Which Cardio Machine Should I Buy?

What’s the best piece of cardio equipment to get for a home gym?

It really comes down to the ‘big four’.

  • Rower (we prefer concept 2).
  • Bike Erg (we prefer concept 2).
  • Ski Erg (we prefer concept 2).
  • Air Bike (we prefer Rogue Echo Bike).

So let’s count these down from four to one, to reveal the piece of equipment we think YOU should get.

Of course, it’s easy to answer ‘it depends’, but we’ve done our best to provide the pros and cons of each to help you make a decision.

In fourth place: Bike erg.

The newest addition to the Concept 2 line up, the bike erg has rightly earned its place on this list.

And while this is a great tool to improve ‘cycling-specific conditioning’, that can also be a problem. The law of specificity tells us that training a certain movement makes you really good at that exact movement. Unfortunately, the bike erg is quite limited, and while there will be a considerable effect on lower body stamina and endurance, the upper body is neglected, and the ‘not full body’ nature of cycling will impair some of the cardiorespiratory benefits.

In third place: Rower.

This might surprise you, as it’s probably the most common piece of cardio equipment in home gyms. This probably has more to do with how long this piece of equipment has been around than how beneficial it actually is.

Don’t get us wrong, the rower is a highly effective conditioning tool and it has a very small footprint when stored (not so small when in use though).

One of the downsides is the imbalanced nature of the movement. Sure, it’s great to develop stamina through the posterior chain of the body (the hamstrings, lower back and ‘upper body pulling’ muscles), but it’s not something we could call a ‘complete full body workout’. Combine it with some squat type movements and some pressing and it’s amazing. Used in isolation though, you may find some imbalances develop.

In second place: Ski Erg.

We’re a big fan of the ski erg.

For a home gym, you simply cannot go past the tiny footprint. If this list was ‘benefit per square metre’, the ski would undoubtably stand on top of the podium.

This would also take out the number one position for upper body benefit. We like our cardio machines to work as many muscles groups as possible, and there are elements of both upper body pulling (high lat activation to begin the stroke) and upper body pressing (the end of the stroke).

We also see both hip flexion and extension (as well as some flexion and extension through the trunk). The anterior chain is neglected in this movement however – meaning it’s not a true ‘full body’ movement.

In first place: Air Bike.

We just can’t go past the air bike to take home the gold medal.

Firstly, there’s no part of your body that won’t benefit. The anterior and posterior chains of your lower body will be working, as will both the pushing and pulling muscles of your upper body. Nothing is safe!

This ‘full body effect’ means that not only will each part of your body benefit, but there’s a massive requirement to pump blood around the body to deliver oxygen and energy and remove carbon dioxide and waste. The high demands of this movement make it highly, highly effective.

There’s also no ‘recovery phase’ on the air bike (as there is with the rower or ski). There is simply no time where the body gets a chance to rest.

All energy systems can be targeted. Very short efforts can build power. High intensity sprint work will have a massive systemic impact on the body. Longer continuous efforts are great for cardiorespiratory system development.

So, our recommendation. Get an Air Bike, it really is the king of the cardio machines.

Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.

Our Most Recent Articles: