Best Cardio Equipment | 2021 Home Gym Buying Guide
Cardio machines are a staple piece of equipment in any good home gym. But there are many options to consider when deciding what piece of cardio equipment is best for your health goals, fitness level, and home gym space.
We spent countless hours testing and reviewing different cardio machines and models to develop this list of the best equipment on the market.
Peruse our top picks below before buying your next piece of home gym equipment.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 6 hrs of research
Backlit LCD Screen
Online Challenge Mode
Air Resistance Flywheel
Smooth And Noise-Free
10 Best Cardio Equipment Pieces for Home Gym
1. Concept2 Rowing Machine Model D
Backlit LCD Screen
Online Challenge Mode
Air Resistance Flywheel
Smooth And Noise-Free
Seat Slightly Uncomfortable
The rowing machine is one of the best, if not the best, cardio machine out there. It will include your whole body in the workout, and you will feel the burn. Concept2 claims that their rowing machine is the world’s best selling rowing machine, and it has been that way for over 40 years.Read more
Model D is used by the best athletes to train for rigorous competitions, so you can rely on it safely to get you back in shape. The precise digital monitor will measure your data on every stroke you make. The LCD screen is backlit, so it’s gentle to the eyes. You can measure the time, distance, and intervals of your rowing. It has Bluetooth connectivity and ANT+ compatibility, allowing you to track your heart rate while making it possible to connect with various fitness apps for an in-depth insight into your performance. The ErgData app is free, and it records and stores all of your workouts on your phone. You can join an Online Challenge if you feel like you need some extra motivation!
You can even save your workout to a flash drive if you’d like! The screen even has games, if you feel like entertaining yourself between your sessions. The air resistance flywheel builds up unlimited resistance and adjusts to your level of fitness. You can control the flow just by changing the damper, which has 10 different levels. The noise is minimal, and the strokes will be smooth, giving you no distractions from your work out session. The Model D has only eight screws, making it quite simple to assemble, and once you assemble it fully, the caster wheels will let you transport it wherever you please. If you want to store it away, you can separate it into two smaller pieces.
Concept2 Rowing Machine Model D is best cardio machine for home on our list!
2. Jacob's Ladder Gronk Edition
Based On Ladders
Welded Tubular Steel
Precise Digital Monitor
Quite Heavy And Tall
Ah, the stairs. One of our worst enemies. It was only logical that some evil mastermind decided to create an exercising machine that emulates the feeling of going up the stairs! Many people dislike the stairs because they are such an effective way to burn calories and because they make our legs burn and our lungs winded. It is precisely what you need for a good cardio session, so hop onto Jacob’s Ladder for a fiery session!Read more
Jacob’s Ladder has paired up with Gronk fitness to bring you the ultimate cardio exercise machine. The ladder is used by professional athletes all around the world to improve their performance, but it’s also used by regular, everyday people to keep them in shape. It is a patented machine with a ladder-type rung propelled by a non-motorized treadmill. The treadmill is self-paced, which means that the faster you climb up the stairs, the faster the stairs will go!
The frame is made out of welded tubular steel, with a promise of long use. The rungs are made out of maple, with a solid ABS/Polyethylene case protecting them. This machine is quite heavy, packing up 300 pounds, so you might struggle with moving it around. Also, you must have 7.5 feet of ceiling available. Otherwise, the machine won’t fit. The digital monitor will read everything, ranging from calories burned to your heart rate, for a full input of your progress and performance.
3. Assault Air Bike
Twenty Sealed Ball Bearings
Integrated Inspiring Messages
Seat Becomes Uncomfortable
The Assault Airbike is arguably one of the most popular air bikes around. Their first air bike will make you experience a love-hate relationship with exercising. It can easily be spotted around gyms and boxes all around the world and is a great tool for cardio, thanks to the involvement of the whole body.Read more
You can easily place this machine in your own home since it’s quite a space saver. Sealed cartridge bearings are integrated into every pivot and moving part of the bike, and their total count is twenty. So you have twenty sealed cartridge bearings that are safely hidden underneath the machined, sturdy steel. There is a console on the bike, with admittedly small lettering, that gives you seven different programs from which you can choose from. You can either choose the most hard-hitting exercises for a super strenuous cardio session, or you can even build your routine that burns the most calories most effectively.
The resistance you can feel is unlimited, thanks to the sturdy air fan. As you pedal, not only will your legs be on fire, but your upper body will feel the heat as well, since the handles will move in unison with your pedaling, requiring you to use your full strength to operate the machine! The seat is comfy and adjustable, accepting users of all shapes and sizes. You can even set your goals while the integrated inspiring messages keep you going!
4. ProForm Pro 2000 Treadmill
Daily Coach-Guided Workouts
Full-terrain Race Training
-3% To 15% Incline
Oversized Backlit Screen
Poor Customer Support
And of course, the classic treadmill. Have you ever seen a gym without one? The Pro 2000 was designed for the walker, jogger, and runner in mind. It will burn more calories, improve conditioning for the outdoors, and even boost your endurance.Read more
The Pro 2000 will improve your performance, with the incline ranging from -3% to 15%. It means that you can prep yourself for running both uphill and downhill. The oversized seven inches backlit display gives you all of your essentials in one place, easy to read. The motor and deck both work silently, even when you pump it up to the max. The non-flex rollers always make sure that you have a smooth run. There are 32 programs included, and you can even join personal trainers in the comfort of your own home.
5. Maxi Climber
Bi-directional Hydraulic Piston
For All Fitness Levels
Timer Too Low
Can Be Hard On Knees
MaxiClimber has a unique design that lets you effectively burn more calories than usual while supporting the toning of your muscles. The MaxiClimber targets your upper body, lower body, and even your core, skyrocketing the number of calories you burn each session.Read more
The workout MaxiClimber provides you with is a combination of fat-burning intense cardio and resistance training that sculpts your muscles. The climber will push you into HIIT, so be prepared to sweat profusely! The easy, low-impact movements make the climber approachable to both elders and children, and beginners as well.
The bi-directional hydraulic piston has twelve different levels of resistance, so be prepared to spend a lot of time working on the climber if you want to master every level. It burns twice the amount of calories in an hour when compared to standard cardio machines, so it’s up to you to find out whether this is true or not. The weight limit is 300 lbs, and the height goes up to 6’6”. The machine is ergonomically designed, comforting your every motion.
6. Concept2 SkiErg
Aluminum Powder-coated Frame
PM5 Performance Monitor
Assembly Can Be Tough
This machine is one that we haven’t covered in detail in the Style section, but it doesn’t make it less worthy than the other standard machines! The Concept2 SkiErg allows you to enjoy super cool Nordic skiing in the comfort of your own home. Nordic skiing requires you to use most of your body to move, developing both your strength and endurance in a few simple movements.Read more
You can use the SkiErg for both double pole movements, and the classic alternating arm movements. This machine uses flywheel resistance and electronic monitoring systems that are built to last. The frame is aluminum, and it has a powder finish that protects it from scratches and abrasion. The PM5 performance monitor is sophisticated with intuitive controls that are easy to understand.
It will accurately measure your output, progress, and you can even compare your score with others so you can see how well you are doing. The SkiErg flywheel and damper respond to your every motion, giving you full control over the amount of resistance you want. The damper makes adjusting the flow of the fan easy, so you can change the way the pull feels to your preferences. The strapless handles give you a secure and comfy grip, and they do not absorb sweat so they will not fall apart and crack under strain. They require no adjustment and can suit the hand of all shapes and sizes. You can either mount the SkiErg on a wall or place it on the floor with the help of the amount, sold separately.
7. EFITMENT E005
8 Levels Of Magnetic Resistance
Not Too Sturdy
Small Range Of Motion
Elliptical machines are pretty standard machines for gyms and can be seen gracing the spaces of many of them. The E005 is a no-impact workout with a smooth progression for both your upper and lower body. The elliptical is a great substitution for running, since it’s much nicer to your knees but with the same benefits.Read more
The flywheel on the E005 is belt-driven, ensuring a smooth, noise-free, and maintenance-free exercise. The hand pulse sensors located on the stationary bars monitor and help you maintain a steady target heart rate, which is what people who want a refreshing cardio experience and fat burning exactly need. There are 8 levels of magnetic resistance which can be easily reached and changed, you can adapt the level of resistance as you exercise, and after you feel like you reached your goal and are ready to advance to more complicated programs.
The LCD monitor informs you of the time, speed, distance, the number of calories burned, your pulse rate, and full scan. The platforms are oversized, textured, and slip-resistant, giving you stable ground as you burn the fat. The center handlebars are comfy and act as extra safety, giving you stability and balance. The E005 has transportation wheels allowing you to move and store away your equipment easily and quickly. The maximum user weight is 220 lbs.
8. Sunny Health & Fitness Mini Stepper 012-S
Non-slip Foot Pads
Removable Resistance Bands
Industrial Steel Strength
Foam Padded Grips
Cable Snaps Quickly
The stepper you see before you genuinely are quite small, but that makes it even more ideal for a home gym setting since it’s quite a space saver. Sunny Health & Fitness is a reputable company that creates machines that boast good quality, and the mini stepper is no stranger to that.Read more
The mini stepper will give both your upper and lower body a good workout, providing you with a full-body workout. The little grips are foam-padded, for a non-slip grip and a comfy session. They also have plenty of resistance, so you’ll feel the strain. The LCD console display precisely displays your count, time, calories, speed, and scan, informing you about your progress and performance.
The little steel frame is made out of industrial-strength steel, so don’t be thrown off by the small size! It lasts quite a long time. The stepping motions are powered by a hydraulic drive, giving you a smooth and quiet ride. The footplates are large and textured and do not let you slip down. The resistance bands are removable, so if you are looking to work on only your legs, you can do so. The stepper is easy to install, saving you both time and energy.
9. Stamina ATS Air Rower
Resistance Easy To Control
Upholstered And Padded Seat
Padded Rowing Handle
Not So Sturdy
Rowing machines are never out of style, and let the Air Rower prove why. The low-impact exercise provided by the rowers is a very effective way to burn off stubborn fat and give your body a look you’ve always desired, which is something avid rowing machine users are already familiar with.Read more
This rowing machine, just like the many machines we mentioned in our guide has a flywheel that creates air resistance. It’s easy to control the level of resistance you need if you need more strength, row harder, and if the challenge is too much for you to go at it easier. The LCD workout monitor will track everything you need to know about your session, and the data will be easy to read. The seat is upholstered and padded, making the rowing a comfortable experience.
The footplates are adjustable, so no matter what shape or size you are, the machine will provide you with a good fit. The rowing handle is padded as well, so you don’t have to worry about aching hands and blisters. The oversized rail sits at an angle and allows the seat to slide up and down effortlessly. The built-in wheels and foldable frame make storing the machine away from a super-simple task. The assembly is easy, and the frame has a three-year warranty, while other parts have a one-year warranty.
10. Sole Fitness E35
Specialized Quiet Drive System
Advanced Sensor Systems
Four Rear Wheels
Water Bottle Holder
Sole Fitness E35 elliptical machine also deserved our attention, due to the great benefits it can provide you with, and the sublime construction. Right off the bat, this machine is quite large, so you must have enough space to store it in. The drive is as quiet a whisper, and it will not distract you from working out.Read more
You can track all of your essential data with a backlit LCD. The console also has an inbuilt water bottle holder, a cooling fan, and even speakers that can play you your favorite tunes. As we said, the machine is tranquil, thanks to the specialized drive system. Both forward and backward motions will be fluid and silent. The additional resistance and the various positions the machine can rest in provide you with a daring cardio session, with only one touch of a button.
The ramp angle goes from 0 to 30 degrees so that you can work on all of your lower body muscle groups. The handlebars are stationary and have an integrated pulse sensor that carefully tracks your heart rate. A heart rate chest strap gives you an even more accurate reading of your pulse, and some interactive heart programs are just what you need to monitor your heart with the utmost precision. The pedals are quite large and were designed in collaboration with a renowned physical therapist, creating a two-degree inward slope, that reduces the strain and pulling on your ankles and knees. You can adjust the footbeds as well for even more comfort. Four rear wheels on heavy-duty rails, reducing the side-to-side swaying pedals sometimes create.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Ease of Use
Cardio machines are pretty essential and standard pieces of equipment for the gym. You won’t find a gym without at least three different types of cardio machines in it! With that being said, the best home cardio machine might look quite complicated, and might scare you and put you off, but trust us; they are nothing you should fear! Once you get the hang of it, they will be as intuitive as walking or running.
The treadmill is probably one of the most common pieces of cardio equipment. It’s simple to use and requires no adjustment. It does usually have a lot of buttons for customizing that you should familiarize yourself with, but if you want a straightforward exercise, you will not need to use many of those buttons. Once you’re ready to go, position yourself on the track, and press the quick-start button, which will make the treadmill go at a very slow speed. Slowly increase this speed once you are comfortable with it (but not too comfortable, you do want a workout). And that is it! You can always explore what the other buttons do. Once you are done with it, slow the pace down steadily, until you come to a full stop, and then hope off.
The elliptical is quite similar to the treadmill, but not as popular. They are easy to understand but are usually overlooked. Before you get onto the pedals, you must know that they will start to move as soon as you turn the machine on! Get a good grip on the handlebars before you start working out and step into the pedals. Don’t be afraid of the extra room; it will give you more comfort. Inspect the handlebars, and choose the ones that you like the most, be it stationary or otherwise. Slowly start pedaling until you get the hang of it, and then you can start playing around with the buttons.
The rowing machine has got to be one of the most straightforward machines in the gym. All you have to do is position yourself on the seat, grab onto the handles, and pull! You can either adjust the resistance manually, or it will do it by itself if it's propelled by a flywheel.
If you ever tried cardio before, you already probably know how effective it is. It will help you burn excess fat and calories for weight loss, it makes your heart strong, so you can pump blood more efficiently, your lung capacity increases and thanks to your strong heart, the risk of heart attack, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes are reduced too. Cardio is great and convenient because you don’t need to do it for a full hour to feel all the benefits. Just walking outside for 5 minutes will help you, slowly but surely.
But where do cardio machines stand here? How good are the exercises they provide us with? Thankfully, all of the cardio machines mentioned here, and many more are the best at burning our fat and helping our blood course through our veins. Some of these cardio machines will provide you with a mild to moderate intensity, while others will push you into HIIT and destroy you! But it’s all your choice, and you can trust the cardio machines to give you a mind-shattering session.
First, we have a rowing machine. This is perhaps the most recommended out of these three cardio machines. Why? One is it burns calories faster than those two cardio machines. According to a Harvard study, a vigorous workout on a rowing machine can burn about 377 calories in 30 minutes for an individual who weighs 185 pounds. Aside from the usual cardiovascular benefits that it provides because it is a cardio machine, it would also tone your muscles. While rowing, you are using all the major muscle groups in your body and only a little pressure to the joints because this machine, and the activity of rowing in itself, is a low impact in nature. Rowing machines are also more convenient if you just decide to purchase one instead of going to the gym. There are rowing machines that can be folded and stored out of sight. You can do your rowing exercises in front of your TV and just hide it once you're done. You can’t normally do this with a treadmill or a stationary bike. If you are looking for a more realistic rowing machine, one that emulates the flow of water we suggest taking a look at these water rowers.
Elliptical machines, also known as elliptical trainers are world-renowned for giving the user a non-impact kind of exercise. A non-impact exercise means you do not produce a lot of compressive force on your joints or bones. There are a lot of designs for elliptical machines, but there are only two major types: the elliptical machine with handles and the ones without any handles. For the elliptical machine with handles, it allows both the upper and the lower body to move using a concurrent push and pull movement. When you exercise on this type of machine, the intensity of the exercise is increased by adding resistance. On the elliptical machine without handles, the incline level of the footrests can be adjusted along with the resistance level. Although an elliptical machine is a good cardio machine, you should not make this your only cardio machine because if all the exercise you do in your cardio workout is just non-impact exercises, you could have long term health issues with your bone mass and strength.
A gym is not considered complete without at least one exercise bike. Exercise bikes can be done solo, with a stationary bike, but the more recommended form for a good cardio workout is to ride them as part of a class or group. If you are planning to purchase an exercise bike as a cardio machine, you need to make sure that the bike you purchase allows more adjustment points because the more you can adjust the bike to fit your body, the more comfortable your ride will be and in turn, you will be able to last longer on the bike and therefore exercise and burn calories longer. If you choose an exercise bike as part of your cardio workout program, you can increase or decrease the intensity of your workouts by increasing or decreasing the bike pedal’s resistance. When using an exercise bike, since it has no backrest, remind yourself constantly not to slouch and just sit upright. And although this is a good cardio machine also, it is not recommended for those who work in a setting where you constantly have to sit. If you belong in this particular workgroup, a standing machine is recommended for you. Also, be careful not to overdo workouts on exercise bikes because when your hip flexors get too tight, this might lead to posture problems. Spin cycles are a special type of home exercise bike that is designed to provide you with the most realistic real-life simulation possible. Spin bikes are extremely popular for cycle classes and for home use by people who are experienced road cyclists. Spin bikes provide you with a lower-body profile than a traditional upright bike. This is achieved by placing the saddle and the handlebar at about the same height. The handlebars will also provide you with three distinct hand positions. The pedals on spin bikes will be fitted with toe straps as well as a fitting for SPD cleats. This will allow you to use the muscles of your legs more efficiently and to cycle against a greater level of resistance. Spin bikes use an open front flywheel, that provides a rolling road bike feel. Resistance is usually increased by the turning of a centrally located knob.
Vertical Climbers are stand-alone cardio exercise equipment that simulates an uphill climbing action. These cardio machines are usually thin and long with a centrally located frame that you are able to climb on with an up and down motion of the arms and legs. The action involved in vertical climbing is more precise than what you get with an elliptical trainer, placing more focus on the glutes and hamstrings. Vertical climbers for the home vary in quality and features. Most of them will provide you with a monitor that allows you to assess your training performance. Among the most popular vertical climber for home use is the Maxi Climber. This is a very solid, high-quality unit that is height adjustable, has isometric non-stick grips, features an auto-stop timer and folds easily for storage. Check out our complete Maxi Climber review here.
A stair stepper is cardio exercise equipment that simulates walking up a flight of stairs. These cardio machines make use or a resistance piston system which alleviates the pressure on your joints that occur when you walk up a flight of stairs. Steppers are popular cardio, toning and fat burning option which will target your lower body muscles such as the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves (in that order). Stair steppers are the most effective cardio machine and calorie burner. You can add resistance bands to most stair steppers to add an upper body workout element to your training.
Treadmills remain one of the most popular cardio exercise options out there and the best cardio machine to burn fat. They allow you to walk, jog or run for fitness and health regardless of what the weather conditions are like. Treadmills for the home are available across a huge range of price points and features. A key consideration when looking for a home treadmill is whether the running bed will be big enough to allow you to get a natural, smooth range of movement, whether you are walking or running. Many of the cheaper models simply do not are too narrow and too short. A minimum of 20 inches in width and 55 inches in length is recommended.
Let’s face it; cardio machines are not cheap. They are very pricey, and the cheapest one won’t go anywhere under 200$ dollars (if it’s properly made). When you invest that much money into a machine, it’s only natural to expect it to work correctly for a long time. When the machine fails us immediately after the warranty period, it’s understandable that we feel sad and bummed down.
If you want to be sure that your machine is sturdy, pay attention to the materials and how it’s made. The very first thing you should take a close look at is the frame. Sturdy steel frames will last a long time, and if they are correctly connected, expect them to live for a decade, or even more. The seats are upholstered and padded, but sometimes that padding can flatten, or the upholstery can tear. Make sure that your seat has a quality cover and durable padding. And now for the details unique to every machine - the bands, fans, LCD screens, and all the little screws and bolts. Inspect them in great detail, and make sure that they are working correctly, to begin with!
The chances are that the machine you just got yourself is not a simple one. Instead, it is full of many features glowing on LCD and digital screens, meant to help you exercise better. These features give you insight into your fitness level and how well you are keeping up with the level of resistance you’ve set for yourself.
Usually, the screen will show you the time, distance, calories spent, speed, and scan of your body. Some cardio machines can track your heartbeat and pressure, and you can even connect them to a heart rate monitor for an even more accurate reading. It is essential if you want to track the calories you’ve burnt, and which type of cardio exercise have you reached, with HIIT being the last step on the ladder. You can also connect your devices to your cardio machines, usually via Bluetooth, connecting them to fitness apps for an even more detailed report of your routine. Many cardio machines have up to 30 different programs available for you to follow, but most people follow only seven or so, so the number of programs the machine has shouldn’t be so significant. All in all, it’s always better to have a lot of features, but don’t drown in the number of them, because it’s possible to have too much!
Expert Interviews & Opinions
The very first cardio machine introduced to the world was the treadmill. It was brought to life in 1875, but it was not used for working out. Instead, it was used to help manufacturing processes along. It was only in 1952 that one doctor started using the treadmill for the stress test, used to assess the health of your heart. It was seen as attractive to some businessmen, and they turned the treadmill into an exercising device available to the wider audience. Treadmills were a standard piece of equipment in many homes by the 1960s. Elliptical machines were invented in the 1990s and rival treadmills in popularity. It is where the style of the cardio machines started to expand, and we can see a myriad of devices available to us today!
Other Factors to Consider
There you go. Those are the top ten best cardio machines. All these cardio machines have their advantages and disadvantages, but the rowing machines are certainly more versatile and can produce better results. So choose to row your way to fitness starting today.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Which cardio machines are the best?
It’s tough to say definitely, but many professionals lean towards the rowing machine. It is very versatile, and it can produce excellent results in no time. But you can always use the simpler cardio machines, no harm done.
q: Can I use only one cardio machines?
Of course, you can! But make sure that you are targeting the group of muscles you want to target. If legs are your primary concern, you can always use a treadmill or an elliptical. But if you want a full-body exercise, better go for the rowing machine or the air bike!
q: Are there any safety hazards when using a cardio machines?
Just like with everything else in the world, there are some things you should be careful about. First things first, make sure that you are healthy enough to put that amount of strain on yourself. If you’ve got bad knees, maybe skip the treadmill all together and choose the elliptical, which puts less strain on them. Make sure that you have properly assembled your machines. Otherwise, you risk them falling apart in the middle of your session, and you could potentially injure yourself!
q: Can I do cardio without a machine?
Simply walking to the store and back can be considered mild cardio. Running outside for half an hour or more is good enough cardio in itself, so the answer to your question is yes. You might not want to leave your house when it’s cold, or you don’t have the time to head outside and back, so an excellent substitute for this is following a simple cardio program, or working out on cardio machines!
q: Do cardio machines build muscle?
Yes, they do. But not in the way powerlifting or general lifting do. They will work on only one of your muscle groups, or your whole body, depending on the type of the machine you have chosen. But the focus here is cardio, not muscle building, so it’s better to head back to that dumbbell if you want some serious muscle growth!