Best Elliptical Workouts of 2024: Are They Worth The Hype?

Looking to slim down? Pairing this elliptical routine with a healthy diet and strength work will aid your goal achievement through balanced exercise and nutrition.

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Overview

The presence of low impact and full body workout in a sentence seems impossible, right? Quite the contrary, elliptical machines, while created to provide a similar experience to running, don’t put too much strain on your joints and body.

Simple in design, these machines are a favorite for many gym enthusiasts, be they beginners or seasoned pros. So, if you are looking for a workout that will work your cardio and also help with burning calories, an elliptical workout is your go-to option.

Why opt for an elliptical workout? With many options available, how do you lock in on the one that fits your goals? In this article, we give you a road map with pointers and information to help you understand why everyone is talking about getting on the best elliptical workouts out here.

Best Elliptical Workouts

Here are our top picks for the best elliptical workouts for men and women alike, according to experts. Let’s teach you how to build a stronger upper body:

1) Elliptical Workout For Beginners

Equipment Required: Just an elliptical trainer and your comfortable workout clothes!

Warm-up (5 minutes):
Start with a light jog or brisk walk on the elliptical for 5 minutes, gradually increasing your speed and resistance to get your muscles warm and blood flowing.

Workout (20 minutes):
This workout combines intervals of moderate and high intensity to keep your heart rate up and burn calories. Remember, listen to your body and adjust the intensity as needed.

HOW TO USE AN ELLIPTICAL | Beginner’s Guide (Video Credit: Naomi Kong YouTube Channel)

Interval 1: Moderate Effort (5 minutes)

  • Maintain a comfortable pace with a resistance level that allows you to hold a conversation.
  • Focus on good form, keeping your back straight and core engaged.

Interval 2: High Effort (2 minutes)

  • Increase your speed and resistance to a level that feels challenging, but not overwhelming.
  • Push yourself but maintain good form and controlled movements.

Repeat intervals 2 & 3 for a total of 3 cycles.
Cool-down (5 minutes):

  • Gradually reduce your speed and resistance to a slow jog or walk.
  • Perform some light stretches for your major muscle groups, focusing on your legs, arms, and core.

Chart:

Interval Duration Intensity
Warm-up 5 minutes Light jog/walk
Interval 1 5 minutes Moderate
Interval 2 2 minutes High
Interval 3 3 minutes Recovery
Cool-down 5 minutes Slow jog/walk

Tips for Beginners:

  • Start slow and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts as you get fitter.
  • Focus on maintaining good form throughout your workout to avoid injury.
  • Listen to your body and take rest days when needed.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
  • Make it fun! Choose music you enjoy and find a workout buddy to keep you motivated.

Remember: Consistency is key! Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week for optimal health benefits.

2) Steady-State Elliptical Workout for Beginners: Cruise to Fitness

Equipment Required: Just your trusty elliptical!

What is Steady-State?
Think of it like a comfortable cruise for your heart rate. You’ll maintain a moderate intensity for a sustained period, building stamina and burning calories efficiently.

Steady-State - Low impact elliptical workout to raise heart rate steadily.

Steady-State-Elliptical(Image Credit: ShutterStock)

How to Do It:

  • Warm-up (5 minutes): Begin with a light jog or walk on the elliptical, gradually increasing speed and resistance for 5 minutes. Get your blood flowing and your muscles warmed up.
  • Steady-State Cruise (20-30 minutes): Find a pace and resistance level where you can comfortably hold a conversation. Imagine talking to a friend while walking briskly. Aim for a perceived exertion of 5-6 on a scale of 1-10 (1 being easy, 10 being max effort). Maintain this level for 20-30 minutes, depending on your fitness level.
  • Cool-down (5 minutes): Gradually decrease speed and resistance for 5 minutes, allowing your heart rate to slow down and muscles to cool down.

Chart:

Stage Duration Intensity
Warm-up 5 minutes Light jog/walk
Steady-State 20-30 minutes Moderate (perceived exertion 5-6)
Cool-down 5 minutes Slow jog/walk

Remember: Consistency is key! Aim for 2-3 steady-state workouts per week, gradually increasing duration or intensity as you get stronger.

Benefits:

  • Improves cardiovascular health and stamina
  • Burns calories efficiently
  • Low-impact, gentle on joints
  • Great for beginners and all fitness levels

Additional Tips:

  • Listen to your body and adjust the intensity as needed. Take rest days when needed.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during, and after your workout.
  • Choose music you enjoy to keep yourself motivated.
  • Make it fun! Incorporate different scenery videos on the elliptical or engage with workout apps for variety.

3) 15-Minute Elliptical Blast: Get Your Heart Racing!

Equipment Required: Just your trusty elliptical trainer!

Warm-Up (3 minutes):
Start with a gentle jog or brisk walk at low resistance for 3 minutes. This gets your blood flowing and prepares your muscles for the workout.

15-Minute Elliptical Workout - Short elliptical session for a quick calorie burn.

15-Minute Elliptical Workout (Image Credit: ShutterStock)

Challenging Intervals (8 minutes):

  • Interval 1 (2 minutes): Crank up the intensity! Increase the speed and resistance to a level that feels moderately challenging. Maintain this effort for 2 minutes, focusing on good form and controlled movements.
  • Interval 2 (1 minute): Recover! Reduce the speed and resistance back to a comfortable level for 1 minute. Catch your breath and get ready for the next round.
  • Repeat intervals 1 & 2 for a total of 4 cycles.

Cool-Down (4 minutes):

  • Gradually decrease speed and resistance for 4 minutes, allowing your heart rate to slow down and your muscles to cool down. Stretch lightly to prevent soreness.

Chart:

Stage Duration Intensity
Warm-up 3 minutes Gentle jog/walk, low resistance
Interval 1 2 minutes Moderate effort, increased speed/resistance
Interval 2 1 minute Recovery, lower speed/resistance
Cool-down 4 minutes Slow jog/walk, decreasing resistance
Repeat 4 cycles

Boost Your Workout:

  • Add arm movements: Engage your upper body by swinging your arms in sync with your legs.
  • Incorporate incline: Change the incline for a more challenging workout.
  • Interval variations: Try different interval lengths or intensities to keep it fun.

Remember:

  • Listen to your body and adjust the intensity as needed. Take rest days when required.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during, and after your workout.
  • Most importantly, have fun and enjoy getting active!

This 15-minute workout offers a quick and effective way to boost your heart rate, burn calories, and build endurance. Remember to listen to your body, adjust the intensity as needed, and most importantly, have fun while getting your sweat on!

4) HIIT the Elliptical: Burn Calories and Boost Fitness in 20 Minutes!

Equipment Required: Just your trusty elliptical trainer! Remember, this is a high-intensity workout, so listen to your body and adjust the intensity as needed.

Warm-Up (5 minutes):

  • Start with a gentle jog or brisk walk at low resistance for 3 minutes, gradually increasing speed and resistance over the next 2 minutes. Get your blood flowing and prepare your muscles for the HIIT challenge.
HIIT Elliptical Workout - High intensity elliptical intervals for optimal fat loss.

HIIT Elliptical Workout(Image Credit: ShutterStock)

High-Intensity Intervals (10 minutes):

  • Sprint: Crank it up! Push yourself to maximum effort for 30 seconds, giving it your all. Imagine sprinting uphill!
  • Recover: Take a quick breather! Reduce speed and resistance to a comfortable level for 60 seconds. Catch your breath and get ready for the next round.
  • Repeat: Perform 5 sets of the sprint and recovery intervals, pushing yourself hard during the sprints and focusing on controlled movements throughout.

Cool-Down & Stretch (5 minutes):

  • Gradually decrease speed and resistance for 3 minutes, bringing your heart rate down and allowing your muscles to cool down.
  • Spend the last 2 minutes performing light stretches for major muscle groups, focusing on your legs, arms, and core.

Chart:

Stage Duration Intensity
Warm-up 3 minutes Gentle jog/walk, low resistance
Interval 1 2 minutes Moderate effort, increased speed/resistance
Interval 2 1 minute Recovery, lower speed/resistance
Cool-down 4 minutes Slow jog/walk, decreasing resistance
Repeat 4 cycles

Boost Your HIIT:

  • Increase interval duration: As you get fitter, try longer sprints (45 seconds) or shorter recoveries (30 seconds).
  • Incorporate incline: Use the incline feature for an extra challenge on your legs and core.
  • Add arm movements: Engage your upper body by swinging your arms in sync with your legs during sprints.

Remember:

  • HIIT workouts are intense, so listen to your body and take rest days when needed.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
  • Warm-up and cool down properly to prevent injuries.
  • Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the challenge!

This 20-minute HIIT workout offers a powerful way to burn calories, boost fitness, and get your heart rate soaring in a short period. Remember to prioritize your safety and listen to your body while enjoying this high-intensity challenge!

5) Climb Your Way to Fitness: Incline Elliptical Workout

Equipment Required: Just your trusty elliptical trainer!

Embrace the Hills:
This workout utilizes the incline feature of your elliptical to mimic hill climbing, engaging your lower body muscles more intensely. Remember, adjust the incline and intensity according to your fitness level and comfort.

Warm-Up (5 minutes):

  • Start with a gentle jog or brisk walk at low resistance for 3 minutes. Gradually increase speed and resistance for the last 2 minutes, getting your blood flowing and muscles warmed up.

Hill Climb Intervals (12 minutes):

  • Steady Climb (2 minutes): Set a moderate incline (around 4-6 levels) and increase your speed to a comfortable challenge. Maintain this effort for 2 minutes, focusing on good form and controlled movements. Feel the burn in your legs!
  • Peak Push (1 minute): Bump up the incline to a steeper setting (7-9 levels) and push your speed to a higher intensity for 1 minute. Imagine sprinting uphill! Give it your all, but maintain control.
  • Recover & Descent (1 minute): Reduce the incline back to moderate (4-6 levels) and decrease your speed to a comfortable pace for 1 minute. Catch your breath and get ready for the next climb.
  • Repeat: Perform 4 sets of the climb, peak push, and recovery intervals, feeling the challenge in your legs with each incline change.

Cool-Down & Stretch (3 minutes):

  • Gradually decrease speed and incline for 2 minutes, allowing your heart rate to slow down and your muscles to cool down.
  • Spend the last minute performing light stretches for your major muscle groups, especially your legs and core.

Chart:

Stage Duration Incline Intensity
Warm-up 5 minutes Low Gentle jog/walk, increasing speed/resistance
Steady Climb 2 minutes Moderate (4-6 levels) Moderate speed, controlled movement
Peak Push 1 minute Steep (7-9 levels) High speed, push effort
Recover & Descent 1 minute Moderate (4-6 levels) Comfortable pace, low-intensity
Repeat 4 sets
Cool-down 2 minutes Low Slow jog/walk, decreasing speed/incline
Stretch 1 minute Light stretches for major muscle groups

Boost Your Climb:

  • Increase incline levels: As you get fitter, challenge yourself with steeper inclines during the peak pushes.
  • Interval variations: Try different lengths for climbs, pushes, and recoveries to keep it interesting.
  • Add arm movements: Engage your upper body by swinging your arms in sync with your legs during climbs and peak pushes.

Remember:

  • Listen to your body and adjust the incline and intensity as needed. Take rest days when required.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workout.
  • Warm-up and cool down properly to prevent injuries.
  • Most importantly, have fun conquering those virtual hills!

This incline workout provides a fun and effective way to target your lower body muscles and boost your cardio, all while feeling like you’re climbing a mountain. Remember to prioritize your safety and adjust the workout according to your fitness level. Enjoy the climb!

Benefits of An Elliptical Machine

Besides providing you with a pumped-up workout, the elliptical machine has some benefits, giving you more reasons to get started on those elliptical workouts. These benefits are:

Helps with Weight Loss

If weight loss or management of it is your goal, the elliptical machine goes a long way in helping you hit that target. The full-body workout helps with fat-burning, which in turn leads to a reduction in body weight.

Elliptical workouts have been known to help burn calories fast and in a short period. To hasten the weight loss process, you can increase the intensity level on the machine, making your workouts a bit harder, meaning your body will also need to work harder, leading to a boosted caloric burn.

Low Impact Exercise

Compared to other high-intensity cardio workouts or running exercises, working out on an elliptical machine does not stress your joints and body. While an elliptical machine gets your heart pumping and works your whole body, the workouts are not intense.

An article titled, Why slow, low-impact exercise can be good for your health published in the MD Anderson Cancer Center, highlights why low-impact workouts might be the way to go.

It is primarily because when working out on an elliptical, your feet stay in contact with pedals, not needing you to lift them off, hence reducing the impact you would feel if you had to lift them up as you would when running on a flat surface.

Works Your Lower Body

As you move your feet in a pedaling motion, your leg muscles (hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, calves, and quadriceps) will be the main focus. By increasing the intensity of the machine, you will be able to get the most out of the workout and build muscular endurance in your lower body.

Works Your Upper Body

When done correctly, an elliptical workout will benefit your lower body and upper body, meaning your whole body gets toned. To get the entire upper body workout, ensure you are working and pumping your arms to be in sync with your legs as you pedal.

Boosts and Strengthens the Cardiovascular System

A cardio workout helps balance your exercise routine and contributes to a longer and healthier life as it boosts the health of your heart. During a cardio workout, your heart works harder to ensure enough supply of blood and oxygen to other parts of your body, which largely contributes to its endurance and strength.

To maximize your cardiovascular health in a short time frame, you can do HIIT workouts on the elliptical machine, inadvertently increasing your caloric burn as well.

According to Austin “Ozzie” Gontang, Ph.D., a leading psychotherapist, “Cardio workouts will not only lower your blood pressure but also improve your metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories as you go on with your day.”

Improves Balance

As you get used to working out on the elliptical machine, you can train your body to be better balanced by working out hands-free. The best way to achieve this balance and mobility is by working your core muscles while the machine’s incline and resistance levels are not too intense but manageable, as per your experience and capability.

A better and improved balance ensures stability, prevents injuries, and conditions your body to be more flexible and agile.

Reduces Hypertension

Exercising on an elliptical machine helps reduce stress levels as it releases serotonin. Also referred to as the happy hormone, this agent has the ability to lower and control your blood pressure.

Variety of Exercises

Most elliptical machines have pre-installed workout routines that give you the illusion of climbing hills, running, jogging, interval training, and much more. Access to various routines will make your workout sessions more varied and exciting.

Improves Blood Circulation

The aerobic workout on an elliptical machine makes your heart and body work harder. In the process, your heart pumps more to ensure your muscles are getting enough blood and oxygen; this, in turn, improves blood circulation and flow.

Disadvantages of an Elliptical Machine

Not to overlook all the benefits associated with elliptical machines, but they have some disadvantages. They are:

  • Even though considered a weight-bearing exercise, working out on an elliptical machine provides you far fewer bone-strengthening benefits compared to exercises like running or jogging
  • For an individual looking to tone, build, and strengthen their upper body, working out on an elliptical machine might not be enough, as elliptical workouts are more focused and targeted towards the lower body
  • It might cause the body to twist unnaturally due to the nature of the workout that requires you to use your lower and upper body
  • It is not an inclusive machine as primarily individuals of average height and body build can use it. Your workout might be uncomfortable if your feet don’t fit well on the pedals
  • The high-end elliptical machines are expensive and take up too much space

Comparison Between an Elliptical Machine and a Treadmill

There have been comparisons between the elliptical and treadmill as they provide the same type of workouts that burn calories and work your cardiovascular system while having a low impact on your body.

Is one better than the other? The truth is that both of these machines are popular as they provide great aerobic workouts. Your goal, preference, space available, and budget drive the choice. In the table below, we analyze their differences and similarities.

Similarity/Difference Elliptical Treadmill
Impact of workout on the body Low-impact Low and high impact
Target muscles Lower and upper body muscles Lower body muscles
Intensities Various intensities available Various intensities available
Body workout Full body workout Lower body workout
Caloric burn Lower caloric burn compared to treadmill workouts Higher caloric burn compared to elliptical workouts
Cardio workout Yes Yes

Conclusion

High-intense workouts that give your cardio and body a thorough workout are often associated with some tear and wear; this is one issue you will not face with elliptical workouts. You can build your strength and body’s endurance and train your cardiovascular system minus the aches and pains.

Elliptical machine workouts provide a great alternative to running or cycling exercises. They are also ideal for individuals with joint issues or recovering from injuries, as they don’t put your body through too much strain.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Does an elliptical workout help with weight loss?
A. Yes, it does. Elliptical workouts considerably contribute to the process of burning calories, leading to a reduction in weight.

Q. Is it advisable to do an elliptical workout every day?
A. Elliptical workouts can be done daily for 20 -30 minute sessions and are known to be great aerobic workouts that work your cardio and help your body build strength and endurance.

Q. Are elliptical machines safe?
A. Yes, they are. Following the manufacturer’s guidelines ensures that elliptical machines pose no harm to you. As a beginner, you can ask for assistance from a qualified or professional trainer who will demonstrate how to use the machine correctly.

Q. Can I tone my arms doing an elliptical workout?
A. Yes, you can. Elliptical workouts require you to work your lower body simultaneously with your upper body, involving the arms, hence toning them.

Q. Is the elliptical a good workout to help those with belly fat?
A. Elliptical workouts are aerobic exercises that burn calories, reduce body weight, and increase heart rate. It might work with other workouts for specific and targeted weight loss, like the belly area.

Q. Can an individual use an elliptical machine with an arthritic knee?
A. As working out on an elliptical machine does not strain the body, someone with arthritis can comfortably workout on it when set on a low or manageable intensity.

6 Sources

BodybuildingReviews avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in BodybuildingReviews, you can read more about the editorial process here.

  1. Aerobic exercise alone results in clinically significant weight loss for men and women - Midwest Exercise Trial-2 - PMC https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3630467/
  2. Serotonin - What Is It, Function & Levels https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22572-serotonin
  3. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) - The Nutrition Source - Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/high-intensity-interval-training/
  4. High Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes - cdc.gov https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/about.htm
  5. Why slow, low impact exercise can be good for your health - MD Anderson Cancer Center https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/why-slow--low-impact-exercise-can-be-good-for-your-health.h14-1593780.html
  6. Media Libraries – URMCMedia - PT-Blog-April_1.pdf https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/MediaLibraries/URMCMedia/noyes/migrated-media/PT-Blog-April_1.pdf

Christine VanDoren. PT, CSN, NSCA, ACE

Christine VanDoren, PT & Nutritionist, is a Registered Nutritionist, Sports Nutritionist, and Personal Coach worked with Justin Bauer Fitness.
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