T Nation

Home Cardio Equipment?


I am going to slowly put together a home gym and have been cruising ebay and craigslist for good stuff. I have nothing right now and am planning on getting a power rack, bench, tower (not sure what it's called for dips, chins, hanging leg raises) and weight set.

I also want to get a piece of cardio equipment, but am unsure of the quality of some of the machines I see for sale. Bikes hurt my bum and treadmills just don't appeal to me (I've never enjoyed running). I like using the ellipticals at the gym and was thinking either one of these or a stepper. I mostly do shorter HIIT sessions (when I do any cardio!) and wonder if cheaper models can handle the intensity.

Any thoughts on cardio machines or home gym purchases in general? Anyone know of good brands/models or ones to stay away from? Thanks!


I'm not a fan of cardio equipment for the home. I'd suggest simple stuff like a jump rope, tabatas or using odd implements for various conditioning type circuits. I've gotten into my best cardiovascular shape by not doing traditional cardio exercises. Other than rope jumping and short sprints, I've made the most improvements with various bodyweight exercises (GPP) and some weighted stuff (farmer's walks, various weight circuits, etc.).

I think most cardio machines for the home are junk and also take up too much space. Besides, your body will hate using the same type of equipment all the time. It's much more effective (and natural) to take part in normal activities you can do for free (walking, sprinting, outdoor biking, in-line skating, etc.).


I used to sell high end equipment and hands down the best elliptical is the Precor EFX. It's the only one with an adjustable crossramp and a patented elliptical motion. Forget the one with the arm motion. They have been shown to be less effective. And the idea that they are a "full body workout" is a scam since the arm motion is not independant of the leg motion.

You get what you pay for, my advice is spend the little extra money.

Hope that helps. I hate to see people waste money on crap equipment only to have to replace it a year later.


Good point, however sometimes I am restricted by the weather or the kids. I'd like to occasionally (once or twice a week) do some cardio before the kids wake up in the morning. I have done tabata thrusters (which are great) and I recently bought a jumprope (but found it uncomfortable and noisy).

Nate, thanks for letting me pick your brain about this stuff, too!


If you are on a tight budget, I'd suggest looking at Sears if/when they put stuff on sale and get something and pay for the warranty where they come to your house to fix things when they break.

I got more than my money's worth with a stationary bike we bought at Sears with the warranty. They pretty replaced the whole bike 2 or 3 times.


if you want homw cardio equipment buy quality. Most home gym equipment is total pants and wont hold up to Heavy intervals, HIIT etc. Also, if you NEED to sell up at any point you can rest assured you'll get your moneys back.

My Two choices would be a concept 2 rower, or a quality road bike and rollers - then you get a good deal as the bike can be used for non-essential car journeys, long training rides etc etc (Just get a quality seat and padded shorts - work wonders)...

Jump rope too.

Dont buy crap, its just extra to sell at a car boot sale.



Jumping rope is something that takes time. If you have a decent rope (leather or plastic - not actual rope), then you can get the hang of it fairly quickly.

I started off only able to do 30 seconds to 1 minute before needing a break. After some practice, I was easily doing 1-2 minute rounds and later, up to 6 rounds of 3 minutes each with ease. Here are some tips should you decide to keep up with jump roping:

It's best if you can do it on a slightly forgiving surface such as a wood platform or in a boxing ring. I do them on the concrete, and with the right shoes, they are fine. Again, you have to give yourself time to do them.

You should take small jumps (hops) and be able to quickly turn the rope. Also, because you and I are both short, you must be sure to get the right length of rope. For us, 8-9 feet is perfect. Anything longer than 9 feet will have too much slack.

Over time, it will be less uncomfortable and you will notice that it's actually not that loud (small hops and the whisping of the rope without hitting the ground is hardly noticeable). Shoot for 120-180 revolutions per minute once you are proficient.

If you still find that it's a problem, then definitely look into alternatives. You can do a lot with a simple GPP circuit consisting of jumping jacks, shuffle splits, burpees and hops or something similar. Do them for 30 seconds each for several sets (4 exercises, 30 seconds each, 2 minutes per set).

No problem about picking my brain. I'm more than willing to give you some advice on equipment and such. :slightly_smiling:


Concept II rower or possibly a versaclimber. The Versaclimber is a fantastic piece of equipment, working both the upper and lower body. I'm not sure what your budget is, but they're pretty pricey. Good luck with your new home gym, whatever you decide on.


Working for a gym, I know both about costs and repairs. Repairs should be your biggest concern. If you buy anything from Sears, Dick's Etc and it breaks, it will probably not be worth fixing. ($50 just to check it out, usually several hundred to fix a motor). If you buy a gym quality elliptical, plan on spending minimum $2G, probably twice that.

I'd agree that a rower would be a good way to go. Lower initial cost and little to break.



I'm going to echo what's already been said. Don't go cheap with home cardio equipment. You get what you pay for. I bought a Reebok Elyptical machine from Costco for a $1,000. It's a very sturdy machine. I would say plan on spending about $1,000 for a good piece of equipment; otherwise you will waste your money.


When I moved out of my apartment, which had a gym, and into my first house, I bought a refurbished Stairmaster off EBAY. The unit is cordless and gets charged while you use it...perfect item when the power goes out.
I paid a little under 2k for it over 1.5 yrs ago and have had no problems.
EBAY is awesome.
If you have any questions about the StairMaster, feel free to PM me.

Best wishes in '06!



From Mike Mahler's newsletter:

"With winter upon us many people have asked me what they can do to get an HOC workout indoors. There are several things that you can do. One, you could use jump roping or stationary bike riding as your cardio in between each ballistic set. Or you could do some killer bodyweight drills to ramp up the calorie burning. Try the following HOC circuit and let me know what you think:

50 Hindu Squats
10 One arm swings, r,l (right and left)
50 Burpees
10 One arm kettlebell jerks r, l
50 Sit-ups
10 One arm snatches r, l
100 Jumping jacks
10 Clean and push presses r, l
35 Hindu Squats
10 One arm swings r, l
25 Burpees
10 One arm jerks r, l
25 Sit-ups
10 One arm snatches r, l
50 Jumping Jacks

Take one-minute breaks in between each bodyweight drill and each ballistic drill. As your conditioning improves, decrease the breaks gradually to thirty-second breaks in between each drill."

All you need is dumbbells


I'm going to disagree with the others here. I have always done all my cardio on my cheep, $200 elliptical. It is called an Orbitrek, and to look at it, you honestly would not think it would hold up to any amount of actual training. Yet I have logged almost 1000 hours on mine, including lots of sprinting over the last three years and it still works great. It has a shorter stride than a regular elliptical. I love mine.


Just to agree with this, Jilly, and offer other ideas. I live in south FL and can run outside most of the time, but it's also fun to change it up with an indoor circuit. I like to alternate between fast squats, punching bag work, and jump rope. A tabata thrown in adds some intensity!
I had trouble with the jump rope at first, too, but it got better so fast. I set my watch for 1 min intervals. Jump 1 min and rest for one. It'll get easier.


Best one IMO xvest a pair of shoes and if worried about weather a rain coat. All you need. Well and the gumption to get off you butt and do it.


I bought a $600 nordic track in '87. Still works fine. Check out e-bay or local want ads.

Ya I like the ellipticals better but can't justify spending the money.


hey jilly,

have you ever given a thought to the Concept 2 indoor rower ?


the best piece of home cardio equipment hands down.

no maintenance - other than bicycle oil on the chain every month

unlimited - you provide the horsepower - there's no engine to guide you along

probably the most time efficient cardio exercise (other than XC skiing) -

if you want to make it brutally hard - you can :slightly_smiling: perfect for HIIT

do the 4x1K at "race pace" and you'll see what I mean.

you get to learn all the crazy rower lingo

but then again, I'm a bit biased. :slightly_smiling:


Man are you right. I just started using mine this week. That is some fierce energy work going up those hills. My shins, calves, glutes, and hamstrings are burning.


Remember guys, Jillybop has two little ones. It can be hard to do outside cardio when you have young kids.


That's why rope jumping, bodyweight GPP exercises and kbells or dumbbells come in handy. You can do them indoors and get a killer workout in no time.