You don't have to do cardio to lose fat, but cardio machines can be helpful for boosting your metabolism and burning more fat.
And if you use interval training, you can get more results than if
you did traditional aerobic cardio. But that's another story for
another time. Let's take a look at which machines burn the most
calories and which ones are worth your time.
An okay choice: Elliptical Machines.
The biggest reason to choose elliptical machines...
=> you've got a bum knee.
I have worked with clients with extreme osteoarthritis and we
were able to use these machines for a decent workout without pain - but the results didn't compare to clients that used a stationary bike or treadmill for their interval training.
So in general, I'm not overly impressed by the elliptical machine
for fat loss.
If you go into any gym, compare the bodies on the ellipticals to
the ones on other machines...most of the time, the people on the
ellipticals make no progress from month to month.
And having given the elliptical a "go" once or twice on my own, it
just didn't challenge me as a treadmill does.
But if you have bad knees, or if you are an exception to my
experience, feel free to keep rocking the elliptical!
Up next...The Stationary Bike
The bike can be easy on your knees as well, particularly if you are overweight and can't support your bodyweight on the treadmill.
Personally, I like the stationary bikes a lot. The set up allows
you to do a large amount of mechanical work during your interval training - and that is what puts Turbulence on the muscle and allows you to increase your post-exercise metabolism.
In fact, when I first started designing the interval workouts back in 2001, I used stationary bikes exclusively.
I also think that the bike allows you to work very hard with less
risk of injury. Running sprints outside or on a treadmill requires
a much more extensive warm-up due to the explosive nature of
If you don't know your body, running sprints or hills probably
isn't the best place to start. I've met too many people that have
jumped right into hill training and been hurt within 1 week.
So I recommend starting with the bike unless you are an experienced runner that knows your body well.
In addition, here are three more key points about the bike.
a) Stick to the upright version if possible. When using a recumbent bike for intervals, your hips tend to rock too much and your body tries to get into awkward positions in order to push hard against the resistance. That's my experience. The upright bikes are set up better for intervals.
b) For intervals, increase the resistance against your pedalling,
and not the speed of your pedalling. I don't like high RPM
spinning. I think you'll get more results and do more work when you keep the RPM between 80-100 and work against a harder resistance.
Forget that high-RPM spinning stuff...I find it is rough on your
hips and knees.
c) When on the upright bike, sit as upright as possible for the
recovery intervals or even stand for some of the work intervals.
Just avoid the "rounded over" posture as that can be hard on your low back.
So the winner is...The Treadmill.
The treadmill can burn 16-20 calories per minute of exercise
during your workout. That's a big burn, but of course only advanced fitness levels can achieve that - but hopefully you fit that category now or you will someday with consistent training and nutrition.
Some tips: Don't go crazy with the incline (as that can lead to
tight calves), but if you are able to run at more than 10mph, use a 1% incline to help offset the need for speed. The last thing
you want to do is end up in a crazy video on YouTube flying off the end of a treadmill into an elliptical machine.
So as with all types of sprinting, be careful.
Honorable mentions go to...The Rowing Machine and
Stairmaster...these can be used in place of other machines for
variety and are still effective.
Better yet, if you are able, use your body as the best fat burning
machine. I highly recommend bodyweight circuits for interval
training. These are fun, effective, and perhaps even better at
sculpting your body.
I really like bodyweight interval circuits for advanced
fat-burning, plateau-busting workouts. If you're stuck, you'll
benefit from bodyweight circuits.