Some Tricks to Maximize the Benefits of Using the Elliptical

As we all know, the Elliptical is one of the most favored alternatives to the act of running or using a treadmill. Perhaps, we may even consider it to be the most preferred alternative to running on a treadmill…if we are still looking at the overall umbrella category of ‘cardio machine’ workouts that is.

Anyway, because of its extreme popularity and the amount of people and time they spend on the Elliptical it certainly warrants a discussion today on how to best use the Elliptical machine.

And the reason why is because the Elliptical presents a different set of challenges as well as utilizing your body, its muscles, the joints, your tendons and ligaments, etc. in ways different from any other type of cardio machine.

It’s a little complex, but bear with me and I’ll explain.

Differences Between the Elliptical and Treadmill Running

So the biggest and most obvious difference is not so much in how the elliptical is different from running but rather it has more to do with how running just simply doesn’t have much in the way of diversity in terms of straining your body in varied ways.

This is really just sort of a fancy way of saying that running is kind of static…it’s very similar and doesn’t have many difference even if you attempt to change things up. Like using HIIT sprints instead of long distance training. In the end, running is running and short of using additional equipment like a sprint parachute or pulling weight or something like that it won’t change much on how it works your actual muscles themselves. This is especially true on a treadmill where you have less freedom of movement and motion.

But the elliptical is different.

The elliptical actually can work your muscles in different ways and with different emphasis on different muscle groups.

So let’s start breaking them down one-by-one and seeing how you can use the elliptical to push your body in multiple ways that force the body to constantly adjust itself to the shifting demands that you place on it.

Glutes Oriented Routine

So perhaps the ‘easiest’ and simplest way (and one that’s likely popular with many who are more concerned with bodily aesthetics than cardiac performance) is to ‘run’ on your elliptical in a way that forces the glutes to work more disproportionately than other muscle groups.

How do you this?

Well…simple actually!

  • Increase the incline of the elliptical (to your desire, of course).
  • Focus on pushing down and with particular emphasis on force through the heels.

Now what’s not so simple is this next workout that we have for you on how to best implement those two ‘rules’.

NOTE: That the following program is largely a ‘beginner workout’ and is also designed in such a way that you can ‘customize’ it yourself by shortening or extending the time intervals and/or adjusting the resistance level as well as the incline level.

So have a look at this:

Basic Beginner’s Glute and Hamstrings-Focused Elliptical Daily Program

  • 0:00 – 1:00 set resistance at 1.0 and incline at 2.0
  • 1:00 – 3:00 set resistance at 2.0 and incline at 4.0
  • 3:00 – 6:00 set resistance at 4.0 and incline at 8.0
  • 6:00 – 10:00 set resistance at 7.0 and incline at 16.0 (Note: If your machine does not reach up to this level then simply max it out.)
  • 10:00 – 15:00 set resistance at 11.0 (again note that if your machine does not reach this level of resistance then simply max it out as you did with the incline level above) and incline at 16.0 (or max…this ‘level’ is essentially the ‘summit’ of your pyramid here.)
  • 15:00 – 19:00 set resistance at 7.0 and incline at 16.0
  • 19:00 – 22:00 set resistance at 4.0 and incline at 8.0
  • 22:00 – 24:00 set resistance at 2.0 and incline at 4.0
  • 24:00 – 25:00 set resistance at 1.0 and incline at 2.0

Congratulations on completing your workout!

Just remember that the harder that you press on your heels the more it focuses on your glutes.

Core Oriented Program

Alright, so you did your ‘Glutes and Hamstrings’ workout yesterday and now today you’d rather challenge a different muscle group since you know that sticking too much to one group can lead to overtraining as well as imbalances.

Then allow me to present to you the “Core Oriented Elliptical Run”!

So, obviously, today we’re going to be attacking your core/abs really hard.

But how do you do it with an elliptical?


All you have to do is to just let go of the handles.

Yes, that’s how easy and simple it is. You just let them go.

Now how and why exactly would this work the abs?

Well that’s simple…because you are now less stable than before, and also because your upper body now has no ‘support structures’, to speak of, your body has to resort to using your abs to maintain stability and balance up there!

Basically, what’s going on here is that your abs/core are now operating like a column in a courthouse building where they have to support the weight above them. And in order to do that the abs must maintain constant tension and tighten the whole time. Therefore, your core is now being worked.

Now this all sounds fine and dandy, but without an actual concrete program principles and concepts just aren’t that useful. You have to take what you learn in theory and apply it in practice.

So let’s go with…

Basic Beginner Elliptical Core and Abs Run

  • 0:00 – 1:00 set resistance to 1.0 and incline to 5.0
  • 1:00 – 3:00 set resistance to 2.0 and incline to 5.0
  • 3:00 – 7:00 set resistance to 3.0 and incline to 5.0
  • 7:00 – 15:00 set resistance to 4.0 and incline to 5.0
  • 15:00 – 31:00 set resistance to 5.0 and incline to 5.0 (‘summit’ here)
  • 31:00 – 39:00 set resistance to 4.0 and incline to 5.0
  • 39:00 – 43:00 set resistance to 3.0 and incline to 5.0
  • 43:00 – 45:00 set resistance to 2.0 and incline to 5.0
  • 45:00 – 46:00 set resistance to 1.0 and incline to 5.0

Once again, congratulations on finishing your workout.

But you’ve probably noticed some things here that may or may not have caught your eye. Certainly, there are some differences from the glutes focused one above.

Incline does not change.

Takes a significantly longer amount of time for this one than the last one.

And there’s some good reasons for that.

The reason why you don’t want incline to change is because you want to maintain the same level of tension throughout the whole run. For a beginner, it’s not yet necessary to have to engage in dynamically changing angles of stability for those abs. That can come later.

As for the time thing. You need this run to be longer because the abs are a unique muscle group wherein “time under tension” is more importantly than “strength of contraction”. Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that the overall quantity of time you spend working on those abs is more important than how ‘hard’ your abs have to work. At least for a beginner it’s not really necessary to go that far.

I hope that clears up any confusion and/or questions.

So now that you’re armed with the tools and weapons necessary to really attack your abs and glutes/hamstrings while simultaneously going at it with the cardio part you should have no problem with proving people wrong about the elliptical not being as useful as the treadmill…or something like that.

Good luck and have fun!

Featured Image Credit:- Talk for Fitness

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