Toning and losing weight are the top priorities on many women's fitness wish lists. Losing weight requires not only a change in diet to reduce calorie intake, but also a well-balanced, intensive training program. If you're new to training or aren't too familiar with the gym, it may be best to start out using machines. Choose the ones that give you the most bang for your buck for quicker results .
Cardio tends to be the first port of call for many women on the quest for weight loss, and for good reason. Most cardiovascular activities burn a large number of calories and the more calories you burn, the greater your weight and fat loss will be. According to the Harvard Medical School, moderate stationary cycling and rowing both burn between 210 and 311 calories per half hour depending on your body-weight, while the elliptical burns between 270 to 400. Vigorous rowing and vigorous stationary cycling burn between 255 to 377 calories and 315 to 466 calories, respectively. Running burns between 240 to 733 calories depending on your speed, so the treadmill may actually be your best option.
Upper Body Resistance Machines
Cardio is only half the equation. To achieve muscle tone, you also need to do resistance training. The exercises that burn the most calories, according to strength coach Rachel Cosgrove, are compound, meaning they use multiple muscle groups at the same time. Work your back with pulldowns and seated machine rows, train your chest with chest presses and work your shoulders on the shoulder press machine.
Lower Body Resistance Machines
Training your lower body is similar to training your upper body -- choose the machines that work the most muscles. This means that the leg press should be a staple in your routine, as it works the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and glutes. Leg curls, leg extensions and calf raises will help strengthen muscles individually, but they don't have as much overall benefit as the leg press.
The downside to using machines for your strength training is that lifting a weight in a fixed plane doesn't recruit as many stabilizing muscles as lifting a free-weight does, so you burn fewer calories. At some stage, you may wish to switch over to free-weights for the resistance portion of your workout. Don't be afraid to lift heavy, advises trainer Nia Shanks on TribeSports.com. Lifting heavy weights for five to eight reps per set will give you far better results than lifting light weights for more reps. To make your cardio even more effective for weight loss, try interval training, which involves short bursts of maximum effort interspersed with slightly longer periods of regular effort.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.