Do you find yourself enjoying an elliptical workout far more than running on the treadmill? Or maybe you just want to add some variety to your daily routine and want to know what benefits the elliptical machine can give you so you can decide if adding it to your workout routine is worth it or not.
Either way elliptical machines are a great choice that most people don’t really consider.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen gym bros hop on an elliptical machine (I think they’re scared to look a bit silly), but they don’t know that they’re missing! In fact, many pro bodybuilders use it as their preferred form of cardio!
7 Surprising Benefits an Elliptical Machine Can Provide You
1. Low Impact Exercise.
There’s a reason you see a lot of older folk hogging the elliptical machines at the gym. It’s because they have weaker joints and an elliptical is specially designed to provide a low impact workout that won’t put additional stress on the athlete’s joints.
To put it simply, when using an elliptical machine, your feet never leave the surface of the pedals. Compare that to running on a treadmill, where you’re constantly bouncing up and down and your joints have to take the force of your body landing on the ground time and time again. Even if you are running on a treadmill designed with a cushioned deck your joints are still absorbing your bodyweight from each and every step.
If you’re like me and think of fitness as a lifelong pursuit, then longevity is a big concern. Hopefully, by choosing the elliptical instead of the treadmill more and more, I’ll never reach the stage where I’m unable to run whenever I want to. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
2. Both an upper and lower body workout.
The elliptical is one of the only cardio machines out there that will allow you to target both your upper and lower body on equal measure. You may be a little puzzled by this, since most people find that the lower body does 90% of the work, while the upper body just coasts.
The trick is to balance how hard you’re pushing with your legs with how hard you’re pulling with your arms. The easiest way is to just move them at the same speed. If you’re doing it right you should feel the exercise hitting not just your qauds, glutes, and hamstrings, but also your arms and back.
It goes without saying that an elliptical workout is not what’s gonna get you huge and shredded, but if you just want a light, full body workout, it’s a great option to get your blood flowing.
3. Burns a lot of calories.
As a full body exercise, it’s no wonder the elliptical burns a lot of calories. It’s recruiting some of the largest muscle groups in your body, your legs and back. If you couple this with a decent diet, you’ve got the holy grail of fat loss. So if you’re looking to drop some weight, this could be a great tool to have in your arsenal.
There’s two ways you can get about burning a lot of calories while using an elliptical. You can go for long periods at a moderate pace, known as steady state cardio, or you can go for fast paced interval training.
We’ll talk about workouts later, but the takeaway is that steady state cardio is better if you’ve got the time and patience, since you’ll burn more calories because you’re doing it for longer. However, if you’re strapped for time, interval training is a great way to burn calories and get on with your day.
4. Improve your balance.
If you want to work on your balance and core while you get some cardio, the elliptical has got you covered too! In this case, what you gotta do is let go of the handles and just use your legs to keep going.
This will cause two things: First, your legs are gonna be doing a lot more work, so make sure to adjust the resistance accordingly so that you’re still able to complete your workout. Second, your core will be engaged the whole time to keep you balanced!
This is even better than most ab exercises, since these usually only focus on the front abdominal muscles. However, walking involves a whole lot more than just your front abdominal muscles, it uses the ENTIRE core. Side abs, front abs, lower back muscles, you name it.
5. Improves bone density.
A little unknown benefit of elliptical machines is that it ends up making your bones thicker, denser and overall stronger. How? Well it’s because walking is a weight bearing exercise, you’re holding up the weight of your entire body against gravity.
Weight bearing exercises improve muscle mass as well as making your bones denser, which improves overall bone health and helps prevent injury. The constant strain on your bones and muscles, combined with the strain of your muscles pulling on your bones, forces your body to add more cells to make your bones stronger.
Of course, the weight of your entire body might not seem like much to most gym bros, but unlike most other weight bearing exercises, it causes no stress on your joints, so you can do it a whole lot longer without suffering adverse effects. Elliptical exercise is usually recommended for older athletes who are trying to prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis.
6. Great for dealing with injuries.
An unfortunate reality of fitness is that sooner or later, you’re gonna end up injured. Even if you do everything right – and most of us don’t – one stroke of bad luck, a bad fall, is all it takes to get a sprained ankle, elbow, or a bad knee.
This is even more prevalent for those of us who practice martial arts and weight training, since both disciplines are well known for being dangerous, even when done right.
With that in mind, you can expect to find yourself unable to workout sooner or later, and when that happens, the elliptical will become your new best friend. As we mentioned before, it’s a super low impact workout, so unless you’re dealing with some really serious stuff, the elliptical will be a way to get your body moving, while also allowing it to heal.
7. Target Specific Muscle Groups.
Last, but definitely not least, is versatility. I mentioned it here and there during other items but I wanted it to really stand out. With the elliptical you have a lot of options when it comes to working muscles. With a few simple adjustments to how you use it, you can switch it up to hit different muscle groups according to your specific needs.
As an example, if you pedal forward, you’ll hit your quads a lot more, but if you do it backwards, your glutes and hamstrings will be doing most of the work. Likewise, you can adjust your incline settings to make the whole ordeal harder, as well as put more strain on your calves.
Finally, here’s one little tip you probably won’t find anywhere else. A recent study has found that people didn’t notice when they hand an increased stride length on an elliptical, yet they burned more calories. It’s a simple adjustment that can make your training a little bit more efficient!
My Favorite Elliptical Machine Workout
Steady state cardio, or just using the elliptical for a long time, is pretty self explanatory. Just set a pace that you can hold for a long time, and get to pedalling. I’d suggest doing 30 minutes or more if you’re doing this kind of workout.
The downside to steady state cardio is that it takes a long time, and it can be pretty boring sometimes. So, if you’re strapped for time, or just don’t feel like spending an hour on the elliptical, interval training is what you’re looking for.
By doing multiple cycles of high intensity training, followed by low intensity, recovery periods, you force your heart rate up and down, which will speed up your metabolism and cause you to burn quite a lot of calories in a very short time.
If you’ve never done interval training before, it can be pretty daunting to plan out, so here’s a great 20 minute workout that will leave you gasping for breath in only 20 minutes!
The Elliptical Workout
Basically you’re going to be doing 30 seconds at your maximum effort, followed by 90 seconds at an easy pace for you to recover. Then repeat that 8 times.
Your maximum effort can be achieved in two different ways, increasing your speed and increasing resistance. What you should do is use a combination of both to give your muscles more of a challenge while also straining your cardiovascular system a little.
If you’re not sure you’re going hard enough, you can use your heart rate as measurement. Just subtract your age from 220 and that should be your maximum heart rate. So if you’re 20, your maximum heart rate is 200.
However, you don’t wanna go all the way to your maximum heart rate, if you do that then you’re not gonna make it through the whole workout, not to mention it can be bad for your health. Anything between 70 to 90% is acceptable as a “maximum effort”, just play it by ear and see how you’re feeling..
When it comes to rest, it’s up to you, you can choose to just lower your speed, lower your resistance or do both. You shouldn’t completely stop though, you have to keep moving, but you still should be able to recover enough to be able to do another 30 seconds.
There you go! It’s not complicated at all, but believe me, it’s harder than it looks. Once you’re done with all 8 cycles, have a 3 minute cool down at low intensity and you’re done! With this short workout you can burn around 200 to 400 calories! It all depends on how hard you go and other factors like your metabolism.
This is especially important for runners and competitive athletes.
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