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Here you are, standing in a sea of cardiovascular equipment at the gym — rows upon rows of treadmills, elliptical machines, stair steppers, rowing machines, stationary bikes, and more. So which one do you choose: The machine that is supposed to get you the most fit; the one that burns the most calories; or the device that has least impact on your joints?
These are all valid concerns -- but none of these is the most important question you should be asking yourself, says exercise physiologist Bryant A.
Which machine do you really want to use? So instead of choosing the treadmill for the calorie-burning factor, or the elliptical trainer your friend recommended, figure out which machine feels best to you, he suggests. Nashville exercise physiologist Kathy Alexander agrees: But how do you know which machine is likely to feel right to you? Here's what you can expect from the most popular cardio machines out there, along with some tips on getting the most out of your workout.
Here's the lowdown on what you can expect from some of the machines you're likely to find at your local gym. The treadmill burns the most calories of any of the cardiovascular machines available at most gyms, says Alexander. You can expect to burn about calories per mile, walking briskly.
Stamford notes that a treadmill can be adapted to many different fitness levels by increasing the speed from walking to running or by adjusting the incline. But even walking may be too much for someone who is overweight and has joint pain. Every time your foot hits the ground, says Alexander, "the impact forces are 3. Since a treadmill is moving under you, the impact may be slightly less than that.
One more thing to keep in mind: Treadmills can pose a real balance challenge for new exercisers or those who haven't worked out in a while, says Matthew Vukovich, exercise physiologist and associate professor at South Dakota State University. These machines pack a little less punch on the joints, and either can be a good alternative to the treadmill, says Vukovich. Because you use them in a standing position, you're using lots of muscle mass, so the calorie burn rate is still pretty high.
Elliptical machines with arm components can further increase the numbers of calories you burn, says Stamford. All our experts agree that the stationary bike offers the workout with the least impact on the joints. People with knee pain are often steered toward these bikes, since the impact of body weight is not a concern as it is on a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or stair stepper. But to avoid knee strain, you must make sure the bike is adjusted to fit your body, Vukovich says. Most people sit too low, meaning their knees flex too much as they pedal.
This can put too much pressure on the knee and result in soreness, warn Vukovich. The stationary bike is a less intense calorie-burner than some of the other machines. You'll need to pedal four miles to burn calories, says Alexander.
Rowers are more advanced cardiovascular machines. Because you must push with the legs while you pull with the arms, rowers require coordination. Rest as needed between sets and pairs so that you can complete each set of five without failing.
As with cardio intervals, strength intervals like these won't work if your reps aren't high-intensity. Continue alternating between the exercises for a set time -- 10 or 15 minutes, for example -- keeping track of how many total sets you can do.
In following sessions, try to beat your score by finishing more sets in that time or by finishing the same number of sets but with tougher weights.
Density training sessions are great to add to the end of a traditional strength training workout, Jack says. For a complete density training workout, he suggests performing multiple time blocks in the same session, using new exercise pairings for each. Other pairs he recommends include a goblet squat with a single-arm dumbbell row, a reverse lunge with pushups or pulldowns, deadlifts with dumbbell overhead presses or split squats with a rowing exercise.
Countdown workouts also use exercise pairs and are a motivating way to finish a workout, says Mike Wunsch, performance director at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. With each round of the exercise pair, the workout involves one fewer rep of each move -- moving from sets of six to five to four, and so forth, until the count reaches zero. That finish-line mentality can keep you going. As with density training, Wunsch recommends pairing opposing exercises for countdowns, but also suggests picking moves that have a rhythm.
Moves like the kettlebell swing, squat thrusts and pushups work well. Wunsch says stress-busting med ball slams and throws can add to the fun. Moves like these, he explains, can result in injury if your form falters while performing exercises at a fast pace. For the same reason, he also advises avoiding overhead-pressing moves like dumbbell thrusters. To try your own countdown, choose a pair of exercises from Wunsch's following list. Start by performing six reps of the first exercise, then six of the other move.
Return to the first exercise and perform five reps, then do five reps of the second exercise. Continue alternating in this way until you reach zero. In each workout after that, add one rep to every exercise, Wunsch says. If one countdown isn't enough, choose a second pair from the list of exercises or create your own pair of opposing moves.
To combat boredom and train faster and harder, Rooney designed a workout protocol around that's kept him lean: He calls this workout "the hurricane. Each hurricane is broken into three groups of three exercises, called rounds. This design allows users to build muscle and keep their heart rates up throughout the workout, which usually lasts between 16 and 22 minutes. Like the storm after which they're named, hurricane workouts are categorized into five levels, each one an increased challenge.
If you're new to intense training, Rooney suggests starting with Category 1. Details on these workouts, including exercise descriptions, can be found on Rooney's website.
Individuals who are more fit can start with Category 3 hurricanes, like this sample workout:. Begin by warming up for the workout, then move to round 1. For all rounds in this workout, perform 1 set of each exercise, then move to the next exercise.
Complete the entire round three times before moving to the next round. Run on a treadmill at Perform a kettlebell Turkish getup four times on each side of the body. Repeat this sequence three times. Run on a treadmill at 11 mph and a 10 percent incline for 25 seconds.
Perform 10 dips and 15 reps of the barbell rollout. Next perform 10 reps of the G. Then perform 20 reps of the knee grab. While interval training is one of the most efficient ways to burn calories and fat, it's still tough to lose that pound with exercise alone. To understand why, take a look at this calorie expenditure equation for men from the "Journal of Sports Sciences": Using that formula, a year-old man weighing lb.
Now imagine the same man eats a delivered pepperoni pizza that night -- though certainly an odd choice for an exerciser looking to melt fat -- with each slice coming in at calories.
If he chooses to eat four slices instead of three, he'll probably finish the extra slice in about 45 seconds. To work that off, he'd have to perform intervals at the same pace for almost 45 minutes. Women can calculate a similar scenario using the following equation: Video of the Day. Interval Training on a Stationary Bike.