Whether you’re looking to include a warm-up, cool-down, or incorporate cardio in your training sessions, here’s a quick rundown on cardio machines. Add variety by switching them up, include short bursts of intensity and shred off the calories.

By introducing your client to lots of different machines, you inspire confidence for them to try new things on their own. Let’s be honest, it can be a bit scary to try something completely unfamiliar without guidance. Some of these machines are well-known, while others are a little more obscure. Depending on what your gym offers, there could be a whole new world of cardio conditioning out there. And for the client who “hates” cardio, you might introduce them to a whole new world of aerobic challenge that they weren’t previously open to.

Eight Cardio Machines


The trusty treadmill is a tried and true cardio machine. According to Top Consumer Reviews, treadmills continue to be the biggest-selling cardiovascular equipment in 2020. The machines are easy to use making them ideal for beginners. This can be seen with January resolutioners who vow to exercise more. The treadmills are quick to fill up on the gym floor.

They are versatile enough for all fitness levels. Adjust the speed and incline for pace and intensity. Use it for interval training, increasing running speed, and general conditioning.

Ski Erg

The ski erg gets the heart pumping quickly, placing demands on both upper and lower extremities. Picture yourself skiing on a mountain of billowy snow as sweat seeps out of your pores. Reach up while holding the handles and pull down as you squat. Repeat over and over again, until you make it to your imagined ski lodge.

Elliptical and Arc Trainer

Like the ubiquitous treadmill, the ellipticals and arc trainers are popular, go-to pieces of equipment.

They are grouped together here because they are so similar. The user moves the arms and foot pedals at the same time on ellipticals and most arc trainers (although the option to keep arms stationary is usually there as well). It’s like gliding through the air on a machine that’s considered low impact. Low impact, gentle on the joints, and a balanced upper-lower body workout makes this another good option.

Rowing Machine

The rowing machine uses the upper and lower body for a fat-burning core workout. It can burn upwards of 600 calories in an hour depending on the weight of the rower, pace, and intensity. I love to kayak and use the rowing machine to condition my body as winter fades into warmer kayaking weather. After months of no paddling, it’s handy to build up stamina and strength again before going out in open water.

Stationary Bike

There are three types of stationary bikes: upright, recumbent and dual-action. Upright bikes allow the rider to sit up while pedaling similar to most outdoor bikes. The recumbent bike rider sits back a little with legs out in front for a more relaxed position. Riding a dual-action bike lets the rider use the arms and legs in constant motion. This type of bike is often used for interval training. Bikes are another popular type of cardio equipment with ease of use, variety with speed and resistance, as well as leg-building strength. Plus, spinning and cycling classes are trending right now and your client might want to try them out.

Lateral Trainer

The Lateral offers a serious leg workout while getting cardio benefits. At first glance, it looks just like a regular elliptical, but on this machine, the motion of the feet move in lateral ellipses instead of sagittal, forward-backward movements. Adjust the machine to a wide stance for a sweeping movement, similar to ice skating or rollerblading. Move it to narrow setting for a straight-forward movement or the medium setting for a stance somewhere in between. While holding on to the arms, squat while keeping the legs in constant motion. Programmable workouts are also available, like timed MMA training.

Jacobs Ladder

Jacobs Ladder brings back memories of climbing trees. I think that’s why it’s my personal favorite. You strap a band around your waist and adjust a pully to your height. The pully controls the speed. As you climb up rungs of a ladder, the rungs move. Climb higher to speed up; lower to slow down. It’s a great cardio workout that is purported to be gentle on the joints. The machine can look intimidating, so it’s important to demonstrate to clients how to use it.

Step Mill

This is one of those cardio machines that is simple but not easy. Climb moving steps on the step mill machine, exactly like climbing a staircase. It reminds me of a short escalator without the moving rails. Step forward to climb and work hamstrings. Holding on carefully, step backward to engage quads, or even laterally to challenge abductors and adductors. Adjust the speed as needed.

There you have it – eight of them! As the exercise world continues to evolve, I am certain there will be more cardio machines ahead.

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Kim Becknell Williams

Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer with more than ten years of personal training experience. Certified through NFPT, she is a Functional Training Specialist and holds a Master Trainer level certificate for resistance, endurance and sports nutrition. Kim has written two books including Gym Etiquette 101. She enjoys writing a variety of lifestyle articles and fitness blogs.