The elliptical trainer can provide a low-impact full-body workout, but it does come with a caveat: You're going to have to invest some real sweat equity into your training session in order to reap the full benefits of using this machine.
In other words, it's not good enough to hop on the elliptical and just go through the motions for a half an hour; if you really want to blast fat and tone those muscles, you'll need to approach your elliptical workout with intensity and intention, and that includes being willing to add some variety to your movements. With this new approach in mind, below are some tips to help you actually get a good workout on the elliptical.
1. For a full-body-blasting workout, push and pull those handles back and forth like you mean it! While you're working the handles, make sure to keep your posture upright, shoulders back and ab muscles tight so that you will place more of a demand on your arm muscles. If you don't do this, you'll inevitably slouch forward, which puts more emphasis on your legs while not giving your arms the full range of motion they need to get a good workout. In addition, keep your core firm and arms fully engaged in order to prevent muscular imbalances due to poor form.
2. You can also try going "hands free"--i.e., not holding onto the handles at all--If you're focusing on working your quads and glutes. This is a great way to keep those muscles fully engaged throughout the workout, and it also forces you to stabilize your core, which will work those ab muscles as well. Even though you're not holding onto the handles, this doesn't mean that your arms should just hang down by your sides. Instead, move them forward and backward as if you were jogging, to still give your arm muscles some decent action.
3. Instead of maintaining an easy low intensity steady state (LISS) routine, try changing one or more of the machine's settings (e.g., stride rate, elevation, resistance, etc.) during the workout to add a slightly more challenging element to the training session. For example, you could try:
- Incrementally increasing the resistance level every 5 minutes
- Training at intervals--e.g., pedaling at a normal pace for 2 minutes, and then doubling your speed for the next 2 minutes
- Maintaining a steady pace while gradually increasing the incline or decline setting
- Alternating between pedaling forward and pedaling backward during workouts--e.g., 3 minutes forward followed by 3 minutes backward, then back to forward, etc.
- Decreasing the rest time between fast-paced pedaling intervals
- Extending your arms straight out during a hands-free workout (making a "T" formation with your body), and then as you're pedaling forward, perform forward-rotating arm circles as well
When it comes to getting a good workout on the elliptical, remember that you're not going to get it by doing the same old thing for 30 minutes (or more). Instead, use these tips to keep it interesting and challenging and to get the most out of your next elliptical training session!