One of the most common questions I get from clients and gym goers is which piece of “cardio” equipment they should use.
(Without rehashing my views on doing long-slow cardio for fat burning…I am not a fan. Check out my article on HIIT for the best information on how to burn fat without doing hours of long-slow, cardio. )
Regardless of what type of “cardio” session you are going to do, I definitely have my favorites for maximum fat burn.
Elliptical machines are EASY
Yes, I said it…elliptical machines are easy. Why do you think every elliptical in your gym is always occupied? It is not because they are the most difficult machine in the gym and everyone is after the hardest workout! Elliptical machines are momentum-based machines. This means that as you go, momentum will start to kick in and do much of the work for you. In a sense, you are coasting for much of your training. Besides that fact, they really don’t challenge the major muscle groups too much. You are gliding the whole time with little knee or hip bend. I have watched un-trained people do the elliptical for 45 minutes to an hour after only a week of training.
Stationary Bikes are HARD
With that said, it should be clear to you that stationary bikes are one of my favorite machines for max fat burn. As with the elliptical, look around the gym the next time you go in. Chances are the bikes are empty. Why? They are difficult. There is no momentum produced on a stationary bike. There are no hills to coast down as you ride. Your muscle groups must produce each movement fully. The bike requires you to use the largest muscle groups in your body, thus giving you the most fat-burn in the end. If you goal is to burn fat, get on the bike. People are not used to riding a bike much, especially at large resistances. The more foreign the type of training, the more chaos your body will go through. This is a good thing for fat burn.
Treadmills are HARD and EASY
So which is it? Both really. If used the correct way, the treadmill can be a great fat burning machine. The problem is that people tend to not be very good runners and because of this fact, they go slower than is required over time. Many people are spooked about turning up the speed on the treadmill too. This is for good reason. If you are doing a HIIT session on the treadmill, you better be a very good runner and be paying attention. I have witnessed my share of people fly off the back of the treadmill when trying to run faster than they really could. Increasing the incline can be a good way to add to the resistance without increasing the speed as much. I like to put people who would not be considered good runners on the treadmill at maximum incline at a fast walk, after a very tough training session.
Pick a machine that is going to challenge you the most. If the elliptical is all you have, you can still use it. Just make sure you crank the intensity way up when doing your training. Try to negate the momentum that is being produced.
Stationary bikes are my favorite fat burning machines. You get more bang for your buck with the use of large muscle groups.
If you are a good runner, treadmills can be just as good. Increase the incline and resistance and you will really turn on that fat burning furnace.