If you've read some of my previous blogs you'll know I'm more of a fan of HIIT (see blogs 26/11/11)using kettlebells, boxing, suspension training, free weights, or whatever I have lying around. But I wanted to have a quick chat about the best overall cardio machines in the gym for fat burning which will complement your strength and resistance programme. If machines are your only option (although they needn't be) the intensity of your effort is paramount. You shouldn't EVER in my opinion need to do an hour on one piece of cardio (although in the gym I see it an awful lot!). If weight loss is your primary goal then this is madness. Twenty minutes tops of HIIT on one or two pieces of cardio, job done:)
Fat burning and the fat burning myth which I would like to firstly dispel. Now while its true you'll burn a greater amount of fat in the weight management zone, also known as the 'fat burning' zone, namely 60 - 70% of your maximum heart rate, its not necessarily going to give you an afterburn effect. These days its all about intensity, and the short burst intensity periods must be getting you out of your comfort zone for your body to respond and adapt, and the above mentioned zone doesn't always achieve this. Anyway I digress, back to the original subject, in my view which are the best cardio machines for long term calorie burn and overall shape and conditioning.
Ok my number one is the Rower. Sadly the Rower seems to be the least favourite cardio machine and that's such a shame because its brilliant. It's low impact, utilises both upper and lower body muscles, puts the knees, hips and shoulders through a good range of movement, encourages good posture and core stability and involves the heart and lungs too. Rowing is great for both conditioning and strengthening.
Now why may you be put off the rower, firstly the 4 stages of rowing can sometimes be hard to master (ask your instructor to break them down). But once you have mastered it, it will feel smooth and co-ordinated.
Secondly many people with back or knee pain are also put off from using it. It may be that they've seen a hard core lunatic going hell for leather, sweating buckets on the rower and been put off or have tried it before and used incorrect technique and ended up in pain. So again get your instructor to go through correct technique with you.
So you've decided your going to give it a go. What resistance should I use? Well your row could be that of a fast sleek boat, or more of a slow cruiser. For a fast row boat have the damper setting on 5 or less, for a slower row use the damper setting somewhere between 6 and 10. Of course both of these boats can be rowed hard, you just have to apply more force.
Whatever programme you do on the rower, remember it should get you a little out of your comfort zone, you should be breathing a little harder than normal. If you are a beginner aim to keep your SPM's (strokes per min) above 25, a more conditioned person could aim for over 30 SPM's. No matter what your level you could try adding say 10 power strokes in where you use 100% of your effort on the pulling part of the stroke. These power stokes can be added in as many times as you are able, making sure you have some recovery in between each. These power strokes are a form of interval training, they are great for motivation. You'll find the fitter you get, the more power strokes you could do, for example instead of 10 you could be doing 15 or 20 or having less time recovery time in between them, because as I keep saying your body responds and adapts to a positive stimulus. You can then progress to some of the challenging programmes on the rower to keep a little variety and avoid boredom.
So if the Rower is not part of your routine, next time at the gym grab your instructor and get them to show you this excellent bit of kit.
Part 2 I'll be talking about X-Trainer 'v' Stepper.
Happy Rowing :)