Fitness Machines: from rowing machines to exercise bikes
I love teaching group exercise classes; but as a personal trainer I find I also get great results with clients just by going into the gym and utilising the machines. The gym is a great place to get motivated to keep fit but it’s good to go with a buddy to keep on track if you need a little discipline!
Some people prefer to use home equipment and I can think of one client who is achieving great results on a rowing machine and free weights set up in front of his TV. He has a couple of sessions with me per week then maintains his fitness at home.
Home equipment can range from a simple pair of dumbbells to build biceps, to an elliptical machine for an all over body workout including your upper body muscle groups.
Elliptical machines are effective for a number of reasons:
- They can help you burn more calories with the upper body workout combined with the leg workout.
- If you are short of time, you can still pack in a great workout for your whole body as they can help you burn more calories than the same amount of time spent on an exercise bike or treadmill.
- When compared to a treadmill for instance, they have the effect of reducing the impact on your joints, while maintaining the calorie burning effect.
I get great results with younger clients and older ones alike such as those in my cardiac rehab group. These machines are good for those with hip, back, knee and elbow problems as they help to build muscle to support the joints in a safer way
I would advise you to shop around and find a good supplier as the quality of home elliptical machines can vary from store to store.
There are a number of different types of exercise bike available and before purchasing one, the intensity of your style of workout is necessary to consider
- Upright – this is a widely available style and is the most similar to a normal bike. You tend to lean forward on this type of bike in a high position
- Recumbent – you might be a little more comfortable on this type of bike, especially if you tend to get saddle sore, like to pedal for a long session or you are recovering from knee or back problems. You will sit low down with your legs in front of you
- Training cycles – these are similar to spin class machines and are a good choice if you prefer high intensity sessions
Another detail that might affect your choice is the amount of space you have. Some bikes are easy to fold away, but I like the standard upright bikes as if you have enough room as they are easy to quickly hop onto for a fast workout in between your daily activities.
These machines are great for maintaining fitness and one of the advantages of them is that they can enable you to enjoy your walk or run, while minimising as much as possible the impact on joints, unlike pounding away on a hard pavement.
There are two main types of treadmill:
- Manual treadmills – this is the most basic style. It is usually a flat design and the lack of a motor means the belt is propelled along by your movement.
- Motorised treadmills – this type is far more sophisticated with many more options including inclines, electronic track designs that can mimic running routes and heart monitor features too. Continuous duty motors will provide you with constant maximum power.
As a guide I would try to steer you towards the motorised treadmills, as they tend to offer more functionality than the manual types. Being highly versatile they can be set on a low speed for a gentle warm up and gradually increase speed to comfortably bring your breathing and heart rate up to the desired pace.
There are designs with multiple level inclines and different sizes and they all have a maximum speed. If you are new to running but wish to build up regularly, a machine that goes up to 12 kilometres an hour (about 7.5 mph) should be fine. However you might find that you need a more powerful one that can take you up to 14 or 16kph. I would say the maximum speed to go for when choosing a treadmill would be around 18kph especially if you are training for a race.
Note: I prefer elliptical machines over the treadmill as they work your upper body. If you really enjoy running, then I would suggest incorporating some additional upper body strength training; such as press ups, bicep curls, lateral raises and triceps dips.
These machines are aerobic exercise machines that mainly offer a lower body cardio workout. However, they are a great piece of home fitness equipment that can be used from beginner to advanced and produce a quality fat burning workout in minimal time.
Stair climbers/steppers come in two different styles.
- Dependent stair climbers – when you force one step down the other step will rise automatically. It is quite an easy machine to use, especially for beginners.
- Independent stair climbers – this version is more practical for those wanting to increase the intensity of their workout, as both feet are required to work at the same time. They feature electronic controls that decrease resistance, making your workout as hard as you wish.
They are a great choice for a cardio workout, but again you will need to carry out an upper body workout separately.
These are fantastic machines that will give you an all-round body workout. I would say that they will give you one of the best fat-burning and body-building workouts around for the time expended on them. They’re a great choice for a low impact workout and for general toning, strength training and maintaining flexibility with age.
If you wish to primarily lose weight, then you will do fine with a light resistance rowing machine. If it’s for strength training, then you will need one with many levels of resistance to keep your workout challenging.
I like the magnetic rowing machines as their smooth action helps to give the impression of rowing across water.
These fitness machines are ideal for most training goals, they can help you to build muscle and tone up in complete safety as they utilise weight stacks instead of weights or barbells, reducing the risk of injury to poor technique.
If building muscle is your goal, then choose the largest weight stack available – up to 80Kg is good for strength training. It can be useful to choose a home gym with 2 weight stacks, as you can move quickly around the stations and also train with a buddy.
I should point out that these machines do force you to work along the plane that the machine is designed for and as people come in all shapes and sizes; you could be uncomfortable during your workout and run the risk of injuring yourself. Aim for a machine that is fully adjustable and the whole family can use it.
Training styles when using a Home Gym:
Strength – strength training begins at the core, which are the muscles right alongside your bones. With a broad range of routines, a home gym can help you target these muscles specifically and give you a sleek, well defined look.
Muscles – for maintenance you may wish to keep to a steady routine, but if you wish to build biceps and achieve good body definition, you will want to gradually increase the weights on the stack over time.
Features of some Home Gyms:
- Lat bar and Pulley: for toning arms and shoulders
- Press arms and a Pec deck: these work your chest and can help to broaden the shoulders
- Leg extensions: build your legs by pulling or pressing the padded rollers to shape them
There are many variations of home fitness equipment and here are just a few examples. But before you buy your first exercise machine, it is good to keep in mind your short and more importantly your long term goals, to enable you to get the most use of the machine as possible, before you outgrow it.