The elliptical trainer is the newest addition to the cardio kit in the gym, the first ever elliptical was created by Precor in 1995 but it has endured and become a staple of every decent gym these days.
The ethos behind the machine was to offer a low-impact exercise option that enabled the exerciser to emulate the natural leg movement of walking, jogging and running. But it in truth it offers so much more.
With a tweak of the resistance, a shift in body focus and a change in direction of travel you can target just about every muscle in the body with these clever cross trainers. So doing will take your strength, stability and endurance to the next levels.
Not convinced? Take our challenge – devote 40 minutes to a cross trainer and apportion five minutes to each of the following exercises. You’ll complete a very varied workout and find out just how versatile the machine is.
1. Warm up with hands and feet at a medium resistance
Use the arm levers and feet pedals for an effective all-over body warm-up at a resistance that you can comfortably retain a speed of 60-70 steps per minute. Enjoy the support of a low-impact warm-up with a moderate intensity to get the whole body warm and ready to work.
2. Balance for a better back and abs
The upper body levers of the elliptical trainer are not obligatory and working the legs in isolation not only builds their strength and stamina it also means the core muscles in the back and abdominal region become challenged.
Retaining your balance this way kickstarts the core and also drives 100% of your body weight through the legs. If you find it easy, try crossing your arms over your chest to take their assistance out of the equation.
It’s good to do the core work early before the fatigue sets in as you’ll be less prone to poor posture at this stage in the game.
3. Speed up to build intensity
The next section is more for the CV system than any particular body part.
Again, it’s good to get this part of the workout in early so your energy supplies are still high and you’re able to persevere. You’ll need about your warm-up resistance, possibly lower and the aim is to keep your steps at 70 + for the full five minutes.
Be wary of having the resistance too low though. If you feel the machine is running away from you that loss of control may affect your hip, knee and heel alignment, so up the resistance a notch.
4. Add resistance for the legs
The bigger muscles of the body are in the glutes and thighs so your next step will be to work them hard by upping the resistance. Find the level where you can manage 40-50 steps per minute for the full five minutes to really fire up your butt, hips and thighs.
5. Push through with the arms
Time to drop the resistance and shift the focus to the upper body now. Keep the legs going at a steady 60 steps per minute and allowing them to lighten their load by pushing the levers more powerfully with the arms this motion will work the pecs in the chest and the triceps and biceps in the arms.
6. Reverse your direction of elliptical travel
If you’ve not gone backwards on an elliptical machine it will feel a little funny at first but a few steps in and you’ll be fine. This section of the workout requires a medium resistance during which you can retain 60-70 steps per minute.
It will work your hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors and quads just as the forward motion does but in the opposite way. The muscles to the back of the body will work on their extension, the muscles to the front of your body on their contraction.
Fine tune your technique by transferring as much under each heel as it pushes down and forward.
7. Pull back for stronger traps and scaps
For the penultimate 5 minutes keep the backwards motion established above but give the legs a break and return your focus to the upper body.
This time it’s the pulling back of the levers by each arm that will tone the trapezius and scapula muscles in the upper back.
See how much contrast you can create between the effort of the upper and lower body and try again to stick to 60-70 steps per minute
8. Cool down
Return to your warm-up resistance and allow yourself to step at around 60 steps per minute for the last section of the programme.
Once it’s all over, you should feel every muscle has worked. You can tweak the above to focus on different body regions or concentrate on strength rather than cardio to keep the variety up and meet your own fitness goals.
Whatever you do for the long-term, we’re confident that one 40-minute session will ensure you never look at the elliptical trainer in quite the same way again.
Check out the range of elliptical cross trainers in our online store, all with free UK delivery and great value for money!