We鈥檒l always have a love/hate relationship with cardio. Sweating it out on the treadmill or elliptical can give you a major boost of endorphins, but it鈥檚 not always as exciting as taking a fun fitness class or getting outdoors. Don鈥檛 get us wrong 鈥 we know the stationary bike can be an amazing place to catch up on Netflix while you聽squeeze your workout in, but sometimes it can be tough to spend a whole half hour doing the exact same thing. That being said, when your schedule doesn鈥檛 allow for a class or you just want to聽get your exercise in solo, cardio machines are an awesome way to go. But which one should you use when you have so many options聽at the gym? Below, a few top fitness experts outline which ones to hop on,聽depending on your workout goals.

Young woman on rowing machine

1. Best for Building Muscle:聽鈥淭he rower and the stair stepper are two of my favorite cardio machines that offer great strength and cardiorespiratory endurance benefits,鈥 says聽Jessica Matthews, a senior advisor for health and fitness education for the American Council on Exercise. In the case of the rower, you鈥檙e using your legs, core, and arms to pull the rower handle toward you, which undoubtedly requires strength. If you want to get a little extra boost, pump up the resistance. With the stair stepper, you鈥檙e basically doing a ton of little step-ups, which fatigue and tone everything from your quads to your glutes, making it an amazing choice for strengthening your lower body.


2. Best for Increasing Endurance: If building endurance is your goal, you鈥檒l want to go for your favorite overall machine. 鈥淔rom a behavioral perspective, the best cardio machine聽is quite honestly the one that you actually enjoy using, because you鈥檒l聽be more likely to use it consistently long-term,鈥 explains Matthews. Basically, if you hate the treadmill, you鈥檙e not going to want to spend 45 minutes using聽it on a regular basis. Consistency is key for increasing endurance, so any machine you can enjoy being on for a longer period of time at least once a week is your best bet.

kettlebell workout gym header

3. Best for Getting Faster: Increasing your speed is usually accomplished with a combo of steady cardio work and high intensity interval training, AKA HIIT.聽Tyler Spraul, certified head trainer at Exercise.com, says, 鈥淭he 鈥榤anual鈥 treadmill should be your go-to for improving your sprint abilities because it鈥檚 actually your movement and force application that moves the treadmill.鈥 On a regular treadmill, you run to keep up with whatever speed you鈥檝e set the machine to, but on these manual versions (most gyms have one or two), you just go as fast as you possibly can, which ensures you鈥檙e making a maximum effort.

鈥淭o get better at sprinting, I鈥檇 recommend starting with a sprint that鈥檚 shorter in duration than your end goal,鈥 says Spraul. So if you want to improve your mile time, start with quarter-mile sprints. 鈥淢ake sure to do it at a very high intensity, though! Then rest enough to completely recover before sprinting聽again. Get in a few reps of this and you鈥檙e done,鈥 he says. 鈥淭hen you can slowly work to increase your total reps over time, while maintaining the same high-intensity level from start to finish.鈥


4. Best for聽Burning Fat: Experts say that for fat burning, the most important factor聽is how many calories you burn. Keep in mind that 鈥淭he more muscles that are used during a workout, the greater the number of calories burned,鈥 says Matthews. 鈥淚t may be valuable to consider using a rower or AirDyne bike, which provide full-body workouts, or even an elliptical because it has聽an upper-body component.鈥 (Photo via SoulCycle)

The bottom line here is that no matter what cardio machine you choose, it鈥檚 important that you actually enjoy the workout you鈥檙e doing so that you can commit to doing it regularly. While some machines are better than others for training for specific goals, the most important thing is that you鈥檙e getting in your workout and that you feel good about it. So go get sweaty!

Do you have a favorite cardio machine at your gym? Tell us what it is @BritandCo!聽

(Photos via Getty and SoulCycle)