Benefits of Reverse Leg Motions on an Elliptical

Get the most out of your elliptical workout by incorporating the reverse motion in your routine.
i IT Stock/Polka Dot/Getty Images

If you’ve never used the reverse leg motions on an elliptical machine, you’re missing out. These movements can bring your regular elliptical routine to a whole new level. While incorporating cardio exercise into your lifestyle benefits your heart health, weight management and mood, adding the reverse leg motions adds even more benefits to your workout.

Muscles Used

    There’s no doubt about it, the elliptical is an excellent form of cardio activity. The muscle you use during the forward motion on an elliptical is the biceps femoris, a hamstrings muscle, and the backward motion engages the rectus femoris, a muscle in the quads, according to a report by Willamette University. By incorporating the reverse motion into your elliptical workout, you are engaging another muscle group into your workout. The more muscles you use in any given exercise, the more effective the workout is.

Calories Burned

    A regular elliptical workout can burn approximately 386 calories during a half-hour workout for 150-pound person. This includes only the forward motion on the elliptical. According to a 2007 study by University of Wisconsin, users who participated in an elliptical workout burned 7 percent more calories when they used the reverse motion than when they used forward motion -- so incorporating the reverse motion during your elliptical workout may yield better results in terms of calories burned per workout.

Bust Through Boredom

    Keeping the same old exercise routine can prove to be monotonous and boring. A typical elliptical workout moves the legs forward in one fluid movement, where your feet never leave the pedals. Spicing up your workout routine with a different movement can challenge your body and make the overall workout more exciting. The more you enjoy an exercise workout and the more you feel challenged, the more likely you may be to stick with your program. Staying with a workout program is essential for both maintaining your weight and for encouraging weight loss.

Workout Efficiency

    When you combine both the reverse and forward motions on an elliptical trainer, you’re actually performing cross-training activities. Like other cross-training activities, the elliptical burns major calories. It also provides a low-impact cardio option, making it ideal for those with joint, knee or back issues. Using two types of motions during your elliptical workout will give you a more efficient workout by working the lower body muscles evenly. While it may take some practice, you can easily alternate between the forward and backward motions without interrupting your cardio session.


    As you are performing your elliptical workout, make sure to concentrate on the muscles used during both the forward and backward motions. Look for an elliptical that also includes hand bars so you’ll get an effective full-body workout, working the lower body muscles alongside working your upper body muscles. If you’ve never used the reverse motion on an elliptical, perform the motion with caution at first. It’s important to first feel comfortable on the elliptical machine you are using before changing to directions. Make sure you are stable during the reverse motions before you add in the hand bar movements.

the nest