Cardio Equipment 101

For all of your cardio gurus who know the equipment…or think you know the equipment, here is some basic info and tips about the cardio equipment you may use, the equipment you should be using.

Cardio equipment can be broken down into two different categories; weight bearing and non-weight bearing.

Weight bearing equipment would include any piece where you are standing while moving and your joints are taking on all the force of gravity pulling on your body. This can include the treadmill, stair mill/stepper, and elliptical/arc trainer. This weight bearing cardio is beneficial because it:

  • Creates stronger bones
  • Burns the most amount of calories
  • Creates stronger joints and muscles
  • Usually a fully body exercise/movement, making everything better.

Within weight bearing equipment you have two more categories; load bearing and non-load bearing. Load bearing means exactly what it sounds like, your joints (ie. knees) take on the full force of your movement. The equipment that does that are the tread mill, and stair mills/steppers. If you have bad knees or are starting out exercising try the non-load bearing equipment such as an elliptical or arc trainer, where you will burn a lot of calories but not have achy joints afterwards, granted you will not be strengthening your joints as much either.

Non-weight bearing exercises are ones usually associated with sitting. These can include the rowers, upright/recumbent bikes, arm ergometers, and rope puller. The benefits of these machines are:

  • No/less stress on the leg joints
  • Great exercises for novice exercisers or people recovering from injuries
  • Safe and easy to use

Non-weight bearing is usually associated with non-load bearing as well, keeping everything safe and decreases the wear and tear on the joints.

Tips for utilizing cardio equipment:

  • You may have a favorite piece of equipment, but always using the same piece could potentially lead to muscle imbalances.
  • It is recommended to do your cardio AFTER your weights to decrease your chances of injury.
  • You should cool down after doing cardio to keep your blood from pooling in your extremities and creating a light headed feeling.
  • Using different machines within your cardio time (bike, elliptical, treadmill, etc) will increase every positive aspect related to doing cardio: burn more calories, strengthen joints and muscles, increases coordination, tones muscles, decreases blood pressure etc.
  • Just doing cardio should not be the staple of your exercising, like everything we need to make sure that we are stretching and strengthening our bodies as well, so try yoga or Pilates and a group exercise class or personal training; they will improve your cardio and daily activities.
  • Heart rate monitors and calories counters are never accurate, they run off of formulas for the average male person exercising, if you are not average they can be skewed either direction. Instead try to finish your cardio breathing somewhat hard, and sweating and I guarantee you are doing your body well!
  • If there is a piece of cardio equipment with moving arms…use them! You can burn up to 1/3 more calories by pushing and pulling with your arms as you do your cardio.
  • Hand rails are there in case you lose your balance…not for resting your body weight on. If you are on a stair mill or stair stepper don’t rest on the rails, it defeats the purpose of using that equipment and cuts your calorie burning down dramatically.

There are different types of cardio equipment manufactured actually for a specific reason; some are supposed to be easy on the joints, some cardio equipment is for novices to start exercising without having to know much about how to exercise, while other equipment is there to create a hard workout for that advanced exerciser. By choosing your cardio equipment effectively there should be no excuse for getting in the gym!



Leave a Reply