Which Exercise Machine Burns the Most Calories?

Which cardio machine should you use when you want to quickly burn off last night’s cheesecake?

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #1

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Which exercise machine will give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to burning the most calories? If I had a nickel for every time I hear this question from a client or curious gym-goer, I'd have a pretty fat wallet! In today’s article, I'll compare the calorie-burning effects of some popular cardio machines that you’ll find at the gym, and give you quick and dirty tips for each.

Let’s start with most popular machine--the one that shows up at the poshest exclusive health club and the hole-in-a-wall hotel.

How Many Calories Does Bicycling Burn?

Since the pedaling motion incorporates the big and powerful muscles of the leg, bicycling is a great choice for calorie burning. Depending on your intensity, bicycling can burn 500-1000 calories per hour, which ranks it among the highest calorie burners, so long as you use it correctly.

How to Burn the Most Calories on the Bike

Many people don’t choose a resistance that is high enough to really stimulate those calorie burning leg muscles, and instead let the natural movement of a bicycle’s pedals do the work for them. To avoid this problem and get maximum benefit from a bike, choose a resistance that makes you breathe hard in order to achieve 90 RPM, or revolutions per minute; most indoor stationary bicycles show this number on the computer display.

Upright Versus Recumbent Bicycles

What about upright vs. recumbent bicycles (the type that you sit in)? Though the back rest on a recumbent bicycle can relieve stress on the lower back, neck, elbow and wrist, this type of bicycle should be used only if you have pain in these joints when you’re seated on an upright bicycle. That is because you don’t make any of those calorie-burning core muscles work when you’re on a recumbent bike.

Quick and dirty tip for getting the most bang for your buck on the bike: Do a few 2-3 minute sets in which you pedal at 90 revolutions per minute at the highest resistance at which you can sustain that pedaling speed. Make sure to fully recover between each set.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.