The Best at Home Cardio Machines of 2021

The Best at Home Cardio Machines

Getting a great cardio workout at home will allow you to burn calories and improve the fitness of your heart and lungs, while also strengthening and toning the muscles of your lower body. There is certainly no shortage of home cardio fitness machinery on the market, so how can you sort out the best from the rest? In this article, I will identify the 10 best at-home cardio machines across all budgets and fitness levels.

A Quick Overview of the Top 3

Best Rowing Machine: Concept2 Model D (now called the RowErg)

  • Quality build
  • PM5 monitor
  • Smooth rowing action
  • Bluetooth compatible

Best Treadmill: Nordictrack C990

  • 32 workout programs
  • 15 levels of incline
  • 12 speeds
  • 60 x 22-inch running bed

Best Exercise Bike: Schwinn 130

  • Perimeter weighted flywheel
  • 22 workout programs
  • 20 resistance levels
  • Fully adjustable seat

Which Type of Cardio Machine Should You Buy?

Before we even get down to brands and models we need to think about which type of cardio machine you should invest in. There are at least 10 different types of cardio machines that are available for home gym use. The following have been shown by research and by real-life application to be the most effective.

Rowing Machine

The rowing machine is my favorite cardio machine because it works your upper as well as your lower body better than any other machine. It is also a better calorie burner when compared to other options such as running on the treadmill or walking on an elliptical. This exercise will strengthen and develop your lats, deltoids, biceps, and forearms of the upper body as well as your quads, hamstrings, and glutes of the lower body.

Treadmill

The treadmill offers the best ability of any cardio machine to monitor your workout in terms of your training speed, pulse rate, and calories burned. The benefit you get from a treadmill will depend upon the type of workout you do on it. When used for HIIT-style workouts, you can burn as many, if not more, calories than a rowing machine.

Exercise Bike

The exercise bike excels in terms of its joint friendliness and calorie-burning ability. There are a number of bike styles, including recumbent for people with lower back problems and spin cycles for intense HIIT style workouts.

Elliptical

An elliptical machine moves your lower body through a unique elliptical movement pattern which is less impacting on the joints and more glute-centric than a traditional stepper movement. You can get ellipticals with both fixed and moving arms. Go for one with moving arms, as it will allow you to bring your upper body into the movement. 

The 12 Best Home Cardio Machines:

Pros:

  • Quality build
  • PM5 monitor
  • Smooth rowing action
  • Bluetooth compatible

Cons:

  • Quite noisy

The Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine has been the most popular home use rowing machine in the world for more than a decade – and for good reason. Concept2 are the original makers of the rowing erg. The Model D is their most popular model and sells for around $1000. This is a very solid piece of equipment that features a nickel-plated chain that allows for a very natural pulling action.

The Concept 2 uses a large, semi-open fan to provide air resistance. A variable damper allows you to adjust the resistance level. The seat glide is very smooth on this machine. The handles are slightly curved to enhance their ergonomic design. The display monitor on this machine features Concept 2’s PM5 adjustable performance monitor, with advanced features built into it. Bluetooth capability is built into the monitor.

The Concept2 can be stored upright when your workout is over.

Note: The Concept2 Model D Rowing Machine is now called the RowErg.

2. Sole SR 500

Runner Up Rowing Machine

Sole SR 500

Pros:

  • Air + magnetic resistance
  • 12 programs
  • 16 resistance levels
  • Max user weight 250 lbs 

Cons:

  • Large footprint (94” x 18”)

The Sole SR500 makes use of a combination of air and magnetic resistance. The unique ‘A’ frame front design of this machine makes it very stable. You get 12 built-in training programs on this machine to suit the needs of a range of fitness abilities and training goals. There are 16 levels of smooth resistance on this rower. The max user weight is 250 pounds.

The Sole SR500 has a higher and slightly tilted seat. This makes it easier for people with lower back and joint issues to get on and off the machine. You also get a quality monitor that is backlit for ease of viewing in all light conditions. Your purchase also provides you with a chest strap and wireless receiver to give you accurate pulse monitoring.

This machine is a foldable design, making it great for people with limited space at home for their exercise gear. 

Pros:

  • 350-pound max weight
  • Fluid motion
  • Great price

Cons:

  • Noisy

The ProRower H20 Rx-750 Home Series rower is a water-based rowing machine that gives you a very close simulation to actually rowing on the water. This is a well-built machine, as attested to by the fact that it can take users up to 350 pounds in body weight. It has been ergonomically designed for efficient movement and, consequently, feels very natural when you row. 

The water tank of this rower is made from polycarbonate fiber and is fitted with an internal paddle system that ensures a close simulation of the way a paddle moves through the water. The monitor is functional, providing all of the diagnostics that exercisers need to know. 

This is a very well-priced water rower. While not as aesthetically appealing as the rowers from the WaterRower it will provide you with a near comparable rowing experience at a great price. 

Pros:

  • 32 workout programs
  • 15 levels of incline
  • 12 speeds
  • 60 x 22-inch running bed

Cons:

  • Limited warranty

The NordicTrack T Series Treadmill is our pick for the best value treadmill around the $1000 price range. It comes with 32 inbuilt workout programs to meet all of your cardio training needs. You also get 15 levels of auto adjustable incline and a dozen speed options. This treadmill is also iFit enabled. Of course, you will have to subscribe to iFit to benefit from its vast range of workout options.

The 7-inch backlit screen on the C990 features a quarter-mile digital race track along with diagnostic monitoring of your key training data. Three-inch speakers are also built into the console. The running track on this treadmill is 60 x 22 inches, which is extremely generous for a machine in this price range. The running bed is also very well cushioned to reduce your joint impact when exercising. A unique aspect is that when ordering your machine you can choose between either a road simulation track or an indoor track that provides a higher level of shock absorption deflection. 

Pros:

  • 9 workout programs
  • Tablet And phone holder
  • Foldable
  • Drop Soft system 

Cons:

  • Limited running bed size

Sunny Health And Fitness have established themselves as one of the most highly regarded producers of economical high-quality home fitness equipment in the world. It provides you with a 2.20 Peak horsepower motor that delivers a maximum speed of 9 miles per hour. You also get 3 adjustable incline options. The max user weight on this treadmill is 220 pounds.

The easy-to-use digital monitor on the SFT-44400 provides you with a running readout of your Speed, Time, Distance, Calories, and Pulse. There are 9 workout programs built into this treadmill. A phone and tablet holder allows you to safely use your entertainment device while exercising. This is a foldable machine. Sunny have added their soft drop folding system to make it easy to pack the unit away after your workout. 

Pros:

  • Perimeter weighted flywheel
  • 22 workout programs
  • 20 resistance levels
  • Fully adjustable seat

Cons:

  • Pedals are a little too far apart

The Schwinn 130 Upright packs a lot of impressive features into an even more impressive price point. You get a perimeter-weighted flywheel, fully adjustable comfort seating, and contoured handlebars, along with dual screens on the monitor. The Schwinn 130 pairs with the Schwinn app allowing you to download and analyze your training diagnostics. This is useful as it allows you to compare how you are improving in your pace, calorie burn and distance traveled from workout to workout.

This bike provides you with 22 different workout programs and 20 resistance levels, allowing it to be accessible by people of all fitness levels. That means that you are able to seamlessly adjust your training resistance very quickly, which makes this a great choice when you’re doing a burst or HIIT workout. The lowest resistance levels are very easy with the top levels proving challenging for all but the fittest of athletes.

This is a very quiet bike that doesn’t squeak or produce any other unusual noises. That makes it the ideal bike to have in your lounge as your exercising won’t annoy others in the same room who are watching TV.

The seat height on the Schwinn 130 is easily adjustable. However, you cannot adjust the horizontal position of the seat, so the distance between your torso and the handlebars is fixed. This may cause lower back discomfort if you are shorter than 5’2”. If you’re taller than 6’1” you will have difficulty getting a full, natural pedal revolution on this bike.

Pros:

  • 30-pound flywheel
  • Very affordable
  • Solid frame
  • Feet stabilizers 

Cons:

  • No monitor

The Sunny SF-B1001 is one of the most functional spin cycles that you will find anywhere. It leaves out some of the frills that come with more costly models but does provide you with the basics very well. That makes it the stand-out spin bike for beginners and intermediate users in a crowded market.

The 30-pound flywheel powers the pedals, giving you a quality pedaling experience without any joint impairing jerkiness. The frame of the SF-B1001 is very solid as attested to by the 200-pound user weight. It is made from steel and will not rock or wobble, even when you’re pedaling in an upright position. Four leveling feet stabilizers will keep you even regardless of what surface you are working out on.

A heavy-duty crank system ensures reliable, constant performance, even when you are pedaling standing up.

The seat and handlebars on this bike are fully adjustable so you get a customized fit. You can move the seat backward, forwards, and up and down. The chain drive transmission, foot cage pedals, and centrally located adjustment knobs add to the impressiveness of this spin bike.

As with most spin bikes, the Sunny SF-B1001 does not come with a computer monitor, so you are unable to keep track of your training time, speed and calorie burn (unless you are wearing a fitness watch).

8. Schwinn 270

Best Recumbent Exercise Bike

Innova IT9600 Inversion Table

Pros:

  • 25 levels of eddy current resistance
  • 29 workout programs
  • Perimeter weighted flywheel

Cons:

  • Chest strap not included

Schwinn is one of the most respected names in the industry and their 270 provides you with everything you need for a quality recumbent riding experience. One of its big strengths, apart from its stylish look, is seat comfort. The high back support is fully ventilated to provide breathability and heat reduction. The seat is also completely adjustable to allow for a custom fit.

The Schwinn 270 provides overkill in terms of in-built programs and resistance levels, with 25 levels of eddy current resistance and 29 exercise programs. That means that it can easily accommodate all types of users and fitness levels. In terms of performance readout, you get an impressive 13 points of diagnostic analysis, allowing you to keep full tabs on how you are progressing in terms of fitness.

A heavy-duty high inertia perimeter weighted flywheel powers this unit, giving you an impressively smooth pedaling experience. The bike features a one-piece steel frame that is extremely solid. That means that you will never have any worries about the bike wobbling or falling over.

This bike provides you with a three-piece crank system. This means that the pedal attachment bars are made of three pieces as opposed to one piece of bent steel. The result is a smoother, more natural pedal motion. In addition, the pedals are larger than standard and come with secure straps, so you can get a very firm foot position.

Pros:

  • 23-pound flywheel
  • 20-inch stride length
  • Forward-backward motion
  • Hydraulic folding system

Cons:

  • Not for beginners

The Evolve 5 from Horizon Fitness provides you with a heavy-duty 23-pound flywheel, paired with a 20-inch stride length to give you a very smooth natural elliptical cadence. The frame is extremely solid so that you will always feel stable, even when going all out. This machine allows for forward and backward pedaling motion within a compact footprint.

The Evolve 5 is a foldable unit that features Horizon’s Featherlight folding system, which uses hydraulics for quick and easy setup and storage. You get online workout tracking as well as feedback through the Cardo Compass app. This elliptical is designed for trainers who are ready to tackle some serious cardio training, so may not be the best option for beginners. 

10. Bowflex Max Trainer M7

Runner Up Elliptical

Bowflex Max Trainer M7

Pros:

  • 11 workouts
  • Wireless pulse monitoring
  • Zero impact
  • 3-year warranty
  • 20 resistance levels

Cons:

  • Expensive

The Bowflex Max Trainer range of ellipticals has taken elliptical technology to the next level, with the M7 being the standout model. The famous 14-minute max burn workout is programmed into the console, as is the super-fast 7-minute version. The M7 has a greater selection of resistance levels than previous versions, the M5 (16) or the M3 (8). It also equips with more workout apps, giving you 11 different training options. The durable, stainless steel workout pedals boost your performance while enhancing ergonomic body alignment. 

The M7 is the only model in the Max Trainer range that can monitor your pulse rate wirelessly. You can sync the monitor with the BowFlex fitness app to allow for much greater functionality. A media shelf also allows you to use your technology for entertainment. This unit comes with an impressive 3-year warranty.

The BowFlex Max Trainer M7 is the latest addition to the BowFlex Max Trainer stable of ellipticals. It provides you with a near-zero impact workout while providing features that are designed to maximize your fat burn while increasing your training comfort and functionality. The M7 is designed for multiple users. It has the ability to store four user-profiles and can provide each trainer with their own, unique customized workouts. 

11. Exerpeutic 100XL

Best Budget Elliptical

Exerpeutic 100XL

Pros:

  • Well priced
  • Max user weight is 300 pounds
  • Comes with wheels
  • Compact

Cons:

  • 13-inch stride length

The Exerpeutic 1000XL is a solidly performing budget elliptical that can be yours for less than $200. At that price, you won’t get any bells and whistles like programs and forward-backward action, but you will get a smooth, quiet motion that feels natural. The maximum user weight is 300 pounds, and it does feature moving handlebars so you can work both the upper and lower body.

The stride length of this machine is limited to 13 inches, so it won’t suit taller exercisers. If you are under 6 feet, however, this is about the best you’ll find for the money.

Pros:

  • Dual track monitoring
  • 22 workout apps
  • 20 resistance levels

Cons:

  • Big and bulky

The Schwinn 430 Elliptical Trainer gives you 22 training programs so that you can train across a full range of intensity levels. You also get 20 levels of eddy current resistance. This ensures that you get a very natural, jerk-free elliptical motion. The 20-inch precision pass drive provides you with 6 ramp positions. The oversized, padded footplates allow for customized body positioning.

The dual-track monitoring system on the Schwinn 430 allows you to see 13 different data points at one time on the large LCD monitor. A 3-speed fan provides cooling comfort while you’re working out and sealed acoustic chamber speakers provide excellent sound quality. With built-in Schwinn Connect technology, you can sync your training data to your device.

FAQs

How often should I do cardio to burn fat?

You can do cardio every day to burn fat. Performing a 20-30 minute HIIT style cardio workout will burn about 300-400 calories while you are doing it. It will also activate the EPOC response, by which your metabolism will be elevated for up to 24 hours after the workout. Combine your fat loss cardio with a reduced-calorie diet.

What’s the best cardio machine workout?

The best overall cardio workout is high-intensity interval training on a rowing machine. After a two-minute warm-up, row at max intensity for exactly twenty seconds. Then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat another seven times for a total of 8 rounds. Then finish with a final 2 minute warm down. This workout will burn a ton of calories, both during the workout and after it.

Conclusion

The best type of cardio machine for fat loss and cardiovascular health is the rowing machine, followed by the treadmill, exercise bike, and elliptical. In this article, I’ve identified the best and second-best models on today’s market for each of those products. Use it as your guide to getting the ideal machine cardio training option for your home gym.

This article was last updated on September 6, 2021 .

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By Steve Theunissen

Steve is a former gym owner, personal trainer, and 20-year veteran of the fitness writing industry. Steve has written for websites such as Hardcore Muscle, Fitness, Carblite, and Men's Health and has been a fitness expert columnist for 2 international magazines.