Updated: Dec 14, 2021
Care to wager which workout machine is the most popular among Americans? The elliptical! Elliptical machines offer a powerful full-body workout that’s easily completed without impacting the joints, making it the go-to machine for millions of people across the world. Because of this, many find the elliptical the perfect machine to begin a workout routine—essentially allowing them to get the most out of their workouts without ever needing to go through the overwhelming process of figuring out a workout routine that includes separate cardio and strength workouts.
With elliptical machines, users don’t need to worry about crafting separate workouts; they can target most of their major muscle groups simply by using one machine. Some of the major muscle groups targeted when using an elliptical include the legs, glutes and core (more on that in a minute) as well as the arms—creating a full body workout anyone can do. Keep reading to learn more about the elliptical, its benefits and how users can get the most out of their elliptical workouts.
What is an Elliptical?
At its most basic, an elliptical is simply foot pedals with handlebars that allow the user to workout while standing up. Users push on the pedals to move forward or backward, creating a walking movement that’s more of a glide. Most machines feature two sets of handlebars: a stationary set to stabilize the core (especially for those more intense lower body workouts) and a set that moves to give the arms a powerful workout. Some machines will also feature an assortment of features to change up the workouts as well, including incline and resistance adjustment or changing foot treads; however, users will also look at an increased price tag with these added bonuses. For beginners looking to just start out on a machine, it’s advisable to purchase a more basic model (check out Fitscope’s best ellipticals for under $500 here) before upgrading to a machine with all the bells and whistles.
To use the machine, users propel themselves forward to create that gliding motion, adjusting their speed, resistance and incline as they workout. For maximized cardio, most users will reduce the resistance to move as quickly as they comfortably can to raise the heartrate while users who want to focus on strength training will blast their resistance and incline up while moving slower. There is no “right” method to using the elliptical; however, users who choose the machine as their main source for exercise should consider incorporating both methods to get the most out of their workouts.
What are the Benefits of Using an Elliptical?
Ellipticals allow users to torch an insane number of calories in a short amount of time, with a 185 pound person able to burn roughly 400 calories in only 30 minutes or 800 calories an hour. While there is more to losing weight than calories in, calories out, an elliptical facilitates users burning a large number of calories—most of which is usually stubborn belly fat (or wherever their fat stores keep the excess weight).
If users have joint issues, it can be tempting to brush off working out as something that’s not doable; however, the elliptical is perfect for those looking to lose weight while keeping their joints healthy. Because users’ feet never leave the pedals, their joints don’t get subjected to repeated wear and tear like what they may be exposed to on a treadmill. Some people tend to confuse low-impact with low-results; however, the elliptical can help users obtain the body of their dreams without destroying delicate joint tissue, with many saying that they find it the best workout machine for their joints.
Many rehabilitation centers choose to use ellipticals for the above reason and because it can help with balance issues as well. Ellipticals require users to engage their core muscles to stay steady on the machine while the gliding motion discussed earlier provides a smoother, weight-bearing exercise than more traditional workout methods like cycles and treadmills. When completing the motion required to make an elliptical move, users must steady their bodies with their core muscles, allowing those with balance issues to see improvements in how they carry themselves as well as those who have been injured.
Cardio improves stamina in a multitude of ways, but the main two things to remember are how it affects the heart and lungs. When completing cardio, a user’s heartrate increases as the body must pump more blood to keep up with the oxygen demand their body needs to complete the workout. To receive this oxygen in the first place, user’s lungs must be able to absorb more air, meaning that those who regularly practice cardio have better air intake versus sedentary individuals. When the heart and lungs are forced to work harder during a workout, it actually causes them to work less when not working out, with fitter individuals tending to have lower blood pressure, heart rates and an increased lung capacity (i.e. no more getting out of breath when walking up those stairs).
This point cannot be emphasized enough: ellipticals provide a full-body workout that simply can’t be beat. Unlike other machines, ellipticals do not require users to incorporate other exercise methods into their workout routines (although it never hurts to vary up workouts) with the same frequency as other cardio methods. Instead, users can receive a full body workout that allows them to workout their major muscle groups in the core as well as the upper and lower body.
Recovering from an injury, whether from working out or another scenario, is difficult—especially when it makes fitness take a backseat. Luckily, ellipticals put so little pressure on the body that it can be used when going through a rehabilitation program to ensure that fitness levels are affected as little as possible. They’re also a great tool for those looking to maintain fitness while on vacation being most hotel gyms will have one and users can receive a total body workout in about 30 minutes.
Target Specific Muscles
Want to work on those glutes, core or leg muscles? The elliptical is a perfect way to get those areas in the body in shape. Core muscles are engaged when users use proper form by forcing them to keep proper posture and engage the muscles to stay balanced on the machine, so make sure that slouching isn’t creeping into the workout. The legs and glutes are continuously engaged by the movement of the machine; however, users can specifically target these muscles by adjusting the machine to focus on these muscle groups ala increasing the resistance or incline levels.
How to Get the Most from Elliptical Workouts
Practice Proper Form
As stated earlier, slouching or not fully engaging in the workout means users are not receiving the full benefits of the machine. Instead, users should look to keep their back straight, stomach sucked in to keep their balance and take full, powerful strides when using the machine. When using the machine and practicing proper form, users can burn over double the calories than they would if they’re doing little more than going through the motions.
Add HIIT Components
HIIT workouts have taken the world by storm simply because they work. Unfamiliar with HIIT training? It simply requires that users workout using an interval system based on their fitness levels. Instead of following an exact speed, users instead gauge how hard they’re working out on a 1-10 system, with one being sedentary and ten being the most intense workout of their lives (although some more advanced exercisers will use a heartrate monitor to better gauge exactly how hard they’re working out). Elliptical users usually utilize interval training by planning in two and a half minute segments consisting of 30 minutes of pushing themselves followed by a 2-minute recovery time, although workouts like those on FItscope provide a more through workout due to being crafted by trainers.
Adjust the Machine
Whether it’s the machine’s resistance or incline levels (or a combination of both), many users find they can craft the right elliptical workout for their needs simply by adjusting the machine. For a deep strength training workout, look to increase the resistance. Users will be moving significantly slower, but they’ll be getting deep into that muscle tissue. Want a heart pounding cardio workout? Decrease that resistance and move quickly to get the heartrate up and burn those stubborn fat cells. In other words, adjust the machine to match what you want out of your workout.
Using an elliptical provides an excellent full-body workout for those looking to lose weight and get fit as quickly as possible without spending hours on a machine. Want to vary your exercise routine and start working out as soon as possible? Fitscope offers online studio classes for using an elliptical to lose weight, as well as routines for old favorites like rowing machines, air bikes and treadmills, to allow people to vary their workouts while obtaining maximum benefits. Click here to learn more and receive a free one-week trial.