Elliptical machines are common fixtures in many gyms, but for those who have never used them, some preparation in advance is necessary. These machines are designed to mimic the motion of running without inflicting heavy impact on the knees and ankles. As such, ellipticals are ideal for beginners as well as advanced users who prefer low-impact aerobic activity. Before beginning any exercise program, you should consult your physician.
Elliptical machines include features that are similar across many models. Beginners should familiarize themselves with all the functions and features of the elliptical machine prior to its use. All elliptical machines provide a reverse movement function, which is akin to running backwards. Until completely comfortable with the use of an elliptical machine, beginners should avoid using this function.
Most machines include a variety of incline, speed and resistance options. Frequently, the user can choose from pre-programmed exercise routines. Although these programs are available, they should only be used by those who have already increased their elliptical machine stamina and endurance. Other common features may include heart rate monitors or moving handles that provide an arm workout as well.
Stretching is an important part of every workout, but for those new to elliptical machines, stretching is a must before using the machine. Stretching reduces the risk of injury by ensuring that the muscles are loose and warmed up. The effort involved in elliptical workouts is primarily directed at the legs and gluteal muscles. Hamstring and calf stretches are particularly helpful when beginning elliptical training.
The frequency with which you undertake elliptical training depends on your overall fitness level at the start. For those who are transitioning from a more sedentary lifestyle, begin with 10 to 20 minutes on the machine, with no resistance, at two to three times per week. Individuals with more aerobic experience can begin with 20 to 30 minutes on the elliptical at three to five times per week. Beginners should exercise initially to a point where they are breathing slightly hard but still able to carry on a conversation.
The frequency of elliptical workouts can be increased after three to four weeks. After this initial period, users can experiment with increasing resistance, inclination and speed.
After three to four weeks of using an elliptical machine, beginning users can add interval training to their workouts. In interval training, users switch between periods of increased activity and slower, or less intense activity.
Beginners can start with intervals of heightened speed or incline in increments of 30 seconds and periods of more moderate activity in increments of one to two minutes. As stamina increases, these intervals can slowly be increased to two to three minutes at a time.
Elliptical machine users will enjoy a workout that not only increases their cardiovascular functioning but also tones muscle, as the leg and gluteal muscles are constantly engaged. A low risk of injury is involved in using elliptical machines. Regular elliptical workouts help to increase metabolism and overall fitness.
- The Lean Look; Paul Goldberg and Matt Fitzgerald; 2008
- Hospital for Special Surgery: Exercise Tips for Fat Loss
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Recommended Exercise Methods