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Top 10 Mistakes You Make on the Elliptical Trainer

We are excited to share one of our fave stories from Prevention here on FitSugar!

By Lisa Hoehn, Prevention

As the weather drops, more and more people head straight to one machine in their gym — the elliptical trainer. According to a 2008 report from the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association, the number of users of elliptical trainers in health clubs grew sevenfold from 1997 to 2007. And while you may be proud of yourself for making it to the gym and squeezing in some cardio, taking a lackadaisical approach to your elliptical workout and casually spinning your legs while reading a magazine or watching TV isn't going to blast away those holiday cookies. Here, 10 mistakes you frequently make on the elliptical and how to fix them so you maximize calorie burn while adding fun to your ho-hum routine.

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1. You’re too lazy to enter your information.
Most machines are calibrated for a 150-pound person — but personalizing your stats will help you get a more accurate calorie read. Aim to burn around 100 calories per 10 minutes, says Jennifer Cassetty, an exercise physiologist.

2. Your resistance is zero.
You might feel like a million bucks spinning at a mile a minute, but without resistance, you’re not going to see results, says Röbynn Europe, a personal trainer at Chelsea Piers in New York City. Make sure that you’re using enough resistance to push and pull through the stride. Then continue at a moderate pace until you feel like you’ve done all you can do. "You shouldn’t feel like you have even five minutes left in you when you step off," she says.


3. You're a sloucher.
Standing up straight helps to lengthen your abs, giving you a chance to engage your core and even work your upper body muscles, Cassetty says. Certified personal trainer Neal I. Pire, MA, CSCS, president of Inspire Training Systems in New Jersey, recommends hopping on a machine with an upper body component so you can engage even more muscles — and blast more fat. Can't find a machine that lets you pump your arms? Let go: some research suggests that leaning on machine armrests during exercise reduces calorie burning.

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4. Your machine sounds like it’s going to take off.
If you can hear the purr of the machine while you’re exercising, it means that you’re going too fast without enough resistance — which means you're not getting the most calorie burn out of your time, Cassetty says. Keeping a steady, moderate pace at a resistance that forces you to use your muscles will get, and keep, your heart rate up.

Learn four more fitness mistakes after the break.

5. You don't change directions.
Going backwards doesn’t just stop you from getting bored, it also changes which large muscle groups are working hardest, according to Europe. While moving forward fatigues your quads, backwards puts emphasis on your hamstrings and glutes. To max out the effect, sit back slightly, keeping your knees at a 90-degree angle as you stride.

6. You haven't changed your workout in months.
Intervals are a great way to break up the monotony of the machine and boost your calorie burn, says Europe. You can do this in one of two ways: leave the resistance steady and change your pace (fast for one minute, moderate for four) or maintain your speed and change your resistance (challenging resistance for one minute, moderate for four).

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7. You spin until you can’t feel your feet.
One of the most common elliptical mistakes is putting too much pressure on your toes, which can make your feet go numb and cut your workout short. Instead sit back into your heels, which allows large muscle groups to work harder and gives you the stamina to go for longer, according to Cassetty.

8. You don’t work your upper half.
Incorporate the moving handles two days a week to put your upper body to work, and hang onto the stable handles on the others, says Cassetty. When you’re working your arms and legs, try intervals — focus on your arms for one minute, then pump your legs for four, and repeat through your workout.

9. You spin your way up a hill.
Some models have a ramp incline, similar to a treadmill. But, unlike a treadmill, a large incline won’t increase the difficulty — instead it's easier for your legs to push and pull through the stride.

10. You’re an elliptical junkie.
As tempting as it may be to shoot straight to the elliptical every time you enter the gym, you should never be using one machine exclusively, says Europe. Supplement your routine with weight training and other cardio equipment, such as the rower. Making sure you incorporate a variety of workouts keeps your body from getting used to a single movement and also continues to help you build muscle mass — which, in turn, will keep your metabolism boosted.

More Elliptical Habits You Need to Break

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