Elliptical Machine Effectiveness
Used correctly, elliptical machines can provide an effective cardio workout. If you slump, take it too easy or avoid varying your routine, the elliptical may lose some of its effectiveness. Strengthen your quads, shred calories and tighten your core by engaging an elliptical machine with passion and good form. Avoid common mistakes to get the most out of your workout.
Muscles the Elliptical Targets
Elliptical machines were found to be more effective than walking at engaging the gluteal muscles in a Canadian study published in “Clinical Biomechanics” in 2012. An elliptical also strengthens and works your quads, and the movement of your arms when you use the handles engages your shoulders, chest, biceps and triceps to give them a workout as well. Unlike a treadmill, most elliptical machines allow you to pedal in reverse, which is an effective workout for your hamstrings and calves.
How effective your elliptical workout is depends entirely on you. If you lean on the handles, stride at too slow a pace or use an incline level that doesn’t challenge you enough, you will not be getting an effective workout. A 140-pound woman can burn almost 600 calories an hour during a vigorous workout at a difficulty level between six and 10. But the same woman will burn fewer than 400 calories doing an easy workout at levels one through five. And you may not be able to rely on the machine telling you how many calories you burned. Elliptical machines have been found to overestimate your burn by as much as 42 percent, according to a “Shape” magazine fitness editor.
Getting an Effective Workout
To get the most benefit from a cardio workout, your exercise must be done at a moderate or vigorous pace. The more intense the exercise is, the more calories are burned. You are exercising at a moderate intensity if you form a light sweat after 10 minutes. If you can’t say more than a few words with every breath, then you are working out at a vigorous level. Keep good posture — head up, shoulders back and body upright — to ensure your workout will be effective and to engage your core. Increase your stride length to burn more calories. To maximize your workout, consider high-intensity interval training.
High-Intensity Interval Training
Interval training isn’t for everyone, but it can make your cardio workout more effective. If you can handle the added difficulty of intervals in your routine, add short bursts of intense activity over the course of your workout to burn more calories. You don’t have to stride at your fastest speed for your entire workout to get the benefits of vigorous activity. Just adding 30 seconds of intense speed followed by 60 seconds of an easier speed to recover can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your elliptical workout.
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