When it comes to working out, time is definitely of the essence. You can spend a lot less time toning up and burning more calories if you choose the right piece of equipment.
So whether you are a beginner or a regular gym goer, keep reading to find out which cardio and resistance machines are good for you and your fitness goals.
Let’s start with resistance machines.
There is something quite particular about them. While some people have strong opinions against them, others give them an unconditional love.
But things don’t have to be that radical. In fact, I believe a mix of functional training and machines is the best approach.
Free weights are the bedrock of strength and conditioning while selected machines can help you to strengthen any weak spot that you may have.
If you are a beginner or new to the gym, resistance equipment can help you to target certain muscle groups in a controlled and safe manner. Similarly, if you are recovering from an injury, machines can help you to go back to a fitness routine and strengthen the affected and surrounding areas safely.
However, if you only use machines, you will lack of functional fitness, which can translate into injuries outside the gym.
So which machines are worth your time?
If you are new to the gym, here are some of the machines you may want to consider:
This machine is a great way to start off training your chest and your upper body. It simplifies the movement, allowing you to tone up your chest, triceps and deltoids with more control.
Tip: Always start with a light weight so you maintain proper form while allowing enough resistance to fatigue your muscles. Depending on your level, aim for 3 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions. Then as you get stronger, increase the weight little by little.
It’s one of the most versatile piece of equipment in the gym and a real-time saver. It allows you to work multiple muscles and angles on one machine. Therefore, you can move from biceps curls, to hip extensions or lat pull downs and complete your workout in less time.
It is a great way to add volume to major lower body muscles without risking failure under the bar. You may also find it useful if you are coming back from an injury and need a safer way to strengthen your glutes, quads or hamstrings.
The leg press is fairly easy to use. All you have to do us is adjust the seat height and keep your knees and hips in line with each other.
Not all resistance equipment provides the same level support and some are better worth to be avoided.
The resistance machines to avoid
Abdominal crunch machine
The problem with this machine is that it only isolates your abdominals so that you end up using your arms, shoulders, and legs to assist the movement, rather than developing your core strength.
Instead, you can try a variety of functional exercises such as hanging leg raises, plank variations or push ups will actually work your core and engage all your muscles more effectively.
Abductor and adductor machines
Also known as the inner/outer thigh, they are popular among many women in the gym. However, they don’t actually reduce body fat or slim your thighs.
If you want to tone up your quadriceps and your thighs, try single leg squats instead. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-15 sets on each leg and you’ll feel the burn. Once you are more comfortable with the exercise, use dumbbells to increase the intensity.
Leg extension machine
Yes you may feel that quad burn but you will also end up putting a lot of stress on the knee joint, which may lead to develop or increase knee pain.
If you want to strengthen your quads, you’d better off doing functional exercises such as front squats or the Bulgarian split-squat.
What about cardio machines?
There are huge variety of them but not all provide the same level of efficiency. If you want to burn as many as calories in a short amount of time, you may want to focus on certain machines. Here are my top 3:
According to a study of the Journal of American Medical Association, the treadmill has the highest rate of energy expenditure compared to other indoor cardio machines.
It’s also one of the easiest equipment to use. Press the start button, adjust the speed or the incline and you are good to go!
To burn more calories, add interval training of 10 to 30 minutes into your treadmill session. You can do this by alternating rounds of walking/jogging at a moderate pace with shorter rounds of running at a much faster rate.
For instance, if you are a beginner, you can start out with 30s of moderate intensity jogging followed by 30s of recovery time and repeat again.
Make sure you always start your workout by a 5-minute walking or jogging warm up before you progress to the interval training. Then finish your session with a 5-minute walking cool down.
Your cardio and your booty will love it. The stair mill provides a low impact cardio workout while engaging very major muscle in your lower body. Therefore, it makes you work hard without being hard on you.
Tip: To make your workout as effective as possible, avoid leaning or supporting too much of your upper body on the handles.
It makes a great low impact full body warm up but can be also hard as hell as a main workout. 20 to 30 minutes of intervals on the rowing machine will torch a lot of calories.
Pay particular attention to your technique to make the most of it. Sit upright, chest lifted then drive movement by using the following action: legs extend, arms bend, arms extend, legs extend and keep a slight bend in your knees and elbows at the ends of your range. If in doubt, ask a trainer.
While some cardio machines may be useful to help you lose weight, others are not just as effective. Here are 3 machines that are not worth your time.
The cardio machines to avoid
It may be great to read a book or a TV series but not if you are looking to torch major calories. The machine only engages your legs leaving your core and upper body dormant. So unless you increase the resistance substantially, you’ll burn much less calories than if using a spin bike.
Sure, it may be fun to use but it also makes your body move in an unnatural pattern. Therefore, it is not as effective at burning calories.
If you are looking for a fun alternative, why not trying the Airdyne bike? This will make you work hard in no time.
It is low-impact and is safer to use than elliptical machines for people at risk for lower-body injury. However, its fixed pattern can be awkward and doesn’t fit all people including smaller individuals.
If your knees are so bad that you can’t run, use a spin bike instead. You will burn more calories while putting less pressure on your joints.
Now that you are more informed, try one of these machines and see which ones is the most effective for your goals!