A common sight in fitness centers and home gyms, the elliptical machine has slats for the feet and poles for your hands that allow your arms to work in conjunction with your leg movements as you glide back and forth. The machine is popular because it is easier on joints, with less impact than running. It also has benefits that range from muscle activation to cardio to glute strengthening.
Here are five reasons to get on the elliptical during your next indoor workout.
“The elliptical is a great piece of equipment for people getting back into working out that may have too much bodyweight, in order to prevent weight-bearing joint injuries — such as the feet, ankles, knees, hips and lower back,” says Rudy Gehrman, DC, executive director and founder of Physio Logic NYC. Once the body weight comes down, incorporating the treadmill would be next, then eventually outdoor running.
YOU CAN WORK UPPER- AND LOWER-BODY
“Be cautious of overuse and repetitive stress conditions that the elliptical machine can cause, as their motions and resistance are very linear, not offering enough variety of motion,” says Gehrman. It’s important to change your motion to combat this, and to move from machine to machine after a period of time. You can incorporate resistance for your upper body by utilizing the handles. “Similar to the treadmill, moving in different directions on this machine will aid in preventing repetitive stress syndromes, create a more balanced body and give you a better workout,” advises Gehrman.
IT ADDS INTENSITY
Ellipticals often have a resistance feature that is a great way to challenge your fitness. “Though you can structure many different types of workouts with ellipticals, one of the best things to focus on is maintaining a specific cadence while adding resistance,” says Mecayla Froerer, a NASM-certified personal trainer at iFit. Having a machine with many resistance options helps to lean out your legs and improves your cardiovascular fitness at the same time.
DOING INCLINES MAY EASE BACK PAIN
One important thing to look for when choosing an elliptical is whether it has an incline feature or not. “Incorporating incline during your workout is a great way to engage your posterior chain, which is a key element to movement and can aid in alleviating lower back pain,” says Froerer. Having an incline feature can take your elliptical workout to the next level by also increasing calorie burn during your total-body workout.
GOING LATERAL RECRUITS MORE MUSCLE
A lateral elliptical trainer is a machine that moves side-to-side instead of front to back. According to a 2011 study conducted by the University of Tampa, lateral elliptical trainers were scientifically proven to burn more calories and fat — in the same amount of time — as other ellipticals and cardio trainers. The study showed the sideways motion recruits more muscles than standard elliptical trainers. It also produced a targeted heart rate faster than on other machines, resulting in significant cardio and weight-loss benefits.