For a bodybuilder who needs to lose over 30 pounds, I rather have them start using a treadmill with no incline and set at a very comfortable speed. As fat weight is dropped and cardiovascular efficiency improves, the speed can be increased in order to make the activity more challenging. Later on, one can also start adding an incline. By the way, using an incline on a treadmill is a great way for the competitive bodybuilder to burn that stubborn body fat in the glutes and hamstrings area.
For a bodybuilder with less than 30 pounds to lose, or for an advanced bodybuilder, I would rather use a cross trainer elliptical machine; the one where you also get to move the arms. This machine simulates the running motion, but without the impact experienced in the knees and the ankles. Results achieved by this machine are fast since the calories burned through the duration of the activity is very significant; much higher than the calories burned in a treadmill.
Any Other Machines?
Another machine that I like to use for variety purposes is the recumbent bike. Set at a tension that does not impact the knees, the recumbent bike is a very effective machine that provides an effective cardiovascular workout, burns a bit more calories than the treadmill but less than the elliptical. Again, this is not the type of machine I would recommend for someone that has to lose over 30 lbs.
A stairstepper is another good middle-of-the-road option (in terms of calories burned) for those with less than 30 lbs to lose, though I am personally not a big fan of them simply because I do not enjoy the motion. This is the type of machine that I do if it is the only one I have available at the hotel gym I am at when traveling. However, I have some friends that love them. Once again, the key to protecting your knees is the resistance set. Remember that to make cardiovascular exercise effective, you need to perform it at a steady tempo for a duration of 20-45 minutes; so there is no need to set a high resistance.
Other Types Of Effective Cardiovascular Exercise
Though the question referred to pieces of cardiovascular equipment, I think it should be mentioned that walking on the pavement is a great form of cardiovascular exercise for anyone. And for those advanced bodybuilders with an adventurous spirit and healthy knees, running and jumping rope steadily for extended periods of time (20-45 minutes) will burn a significant amount of calories; even more than the elliptical machines.
Once a bodybuilder reaches the advanced stage, the best option is to use the wide variety of choices at one's disposal. Though the elliptical machine offers the highest caloric burn of all machines, once a bodybuilder has the desired level of body fat, changing the type of exercise on a regular basis not only prevents boredom and increases your cardiovascular efficiency at various activities, but also keeps the body guessing and responding to all exercises, thus making it easy to stay in that shape. So as the saying goes, "variety is the spice of life".
About The Author
Hugo Rivera, About.com's Bodybuilding Guide and ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, is a nationally-known best-selling author of over 8 books on bodybuilding, weight loss and fitness, including "The Body Sculpting Bible for Men", "The Body Sculpting Bible for Women", "The Hardgainer's Bodybuilding Handbook", and his successful, self published e-book, "Body Re-Engineering". Hugo is also a national level NPC natural bodybuilding champion. Learn more about Hugo Rivera.