman, M. D., & Clifford, P. S. (1996). Energy expenditure with indoor exercise machines. JAMA, 275(18), 1424-1427.