The Cardio Top Five
These kings of cardio will get your heart rate rockin' and put your other muscles through the paces, along with giving you a workout as close to its outdoor equivalent as possible (but remember to change it up once a week). Follow our tips and suggested workouts to make the most of the machine. For all workouts, begin with a five-minute warm-up and end with a five-minute cool-down.
Why it's good: When performed properly climbing stairs is one of the most challenging cardiovascular activities you can do. It's like running up a steep hill while working your glutes maximally.<!--insertad-->
Workout: Perform five sets of one minute intervals at hard pace (8 on a scale of 1-10) followed by two minutes moderate pace to recover (4-5 on a scale of 1-10). Increase number of sets and intensity as you get stronger.
Do: Pump your arms as if you're running to bring in more muscle and boost intensity.
Don't: Lean forward and rest your weight on the handlebars.
Why it's good: It's the closest thing to run training you can do indoors.
Workout: Just like you do speed work outdoors, alternate fast intervals with recovery jogs. Or during recovery get off the treadmill and do agility drills (side shuffle, high knee drills, butt kicks, etc.). You'll work your muscles through a greater range of motion.
Do: Run on a slight incline of three to four percent. It approximates outside terrain better than no incline. Even better, take advantage of the incline to do some hill drills. For example, for four to six sets, alternate intervals of two minutes at comfortable pace on a 10-percent incline with two minutes recovery on two or three percent.
Don't: Rest your weight on the handlebars.
Why it's good: It's a weight-bearing, high-intensity, zero-impact activity—perfect for increasing your weekly mileage while also giving your joints a well-deserved break.
Workout: Perform seven to 10 sets of the following intervals: 30 seconds forward at moderate pace, 30 seconds forward at maximum pace, then stop, reverse direction and ride another 30 seconds at moderate and another 30 fast. Increase resistance or incline with each set. Stopping your momentum to switch directions will really boost the work effort.
Do: Increase the resistance. Elliptical machines are notorious for the "momentum effect" from bodyweight alone. Unless you crank up the resistance and produce some force, you're working off momentum.
Don't: Rest your weight on the safety bars. It's designed to be a weight-bearing exercise—keep it that way.
Why it's good: In addition to being sport-specific, the bike will benefit anyone who can't do weight-bearing cardio (if you're nursing a lower body injury, for example).
Workout: Go for distance rather than time. If you do intervals based on time, as you tire you'll gradually slow and, thus, not get the same distance as the intervals progress. But if you perform distance intervals, you'll end up working a few extra seconds each interval. Sample workout: Ride one mile as hard as you can and follow with a half-mile recovery. Repeat until you've gone a total of eight to 10 miles.
Do: Stand up. Sit down. Drop the resistance and increase the cadence. Or increase the resistance and drop the cadence. Mix it up! The real world is not a flat track at a steady pace.
Don't: Free spin. Pedaling without resistance is a waste of time. Change the resistance up and down regularly.
Why it's good: When performed properly it uses the total body, making it a high-intensity workout.
Workout: To avoid local muscular fatigue (your arms give out sooner on a rower than your legs would on a treadmill) spend your recovery interval off the machine, jumping rope or just walking around.
Do: Keep your back straight and use your legs.
Don't: Round your back. You'll end up with back pain.
Alwyn Cosgrove is a certified strength and conditioning specialist based in Santa Clarita, Calif. Visit his Web site at www.alwyncosgrove.com.