How to Use an Elliptical Machine

Three Parts:Using the EllipticalGetting the Most Out Of Your Elliptical WorkoutPreparing Your Elliptical Workout

An elliptical trainer or cross-trainer (X-trainer) is a stationary exercise machine which you can use for stair climbing, walking, running, or sprinting exercises. It can be a great, low-impact cardio that burns calories. Like any exercise machine, proper use is essential to getting the most effective workout and avoiding injury.

Part 1
Using the Elliptical

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    Step onto the machine facing the monitor. Be careful stepping onto the machine. The pedals may start to move as you do and it can be easy to lose your balance. Grab the handlebars as you step on to help you stay balanced.
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    Begin pedaling to turn it on. Taking a few steps forward on the machine should power up the display. If not, look for a start button.
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    Start pedaling at an even pace. Your arms should be swinging with the handles. When your left foot goes down, straightening your leg, the right handle should be pulled toward your body. Same for when your right leg goes down.
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    Do not lock your knees. Keep the knees slightly bent when straightening the leg on each stroke. Notice that it is similar to riding a bike without ever sitting down, but with less of an up and down range of motion.[1]
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    Turn up the resistance.[2] Faster is not always better on the elliptical machine. Turning up the resistance will make it so that you have to push harder on the pedals which will give your muscles a better work out.
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    Change up your direction on the pedals. The pedals on an elliptical machine can also go backwards. Going backwards not only ads variety to your workout, but it also works muscles that going forward tends not to. Moving backwards on the machine works your hamstrings and glutes.[3]
    • Pedaling backwards can be hard on your knees. Be careful if you have a knee injury.
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    Use the swing arms. Some machines have movable swing arms and others have fixed. The movable swing arms will give you a more full body workout, but will take some of the emphasis off of your legs and butt.
    • You can choose not to use the swing arms for a more intense lower body workout. This will involve more balance and awareness of your posture.[4]
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    Increase the incline and resistance as you go.[5] Do five minute intervals increasing the resistance and incline each time. Start with a base pace that feels comfortable but challenging. Do this for two minutes keeping the incline the same. Then increase your speed for two more minutes. Let yourself recover at a slower pace for one minute. Then increase the incline or resistance and repeat the pattern.
    • Depending on your fitness goals you may want to tweak this workout routine.

Part 2
Getting the Most Out Of Your Elliptical Workout

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    Lean back on your heels. Keep the pressure off your toes. Pushing all your weight onto your toes can make your feet go numb. Keeping the weight on your heels will make your muscles work harder and increase your stamina so you can workout longer.[6]
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    Stand up straight.[7] Avoid leaning forward on the handrails. This will make the workout feel easier but ultimately make it less effective. Standing up straight will allow you to work your abs and core as you exercise on the elliptical[8]
    • Try not to rest so much of your weight on the handrails. Rather, lean back slightly so that your back is straight and most of your weight is on the footpads.
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    Don’t do the same workout every day.[9] Although doing the same workout day after day can be effective in the beginning, eventually it can lead to a plateau. Changing up your routine will not only keep your workouts more engaging and interesting, it can greatly increase the effectiveness of each session.
    • Interval workouts, where you are changing up the intensity and incline of the elliptical, can be changed up and modified every few weeks to add challenge and variety.
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    Avoid distractions to stay focused on your workout. Watching TV or reading while you workout seems harmless but it can actually distract you from getting the most out of your workout.[10] Put down distractions and keep your awareness on your body. This way you can be sure you are maintaining good posture, keeping a steady pace, and planning ahead for the next stage of your workout.
    • Some people like to listen to music or podcasts while they work out. Use your own discretion. You may be the type of person who can watch TV or listen to music and still get a focused exercise. The main thing is that you are keeping your awareness on your body and on adjusting the machine when necessary to keep your workout dynamic, challenging, and safe.
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    Pay attention to the monitor. It can tell you how many calories you've burned, how many strides you've made, and how long you have been exercising.

Part 3
Preparing Your Elliptical Workout

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    Set a goal for your time on the elliptical.[11] Before you even get on the machine you should have an idea of what you want to accomplish for that day. Just hopping on the elliptical and moving is not the most effective or efficient way to workout. Make sure you have an idea of the time you plan to spend on the machine and the level of workout you intend to get.
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    Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the console. Most ellipticals will have a digital monitor. Before you start your workout, locate the incline buttons and figure out how to adjust the resistance.[12]
    • Some ellipticals have a sticker or other label on them with instructions about how to get the machine started. Each machine is a little different so take the time to get comfortable using the console before starting your workout.
    • If you are at the gym they may have their own instructions posted with additional information. You can also ask one of the trainers to help you get set up.
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    Program in your weight and age. Most elliptical machines will allow you to put in your weight and age. This way the machine can help you track how many calories you’ve burned during your workout.[13]
    • The handles on some elliptical machines will have sensors on them that can monitor your heart rate as well.
    • Some machines will allow you to plan a workout by adding some additional info including how many calories you want to burn, how long you would like to workout, or what intensity level you are aiming for.
    • For a moderate workout, your heart rate should be 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. For a vigorous workout you’re aiming more for 70 to 85 percent. To calculate your max heart rate subtract your age from 220. If you are 31 you max heart rate is 189.[14]
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    Get comfortable adjusting the incline level.[15] Changing the incline angle of the machine can have a great effect on the intensity of your workout. Keeping the machine at low incline will give you a workout more akin to cross country skiing. A medium incline is more like a bike or spin class, and a high incline will be more like climbing stairs.
    • You can adjust the settings throughout to give your workout variety and help you focus on different muscles.

Article Info

Categories: Cardio Exercises