Exercise Machines

What to look for in a fitness machine

Today's high gym membership fees and gas prices make exercising at home a preferable option. Combine that with the ability to workout whenever your schedule allows, and the home gym has great appeal. Finding the right aerobic exercise equipment is an essential ingredient in setting up a home gym.

Space

One of the key ingredients in finding the right exercise equipment is space. Large pieces of cardio fitness equipment can take up a rather large area. While many of these machines are able to be compacted for storage, the problem comes when it is time to actually use the fitness machine. Take measurements of the length and width of the exercise area and compare them to the measurements of the exercise equipment.

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Small spaces would do well with smaller types of cardo equipment such as rowing machines, jump ropes, step machines or stationary exercise bicycles.

Larger spaces easily accommodate treadmills, elliptical machines or recumbent cycles.

Weight

The heavier the cardio fitness equipment, the harder it is to move. Even things such as folding treadmills or collapsible aerobic exercise equipment can be a pain to move. Additional personnel may be required when the fitness equipment arrives.

Fun Factor

The perfect aerobic exercise equipment needs to keep the user's attention in order to be useful. Changing the settings or displaying interesting statistics serves to motivate the user to reach his or her goals.

Usability

The more complex the operation of the cardio fitness equipment, the less likely it is to be used. Directions should be clearly stated and easy to understand.

Price

New or used is the big question when purchasing the right fitness machine. New machines are typically more expensive. However, they do come with a warranty. Used machines are cheaper but do have downfalls. First, the condition of the cardio fitness equipment may not be pristine. Also, figure shipping prices and assembly fees into the overall cost of fitness equipment.

Maintenance

Fitness machine maintenance should be easily accomplished. All fitness machines need some type of maintenance performed. Any equipment needed to accomplish this should be included and the process explained in understandable terms in the users manual.

Finding the right cardio exercise equipment will encourage use and provide a keen sense of accomplishment when fitness goals are reached. Aerobic exercise equipment needs to be usable in the available space, able to hold the user's attention for long periods of time, easy to operate, affordable and easy to maintain. Fitness goals are attainable with the right equipment and motivation to succeed.

by Tabitha Akery

Other Exercise Machines

Elliptical

An elliptical machine delivers an extensive leg and lower body workout while combining muscle toning with cardio health. Elliptical trainers are perhaps the best all-around exercise machines. However, they are rather large pieces of equipment. Given their weight, they are not very mobile once assembled and placed in the home. They are also long, easily reaching six feet (1.83 meters) in length, and require extra space in front for the turn of the foot pads. Clearly, an elliptical exercise machine is a rather intrusive piece of equipment unless one has a room dedicated strictly as a home gym.

Ellipticals can be purchased in the $500 to $1,000 range for the average user. Most machines come with comforts such as built-in fans, bottle holders and iPod connectors, though these may increase the cost.

There are many manufacturers that make quality elliptical exercise equipment. NordicTrack and Schwinn are two of the more popular ones.

Although a little pricey, ellipticals are one of the best expenditures for the money and can help burn calories, improve cardio and tone muscles. All in all, isn't that what a home gym is intended to accomplish?

by Donald Herman

Rowing Machine

A perfect alternative to many other cardiovascular machines is an indoor rowing machine. Commonly referred to as an ergometer, and colloquially known as an erg, a rowing machine is basically a flywheel connected to a chain and handle, with a movable seat for the rower to sit in. Ergs are used all over the world as practice for members of rowing teams, and there are even many rowing tournaments that consist only of rowing machines. However, they are in no way necessarily just a rower's machine. Rowing machines can be used by anybody as a great way to stay in shape and build lean muscle.

The highest quality rower designs are a combination of the air resistance models popularized in the 1980s and the newer hydraulic ones designed for comfort, speed and overall fluidity of movement. Since rowing is a low-impact exercise, there is no danger of damaging knees or connective tissues, although proper form is still a necessity. The most common problem associated with rowing machines is lower back pain, which is a result of bad form on the machine.

The highest quality rower designs are a combination of the air resistance models popularized in the 1980s and the newer hydraulic ones designed for comfort, speed and overall fluidity of movement. Since rowing is a low-impact exercise, there is no danger of damaging knees or connective tissues, although proper form is still a necessity. The most common problem associated with rowing machines is lower back pain, which is a result of bad form on the machine.

With good form and 20 minutes to spare, anybody can use a rowing machine. Because they are easy to use and the exercise is low-impact, rowing machines are the perfect way to lose weight, build muscle and stay in good shape.

by Thomas Paine

Stationary Bike

An exercise bike makes a great contribution to any home gym. As useful as they are fashionable, the stationary bicycle is ideal for lower body exercise routines, for cardio training and as a warmup for other strength training regimens. Because exercise bikes are such an important addition to your home gym, a buyer has to take a few key attributes of a quality exercise bicycle into account. Try to find a stationary bicycle that has these basic qualities:

  • There must be an electric gage of distance, speed and calories burned. Without these basic means of feedback, your exercise bike routine will simply fall flat. To keep yourself motivated and accurately recording your progress, your exercise bike absolutely needs an electric gage.
  • Exercise bikes come in many different models. If you are looking for a very vigorous workout, go for an exercise bicycle with a sturdy base and a seat directly above the pedals so you can safely lift yourself from the seat during a heated routine. If you have back problems, an inclined recumbent bicycle with a fully supporting chair and the pedals located out in front is a better option.
  • Always check to see how many settings of difficulty the exercise bike has before you buy it. Too many low-end exercise bikes have only a few settings, and that can either make a smooth routine difficult or cease to challenge you after a certain level. Look for something sufficiently controlled and challenging.

by Jordan Dickie

Recumbent Bike

Cycling on a stationary recumbent exercise bike builds cardiovascular fitness and burns calories. Exercising on a recumbent bicycle will also help to build the hamstring muscles, tone the legs and firm the buttocks.

You should feel comfortable when cycling on a recumbent bicycle. The seat can be adjusted so that your legs are in the right position, with knees slightly bent, and the pedals should rotate smoothly. The handles can be adjusted until they can be reached comfortably from the sitting position.

A recumbent bike is a better choice than a standard exercise bike if you suffer from back problems. Recumbent bikes give better back support, and they take the strain off aching lower back muscles. Using a recumbent exercise bike as part of your daily routine will also increase blood flow and help loosen your muscles.

A good recumbent bike will offer preset workouts, and it should allow you to set your own levels of resistance. Some recumbent bikes give you the option of saving your own programs. The more you use your recumbent bicycle, the more you can build up the resistance levels you use.

Choose a recumbent exercise bike with a heart rate monitor. The digital display should show your speed, the rotations per minute (RPM) and the number of calories you're burning.

by Ruth Belena

Treadmill

A treadmill is an excellent piece of equipment for any home gym if you live in an area where there aren't many safe places to run or walk, or the weather isn't accommodating. There are many treadmills on the market, but because treadmills are one of the most expensive home gym investments, picking the right one is important for your health and for your wallet.

There are a number of things to consider when shopping for a treadmill. Safety is one of the most critical features to consider. The treadmill should have a safety key, which is a plastic disc with a string that attaches to the person using the machine. If the person falls off, the disc is detached from the treadmill, and the treadmill stops.

The treadmill should also have high rails on each side. These not only allow you to hold on but can also include built in heart rate monitors to help you monitor your cardio workouts. They also limit the risk of running off the sides.

A good treadmill will also have a set of controls that allow you to adjust the speed and duration of the workout. A great treadmill will have advanced controls that allow you to adjust the incline of the actual platform (to simulate hills and valleys) and offer programs that adjust the platform incline, the resistance and the speed. These advanced features allow the user to do cardio, muscle building and fat burning.

Another consideration when you're buying a treadmill is where you'll be putting it in your home. If you have a dedicated home gym area, then storage usually isn't an issue, but if you plan on keeping your treadmill in your living room or bedroom, you may want one that folds down for storage under the bed or upright storage in a closet.

A treadmill can be a big investment, but the right one is an investment in your health.

by Maxwell Payne

Stepper

Climbing stairs is a popular way to lose weight. If you don't have stairs, a stepper is a good alternative. Their compact size and smaller price tag make steppers ideal for smaller workout spaces and closet storage. Here are some things to look for when buying a stair stepper:

  • Scale - When choosing a stair stepper, ensure that the handlebars are at a comfortable height for use. Check the stepping height for a natural step and to keep from overextending your knees.
  • Price - Stair steppers are reasonably affordable for tighter budgets. Things like heart rate monitors and calorie counters add to the price. Keep in mind that shipping costs are separate from the actual price.
  • Power - The bigger the stepper motor, the more power the stair stepper has. An electrical outlet may be needed to plug the machine in. This also makes more features and options available to the user.
  • Available Features - Stair steppers come with pulse monitors, various program settings and/or the ability to adjust tension levels. These features make each workout unique and keep the user coming back to the stepper.
  • Ease of Use - The stair stepper should be easy to assemble or come already assembled. It should not take reading a book to figure out how to operate the stair stepper. Preferably, the user should be able to hop on and go.

Finding the right stair stepper takes a little bit of research and testing. As an affordable and space-saving option among cardiovascular machines, the stepper is a good choice in the endless quest to lose or maintain weight.

by Tabitha Akery