Which Cardio Machines Burn the Most Calories?

Jessica Carter
Jessica Carter

Let’s face it, fitness can sometimes be a drag. 

There are times when we’d all rather be at home in our PJs watching Netflix. 

And I know in the daily stresses of life, it can also be hard to actually find the time to get to the gym, as people are so busy with work, family, and friends, that they get little time to do any exercise.

That’s why it’s important when you do get a spare hour in the gym to maximize the efficiency of your workout and use the best equipment for burning calories so you can get the most out of your time in the gym and start to see results quicker. 

Here are our top five best cardio machines and a couple of suggested workouts for each, to help you burn the most calories the quickest way possible.

The Rowing Machine

SereneLife Rowing Machine – Air and Magnetic Rowing Machine –...

There’s a reason why you never see a skinny rower. 

The greatest benefit of the rowing machine is that it is an all-in-one workout. Literally, a single rowing stroke will train 86% of the muscles in your body

Plus depending on what sort of workout you’re completing, the rowing machine can help you work on both your aerobic and anaerobic fitness. For example, you could use the rowing machine to row a long long distance for your cardio training, or you could up the resistance on the machine to work on your strength, and complete short blast intervals to increase your explosive power. 

For a 30 minute workout, a 185lb male can burn a whopping 311 calories on the rowing machine, making it one of the best pieces of equipment in the gym.

Rowing machines are excellent pieces of equipment for HIIT workouts, so to burn the most calories, set your rowing machines interval timer for 40 seconds of intense workout with a 20-second rest. Repeat these 40/20 repetitions 10 times, giving it everything you have during each 40-second interval.  

But remember to make sure you maintain good technique and posture on the rower, as, without good technique, you’ll struggle to burn any calories. Keep your back straight, drive with your legs, and pull the chain into your chest.

The Treadmill

NordicTrack Commercial Series Treadmills + 30-Day iFIT Family...

Why would you need to use the treadmill when you can just go out for a normal run? 

Sure, there’s nothing like getting outside in the fresh air and getting a few miles under your belt, but you could potentially be burning a lot more calories on the treadmill.

Firstly you can set your treadmill to keep you running at a constant pace, as opposed to slowing and speeding up inconsistently when you’re out on the roads. Running at a constant pace for a set period of time will inevitably help you smash those calories in the short period of time you have in the gym. 

Running for 30 minutes at 10 minutes per mile can help you burn a pretty impressive 270 calories. But how about if you add hills into that too? The great thing about the treadmill is the variety of interval workouts you can incorporate into your session, which will always burn calories faster than if you were just running. 

Set the treadmill up for a 30-minute run, and add on hill training settings to the workout. One of our favorite sessions is 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 setting, which sees the incline increase and decrease as you move through your workout.  

Plus why not take your Netflix to the gym and kill two birds with one stone, as you run and watch your favorite series at the same time!

The Air Bike

ASSAULTFITNESS Assault AirBike Classic, Black

Known colloquially by gymgoers as the “Devils Tricycle” the air bike is a nasty piece of work. 

Dissimilar from 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 a real arm killer and fat burner if used in the right way. Short blasts and regular intervals are the way to go with the air bike, which can shift 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, and it is certainly one of the best pieces of kit in the gym to help burn fat and shift the pounds. 

For a beginner’s workout push, pull, and cycle for as hard as you can for 30 seconds, try and 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 repetition for 3 rounds.


Concept2 SkiErg with PM5 Performance Monitor

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 little 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 peddling 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. Smash the SkiErg for 2 minutes to get your heart rate pumping, next 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

YOSUDA Indoor Cycling Bike Stationary - Cycle Bike with Ipad...

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

Personally, spinning bikes are one of my favorite pieces of equipment in the gym, and 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.

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The Verdict

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

Getting fit and healthy requires an awful lot of motivation, and if you’re doing the same workouts over and over again, you’re going to get very bored very quickly 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 you can. Do a full-body workout one day, and the next maybe focus on training your legs with the spin bike, or your upper body on the SkiErg the next. 

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

As you look to achieve your goal of becoming fitter and healthier, the last thing you want is to pull or strain a muscle after going headfirst into a high-intensity spinning workout. That will set you back weeks, perhaps months in your quest to get healthy. 

Warm-up properly, try a variety of different exercises, train regularly, and watch-on as you start to shed 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.