Elliptical machines are one of the best secrets for combining cardio with full-body strength training. First appearing in gyms during the 1990s, the devices provide an intense but low-impact workout. The user’s movement combines features of running, stair climbing, and cycling, but with the athlete circling pedals without the user’s feet hitting the ground. Because of this unique motion, experts quoted in The Washington Post describe it as a weight-bearing exercise, which can be used for building muscle and is also beneficial for bone density.
These cross-training machines come in different styles which can be used in unique ways. Many have arm handles, while others do not. Some have an adjustable incline to vary the path of the pedals. Older models may be manually-powered while more recent types rely on electricity. In 2010, an elliptical bicycle was introduced, on which the rider stands to pedal while traveling.
It is important to approach the elliptical trainer correctly in order to get the most out of your workout. First, by standing straight and looking forward — not down at your feet — you will work the core muscles and improve balance as well. Do not lean on the machine, as this will diminish the benefits of your leg motion. By shifting weight toward heels instead of toes, you will engage your butt muscles most effectively.
There are many ways to build muscle while using an elliptical trainer:
1. To increase arm development, choose a machine with handles. Some machines isolate the arm and leg movements more than others; experiment with various elliptical to see which allows for the most independent arm rotations. By pulling and pushing on the arm poles without letting the foot pedals power the upper-body movement, a user can work biceps, triceps, shoulder, back, and pectoral muscles.
2. Try interval training by pedaling in one direction, then the other. The quadriceps, or front thighs, engage while rotating backwards, while the hamstrings and glutes give your butt a workout by pedaling forwards.
3. To simulate climbing hills, find a machine that has an adjustable incline. A steeper grade works the upper leg muscles — especially the gluteus — while a flatter angle will build your calves.
4. Resistance can also mimic hills. Turn up the level for a killer butt workout, and keep challenging yourself with higher levels as you grow stronger.
5. To increase the workout for your core , remove your hands from the elliptical and either place them on your hips or pump your arms. (This is not for the beginner). By doing this, abdominal and other core muscles must engage to stabilize your balance.
6. For an advanced move targeting quads and glutes, go into a half-squat while pedaling backwards.
7. On an elliptical without handles, go hands-free and do chest presses with a medicine ball. You may also try curls or overhead presses with a very light pair of dumbbells. Be sure not to go heavy on the weights, as you’ll be holding them for awhile.
8. For a full lower-body workout, extend your legs straight for a longer stride (instead of circling them closely beneath you).
9. Try one of the new outdoor elliptical bicycles. These bikes provide a longer stride and greater balance, which will work core muscles effectively.
The elliptical offers one of the best cardiovascular workouts, especially those models that work upper and lower body at the same time. It’s also a great resource for those with injuries or knee concerns, as feet glide without leaving the pedals. However, by concentrating on proper form and mentally targeting individual muscle groups, the elliptical can provide a great way of building muscle at the same time. There’s an effective use of your gym time!