The elliptical is one piece of gym equipment that many gym “buffs” have probably never even thought about using.
Regardless of this negative stereotype, the elliptical has a wide range of benefits, and can be useful for anyone from an elderly person who is trying to remain fit, to a professional athlete.
The key to positively using the elliptical is to understand that it is not a conditioning tool to be used in the same fashion as running sprints or lifting weights, but it can still be useful when utilized correctly.
Elliptical exercise machines are one of the most undervalued pieces of gym equipment, and you would be wise to understand more about its many benefits!
Benefits of Using the Elliptical Machine
Probably the single most important benefit of the elliptical is that anyone can do it. Yes, it is true that the elliptical is not a “functional” exercise when compared to running or even walking, but it still is exercise.
The elliptical puts minimal stress on all the joints in your body, and it is an excellent piece of equipment to be used by those with injuries, or who are just beginning their fitness career. The motion of the elliptical itself is incredibly easy to be learned, and can be learned by pretty much anyone.
Research has even proven that the elliptical is safe for those who suffer from chronic stroke and are not able to walk! As stated in the Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy
“Elliptical training appears to be a safe and feasible training alternative for ambulatory individuals with chronic stroke.
Training 2 to 3 days per week resulted in no improvements in walking speed; however, participants did demonstrate variable improvements in endurance, balance, and functional mobility. It is possible that a higher training frequency and/or training speed are required to influence walking performance in individuals who are ambulatory.”
Although the elliptical is not necessarily a device for training the human motion of walking, it can certainly be used by almost anyone, as a tool for increasing health and conditioning.
Another example of this was shown through a study published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development. As stated in the study,
“Fatigue, reduced quality of life (QOL), and lower physical activity levels are commonly reported in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). This study evaluated the effects of elliptical exercise on fatigue and QOL reports in patients with MS. Patients with MS (n = 26) completed the Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS), the Modified Fatigue Impact Scale (MFIS), and the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) before and after completing 15 elliptical exercise training sessions.”
“Results showed significant improvement in FSS, MFIS, and five SF-36 subscales as a result of elliptical exercise.
The change in FSS correlated with change in two of the SF-36 subscales.
Elliptical exercise for patients with MS results in significant improvements in both fatigue and QOL. These findings indicate that regular elliptical exercise could be a part of inpatient and outpatient MS rehabilitation programs.”
As shown again here, utilizing the elliptical machine is one form of exercise that is almost certainly beneficial for you.
Obviously, there are many forms of exercise. This is not to discredit other exercises or machines, but rather show that those people with negative stereotypes about the elliptical are inherently wrong in their judgment!
Furthermore, ellipticals are beneficial because it is very easy to find them; and they can be fit pretty much anywhere.
An elliptical takes up even less space than a treadmill, and pretty much every commercial gym you go to will have at least one or two.
Learning how to utilize the elliptical for your own benefit can be especially useful for when you are traveling or when you only have access to a fitness center with ellipticals for use.
Elliptical and Heart Rate Training
Aside from the convenience factors of using the elliptical, the elliptical can be a tremendous workout for even the most advanced trainee! The elliptical fits very well with high intensity interval training workout routines, and it can really get your heart rate pumping!
Many people will argue that since the elliptical is not a “functional” or “real-world” exercise it has no value, but this is simply not the case.
The elliptical works a huge amount of muscles in your body; including your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, biceps, triceps, and abdominals. Utilizing the elliptical in a HIIT protocol workout will give you a great variant, that will tax many different muscles in your body!
One of the best HIIT workouts you can do with the elliptical is to use it with the Tabata method of interval training.
The Tabata interval protocol consists of 8 sets of 20 seconds of maximal work, followed by only 10 seconds of rest. This 4-minute-long interval program is incredibly efficient at shredding fat, and conditioning your body.
Some exercises such as sprints, deadlifts, and squats are considered the kings of functional exercise, but they are incredibly bad to be used with this interval protocol. The elliptical is a perfect piece of equipment for this interval protocol, and will safely work your body to an excellent extent!
Elliptical and Recovering from Injuries
Furthermore, for those who are recovering from lower body injuries and attempting to stay in shape, the elliptical is a perfect piece of equipment to work your heart rate while not stressing your injury.
For an athlete, the most important key to staying in physical condition is being able to work you heart rate at a certain capacity.
Since there is little to no stress on your joints while using the elliptical, it is possible for you to work your heart rate extensively while maintaining safety and the rehabilitation process of lower-body injuries.
Along with this, it has also been shown through research that using the elliptical is one way to decrease the risk of knee injuries, and can be beneficial for those recovering from knee injuries! As published in the journal Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society,
“Six-week training was conducted in nine healthy individuals and seven healthy individuals served as control and only participated in evaluation sessions.
Our results showed that following the pivoting elliptical training, individuals were able to reduce pivoting instability across different phases of the elliptical cycle (p<0.01) and also mediolateral instability at mid and terminal swing phase (p<0.05). A trend of reduced response time and phase dependent changes in EMG patterns were also observed.
The results showed that the pivoting elliptical training is effective to improve off-axis neuromuscular control in healthy individuals and such training protocol can potentially be implemented to prevent knee injury.”
For any athlete who has suffered a lower body injury, it is well known that it is difficult to maintain physical conditioning while rehabbing.
The elliptical can absolutely help this process!
Although there seems to be a constant stereotype about ellipticals from many personal trainers and “gym buffs,” they are generally always wrong.
Sprinting and bicycling are absolutely great forms of conditioning, but they are not the only ones.
Elliptical training machines are also excellent for keeping in your home. You can look at a website such as this to see the best elliptical machine for home use!
The elliptical is not necessarily a functional movement, but it still hosts a plethora of benefits!