Most gyms offer a wide variety of aerobic equipment options-steppers, bikes and treadmills, just to name a few. As these ergometers proliferate like rabbits, many questions arise: When it comes to fat loss, is
indoor training as good as outdoor training? What's the best ergometer to use to meet that goal? How do you maximize results on a particular ergometer? In this fitFlex articles we'll hit the general advantages
and disadvantages of the most popular stationary ergometers, comparing them to other forms of training. We'll also take a look at types of ergometers and discuss how to choose the right machine for your goals.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Aerobic Training
Ergometers offer three advantages over their outdoor counterparts: control, adjustability and ease of monitoring. Outdoor training leaves you at the mercy of local geography and weather conditions. Indoor
ergometer training allows you to work in a sheltered predictable environment where the demands of the "course" are fully adjustable.
Also, unlike outdoor forms of training, most ergometers provide valuable information about your workout, including cadence, distance covered, grade, speed and-although it's not 100 percent accurate-calorie
expenditure. These facilities make it much easier to hit the FITT guidelines for losing fat and sparing lean tissue.
Ergometers fall into two groups: motivational and non-motivational. The motivational ones force you to keep up-if you don't, either you fall off or they stop. These include treadmills and some stair steppers
and climbers. Non-motivational machines, on the other hand, allow you to drift between a fast and slow pace with little or no consequence (other than perhaps a warning light).
These include bicycles, arm crankers, cower and cross- country skiers. Non-motivational equipment requires you to bring more discipline and attention to your workout.
The Best Bet for Bodybuilding
Your best bets are ergometers that make demands on a large muscle mass. Spreading the workload over a larger area causes less localized muscle fatigue and thus decreases the risk of overtraining. As a result
activities that engage a large muscle mass feel easier at any given workload. They also burn calories at a higher rate than exercises using a smaller muscle mass. For example, arm cranking is performed by a
relatively small muscle mass, making it difficult, due to local fatigue, to burn many calories.
In comparison, cross-country skiing spreads the workload over a very large muscle mass, and you can perform it at a much higher work rate with less fatigue, thereby burning substantially more calories. Listed
below are popular types of ergometers, ranked from greatest muscle-mass involvement to least:
» Cross-country skiers
» Stair steppers
Your best bet is to use one of the top-three options on this list. Stair steppers make such significant demands on the glutes and calves-actually providing some anaerobic conditioning benefit-that you risk
over-training when you use them in a program that includes lifting. If you choose one of the non-motivational options, be especially diligent about monitoring your heart rate and staying at an appropriate
level relative to your lactate threshold. Non-motivational machines do little to help you out in that regard.
Effects of Training Modes
Two final points to keep in mind when you use any of these machines. First, most ergometers offer several program modes-for example, hill profile or random- that create workouts of varying intensities. This
feature is not appropriate for the sustained, low-level training (called LSD, or long, steady distance) most effective for fat-loss/lean-muscle-sparing work. LSD requires a consistent workload, lithe machine
intensity changes often, your workload won't be consistent.
Furthermore, program modes offer no way for you to set the intensity or the length of your work or rest intervals. There's also a problem with program modes as they relate to progression. If the machine picks
an intensity at random, it's impossible to duplicate the settings for the next workout, let alone increase them by the 10 percent as we recommend. The best approach is to use manual mode for all your training.
That way you can increase or decrease the intensity as needed to meet your goals. The second point is that some ergometers have a computer-simulated pacer for you to compete against during aerobic training.
Although it's excellent for intervals, this can force you to train too hard during LSD based workouts. When you do LSD, you need to pay attention to your body, not the computer, and maintain a conversational