Rethink Cardio, Train On the Elliptical

By on August 16, 2013

For many people with regimented weight lifting workout schedules, cardio days can send depressive shivers up the spine. Although most everyone is familiar with the positive benefits associated with performing routine aerobic exercise, the perks don’t come without a price. That price, ladies and gentlemen, is heart-pumping, lung-burning, muscle-failing and mind-screaming pain. Known as ‘sitting in the suck’, frequently visiting these four horsemen of discomfort for long periods of time will inevitably improve one’s stamina and mental toughness. Who doesn’t want that?

Outdoor enthusiasts can hit the pavement, scramble a trail or swim through open water to get their aerobic fix, however, for those of whom enjoy the luxuries of indoor training, options appear endless. You can sit, you can stand… and heck, you can even lie down on some machines. Pick your poison and bring the pain. But ask yourself one question: “is this machine going to maximize my workout?”

Depending on what you’re looking for, answers may vary. For those wanting to engage both their upper and lower body, pick the elliptical machine (just make sure you use elliptical trainers equipped with moving handles). Let’s examine some of the key muscle groups you can target with an elliptical trainer.

Elliptical Training For the Lower Body

Because elliptical machine pedals move smoothly along a track, the entire modality is considered low impact. Low impact simply means at least one foot remains grounded at all times – in this instance the ground is the pedal. Low impact exercises are great for people with ankle, knee or spine problems because reverberating shockwaves caused by pounding foot strikes do not occur. Yet, if you enjoy the gains of high impact training then you can always supplement running.

So what lower body muscle groups will you hit with an elliptical machine?

The elliptical offers full range of motion for backward and forward movements. These dynamic movements allow you to fully engage many large lower body muscle groups including the quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes. While pedaling forward, the quads, calves and glutes work simultaneously to move the pedal forward and down, whereas the hamstrings aid in stabilization and pulling the pedal backward. Switching direction and pedaling backward will force your quads to work harder. Sit low in your stance for an even deeper burn.

Elliptical Training For the Upper Body

As mentioned above, you’ll want to find an elliptical equipped with moving handles in order to activate the upper body. Handles permit a fantastic range of motion for your hands to follow through. In following the forward pushing motion, you will effectively activate your pectorals, deltoids and triceps. Conversely, as you pull the handles back, the lats and biceps will activate.

Suggestion: periodically support your bodyweight with your legs and only use the moving handles to move the entire system, just make sure you maintain pace. This technique is an upper body crusher!

Ensuring the Workout

Tired-EllipticalWith elliptical trainers you can really shakeup your workout without damaging your joints. Plus, most machines come equipped with programmed training selections. You can simulate hills, a high resistance run or train within a specific heart rate range (most newer models can track your pulse through handle sensors). For more information on heart rate training, calculate your target heart rate for both moderate and vigorous exercise with the LiveStrong Fitness heart rate calculator.

Furthermore, if you practice HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), elliptical machines can be used to really ramp up your workout. You can change resistance for the tough, anaerobic portion of your workout then seamlessly drop the resistance during your recovery period. Keep your body guessing and exercise smart!



Mark Healey

About Mark Healey

Mark has a degree in Exercise Science from Miami University in Oxford, OH. He enjoys writing about fitness, health and sports. He works in Digital Marketing and for fun enjoys staying active and spending time outdoors.

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