What you don’t know may stop you from getting results!
By Judy Torel
In my work as a personal trainer, I have noticed a disturbing, yet increasingly common phenomenon in my new clients: cardio machine mythitis. This is the term I have coined for people who have been diligently working out on the elliptical machines, the recumbent bikes and the treadmills, yet are increasingly frustrated over a lack of weight loss. What I have discovered in most cases is the client is unaware of one of the elements built into the machine or doesn’t understand how to combine the various overload settings in order to produce adequate overloads.
Let’s make sure you are not suffering from cardio machine mythitis. Read on!
The elliptical machine took the fitness industry by storm about 10 years ago. Today, industry surveys show that elliptical machines are one of the most highly utilized cardio machines in gyms across the country.
There are a various brands and models of elliptical machines. My personal favorite is the 546 Precore model. The company has done its research and has engineered the most user friendly and close-to-life movement pattern of all the elliptical machines on the market today.
Elliptical machines in general have three overload settings that the user must adjust in order to achieve the training effect he/she is after. These three settings are: the ramp height, the resistance level and the strides per minute.
On the Precore 546 there are 20 ramp elevation levels varying from 1, a 0 percent gradient, to 20, which creates an incline of approximately 160 degrees. Most of the pre-set programs built into the machine will vary the ramp elevation at various times during the workout in order to establish a change in overload effect. For instance, if the ramp is lower, the total workout load will be lower. If the ramp is raised, the calories per minute burned increases because the higher the ramp the higher the intensity.
The second setting on elliptical machines is the resistance setting. On the Precore 546 there are 20 resistance levels. The first level is the lightest setting. As the resistance number increases so does the force necessary to push the pedals. The higher the force, the more calories burned per minute.
The final setting on the elliptical machines is the strides per minute. This is not something that you are prompted to program into the machine at the beginning of the workout. The strides per minute will be displayed on the console once you start to exercise. Strides per minute is similar to the speed setting on a treadmill. The higher the strides per minute, the more calories you will burn.
Most clients aren’t aware of the strides setting. This lack of awareness is probably the single most common factor for not achieving the weight loss and fitness gains desired.
Below is an example to help to clarify my point:
Amy is a 45-year old woman who desires to lose 30 pounds and has little to no experience with exercise. She has been told that the elliptical machine is a good one to use because of the smooth, comfortable, non-impact movements that won’t hurt her joints. Amy works out on the elliptical machine for three months for 30 minutes a session four times per week. She uses the manual program and sets the machine at a ramp of 10 and a resistance of 4 but she has no idea of what strides per minute she is maintaining. With guidance Amy could find the proper stride cadence that gets her heart rate into her target heart rate zone. With the proper strides per minute, Amy will get the maximum calorie burn while maintaining a level of output that keeps her in her proper intensity zone. Without it, she may be getting a sub-maximal workout.
If your goal is to burn calories to lose weight, then you would set the ramp at a comfortable level and try to emphasis the strides per minute over the resistance level. What this means is that you want to have a resistance that allows you to feel like you are working, but you want to be able to feel as if you are striding at a slightly higher level then you would comfortably set.
If your goal is to increase muscular endurance and power and increase your fitness level, then you want to find the strides per minute that is in your comfort zone and then increase the resistance one level above your comfort zone while holding the same stride cadence.
The ramp has the least effect on the total intensity and can be used to enhance the overload effects once the resistance and strides levels have been established. The ramp is a great feature to help people suffering from knee, hip and back injuries and joint conditions. You can adjust the ramp to avoid “glitch spots” in various joints that will then enable you to get a great cardiovascular workout, pain free!
The recumbent bikes are very popular in gyms today. On these bikes your legs are out in front of your body as opposed to underneath you like on a traditional upright bike or indoor cycle bike. These bikes are ideal for people with lower back and lower body joint issues because they are non-weight bearing and the recumbent position reduces the pressure loads on the lower body joints.
There are two intensity settings on recumbent bikes and on bikes in general. They are the resistance level and the RPMs (revolutions per minute).
The resistance level is generally 1 to 20 with the resistance load increasing with each increase in level. If you think of the resistance level as simulating hills if you were riding on the road, then each increase in resistance is comparable to biking up a higher and higher hill.
The RPMs per minute is the number of times that your foot goes around in one minute. This is not something that you pre-set into the machine. You must be monitoring your console as you are riding to assess your cadence.
Most people think that the higher the resistance the more intense the workout on the recumbent bikes, but this is not the case. There has to be an appropriate combination of resistance and RPMs in order for you to achieve the proper overload levels for your personal goals. Generally speaking, if you have a high resistance but your rpms are only 25 you will be burning less calories per minute then if you increased your rpms to 50 and kept the same resistance.
A general rule of thumb for weight loss is to try to maintain 70-90 rpms and then set the resistance at a level that you feel you are working to maintain the rpms but you CAN maintain them for at least 10 minutes. As you get fitter, you can increase the resistance while maintaining the same rpm level. The higher the resistance at the same rpms, the higher the calories burned per minute!
The treadmill is the premier cardiovascular machine. It has been the corner stone cardio machine in the fitness industry for many years and continues to be so today.
Treadmills have two settings: speed and incline. The incline is the gradient at which you are walking or jogging. The machines start on a 0 percent gradient and most can be raised to a 12 percent incline. Generally speaking, the higher the incline, the more calories burned per minute. This is true whether you are walking or jogging.
The speed is the miles per hour (3.5 for example) or minutes per mile reading (7:52). Generally, treadmills will give you both readings on the console, but you program the miles per hour when setting your workout levels.
On the treadmills it is usually best to achieve your highest speed that you can maintain either walking or jogging before you start to add inclines to the workout.
All people are aware of the speed on the treadmill because it is something that you must program into the machine for your workout. On the ellipticals and the recumbent bikes, the speed is not pre-programmed into the machines, but must be executed by the user during the workout.
Once you know the various overload elements for each machine and how to combine them, you are set to achieve your workout goals. Good luck!
Judy Torel, owner of Judy Torel’s Sweat Shop, is available by appointment and phone for lifestyle coaching. You can contact her at 459.6942, www.judytorelsweatshop.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. She is also the fitness consultant for WNYT-News Channel 13.