Elliptical machines are a staple piece of equipment in gyms. They provide a low-impact, joint-friendly way to crush your weekly cardio session, while also allowing for steady-state and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) options.
As ubiquitous as elliptical machines may be, few (if any) of us were actually shown how to use them. This has led to more than a few individuals using the machine incorrectly, or at the very least, not maximizing this highly effective piece of gym equipment.
With that in mind, here are the top 7 elliptical do’s and don’ts for effective elliptical workouts.
#1 Don’t Believe the Numbers on the Machine
Quite possibly the biggest faux-paux individuals make on ellipticals (or any cardio machine for that matter) is relying too much on the numbers the machines spits out, namely the “calories burned.”
Truth be told, these read-outs provide a gross estimate (at best) for your heart rate, calories burned, etc. These numbers are based on algorithms which may or may not be built on individuals of similar height, weight, and build as you.
What’s more, multiple studies have shown that cardio machines (as well as fitness trackers) overestimate how many calories are actually burned during exercise.
What this means is that any read-out or “calories burned” display you encounter should be taken with a GIANT pinch of salt. Plus, different cardio machines will likely have different algorithms for calculating calories burned.
If you are using the exact same piece of cardio equipment, you can see if you’re training at the same intensity/duration as you previously have based on the number readouts, but if you rotate between gyms or pieces of cardio equipment, focus instead on your overall progress -- bodyweight, progress photos, tape measurements, how your clothes fit, etc.
Getting too wrapped up in the numbers on the elliptical machine (or any other cardio machine) is a surefire way to sabotage your progress and motivation.
#2 Do Use Good Posture
As you fatigue, it’s only natural that your posture and form start to break down. This can lead to leaning forward and resting one the handrails, thereby shifting your weight onto the machine and reducing the amount of work your muscles are actually doing. This ultimately reduces how many calories you’re burning.
Something else to keep in mind is that the longer you perform a movement with poor form the more ingrained that movement pattern becomes, which can lead to dysfunction, pain, and injury.
Make sure to keep your weight evenly displaced between your two legs, keep your torso upright, and shoulders down and back (proud chest posture).
#3 Don’t Rely on the Elliptical for All Workouts
Variety is the spice of fitness.
Mixing things up helps prevent overuse injuries, boredom, and builds total body, functional fitness.
As such, no matter how great you may think the elliptical is, it shouldn’t be the only thing you do to improve your fitness.
It’s imperative that you incorporate other training modalities, such as resistance training (e.g. lifting weights, bodyweight training, calisthenics, etc.), yoga, cross-training, etc. This helps build muscle and strength, lose body fat, and improve overall health, wellness, and longevity.
#4 Do Put Devices Away
Technology is fantastic. It connects us to people all over the world and provides unfettered access to information that can be immensely beneficial. Technology (such as the 1UP Fitness App) can also be helpful for logging workouts, tracking macros, getting motivation/advice to crush a transformation challenge.
However, technology isn’t without its drawbacks. It can be an incredible source of distraction, and, at times, it can be downright de-motivating and depressing (e.g. social media and news feeds).
Getting sucked into an endless scroll of tweets, texts, emails, DMs, and other notifications can ruin an otherwise great workout and slow down your results.
As such, when you’re hopping on the elliptical, avoid staring at your smartphone (or any other screen for that matter). If you want to listen to music, that’s perfectly fine. Set your phone on “Airplane Mode”, put your headphones in, and get after it!
#5 Don’t Forget to Use Your Upper Body
For the most part, “cardio” in the traditional sense -- walking, jogging, cycling -- emphasizes the lower body.
The elliptical is one of the few pieces of cardio equipment that allows you to recruit the muscles of the upper body in addition to the lower body. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste!
As you go through your cardio session, make sure to push and pull with your arms. This will help burn more calories all the while building strength in your shoulders, back, biceps, and triceps -- creating more defined and toned arms!
#6 Do Toggle the Resistance
Like many other pieces of cardio equipment, elliptical machines have a “resistance toggle” which allows you to increase or decrease how much effort you have to input to move the pedals/arms.
As you progress in your fitness, don’t keep the resistance setting at “0.” increasing the resistance (challenge) will help make your muscles and joints stronger, as well as building cardiovascular fitness.
If you always keep the resistance setting the same, your body will eventually adapt to it, become more efficient, and ultimately burn fewer calories per minute.
#7 Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut
Structure and routine can be beneficial (setting a meal plan, workout routine, bedtime, etc.); however, when it comes to elliptical workouts, variety can be beneficial.
For instance, you don’t always have to set the timer for 30 minutes and go at a steady pace. That’s fine to do sometimes, but it can also be fun (and effective) to perform intervals or work it into a circuit training routine.
Mixing things up for your cardio workouts can help increase training motivation and excitement, helping you to push harder, burn more calories, and get better results!
And, if you’re looking for some added energy, fat burning, and fatigue resistance during your elliptical workouts, check out our top-rated men’s and women’s supplements Pro Ripped Max and Make Her Lean Max as well as our stim-free Workout Amplifier, which contains potent thermogenics like GBB and Paradoxine, as well as L-Carnitine to help increase calorie burning.