The elliptical machine, also called cross trainer or elliptical, is a stationary exercise machine that simulates non-impact walking or running. It is a cross between a stair climber and a cross-country ski machine. The elliptical trainer’s key feature is that it provides a weight bearing (standing on both legs supporting one’s own body weight), low-impact cardiovascular exercise.
Most elliptical/ cross trainers work the upper body using handles or poles (similar to ski poles) and lower body using peals. The appeal of the elliptical trainer lies in its low impact, upper- and lower-body workout.
The cross trainer is not a non-impact exercise; it still has some degree of impact. However, in comparison to walking or jogging, the impact is insignificant. On the elliptical trainer, your legs, knees and joints move in an elliptical motion, which substantially reduces impact. On the other hand, during running you hit the ground with a force up to 2.5 times greater than your weight.
The Best Elliptical Machine
You can change the resistance of the elliptical machine, and in some cases the stride length and incline. It’s important that you can easily and comfortably fit your feet on the pedals. The handle-levers should not impede the movement of your lower body.
A well-designed machine should be equally dependent on arm and leg power. You should not feel as though your arms are simply and limply following the handle-levers. Your arms should be sharing the work with your legs.
ELLIPTICAL MACHINE: MUSCLES TARGETED
The lower-body muscles are primarily targeted on elliptical trainer , including the:
- Buttocks (gluteus maximus) For greater the butt-firming effect, increase the incline.
- Front of thighs (quadriceps) The elliptical trainer really works the quadriceps. However, thankfully it isn’t as noticeable as on the stationary bike. Though you will feel the burn there if you ramp up the intensity of your workout.
- Back of the thighs (hamstrings)Some elliptical trainers allows you to increase the incline, simulates hill climbing, putting more emphasis on the hamstring muscles and working them harder. Going backwards (in reverse) also targets the hamstrings more.
- Calves (gastrocnemius)To work your calves, hold onto the handle bar and focus your energy into pushing your legs. Alternate between forward and backward motion. Drive with your heels as you move the foot pedals backward.
- Lower shin (tibialis anterior)
The elliptical trainer also works the upper-body muscles (though to a lesser degree):
- Chest (pectoralis major)
- Upper arms (triceps)
- Front of the arms (biceps)
- Deep Core Muscles
When you get on the elliptical trainer, you may have a particular body part in mind that you want to tone. Some of the newer eliptical trainers have body-part specific programs, such as “gluteal training” or one targeting the calf muscles.
The elliptical trainer does work the upper body. However, it doesn’t in the same way weight training will. The elliptical trainer targets a limited number of upper body muscles. Therefore, for a total body workout you still need to do resistance/ weight training. The lower body is given a very good workout on the elliptical trainer, particularly at high resistance/ incline. Therefore, depending on your goals, a workout on the elliptical trainer may be enough, esp. for women, such that resistance training targeting the lower body may be unnecessary.
ADVANTAGES OF THE ELLIPTICAL MACHINE:
- The low- impact nature of the elliptical trainer translated into less stress on joints and decreases the risk of impact injuries.
- The perceived rate of exertion is lower tends to be lower compared to running.
- Many users of the elliptical trainer feel able to burn more calories compared to the treadmill or running outdoors. This may be due to the low impact of the elliptical trainer, which allows you to burn more calories due to the lower perceived rate of exertion.
- Although non-impact/ minimal impact, it is still a weight-bearing exercise.
- Elliptical trainers are just as good as treadmill. In other words they provide equal exertion on the leg muscles and the heart, such that the workout on your legs and heart is similar to running.
- Elliptical trainers provide a total body workout and targets more muscles than running, for example. The handle-levers use the upper body muscles and the pedals require work from the legs muscles. If standing correctly, your core muscle will also be engaged.
- Most elliptical trainers allow you to go forwards, as well as backwards (targeting the quadricep muscles). This is a brilliant feature and allows you to target an entirely different group of muscles.
- Varying stride length can result in greater recruitment of a variety of muscle groups. Increasing stride length burns more calories without the feeling of exercising harder.
- If using the elliptical trainer at home, you’ll find that they are quieter than treadmills.
- Excellent workout for those with problems with the back, knee or other weight-bearing joints. Also a good option for those who require gentle exercise, but want to strengthen their cardiovascular system such as chronic fatigue syndrome (ME).
- The large amount of variety you are able to create on the elliptical trainer allows you to stay motivated and avoid boredom. You can go forwards or backwards, change the stride length, intensity and in some cases incline.
ELLIPTICAL MACHINE DISADVANTAGES
- Unlike the treadmill, you have to keep motivated and keep pushing yourself to work hard, as the elliptical trainer solely relies on the user’s movement. The treadmill is set to a certain speed, e.g. 7 mph, and that is how fast you have to run – otherwise you fall off. Therefore, if you are daydreaming on the elliptical trainer you may not be working as hard as you could be.
- Some people dislike the movement of the elliptical trainer. The motion of the elliptical trainer may take some getting used to.
- Requires a little coordination.
- Does not prepare for “real word” high-impact activities such as running.