So you've decided to start a fitness program, and you want to know what the best exercise machine is? I bet you've done some research on the web, and you're more confused now than when you started!
That's because almost everyone who's selling exercise machines and other fitness equipment is going to tell you theirs is the best, and they will probably have studies, research or testimonials to back them up. And if the product is being sold on TV, they'll probably dazzle you with the bodies of fitness models, both male and female, using their equipment. But you do know these people had these physiques before they ever set eyes on that particular piece of equipment, right?
If you're going to try and find yourself the perfect exercise machine, you have to ask yourself a few questions first, the main one being "what do I want from this equipment? ". And you need to be specific. None of this "I want to lose weight", or "I want to get in shape" stuff. Nope, you need to hone in on the goal - "I want to have a 28 inch waist", or "I want to gain fifteen pounds of muscle and lose twenty pounds of fat". Then you can make some educated decisions.
Another question you need to ask yourself is whether you want an aerobic training machine or a piece of strength training equipment. If you really want to get in shape, you should be doing both - but that doesn't mean you need to buy two separate machines. More on that later. Among aerobic machines, you'll find the treadmill, elliptical machine, stepper or stairclimber, rowing machines, recumbent exercise bikes, spinning bikes and more. Strength training machines include multi-gyms, power racks, half racks, smith machines, and separate machines that concentrate on just about every individual muscle group in your body.
How many of these machines do you need? None, really. If you have the funds and the space for them, then they can make exercise more convenient. But you can get a great strength training workout with a bench and some dumbells and/or a bar and weight plates. If for some reason, you can't swing that - not a problem. You can do bodyweight exercises such as pushups, dips, pullups, situps, crunches etc . You might think these are too easy to build any real strength or muscle, but there are ways to make them hard enough for even the strongest person. We don't have room to go into that here, but do a little research on the web for bodyweight exercises. You might be surprised at what you find. When it comes to your aerobic workout, you can jog, run, walk briskly, jump rope, do jumping jacks, or create your own interval workout from conditioning exercises like the crab walk, bear walk, walking lunge, jumping jacks, etc . Do a few sets of those without stopping and see whether or not it gets your heartrate up! Once again, if you don't know what these exercises are, just do a web search.
But I want an exercise machine! Ok, if you say so. When the elliptical trainer first became popular about ten years ago, there were some studies showing that you could get a better workout on that machine than if you invested the same amount of effort on the treadmill. Level of perceived exertion, they call it. But then some other studies seemed to show that it was really the treadmill that allowed you to get equal benefits while feeling like you were cruising a little bit. So where am I going with all this contradictory research? Well, the truth of the matter is that this research doesn't really matter that much to you. Or to me. Because if I hate to sit on a bike seat, it doesn't matter if a study comes out tomorrow saying that the exercise bike provides a workout ten times better than any other piece of aerobic equipment. If I'm not going to sit on that seat, I'd be stupid to go out and buy a bike. Actually, I own a spinning bike and love it, so that wasn't a very realistic example, but I think you get the point: -)
Experiment to see what works for you. Try a spinning class. Try jogging in the park. Try pushups and pullups, or a power rack, or bench presses. Hop on the elliptical at the gym, or find a friend who has one. Try them all to see what you like, and then build a balanced strength and aerobic program from those options. That's what'll keep you exercising consistently, and doing it consistently is the main key to getting the results that you want.
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