For some, using the elliptical might seem like a lazy workout option compared to a higher intensity piece of equipment, like kettlebells, treadmills, or spin bikes. But actually, this low-impact cardio machine can give you a hell of a workout–if you use it right.
Elliptical machines have the unfortunate reputation of providing a “lazy” workout for a couple of reasons. For starters, many assume it’s the “easy” version of a treadmill workout and only a good option for people who carry a lot of weight or are recovering from an injury. It also has been stigmatized as providing a compromised caloric burn.
Elliptical machines are certainly useful for heavier folks looking to lose weight or for those recovering from an injury due to the low-impact nature of the workout. However, there are many hidden benefits anyone can take advantage of.
The benefits of an Elliptical Machine
Reduces wear and tear on joints
While an elliptical session can burn fewer calories than a treadmill workout of equal intensity, the difference is typically minimal. Runners can significantly reduce wear and tear on their joints by using an elliptical machine for cross-training days to boost stamina and cardio capacity.
Full body workout
The treadmill doesn’t give you much of an opportunity to work out the upper body, but ellipticals do. Make sure you distribute your weight evenly by mindfully pumping your arms with just as much intensity as your legs. When done right, getting the arms involved can burn just as many if not more calories than a treadmill workout.
Helps improve balance
The elliptical allows you to improve balance, something that’s often overlooked but needed for all ages and fitness levels.
Elliptical interval training-like routines can melt body fat with incredible efficiency.
Targets specific areas of the body
Ellipticals allow for a focus on specific areas of the body. For example, changing up the resistance and/or incline of your foot pedals works all your leg muscles from the glutes and quads to your calves and hamstrings.
Promotes muscle growth
Elliptical training allows for the incorporation of antagonist supersets, working muscles that produce opposing joint torque like the quads and hamstrings. This stimulates metabolic stress and, ultimately, muscle growth, something that’s hard to achieve on a treadmill without the use of free weights. To achieve this, work the lower body and hamstrings by increasing the incline. You can also change your stride to a backward motion for glute/hamstring activation. Immediately follow by reducing incline and adjusting the foot pedals lower to focus on quads for the next interval.
30-Minute Elliptical Workout
- Warmup (2-3 minutes)
- Level 2-3 resistance
- 110 strides per minute
- Cardio Interval (5 minutes)
- 20 second sprint, 10 second recovery
- Repeat for 4 minutes, 1 minute recovery jog
- Hamstring Focus Interval (1- 5 minutes)
- Same as above, but increase incline
- Push yourself by increasing incline to a point that produces significant challenge but can be maintained for full work periods. (Push yourself, but pace yourself).
- Quad Focus Interval (1- 5 minutes)
- Same interval as cardio round, but lower the foot pedals with lessened incline
- Hamstring Focus Interval (2- 5 minutes)
- Same interval as cardio, but reverse direction of stride
- Quad Focus Interval (2- 5 minutes)
- Same interval as cardio, but lower the foot pedals with lessened incline
- Cooldown (2-3 minutes)
- Keep moving at a comfortable pace where you could carry on a conversation