It’s not exactly news that the most common cardio machines are often the most boring. The problem is, the treadmill, elliptical, and stationary bike are usually the most available and easily used machines at any gym.
But those lesser-known cardio machines need some love, too, and for good reason, says DC metro area Equinox manager Adin Alai. Not only will the following machines make you work up a sweat in less time, they’ll also work other parts of your body that get ignored on more popular machines.
“It’s the least-used piece of equipment in the gym,” Alai says, which is a shame, since Alai calls it “a perfect combination of power and endurance.” It’s extremely versatile, but also extremely physically taxing, Alai warns. Plus it works the legs a lot more than you might think: “Legs are the driver. Everything else is follow-through.”
Muscles worked: Legs, arms, back
Time to spend: Start with 5 minutes, and once you feel more coordinated, move up to 15 minutes.
Technogym Wave Machine
Second to the rowing machine is the wave machine, which simulates speed skating. “It works differently than traditional machines,” Alai says: Increasing resistance on this machine actually makes it feel more slippery. “You really have to fight to keep the foot pedals more toward the center so they don’t end up splayed out at either end.” (Watch this video to see how it works)
Muscles worked: Abductor, adductor, glutes, and tendons and ligaments around the knee
Time to spend: Start with 20 minutes and work your way up to 30.
It may not be hugely exciting, but walking stairs can be a great cardio workout. As with most machines, you can increase the level to up your speed, or skip stairs to add difficulty. “The key with the Stepmill is to make sure you’re stepping straight and your knee doesn’t go over your toes,” Alai says. “Step with a flat foot with your weight on the middle to back end and not the ball of your foot.” Don’t lean forward—it can lead to injuring tendons and ligaments around the knee. Also, Alai says don’t hold the handles while walking stairs as it’ll “flatline your heart rate. The best way to really get a great workout on that piece is to step a little bit slower and keep hands off the handles.”
Muscles worked: Quads, hamstrings, and calves
Time to spend: 20 minutes.
Within two to three minutes of using this machine, you will be exhausted, Alai says. While holding onto a moving handle on either side of a tall pole and standing on pedals, you “climb” up the pole. “It’s a phenomenally difficult piece of equipment and a great cross-training piece,” Alai says. He recommends mixing in one-minute sprint intervals on the Versaclimber with pushups and squats to keep the heart rate up. (Watch this video of 30-second intervals on the VersaClimber.)
Muscles worked: Quads, hamstrings, shoulders, biceps, and back
Time to spend: “If you can do ten minutes, you’re elite,” Alai says.
Photographs courtesy of Concept2, Technogym, Stairmaster, and Versaclimber.