Why choose a treadmill over other kinds of exercise or weight lifting equipment?
Treadmills have many advantages. Unlike running, treadmill workouts are low impact, if you maintain a walking pace. Running on a treadmill is lower impact than running outdoors because the treadmill surface is cushioned, unlike hard road or track surfaces. A vigorous treadmill session is aerobic, unlike strength training (working out with a barbell or with dumbbells). A good treadmill will raise your heart rate and exercise the heart, the most important muscle in your body. When your heart rate is maintained at an elevated rate, you burn more calories. Stair steppers can be rough on the knees, while leg motion on a treadmill is completely natural. A treadmill burns more calories than a pedal exerciser or stationary bike and again, is easier on the knees. A quality treadmill is pretty much infinitely adjustable in terms of speed and incline and will keep pace with you as your fitness increases. Over time, the purchasing a treadmill is often more cost effective than a gym membership. The quality and performance of high-end treadmills can rival commercial weight lifting equipment.
Treadmill features to consider
Motor and horsepower
Belt, deck and cushioning
Built in heart rate monitor
Cheap treadmills abound. If you've ever walked through a big-box discount store or warehouse store, you know that these types of retailers almost always carry some form of home weight lifting equipment, including treadmills. Don't be seduced by low cost. Discount treadmills aren't built to last and the warranty often reflects this. Do you really want to invest a few hundred dollars on a treadmill with a 60- or 90-day warranty? A quality treadmill can cost a great deal more but has a longer warranty and is built to last. To find out how a treadmill (cheap or expensive) performs and holds up over time, you should seek out and read treadmill ratings and treadmill reviews. These can be found in great profusion on the Internet. Just type the treadmill name into any reliable search engine and you'll find a wealth of information about the product. Beware of used weight lifting equipment - often it is out of warranty and/or has already failed and been repaired. The best advice is to buy the best treadmill you can afford after researching the subject extensively - exercise your brain before hopping on that treadmill.
Motor and horsepower
This can get a bit technical. You may read about horsepower, peak performance and continuous duty. Horsepower measures the strength of the treadmill's motor. Peak performance shows the motor's maximum power, which OK but which doesn't mean much. How the treadmill performs over the span of a workout and under load is called the continuous duty rating. This is the critical rating. If plan to run on your treadmill, select a treadmill with 2.0-2.5 horsepower continuous duty rating. Treadmills for walkers should be rated at 1.0-1.5 horsepower continuous duty. Motor operation should be quiet and smooth.
Your treadmill should have adjustable incline to simulate walking or running uphill. Incline is expressed as a percentage. Walking or running on an incline makes your workout more challenging. Most people start with a 0% incline and work their way up to 10%. Incline can be manual or powered. Treadmills with manual incline are generally less expensive. To change a manual incline, you have to interrupt your workout to make the adjustment. Powered incline allows you to change the setting while you're walking or running. Many people prefer the additional expense of a powered incline because it's easier and more convenient.
Belt, deck and cushioning
The belt on your treadmill should be two ply, as opposed to one ply. The belt should lie flat and not curl at the edges. The length of the belt is related to stride length while running or walking. Be sure to choose a treadmill with a belt long enough to support your stride - about 45-50 inches for an average stride. Users with long legs should look for longer belts - up to 60 inches.
The belt moves over the deck. The thicker the deck, the more cushioning it will have. If the deck is too bouncy or flexible, it can hurt your joints. Some decks are reversible, a good feature that will double the life of this part of the treadmill. The deck of a good quality treadmill minimizes friction with the belt and enables smooth and fluid motion. Belts and decks generally require little or no maintenance.
Cushioning and shock absorption features differ from model to model. Decks, suspensions and frames should be somewhat flexible in order to minimize the impact of walking and running. The amount of "give" in a treadmill depends on your physical fitness goals. For runners and those who walk outdoors, the treadmill should simulate outdoor surfaces. This generally means minimal cushioning. If you don't plan to take your workout outdoors, choose a treadmill with more cushioning to make your exercise sessions more comfortable.
Most treadmills will have some sort of a computer. The more expensive the treadmill, the more extensive the computer's functions will be. At the very least, the computer should tell you how fast you're going and the distance you've traveled. Some computers calculate calories burned and this can be a very motivating feature to have. Higher end treadmills may have pre-programmed routines that vary the speed and incline automatically, providing a more challenging workout. Other computer features that might be included with a computer are lap counter, incline level, elapsed time and heart rate. More on heart rate in the next section. The purpose of a computer is to provide feedback to users and keep them interested in the workout.
Built in heart rate monitor
To get maximum benefit from your exercise routine, you should keep your heart rate elevated within a certain range. Better treadmills come with heart rate monitors that display your pulse on and LCD or LED display. These devices usually have a clip that attaches to your finger or earlobe. The clip contains an infrared detector that measures your pulse and sends the count to the computer. Your target heart rate is usually a percentage of your maximum heart rate. You can figure this by subtracting your age from 220. For a 30-year-old person, the max heart rate is 190. For aerobic benefits, you should exercise at 70-80% of your max. For fat burning benefits, you should exercise at 60-70% of your max. Beginners should keep their workouts to 50-60% of max. Before starting any exercise routine, you should check with your doctor. A heart rate monitor on your treadmill will help you maximize the benefits of your workout.
If the treadmill will be used in a home where there are children, look for a model with some sort of a lockout that controls who can use the machine. Another good feature is an emergency shutoff that stops the machine if you fall off the treadmill. The emergency shutoff usually involves a key that you insert into a slot on the treadmill's console. Attached to the key is a cord with a clip at the end that you attach to your clothing. When the key is pulled out of the slot, the treadmill immediately stops.
If space is a consideration, choose a treadmill that folds. For ease of movement, a folding treadmill should have some type of a wheel system. Some space saving treadmills have shorter decks, which can create a problem for runners or users with a long stride.
Beware of treadmills with warranties measured in days, for example 60 or 90 days. A quality machine's warranty will be longer, ideally at least 3 years for parts and 1 year for labor. Read the warranty carefully before buying. Sometimes you'll be required to do some cleaning and/or lubrication to keep the warranty in force.
With some quality treadmill prices in the thousands of dollars, the purchasing decision should be carefully considered and thoughtfully made. Remember that you're investing in your future health and vitality - your workout equipment should be the best you can afford. If it doesn't work well and make the workout enjoyable, you'll be less likely to use it on a regular basis. And regular workouts are key to the successful use of any home gym equipment, especially a treadmill. A well-chosen quality treadmill will give you years of reliable service.
The advantages of the elliptical trainer
The elliptical trainer is fast becoming the preferred machine for aerobic weight-bearing exercise. Elliptical trainers have several important advantages over other types of weight lifting equipment like stairsteppers and treadmills. In this article we'll discuss the features and benefits of ellipticals and explain why this machine should be included in your home weight lifting equipment. We'll also tell you features to look for when shopping for the best elliptical trainer.
How an elliptical trainer works
The elliptical trainer has long, flat, oversized pedals that fit the entire length of the foot and then some. One end of the pedal, the front end, is attached to a crank like on a bicycle. Pressure on the crank rotates the front of the pedal in a circular motion. The back end of the pedal has linear motion during crank rotation. This combination of linear and circular motions results in overall elliptical movement patterns that vary depending where on the pedal the motion occurs. Toward the front of the pedal, the ellipses are wider and more circular. Toward the back of the pedal, the ellipses are longer and flatter. Studies have shown that this elliptical motion closely approximates leg and foot motion during walking, jogging and running. Attached to the front of the machines are long poles that move forward and back in a motion similar to using ski poles. In fact, the elliptical can be thought of as simulating cross-country skiing.
The elliptical trainer further explained
Elliptical machines are relative newcomers on the fitness scene. Combining the motion of walking with that of stair climbing, ellipticals offer a low impact full body workout because of the arm levers or handles. You stand in an upright position when using an elliptical. Because the elliptical closely mimics the natural foot motion of walking or jogging but doesn't require lifting the foot, its motion is completely fluid and non-jarring. The elliptical machine minimizes stress on the user's knees, hips and back. Because you don't have to lift your feet during the workout - they stay securely on the pedals -- the risk of injury is minimized. The elliptical works arms and legs together, so your workout will be more intense in a shorter span of time. To see the advantages of an elliptical, let's compare it to the treadmill, currently the most popular piece of home weight lifting equipment.
Elliptical versus treadmill
The treadmill concentrates strictly on the lower body while the elliptical exercises both the upper and lower body. Although walking on a treadmill has less impact than walking outdoors, there is still significant effect on the joints. Although both the treadmill and elliptical offer adjustable resistance and incline, only the elliptical can be pedaled in reverse motion, adding significant variety to the workout. The reverse motion also works different muscles. You can also choose to use the levers on an elliptical in order to vary the workout so you don't get bored. Many treadmills come with computers, pre-programmed workouts and heart rate monitors. Most ellipticals have similar features. An elliptical is quieter in operation than a treadmill and takes up less space. Although it's too soon to tell, the elliptical seems destined to displace the treadmill as the top form of aerobic exercise. While the elliptical and treadmill are about equal in health benefits, the elliptical provides these benefits with less risk of injury, shortens the workout's duration and allows you more flexibility in your fitness routine.
Features to look for when shopping for an elliptical
o Stride length - Look for a stride length of about 21 inches. Less expensive models will offer 14 to 16 inches, a stride length too short for most people.
o Adjustable incline - Like a treadmill, your elliptical should adjust in the range of 0% to 10%.
o Smooth motion - The machine should have an even, stable motion through all parts of the ellipse.
o Silent operation - No clanking, banging, or loud noise of any kind. This is important if you plan to watch TV or listen to music during the workout; or if you work out while others are sleeping.
o Upper body motion - Even if you don't plan to use arm levers right away, choose a machine that has them. The handrails and arm levers should provide stability and aid in balance but not get in the way.
o Adjustable resistance - An absolute must have if you want your elliptical trainer to keep pace as you get stronger and fitter. Resistance adjustment that is motorized is best, so you can change the settings on the fly.
o Warm up and cool down - To minimize the risk of injury and stress on the muscles and joints, the machine should have built-in warm up and cool down
o Console and computer - The console should be easy to read and at least show time, distance and calories burned. If you can afford a machine with pre-programmed workouts, be sure there is a fairly wide and challenging range -- from easy to hard -- so you won't outgrow the programs or get bored.
o Heart rate monitor - Available on better ellipticals, this is an interactive tool that displays your heart rate so you can be sure you're exercising in the right zone for maximum cardio and muscle-working benefits. Some machines tie the heart rate monitor into the computer, so the trainer can adjust as needed to keep you in your target heart rate zone. This makes for a very efficient workout.
o Warranty - An indicator of initial quality and of the confidence the manufacturer has in their product, the warranty is often overlooked. Don't settle for anything less than 1 year for labor and 1-3 years for parts. Be sure you can have the machine serviced locally if something goes wrong.
Other tips and suggestions
Measure the space where you plan to put your elliptical trainer. Allow at least 25 square feet. Check the Internet for backgound information and user reviews on various brands of ellipticals. Visit a retailer that specializes in weight lifting equipment and "test drive" several modes. Don't just hop on and hop off - spend a few minutes on each machine to make sure it is comfortable, smooth and easy to use. Finally, don't cheap out - instead of buying a bargain brand that won't last, save up the money if you have to and buy a better model that will give you years of reliable service.
What to consider when choosing a home gym
There's a lot to consider when you're thinking about buying home gym equipment. The cost of this type of weight lifting equipment can run into the thousands of dollars. Working out on a home gym has many benefits that often outweigh the cost. Selecting a home gym suited to your needs isn't an easy process. In this article we'll discuss some of the factors and features of home weight lifting equipment that should figure into your decision.
A major factor: your fitness goals
This takes some serious reflection on your part. Questions to ask yourself are: Why are you buying a home gym instead of joining a health club that is likely to have better gym equipment? Most people would answer that convenience is an important factor, with cost saving a close second. A home gym can be used by multiple people and thus is more cost effective than individual gym memberships for several household members. What is your ultimate fitness goal? From general fitness and toning to serious bodybuilding, your home gym should have the capacity to support your health and fitness goals, current and future. Your goals will change over time - be sure that the machine is capable of changing with you by allowing you to add additional features to vary your workout. Better home gyms usually have add-on accessories like the leg extension or butterfly attachments. You may not want these accessories when you first use the machine but it's nice to know you can expand the machine to include them
Types of home gyms
weight lifting equipment like a home gym enables you to do strength training. Using strength training equipment allows you to exercise with weights that provide resistance. Resistance training works to increase muscle mass, enabling you to tone and sculpt your body. In traditional-style home gyms, resistance comes from a weight stack. Weights can be disc or blocks and are attached to the machine with a system of cables and pulleys. Weight stack machines are the work horses of both the health club and home gym. A typical weight stack should support weights as low as 10 lbs. and as high as 200 lbs. or more. Recently, home gyms have come on to the market that utilize bows or heavy-duty elastic bands to provide resistance. These machines are often less expensive than weight-stack models, but require more adjustment and resetting when changing exercises.
Features to look for in a home gym
o Ergonomics and comfort
o Weight range and number of exercises available
o Safety, maintenance, cleaning, lubrication
If the machine isn't easy to adjust, chances are you won't fully use all its features. Be sure the seat is easy to move and that it locks firmly in place. It should be simple to change the resistance level and simple to swap accessories. Adjustability is particularly important if the machine will have multiple users - it shouldn't be a hassle.
The frame, cables and pulleys are critical features of home gyms. The frame should be made of 11 or 12 gauge tubular steel. Gauge refers to the thickness of the steel. The greater the gauge, the more sturdy, safe and durable the machine will be. Also look for frames that are welded rather than bolted in critical places where stress could become an issue. Cables on the home gym should be able to withstand up to 2500 lbs. of force before breaking. Aircraft cables covered with a nylon coating are best. Don't underestimate the importance of cables - broken cables are a leading cause of injury. Pulleys should be made of nylon, not plastic. Better pulleys contain sealed bearings. Remember that three quarters of the gym's smoothness comes from the quality of the pulleys. Cast iron weight stacks offer the smoothest operation.
Ergonomics and comfort
The gym has to be usable - it should fit your height, size and limb length. People shorter than 5 feet 8 inches should be especially careful to make sure their home gym has an adjustable seat. If you're a larger person in either height or weight, check to see that the machine is tall and wide enough to accommodate you. You shouldn't feel either stretched or cramped when using the gym. Benches should be generously padded and have rounded corners. Handgrips should be covered with rubber or foam padding to provide cushioning and prevent blisters. The best way to evaluate the ergonomics of a machine is to try a variety of exercise. If it's not comfortable in the store, it's likely to be even less comfortable at home.
Weight range and number of exercises available
The weight range of a home gym should accommodate all the people who will be using it. You can exercise to build muscle or just tone and strengthen. Toning requires lower weight and is often preferred by users with general fitness goals. Be sure your machine supports weights as low as 5 or 10 lbs. Although 200 lbs. is the usual upper limit of a weight stack, the machine should be expandable beyond it. A quality home gym should allow you to perform most health club exercises including:
o Leg extension (may require additional attachment or accessory)
o Leg curl (may require additional attachment or accessory)
o Butterfly (may require additional attachment or accessory)
o Bench press
o Bicep curl
o Lat pulldown
o Tricep pushdown
o Leg press
o Military press
o Donkey press
o Back of neck press
Safety, maintenance, cleaning, lubrication
If the home gym moves or wobbles when you give it a good shake, you should be concerned about it's safety. If the machine is made of lower gauge steel tubing, there's a chance it will flex under load. These unexpected motions can cause injuries. The weight stack should have a cover (shroud) to prevent injury, especially to small children. Be sure that the pin for the weight stack is easy to operate and stays in place. Some pins have a locking mechanism. Better machines will "spot" you - they will allow you to abort an exercise or movement without letting levers or bars strike you. There should be a complete owners manual with the gym, including full information on any maintenance you need to perform. Be sure to follow maintenance procedures carefully to keep your home gym operating safely. Pay special attention to any lubrication requirements and keep the machine clean - by wiping down the frame and bench to remove sweat.
The length and scope of the warranty are good indicators of the home gym's quality. A warranty that runs for only a few months should be suspect. The warranty is a good indicator of how much confidence the manufacturer places in the product. A high quality home gym should have a lifetime warranty on the frame. Medium quality units will warrant the frame for at least 10 year. Cables, benches, pads and grips should carry at least a 3 year warranty.
Choosing a home gym can be a complex and daunting process. Check the Internet for reviews and information on the best home gyms. Visit quality fitness retailers and "test drive" several makes and models. Cheap home gyms may be tempting, but resist the temptation if you can - why risk injury just to save a few dollars? Once you're sure what you want, consider purchasing on the Internet. Home gyms on the web are often discounted significantly. Support your fitness goals with quality equipment. Performing strength and conditioning exercises will build lean muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat - so strength training also supports weigh control goals. Be sure to add some cardiovascular exercises to your workout routine to burn even more calories and exercise your most important muscle, your heart. Strength and cardio workouts go hand in hand in any home fitness program. Armed with the right information, you should be able to make an informed decision and purchase a home gym that will give you years of reliable service.
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