T Nation

Is there such thing as best cardio?

I am thinking of buying either a treadmill or exercise bike to do my cardio at home. Has there been any research to prove which of these two exercises burns up more calories? I would imagine the treadmill would be the way to go.
Thanks.

Yes, I remember a study done several years ago that said the treadmill, because you have to support your bodyweight and use so many muscles, is the best cardio machine. Not sure about those elliptical things (the good ones you see at gyms); they may be the same as treadmills only low impact. I just think they’re too dorky looking to use.

Why waste your money on a treadmill when you can go outside and run, walk, jog or sprint for free? Why not get some in-line skates? Or a bike? Or some running shoes? Or a jump rope. That is one of the best things you can do for cardio and it’s cheap and portable. I just don’t see the need to spend a ton of money on a treadmill, bike or stairclimber when there are many other things you can do that are cheaper, more effective and not as boring.

I’ve just recently taken up riding. My cousin is a hardcore biker, both on and off road. This dude showed me how to really ride. No coasting down hills or pedalling slow. Go all out no matter what the terrain is like, for like an hour or two. Now that’s cardio. And don’t you dare walk up hills.

Hey Guys…I aree with Nate…some kind of activity for cardio is uch more enjoyable. I do own treadmill though and taht is what I use for my cardio , i do this Because its easy to log, i can monitor my intensity and time better. Being that I’m in a hardcore Diet phase with 2 x a day cardio this is very very monotonous , but it might be the best route. My neighbors also thought I was weird sprinting and gasping down the street…then there was the traffic problems…:slight_smile:

I think we’ve touched on this one a few other times, but here goes again. You have to think about what you are trying to get out of cardio. For most bodybuilders it is simply a means of burning extra calories, and hopefully from fat. If that is your aproach, then the best cardio is going to be whatever utilizes the most body parts and involves you supporting your weight. That being said, cycling is actually a pretty poor means of burning fat calories from a bodybuilding point of view. It kills me to say that, because I love riding, but if I actually want to burn more calories from fat, I cross country ski. Yea Chris, it looks dorky, but it works.

If there were a continuum of exercises based on effectiveness of caloric expenditure from fat it would go something like this. cycling <rollerblading < running on treadmill< running ~ elliptical trainer < cross country skiing ~ elliptical w/ arm motion.

The things to consider are i) are you supporting your body weight? ii) are you moving your upper body? iii) are you producing force with your upper body? With regard to cycling, the answer is NO to all of the questions. Rollerblading is yes to i, but probably no to ii and iii. Running is yes to i and ii, but no to iii. Finally, XC skiing is yes to all three. An elliptical with arm motion would be all three as well.

If we took a middle of the road intensity where you would maximize fat oxidation, you might burn a total of 500 cal/hour on the bike, 300-350 of which would come from fat. Whereas, with a whole body exercise like XC skiing, you would be at about 900 cal/hour of which 600-700 would come from fat.

A couple more hairs to split. You will burn slightly (emphasize slightly, but statistically significant) more calories when running off a treadmill than on. The reason being is you have to propel yourself forward running off a treadmill, but all you have to do on a treadmill is move the limb far enough forward to stay on the track. You don't actually propel your mass forward.

For the guys who are sold on cycling for cardio, at a given caloric expenditure, more calories will come from carbs (glycogen) than with a whole body exercise. So, it will be essential to eat more carbs and you may be cutting into recovery, especially after leg days. The plus with cycling is that you can do it for a long time. If there is more to your life than simply living the get big and ripped approach, then you can have a lot of fun on a bike and see some cool things.

Probably the most important thing though is to do something that you like, or at least don't hate. That means that you will continue to do it. It is probably better to burn 300 cal (sorry kcal) on a bike for a 30 min workout, as opposed to not burning anything because you don't want to look like a dork and get on the elliptical trainer.

Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Part of my response was left out, probably because I was using “less than, and approximately equal to” symbols. The part of the response that started " If there were a continuum of exerercises… It would look something like this."

Cycling, less than rollerblading, less than running on treadmill(approximately equal to ellitical trainer), less than running, less than XC skiing, which is approximately equal to elliptical trainer with arm motion.

a little add on to McGregor’s post. I was reading through some old olympic stuff, and severall decades back there was this phenomenon of fat swimmers. They ate less, by alot than alot of their counterparts in other non aquatic events, but were still fat. You definately don’t support your weight in swimming.

Steve: Before someone “innocently” thinks “We ain’t got no snow here!”, I take it that your obsevations include the NordicTrack as well as actual cross country skiing? (Excellent info, by the way…)

Well, yes, kind of. For most, the Nordic Trak would be the most accessible and practical. There are some other less practical and even goofier looking alternatives. For the most part some activity where you are at least moving your arms, supporting your body weight and getting heart rate to about 70-80 % max would suffice.

Thanks heaps guys, knowing me when its time to get shredded i will be doing cardio 10 times a day. LOL. But i just wanted to do something just after waking up, heck i’ll just jump on the treadmill for 30 minutes,you know.
Thanks again.

get yourself a heart rate monitor and do whatever will get your heart rate between 50-85% mhr. it doesn’t matter what it is. as long as you keep your heart rate within your range for an extended period of time you will burn a decent amount of calories from fat. it doesn’t matter what type of cardio activity it is. have fun.

One convenient and cheap method of home cardio that most people overlook is boxing. I have a set-up in my garage and enjoy going in there in the morning and getting the juices flowing by going a few rounds on the bag. A free standing bag will run you about $100. These aren’t as good as swinging heavy bags, but they’re cheap and good for apartments or if you have limited space. A hanging heavy bag will be cost you more. The price depends on the materials usually, but even good leather ones are cheaper than the traditional cardio machines (a really good recumbant bike will run over 2 grand for example.)

I go three 3 minute rounds with one minute between each- or sometimes 3 five minute rounds. I have a Swiss ball in there too so sometimes I alternate beween boxing and ab work with little rest between each “set”.

The key is to find an activity you enjoy. I get bored to death on a treadmill so I probably wouldn’t use one much. I like boxing; it’s fun, practical, non-dorky, and gives a hell of a workout. So just find something that you’ll enjoy.