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Elliptical Tips

Here’s How to Burn More Calories on an Elliptical

Your time is precious, so make the most of it. These tips from Self will help you make the most of your elliptical workout.

Intimidated by the elliptical? Don't be: This gym favorite can be a great way to work out your arms and legs, and can be super helpful when it comes to weight loss, especially if you're easing into a regular workout routine for the first time.

And while you can just hop on and log some minutes of cardio, if you get strategic, you can get even more out of your training. Here are four simple, trainer-approved tips that will make sure you always get the most out of your elliptical experience.


1. Work all of your muscles

Why choose the elliptical over the treadmill or a stairmaster? New York Sports Club trainer Shayne Staley explains that it's an excellent low-impact workout that places less pressure on your joints. So if you're prone to knee, hip, or back pain while running, you might want to opt for an elliptical routine the next time you hit the gym.

Additionally, she suggests choosing a machine that requires both leg and arm work. When you work your arms and legs at the same time, she tells us that, "You're activating more muscle groups, which improves circulation by recruiting increased blood flow to both upper and lower extremities." This will increase the amount of calories you burn and create an excellent strengthening routine for your abs, back, and core.

2. Intervals are your friend

Staley says that the most efficient way to burn calories on an elliptical is with an interval workout. It will be more challenging, but it'll get the job done faster.

Here's a quick routine she loves:

  • 0:00-5:00: Start with a simple warm-up. Move your arms and legs on the machine at a resistance level of seven or eight at a moderate and steady pace, aiming to keep your heart rate at about 50 to 60 percent of your max.
  • 5:00-5:30: Interval 1 work: Pick up your resistance to between 10 and 15 and sprint on the machine (sustaining a pace of 165 RPMs) for 30 seconds.
  • 5:30-6:30: Interval 1 recovery: Bring your speed back down to that steady warm-up tempo for one minute.
  • Repeat that 30/60 interval a total of eight times.

3. Don't be afraid to increase the incline

Not a speed demon? Thankfully you don't have commit to a sprint-based workout to burn calories on an elliptical. Staley says you can also burn mega calories on the equipment by focusing on the incline levels. "Keep your speed steady, but take your resistance up so your body has to work harder to maintain the pace."

For a full workout, begin with a three to five minute warm-up with your incline level resting between seven or eight. Then, bring the incline up between 10 and 15, and sustain a pace of 120 to 130 RPMs for a minute. Bring it back down to the warm-up incline and recover for a minute and a half. Do that five times.

4. Finally, remember that stepping out of your comfort zone is key

If you're just starting out on an elliptical, you don't have to dive right into a intense workout. Just raise your resistance a notch or two, or pick up your speed for 20 seconds, explains Staley. Any new shock to the body will help you get more out of your workout.

Whatever workout you choose to try out, be sure to push yourself. Whether that's by playing with your resistance or speed, the more muscle groups you engage, the more calories you will burn.

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