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HomeHealth and MedicalThe 13 Best Cardio Machines in 2023, According to Certified Trainers

The 13 Best Cardio Machines in 2023, According to Certified Trainers

BEST SMART CONNECTED ROWING Cardio MACHINE

Hydrow Wave Rower

Editor’s Choice

Wave Rower

BEST SMART CONNECTED ROWING Cardio MACHINE

Hydrow Wave Rower

Pros
  • Wide array of pro classes to keep things interesting
  • Crisp, responsive touchscreen display
  • Virtual “on-water” experience is realistic and immersive
  • Sleek, handome design
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Required ongoing monthly subscription

As you can probably tell by looking at it, the Hydrow Wave is a reimagined, sleek version of historically bulky water rowers (including Hydrow’s original Rower Connected Rowing Machine, a 2022 Men’s Health Home Gym Awards winner). In our experience with this machine, it recreates the experience of rowing on the water without any actual H2O incredibly well. In fact, more so than any other rower we’ve tested. “If I can’t use a Concept2, this is my go-to,” says Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., MH Fitness Director.

“It fits easily in my basement training area, and can stand up for storage. Despite the compact size, the Wave is SUPER-durable: I can go hard on this rower for sprints, or take on longer intervals.”

Take live or on-demand classes, or take an unguided “journey”, to explore the water from the comfort of your own home. The best part is that the virtual classes are immersive and surprisingly lifelike. However, we do wish there was a free mode to build workouts a la carte.

Read more: Best Adjustable Dumbbells

Weight capacity 375 lb.
Weight 145 lb.
Dimensions 86 x 25 x 47 inches
Display 22″ touchscreen
Warranty 5-Year Frame Warranty; 1-Year Parts Warranty; 1-Year Labor Warranty
Resistance type Electromagnetic

MOST INNOVATIVE EXERCISE BIKE Cardio Machine

NordicTrack S22i Studio Bike

S22i Studio Bike

MOST INNOVATIVE EXERCISE BIKE Cardio Machine

NordicTrack S22i Studio Bike

Pros
  • 22-inch Interactive HD Touchscreen Display
  • Rich library of on-demand studio classes
  • Whisper-quiet magnetic resistance

Think of this indoor exercise bike as a Peloton experience without the Peloton price. (Yes, it’s still pricey, just not Peloton pricey). In fact, it’s actually almost $1,000 less than Peloton’s flagship Bike+ exercise bike, while loaded with many of the same features.

We love the S22i for its 22-inch interactive screen that allows you to cycle through the most beautiful landscapes in the world, or drop in on an on-demand iFit class with elite trainers. It also offers cross-training options for off-bike workouts, like yoga and strength training.

We haven’t found the classes on the NordicTrack to be quite as engaging and robust as Peloton’s, but the bike actually has a leg up on Peloton in a few other ways (price and durability, mostly).

The one downside is that this exercise bike is heavy. At more than 200 pounds, it’s a bear to move in and out of place. If you’re someone without the space to keep it setup permanently, this might be an issue.

Read more: NordicTrack S22i Studio Bike Review

Weight capacity 350 lb.
Weight 205 lb.
Dimensions 55 x 22 x 57 inches
Display 22” HD Touchscreen
Warranty 10-Year Frame Warranty; 2-Year Parts Warranty;1-Year Labor Warranty
Resistance type Magnetic

TOUGHEST ELLIPTICAL Workout Cardio Machine

Bowflex Max Trainer M9

Max Trainer M9

TOUGHEST ELLIPTICAL Workout Cardio Machine

Bowflex Max Trainer M9

Pros
  • Built for challenging workouts
  • Versatile elliptical-meets-stepper design
  • Beautiful 10″ HD touchscreen display with streaming capabilities
  • Streams a wide variety of content

The versatile Bowflex Max Trainer M9 is both an elliptical and a stepper in one compact design. It comes with a long list of features that we found make for a great user experience, including a 10” HD touchscreen (perfect for streaming workout videos, music playlists, and video services like Netflix, Hulu, and more), a variety of positioned handlebars for versatility, and 20 resistance levels. This is a home gym machine for anyone looking to challenge themselves with the toughest workouts for serious cardio.

At nearly $2,000, it’s one of the pricier elliptical models we’ve seen this year. But, we love that it provides the option for some of the toughest workouts, and it’s easily one of the best overall ellipticals—all of which justifies the premium price tag.

Read more: Men’s Health Home Gym Awards

Weight capacity 300 lb.
Weight 148.8 lb.
Dimensions 49.2 x 30.5 x 65.1 inches
Display 10″ HD Touchscreen
Warranty 3-Year Frame Warranty; 1-Year Parts Warranty; 90-day Labor Warranty

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BEST OVERALL TREADMILL Cardio Machine

NORDICTRACK EXP 14i Treadmill

EXP 14i Treadmill

BEST OVERALL TREADMILL Cardio Machine

NORDICTRACK EXP 14i Treadmill

Pros
  • AutoAdjust tech automates speed and incline
  • 14-inch HD touchscreen display
  • Compatible with iFit personal training program
  • Advanced ActivePulse heart rate monitor

Despite a pretty beefy footprint, the 14i from NordicTrack is specifically designed for at-home use, and is one of brand’s smartest and most customizable machines yet. We found that the touchscreen display is flanked by quick key buttons to adjust speed and incline to your likeness in one touch, instead of repeatedly pressing a button while trying to speed up or slow down.

It’s powerful 3.5 continuous Hp motor allows for speeds up to 12 MPH as well as a wide decline/incline range from -3% to 12%.

We found that its base and belt (which isn’t too narrow or wide) could hold steady when used by bigger guys (up to 300 pounds). Its FlexSelect Cushioning makes for a softer landing than many other treads, which made it feel a bit easier on the knees for some. It also offers a quieter experience compared to many other models (your downstairs neighbors will thank you).

Read more: Best Folding Treadmills

Weight capacity 300 lb.
Weight 229 lb.
Dimensions 79.9 x 35 x 59.25 inches
Display 14″ HD Smart Touchscreen
Max speed 12 MPH
Warranty 10-Year Frame Warranty; 2-Year Parts Warranty; 1-Year Labor Warranty

MOST POPULAR AIR BIKE Cardio Machine

Assault Fitness Assault AirBike

On Sale

Assault AirBike

MOST POPULAR AIR BIKE Cardio Machine

Assault Fitness Assault AirBike

Credit: Amazon
Pros
  • Oversized fan with unlimited air resistance levels
  • Much beloved design used in CrossFit Games
  • Super solid construction
Cons
  • Chain drive system requires more maintenance than belt drive

The Assault AirBike might look like it belongs in a dust-filled corner of your high school’s weight room, but it deserves respect. “No one climbs off of one of these thinking, ‘That was easy.’

The reason it’s so tough: The Assault AirBike is a stationary bike without a motor. It only has a fan in its front wheel that provides wind resistance. The harder you pump your arms and pedal your legs, the higher the resistance becomes. While it’s easy on your joints, it provides an intense aerobic workout that burns a ton of calories in a short amount of time.

If you’re looking for a finisher to tack onto your regular workout, MH fitness experts recommend sprinting for 15 seconds, then resting for 15 seconds. That’s one round. Do six. If you’d rather test your endurance instead, do three miles as fast as possible.

Read more: Best Under-Desk Bikes

Weight capacity 350 lb.
Weight 110 lb.
Dimensions 59.95 x 23.34 x 50 inches
Resistance type Air
Warranty 3-Year Warranty

BEST STARTER TREADMILL Cardio Machine

ProForm Smart Treadmill 2000

Smart Treadmill 2000

BEST STARTER TREADMILL Cardio Machine

ProForm Smart Treadmill 2000

Now 22% Off

Pros
  • Reaches up to 12 MPH
  • Folds up for easy storage
  • Compatible with iFit training subscription
Cons
  • Incline only goes to 12%

If you’re on a budget, but still want a treadmill with speed, then this one’s for you. The ProForm Pro 2000 has solid speed, topping out at 12 MPH, a weight capacity of 300 pounds, and the ability to incline quickly up to a 12% grade. Essentially, it’s a slightly cheaper version of what’s often seen in big commercial grade-options.

Clocking in at 260 pounds, we love that its build is sturdy but not too heavy for second-floor home gyms. Plus, its 3.25 Hp motor is competent enough to get you through most light jogs or walks (though you may want a more powerful tread for more intense runs). Below the touchscreen is a large built-in CoolAire™ fan that’s much more cooling than the other fans we’ve tested on this list.

Weight capacity 200 lb.
Weight 229 pounds
Dimensions 79.9 x 35 x 59.25 inches
Display 14″ HD Smart Touchscreen
Max speed 12 MPH
Warranty 10-year Frame Warranty; 2-year Parts Warranty; 1-year Labor Warranty

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BEST EXERCISE BIKE Cardio Machine FOR CLASSES

Peloton Bike+

Bike+

BEST EXERCISE BIKE Cardio Machine FOR CLASSES

Peloton Bike+

Pros
  • Beautiful, 24-inch HD monitor
  • High-tech design with next-gen features
  • Premium, industry -eading online classes
Cons
  • Requires clip-in pedal shoes

Peloton’s latest bike, the Bike+, is like the original Peloton Bike—but better in every way. It has an amazing 24-inch-wide HD touchscreen, with an easily adjustable seat and handlebar settings. It’s arguably the most high-tech, connected exercise bike on the market—with a sky-high price tag to match.

What truly sets the Bike+ apart, as with all Peloton products, is the library of professional, trainer-guided classes. Novices and expert cyclists alike can learn and grow their training and their fitness level by pushing themselves harder than they might be inclined to on their own. With next-gen features like auto-follow—when the trainer suggests you make resistance adjustments, Bike+ automatically does so—it’s never been easier to take your training to the next level.

Peloton also offers a completely free in-home trial for 30 days. That includes free delivery and setup and, if you decide to return it, free pickup and return.

Read more: Peloton Bike+ Review

Weight capacity 297 lb.
Weight 140 lb.
Dimensions 59 x 22 x 59 inches
Display 22″ HD touchscreen
Resistance type Magnetic
Warranty 5-year Frame Warranty; 1-year Parts Warranty; 1-year Labor Warranty

MOST GAMIFIED ROWING Cardio MACHINE

Ergatta The Ergatta Rower

On Sale

The Ergatta Rower

MOST GAMIFIED ROWING Cardio MACHINE

Ergatta The Ergatta Rower

Now 10% Off

Pros
  • Rich library of fun, game-based workout programs
  • 17.3-inch Android-powered touchscreen
  • Beautiful retro-modern design
  • Bluetooth-enabled
  • Can accommodate bigger guys

The top-rated Ergatta Rower (a Men’s Health Fitness Awards Winner) is all performance, complete with game-based workouts that challenge you daily. It’s the most “gamified” water-based rowing machine on this list with a long list of virtual workout programs to choose from. Rowers can opt for head-to-head races, high-intensity endurance workouts, or goal-based gamified training plans.

“This is one of the smoothest water rowers I’ve used, and the games are plenty of fun and keep me interested in basic workouts,” says Samuel.

The solid wood construction is extremely durable, ensuring it can accommodate even the largest rowers with body types up to 500 pounds and frames up to 6’8″. That same warm cherry wood also gives the rower a sleek retro-modern aesthetic that will elevate the look of any space from your home gym to your garage to your living room. It looks so good.

We found the game-based workouts to be a much needed changeup from typical hard workouts on a C2, and actually relaxing and good for dialing in form. The lone downside: The feet are positioned a little more tightly than we’d like.

It’s among the priciest rowing machines on this list. But, if you’re in the market for a top-of-the-line rower that doubles as a home accessory, Ergatta is hard to beat.

Read more: Best Rowing Gloves

Weight Capacity 500 lb.
Weight 103 pounds
Dimensions 86 x 23 x 40 inches
Display 17.3” touchscreen
Resistance type Water
Warranty 5- Year Warranty

Best Curved Treadmill Cardio Machine

Assault Fitness Air Runner

Air Runner

Best Curved Treadmill Cardio Machine

Assault Fitness Air Runner

Pros
  • Makes for an ultra-efficient cardio workout
  • Recruits more muscle power than a traditional tread
  • Thick, durable rubber belt
  • Great value
Cons
  • No digital connectivity

Stepping onto the treadmill to log another mindless 30-minute jog might sound like the most unappealing way to spend a workout — so don’t waste your time. Instead, cut your running time in half and ramp up the intensity with this curved tread, specifically designed for sprinting.

Better yet, the motor-free machine is built to be powered by your strides. There’s no max speed, either, so try your best to push it as hard as you can during sprint interval workouts.

Having been used in the CrossFit Games multiple times, the Assault Air Runner is non-motorized with a thick rubber belt that feels very comfortable in comparison to the ones often seen on traditional treadmills. All in all, it’s a pricey machine, but is also one of the best values available in the curved tread category.

Think you can handle the speed? Try this workout: Perform a 15-second sprint as fast as you can, and then rest for 15 seconds. Keep your chest high and your core braced the entire time you’re running. That’s 1 round. Do 40

Weight capacity 350 lb.
Weight 280 lb.
Dimensions 70 x 33 x 64 inches
Display 7-inch Hi-Contrast, UV Resistant Console Screen
Max. speed 20 MPH
Warranty 3-Year Warranty

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Best Elliptical-Alternative Cardio Machine

CLMBR Connected 2

Connected 2

Best Elliptical-Alternative Cardio Machine

CLMBR Connected 2

Pros
  • Compact footprint
  • Just plain fun
  • Rigorous full-body workout
Cons
  • Might take a little getting used to

The CLMBR was created to challenge your cardio in a way that it probably has never been before. Based on climbing, which allows for a natural, athletic position and ergonomic spinal alignment, a workout on the CLMBR will work your entire body and burn a ton of calories. In our opinion, it makes for a pretty fun, dynamic cardio workout that’s a nice switch up from a typical tread, rower, elliptical or bike.

Plus, it stands vertically, taking up much less floor space than most machines would. You’ll need the ceiling height to accommodate it, but it’s ideal for those without a ton of floor space to sacrifice.

Weight capacity 350 lb.
Weight 180 lb.
Dimensions 35 x 32 x 88 inches
Display HD touchscreen
Warranty 1-Year Warranty

Best Cardio Machine for Upper Body Strength

Concept2 SkiErg

SkiErg

Best Cardio Machine for Upper Body Strength

Concept2 SkiErg

Pros
  • Compact footprint
  • Offers a great upper-body workout
  • Really efficient
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Requires significant ceiling height
  • No digital connectivity

This isn’t your dad’s clunky ski machine. Professional cross-country skiers use this machine to hone the skill of exploding down onto their poles for more power. While you might not be hitting the slopes any time soon, you can use the Concept2 SkiErg for a grueling cardio and upper-body workout.

“To drive the handles down toward your body, you have to recruit your abs, arms, shoulder, and hips,” says Sean De Wispelaere, expert coach from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “The power, speed, and strength needed for each rep will jack up your heart rate and make you sweat.”

To make it even more difficult, change up the position of your legs, says De Wispelaere. Holding a deep lunge or inline lunge not only blasts your lower body, but it narrows your base of support, he says. This forces your core to work harder to stay braced and upright as your arms move up and down.

Weight capacity N/A
Weight 46 lb.
Dimensions 16 x 20.5 x 83.5 inches
Display None
Warranty 2-Year Warranty

Best Stair Climber Cardio Machine

Gronk Fitness Jacob’s Ladder Step Machine

Jacob's Ladder Step Machine

Best Stair Climber Cardio Machine

Gronk Fitness Jacob’s Ladder Step Machine

Credit: Amazon
Pros
  • Easy on the lower back
  • Torches calories
  • Great lower-body strength workout
Cons
  • Heavy
  • No digital connectivity

Climbing a ladder isn’t so bad. But what if that ladder kept going up and up and up? Suddenly, that ascent becomes a monstrous workout. That’s the idea behind Jacobs Ladder, a self-paced machine that requires you to climb endlessly upward.

Unlike the StairMaster, Jacobs Ladder puts you on a 40-degree angle, which engages your core muscles and takes stress off your lower back.

“It’s fun, because it’s totally different than any other exercise you can do at the gym,” says De Wispelaere. “The climbing action hits big muscles like your quads, glutes, shoulders, and lats, revving your metabolism and burning a ton of calories in the process.”

Weight capacity 300 lb.
Weight 300 lb.
Dimensions 76 x 28 x 65.5 inches
Display N/A
Warranty 2-Year Warranty

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Best Overall Rowing Cardio Machine

Concept2 RowErg with Standard Legs

RowErg with Standard Legs

Best Overall Rowing Cardio Machine

Concept2 RowErg with Standard Legs

Pros
  • The industry standard for competitive rowing
  • Separates into two pieces for easy storage
  • Durable, high-quality construction
  • Easy to assemble (20-30 minutes with just 8 screws)
  • Adjustable footrests and an ergonomic handle
Cons
  • Lacks smart connectivity

If you want a heart-hammering workout, look no further than the indoor rower. It requires a coordinated effort from your upper body and lower body, and extreme muscular and aerobic endurance to blast out stroke after stroke. Plus, it’s low impact, so you get the same cardiovascular benefits as running, but without the pounding on your joints. However, not every rower is created equal, says Jesse Ewell, a trainer in Firecrest, Washington. His pick: Concept2’s Model D.

“It provides even resistance unlike other models that jerk or jump when you pull too vigorously,” says Ewell. “That means you can work as hard as possible, while maintaining a smooth ride.” And the harder you work, the more calories you’ll burn. A 185-pound guy can burn 377 calories by rowing at a fast clip for only 30 minutes, report researchers at Harvard University. Try it yourself with this intense rowing program.

Read more: Best Foldable Rowing Machines

Weight capacity 500 lb.
Weight 57.32 lb.
Dimensions 96 x 24 x 14 inches
Display None
Resistance type Air
Warranty 2-Year Warranty

How to Choose the Best Cardio Machine For You

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From bikes and rowers to treadmills and ski ergs, there’s a ton of variety to choose from when it comes to cardio machines. Which is tough, because working out on one type of machine is a unique experience from the next, and most people don’t have room to store multiple cardio machines at once (let alone the $ to drop on them). So, even though we’ve narrowed it down to the cream of the crop, you might still not know what you want—we get that. Here are a few key factors to consider:

Technology: Are you a fan of interactive programming, or do you prefer doing your own thing? Some machines offer fantastic interactive features (i.e., Peloton), like classes and workouts, while others cater to those who like to chart their own course. ‘Smarter’ machines will often run up the price, take care not to pay for a feature you aren’t going to use.

Price: Prices of cardio machines can vary significantly, ranging from $600 to $4,000.+ It’s essential to set a budget first, or explore financing options if needed. Make sure you’re comfortable with the investment you’re making.

Your goals: Clarify your fitness objectives with yourself before committing to a machine. Need a treadmill for intense sprinting intervals, for example? You’ll need a powerful motor (3.0 CHP or higher) like those used in manual curved treads. Knowing your goals will guide you to the machine that best aligns with your fitness journey.

Space considerations: Measure your available space carefully before purchasing. You wouldn’t want a machine to show up just to realize it overwhelms your home (or worse, doesn’t fit). If you’re tight on floor space, consider vertical options like the SkiErg or Connected 2, which have a significantly smaller footprint than a treadmill or rower.

Enjoyment: Don’t overlook the fun factor, please. Find a machine you genuinely enjoy using, or you won’t use it much. Think about the investment in terms of cost-per-use. The more you enjoy using it, the more times you’ll use it, driving the cost-per-use down. Math, right?

Benefits of Exercising on a Cardio Machine

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You’ve slipped on your favorite running shoes and queued a hype playlist, just when you step outside… into a total monsoon. We’ve all been there, and frankly, it sucks. For those of us who don’t love cardio in the first place, environmental factors like wet conditions, smoke, extreme temperatures, or low visibility can be huge barriers to getting outside for a walk, run, bike ride—you name it.

That’s where cardio machines come in. They aren’t necessarily the most efficient tool to challenge your athleticism or lose weight, but what they are is convenient way to get Zone 2 training in, indoors.

Did you know that adults need 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination of the two) every day? But, most people don’t get that much. Whether you prefer the treadmill, bike, or rower, machines allow you to exercise at your own pace and comfort level, making it easier to maintain consistency and reach those goals.

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Which Cardio Machine is Best For a Full-Body Workout?

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If you go hard on it, any cardio machine can give you a solid full-body workout. However, according to Samule, your best bet to guarantee a full-body stimulus is any fan bike option.

“Purely because of all the ways in which an assault bike option can provide resistance,” he explains. That is, you’ll be up against resistance when you’re both pulling and pushing the handles, requiring more energy output to counter that force.

“You’re also consistently working a cross-body pattern (one side of your body pushing while the other pulls) which insures that, even if your posture on the bike is a mess, you’re still getting a ton of core benefit.” (Which means protecting back health in the long-term, too.)

Fan bikes also offer a ton of versatility in terms of intensity. (Think: 20 seconds on, 40 off for an intense 5 minutes, or coast in Zone 2 with 10-20 minutes of comfortable pedaling.)

Why You Can Trust Us

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At Men’s Health, we take great pride in providing our readers with reliable and trustworthy product recommendations. We believe that our readers deserve the best, which is why we always make sure to conduct thorough research and testing before making any recommendations. Our writers and editors thoughtfully select experts for collaboration on product recommendations, and are also experts in their own right, using their informed opinions to select products and ensuring that our content is of the highest quality.

Our product recommendations are purely editorial, and while we may receive free products to test and review, we only recommend the products we are most impressed by. We never let retailers or public relations contacts dictate our content or product coverage. Which is why you can trust us to provide you with reliable and unbiased product recommendations.

How We Selected the Best Cardio Machines

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For the past two years, we consulted with Men’s Health‘s Fitness editors and writers on the top rowing machines. For several years, experts including MH Fitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., and Fitness and Commerce Editor Talene Appleton, NASM, have been testing cardio machines from all of the top home gym brands to evaluate their resistance, functionality, and effectiveness. We also consulted cardiologists we trust to provide additional insights into the value of specific cardio machines.

Headshot of Ebenezer Samuel,  C.S.C.S.

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men’s Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He’s logged training time with NFL athletes and track athletes and his current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga. Before joining Men’s Health in 2017, he served as a sports columnist and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.  

Headshot of Talene Appleton, NASM

Fitness and Commerce Editor

Talene Appleton is the Fitness and Commerce Editor at Men’s Health, a NASM-CPT certified trainer, and former professional dancer and chef. With a background in fitness, nutrition, and culinary arts, her passion lies in inspiring others to lead healthy lives through engaging and research-driven content. You can find her work elsewhere at The Food Institute, The Nessie, and other outlets.

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