Before we get to the BEST form of cardio for fat loss, let’s start with the WORST and work our way there. As you probably guessed, it’s the…stationary bicycle??? You’re probably thinking, “but Coach Greg, you love bicycles?”, and you ⭕’s are correct!
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However, on a stationary bike, it’s a very specific area of the body that is being used to burn calories. Your upper body, glutes, etc aren’t doing much, and you’re basically just pedaling with your legs. Overall, not enough of the body is being used to make this the best form of cardio for fat loss. Also, something else that doesn’t help is most ⭕’s are HALF ASSING it on the stationary bike. They don’t accurately track watts (how much power you are putting out) , MET (how many times more calories you would be burning than at rest), and they trust the inaccurate calorie numbers from the machine.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, “that’s fine, I use the treadmill!”. Well, I hope you use it on an incline, because a FLAT treadmill is another one of the WORST forms of cardio for fat loss. Unless you’re Grandma Josephine (in which case flat treadmill away!), you should always avoid using the treadmill when it’s fully flat. The average 155lb person burns about 100 calories per mile, and let’s say most people walk ~3 mph. That’s only ~300 calories for the ENTIRE HOUR.
The secret to turning your treadmill into a fat burning machine? The INCLINE! A standard 15% incline (max. at many gyms) will burn DOUBLE the calories than the flat treadmill. So, that 155lb person walking 3 mph will now burn ~600 CALORIES for the hour instead of 300. If you’re lucky and have a treadmill that can do a 30% incline, you guessed it, now you could burn QUADRUPLE the calories as a flat treadmill in an hour (~1200 calories for a 155lb person walking 3 mph). However, for reference, even I can't keep up a pace of 3 mph at a 30% incline for an entire hour. IT IS HARD (I just want you to see how effective inclines are! I personally walk a 15% incline at 2.7 mph). I have one final tip to remember about using treadmills at an incline. If you’re holding onto the machine/putting your weight on it, that decreases the amount of calories you will burn.
Now, getting closer to the BEST form of cardio for fat loss we have the stair stepper machine. This can be a very effective way to burn calories because you need to repeatedly raise your weight straight up (kind of like a treadmill being inclined ALL the way). However, there is a problem with stair steppers. Lots of ⭕’s lean the majority of their weight onto the machine, and just move their legs. This burns MUCH LESS calories than using the machine as intended. If you’re holding on for dear life because you can’t keep up, SLOW IT DOWN. You’ll burn more calories going a little bit slower, when you aren’t putting the majority of your weight on the machine. Overall, I’m not a huge fan of the stair steppers, but they will burn a lot of calories if done properly.
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for…the BEST form of cardio for fat loss. It’s the elliptical machine. Why? You’re using your whole body to burn calories! Arms, chest, back, legs, etc (if you’re holding onto the moving handles). I used to use the elliptical regularly back when I was a triathlete and could burn LOTS of calories per session. Recently, I haven’t been using the elliptical because I am constantly replying to clients during my cardio, and as we talked about, for the elliptical to be the most effective, you need your hands free!
Regardless of the form of cardio you choose. Remember that MODERATE INTENSITY STEADY STATE CARDIO is the way to go when trying to burn calories/lose fat. Only attempt REAL HIIT Cardio if you’re an athlete training for a sport (soccer, basketball, etc). This is because true HIIT Cardio will make you so tired that you will be overtrained. You can’t do HIIT Cardio all the time and expect to perform in the gym, it’s just too hard. This may seem weird, but it’s because 99% of people classify interval training as HIIT Cardio, and have never truly tried it. If you think you do HIIT Cardio, double check because 99 of 100 people AREN'T!
If you’re interested in seeing me speak a little more in depth about these forms of cardio, check out my video What’s the BEST Form of Cardio For Fat Loss???.
…and until next time, I AM OUT *pop*
- Coach Greg