Cybex ARC Trainer review: my cardio machine of choice

I’m not a huge fan of cardio machines. I find most of them boring and repetitive. I prefer to get my cardio done through metabolic strength training.

I can handle the treadmill and the rowing machine for short bursts. Warmups, cool downs and some HIIT (high intensity interval training) on those days when I’m not teaching step or spin.

If, however, I’m feeling like I need some extra, plain old cardiovascular training on a non-weight training day (like maybe the week after Valentine’s Day…), you’ll find me on the Cybex ARC Trainer.

Cybex ARC Trainer review

Kind of  like a cross between a stair climber, an elliptical and a good old Nordic track. It’s gliding motion is comfortable on the knees and ankles and it provides enough resistance to significantly elevate my heart rate. The Cybex ARC Trainer’s stride length seems to be longer than the average elliptical’s and I never feel like the handles are jerking my arms unnaturally.

It has an adjustable incline, allowing the user to mimic climbing a steep hill and changing the primary working muscled from quads to glutes. The 2:1 and 1:1 interval programs are my favorite.

Cybex ARC Trainer review

Last week, a 20-min interval workout (30 s high resistance, 60 s lower resistance, repeated again and again and again…) at a moderate intensity burned just over 260 calories.

Now calorie burn is not my primary focus when I’m working out (unless I have 1/2 pound of chocolate to ditch). But many of my clients pay close attention to the calorie display on cardio machines. Several of them have told me that they prefer the Cybex ARC Trainer over the alternatives specifically because they feel that it’s the best calorie-burner in the gym.

Usually I remind them that it’s not a good idea to compare workouts across machine types (or even machines; one elliptical may give you a completely different report than another). Bikes, ellipticals, treadmills and ergometers require your body to move in different ways, and as such, each machine uses a particular set of muscles to power the workout. Depending on which muscles are used (big vs. small), a similar length workout on two different cardio machines might be expected to result in vastly different caloric expenditures.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this articleHendrickson, K., Porcari, J.P. and Foster, C. Relative exercise intensity, heart rate, oxygen consumption and caloric expenditure when exercising on various non-impact cardio trainers. (Note: although I did find the article on Cybex’s website, the research was conducted independently and the science seems sound).

Here’s a recap;

Researchers took 16 people and familiarized them with three pieces of cardio equipment; the Cybex ARC Trainer, the Precor Adaptive Motion Trainer and the Precor Elliptical Trainer.

On each of three separate days, each subject completed a 30-minute, high intensity workout on one of the three machines (the order of exercise devices was counterbalanced across all subjects). Every 5 minutes, researches collected three pieces of information; (1) rate of perceived exertion, (2) heart rate and (3) oxygen consumption and calories burned.

The results surprised me.

  • RPE was virtually identical for all three machines (no subject felt that one machine was harder than an other)
  • Heart rate was similar for the ARC trainer and Adaptive Motion Trainer, but lower on the Elliptical. This, despite the same perceived effort as reported by the test subjects.
  • Oxygen consumption was significantly higher on the ARC trainer than on either of the other machines at the same perceived effort.
  • Over 30 minutes of exercise, the ARC trainer burned 16% more total calories than the Elliptical and 9% more calories than the Adaptive Motion Trainer at the same relative workout intensity.

Wow! My clients were right. The Cybex ARC trainer is the champion calorie-buster in the gym!

Note: I have no relationship whatsoever with Cybex. All opinions expressed in the post are mine and mine alone. If however, they wanted to send me an ARC trainer, I wouldn’t say ‘no’ and I’d happily wax poetic about them another time!

Do you do your cardio on a machine? Which one?

Have you ever tried the Cybex ARC trainer?

The toughest workout ever

Today I became a Bodyrocker. Don’t know about Bodyrock? Zuzana and Freddy post (almost) daily free workouts on their self-hosted site

Using minimal equipment (an interval timer, skipping rope, dipping station and sandbag) and high intensity whole body intervals they will kick your butt in as little time as it takes to read this post.

They have a huge online following of ‘Bodyrockers’ whose ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures are nothing short of inspirational.

While I’ve been visiting them regularly for a few months, I’ve never done more than incorporate an exercise or two of theirs into my boot camp classes or personal workouts.

Today, I took the plunge. No time to get to the gym, but desperate to fit something in. Twelve minutes of all-out-huffing-and-puffing-can’t-talk-sweating-buckets effort. Exactly the kind of workout I love to hate.

Here’s the workout (50 s per exercise, 10 s rest between exercises, 2 times through) and my reps for each exercise;

Skipping (116, 139)

Alternating backward sandbag lunges (22, 25)

Skipping (105, 113)

Reverse pushups (I don’t have a dipping station, so used my TRX instead; 15, 16)

Skipping (113, 125)

Monkey pushups (12, 11)

Didn’t manage to beat Zuzana’s scores, but not a bad result at all.

I wish I had a heart rate monitor to calculate calorie burn; I’m betting I expended as much energy during this 12 minute workout as I do during a 45 min spin class!

I’ll be Bodyrocking again soon; you should too!


Do you like high intensity interval training?

Tell me about your toughest ever workout!