As far as exercise equipment goes, elliptical trainers are a decidedly modern invention -- the machines were introduced in 1995. But elliptical trainers are just as effective at toning your butt and improving your endurance as more traditional equipment. Understanding how to make the most of elliptical machine training will help you appreciate the benefits of this equipment and make for highly efficient workouts.
From afar, the elliptical may look like a treadmill, but the designs are actually quite different. Unlike a treadmill, an elliptical trainer does not have a flat surface for you to run on; rather, you put your feet in footholds that direct your stride. This eliminates the possibility of falling off of the machine or landing unevenly and injuring yourself. Many elliptical machines also have movable handles so you can feel more secure and potentially get an arm workout while you're training.
The distinct design of elliptical machines offers a significant training advantage -- a low-impact workout. Although traditional cardio activities such as aerobics and running involve your foot striking the ground with much force, there is no such contact for elliptical training. Instead, your foot is guided gently through the stride, with no impact. This may help you avoid joint injury. Additionally, the lack of the landing step means you can avoid issues such as overpronation and unduly short strides, which can lead to plantar fasciitis and limited knee and hip mobility, respectively.
As any "cardio bunny" can tell you, the elliptical is most often used for cardiovascular workouts. Because the amount of resistance is not as high as an exercise involving barbells would be, you can use the elliptical trainer for extended periods of time and improve your cardiovascular endurance. And because you control the speed, it's easy to perform interval workouts, moving back and forth between a regular pace and sprinting pace. You can use elliptical machine training to improve your heart health and respiratory endurance, fight cholesterol, and boost your mood.
Though the elliptical machine is primarily a piece of cardio equipment, it may also help you build some muscle. Adding some muscle tissue assists in firming up your figure and can also increase your metabolic rate and help make weight loss easier. The main areas in which you might gain muscle and strength are your thighs, hamstrings and, depending on the style of elliptical, possible your arms due to the rowing motion.
- All Ellipticals: The History of Elliptical Home Trainers
- MayoClinic.com: Elliptical Machines: Better than Treadmills?
- The Telegraph: Life Coach: Will a Treadmill Damage My Knees?
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity
- MayoClinic.com: Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories
Brian Willett began writing in 2005. He has been published in the "Buffalo News," the "Daytona Times" and "Natural Muscle Magazine." Willett also writes for Bloginity.com and Bodybuilding.com. He is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina.