All of us have fallen into a fitness rut at one point or another, myself included. But if you’ve hit that dreaded plateau (hey, it happens to the best of us), it’s time to switch up your game if you want to keep seeing results. The good news: The treadmill and elliptical aren’t the only cardio kids on the block. In fact, there are quite a few machines and fitness tools gathering dust in gyms (and in your living room) that offer a workout as intense as running, says Chris Freytag, personal trainer and Prevention contributing editor. Here, 7 ways to shake up your slim-down.
Line at the treadmills? Head over to the rarely used rower, a kick-butt cardio machine that mimics the motion of rowing across water. “If you need to shed a few pounds, this is the machine for you,” says Julia Derek, a personal trainer at Reebok Sports Club/NY. “Not only does this piece of cardio equipment burn serious calories, but it also strengthens every major muscle group except for your pecs.” Nicole Nichols, a fitness instructor and coach for SparkPeople.com, agrees: “You can burn 600 calories an hour or more with the rowing machine—that’s comparable to running.” (See our list of 10 more ways to torch calories without even trying.)
“This is one piece of equipment that shouldn't be put in the corner like Baby in Dirty Dancing,” jokes Amy Dixon, fitness instructor and star of the Breathless Body 2 DVD. Not familiar with the name? On this machine, you stand upright and you use your arms and legs to simulate climbing. “Think StairMaster-meets-mountain-climbing-meets-Spiderman,” says Dixon. “It’s a total-body exercise because you have use your upper body to pull against gravity. It is functional, challenging and will help you burn more calories than an elliptical or treadmill any day, as long as you put in the work.” Want some more moves to get sexy arms? We have the only three you need.
“Weighted hooping is an energizing, fat-burning cardio and muscle-sculpting workout that is endlessly fun, creative and sexy,” says Freytag. “You can burn between 400 and 600 calories an hour with little to no impact on your joints.” Hang out in the yard and hoop, do it with the kids, or even twirl it around your waist while you watch TV for a killer ab workout. Need a hoop? Find one at hoopnotica.com.
“The cable machine is one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment at the gym because exercisers don’t know how to use it,” says Derek “All they need to learn is how to set the cables and they can do a full-body workout using this machine alone. If you want to build great abs and burn off love handles, use this machine to do wood-chop exercises.” In addition to wood chops, you can do chest presses, lat pull downs, rows, squats, military presses and deadlifts using cables. Not sure how to get started? Ask a trainer at your gym to show you the ropes. Check out these 9 other exercises you’re doing wrong to boost your burn.
If you’ve ever spent an afternoon gliding through a snow-covered forest, you already know that cross-country skiing is an excellent workout. But you don’t have to wait for winter to score the benefits. Also known as skiers or cross-country skiers, ski machines can burn between 400 to 600 calories an hour, depending on your level of exertion. “These machines work both the upper and lower body, while keeping your body properly aligned for maximum results. It’s a great cardio workout,” says Elisabeth Halfpapp, fitness instructor and star of the Exhale Core Fusion: 30 Day Sculpt DVD.
There’s a good reason why walking up a few flights of stairs can leave you breathless—it’s a killer workout. Especially if those stairs never seem to end, as they do on the StepMill, a cardio machine that has a short, revolving staircase that mimics climbing real flights. “It really works the butt and gets your heart rate soaring, plus it’s easy on your joints,” says Freytag, noting you can burn somewhere between 500 and 700-plus calories an hour. Sixty minutes of stair climbing sounds impossible? Start with 20 to 30 minutes, broken up into 5- or 10-minute intervals. No StepMill? A stepper/StairMaster—or even a basic fitness step—works, too.
This totally old-school exercise tool is still a top contender for a serious heart-thumping sweat fest. “For the fit individual, nothing beats jumping rope,” says Wayne Westcott, PhD, Prevention advisory board member and director of fitness research at Quincy College in Quincy, Massachusetts. “It’s basic, brief, but intense.” How intense? A 150-pound person torches about 340 calories in 30 minutes.
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