Crush Calories (Not Your Knees) With This 20-Minute HIIT Elliptical Workout

Just 20 minutes on the elliptical works your upper and lower body muscles without lots of impact on your joints.
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Raise your hand if you like spending hours plodding along on the treadmill. Anyone? Right. Doing high-intensity intervals on the elliptical is a much better alternative. You'll increase endurance, strengthen upper- and lower-body muscles and burn lots of calories while going easy on your joints.

And all of that can be accomplished in just 20 minutes. By alternating between bouts of all-out effort and shorter recovery periods (the hallmarks of HIIT), you'll reap same health benefits as steady-state moderate-intensity workouts that are twice as long, according to a July 2016 study published in ​PLoS One​.


These benefits include improved (lowered) blood pressure and increased VO2 max (maximum oxygen consumption and a measure of cardiovascular fitness).

Check out more of our20-minute workouts here— we’ve got something for everyone.

Try This 20-Minute HIIT Elliptical Workout

It's time to torch calories! Hop on the elliptical and give this 20-minute HIIT workout a shot. It'll have your heart pumping and metabolism-revving in no time.


Make sure you engage your core as you stride through the movements. If you find you aren’t able to hold a taught core, slow your glide speed down a bit until you can comfortably engage your core.


Do:​ 5 minutes at a low resistance (1 to 3). But the end, you want to have broken out in a light sweat or feel a bit "clammy" with your heart ratel slightly elevated.


The Workout

  • 2 minutes: resistance 5, incline 5
  • 1 minute: resistance 10, incline 5
  • 2 minutes: resistance 5, incline 7
  • 1 minute: resistance 10, incline 7
  • 2 minutes: resistance 7, incline 9
  • 1 minute: resistance 12, incline 9
  • 2 minutes: resistance 7, incline 9
  • 1 minute: resistance 12, incline 9
  • 2 minutes: resistance 9, incline 11
  • 1 minute: resistance 14, incline 11
  • 2 minutes: resistance 9, incline 9
  • 1 minute: resistance 12, incline 9
  • 2 minutes: resistance 7, incline 9


If your elliptical does not have an incline option, only adjust the resistance.


Do:​ 5 minutes of slow, steady-state cardio on the lowest resistance setting. Take deep, slow breaths. As you approach the last minute, slow your movements down even more as if you were going in slow-motion.


Benefits of Elliptical Training

Burns Calories

Because the lower-body, core and upper-body muscles are working continuously, the elliptical is a great way to blast calories, especially if you focus on high-intensity intervals.

While the exact number of calories burned varies person to person, depending on factors like weight, age, gender and genetics, a 125-pound person can expect to burn about 540 calories in an hour and a 185-pound person expends about 800, according to Harvard Health Publishing.


Lessens Impact on Joints

The gliding motion of the elliptical is similar to walking in mid-air. Unlike the high-impact jolting that can occur with running and jogging, this fluid movement reduces stress and strain on your ankles, knees and hips, according to a September 2013 study from ​Gait and Posture​.

This is ideal for those who have existing joint pain or previous lower-body injuries — or those looking to get in shape without the fear of repetitive wear and tear.

Provides an Upper- and Lower-Body Workout

When done correctly and utilizing the handles, the elliptical can be a great full-body workout, since you have to sync up the push-and-pull movement of the handles with the lower-body movement of the pedals.