Let us just begin by pointing out that if you love cardio, then lucky you! It’s safe to say that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s also safe to say that it’s difficult to perform cardio in a way that is actually effective for muscle gain and weight loss. Cardio always feels like we are working our body into the ground, which we are, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will see results (sadly).
That’s not to say that there are zero benefits from doing repetitive, regular cardio. It improves your mood and heart health, keeps your mind sharp, helps protect against some types of cancer, and so much more. So, please don’t toss it to the side.
Cardio machines can seem daunting or frustrating, however, if they are done right, you can enjoy all of the above benefits and lose weight and gain muscle. (Let’s repeat it) If the cardio machines are used right they all target different muscles and are hugely beneficial for improving endurance and strength.
The best part is if you are looking to use cardio machines more efficiently, it means less time of your life spent chugging away on them. It’s all about pushing and challenging yourself to maximize the effects of the workout and get it done quicker.
Here is how it’s done:
Gradually add speed.
This will kick your butt in a good way. Start at a lower level and work your way up, increasing the speed every few minutes.
Caution: make sure you slow the machine way down for this. Squats and jump squats on the machine too will really work your body, To do this, slow the machine way down and, with both feet on the same step, squat as you normally would. Then, try jumping to the next step instead of stepping. Make sure you have a solid foundation for this and watch for your ankles.
Switch up your direction.
This is another one that will keep you from getting bored. Incorporating multidirectional work while performing on the stair climber will also help target different muscles as you go. You can turn to either side or even go backward at a super-slow pace. You’ll work your full body trying to stay balanced and your legs will feel it.
Always do intervals!
To start, any movement is good movement. However, if you want to actually see results in your strength and weight than avoid working at a steady-pace each time step on any cardio machine, including the treadmill.
Try adding incline or using speed intervals. Stay at your same pace, but up the incline every few minutes or flip it. Keep the incline the same and continuously increase your speed.
Incorporate strength training.
Try slowing down the speed a lot and perform moving lunges. You can also try walking with dumbbells and do some bicep curls or shoulder exercises.
This is great because you don’t have to do 30-45 minutes of it. This is where intervals come in again. Cut the workout time in half by alternating one minute at your maximum effort and two minutes at a slower speed or walking.
This option doesn’t require hard resistance but rather spurts of sprinting and pushing hard, then pull it back for a few minutes.
Make it heavy.
Crank the resistance to a very difficult level for you personally and push against it while seated on the seat. This will sculpt and tone your legs.
Sit up and down.
Similarly, on any cardio machine, play around with the speeds and resistance levels but for cycling, try sitting up for some time and down on the seat for some time. This will really work your booty.
Beat your time.
First, see how quickly you can get to 200 meters. Take a short break and then try to beat that time getting to 200 meters again. It’s like you are racing yourself. Fun right?
Try going progressive with it through pyramid work. Work to 100 meters, take a 30-second break, then 200 more meters, take another break, then 300 more meters, and take another break, etc.
Keep up the resistance.
The elliptical does little more than get your hips moving if there is no resistance. Always add resistance to your elliptical workouts, even if it’s light. This activates different muscles than it would if you didn’t add resistance. This will also prevent you from getting bored by constantly switching up the speeds and resistance levels throughout the workout.
This will work out different muscles as well. Try going backward at various speeds and against different resistance levels,” she says. This may also engage your core more as you try to balance.