Cardio Machines: Which Burns the Most Calories?
Cardio machines – how many different ones are there in your gym? In my gym, it’s six.
“What is the best cardio machine for losing weight / reducing body fat/cardio/etc.?”
Fat loss is an issue for many clients, so I regularly ask this question.
First of all: Forget the calorie display on the cardio machines!
You will see that the devices (cross trainers, steppers, etc.) are only part of the answer.
You will receive solutions that you can integrate into your fitness training today.
Elliptical Trainer, Bike, Treadmill – Why Should You Be Choosy?
Let’s assume you invest 60 minutes in your endurance training. You are very busy and want to get the most out of your valuable training time.
Let’s assume you burn a third more calories in 60 minutes on cardio machine A than on ergometer B.
If you don’t know which training tool you can use to reach your goal faster, you may be wasting time in the studio unnecessarily. And maybe this insecurity accompanies you during training, and you ask yourself whether you are training optimally.
If, on the other hand, you know the connections, you can make a conscious decision.
That doesn’t mean that you always have to choose the most efficient solution and work through your plan in the studio like a robot!
On the contrary, I recommend you consciously include the “fun” factor.
My concern today is this: I want you to be able to make an informed decision.
At a glance, the answer is more complex than the question suggests. So first, let’s understand what goes into fat loss.
What factors influence weight loss?
Six key factors affect fat loss:
We can hardly change our genes. This train left nine months before we were born.
The good news: We still have five screws that we can turn. The individual factors influence each other, some more than others. Sleep, for example, affects our hormones just as much as exercise and diet.
The equation is simple: we lose weight when we expend more energy than we take in. Real art is finding the right balance.
There is more to it than the well-known formula Calories In (= what we eat) minus Calories Out (= training and exercise in everyday life).
The energy we take in with food and then use up again voluntarily, i.e., through our sporting and everyday movements is only part of the whole.
Your energy consumption is constantly changing, and it isn’t very easy to measure it accurately.
The lion’s share of your daily calorie consumption is due to your metabolism:
- All involuntary body movements consume energy (breathing, heartbeat, etc.).
- Your body is constantly working to keep its temperature constant. E.g., when the ambient temperature is low, it burns energy to stay warm.
- Building bones and connective tissue requires energy.
- Our brain is “greedy” – it uses a lot of energy.
- Food is digested, which also costs energy. (Some foods require more, others less)
- Infections want to be fought. Our immune system needs a constant supply of energy.
- Muscular repair processes and muscle building require energy.
Each of us requires a different amount of energy for all of these processes.
Some people are better adapted to specific movements and workouts than others and burn less energy.
Suppose Sigmar Gabriel challenges Lance Armstrong to a bike race.
Not only would he lose the contest, but he would probably burn many more calories in the process.
A Lance Armstrong’s body has adapted specifically to the movements of cycling and has become highly efficient in this movement pattern.
He probably has significantly better values than Mrs. Magic when we talk about oxygen volume in the blood, resting heart rate, lactate tolerance, body weight, muscle mass, etc. – and therefore requires less energy for the same performance.
Let’s get back to the cardio machine.
What affects calorie burn on a cardio machine?
First, there is not one endurance ergometer on which you burn the most energy.
Your energy turnover is directly linked to oxygen consumption (in science, one speaks of “caloric oxygen equivalent”).
This means that the more oxygen you need during training, the more calories you burn.
Studies have shown that the muscle mass used significantly influences oxygen consumption and thus calorie consumption. So the formula is:
The greater the muscle mass used during training, the higher your oxygen consumption – and the more calories you burn.
So if you want to burn a lot of energy, you should bring as many of your muscle groups into play at the same time.
There are a few other influencing factors on your energy consumption:
- Number of muscle fibers used in the muscle
- The complexity of the movement (= how many muscle groups work together?)
- Experience with the training device and the movement pattern
- Influence of body weight on movement (e.g., cycling vs. running)
- Coordinative requirement (e.g., how important is it to keep the balance?)
- Resistance or incline angle of the ergometer
- Body weight (the heavier you are, the more energy you burn)
- Lean muscle mass (the more muscle you have, the higher your calorie consumption)
- Speed and intensity
- Duration of the training
- Room temperature (the colder the environment, the more energy you burn)
Enough theory. Let’s land the plane.
Which of the cardio machines burns the most calories?
The cardio machines with the highest energy consumption (in descending order):
- Cross-country ski ergometer (e.g., Technogym Cardio Wave )
- Running on the treadmill
- Rowing ergometer
- Stairmaster Stepper (The one with the proper steps!)
- Cross trainer (elliptical with arms)
- Skipping rope
- Bicycle ergometer, sitting upright
- Bicycle ergometer, recumbent bicycle
- Arm ergometer
Note: Each of the cardio machines mentioned is capable of using more energy than any other. So the above list applies exactly if you keep all other factors (i.e., intensity, room temperature, etc.) constant apart from the muscle mass used.
Finally, let’s discuss how best to integrate this knowledge into your training routine.
Should I now only use the cross-country ski ergometer?
Most people benefit from switching to a different cardio machine every 8 weeks.
Why 8 weeks?
Your body needs about eight weeks to adapt to the individual movement pattern.
Due to neuromuscular adaptations, the energy requirement decreases for the same performance.
And there’s another reason you should rotate every 2 months or so: wear and tear.
You stress your tendons and joints in a new way and prevent wear and tear through constant stress. This is especially true for machines like cross trainers or bicycles where your feet are fixed.
Or you try something new like hiking, skipping, kickboxing, cross-country skiing, swimming, etc.
Depending on your goals, you should also vary the speed and intensity of your training.
Cardio Machines – Conclusion
Which cardio machines should I use to lose weight as quickly as possible? The answer to this question is more complex than initially assumed. If we look at all the factors that affect calorie expenditure, there can be no one-size-fits-all answer for every situation and goal!
It is often forgotten that not only the training device itself plays a role. There are also many other influences, such as how well your body has adapted to the stress. Therefore, you should change the cardio machine regularly if you want to lose weight particularly efficiently.
If we keep all other factors constant – and this is the case for many variables in the gym or at home – the above top 9 list applies.
Something completely different is fundamental to me: having fun with sports!
I have only touched on it here in passing, although it plays a – if not the crucial – role. If you have to torture yourself for 60 minutes on the treadmill because it’s just not your machine, but you would love to use the cross trainer – then do it.
When you’re having fun, your body probably releases more happiness hormones and fewer stress hormones. And they also have a positive effect on your fat loss.
Good luck with your training!