We already looked at some of the major benefits of an elliptical trainer workout so it is only right we look at some of the potential disadvantages of these machines. Many people enjoy using an elliptical successfully but there are a few issues you should be aware of before deciding the machine is definitely for you.
Easy To Use?
Most of the time ellipticals are easy to use, the actual action takes some time getting right and if you learn bad posture habits you may develop niggling injuries and have a less effective workout. However, the main problem with these trainers is that they are made for the average individual.
Not everyone is average. Before you buy, or commit to a regular workout on a gym elliptical you need to make sure the machine is comfortable for you. Check the stride length of the machine, a short stride length may give you a choppy unsatisfactory workout if you are long legged. A long stride length machine may leave you overreaching and lead to muscle strains if you are shorter.
Be sure the hip width is a natural fit for you. The hip width is the distance between the two footplates. They are set up to average hip width sizes, but if you are narrow or wide in the hip the resulting stance whilst exercising may lead to knees and hip problems.
An often cited problem with elliptical users is foot numbness. Typically this problem sets in at about 30 minutes into the workout. The basic cause of the issue is that the user has planted feet throughout the exercise so the circulation in the feet slows down. You could expect the same type of issue standing on the spot for to long.
Often users do not use the correct technique on these machines. Many lead with the toes instead of planting the ankle initially and then rolling over the ball of the feet onto the toes as you should do and as you would do walking naturally. If you suffer from or are concerned about numb feet or numb toes make sure you use the correct technique, try to avoid wearing running shoes, use a decent cross trainer shoe, try wiggling the toes during the exercise action or lift the foot slightly at the end of the action and intersperse the routine with backward intervals to mix up muscle groups and shift weight off your toes.
You Won’t Get Ripped
If you are looking for a machine that will build muscle this is not it. An elliptical will tone muscle groups, especially lower torso muscles but it will not develop or increase muscle mass. As with treadmills the muscles provide momentum on an elliptical rather than lift so there is little resistance with which to develop muscle size. If you check our article on stair stepper workout benefits you can see the difference. On a stair stepper each leg lifts your entire bodyweight vertically each time a step is taken. This resistance builds muscle. This inability to develop muscle mass may mean the machine is not the right choice for you or it could be an advantage depending on your workout goals.
Low Impact Is Not Always Good
Low impact exercise is often viewed as a good thing especially to individuals with weak or damaged joints, but low impact is not always good. Some impact may be beneficial.
Recent studies have shown that weight bearing exercise can improve bone density and help reduce the incidence of osteoporosis in later life (Arthritis Foundation). Essentially as you stress your skeletal structure it reacts by strengthening bone density. As well as strengthening the bones the surrounding muscles are exercised and strengthen leading to improved support for joints which may reduce the wear of cartilage in joints.
Other studies have shown that cartilage, under moderate amounts of impact, actually repairs and rejuvenates quicker (American College Of Rheumatology, 2005).
Limited Upper Body Workout
We already touched on the limitations of muscle building with this equipment but we should also touch on the aspect, often quoted, that you get a upper body workout from an elliptical.
To a degree you do get an upper body workout from an elliptical but only to the degree it contributes to the cardio workout and limited tone. Again, the issue is that there is no significant resistance. There is enough to contribute to toning but you are not going to get an increase in shoulder or chest sizes. If you are looking to develop these areas of the body use weights or a pull up bar. An elliptical will help with weight loss resulting in the muscle you already have becoming more defined but any increase in muscle size will be small.
Pros and Cons
Pros and cons are varied, but on balance with the correct machine for your body type and technique, this machine is great for a cardio workout that will help you lose weight. The disadvantages are minor and in some cases actually advantageous to some users. The worst elliptical machine negatives are dependant on choosing the correct machine. Pick a machine you are comfortable with and you can avoid injury.