If you are bored with your current cardio routine or are looking for a more challenging way to increase your fitness level, consider incorporating an elliptical workout into your weekly schedule. Elliptical machines are a favorite of many gym-goers because they provide an effective full-body workout while minimizing the stress placed on the knees and other joints. To reap the most benefits, use the machine for interval and cross training and also take advantage of the elliptical's versatility, which allows you to burn calories while toning your arms, legs and core.
Focus on Resistance, Not Speed
Like a treadmill, elliptical machines are adjustable, allowing you to control the pace and intensity of your workout by adjusting the speed, incline and resistance of the machine. While many believe that increasing speed leads to a higher calorie output, that is not always the case. If you are running on an elliptical with little or no resistance, chances are you're not going to reap the toning benefits you desire. Instead, set your stride to a more moderate pace and increase the resistance until you feel like you have to use both your arms and legs to pedal. By involving your upper and lower body, you increase your heart rate and calorie burn while also working your chest, shoulders and upper back.
Alternate Muscle Groups
In addition to working both your upper and lower body, you can choose to move in either forward or backward motion on an elliptical machine, which alternates the muscles targeted. When you pedal forward, you focus on your quadriceps. Conversely, when you pedal in reverse, you target your hamstrings and glutes. If you wish to tone your core muscles, remove your hands from the bars and rely on your core to stabilize your body as you move through your stride. Placing your hands on your hips while you move will help keep your posture in line and prevent you from swaying.
Incorporate Interval Training
To maximize your results, change up the intensity of your workout with interval training, which helps you burn more calories, improve your aerobic fitness and prevent boredom. After warming up, increase the speed of your stride for 30 seconds and then return to your normal speed. Throughout your workout, you can insert as many intervals of high-intensity exercise as you like, timing them to last anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes or more. If you are new to interval training or have a lower capacity for aerobic exercise, start slowly by inserting only one or two 30-second intervals of intense exercise into your routine to prevent injury and overexertion.
If you are a seasoned runner or cyclist, you may be thinking that adding an elliptical workout to your routine is a waste of time. However, cross training is one of the most important steps you can take because it helps to boost fitness levels, prevent injury and increase weight loss. If you are a runner, using an elliptical machine for cross training is recommended by the American Council on Exercise since it is a low-impact activity that minimizes the stress placed on the knees, hips and lower back. The bottom line: using the same exercise equipment, whether it be a treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical machine, during each workout can sabotage your results, making it imperative to incorporate several different types of activities.
- MayoClinic.com: Are Elliptical Machines Better than Treadmills for Basic Aerobic Workouts?
- MayoClinic.com: Rev Up Your Workout with Interval Training
- Shape.com: How to Use an Elliptical Trainer in Your Cardio Workout Routines
- American Council on Exercise: What is Cross Training and Why is it Important?
- Fox News: Top 10 Mistakes You Make on the Elliptical Trainer
Tiffany Parnell is an experienced writer of health-related articles. She has worked as a copywriter in the health-care, information-technology and finance industries. Parnell holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication with a minor in biology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.