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I get asked a lot “Coop, what’s the best cardio machine and the best home gym equipment for my home gym?” Well readers, I personally think that’s a very loaded question. There are so many different kinds of cardio machines – rowers, elliptical machines, motorized treadmills, non-motorized treadmills, air bikes, exercise bikes, and ski machines. It would be almost impossible for me to pick just one overarching best cardio machine because each one does something different. I picked my top 12 best cardio machines to give you a variety of options no matter what you are looking for. I’ve tested tons of equipment and always strive to give you high-quality and honest reviews. I know that there are a lot of options out there and it can get confusing to decide what’s best for you. I’m here to help you figure out what’s optimal for your budget, space, and wants.
My Picks for Best Cardio Machines
- Best Treadmill: NordicTrack Commercial 1750
- Best Elliptical Under $1000: Sole E25 Elliptical
- Best Treadmill Under $1000: Sole F63 Treadmill
- Coop’s Favorite: Concept 2 Ski Erg
- Best Portable Cardio Machine: Echelon Stride Auto-Fold Connected Treadmill
- Best Value Cardio Machine: Titan Fitness Fan Bike
- Best Non-Motorized Treadmill: TrueForm Trainer
- Best Compact Elliptical: Bowflex MaxTrainer M6
- Best Air Bike: Rogue Echo Bike
- Best Exercise Bike for the Money: Schwinn IC4 Indoor Cycling Bike
- Best Luxury Cardio Machine: Hydrow Rower
- Best Rowing Machine: Concept 2 Model D Rower
Best Treadmill: NordicTrack Commercial 1750
Your Commercial 1750 features the all new Quiet Drive Incline Tech. Experience a better workout experience with technology that realistically mirrors the terrain you're running on. Our Runners Flexâ„¢ cushioning allows you to customize your workout with a softer surface or a harder surface that mimics the feel of the road. iFit workouts incorporate Automatic Trainer Control, which allows your trainer to digitally adjust your incline, decline, and speed for you.
Good for: People who want interactive programming with versatility
My Favorite Things:
- Free one year trial of iFit with purchase of treadmill
- Interactive programming includes running, yoga, strength training and more.
- Features incline and decline training
- Heavy machine at 339 pounds
- Large footprint: 81.25” L x 39.25” W x 62.75” H
- Requires an electrical outlet to work
At just under $2,000, the NordicTrack Commercial 1750 treadmill isn’t exactly a budget option, but it does have killer interactive programming. With the purchase of the 1750, you get a free 1-year subscription to iFit.
iFit has some of my favorite interactive programming, right up there with Peloton. There are hundreds of classes and you get to utilize all of them with the subscription. Besides running or walking, there are yoga, stretching, strength, HIIT, and hill workouts to do. Once your free year is up, you can continue with a family iFit membership for $39 per month or $396 per year.
Something I really like about this treadmill is the incline/decline features. The 1750 can go on a -3% decline or up to a 15% incline. I like the option to be able to simulate walking or running uphill and downhill. This is a nice touch you won’t find on a budget treadmill.
When doing a workout with iFit, you’ll be able to view your stats on the gleaming 10-inch touchscreen. The picture quality is nice and I like being able to see information about my distance, heart rate, calories burned, speed, and time elapsed. There is also little to no shaking on this tread when running, so I would recommend it for serious runners.
I wouldn’t recommend this treadmill if you’re tight on space. The 1750 has a large footprint and is heavy at 339 pounds. You’ll also need to make sure you’re near an electrical outlet since it needs to be plugged in to work. I also wouldn’t suggest the Commercial 1750 to those who don’t want to pay additional money for interactive programming. Without iFit, there are only a few free built-in workouts you can do.
For more on this machine, read my full NordicTrack Commercial 1750 review.
Best Elliptical Under $1,000: Sole E25 Elliptical
Best Elliptical Under $1,000
The SOLE E25 Elliptical provides effective workouts through its use of comfort and natural feel. The quiet front drive system, inward foot pedal design, and heavy duty steel frame all create a smooth, effective workout. In addition to the challenging workout programs, the E25 also now includes blue tooth audio and technology.
Good for: People who want incline training on a budget
My Favorite Things:
- Budget friendly and under $1,000
- Lifetime warranty on the frame
- User capacity of up to 350 pounds
- Unclear instructions for assembly
- Pedals and stride length don’t adjust
- Large footprint at 71” H x 70” L x 24” W
The Sole E25 elliptical is under $1,000 and is a great value cardio option. I love the user capacity of over 350 pounds, which is above the industry standard of 300. The E25 also has a built-in cooling fan, water bottle holder, speakers, and headphone plus music plug-ins on the dashboard.
Once I actually got on this elliptical for a workout, I enjoyed myself. This is a quiet machine, and a great option for parents who want to get a workout in before their kid wakes up. It is on the larger side, so you’ll need a dedicated workout space to use it. If you’re in an apartment or another small space, I don’t think this is your best option.
If you’re interested in tracking your heart rate while working out, you can utilize the monitor that is in the handlebars or use the included strap. This is a great extra that I’m glad Sole included with the E25.
There are no included floor stabilizers, so the E25 moves ever so slightly when in use. It was definitely not major, but in the future I’d love to see Sole include this.
The assembly was very difficult and the instructions were unclear. I’d really recommend getting a professional to assemble this if you can. There were so many steps and not enough directions on what to do first.
Even more details are over on my Sole E25 review.
Best Treadmill Under $1000: Sole F63 Treadmill
Best Treadmill Under $1000
Named "Best in its Price Range" by Fit Rated, Run Reviews, Treadmill Reviews, and many others. Easy Assist Folding Deck Design makes storing your treadmill easy and convenient. High-end rollers create a static free motion leading to a long lifespan. Smoothest treadmill when making adjustments mid-workout. LCD screen provides real-time statistics to monitor progress towards goals
Good for: People who want an affordable treadmill that folds.
My Favorite Things:
- Under $1,000
- Foldable and able to be stored
- Lifetime warranty on frame and motor
- 2-ply belt
- No decline feature
- Shakes slightly with heavy running
- No interactive programming
For under $1,000, the Sole F63 impressed me with its lifetime frame and motor warranty plus overall durable construction and believe is one of the best treadmills. There are a variety of nice conveniences that make this treadmill a great deal – two cooling fans, two speakers, an included wireless heart rate strap, device holder, and a jack to connect your phone to the speakers to play music.
With a user capacity of 325 pounds, this treadmill is hitting well above the industry standard of 250 pounds. This makes the F63 a more inclusive option for a variety of people. I also found the general setup to be very user-friendly and a good option for beginners. You just plug the treadmill into the wall, make sure the safety key is in place, and start one of 10 pre-programmed workouts.
I like that the motor is 3.0 CHP, which is very solid for the price. This treadmill can handle running, but be aware that you may experience some slight shaking with intense cardio. I feel like for the price, this was to be expected.
The F63 has a pretty standard sized running deck at 20″ X 60″, but I like how cushioned it feels. Sole claims that the deck “reduces impact to joints by 40%.” I can’t verify if this is true but, it does feel nicer than an average treadmill.
The lack of interactive programming can be a con for some people, but if you like doing your own workouts, you probably won’t miss it. I can go either way. If the programming is solid, I’m interested. Otherwise, I prefer to do my own interval training and just need a piece of gym equipment that will support that.
Check out my full Sole F63 Treadmill review.
Coop’s Favorite: Concept 2 SkiErg
The Concept 2 SkiErg is an American-made, precision engineered Nordic skiing machine from the makers of the industry’s most trusted indoor rowers. Adapting key rowing machine elements like flywheel resistance and a state-of-the-art PM5 Performance Monitor, the SkiErg turns the athlete’s orientation vertical, simulating the movements of real cross-country skiing with both double-pole and classic alternating arm technique. These movements offer one of the most challenging strength and endurance tests available in a fitness machine, targeting the legs, arms, and core for a full body workout adaptable to any athlete’s size and skill level. Customers can elect to order the Concept 2 SkiErg as a single wall-mounted unit or with the inclusion of a specially designed floor stand for easy set-up and portability in any training space.
Good for: Serious athletes that want a different way to get cardio.
My Favorite Things:
- Strapless handles with texture that doesn’t soak up sweat
- Durable and well-built monitor
- High-strength cords provide options for different pulling methods
- Can be free-standing or wall-mounted
- Geared more towards serious athletes
- Would like to see additional handle options
- Would like to see more pulleys
Let me be clear – I don’t think the Concept 2 SkiErg is the best cardio machine for most people. However, it is my personal favorite. It provides a challenging workout that engages a variety of muscle groups. Also, it’s used in the CrossFit Games, so it’s just a badass machine to have in your garage.
The Concept 2 SkiErg is supposed to simulate Nordic skiing, which essentially translates to me pretending I’m in the winter Olympics multiple times a week. It sure does feel like you’re doing an Olympic sport since you have to engage your core, arms, and legs to properly use it.
If you purchase the wall-mounted version of the Concept 2 SkiErg, it’ll run you just under $800. If you also want to purchase the floor stand, it’s an additional $180. I personally would recommend purchasing the floor stand as well because it gives you more options as to where you can put the SkiErg.
Before I used the SkiErg, I was worried my hands might slip due to sweat when using the handles but luckily Concept 2 thought of everything. The texture of the handles seems to prevent sweat from penetrating the material which helps improve your grip.
The monitor is an awesome tool to track your progress and keep you accountable. It certainly doesn’t let you overestimate your workout. It tracks things like calories/hour, projected time, plus has buttons to view the menu, display, and units.
Read my full Concept 2 SkiErg review.
Best Portable Cardio Machine: Echelon Stride Auto-Fold Connected Treadmill
Best Portable Cardio Machine
Good for: People who have limited space but still want a great cardio workout.
My Favorite Things:
- Folds into a completely vertical position
- Small footprint is good for small spaces (69.3” L x 31” W x 49.2” H)
- Goes up to 12 mph with an incline of 10%
- Motor has 1.75 continuous horsepower
- 1 year limited warranty
- Basic display
Plenty of people want cardio machines in theirhome gym, but space can often be an issue. One of the main reasons I like the Echelon Stride Auto-Fold Connected Treadmill is its ability to fold and be moved easily. I especially love the auto-folding functionality that this treadmill provides. Some treadmills claim to be foldable but the Echelon Stride can actually fold to an astonishing 10.25 inches in depth. It is also only 156 pounds, and can be stored if you’re tight on space.
I love that the treadmill essentially comes pre-assembled. The hardest part was getting the well-wrapped box open. Otherwise, I was really pleasantly surprised by the user-friendly nature of the Stride – I got the box open, tread “assembled”, and plugged into the wall in 10 minutes.
Echelon has its own dynamic programming subscription that you can pair with the Stride called Echelon Fit. For $39.99 per month or $33.33 per month for a year, you get access to a variety of classes – some include the bike and others like yoga or kickboxing require no equipment. I like that there are options to do live classes (like Peloton), on-demand classes, and compete with friends and family who also use the Echelon Fit app.
Keep in mind you also have to utilize your own tablet or phone because the Stride doesn’t have a built-in touchscreen. The LED display shows stats like time, incline, calorie burn, distance, and pulse while you workout. I think this gets the job done but I would prefer a touchscreen.
With a 1.75 continuous power motor, the under $1,300 Echelon Stride is ideal for walkers and joggers, but not quite for a serious runner. Generally speaking, you want a motor of at least 3.0 continuous power to do sprinting intervals or vigorous running. I’m not a huge runner myself so it isn’t a deal breaker for me, but it is definitely something to be aware of.
For more on this treadmill, check out my full Echelon Stride review.
Best Value Cardio Machine: Titan Fitness Fan Bike
Best Value Cardio Machine
The Titan Fitness® Fan Bike is bigger and brawnier made with 111-pounds of heavy-gauge steel to help take your workout to the next level. This bike is integrated with sealed cartridge bearings in every pivot, reinforced pedals, and cranks, and is fashioned around a heavy-duty steel frame with a powder-coated finish. Additionally, the Fan Bike features a high contrast LCD console tailored to fit your specific goals. From endurance and stamina training to HIIT and Tabata — choose from a range of interval training programs for a total body workout. This Fan Bike’s compact design makes it easy to use anywhere and with durable 10-inch turf tires, moving this bike is easy across any terrain. Plus, it’s loaded with all the extras that come standard: fan guard, water bottle holder, phone holder, and a built-in back handle for easy maneuverability.
Good for: People looking for a cheaper air bike with thoughtful features.
My Favorite Things:
- Under $650
- Made with heavy-duty steel
- 350 pound weight limit
- Has turf tires and knurled back handle for easy maneuvering
- Monitor that isn’t intuitive
- Chain-drive system requires more maintenance over time
- Small buttons on monitor
The Titan Fitness Fan Bike is under $650 and has a variety of extras that make this a great choice for people looking for a budget cardio machine. This bike comes with a phone holder, fan guard, and water bottle holder for the users convenience.
The construction of the bike is solid and made of durable steel. It has a user capacity of 350 pounds. I appreciate the little details Titan added such as the knurled handle and turf tires to make it easier to move around within my garage. You can also easily wheel the bike into your driveway, like I do, and workout since it is user powered and doesn’t need to be plugged into the wall.
Similar to the Assault Air Bike, the Titan Fitness Fan Bike has a chain drive system. This is probably very familiar to you if you’re someone who enjoys CrossFit workouts. The noisy chain drive system does require more maintenance over time because it has to be lubed and greased properly to work its best.
I’m not a huge fan of the monitor. It seemed to glitch occasionally and I found the buttons to be too small for my personal liking. I would definitely want to see Titan improve this feature in the future.
Check out my Titan Fan Bike review.
Best Non-Motorized Treadmill: TrueForm Trainer
Best Non-Motorized Treadmill
TRUEFORM Trainer is lighter weight and easier to use. The Trainer is an affordable, rugged, quality built solution for any commercial training facility or home gym. The included display keeps you informed on your pace, speed, distance, time. The display is compatible with Polar heart rate monitors. An optional Bluetooth display is available. TRUEFORM is the industry leading curved non-motorized treadmill. It's the least steep curve on the market, which promotes good form and allows you to easily control your speed. TRUEFORM is the most natural running surface when compared to running outdoors. The proprietary Responsive Belt Technology (RBT), reacts to every subtly in your movement; balance, posture, hip position, foot strike and more. The TRUEFORM requires no power. All the power comes from you, responding to your pace allowing you to go from a walk to a jog, to a sprint, to a stop. Instantly. You will feel when your body is not in the optimal position for running or walking. Long term use of the TRUEFORM will promote better movement patters improving overall health and wellness. TRUEFORM is proven to reduce impact stress which reduces the risk of injury. The simple design of this unique, non-motorized treadmill is also what makes it one of the most effective devices for developing proper running technique. Unlike standard electric treadmills, the TrueForm Runner from features an innovative curved deck that is controlled 100% by the movements and force of the user. There are no on/off switches or complex buttons and settings to worry about. It’s a manually operated treadmill that helps train and reward technically-sound posture, balance, and cadence. Set your own limits or push right past them.
Good for: People who want a durable treadmill that will help improve their form.
My Favorite Things:
- Well-designed treadmill to help refine running form
- Smooth belt
- Expensive, but worth the money
- Made with plastic materials
- Basic monitor
- Made in Korea vs. the TrueForm Runner made in the US
Non-motorized treadmills are awesome tools for correcting running form issues and controlling your own pace. I use the TrueForm Trainer for both working on dynamics as well as for things like sprinting intervals.
The belt is made of rubber and helps your shoes get a good grip on the deck. The way the treadmill dips helps you be mindful of striking mid-foot when running. I like how smoothly the belt moves when in use. I don’t anticipate having to do much maintenance on the belt or deck, which is much more than I can say about any motorized treadmill I’ve ever owned.
At almost $3,000, the TrueForm Trainer is surprisingly the budget alternative to the $5,000 TrueForm Runner. The TrueForm Runner is essentially bomb proof. Okay, not really, but if the world was to end, I firmly believe cockroaches and all TrueForm Runners would be left unscathed.
The TrueForm Trainer has a metal base, but has plastic pieces that I normally would feel uneasy about. However, since the base is metal, I feel good recommending this piece durability wise for a home gym owner.
The monitor is extremely simple. You won’t find a touch screen or any interactive programming but that’s probably not why you want a non-motorized treadmill. The only stats you’ll see are speed and distance traveled.
To get a deeper look at this machine, check out my TrueForm Trainer review.
Best Compact Elliptical: Bowflex MaxTrainer M6
Best Compact Elliptical
The Bowflex Max Trainer delivers full-throttle, high-intensity cardio that progressively gets harder as you get stronger. Challenge yourself with addictive, fast-paced, HIIT-style workouts that skyrocket your heart rate and propel you into the best shape of your life.
Good for: People with a small amount of space who still want a heart pumping cardio machine.
My Favorite Things:
- Smaller footprint at 46” L x 26” W x 64.2” H
- 16 levels of resistance
- 6-month free trial of JRNY programming
- Bluetooth heart rate compatible
- Assembly instruction are all pictures with no words
- Basic monitor
- Almost $1,700
With a footprint of just 46” L x 26” W x 64.2” H, the Bowflex MaxTrainer M6 requires only half of the space of a traditional treadmill. This makes it ideal for small spaces or compact home gym setups. It feels more like a stair climber (which isn’t a bad thing!) than a traditional elliptical due to the condensed size. Instead of your legs moving in a gliding pattern, like they do on typical ellipticals, they move much more in an up and down pattern. This lit up my quads and glutes much more than a regular, commercial-gym style elliptical would.
I love that the built-in workouts are as short as 4 minutes. I didn’t think I could get much of a workout in with a few spare minutes, but the MaxTrainer M6 really proved me wrong. By the end of a quick session, my quads were on fire and I was breathless. I think this is a good option for people who are tight on time and only have a few minutes here and there to workout and this is why, in my opinion, is one of the best ellipticals.
It isn’t exactly a light machine at 148 pounds, but there are included transport rollers to assist with moving the elliptical. When you purchase the M6, you get a free 6-month trial of JRNY programming. After the trial is up, JRNY is $19.99 per month if you want to continue using it.
The max user weight is 300 pounds, which is the industry standard. The display is nice and you’re able to control your resistance level, specific program, and start plus stop the machine. You can also view your burn rate to show how many calories you’re burning each minute. However, there is not a touchscreen monitor to view the programming on. You’ll have to view JRNY on your phone or tablet and stick it in the media stand.
I found the actual assembly to be kind of difficult. Bowflex recommends having another person to help you, but I thought I could handle it on my own. I was able to do it single handedly but it took me longer than it should have. The instructions didn’t help the process as they were just picture diagrams without words. The at home assembly is under $200, and I would’ve just sucked it up and paid it if I had known the frustration that would come along with constructing it myself.
For more on this machine, check out my full Bowflex M6 review.
Best Air Bike: Rogue Echo Bike
Best Air Bike
The Rogue Echo Bike combines heavy-duty steel, precision engineering, and convenient customization to forge a stronger, sturdier fan bike. Overbuilt for a Smoother Ride This overbuilt 127LB, 350LB weight limit unit provides a rock solid foundation for max output bursts, while still offering easy portability around the gym via a set of 1" polyurethane front wheels. A quiet, belt-driven steel fan blade produces a smooth, consistent ride, while a high-contrast, battery-powered LCD console allows athletes to track intervals, distance, calories burned, heart rate, and more. Rogue Fitness (Rogue) warrants that the ECHO Bike (Product) shall be free from defect in material and workmanship for a period of two years from the date of purchase when the product is used under normal uses and conditions and as recommended in the User Guide. Weighing in at 127LB, 350LB weight limit, the Echo Bike is not the wobbling breed of exercise bike. Its reinforced steel construction gives it the rigidity and balance to help eliminate sways and bumps during even max output bursts, and the fan’s steady response delivers a uniquely consistent, smooth riding experience. For added stability, we’ve included rubber leveling feet under each base tube. These feet adapt to your flooring and provide added “stick,” helping to level the bike even if it’s not on a level surface. The mounted LCD console measures 6.375" x 6.375" and features a crystal clear, high contrast display. Athletes can select or create a wide range of modes, including Intervals (20/10, 10/20 or a custom Work/Rest interval), Target (choose a goal Time, Distance or Calories and the console will count down based on your selection), and Heart Rate Tracking (please note that a heart rate transmitter is required to send data, but is not included). The console runs on two AA batteries, which are included. The Echo Bike is built with a range of durable steel tubing (2x3", 1.25x3", and 1.625x3.125" steel finished in a texture black powdercoat. The adjustable padded seat locks into 8 different height settings and 5 front-to-back settings, and the 1.5” diameter rubber grip handles are welded directly to the bike’s arms for added rigidity. A steel step plate is provided along with knurled 4.5" long rotating foot pegs and rubber-tread pedals. The fan itself is a belt-driven, precision steel blade. Assembly is required to set-up the Echo Bike, but all necessary tools and black hardware are included standard with your order, along with easy step-by-step guidelines. While the fully constructed bike is a beast, we’ve included a set of 1" wide polyurethane wheels at the front of the unit, allowing it to be rolled around the gym or stored out of the way with ease. Additional Specifications: Patent Pending Design Quality Steel Construction for Dependable Stability Height: 52.75" (to top of handles) Length: 58.875" (overall with seat in position furthest from fan cage) Width: 29.875" (at handles - widest point) Footprint: 44.5" x 23.75" LCD Console Display (Batteries Included) with customizable modes Belt Driven Steel Fan Adjustable Seat with 8 height and 5 front/back settings 1.5” diameter rubber grip handles Rubber-tread Pedals Texture Black powdercoat finish Rubber Leveling Feet All Hardware & Assembly Tools Included Weight: 127LB, 350LB weight limit
Good for: People that want a durable and long-lasting air bike
My Favorite Things:
- Relatively quiet belt-drive system
- Sturdy and made almost entirely of metal
- Requires little to no maintenance
- Lack of multiple grip options
- Basic LCD monitor
- 2-year warranty
I’ve had the Rogue Echo Bike in my personal training gym for almost two years. During that time, tons of people of various weights have used and abused it. However, it looks the same as the day I got it. Even better, I haven’t done any maintenance on it and it runs perfectly fine. Plus, CrossFit just announced that the Echo Bike has replaced the Assault Bike as the official machine of pain for the sport. So if you do CrossFit, having an Echo Bike around is a good idea.
The under $800 Echo Bike has a belt-drive system versus a chain-drive system so it is a lot quieter than other air bikes. I like the knurled pegs for your feet if you want to only use your upper body.
This is a super durable bike made of metal. At almost 150 pounds, it’s a hefty weight too. You can expect to use it and not worry about it shaking or moving when in use.
I like the sleek black-powder coat that Rogue chose for the Echo. It blends in well in a variety of home and garage gym setups and oozes cool. I would recommend this air bike to pretty much anyone looking for a long-lasting piece of cardio equipment. Due to its longevity, this bike is one of the best air bikes out of these in my opinion.
I would like to see multiple grip options on the bike, but that is more of a personal preference. The monitor is pretty basic and shows things like your heart rate, calories burned, intervals, and targets you want to hit.
Check out my full Rogue Echo Bike review.
Best Exercise Bike for the Money: Schwinn IC4 Indoor Cycling Bike
Best Exercise Bike for the Money
Designed to work with the Peloton® and Zwift® apps, allowing you to stream thousands of classes directly into your home and compete against others in a virtual world that motivates you at every mile. Access the Explore the Worldâ„¢ app and digitally immerse yourself in a world of virtual races, exotic locales, and stunning trails from around the globe. Smooth, magnetic resistance. Full color backlit LCD display. Media rack. Slim, comfortable Bluetooth® LE (BLE) heart rate armband. 3 lb. dumbbells with easy-reach cradles. USB charging station
Good for: People who want a cheaper indoor cycling alternative to a Peloton.
My Favorite Things:
- Under $1,000
- Connects to Peloton and Zwift apps
- 100 levels of resistance
- Sturdy and doesn’t shake while exercising
- LCD display is bare bones
- Android users may notice a lag in metrics shown
- Parts note clearly labeled to help with assembly
For under $1,000, the Schwinn IC4 is a solid purchase and one of the best exercise bikes if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to Peloton. The flywheel on the IC4 is a hearty 40 pounds, which is slightly bigger than the 38 pound one found on the Peloton bike. This means the ride will be smoother because you can increase your momentum easier.
Extras-wise, the IC4 does have dual water bottle holders, 3-pound dumbbells with holders, and a device holder. These are all nice additions for a bike in its price range.
Although there is not an included touchscreen to view programming on, you can put your own phone/tablet in the device holder. I really like that you can specifically hook up apps like Peloton or Zwift to the bike in order to keep track of your cadence. You can get the Peloton experience for a fraction of the price.
The IC4 is only 106 pounds, so it is easy to move with the attached wheels. I appreciate the dual sided pedals – one side has a place to clip in cycling shoes and the other side is caged for sneakers. I don’t personally want to have to buy separate shoes (like you have to do with a Peloton), so I like that there are both options present.
The LCD monitor is small and basic. It displays a few metrics but isn’t exactly knocking it down in the technology department. You do get an included heart rate monitor with the purchase of the IC4, which I think is a nice add if you don’t already have a wearable fitness tracker.
My full Schwinn IC4 review gives even more information on this bike.
Best Luxury Cardio Machine: Hydrow Rower
Best Luxury Cardio Machine
We completely re-engineered the rowing machine with patented technology, making each stroke feel like you're out on the water. Then, we built an immersive experience around it. The Hydrow was designed from the ground up. While the design team wanted to create a unique machine that was elegant and sophisticated for the home, it was just as important to engineer a machine that was unmatched in performance and built to last. Hydrow's brilliant 22" touchscreen display and impressive front-facing speakers bring the river to your living room, captivating you from the moment you sit in its seat. The Hydrow's patented drag mechanism is electromagnetic and computer-controlled. Its distinctive components make it the closest thing to being on the water.
Good for: People who want a well-designed luxury piece of cardio equipment.
My Favorite Things:
- Stellar interactive programming
- Sleek design you won’t mind leaving out
- Virtually silent due to the electromagnetic resistance
- Delivers low-impact cardio
- Expensive starting at $2,500
- Heavy and not very easy to move
- Larger machine
I don’t say this often, but the Hydrow Rower is a beautiful piece of cardio equipment. The lines are sleek, and the 22-inch touchscreen adds to the air of luxury surrounding this rower. Starting at $2,500 and going up from there, this isn’t a cheap option. However, if you can afford it, it’s really fun to use and delivers a full-body workout that uses a variety of muscle groups.
Hydrow has interactive programming coming in at an extra $456 per year. This is more than a year membership with iFit, but you do get over 2,000+ workout to choose from. I like that rowing is just a part of the digital experience, and you can do yoga, strength training, and pilates classes as well.
The graphics for the classes are high-definition and you can view stats like distance, calories burned, time remaining, and class rank when competing with other Hydrow users.
With a weight capacity of 375 pounds, the Hydrow can give a variety of users a high intensity, low-impact workout. The electro-magnetic resistance is quiet and smooth compared to air-resistance that a lot of other rowers use.
I like that the foot beds can be adjusted depending on the person using the rowing machine. The grips are also ergonomically friendly because they’re designed to give you a comfortable place to hold.
Best Rowing Machine: Concept 2 Model D Rower
Best Rowing Machine
Features an advanced PM5 Performance Monitor, improved ergonomically designed handles, adjustable foot-rests, and a flywheel designed for smooth movement with minimal noise. The Model D has a comfortable 14" (seat) height with an aluminum I-beam monorail and stainless steel track for a consistent back-and-forth slide. When done training, you can quickly break down the rower into two segments for storage or use the included caster wheels for easy transport. Rogue offers an optional space saving wall hanger. The Concept 2 Rower provides one of the more comprehensive, full-body workouts of any fitness machine. Engineered to last a lifetime, it's low impact enough for use in physical rehabilitation centers, and intensive enough to be used by the world's fittest athletes. The Concept 2 uses air resistance generated by the fanned flywheel. To adjust how much air enters the flywheel housing on each stroke, the Model D Rower includes a unique spiral damper adjustable from a setting of 1 to 10. This functions much like the gears on a bike, affecting how much energy will be needed to accelerate from one stroke to the next. 10 allows in the most air for more wind resistance. For most people the recommended settings is from 3-5. The PM5 is another leap forward in what a performance monitor can do. Track distance, speed, pace, calories burned, and watts—all presented on a clear, backlit display. Connects to wireless heart rate monitors and via bluetooth to the optional ErgData app to track detailed workout data. The monitor itself can be custom positioned using the adjustable monitor arm. USB flash drive compatible and built for machine-to-machine racing. Designed to last, the Concept 2 rowing machines offer a comprehensive fully transferable warranty. From home gyms, to Olympic training centers, to major professional sports teams, Concept 2 has been put to the test time and again. The Concept 2 Rower includes everything you need for a quick set-up. The front legs are installed using 8 screws, and clear, concise instructions are included. Your machine will be up and ready to use within 20-30 minutes of opening the box. Includes PM5 Performance Monitor** Flywheel design for smooth feel, minimal noise Spiral Damper with adjustable 1-10 settings Ergonomic handle promotes natural arm and hand position. 14" (seat) moves smoothly on aluminum rail / stainless steel track Adjustable monitor arm and simple two-part separation for compact storage Flexfoot footrests adjust for quick and easy sizing Easy assembly with tools and illustrated instructions included Caster wheels for mobility
Good for: A serious rower who needs durability and quality.
My Favorite Things:
- Commercial grade and very durable
- Smooth catch, drive, and finish motion
- Variable resistance
- Simple monitor
- Considered more expensive for a rowing machine
- No interactive programming
Rowing is one of the best cardiovascular activities because you’re engaging all parts of your upper and lower body including your hamstrings, quads, core, lats, and glutes. The Concept 2 Model D Rower is a favorite amongst serious rowers because it is commercial grade, meaning it is super sturdy and durable. The $1,000 price tag reflects the high-quality.
The chain is very smooth and makes for a fluid motion when rowing. I like the seat and found it to be ergonomically sound for a long rowing session. I didn’t know this but apparently some serious rowers will do so barefoot. The Concept 2 Model D is well suited for this because the footrests are flexible.
Unlike the Hydrow, the Concept 2 Model D has a more traditional air-resistance style to engage the flywheel. Essentially, this rower allows you to row as hard as you want/can and the flywheel will reflect that with the resistance. However, you can adjust the damper setting to make it feel slower or faster depending on your preference.
The performance monitor breaks down your workouts into metrics like split speed, watts, calories, and distance. This is great if you’re interested in seeing a breakdown of stats for your workout. You won’t find a flashy screen or compatible interactive programming with the Model D rower. I would love to see classes or programming rolled out in the future for this machine.
Get an even deeper look at this rower over at my Concept 2 Model D Rower review.
Benefits of Cardio Machines
There are tons of benefits as to why you should do cardio. Here are a few of my reasons:
- Can deliver an entire body workout with one piece of equipment
- Makes your heart healthier
- “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands, they just don’t.” Okay sorry, Mean Girls reference. Elle Woods is right though, doing exercises like cardio do give you endorphins!
- Can decrease body mass
- It can be fun (That’s how I feel about the Ski Erg at least)
How to Find the Best Cardio Machine
Even with me kindly narrowing down the dizzying amount of cardio machines for you (you’re welcome), you still might not be 100% sure which one of the 12 you want to purchase. Here are some things to consider:
Do you like having interactive programming with your cardio machine, or do you prefer to do your own thing? This is an important question to ask yourself because some of the machines are only worth their price tag if you want to utilize the compatible programming. Other machines may be a better buy for you (like the Concept 2 Model D) if you prefer doing your own thing versus wanting to follow along with a class (like you would get with the Hydrow).
The prices between the 12 cardio machines on this list vary greatly between $600-$4,000. I would recommend figuring out what you can afford or see if the piece of equipment you really want has a financing option available.
If your goal is to find a treadmill that can support your sprinting intervals, don’t pick a treadmill with a motor weaker than 3.0 chp. Make sure you have a clear idea in mind with what you hope to achieve with your new cardio machine.
“Measure twice, cut once,” as the old saying goes. In this case, measure twice, and buy once. Make sure you know how much space you have to work with in your home before buying a treadmill, stair stepper, or stationary bike that has a bigger footprint than you can handle.
If you hate using the stairmaster or dread riding recumbent bikes, don’t buy them! That seems obvious, but I’ve seen people buy cardio equipment that they knew they didn’t enjoy using and ended up having an expensive place to throw things on top of in their garage. Try out a variety of cardio equipment and decide what seems like the best and most enjoyable method for you. You may be lucky enough to find something you love as much as I love my Ski Erg.
Best Cardio Machine FAQs
Which cardio machine burns the most fat?
All cardio machines can burn calories, which can lead to a decrease in fat. Exercise of any kind should be paired with optimal nutrition to see the best results for fat burn and weight loss.
Is it OK to do cardio every day?
The answer to this question depends on what you want to get out of your training and your current fitness level. Someone who wants to lose weight may do more cardio versus someone looking to make or keep gains. Check out the article I did in collaboration with Jacob Penner, USA Weightlifting Level 1 Coach, NCSA Certified personal trainer, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. He gives insight into how much cardio you should do if you want to preserve muscle mass.
What are the best cardio machines for home?
Any of the cardio machines on this list would be great for a home or garage gym. I recommend measuring the space you would like to put your exercise machine in to see what the footprint will need to be. Make sure your piece of equipment supports your personal fitness goals.