This 20-Minute Elliptical HIIT Workout Will Fly By — and Still Make You Sweat
There are some days when you just don't feel like doing cardio. Or you do, but your body is begging for something other than your usual cycling class or treadmill run. If these reasons resonate, or you're just looking for a beginner-friendly way to get into high-intensity interval training (HIIT), consider hopping on the elliptical.
This quick and simple elliptical HIIT workout, for example, is a great go-to, no matter your level. The workout uses high-intensity intervals to get your heart rate up and your body working in a way that steady-state cardio simply doesn't. What's more, intervals on the elliptical are relatively gentle on your joints because the movement is low-impact. "Intervals on an elliptical are your best bet for . . . overall improvement of health while being very sensitive to injury prevention," Kendall Wood, CSCS, an NASM-certified personal trainer, tells POPSUGAR.
Keep reading for more of Wood's expert advice and a 20-minute elliptical HIIT routine you can start today.
What to Know About HIIT Before You Start
If you're unfamiliar, HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. It's a simple acronym but an epic workout, alternating intense bursts of exercise with "rest" periods, during which you'll move at a more leisurely pace. HIIT workouts typically last no longer than 30 minutes, because they're intense when done correctly. (You should be really challenging yourself during the work intervals.) While you can do a HIIT workout using any form of cardio, Wood recommends doing elliptical HIIT workouts because it's easier on your joints. "Cardio can be hard on your knees, hips, or feet, so if you can't swim every day, get on an elliptical and your body will thank you," Wood explains.
That being said, the intense nature of HIIT workouts can be a lot for anyone to take on a regular basis. As a result, Wood cautions clients to limit their HIIT workouts to no more than three sessions per week. "At first, people hate HIIT workouts, but they can be addictive," Wood says. "Don't allow yourself to burn out by doing it too often. A few times a week is sufficient."
How to Master the Elliptical
Especially for beginners, the elliptical can be a little more complex than a treadmill or stationary bike. In fact, if you approach your time on an elliptical without proper form, you could end up getting injured. Follow Wood's advice below to ensure a safe and effective workout, whether you're doing this elliptical HIIT workout or another routine.
- Don't lean forward or backward. Your body should make a straight, even line that is parallel to the walls in front and behind you. If you're leaning at any angle, you're putting too much pressure on your knees or back and may not be getting the full range of motion.
- Use the handles. If you're not using your arms on the elliptical, you're missing out on some serious cardio benefits. Plus, you're preventing your arms, core, and stabilizer muscles from being harnessed throughout the motion. The elliptical is a total-body workout, so treat it like one.
- Keep your head straight and looking directly ahead of you. This will help you keep your balance and force you to keep proper form. It will also ensure that you aren't distracted and stay focused throughout your workout.
20-Minute Elliptical HIIT Workout
While there are interval-training presets on every elliptical, you can also guide yourself through your own routine — that way you're totally in control of your rest and how hard you're pushing.
Here's a simple, 20-minute elliptical HIIT workout from Wood to get you started:
- Warmup (2 minutes): Move at a comfortable pace (equal to a jog), with the elliptical on a low resistance or incline setting.
- Work (30 seconds): Increase the resistance or incline on the machine so you feel like you're sprinting, and push yourself as hard as you can go for 30 seconds.
- Rest (1 minute): Reduce the resistance or incline and your speed to a more comfortable level, equal to a jog, for one minute.
- Repeat: Continue alternating work and rest intervals 10 times total.
- Cooldown (3 minutes): Finish your workout with a cooldown at an intensity level equivalent to a jog.