An elliptical trainer, AKA a cross trainer, is a cardio machine that will help you to burn calories and condition your muscles. In past posts, we have talked about the benefits of ellipticals – from weight loss to heart health, there are a lot of good things to be said about them – but today we are going to look at their disadvantages.
Because we believe that it is important to have all the information before making a big purchase decision. By choosing to buy an elliptical machine, you will probably be foregoing another type of cardio machine, so we want to ensure that an elliptical is right for your needs.
Elliptical machines are fairly big items that take up space in your home, which may not be ideal if you are tight on room. While you might be able to squeeze one into a corner, will staring at a wall for 30-45 minutes be the most enjoyable workout experience?
While the pedals of an elliptical provide a full range of motion, akin to walking or running, the handles are limited to the ‘push-pull’ movement. It is therefore a more comprehensive workout for the lower body than it is for the upper body and core.
Some models have a fixed stride length based on the ‘average’ person (who is usually a man). If you fall outside of this, then your workout will be less comfortable. Adjustable models are available, however, this feature comes at a price.
Speaking of price, elliptical machines are not cheap! While you can rationalise the cost by comparing it to a year’s gym membership (they pay for themselves over time), the upfront payout can really sting.
Limited muscle benefits
Cross-training is a low impact cardio exercise that offers limited conditioning benefits to the muscles. It will help you to build endurance muscle, but it will not build bulk muscle or protect your bone health. You will need to undertake additional strength training for this.
A 30-minute workout on this machine is tough going! If you are very unfit or new to exercise, it can be overwhelming at first. Go at a steady pace for short sets to build up endurance or risk burning yourself out.
As with all cardio exercise, there is a risk of pushing yourself beyond your limit and jeopardising your health – even your life. This can be acute for inexperienced exercisers because they mistake physical warning signs for being the ‘pain’ that leads to the ‘gain’.
To safeguard against this, listen to your body – not your instructor, the pre-programmed workout, or your activity tracker – and immediately end your workout if you feel unwell.
A 30-minute session burns between 250-500 calories, depending on your weight. However, a pound of fat (0.5kg) is equivalent to 3,500 calories. While it is clearly sensible to include exercise as part of your weight-loss regime, it will take a long time to see results if it is all that you do.
Cardio exercise is no substitute for a calorie-controlled diet, ideally one that achieves a 250-500 calories deficit per day.
If you’re at the extreme of height limits, you’ll want to make sure you’re picking an elliptical machine that can accommodate your stride length, be that shorter or longer than normal. You might find our Best Ellipticals For Short People guide useful in this regard.
All elliptical machines have a weight limit. For safety reasons, it is important to check this against your own weight before using the machine. If you are very heavy (>125kg) and struggling to find a suitable machine at an affordable price (heavier limits typically come with heavier price tags) then you may want to consider losing weight before buying an elliptical – which is a bit circular if your reason for wanting an elliptical is to aid weight loss!
It is nigh on impossible to adopt a dangerous form on an elliptical, however, a poor form will prevent you from reaping the full benefits that this machine has to offer. You must actively push and pull on the handles to engage your upper body, simply holding onto them will not do anything.
The motion of the handles and the pedals should be smooth and rhythmic to get the most out of the exercise and to protect the joints. If you jerk back the handle or awkwardly shift your weight on the pedals, then you are likely using the machine on too high a resistance setting. Pushing yourself beyond your capacity will not supersize the benefits of the session, it will actually make it less beneficial.