Hate Treadmills? 6 Fat-Burning Workouts on Other Cardio Machines

Most anyone who tries to stay fit has searched online for the best cardio workout or the best way to burn calories at some point. This type of research is a good way to get confused really fast because no one seems to agree, and also because most of us hate treadmills. Finding your best type of workout has a lot to do with your specific goals, which helps explain some of these discrepancies. Even after you’ve picked the exercise that seems the most promising, you can run into trouble. Always doing the same workout will lead to boredom and, ultimately, a less effective workout.

We’re hear to help you solve your workout woes by taking a closer look at some gym equipment you’ve probably never used. These alternative cardio machines can offer as good a workout as any treadmill or stationary bike, especially if you have a challenging interval session in mind. Give your standard routine a rest, and try one of these six workouts instead.

1. Step mill

close-up of stairclimber machine at gym

Can you make it up five flights of steps with ease? | iStock.com

You already know going uphill makes you breathe heavier than strolling on level ground, but you probably don’t realize just how much more effort it takes. According to The New York Times, even a slow walk up stairs burns two to three times as many calories as walking at a fast clip on level ground. This means you’ll scorch more calories in less time while improving your cardiovascular fitness.

Getting started on the step mill can be a little bit confusing since your pace will be a lot slower than when you use the treadmill. ACE Fitness makes it easy with a four-minute interval program based on your perceived effort rather than a specific speed. And remember to keep your form in check as you move through the workout. It’s better to go a bit slower while standing upright than to be slumped over the machine.

Start with about five minutes of light climbing to warm up, then you’ll move into one minute of regular climbing at 80 to 90% effort followed by one minute of climbing two stairs at a time with the same effort. You’ll follow that with one minute of regular climbing at recovery pace followed by one minute of skipping every other stair at a recovery pace. The article recommends repeating this four-minute loop three to five times.

2. Airdyne

close-up of man riding a stationary bike at the gym

You’ve probably seen this machine before. | iStock.com

This unique piece of equipment is basically a stationary bike with moving handles and a giant fan for a front wheel. High school gyms probably have models from the 1980s languishing in some forgotten storage closet, but these bizarre bikes deserve a revival. They’re a stellar way to burn calories because the harder you pedal, the more resistance you encounter.

You can find some seriously intense workouts designed for the airdyne, but beginners might want to take it a little slower to start. Bodybuilding.com recommended a high-intensity interval routine that helps you get accustomed to the bike while still getting a great workout. If you don’t find yourself feeling challenged enough, consider lengthening your intervals or adding more repetitions.

To begin, do five minutes at an effort of 50 to 60%. Once you’re warmed up, you’ll alternate 10 seconds at 80 to 90% effort followed by 50 seconds at 40% effort. Repeat this process for 10 minutes, then end with a five-minute cool down. The only way this routine works is by you really pushing yourself during the hard segments, so try to concentrate on maximizing your effort during the 10-second segments.

3. Elliptical trainer

man working out on an elliptical trainer at the gym

Try performing a circuit on the elliptical. | iStock.com

Treadmill devotees will want to look into the elliptical trainer as an alternative workout. This piece of equipment trains your body in a similar way, but it’s gentler on your muscles and joints. This means you’ll recover faster, even after a particularly tough workout. Ellipticals also enable you to switch directions to work different muscles, which helps eliminate imbalances to reduce your risk of injury.

Get started with a 20-minute interval workout featured on Men’s Health. First, start with five to 10 minutes at an easy effort to warm up. Keeping the same pace, increase the machine’s resistance until you’re working at about 80% of your maximum effort and hold the pace for two minutes. Reduce the resistance back to your starting level, then increase your speed until you get back to 80% of your maximum effort. Once again, hold this pace for two minutes. Continue alternating these high-resistance and fast segments for a total of 20 minutes. Finish with about five minutes at an easy pace.

4. Upper body ergometer

shirtless man flexing arm and posing

Your arms will thank you for this tough workout. | iStock.com

The upper body ergometer can best be described as a stationary bike for your arms. Many athletes use them as a way to stay in shape when recovering from a lower body injury, but even those with perfectly healthy legs can benefit from this piece of equipment. It also offers a bit more variety than an actual bike because you can easily work one arm at a time.

The Houston Chronicle suggested building your endurance to the point where you can maintain a steady effort for 30 minutes before getting into anything too advanced. As long as you have a decent workout routine, you should be good to go.

Start with at least five minutes of warming up. Next, use just your left hand to crank for 30 seconds at 65% of your maximum effort, then follow with 30 seconds using just your right hand. Increase the resistance and continue to crank, now at 75% effort, for two minutes. Recover for one minute, then repeat two more times. By the third two-minute segment, you should be close to 90% of your maximum effort. Immediately follow this with four 30-second intervals with a single arm, alternating sides. Finally, cool down with about five minutes of light cranking.

5. Rowing machine

close-up of man working out on a rowing machine at the gym

Use a rowing machine for a tough workout. | iStock.com

While it would seem the rowing machine is all about upper body strength, a lot of the power in the movement comes from your glutes and legs. This makes it a great workout for your whole body. And because the rowing machine is a low-impact exercise, it’s a great choice for those prone to injuries.

Many athletes are accustomed to doing pyramid workouts while running or biking, and they also work for the rowing machine. These routines involve increasing the interval length for several minutes, then decreasing them in the same manner. It’s a fantastic way to build endurance because you’re fighting to maintain the same pace as you become more fatigued.

Life by DailyBurn suggested warming up with 10 minutes of easy rowing before going into one minute of rowing at a 75% effort followed by one minute of rest. Next, do two minutes each of rowing and rest, and continue to build in this way until you reach four minutes. After four minutes of rest, decrease interval length by one minute until you end where you started. Row at a relaxed pace for about five minutes to cool down.

6. Arc trainer

treadmill console

You’ll get a great cardio workout on this machine. | iStock.com

If you’re having as much fun as this guy, the arc trainer isn’t going to do much to help you burn calories. With a concerted effort, though, this piece of cardio equipment can deliver a great workout. The arc trainer allows you to increase both resistance and incline, so you can really challenge your legs.

Start with a standard warm-up, then do four minutes at 60% effort with the resistance set at 35 and the incline set to 15 for four minutes. Follow with one minute at 80 to 90% effort with the resistance increased to 40. Follow with another four-minute easy segment and follow the same pattern, increasing the resistance in increments of five, for a total of four cycles. Finish with a cool down.