Nothing says "kick-butt cardio" like 30 minutes on the elliptical machine, but to quote George Michael, "If you're gonna' do it, do it right." We already know that the elliptical trainer acts as a fat-burning furnace. If you add the right moves to your elliptical cardio routine, you can target and tone your gluteal muscles.
In 2007, a team of researchers at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, set out to discover which types of aerobic machines offer the most effective butt-kicking workout. The treadmill, when used for jogging, was the winner, with 48.9 percent of the gluteus maximus activated. The elliptical machine came in second, with 32.6 percent butt muscle activity. Other low-impact workouts -- such as the stair stepper and treadmill walking -- only activated 24 percent of the gluteal muscles' fibers. While the elliptical trainer only claimed second place, it was the best low-impact butt muscle toner.
Using the Handles
Most elliptical training machines have two upper-body handles. These machines increase overall caloric expenditure, because they engage all of the body's muscles. They provide the best option if you need to lose that extra layer of body fat that is no doubt covering a gorgeous set of glutes. On the other hand, exercising without the handles forces you to actively use your butt muscles to generate more power. Interval training offers the best of both worlds. Use a lighter resistance level when you are using the handles, then up the tension when you focus on your lower body.
Some elliptical training machines have a feature that allows you to change the level of inclination. These machines usually have a chart on one side of the console, which tells you which muscles are targeted at which level of inclination. Whether you are running up hills outdoors or using the treadmill at an incline, your butt muscles work harder as the incline increases. The same applies to the elliptical training machine, but before you crank the incline up to the maximum, protect yourself from injuries by building up gradually. The hill cycle on the elliptical machine intersperses hills throughout the workout. You benefit from faster, cardio-enhancing movements during the "downhill" segments and butt toning during the uphill sections.
Some elliptical machines have a reverse motion feature, which supposedly increases gluteal muscle activity, but a number of respected fitness experts take issue with this statement. In an article featured in The New York Times, certified trainer Liz Neporent interviewed physical therapist Ben Gelfand, author of ''Return to Glory Days.'' Gelfand argues that computer analysis indicates that the quadriceps muscles do most of the work during backward stair climbing, walking and running, while the gluteal muscles remain idle. Even Graham Melstrand, a sales representative for the Reebok CCS Body Trek and Body Peak elliptical machines, claims that manufacturers do not try to push the backward movement feature.
- Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital; Comparison of Gluteal Muscle Electromyograhic Activity Across Five Cardiovascular Exercises in Healthy Adults; S. Takahashi et al
- Wayne University Wellness: Get That Heart Pumping
- Freemotion Fitness: Exercise Benefits of Incline Training
- The New York Times: No Gain in Backward Exercise, Experts Say
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.