How to Use an Elliptical Machine

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Last Updated on March 4, 2021

Elliptical machines are quite a thing among budding fitness enthusiasts. Also known as a cross trainer, the best affordable elliptical machines lets you do a variety of exercises, including sprinting, walking, and running. Whether you want to build muscle mass or you just want to keep fit, this low-impact cardio workout machine should be your close friend. 

But getting used to an elliptical trainer takes a bit of a learning curve, particularly if you’re new to the technology. So if you’re looking for a guide that can help you learn how to use an elliptical machine the right way, continue reading this post to learn more. 


Getting onto the Elliptical Trainer

The first step is to get onto the X trainer, and you have to do that carefully so you don’t lose your balance. Hold the handlebars tight and then step onto the machine one foot followed by the other. Make sure you face the monitor as you gently step on the pedals. 

Pedaling the Elliptical Machine

Begin working out as soon as you step on the device. You can power the display by pressing the start button or by simply pedaling it. 

Pedaling the machine isn’t rocket science. If you can do that at an even pace, you’re good to go. It’s more or less like riding a bike, only you’re in a stationary position with your right handle pulling down and your left foot going up. 

You shouldn’t lock your knees when pedaling an elliptical machine. For your comforts sake, and to get the most out of the workout, you should keep your knees bent the same way you would if you were riding a bike outdoors. 

Adjusting the Resistance

Here’s the thing: 

Pedaling an elliptical machine fast is fine, but not always. Going at fast speed means you aren’t getting the most out of your workout. Not to mention that it can make you lose your balance and result in foot injuries. 

Moreover, the faster you pedal on a cross trainer, the longer it takes to burn calories, and this isn’t worth the effort per se. As such, it’s important to turn up the resistance so that the machine can go harder on you instead of the other way round.  

As for the resistance, the consensus is simple: the higher the resistance the more difficult it is to pedal the machine. And this is quite helpful, as it means you have to push harder not only to work your muscles but also burn more calories in the process. 

It’s important to note that elliptical machines have varying levels of resistance. Depending on the model you choose and the amount of money you’re willing to pay, the level of resistance can fall between 7 and 22. For example, the NordicTrack EZ Elliptical Trainer has 20 levels of resistance and the Exerpeutic Heavy Duty Elliptical has only 8 levels of resistance. 

We don’t recommend turning up the resistance to the highest level if you’re new to elliptical training. Start small instead, going up one level at a time as you get used to the training. Remember, you want to exercise well and do so comfortably. And that means you need to choose a resistance level that you can manage. The last thing you want to do is to injure yourself or stretch your muscles unnecessarily. 

While all elliptical trainers feature varied resistance levels, only a handful include adjustable inclines. These models fall in the higher-end category, which means you have to fish out some extra cash from your pocket. Basically, an elliptical incline lets you change the slope of the machine, working your hamstring and gluteal muscles more on higher incline and less on lower. 

It’s up to you how you want a combination of incline and resistance to play out. You can do, say, a five to ten minutes intervals, increasing the incline and resistance each time and then lowering again. But make sure you start from a level that feels very comfortable, and then you can do the adjustments as you continue. 

Changing the Direction of the Pedal

One of the coolest things about elliptical machines is that you can also pedal them backwards. That means you can work your muscles all around. Not to mention add some exercises to the mix. By pedaling in the opposite direction, you’ll be able to work your glutes and hamstrings quite well. 

The only problem with pedaling backwards is that it can be quite strenuous on your knees. So it’s something you should avoid if you’re nursing a knee injury.  

How to Get the Most Out of the Elliptical Trainer

Avoid Distractions When Working Out

Some people suggest that you can use an elliptical machine just fine while reading a book or watching TV. And while there isn’t any harm in doing so, you’re dividing your attention to multiple activities, making the session less effective. 

When it comes to elliptical training, giving the session your 100% concentration is the way to go. So remove all the distraction from the moment and focus on the machine instead. This will go a long way to help you make sure that you’re doing your workout right. 

Use the Monitor Often

One of the best things about advanced elliptical trainers is the inclusion of advanced consoles. Primarily, the console features a LED display, which shows your workout stats as you exercise. Always pay close attention to the unit as you exercise. More often than not, it will help you to know the number of strides you make, how much calories you burn, and how long you’ve been working out. 

Always Start Slow, Then Go Hard

Always start from the lowest resistance level possible and then move your way up as you get used to the elliptical machine. Also, you don’t want to do the same workout every day because it can turn out to be rather monotonous. Instead, make sure you vary your level of workout to make each session as interesting as possible. 

Harold Whitford

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About the Author

My name is Harold Whitford, a husband, father, and avid cyclist with a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Delaware. Having been in the industry for more than 15 years, I have a number of the road race and national time trial championships in my bag.

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