Which Exercise Machine Burns the Most Calories ?

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Last updated on February 12, 2023

When it comes to losing weight, it’s all about the calories. In order to get rid of body fat, you need to end each day in a caloric deficit. That means that you need to burn off more energy in the form of calories than you have taken into your body.

To achieve that state you need to be combining a calorie reduced diet with the most effective calorie burning exercise that you can do. That means selecting the cardio exercise machines that produce the best bang for your buck in terms of calorie burn.

In this article, I will lay out the 10 best calorie burning exercise machines to do just that.

Air Bike

While the traditional exercise bike is a good calorie burner, you can ramp up the intensity and the energy expenditure by exercising on an air bike. This differs from a traditional bike in that it has a huge fan wheel at the front which produces resistance as it passes over the blades. Air bikes also have movable handles that allow you to engage both the upper and lower body at the same time. This also increases the calorie burn. The air bike uses variable resistance, meaning that the harder you pedal, the more intense the workout will become.

You can burn between 20 and 30 calories every minute on an air bike, so an intense 30 minute session will burn through 300 calories. Keep that up for an hour (good luck with that!) and you’ll be up to around 1200 calories.

Rowing machine

The rowing machine is another excellent calorie burning exercise. This machine, better than any other, engages both the upper and lower body musculature in the workout. As well as working your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves, you also give a good workout to your lats, traps, shoulders and biceps. In fact, it has been estimated that 80% of the muscles of the body are involved in the rowing action.

Another great thing about the rowing machine is that this is a low-impact form of exercise. As a result, there is very little stress on your joints. A person who weighs 185 pounds rowing at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes will burn around 311 calories. Increase the intensity and that calorie burn will go up to about 377, according to research done by Harvard Health publishing.

You may also want to read best rowing machine workout for weight loss.


The treadmill is another very effective calorie burner. The number of calories that churn through depends on your weight and the intensity of your workout. If you were to run at a pace of around 10 mph, you would burn around 270 calories in 30 minutes. Brisk walking for the same period of time will see you burning off around 167 calories.

Exercising on a treadmill is an open chain exercise where your foot comes off the surface. This makes it a higher impact workout than the rowing machine or the air bike. However, modern treadmill technology means that, so long as you choose a quality product, you will have plenty of cushioning support when you run on the machine.

Please also check out Fat burning treadmill workouts.

Spin Bike

The spin bike is a souped up version of the traditional exercise bike. They allow for a more realistic cycling experience including allowing you to pedal while standing to simulate uphill riding. Spin cycle classes are very popular and among the most intense of all group fitness classes. The research done by Harvard Health publishing indicates that a 155 pound person will burn around 260 calories during a 30 minute spin cycle session. However, an intense spin cycle group class can burn as many as 750 calories in an hour.


The SkiErg is an overall body conditioning machine that burns through a ton of calories. It ranks very close to the rowing machine in its combination of developing muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance. It is especially effective at developing power through the glutes, hips and lats. This is another low-impact machine that is a closed chain so that your feet never come off the foot pedestals. That makes the SkiErg a smart choice for people with knee or hip mobility problems.

Exercising on the SkiErg will burn around 12 calories every minute for a person who weighs 155 lbs. That works out to about 238 calories for a 30 minute workout.

Elliptical Machine

The elliptical machine is a very popular gym cardio option that is low-impact. Because of its unique elliptical movement pattern it is considered to be less stressful on the joints and more biomechanically friendly than other options. While not as effective a calorie burner as the likes of the rowing machine or running on the treadmill, working out on an elliptical machine will still burn a decent amount of calories. A 155 pound person will expend around 315 calories during a 30 minute workout on the elliptical.

A related article you maybe interested in is top 5 elliptical workouts for weight loss.

Stair Stepper

The stair stepper is not as popular as it once was, due to the introduction of new and different types of cardio training equipment. However, it is still a good option for people trying to lose weight. It also provides an effective lower body workout, with the emphasis on the quads, glutes and calves. If she were to spend 30 minutes exercising on a stair stepper, a 155 pound woman would burn 270 calories.

Stationary Bike

The traditional stationary bike, which uses a magnetic form of resistance, while not as good as an air bike or a spin bike in terms of energy expenditure, will still provide you with an effective low-impact workout. People who have lower back issues should use a recumbent version of the stationary bike where the back is supported and you are peddling in a horizontal as opposed to a vertical direction. The 30 minute session on a stationary bike will see a 155 pound person burning off around 253 calories.

you may want to also read this article How To Lose Weight On A Stationary Bike (Two Best Ways).

Ski Machine

The ski machine is also not as common as it once was. It simulates the action of skiing with you holding two poles and moving on a track. If you have ever spent time skiing on the mountain, you appreciate how physically demanding and how many muscles of the body are involved in the skiing action. This is another overall body worker. A 30 minute session on the ski machine will burn off around 352 calories for a 155 pound individual.

Arc Trainer

The Arc trainer is an innovative addition to the gym cardio room that seeks to combine the effects of a cross trainer, rowing machine, treadmill, stationary bike and stair climber in one machine. It hasn’t caught on in popularity the way that manufacturers would have hoped but  they can still be found in many gyms. One of the reasons for its lack of traction may be that its marketers overhyped the number of calories that you can burn on this machine. The reality is that in a 30 minute session, a 155 pound person can expect to burn around 230 Calories. At the same time they’ll be activating the muscles of their upper and lower body in a low impact way that is joint friendly.

Ramping Up the Calorie Burn

Now that we have identified the top 10 calorie burning machines at your local gym, there is talk about how you can make the most use out of them. Many people get on an effective calorie burner but fail to maximize that time by doing slow steady state cardio. Often they do this because it is convenient, allowing them to play with their phone, watch TV or even read a book while they are supposedly exercising. If you are serious about losing body fat, this is not the way to do it.

A far better option is to engage in high intensity interval training (HIIT). This involves starting with a light warmup and then doing repeated rounds of fast sprint training followed by short rest intervals. One of the most popular forms of HIIT training is known as the Tabata protocol. This involves a two minute warm up followed by 20 seconds of hard out sprinting and a 10 second recovery. This is repeated eight times. You then finish with a two minute warm down.

You can do this type of work out on any of the cardio machines that we have spoken about in this article. Doing so will ramp up your calorie burning during the workout. Better still, it will elevate your metabolism for up to 24-hour’s post workout as a result of the enhanced post exercise oxygen consumption effect. That means that you’ll still be burning calories from your morning workout while you’re sitting on the couch watching TV that night.

Wrap up

The best calorie burning cardio machine available right now is the air bike, followed closely by the rowing machine. Regardless of what type of machine you have access to, however, optimize its use by performing high intensity interval training 3 to 4 times per week. Combine this with a daily nutritional caloric intake reduction of 500 calories and you will consistently burn 1 to 2 pounds of pure body fat every single week.

About the author  Steve

Steve Theunissen is from New Zealand and is a qualified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist with over 30 years experience. Read more about Steve in the 'about us' page.

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