Tips For Losing Weight With An Elliptical Machine


If you’re looking to lose weight, an elliptical machine is one of the most effective ways to shed pounds. It’s versatile and low-impact, and you can get an effective full-body workout.

An elliptical can also be used in the comfort of one’s own home, in any weather, and at a variety of different intensities.

Let’s have a look at why an elliptical machine is an effective weight-loss tool and give some tips and workout ideas for those looking to shed some pounds.

What is an Elliptical Machine?

An elliptical machine is a stationary exercise machine—sometimes known as a cross-trainer. It’s designed to mimic natural running or walking motion. The handlebars on the elliptical machine are moveable, to provide an upper-body workout.

Some ellipticals may provide a smaller, stationary set of handlebars to help people balance if they want to only focus on a lower body workout.

The large pedals are suspended and move on a track—an oval “elliptical” track—that connects to a flywheel, which simulates walking, running, and stair-climbing. The pedals are designed to move forwards and backward in a fluid motion without placing stress on the joints.

Elliptical machines are versatile and come with different resistance levels. Depending on the elliptical machine that you get, it can offer an incline option.

What Workouts Can You Do?

The elliptical machine lets you make your workouts more challenging and interesting. You can alternate your workouts between steady-state cardio or HIIT—high-intensity interval training.

There are a number of things you can do to vary your elliptical workout routine. You can incorporate hills, which will provide constant change, include sprints or even pedal backward.

You won’t run out of possibilities on the elliptical, and you’ll find that there are new and exciting workouts to be discovered that will help one achieve their fitness goals.

The Benefits of an Elliptical Machine

1. Boost Your Stamina and Cardio Capacity

The elliptical machine is a great way to increase your aerobic capacity! Research has shown that you need a minimum of 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week. Your heart will have to pump oxygenated blood to every muscle in the body and this increases the strength of your heart.

Your stamina will increase as your body will have more oxygen to consume while you’re working out. This will lead to one training for longer and at a higher intensity. Your heart will be pumping blood more efficiently and this will result in lowering LDL cholesterol levels—low-density lipoprotein, which is the bad cholesterol.

Your lung capacity will increase, and you’ll find that as your fitness levels increase you’re also able to push your breathing ability. Not only will you be reducing your risk of heart disease, but you’ll find that your energy levels increase. It greatly reduces your risk of several deadly diseases.

2. Burn a Lot of Calories

When exercising on the elliptical, you’re going to burn a number of calories as you’re working out both your upper and lower body.

The elliptical gets a number of muscles activated during your workout, which means that you expend more energy, burning more calories.

Studies have shown that a person who weighs 125 pounds can burn up to 270 calories doing 30 minutes of exercise on the elliptical. The number of calories you can burn using the elliptical will vary and depends on how much you weigh, your age, the intensity of the workout, your fitness levels, and how long you train for.

Depending on your workout, it’s possible to burn between 500 to 700 calories in one session. This will not only help you get lean, but will help to prevent putting on weight again.

3. Low-Impact

When using the elliptical machine, your feet never leave the pedals and the elliptical is designed to mimic the natural movement of your feet. This means that there are no jarring movements that can place your joints—ankles, knees, and hips—under stress.

Even though the elliptical is low-impact, it still provides a weight-bearing exercise! As you move through the movement, you’re using the muscles in your legs to propel the pedals forward and this helps to build bone density as well as bone strength.

By adding variable resistance to your workout, you’ll be increasing the weight-bearing activity. This can help to reduce the risk of conditions like osteoporosis.

4. Get Both an Upper and Lower Body Workout

There are just a handful of cardio machines that are able to provide both an upper and lower body workout; the elliptical is one of those machines! When you use the elliptical, you’re going to be engaging your core, as this will help with balance and stability.

By distributing your weight and resistance evenly between your upper and lower body, you’ll be engaging your biceps, triceps, chest, shoulder, back, glutes, hamstrings, and quads. When you’re moving forwards you’re also engaging your calves and tibialis, as they have to work on stabilizing your lower legs.

With proper form on the elliptical, you’ll be able to burn more calories, as you’ll be engaging more muscle throughout the body as opposed to working the upper and lower body separately.

5. Target Specific Leg Muscles

Use the elliptical machine to strengthen the muscles or correct muscle imbalances. You can do this by changing both the incline and resistance, and you’ll be able to target specific leg muscles.

By gliding backwards, you’ll target your hamstrings and glutes. By lowering the incline of the pedals and gliding forward, you’ll target your quads and start to feel your quads work harder. Your calves will contract with every step that you take and you’ll find that both your calves and tibialis will contract to stabilize the leg through the range of motion.

6. Build/Maintain Fitness After Injury

If you’re recovering from an injury, the elliptical can help you to increase or maintain your fitness and you can get back to your regular activities.

The elliptical can help strengthen the muscles, ligaments, and tendons without placing the injured area under stress.

This can help speed up your recovery, as well as increase your range of motion.

7. Enjoy a Variety of Options

Most elliptical machines will come with a variety of built-in exercise routines, like rolling hills—hill climbing—weight loss, reverse train, calorie goal, interval training, HIIT programs, and step workouts.

Depending on the brand of elliptical, you may be able to customize your own training program.

If it has Wifi capabilities, you could take part in interactive training programs.

This will allow you to walk or run trails in exotic locations across the world.

Workout Ideas

1. Forward and Backward

For this exercise, you’re going to alternate between forward moving—pedaling forwards—and backwards moving—reverse pedaling.

You can move forward for 5 minutes on an intensity level that you’re comfortable with and then switch to pedaling backwards for 5 minutes.

If you prefer, you can choose how long you want to do the motions for. If you want to target your hamstrings and glutes, then you can do the backwards motion for longer than the forwards motion.

You can also break your exercise routine up so that both sets are done equally.

Over a few weeks, gradually extend the amount of time or resistance to provide a more challenging workout.

2. Incline Challenge

Start this exercise at an incline you’re comfortable with. As you move on the elliptical, you can increase the resistance. This will provide a challenging workout that will strengthen the muscles as well as increase your fitness levels.

After two weeks at the incline that you’re comfortable with, you can increase it to the next level. You can also increase the amount of time that you spend at that particular incline, as well as adding some resistance.

3. High-Intensity Interval Training

When you start doing interval training, you want to start with short, intense intervals and longer rest periods. This will have you increase your pace and incline for 20 to 30 seconds, then decrease your pace and incline for 60 to 90 seconds.

Repeat this throughout the duration of your workout, but make sure to allow for plenty of rest between the intervals. This helps to prevent you from getting tired too quickly, which could lead to you not being able to complete your workout.

You’ll want to gradually increase the speed, resistance, incline, and time for your interval training. HIIT workouts are designed to burn more calories in a shorter workout session and have been shown to burn more calories than other forms of cardio.

4. Tabata Workout

If you want to integrate Tabata workouts into your exercise routine, make sure to plan this based on your physical ability. Each Tabata interval lasts for 4 minutes, where you’ll push yourself as hard as you can for 20 seconds and rest 10 seconds—this is one set.

In the 4 minutes, you’ll complete 8 sets of 30 seconds each, with a rest period of 3 minutes between the full 4-minute Tabata interval. You can do the full 4-minute Tabata interval 3 to 4 times.

If you’ve just started exercising or if you’re new to Tabata workouts, start off gradually.

As your fitness levels increase and you want to make your Tabata workouts more challenging, you can start to add resistance or an incline to your sets. You can also look at adding another Tabata interval to your workout—do 4 to 5 intervals.

More Tips

Pay Attention to Your Feet

When using the elliptical machine, it may feel more “natural” to allow your heel to raise or to push off with the toes. But the best way to use the elliptical and to activate more muscle in the body—which will help you burn more calories—is to keep your foot flat while pedaling.

Use your entire foot to push the pedal down throughout the stride and this will also help you to maintain proper form on the elliptical.

Try Moving the Resistance Up and Down During Your Interval Workouts

Studies have shown that muscle burns more calories than fat even when you’re resting, and the more muscle you have, the higher your resting energy expenditure will be. This means that even when you’re sitting, your body is still burning more calories.

Adding resistance to your workouts will help you build muscle and this will help to increase the number of calories you burn on a daily basis.

You can increase and decrease the resistance levels throughout your workout. Don’t worry if you pedal slower when you increase the resistance; this will help you to build muscle.

Either Regular Workouts or Cross-Training

If you want to use the elliptical machine as your primary form of exercise, then try to do 2 to 3 workouts a week for 30 to 60 minutes each. Depending on your fitness goals, you could use the elliptical machine up to 5 days a week, but vary the type of workout that you do.

If you’re going to use the elliptical for cross-training, then you could do one training session a week for 45 to 60 minutes. You can also vary the workout on the elliptical—HIIT or Tabata workouts—based on your training or fitness needs.

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Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.