Over the last ten years elliptical trainers have taken the fitness market by storm. You can now buy a home elliptical for about the same price as a mid level home treadmill and most gyms have ellipticals as standard items of exercise equipment. The question on most peoples mind when looking to buy fitness equipment is does it work? Can I get a good workout off an elliptical, what does it work and is an the exercise effective? We look at some of the key benefits here.
How These Machines Work
These machines are low impact trainers that offer a full body workout. Essentially the equipment consists of two footplates that the user stands on and moves elliptically in a stepping/sliding motion and two arm paddles that the user pumps whilst simultaneously carrying out the legwork on the footplates.
The two key benefits to how the elliptical works is that upper and lower body are worked together to give a full body workout and whilst in use, non of the limbs are required to leave the machine during operation. This means the machine is low impact – it has few harmful effects on your joints or lower back. If you suffer from damaged knees you’ll find that an elliptical machine is good for knees where other machines such as treadmills and steppers may cause pain.
What Muscles Do They Target?
Using an elliptical trainer you will target a whole array of muscles in both upper and lower body. The main leg muscles used are the front and rear of the thighs (hamstring and quadriceps). The elliptical motion also targets the gluteus maximus muscle to tighten and tone rears.
In the upper body the main muscles used are the triceps, biceps, upper chest and back muscles. These are worked out by the user pumping the arm paddles. If the user chooses not to use the arm paddles and just concentrates on the legwork they will, by balance, get a gentle workout of their deep core muscles.
This machine won’t build muscle but will keep your muscle active and lean through regular use. Over time this machine should build muscle stamina and endurance so you can go for longer and recover quickly.
A Good Cardio Workout?
Generally any machine that can get your heart rate up for a prolonged period of time is good for a cardio workout. What differentiates an elliptical from other cardio workouts is the way the machine works your whole body. Because the operator is using upper and lower body at the same time getting the heart rate up is relatively easy. Using a treadmill is intense on the lower body, as is using a stair stepper. These machines require you to use one group of muscles hard to get your heart rate up. An elliptical spreads the load so no one muscle group is worked intensively. This means you get off an elliptical after a full cardio workout and don’t feel as exhausted you would having used other machines. The benefits of this is that each individual session can last longer and getting motivation for the next session is easy and not off putting for the user.
Users who try these machines find they can stick to a cardio workout program for longer over time than they can on other machines.
This is one of the best ways to burn calories. If you check some of the “calories burned” calculators online you get some interesting results. For example, a 180lb man doing 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise can expect to burn 286 calories on a rowing machine or stair stepper, could expect to burn 356 calories cycling at about 12 mph but on an elliptical could burn as much as 464 calories. This impressive result is all about using more than one group of muscles at the same time.
Any Good For Weight Loss?
Weight loss in exercise is all about burning calories. We can see from above that an elliptical machine is very efficient at burning calories during a workout session, you get a lot of bang for your buck, and therefore on the face of it it is very good for weight loss. But, this is not the real reason an elliptical is good for weight loss.
The real reason comes down to the ability to use the machine regularly into the long-term. The perceived exertion of the user is less than it would be on other machines to achieve the same results, this means getting motivated for your next session or increasing the length of a workout is not such a big ask. The longer you can stick to a calorie burning workout program the more successful you will be at losing weight.
So Is An Elliptical A Good Workout?
Yes, you get a full low impact cardio workout, burn loads of calories which is good for weight loss, and this type of machine offers a whole body workout which will keep you lean and toned. The best point to make is that the machine is great for maintaining your motivation so workouts go on longer than planned for even better results and you are less likely to turn your back on the machine over time. What an elliptical won’t do is get you pumped. To check out some of the potential pitfalls of this equipment read our article elliptical machine disadvantages. If you are interested in a low cost starter elliptical for home use check out the Schwinn 420 elliptical, this is a $500 machine that is solidly built and offers a good starting point.