Generally there is no shortage of exercise machines in the gym. You’ll see rows and rows of equipment when you walk in. Ellipticals, treadmills, upright bikes, recumbent bikes, Stairmasters, step mills and even rowing machines. Yet, when it comes to performing your cardio workout, which one is the right one for you?
The right exercise machine for you, is the one that you’ll actually use! Your specific goals can have an affect on which piece of exercise equipment you’ll want to use, but for the most part, they all give you the same result. If you’re a marathon runner you’ll obviously want to use the treadmill. If you’re a tri-athlete you’ll probably spend some time on an upright bike. These are specific movements that the athlete is going to perform when competing.
What about the person that just want to get into good shape and burn some calories? Now it’s more important that your actually performing a cardio workout than the actual machine you choose to use. If you workout out at the same intensity for the same duration on the treadmill as you do on the step mill, you will burn the same amount of calories and increase your cardiovascular endurance the same amount. The mode you use to get that intensity doesn’t matter. You can jump up and down for 30 minutes or bike for 30 minutes, if your intensity is the same, you’ll get the same benefits.
So, now your probably wondering how to gage your intensity from machine to machine. The easiest and most common way is to use your heart rate. Just about every exercise machine has a heart rate monitor on it. Just check your heart rate every few minutes and adjust the machine accordingly to maintain a specific heart rate. You can also use the WATTS reading from the exercise machine. WATTS is the physical energy your producing at a certain intensity level.
If the treadmills reads at 5 WATTS and you switch over to the elliptical and adjust the intensity to 5 WATTS guess what, your working out at the same intensity. Another reading you can use is METS. This reading is your actual intensity level and can be transferred from machine to machine just like WATTS to set the machine to the same intensity level.
So, now that we’ve covered how to match intensities from machine to machine, lets talk about how to choose an exercise machine. Rule number one is, if you like to use a specific machine then use it! Yet, if you have bad knees or lower back you might want to stay away from the pounding forces of the treadmill and use the easy gliding motion of the elliptical. If you have tight hip flexors and excessive arch in your lower back you might want to stay away from the recumbent bike and try the upright bike.
If you find an exercise machine you like to use then just use it! You get the same benefits from all cardio machines when using the same intensity. If your training for a specific competition try to mimic that competition with your exercise machine. Take your physical limitations into consideration when you choose a machine to lesson injury potential and increase comfort when working out.