Let’s start off by point out that this is somewhat of a loaded question and here’s why – are you interested in a cardio or strength machine? You need to know what category to look at before you can begin to understand what might be the best single exercise machine for your needs.
If you’re looking for a the best type of cardio machine, you can’t go wrong with a rower because it will give you a full body workout. This machine provides a great workout for your upper body, legs, back, etc. Sure, a treadmill will result in more energy expenditure, but you’re almost entirely neglecting your upper body. Additionally, if you have any sort of leg injury that’s aggravated by high impact movements then a treadmill is out. See our recent guide about why a rowing machine is the best full body workout equipment for cardio you can buy.
For strength training, the answer isn’t as straight forward. This meta-filter thread shows discusses the best single exercise machine, and you can see a lot of the bros immediately suggest a squat rack and a bench with weights (dumbbells and barbells) is the way to go. Arguably though this may or may not be a single exercise machine, especially if you consider getting dumbbells and barbells. Barbells and a squat rack will let you do safely do squats, deadlifts, bench presses (wide, close grip and incline) and barbell curls. You can also do a type of reverse, incline pull-up that will work the back really well, especially if you do 10 or so and then raise the bar a peg, do 10 more and keep going. (You will be gassed out at the end – trust me.)
Dumbbells alone, on the other hand, don’t really let you do a traditional squat or deadlift but you can do dumbbell versions of each. Theses are fairly effective even when you’re using dumbbells, but it’s different from doing the same exercises with a bar. There’s no way to get around the difference in mechanics.
Then this brings us to the kettlebell. You can do a lot with these, but most people aren’t overly familiar with this piece of equipment – how many people do you see using this regularly in your gym? Now compare this to the number of people you last saw using dumbbells or barbells in that same gym. Exxxactly.
All being said, we’ve compiled a list below of the best rated training equipment in each category, matching the criteria laid out above. These ratings are pulled from Amazon and are based on aggregate user ratings along with answered questions. This is meant to be a starting point for you and not the definitive answer. You can use this guide to find related items that are in your price range or that match your space or physical needs.
Best Rated AirBike – Assault AirBike by Assault Fitness
With nearly 200 reviews and 4.4 stars, Assault AirBike by Assault Fitness . We don’t like it over a rowing machine, but for people who don’t want to go through that motion this is a solid option, even if it’s not the most effective option. An included computer program will let you do Tabatas and intervals.
This machine isn’t exactly cheap, but there are even more expensive options out there.
Best rated Upright Bike
This category has a few options worth looking at, depending on your personal needs. If you don’t have a lot of space, there’s a fold up bike by Exerpeutic that supports up to 400 lbs. When you’re done with it, you can stow it away until you’re ready to use it the next day. If you need an even smaller footprint, the same company makes a slightly different version that’s also foldable . This version has a whopping 4800+ reviews and 4.4 stars. It also has the coveted “Amazon’s Choice” badge, so you’re know you’re not getting a questionable product, even though the price starts at less than $130.
The weight it can support is less (300 lbs vs 400 lbs) and people not between 5’3″ and 6’1″ are out of luck as this bike won’t fit them, but the included heart pulse monitor in the hand grips makes this product hard to beat.