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9 Ways to Get the Most out of Cardio Exercise Machines

author image Florann Elkins
Florann Elkins has three national fitness certifications from National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now enjoys helping people mentally and physically using fitness training and nutrition.

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9 Ways to Get the Most out of Cardio Exercise Machines
Photo Credit: Travis McCoy

Whether the elliptical or the treadmill, we love our cardio exercise machines. But strength training is vitally important, and everyone should incorporate it into their exercise routine, regardless of age or fitness level. Yes, ladies, that means you too. We all need regular strength training sessions -- including everything from resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, weight plates and medicine balls to your own body weight. In fact, we’ve put together a fun workout of strength training exercises that uses everyone’s favorite cardio machines to enable you to really get the most out of your at-home treadmill, rowing machine or elliptical.

1. TREADMILL: Walking Lunges
Photo Credit: Travis McCoy


First, slow down the machine to the pace of an easy walk in order to perform walking lunges. Lunges are great lower-body exercises, and the intensity can be increased by putting the treadmill on an incline. The core strength will be challenged because balance is important with this move as well (unless you’re holding on to the rails for dear life). HOW TO DO THEM: Start as far back on the treadmill as possible while gently holding the side rails and standing with both feet together. When the treadmill starts to move, step one foot in front of the other into a front-lunge position. Alternate feet and continue forward lunges for the desired number of repetitions.

Related: A 35-Minute HIIT Workout That Won't Hurt Your Knees

2. TREADMILL: Broad Jumps With Squats
Photo Credit: Travis McCoy


These jumps will add a plyometric move to this strength training exercise that also includes squats -- another great lower-body exercise. Broad jumps can also help to improve your running speed and will definitely get your heart rate up. HOW TO DO THEM: Make sure the treadmill is set to a slow pace -- the slower the better until you set a cadence. Start by standing as far back on the treadmill as you can while still holding the rails. With feet shoulder-width apart, jump to the front of the treadmill and squat down. As the conveyor belt continues moving, stand and move back until the same starting point is reached and repeat.

Related: 10 Steps to Becoming Your Own Personal Trainer

3. TREADMILL: Push-Ups With Lateral Alternating Hands
Photo Credit: Travis McCoy


Push-ups are awesome for increasing upper-body strength. HOW TO DO THEM: Keep the treadmill at a slow pace. Walk around to the side of treadmill and get into a push-up position with your body perpendicular to the machine. Start with your hands on the side rail of the treadmill until you feel stable then carefully place your hands on the moving belt of the treadmill and complete a push-up, moving swiftly. As the belt moves, laterally walk with the hands crossing the arms over the other until your hands are wide enough to complete another push up and repeat.

Related: Should You Work Out When You're Sick?

4. ROWING MACHINE: Reverse Lunges (With Bicep Curls)
Photo Credit: Travis McCoy


You can also use this machine for effective lunges, but this version is a bit more challenging than the lunges on the treadmill because it’s a compound movement completed with dumbbell curls. HOW TO DO THEM: Face forward, standing parallel to the rowing machine toward the front with dumbbells in both hands. Place the ball of the foot that is closest to the machine on the seat. Move the seat of the rowing machine backward with the foot and at the same time drop the knee of the moving leg down into a lunge position. Once in a full lunge position, complete a biceps curl with the dumbbells. Then, while keeping the foot on the seat, move the seat forward to the starting position and repeat.

Related: 10 Body-Sculpting Exercises You Can Do While Watching TV

5. ROWING MACHINE: Inverted V-Ups
Photo Credit: Travis McCoy


This exercise, often performed using a fitness ball, targets core strength, shoulder strength and stability. HOW TO DO THEM: Start by standing about a foot away from the back of the rowing machine and facing away from it. The machine’s seat should be situated close to the middle of the rail. Get into a plank position and place the balls of both feet on the seat. Using your core muscles and keeping your legs perfectly straight, pull the seat toward the back of the machine, moving your thighs toward your chest to create an inverted “V”. Return the seat back to the starting plank position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions. A simpler variation of this exercise can also be performed on the forearms and by bending the knees to bring them to the chest.

Related: 10 Common Workout Injuries and How to Avoid Them

6. ROWING MACHINE: Abdominal Roll-Outs
Photo Credit: Travis McCoy


Many people use a small wheel with handles to do ab roll-outs, but you can actually use your rowing machine for this core strengthener. HOW TO DO THEM: Start by kneeling on the floor at the rear of the rowing machine and facing toward the front of the machine. With legs together and both feet off the floor, hold the sides of the seat. Keeping your arms straight, slide the seat forward until your body is almost parallel to the floor then pull the seat back to the starting position using core strength to complete the movement and repeat.

Related: A Do-Anywhere, 15-Minute Fat-Blasting Workout

7. ELLIPTICAL: Single-Arm Push Press
Photo Credit: Travis McCoy


In this exercise, using a pushing movement engages the chest muscles and the triceps. HOW TO DO IT: Start the elliptical on a moderate to high level of resistance. With one hand on the stationary handle and the other hand on the mobile handle, push the moving handle forward with a lot of force and with little force when it is moving backward. The focus is on the forward push against the set resistance. Finish your reps on one side and then switch arms.

Related: Top 10 Moves to Recover from Your Workout

8. ELLIPTICAL: Single-Arm Pull/Row
Photo Credit: Travis McCoy


The opposite motion from the previous move, this one engages both the back and biceps muscles. HOW TO DO IT: Start the elliptical on a moderate to high level of resistance. With one hand on the stationary handle and the other hand on the mobile handle, pull the moving handle backward with force and with no force when it is moving forward. The focus is on pulling backward against the set resistance. Finish your reps on one side and then switch arms.

Related: The 20-Minute Hotel Room Workout

9. ELLIPTICAL: Static Squats
Photo Credit: Travis McCoy


This move is a great way to turn an elliptical cardio workout into a cardio-sculpting workout. You will definitely feel the burn in the glutes and the quads! HOW TO DO THEM: Start the elliptical machine on the level of resistance of your choice. Begin with both arms straight ahead of you, holding the stationary handles in the middle of the machine. While moving your feet, sit back into a squat position and continuously move your feet with the set resistance for the desired length of time. Squat for a count of 10 followed by a 5-10 second rest for 10-15 reps.

Related: 12 Reasons to Start Training with Kettlebells

What Do YOU Think?
Photo Credit: Travis McCoy


Have these exercises challenged your thinking about strength training on cardio machines? Have you ever tried other strength training exercises on these or other cardio machines? Let us know.

Related: 3 CrossFit Workouts You Can Do Without the Box

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