Fitness 101: What Exercise Equipment Should I Use at the Gym?

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Melissa Crossman
Melissa Crossman lives in Indianapolis with her two dogs. She enjoys cooking and volunteering in her community.
Melissa Crossman
Melissa Crossman
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href="">Exercise for obese women and men

You walk into the gym, pumped for a workout. To one side, the strength training machines sit. You know you’ll get a muscle burn from them — but will you burn calories if you don’t work up a sweat? To the other side, all manner of cardio machines sit. You know you’ll burn calories, but which machine is best for your fitness goals? Learn the benefits of strength training and cardio work and get tips on the fitness benefits of common exercise equipment.

Strength Training vs. Cardio

It’s a myth that you’ll bulk up like a muscle man if you lift weights. Strength training will tone your muscles — and give you a metabolic spike for an hour after lifting — but you don’t have to turn into the Hulk. You’ll burn more calories per hour doing cardio, but the muscle you build through strength training will help you burn more calories in everyday life.

If you work out to let loose you’ll see more benefits (and less stress) doing cardio. Cardio also boosts longevity by reducing the risk of heart disease, obesity and hypertension.

Since both cardio and strength training have clear benefits, make both a part of your fitness routine. A personal trainer can help you get started lifting weights safely and effectively. In the meantime, work up a sweat on the cardio machines. While you should always pick a machine that you enjoy using, it’s worth changing your game to work different muscles.


Treadmills allow you to walk or run at variable speeds and on an incline — so you don’t have to be a marathoner to realize fitness benefits here. To get a good workout walking and tone your glutes, set the incline high and walk at a fast pace. You’ll work up a sweat and see those calories come down.

Elliptical Machine

Elliptical machines let you move without putting a lot of pressure on your joints, which benefits folks with knee injuries. To increase your workout, look for an elliptical with handles then set the resistance to high to get arm resistance for a whole-body workout.

Stationary Bike

If you’re looking to tone your core, do not overlook the stationary bike. These offer great lower back and hip workouts, and are very safe for folks recovering from knee injuries. To boost calories burned, choose one of the pre-programmed hill settings so you really have to work it while you pedal.

Stair Climber

Not all gyms have stair climbers, but if yours does it can offer a great glute workout and really leave you feeling like you worked. Try a stair climber as a 10- to 15-minute warmup before switching to a preferred form of cardio. These can be hard on the knees so may not be the best choice for everyone.

Rowing Machine (Erg)

A rowing machine offers a full-body workout, provided you push yourself at a fast pace. If you’ve never used one, a trainer can give you a demo.

All of these machines offer fitness benefits, as does strength training. Often the most important part of fitness is showing up, so get your workout clothes on, grab your headphones and heat to the gym to strengthen and tone your shape.