Which Cardio Machines Burn the Most Calories?

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Let’s face it: fitness can be a drag at times. There are days when we would all rather stay at home in our comfy pajamas and binge-watch Netflix. Moreover, the daily stresses of life can make it challenging to find time to hit the gym, as people are often busy with work, family, and friends, leaving them with little time for exercise.

That’s why it’s crucial to maximize the efficiency of your workout and use the best equipment for burning calories when you do get a spare hour in the gym. This way, you can make the most of your time and start seeing results quicker.

Here are our top five cardiovascular machines for burning calories, along with a couple of suggested workouts for each.

The Rowing Machine

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There’s a good reason why you never see a skinny rower. The rowing machine offers a comprehensive workout, engaging a remarkable 86% of your muscles with every stroke.

Furthermore, depending on your workout goals, this versatile piece of equipment can help you improve both your aerobic and anaerobic fitness. For instance, you could row long distances for cardiovascular endurance or increase the resistance to enhance your strength and explosiveness through short, intense intervals.

In just 30 minutes, a 185lb male can burn an impressive 311 calories on the rowing machine, making it one of the best pieces of equipment in the gym. Rowing machines are also ideal for high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. To maximize calorie burn, set your machine’s interval timer for 40 seconds of intense rowing followed by a 20-second rest. Repeat this 40/20 cycle ten times, giving your all during each 40-second interval.

It’s crucial to maintain good technique and posture on the rower, as poor form can compromise your calorie-burning potential. Remember to keep your back straight, drive with your legs, and pull the chain into your chest. By following these tips and incorporating the rowing machine into your routine, you’ll be on your way to a full-body workout and substantial calorie burn.

The Treadmill

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“Why use the treadmill when you can just go for a run outside?” you might ask. While there’s no denying the joys of fresh air and outdoor scenery, the treadmill can help you burn more calories in less time.

For one, you can set the treadmill to maintain a constant pace, avoiding the inconsistencies of outdoor running. By running at a steady pace for a set duration, you can optimize your calorie burn during your gym session. Running for just 30 minutes at a pace of 10 minutes per mile can help you burn an impressive 270 calories. But, incorporating hill intervals into your treadmill workout can increase the calorie burn even more.

The treadmill offers a wide range of interval workouts, making it easier to burn more calories than outdoor running. One of our favorite sessions is the 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 workout, where the incline increases and decreases as you progress through your routine.

Moreover, why not make your gym session more enjoyable by watching your favorite series on Netflix while running on the treadmill? This way, you can kill two birds with one stone and make your gym visit more productive and enjoyable.

The Air Bike

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Known colloquially by gym-goers as the “Devil’s Tricycle,” the air bike is a challenging piece of equipment. Unlike a regular spinning bike, the air bike resembles something of a cross-trainer that’s been glued to a hovercraft. Instead of running or bounding as you might on a cross-trainer, the air bike requires you to pedal while pumping your arms to turn the propeller underneath you.

This machine is all about resistance and is an excellent fat burner and upper body workout if used in the right way. Short bursts and regular intervals are the way to go with the air bike, which can burn around 300 calories in as little as 20 minutes. You’ll immediately feel the lactic acid build-up in your shoulders and thighs as you blast away on the air bike.

For a beginner’s workout, push, pull, and cycle as hard as you can for 30 seconds, try to get your RPMs up to between 80 and 100, and then reduce your speed down to around 30 or 40 RPMs for 2 minutes. Repeat that cycle for 3 rounds.

The air bike is also an excellent piece of equipment for HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts. For instance, try doing 30 seconds of all-out effort, followed by 30 seconds of rest, and repeat for 10 rounds.

It’s worth noting that the air bike is also an excellent option for those with joint issues, as it is a low-impact exercise. However, it’s crucial to maintain proper form and avoid overuse injuries.


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Perhaps the weirdest-looking piece of equipment in the gym, but by no means the least effective, is the SkiErg.

Resembling a wall-mounted rowing machine, the SkiErg is great for both aerobic and anaerobic training plans, helping you get fit and strong at the same time. It’s also great for core workouts, as you’ll use your hips, legs, upper body, but most importantly, your abs, to generate downward force as you pull down on the cables attached to the SkiErg’s resistance fan.

The minimal emphasis the SkiErg places on your lower body makes it a great cardio machine for those who might be suffering from lower-body injuries, preventing them from running or pedaling a bike. Plus, it can have the same, if not greater impact, as you can expect to burn an impressive 12 calories per minute as you blast it out on the SkiErg.

Although blasting away at the SkiErg for a solid 20 minutes can become a little tedious, so we recommend incorporating it into a superset workout. Start by smashing the SkiErg for 2 minutes to get your heart rate pumping, then step away from the machine and do 10 burpees, 10 mountain climbers, 10 press-ups, 10 squat-jumps. Complete this circuit 4 to 6 times per workout with a 30-second rest between each set.

The Spinning Bike

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Get your heart pumping and start burning calories on the spin bike.

Personally, spinning bikes are one of my favorite pieces of equipment in the gym. After a big leg workout, I sometimes like to hop on the bike to kill my legs off even more or just loosen them up a bit.

But to get the most out of a spin bike, you should think about attending a spinning class. Spinning classes are one of the most fun and quickest ways to burn calories in the gym. And with the rise of online spinning classes like Peloton, if you have a stationary bike at home, you don’t even need to go to the gym to burn those calories.

One downside of the spinning bike is that it is not a full-body workout like its air bike namesake. Working out only your lower body, the spinning bike is limited in the muscle groups you can work out but is very diverse in the different training sessions you can complete on it. For example, you can blast out a HIIT workout, go for a long bike ride, or turn up the resistance and carry out some resistance training.

Ultimately, a leisurely hour-long ride will burn about 256 calories, whereas a pretty intense spinning class can burn up around 700 calories.

The Verdict

Although we have identified the top five cardio machines for burning calories in the gym, our best advice to burn the most calories is to not stick to just one workout or machine.

Getting fit and healthy requires a lot of motivation, and if you do the same workouts repeatedly, you will quickly become bored and struggle to find the drive to come back to the gym.

Use all of the machines on this list and switch things up as much as possible. One day, do a full-body workout and the next day, focus on training your legs with the spin bike or your upper body on the SkiErg.

Lastly, our final tip is to make sure you warm up before starting any workout, particularly the high-intensity workouts you’ll complete to burn all those calories.

As you work towards your goal of becoming fitter and healthier, the last thing you want is to pull or strain a muscle after diving headfirst into a high-intensity spinning workout. That setback will put you back for weeks, maybe months, in your quest to get healthy.

Warm up properly, try a variety of different exercises, train regularly, and watch as you start shedding calories in no time.

Jessica Carter
Jessica Carter
Jessica is an AFLCA certified personal trainer and holds a Masters degree in physical therapy from the University of British Columbia. She has been working in the field for 5 years and writes as a freelance about all things fitness related.