Could you use a little guidance at the gym? The fitness floor has a bevy of body-enhancing machines, yet most of us don't have a clue about how they work. As a result, we stick to the same piece of boring equipment for every single workout and miss out on the advantages of switching it up.

I've created a cardio guide to help you successfully navigate your way around the gym. Take a step out of your comfort zone and see serious results with these often overlooked machines.

Jacobs Ladder
With wooden rungs, an unusual slanted shape and a strap-in waistband, this machine looks like a piece out of Frankenstein's lab. Initially, I was skeptical of its purpose. It took several months before I mounted the monster, but once I started my climb, the only concern I had was why I hadn't tried this sooner. The machine challenged my coordination, agility and core strength, and targeted muscles I didn't even know I had.

The Jacobs Ladder is non-motorized, so the self-paced machine is determined by how quickly you move your hands and feet from one rung to the next. Unlike a treadmill, this machine is easy on the joints and requires a shorter time commitment. If you are looking for an uninterrupted routine, max out at 15 minutes. For interval training, perform several quick rounds of three-to-five minutes. A note to new users: Tired muscles cause improper form, so aim for short intervals to avoid lower-back discomfort.

  1. Enter your weight using the "reset Sensor" on the machine.
  2. Buckle up with the clasp resting slightly above your belly button. Adjust the strap so it firmly fits around the waist.
  3. Carefully climb onto the machine, using your hands and feet to move the rungs.
  4. To stop the machine, discontinue stepping and slowly drift back to the floor.

A popular question I get from clients is, "Why am I so winded from running up a flight of stairs? Am I out of shape?" In short: No. When you climb a set of stairs, your lungs are shifting from a state of rest to one that requires more oxygen so the huffing and puffing is your body playing catch-up.

If you want to condition your lungs, incorporate the Stairmaster into your workout. This machine works by simulating the activity of climbing stairs on a stationary machine. With settings appropriate for any level, it's is a great toning tool for core and lower-body muscles and a major calorie burner, too. Posture is key when using this machine, so avoid hanging on the hand rails for stability.

  1. Step up onto the machine and enter your current weight and desired time duration. I suggest starting with 20 minutes. (You can also use the machine for shorter intervals as part of a training circuit.)
  2. Increase your speed to a setting slightly out of your comfort zone. Keep your gaze forward, shoulders back, and feet flat with every step. Shifting your weight to your toes is dangerous because it increases the shear force on the knee joint.

Arc Trainer
Similar to an Elliptical, the Arc Trainer is a cross-training machine. It's light on the joints, improves cardiovascular health, and offers a variety of resistance and incline options. What gives the Arc Trainer a leg up on its competition is its ability to safely move the limbs through their natural range of motion without compromising joint health. The knee is protected from extending too far behind or in front of the toes.

With more resistance and incline settings than an Elliptical, the Arc Trainer is an all-start at torching calories, increasing sprinting speed, and developing and improving muscle strength and stamina.

  1. Step onto the Arc Trainer and enter your weight and desired time duration.
  2. Choose the resistance and incline that feels slightly out of your comfort zone. To target the glutes, hamstrings and quads, choose a high incline and medium-to-high resistance. Try to maintain an even stride as you push through your heels.
  3. Create a challenging workout by going for 3-5 minutes on a high incline and resistance setting. Lower the resistance and incline for 60 seconds of rest between cycles for a total of 25-30 minutes.

The biggest gains come when you step outside of your comfort zone.

Ashley B. Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more, visit