A common question I get asked from clients is “what is the best cardio machine for me to use?” If you’ve read most of my articles, you’ll know my answer. It depends. A person with joint injuries is going to need something less impactful than somebody who's young, and healthy.
Here are my top 3 recommended cardio machines based on if you are doing HIIT or LISS cardio.
- Assault Bike - I love the assault bike because you can really control the intensity. You can ramp up as you feel comfortable, and it isn’t fixed like a traditional bike is. Because of this, it allows you to prioritize form and safety, which should be number one when doing HIIT.
- Rower - I’m a little on the fence about this one. I am a collegiate rower at heart, so it’s hard for me to NOT choose this one. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t hugely beneficial. The best thing about the rower is that it incorporates the full body like no other machine does. When done properly, you have to push strong through the legs, pull with the arms, and keep the core tight, and back strong. The caveat to that is, that takes a lot of technique practice. I absolutely cringe when I see people just hop on the rower because they see CrossFitters do it and they’re back is hunched over. Most people, for some reason think it's mostly an upper body cardio workout, and your legs don’t do much but move. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Your legs should be the FIRST thing that's taxed in terms of muscle. I’d recommend this one more so if you are advanced.
- Ropes - When people do any cardio really, we often forget about the upper body. When it comes to HIIT training, the last thing you want to be doing is nothing but lower body high intensity on TOP of your regular weight training. That’s a lot of volume if you think about it. Plus, it’s good to mix it up. When it comes to HIIT training, for most of my clientele, I usually want to avoid all the running and jumping because of this. We have enough imbalances and joint issues on our body. We don’t need box jumps and hitting the pavement to solidify the problem. Feel free to play with different time intervals, as well as ways to use the ropes.
- Elliptical - I love this machine because it’s great for people who want to run but don’t want to add extra impact and volume on their joints. It’s very noninvasive, and you could even do HIIT on this as well. Bonus points if you have one of the ellipticals that can get your arms moving.
- Upright Bike - The regular bikes you usually see at the gym are another, low impact great alternative. Great if you’re recovering from injury, or just need something a little easier to get on.
- Stairmaster - I prefer the stairmaster over a treadmill. It gets your heart rate up quicker, and gives your legs a pump (for the days you can handle the extra volume keep in mind). I also find it somewhat passes the time quicker than the regular treadmill, but that could just be me.
The overall most important point about either format is technique. Choose the modality that allows you to recompose yourself, and keep your form good. No machine is worth it if you’re overexerting yourself and sacrificing form.