Sculpt your body with the right fitness equipment

Congratulations. It was hard, but you’ve finally extracted a reluctant commitment from your man to get into shape. Better yet, you were savvy enough to realise that shiny new machines – in this case, the treadmill and the cross trainer would bring out the man-child in him, guaranteeing some initial enthusiasm at least. But hard statistics show that more than half of folks taking up an exercise regimen will put it back down again within six months. What can you do to keep your man from straying back to the couch?

It’s pretty simple, actually (which is not the same thing as “easy”). Visible results will keep his nose to the grindstone more than any vague notion that being healthy is good. And although he may pretend otherwise, the truth is he’d dearly love his waistline back; and it would truly be Christmas if his vanishing belly comes with materialising upper-body muscle. Now, it’s important to manage expectations here; achieving significantly enlarged muscle fibres requires heavy resistance training, chiefly the domain of the weights room, whilst the aim when using the equipment under discussion is primarily to achieve cardiovascular conditioning, weight loss, and overall health. But here are a few facts to get him on board. Consider for a moment the holy grail of masculine fitness (or rather the effect perceived as such: the so-called “six pack.”) One of several main-stream colloquialisms whose origins lie in the murky depths of the early 1970s bodybuilding gyms, this area of muscle – and how to achieve it – are still often misunderstood. You see, the most significant factor in achieving visible, distinct abdominal muscles is a reduction in body fat. Ask those early bodybuilders, who realised a wasp-thin waist would enhance that classic masculine V-shape, and who therefor took care not to develop their abdominals very much. Now, since a reduction in body fat is one of the benefits of treadmill training, it will make all his muscles more defined. Add to this the muscle developing potential of the cross trainer, and your man will have more than enough options between these two machines to get the body he wants… and thus stay motivated.

And a pleasant surprise awaiting you both is that, having accomplished many of his aesthetic goals, he’ll find he appreciates the benefits of improved health, too. No, he might not believe this now – that’s alright, so long as he does the work – but soon the previously hazy, abstract concept of “good health” will clarify into tangible, day-to-day benefits. Indeed, the condition he thinks of as “feeling normal” at the moment will, he’ll come to realise, mean stiff joints, lethargy and poor appetite. (Oh, and another little benefit universally reported by men who have achieved respectable levels of health is that sex feels better.)

All this should be more than enough to get your significant other on the same page as you; he’s already looking forward to the results, and the quicker he gets them, the better chance this endeavour stands of becoming a permanent lifestyle change, rather than a mere holiday from the familiar land of the sedentary. And since getting results means efficient use of the right equipment, let’s take a closer look at how best to use the two machines in question.

Treadmills are perhaps the oldest exercise machine, having been around since the 1800s. Consequently, today’s models are the result of decades of user feedback and numerous studies, which has allowed manufacturers to hone this particular machine pretty close to perfection.

But the treadmill’s strongest selling point is that it replicates a movement so instinctive and natural.
If your man hasn’t used a treadmill before, he should approach it with due caution and respect, initially setting it to no more than a brisk trot, with the ramp set to horizontal; and he should always use the handrail until he’s used to the machine. Yes, running and walking are natural movements, but doing them on a treadmill isn’t; the most common pitfall among treadmill newbies is to crank the speed up too high, and then slip out of rhythm and tumble backwards. It isn’t as funny as it looks in the cartoons – more than his pride could get hurt.

But once he settles into this artificial but effective stride, there are a whole host of training variables to experiment with. Pre-programmable models allow for the simulation of steep hills and gentle slopes; and once he’s confident, he can start to experiment with rapid changes in pace. Combine that with a running platform that gradually becomes steeper, and the calories with melt off like ice cubes in summer. Once he’s graduated to intermediary stage, he can begin (cautiously!) to quit the handrail, and even throw in some treadmill specialities, such as performing lunges between strides.

On to the cross trainer. Also known as an elliptical trainer or X trainer, this extraordinarily versatile machine, used in a standing position, involves using the legs in a smooth, cyclic rhythm which is similar to both jogging and cycling. Of particular interest to your other half will be the distinctive arm handles with which almost all modern cross trainers are equipped. These handles are alternately moved toward and away from the trainer’s upper body, against the selected level of resistance… which, if set to high, will certainly lead to those manly man-muscles your man wants.

In fact, the cross trainer quite literally involves the use of every muscle group in the body, making it an extremely efficient fat burner; although the calories burned on cross trainer programmes will of course vary according to the level of resistance the individual selects, a decent estimate would be between 8 and 12 calories per minute. Another unique aspect of the cross trainer is that it will go so much easier on your man’s joints than any other cardio machine. Consider, for example, that jogging is essentially the act of falling forward, then catching yourself with your other leg; the impact absorbed by the knee is considerable. Of course, running has certainly served humanity well enough until now… but that extremely low impact guarantee which only the cross trainer offers will encourage your bloke, particularly if he’s feeling a little unsure of his legs and lower back.

But almost as remarkable – and again, very likely to appeal to your man if he’s been out of the fitness game for a while – is the way those calories are burned. Numerous studies have led to the same findings: the subjective feeling of exertion is substantially less than if the subject were to burn those same calories by cycling or jogging. Or, as you might wish to express it to your soul-mate: “This is the quickest, easiest way to drop trouser size, sweetie.”

Written by Lisa at ICON Health & Fitness

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