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Elliptical Exercise Machines Are Not Your Only Option

Cardiovascular Exercise Machines: Several types to choose from

Elliptical exercise machines have been on the market for some time and they have there advantages and disadvantages; however, there are many different types of cardio vascular exercise machines and many different brands. Here we will give you the basic machines, what they do and the features you may find on them.

Exercise machines: Treadmills

Folding deck

Some treadmills have been around longer than elliptical exercise machines. Many have a hinged deck that you can raise and lock in place making them easier to store. A treadmill normally takes up as much floor space as a small couch while a model with a folding deck will take up about half that when stored.

Treadmills without a folding deck tend to feel more stable. Always keep in mind if you storing an exercise machines will you be more or less like to use it Ė no matter how easy it is to unfold. Out of site, out of mind is an applicable saying.

Electronic Programming

Many treadmills today have this feature as do elliptical exercise machines. It enables you to automatically program the intensity of your workout. If you run outdoors, hills will cause you to vary your pace. This feature allows you to do the same thing. You can also make adjustments manually. This will help to tailor your workout on this exercise machine to your specific goals.

Heart-rate monitor

Treadmills that cost $1,500 and up will often include a heart rate monitor you strap to your chest. Less expensive treadmills may have a handgrip monitor. A heart rate monitor helps you to safely monitor the intensity of your workout. A chest-strap monitor allows you to continually monitor your heart rate without having to hold the handgrip sensors.

Anytime you workout getting biofeedback can be advantageous. If it is included in your exercise machine, whether a treadmill or elliptical exercise machine at a reasonable price you may consider it worthwhile.


You will want the controls to be easy to read and intuitive: up/down buttons, quick one-touch speed and incline buttons, and large, easy-to-read displays that show multiple functions (time, speed, heart rate, incline) at once. Poorly designed controls and displays are a constant annoyance.

Foot rails

Foot rails are simply the border around the edge of the treadmill where you can place your feet. You should look for wide and flat foot rails to make getting on and off the treadmill easier.

Handles or handrails

Most treadmills have them in front and on the sides. While they're useful for those who need added security, they shouldn't get in the way of your arms while you exercise.

Motor housing

It should be set forward relatively flush with the front of the belt or concave. It definitely shouldn't get in the way of your feet when you are using the treadmill.

Tethered safety key

On most models, you need to insert a key on the console to start the treadmill. The key comes on a long cord, with a clip at the other end to attach to your clothing. If you slip or stumble the cord will pull the key out and stop the treadmill. It is a nice safety feature, especially if you have young children, as they canít start the machine without the key.

Console gadgets

Designers are trying to find ways to entertain you as you workout. CD players, radios, even LCD televisions can be found on treadmills. We doubt they are worth the extra money if they are found on treadmills, elliptical exercise machines, or any of the other types we discuss.

For a look at the different brands check out this consumer reports article.

Elliptical Exercise Machines:

Elliptical exercise machines are odd-looking machines. They are a combination of stair climber and cross-country ski machine that you stand on and pedal. The name elliptical exercise machine comes from the movement your feet make while pedaling. A flywheel provides resistance that you can vary in order to control the difficulty of your workout.

Elliptical Exercise Machine Features

Like treadmills and all the other types of exercise machines we will look at, elliptical exercise machines can have numerous features.

Electronic programming

Most elliptical exercise machines have exercise programs that vary pedaling effort, and some might allow adjustment of the incline electronically as you work out, the same way a treadmill allows electronic incline adjustment.

Less expensive machines may only allow for manual adjustment, and not during the middle of your workout. Some programs are easier and more flexible to operate than others. You will need to question if the programming will improve your workout or cause you to workout out more often. Donít underestimate the importance of the latter.


Some elliptical exercise machines are poorly engineered and have the moving arms awkwardly angled or make it difficult if not impossible to read the display.

This is one type of machine you would want to try before buying. You would want to see if when you hold on to the non-moving hand grips will the back-and-forth handles whack you in the arms.

You would also want to see if the stance feels natural. A narrow stance is more natural than a wide one, so if the pedals are spaced too far apart it wonít feel comfortable or natural. One safety feature to check out is if there is a safety rim around the sides of the pedals to help keep your foot from slipping off.


The material your elliptical exercise machine is constructed out of should be looked at. The material influence how sturdy and heavy it will be. You will want it to be made of strong material such as steel or some composite material. Steel will make it heavier and harder to move.

Heart-rate monitor

A heart rate monitor helps you to safely monitor the intensity of your workout. A chest-strap monitor allows you to continually monitor your heart rate without having to hold the hand grip sensors. Anytime you workout getting biofeedback can be advantageous. If it is included in your elliptical exercise machine at a reasonable price you may consider it worthwhile.

Pedal arm safety pin

This keeps children from using the machine.

Console gadgets

A growing number of manufacturers are loading the console with gadgets such as a CD player, a fan (a full-size fan is more effective), and even an LCD TV. You should really question if these are worth the extra money on your elliptical exercise machine or any other fitness machine.

Added cushioning

There are some elliptical exercise machines that advertise a bouncier, springier workout that will put less strain on your joints. You would want to try these as some people report that the machines feel unstable at some speeds and causing you to change your rhythm.

One of the benefits of an elliptical exercise machine is its design puts very little stress on the joints to begin with, so you may want to question why you would spend extra money on this feature.

Transport wheels

Does the elliptical exercise machine have transport wheels for ease in moving from one room to another or from the corner into its training position built in? You may want to see if any of them do.

For information on specific brands check out this consumer reports article.

Stair Steppers

When looking at stair steppers you will want to look at the following characteristics when making your decision. Of course, price will be a consideration as well.


Stair steppers that have a wider, heavier base will feel the most secure, but these models are also more expensive and take up more floor space. You will always want to consider the functional space you have for stair steppers, treadmills, elliptical exercise machines, or any other fitness equipment.

Pedal position

Donít underestimate the importance of this characteristic. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends stair steppers that have self-leveling flat pedals, which keep your feet parallel to the floor while you step. Pedals positioned on an incline may cause improper posture during your workout.

Your exercise machines must help you get fit not cause injuries or extra stress on your body. It was this stress on the body that was a factor that led to the development of elliptical exercise machines in the first place.


Stair steppers are generally powered by hydraulic pistons or by cables and chains. In either case you want your stair stepper to be reasonably quiet. Hydraulic pistons tend to be noisier than cables and chains. A noisy exercise machine is one that will be used less often.

Heart-rate monitor

A heart rate monitor helps you to safely monitor the intensity of your workout. A chest-strap monitor allows you to continually monitor your heart rate without having to hold the hand grip sensors. Anytime you workout getting biofeedback can be advantageous. If it is included in any of your exercise machines, elliptical exercise machines or other, at a reasonable price you may consider it worthwhile.

Upper-body accessories

Some models include handlebars or bands that allow a simultaneous upper-body workout. Some people like having this option, while others find the coordination difficult. This is another reason for trying machines before purchasing one. Getting exercise machines that can work the entire body is a definite benefit.


You can find a variety of programs on some stair stepper machines including, hill, heart rate and custom workouts. Steppers with multiple programs can give you a more chooses and a more customized workout.

Adjustable resistance levels

Many mid-range and high-quality stair steppers offer adjustable resistance so you can increase the intensity of your workout as your fitness improves. Stair steppers without varying resistance levels may leave you feeling bored or unchallenged once your body adapts to the work.

Rowing Machines

Understanding Resistance in Rowing Machines:

There are some people who argue that rowing machines provide the best overall workout of any of these exercise machines, including elliptical exercise machines.

The main thing to look for in a rowing machine is its resistance type. Standard models come with one of four resistance types: piston resistance, magnetic resistance, air resistance, and water resistance. It is important to understand each type of resistance offered before buying a rowing machine or you could end up with a machine that doesn't give you the workout you expected.

Piston Resistance

Piston Resistance comes from hydraulic cylinders that are attached to the arms of the rowing machine. Because of the compact size of these pistons, these models are typically not as large as other models. Many fit under beds for storage, so you donít necessarily have to find a permanent place for your machine.

They are also less expensive than most other models, so you donít feel as much of a dent in your wallet. They often do not offer as accurate a rowing motion as other types of resistance models. While you will still get a good workout, the motion is not as smooth as it is with other types.

Magnetic Resistance

Magnetic Resistance is obtained by powerful electromagnets that control the resistance of the rowing machine. These machines are similar to the piston resistance models, but they offer a smoother motion and are nearly silent. Magnetic resistance models allow you to adjust the resistance so you can customize your workout.

This type of rower is not as easy to store as a piston resistance machine. Magnetic models have a long main rail that cannot be folded up for compact storage. Available space is a definite consideration for this exercise machines.

Air Resistance

Air resistance models have the resistance come from your own pace. The faster you go the greater the resistance. This allows you to have more control over your workout.

This model can be quite noisy and if you arenít a serious workout enthusiast the noise can actually cause people to use it less often. Additionally, they have a longer main rail that often cannot be folded for easier storage. While the longer rail is beneficial for taller users, it is not conducive to compact storage.

Some models use a wind fan resistance system that helps cool the user during the session, increasing the time that may spend exercising. You will want to consider if it is a foldable design that includes castors for easy storage when it is not in use.

For a majority of users, an air rowing machine is the economical choice. An air rower can usually be stored safely and efficiently, and are built to stand up to heavy usage over the course of many years. Point for point, air rowing machines often rank equal or better than water or piston resistance mechanisms.

Water Resistance

Water Resistance rowing machines provide a good emulation of actually rowing. As with air machines the resistance will increase as your pace increases. You are also able to further control your workout by changing the resistance and pressure by adding or removing water.

These machines are not as noisy as air resistance models, but they are second in noise level. Also, this model is best for someone who has ample space to allow the machine to stay in one position. Because the resistance comes from a tank full of water, the machine is extremely heavy.

Extra Features

Most rowing machines come with basic features such as rowing functions, speed, time, distance, and calories burned. Other models offer various methods of monitoring. Consider the advantages along with the extra cost before jumping into a purchase.

There some machines come with the ability to do other exercises. While that may sound nice you will really want to ask yourself how dedicated you are to working out and if you will use those other exercises. Remember that increases your workout time and the more time the less likely you are to do them.

Exercise Bikes

Exercise Bike Features:


The seat might be the most important feature to consider. The proper sitting position forces you to rotate your hips forward which places a slight curvature into your lumbic spine. That in-turn brings the bones in your buttocks directly under your body weight. If you donít have enough padding there the buttocks muscles become sore and bruised.

In elliptical exercise machines and treadmills you don't have this concern.

Some models use gell foam to ensure a comfortable seat. The width of the seat is also important to consider. A wide, well-padded seat, like padded cycling pants, will protect your behind and allow you to train longer and more frequently.

If you arenít comfortable you wonít use the machine.

Adjustable seat stand

You will want to know what heights the bike will comfortably fit. This is probably more important if you are over 6í 6Ē. It is certainly not a feature to ignore if you are tall or would be having a tall person use it regularly.


What the frame made of and how much weight it will support is another important consideration. Also, how heavy does that make it and will it become difficult to move? Steel is strong and heavy but can hold a large people. Check out the material, weight, and strength of the frame.

Some models rust proof their frames. You will want to ask yourself if that is important. It is possible the excessive sweat could cause rusting problems.

Some models are powder coated to prevent scratching. Again, is that extra cost worth it?

Breaking System

The best machines today seem to be using a magnetic breaking system. Previous to this technology, resistance came in the form of 'roller' or 'band' friction, resulting in parts-burn-out and unpleasant noise, this antiquated method is still used in many cheaper exercise bikes.

In the magnetic breaking systems, an electronically controlled device moves to-and-away the flywheel, thereby increasing and decreasing resistance respectively. There are no parts that actual make physical contact with each other so there is no friction wear and tear. The results are greatly reduced noise, a much longer life for your exercise bike and very smooth resistance.

Body housing

Most bikes protect all moving parts by enclosing them within a tough outer shell. This provides protection against injury, dust accumulation in the joints and bearings, as well as noise reduction.


Here is a feature that you don't consider on elliptical exercise machines or the like. Features such as endurance handle bars, padding, and the ease of adjusting the handlebars should be considered.

Adding the endurance bars over regular handlebars allows you to lean forward on these bars and 'fix' your shoulder girdle. Your shoulder girdle allows you to use your accessory breathing muscles to increase air intake, which means you can have a longer better workout.

You still have the option of sitting in the upright position and gripping like regular bars. The benefit to you is the ability to train longer, in comfort, for greater fat metabolism.


You would be wise to consider if the machine has counter-balance pedals. These pedals are nice addition at the base of the pedal is a counterbalance, which always swings the pedal into the upright position, so every time you get on, both pedals are in the correct position ready for you to slip in your feet and get started.

Heart rate monitor

As with all the other machines a heart rate monitor is a nice addition, but is the extra expense worth it when you can by them separately.

Heart rate control

This feature is usually found on elliptical trainers and treadmills, not so much on exercise bikes. You program your target heart rate into the console and train gripping the heart rate sensors. The on-board computer operates on a feedback loop, continuously comparing your heart rate to your pre-programmed target zone and adjusts resistance to suit.

For example, if your heart rate falls below the target rate the computer will automatically increase resistance to elevate your heart rate. This is a very safe way to train, especially if you are new to exercise or exercising under doctor's orders.

Transport wheels

You will want the bike to have transport wheels for ease in moving from one room to another or from the corner into its training position built in.


It should be large and easy to read. The buttons should be intuitive and you will want the display to be easily visible and readable. You will want to look at the number and type of programs it offers as well as the resistance settings.

The feedback the console gives the user can be important. The data could provide for a very informed workout. You can use the data to be scientifically precise in you exercise goal management.

For example, a short-term goal could be to maintain 60 RPM for 5kms in 15 minutes or less. Feedback data could include heart rate, RPMs, calories burned, program level, speed, average speed, distance traveled, watts, and time.

Other types of cardiovascular exercise machines or equipment

There are other alternatives out there besides elliptical exercise machines and the others mentioned here.

You can buy a device for your regular road bike so you can use it indoors during the winter or on rainy days. You can buy mini trampolines or rebounders, which can give you a good workout. Of course, there is the old-fashioned jump rope or the newest craze, Ropes Gone Wild.

Ropes Gone Wild

Ropes Gone Wild is a workout developed by Art of Strength. It is strength building and endurance training. The only weight lifting equipment you need is a heavy and long rope. Just a few minutes of Ropes Gone Wild is as good as running on the treadmillat high speed for a half-hour, and itís a lot more fun!

At home you would loop a rope through a couple of heavy kettlebells to anchor it down, and then I go right to undulating it. That gets your heart rate up immediately. Itís a full-body workout with the movement coming from your core and radiates out into the ropes.

At Punch, workouts generally end with Ropes Gone Wild, Tabata style Ė 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, 8 times. Thatís about 4 minutes building up serious endurance. Thisintense interval-training also burns a lot of calories, not only while youíre training, but for hours afterwards.

Regardless of age, fitness, or skill level, anyone, strongman or not, anyone can benefit from Ropes Gone Wild. It beats the monotony of treadmills or elliptical exercise machines, and it burns far more fat and calories while increasing endurance. Thatís why ropes were named the best cardio tool of 2009, by Menís Health magazine.

Ropes are convenient, economical, and simple. They can be used inside or outside, looped around a tree, a pole, or through kettlebell handles.Thatís all there is to it.

Ropes are another example of how you do not need fancy elliptical exercise machines or other expensive equipment to develop genuine strength and endurance. Simple equipment, huge effort, and lots of attitude are all thatís required.

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