A Buyers Guide to Elliptical Machines

    man and woman with elliptical cross trainer at gymElliptical machines are becoming increasingly popular these days, for the comfort and simplicity of their use. They offer a great cardio workout, as well as allow certain exercises that might not be possible to do without the benefit of an elliptical.

    There are actually several different types of elliptical machines available at the moment.

    • Elliptical Trainer. These are the basic models, with pedals that move in the characteristic elliptical motion to mimic running while supporting the feet. There are most often handlebars so that the user can hold and stay stable while using. These are best for anyone with stability issues.
    • Elliptical Cross Trainers. Cross trainers add the moving handgrips, usually the top of the mechanism that moves the pedals. These offer the opportunity to work the upper body, as well as the lower body when working out on an elliptical. These are the most common variety, found in gyms all over the world.
    • Elliptical Gliders. These are a variation on the trainers.The pedals only move primarily up and down, making a glider something like a mix between an elliptical and a stair stepper. The gliders most often have a stable handlebar.

    The elliptical has only been around for about 10 years. However, the fact that it provides a low impact and effective workout has made it one of the most popular exercise machines.

    Getting Started

    Incorporating an elliptical machine into your workout is a straightforward proposition. Almost all gyms will have a number of elliptical machines, and possibly have a couple different types available. A number of models are also available for home use. This are often able to fold up for storage, though in these cases they will not, usually, be able to incline or change resistance, or have some of the other options a more expensive option will have.

    Using these machines might take a little getting used to. A straightforward running motion is possible while using an elliptical, and, of course, is a good workout. However, to get the full benefit of the machine, it might be necessary to adjust a little bit. Keep your heels down on the pedals, and stay upright. It can be tempting, particularly on elliptical machines with a static handlebar, to lean over and put your weight on the machine. You’re short-changing your workout if you do this.


    An elliptical is a running machine, and so any workout using an elliptical is going to focus on cardio and the lower body. But, by varying how you use the machine, you can focus the workout, and use the elliptical to further your workout goals.

    As with any workout, always begin with a warm-up and some stretching. Your warm-up can consist of just a slow walking pace on the elliptical. Stretches should focus on the lower body and legs, but should take in the whole body.

    Workouts can include:

    • Working on your glutes is as simple as varying the incline on the machine. A steady pace for a few minutes at a variety of inclines will stretch and work muscles, keeping them from settling down into one routine. Keep your heels down on the pedals to make sure you get the full benefit.
    • Work the core by working hard. Running is great for the core, as your abs are involved in the running motion as well as the legs. Letting go of the handles can also help you work your core, as your body has to work that much harder to keep you upright and stable.
    • Interval Workouts. Working for short, but intense periods, can be a good way to make the most of your time. Short bursts of higher activity can have a number of benefits, from decreasing your resting heart rate, to possible benefits when it comes to burning fat.
    • Pedaling backward is a workout that only the elliptical can provide. Switching it up between pedaling forward, and pedaling backward, can switch up the workout and keep one set of muscles from getting too tired.

    Equipment Required

    Some workout clothes and an elliptical machine is probably all you need. It is possible to add to the workout by wearing weights or different sorts. However, it’s probably unnecessary, and using an elliptical is going to be mostly beneficial for improving cardiovascular health.

    Read Our Reviews of the Best Elliptical Machines

    Why Use An Elliptical

    Elliptical machines are a great cardio workout. Most elliptical machines have the same options as a good treadmill, and will allow you to vary the resistance and the incline and which you move. However, an elliptical machine will have a number of advantages over running outside or using a treadmill.

    • What defines an elliptical machine is the way the pedals move, making ellipsis in the air and allowing the user to keep their feet on the pedals at all time. This means that the feet and legs are always supported. The force that a runner’s feet and joints endure every time their foot hits the ground can be several times their total weight. With an elliptical machine, that force is much reduced. For people with joint problems, particularly knee and back issues, an elliptical is a much better choice than running.
    • Upper body workout. Some elliptical machines are cross trainers. These machines have handles that can be gripped and moved, providing an upper body workout, as well as a cardio and lower body workout. For some people, this can be disorienting and lead to a loss of stability. Other elliptical machines simply have a handlebar that can be gripped. For those seeking a more complete workout, however, a cross trainer can be a good choice.
    • Variety of exercise. Running backward outdoors or even on a treadmill is a terrible idea. It can lead to injury very quickly. However, on an elliptical, it is perfectly possible, and safe, to ‘pedal’ backward. This is an exercise that may be unique to elliptical machines. It works a number of muscles, particularly the calf and hamstring muscles, and strengthens them in a way a regular running motion cannot.

    These machines are a great choice for people who otherwise might have a hard time finding a cardiovascular exercise that works for them. In addition to the cardio workout, there are a few different ways to focus the workout on the upper and lower body.

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