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Guide to Elliptical Workouts: How to Get the Best Workout on the Elliptical Machine

Any regular visitor to the gym will have seen rows of elliptical machines, with users pedaling away while holding onto moving handles. You may even be one of those regular users, wondering how to make your elliptical machine workout more interesting, more productive, or more challenging. It’s time to go beyond putting your favorite tunes on and zoning out. We’ve got some serious tips for maximizing your time on the elliptical machine.

What Is an Elliptical Machine?

What Is Elliptical Machine

If you’re a total beginner, here’s the lowdown on the Elliptical. 

Appearance: It has two pedals to stand on, which rotate forwards and backward. Two handles to hold onto for balance and differing styles of workout.

Other names: Cross Trainer, Cross-Trainer, X-Trainer

Uses: Cardio, low impact exercise, toning the lower body

Basic use of the machine: Set a resistance and incline. Stand on the pedals. “Walk” or rotate the pedals with the feet while moving the handles backward and forwards in time with this movement to start working your muscles.

Benefits of Elliptical Workouts

  • The elliptical machine is low impact, working the muscles without “slamming” feet onto a treadmill and kinder on the knees than an exercise bike
  • Many people find elliptical workouts for weight loss very effective
  • Excellent cardio workout
  • Works a range of muscles

Downsides of Using the Elliptical Exercise Bike

Some gym fans find that they don’t feel like they’re working as hard on the elliptical machine, due to the lack of strain on joints. However, studies on “Elliptical Before and After” found that despite feeling like less energy has been expended, the elliptical machine can raise the heart rate even higher than using a treadmill.

Different Types of Elliptical Workout

Different Types of Elliptical Workout

Keep an upright posture and really push and pull the handles for a full-body workout. Make sure you keep your shoulders back and engage the abs as well.

Work with just the legs to increase lower body muscle tone and balance, plus core strength. You can even incorporate small dumbbells into a legs-only elliptical workout.

HIIT Elliptical Training

Elliptical HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) involves using the elliptical machine at different settings in short bursts. This breaks up activity, making it more interesting, but also makes a workout more challenging for better results.

HIIT is commonly done with treadmills or exercise bikes, but HIIT on elliptical machines is much kinder on the joints. Do five minutes as a low resistance or inclined. For the next five minutes, turn up the resistance. For the next five minutes, turn up the incline. Mix it up however you want, but at the end of your session, you’ll have a greater sense of achievement and will feel like you’re really enjoying your elliptical workout sessions.

How to Use an Elliptical Machine Efficiently: Five Ways

How to Use an Elliptical Machine Efficiently

Have a Plan

Try and do a slightly different elliptical workout each time you visit the gym or use your elliptical machine at home. This will prevent boredom and plateauing. Set a goal. Do you want to work for a specific amount of time? Work yourself to a certain state of perceived exhaustion? Have a clear goal so that you stay motivated.

Proper Form

Keep your feet flat on the pedals, and don’t slouch. Keeping a straight back is important for safe and healthy exercising.

Hit Reverse

Did you know you can pedal backward on the elliptical machine? This works the hamstrings for a fuller lower body workout.

Vary Incline

Whether you’re interval training or just setting yourself a goal for the session, try a steeper incline to really work the glutes.

Let Go

If you have good balance, you can let go of the handles to focus more on the lower body. Your core will get a workout too, as your abs help balance you.

Elliptical Machine Workout: Which are the Best Machines?

If you want to do elliptical machine workouts at home, there are plenty of great elliptical bike options on the market. Here are some of our favorites to help you pick the best elliptical trainer for your needs. Make sure you have enough space, not just to place the machine, but to comfortably mount, dismount, and workout on the machine, too.

GYMAX Elliptical Machine

The GYMAX combines minimalist design with a range of features, making it ideal for any serious home gym set up. 8 levels of resistance, a digital display, and heart rate monitor grips allow you to stay in control of your workouts with ease.

Schwinn Compact Elliptical Machine

This is full size yet surprisingly compact elliptical trainer, with a full digital readout and built-in workout programs to keep fitness fans engaged and energized. One of the most popular features is that it can be connected with existing fitness trackers via Bluetooth. 

Sunny Health and Fitness Under Desk/Stand Up Elliptical Machine

For really small spaces, say goodbye to the handles and get your feet on this under-desk elliptical machine, which is purely pedals. Although the arm workout has been removed to save space, you can still stand on this machine for help with balance and core training. There’s also a digital monitor, a combined belt drive and magnets, and 8 levels of resistance—a great low-budget option.

Next time you’re on the elliptical machine, check your form, set a goal, and try some elliptical HIIT for a really challenging workout. Forget about the stereotype of the “easy” elliptical. It can be one of the most useful pieces of gym equipment out there.


From elliptical workouts for beginners to more advanced techniques, the elliptical exercise bicycle is a popular gym choice for cardio and developing leg muscles. Getting the best workout on the elliptical bike means proper form, variation, and mixing in some core exercises, too.

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