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How to Make the Most of Your Time on the Elliptical

Burn More Calories on the Elliptical With These Tips

Elliptical trainers are a gym favorite. Not only is this cardio machine joint friendly, it's incredibly versatile. You can go forward and backward, work your arms and legs, or focus on your core — all while getting your heart rate up. Here are some tips to help you maximize your minutes on the elliptical machine.

  • If your focus is cardio: Watch your strides per minute. SPM is the number of times your legs go around in 60 seconds, a stat most ellipticals conveniently track for you. After warming up, aim to keep your strides per minute between 140 and 160. If you're doing intervals on the elliptical, make sure your "sprints" are above 160. Here's a great elliptical workout with sprint intervals so you can start practicing this technique.
  • If your focus is toning your thighs: Pay attention to your feet. Pressing more with your heels will work your hamstrings and butt more, while pressing more with your toes will tone your quads on the front of your thighs. Pedaling backward on the machine is also a great way to tone your backside — hamstrings and glutes. Increasing the incline is another way to focus the work on your glutes. Do try this 35-minute workout that truly targets the backside.
  • If you're short on time: Use your arms and legs equally. To get more bang for your cardio buck, make sure to work your upper body along with your legs. This will help raise your heart rate into an intense, calorie-burning zone and tone your upper body too. Push the handles to work your chest and pull the handles to work your upper back and shoulders. Follow this full-body workout next time you're on the elliptical.
  • To work your core: Go hands free. Letting go of the handles on the elliptical challenges your sense of balance and targets your core. Make sure not to sway from side to side once you let go of the handles. Place your hands on your hips to monitor your posture.
Join The Conversation
kaitnorm kaitnorm 2 years

This is great but unfortunately the ellipticals at Planet Fitness only have speed in MPH and level (there's no distinction of incline vs. resistance) and there is no SPM.

Irina3178892 Irina3178892 4 years
How about some tips to get you in and out the gym locker faster?
SaraJeanQueen SaraJeanQueen 6 years
I am recovering from a running injury, as well!! Wow girls. I wish FitSugar would do more posts on that topic. For me it's numbness in the hip down to the outside of the knee. It's fine while running but kills after I'm done. (better now that I took 4 complete weeks off from cardio of all types... fun and then tortmentous!) Unfortunately my great gym doesn't have the Pre-Cor standing elliptical, only the Life Fitness running ones. They're good but I kinda feel like I'm not healing if I use them too much. Also no matter what I do i never break a sweat like I do running.
onlysourcherry onlysourcherry 6 years
I love to squat on the elliptical and hold my hips really low, you really "feel the burn!"
TiVo TiVo 6 years
I love the elliptical because it makes intervals so easy. Intervals with speed, resistance, and/or incline help get my heart rate up and and keep me from getting too bored.
karinacocina karinacocina 6 years
its really hard for me to get my heart rate up on an elliptical....even when i add resistance....maybe ill try the interval tip
katie225 katie225 7 years
my biggest pet peeve are people who hold themselves up on the handle bars and spin their legs really fast. as a cycle instructor who sees this in cycle classes too, i want to yell at them: YOU'RE CHEATING! lol handle bars, no matter what the cardio equipment is, are for balance. not for your weight. there is no point to spinning without your body's resistance.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
I love the elliptical too! I also have running injuries and have switched to the elliptical for most of my workouts now. I do intervals and put the resistance really high every 10 minutes to help strengthen my legs and arms. It's still not quite as good as running, so I make sure to get at least a mile or two of real running in too. I just can't do the 11-12 mile runs I used to.
ella1978 ella1978 7 years
Love the elliptical. Use it 5 times a week as part of my cardio! I don't have a heart monitor so I am a fan of the handles that have a heart rate monitor. They aren't totally accurate, but it allows me to check my heart rate. I am 30, so I try to keep it over 150. 150-160 is my HR goal. Precor with the crossramp is my favorite - no pain on my knees. It's allowed me to really get my legs back in shape without a lot of pain. LOVE IT.
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 7 years
I'm lucky enough to have an elliptical at home but I just don't enjoy it as much as going for a run with my dog.
laellavita laellavita 7 years
after multiple running injuries -- shin splints, and then compensation problems with my hamstring and atb -- i'm pretty much bound to the elliptical 80% of the time during my work out. i'll make the resistance 7 and the incline 6 for two minutes, and then switch to a 10/10 setting for two minutes before going back down and repeating. trust me, it kills every time!
soulfulteam soulfulteam 7 years
great tips for my workout today!
Linda-McP Linda-McP 7 years
My go-to machine is the elliptical. Thanks for the tips, Fit!
AngieNewton AngieNewton 7 years
Great post! The elliptical is my favorite at the gym and I really never knew much about it other than I get a kick butt workout ha ha. I learned quite a bit from your post and look forward to printing out the pdf workouts. YEA! Thanks!
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