7 Top Upper Body Cardio Machines

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Cardiovascular workouts are important but not everyone likes the leg focus they usually have. Discover a few upper body cardio machines available.

These will generally not cause any muscle growth but can still save you when leg cardio workouts are not a convenient option.

1. Hand cycle

There are not too many cardio machines that actually only work your upper body.

However, one of the exceptions is a hand cycle, also named pedal exerciser if you use it with your legs.

You can describe a hand cycle as a stand with two pedals attached to it.

There is also a built-in resistance mechanism so when you turn the pedals with your hands (or cycle with your feet), your cardiovascular system has to work harder.

One of the main benefits of this equipment option is that it is actually an arm cardio machine if you want it to be.

Additionally, hand cycles are relatively compact, quiet, and easy to store. Even in something like a small apartment.

One downside is that hand cycles are not the most intense cardio exercise equipment.

To really improve your cardiovascular health a lot you will likely need to do other cardio workouts too.

At the same time, it is still fair to say that hand cycles can get your heart beating with only the help of your upper body.

This piece of cardio equipment should be convenient enough to use in front of the TV or something similar too.

Check hand cycle prices

Hand cycle

2. Ski machine

Outside of the crossfit world, ski machines are not that well-known which is a shame for people interested in upper body cardio machines.

You can describe these machines as a setup with two handles hanging in the air.

These are then connected to resistance which makes it so pulling these handles gives a relatively good cardio workout.

On top of that, your biceps (upper arm muscles), latissimus dorsi (upper back muscles), abs, and obliques (side core muscles) have to work nice amounts too.

In some ways, using a ski machine looks similar to a rowing machine but while pulling down to get a bigger arm range of motion.

You typically use ski machines in a way where you slightly go through your knees too.

However, if this is not an option, you could consider a more suboptimal technique that keeps the focus on upper body but still get in a good cardio workout.

One of the benefits of ski machines like the SkiErg is that they are relatively compact in terms of surface area.

This can be helpful for people who want to train their cardiovascular health at home.

On the other hand, if you want a device that counts as a full body cardio machine, ski machines are not the ideal option.

Not everyone is a fan of the ski machine price tags either.

Check ski machine prices

Ski machine

3. Elliptical machine

If you have gone to a gym you likely noticed the row of elliptical machines.

These cardio machines look somewhat complicated at first but are actually straightforward to use.

To start, you simply put your hands on the handles and feet on the pedals.

After that, you push and pull the handles and rotate the pedals with the help of your leg muscles.

As you can tell, you do need a certain extent of lower body engagement to use this upper body cardio machine.

On the flip side, you can really keep this to a minimum by lowering the resistance and mainly moving with your arms.

Similar to other equipment options on this list, elliptical machines can improve your cardiovascular health, burn calories, improve sleep, and do more.

In theory, you could even build some muscle at really high resistance levels although there are many better alternatives for this.

A more unique benefit of elliptical machines is that they tend to be quiet.

This can make it a good cardio equipment option for apartments with neighbors on all sides too.

At the same time, you still want to keep the somewhat higher price tag in mind.

Check elliptical machine prices

elliptical machine

4. Rowing machine

Rowing machines are relatively well-known but as a quick recap, they basically simulate the movement of rowing a boat.

Even if you have not had this experience yet, you likely understand that this offers a great cardiovascular workout with a lot of upper body focus.

What could be more surprising is that the common rowing technique also involves a lot of leg action.

If this is not an option, the rowing machine will not be ideal for you.

Additionally, not everyone has enough room to store and use one of these upper body cardio machines.

The price tag is not ideal either.

On the other hand, people who don’t mind this will generally find the rowing machine a great piece of exercise equipment.

Similar to the ski machine, rowing machines engage your biceps and latissimus dorsi to a nice extent.

Check rowing machine prices

Rowing machine

5. Dual action exercise bike

Regular exercise bikes tend to be very leg-focused but there are also other types of stationary bikes with moving handles.

These handles can sometimes go back and forth like an elliptical machine or in circles like your legs.

As you can expect, both designs offer a good cardiovascular workout while really engaging your upper body to a nice extent.

A benefit of stationary bikes with moving arms is that you could theoretically even leave your feet off the pedals and make it an upper-body-only workout.

In practice, this can be a bit too hard with the resistances available.

Another potential positive point of dual action exercise bikes is that they tend to require less balance than something like an elliptical.

In turn, this cardio machine can be more suitable for elderly individuals.

You may also just like how you can easily use a dual action exercise bike in front of the TV or while talking with friends and family.

Check dual action exercise bike prices

Dual action exercise air bike

6. Arc trainer

Arc trainers are very similar to elliptical machines but this upper body cardio machine is slightly different.

Instead of moving your feet in circles like the elliptical machine, arc trainers involve a more vertical back-and-forth motion.

This comes with a small change in leg muscle engagement ratio but your choice will mainly come from personal preference and what you have available.

Some of the biggest downsides of arc trainers are that they are not that common and relatively expensive.

Additionally, even if you want to invest in one, you need a lot of space to be able to use this upper body cardio machine.

So if you have one available, arc trainers can offer nice benefits.

However, not many people will be able to give this equipment option a try.

Check arc trainer prices

Man using arc trainer

7. Vertical climber

Vertical climbers intend to simulate the movement of an endless ladder.

This movement still involves a lot of leg activity but engages your upper body a nice amount too.

All while working your cardiovascular system to a nice extent too.

Similar to many of the other options on this list, vertical climbers are low-impact cardio machines.

In simpler words, vertical climbers are relatively easy on your knees, ankles, and lower back.

The main downside of this option is that it involves a lot of leg engagement too.

If you have any big injuries in this area, this is likely not the upper body cardio machine for you.

You also need a certain amount of balance and coordination to use a vertical climber successfully.

The vertical space to use and store this machine is not available to everyone either.

Check vertical climber prices

vertical climber


What cardio machine is good for my upper body?

Some cardio machines that are relatively good for your upper body include a hand cycle, ski machine, and elliptical machine.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.