Are Elliptical Machines Good For Cardio?

Why hopping on your cross trainer is one of the best ways to break a sweat

As we all know, weight loss is a matter of calories in versus calories out. Cardio is the go-to exercise for anyone who wants to lose weight fast because a good session can burn hundreds of calories.

There are lots of machines that will facilitate a good cardio workout. In this post, we will be discussing the elliptical machine – also known as a cross-trainer – and give a beginner’s guide to using it effectively.

Are elliptical machines good for cardio

Are Elliptical machines for cardio?

Yes! Although often seen as an easy-going form of exercise by anyone who hasn’t tried it, elliptical machines work both upper and lower muscles and offer a seriously tough cardiovascular workout to boot. With programs for everything from hill climbing to HIIT, you’ll need to take it easy if you’re a beginner; there’s a tough, sweaty workout waiting if you’re up for the challenge.

Elliptical machines allow users to work out the lower body and the upper body simultaneously. For the lower body, the machine is designed to move in a way that mimics the motion of walking or jogging.

Related: What is an Elliptical?

Its special feature is that your feet never come off the pedals during use and, because of this, it delivers an incredibly low impact exercise that is suitable for everyone – and is particularly good for people with joint problems, older people, people recovering from an injury and those who are new to exercise.

Endurance 720
Ellipticals like the Pro-form Endurance 720 can do online training to keep things fresh

For the upper body, the machine has moveable handles that operate like skiing poles. During use, the chest, back, triceps, and biceps are all engaged. However, not everyone uses the handles properly when on a cross-trainer.

To reap an effective upper body workout, you must actively push and pull on the handles in a skiing-style motion. Merely holding onto them will not do anything, although it will maximise the intensity of the lower body workout.

Are ellipticals good for weight loss?

If you are choosing a cardio workout based on how well it will support you in weight loss goals, then your main concern is probably the number of calories you can expect to burn in a session. Elliptical workouts score highly in this regard.

Ellipticals burn a lot of calories

A 125lb person burns around 270 calories in a 30-minute set, a 155lb person burns around 335 calories, and a 185 person burns around 400 calories. This makes the cross trainer a more effective calorie burner than spinning, which clocks in a 210, 260 and 311 calories for a 125lb, 155lb and a 185lb person respectively for half an hour of moderate-intensity cycling.

In addition to these fat-burning benefits, the cross trainer is a good choice for supporting other aspects of your health. With regular use, your muscles will become stronger and more toned looking. It also supports a healthy heart and improved breathing capacity.

Related: Which is better: Elliptical or Treadmill?

Elliptical trainers can boost your mood too

These benefits are particularly relevant to people who are at a higher risk of developing heart or lung conditions, as a result of age, weight, health problems, or poor lifestyle choices in the past. The elliptical machine can even boost your mental health.

Our brains release hormones when we engage in a strenuous physical activity known as endorphins, which create a warm glow after exercise and, over time, help to improve the mood and even reduce anxiety and depression.

How to get a good cardio workout on your elliptical

If you are new to the cross trainer and do not know how to approach the machine or perhaps even worried that you might injure yourself, relax. It is quite simple once you have the right advice.

The important thing to remember about using the machine is to actively push and pull on the handles to ensure that your upper body is engaged. However, even if you forget to do this or cannot grip onto the handles for some reason (e.g. you have a wrist injury), you will still reap an effective lower body workout.

The perfect 30 minute cardio cross-trainer workout

  1. For a 30-minute workout, begin with a 5-minute warm-up on a low resistance level.
  2. Then do 2 minutes on a medium resistance with 1-minute recovery (x2), [1-minute high resistance, 1-minute medium resistance, 90 seconds high resistance, 1-minute medium resistance, 2 minutes high resistance, 90 seconds recovery], repeat the set in the square brackets, 2 minutes high resistance giving it your all, 5 minutes recovery.

This is a basic HIIT template that can be adjusted as your ability increases.

Need a more challenging workout?

To challenge yourself, extend the length of the sets and reduce the recovery times (although not the final 5 minutes as this is necessary to cool down the muscles).

You can also elongate the workout by repeating the set in the square brackets a third time. What constitutes ‘medium’ or ‘high’ intensity is down to your fitness levels, adjust the machine’s settings and listen to your body.

Medium intensity should feel like an effort, but not exhausting. High intensity should feel like a push.

Related: What are the benefits of a cross trainer?

What does going backwards on a cross-trainer do?

Before we end this post, we have one more tip for using the elliptical machine – try going backwards!

This move is for when you have gained some strength and confidence, it really challenges your muscles because it engages them in a way that we do not naturally move in day-to-day life.

It can be a good way to end a workout, when you want to push through and sweat for 2 minutes straight (or longer!).

References and Further Reading

Tom Armstrong

Hey! I've been training in all kinds of places, with all kinds of equipment for the best part of 30 years. I love training with my weights at home and writing about new products and training methods online. Well, with a name like Armstrong, I would have to be into training, right?

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