Elliptical Trainer February 24 2016

Love it or loathe it, the Elliptical is one of the most popular cardio machines for at-gym and in-home use.  Originally designed to help people rehabilitate from knee injuries, it is a low-to-no impact weight bearing exercise that mimics the motions of running or walking without putting pressure on your joints.  It is a great first foray into fitness.

What is nice about the Elliptical is that you, the exerciser, control the pace and path.  If you choose to go slowly, your motion controls the speed – unlike a treadmill where you set the belt speed and go.  Don’t want to use your arms?  You don’t have to!  The handles move regardless.  How you do is truly up to you.  

It also appeals to the multi-tasker in me.  I appreciate that, unlike the treadmill, I can change my eye line, and even read or watch TV while aboard.  If I tried that while running on the treadmill, I fear I’d find myself fast on the floor.

The machine targets several muscle groups at the same time – pedal forward to give your quads a workout, and go backwards to strengthen your hamstrings and glutes.  And it’s not just your lower half that gets in the game.  The Elliptical has arms handles that move forward and backward as well – pushing them forward engages your chest, while pulling them back builds your upper back. 

Are you a fan of the “Look, Ma!  No Hands!” approach?  If you let go of the handles and keep your pace on pace, you work on building balance and core stability.  Just do not try and go too fast, because you can fall or find yourself off-kilter.

So, if you choose to get in shape on the Elliptical:

  • Maintain good posture - keep your shoulders back, your head held high (looking forward, not down) and your abdominal muscles tight
  • Resist the urge not to add resistance – while you should not push too hard too fast, this should feel like work. Add enough resistance to really push and pull through the stride, not just to make the elliptical machine’s motor (the flywheel) move fast.   
  • For a great cardio burn, look at your Strides Per Minute (the elliptical equivalent of Miles Per Hour). After warming up, aim to get your SPM between 140 and 160.  Remember that you control how fast or how slow you move, so make your time count.
  • If you are looking to tone your thighs (who isn’t?!), press with your toes harder; to tone your rear, press more with your heels. However, do not put too much pressure on your toes or they can become numb.
  • To get the maximum burn in the shortest amount of time, work both your arms and legs at the same time. Regardless of if you choose to use your arms, do not lean on the handles – let your lower body support your weight.