How to Do High-Intensity Interval Training on an Elliptical Machine

You've heard about the benefits of high-intensity interval training, including improved cardiovascular fitness and fat loss, and you're geared up to try your first workout. But you despise running on a treadmill.

HIIT is an intense but effective workout. (Image: dima_sidelnikov/iStock/GettyImages)

No problem. All you need to do an interval workout is varying degrees of intensity. You can accomplish this on any type of cardio equipment, including an elliptical machine.

The Basics

During a HIIT workout, your goal is to work as hard as you can during the intense intervals and work at an easy pace during the recovery intervals to allow your breathing and heart rate to decrease.

To get to your maximum, increase your speed, the resistance or ramp height — or a combination of the three. Reduce the variables during your recovery periods to catch your breath.

Warm Up

Because of the intense nature of HIIT, it's important to warm up thoroughly before you get into the meat of the workout. This prepares your muscles for intense activity and prevents injuries that can occur when you exercise with cold muscles.

Step on the elliptical and pedal at an easy pace for five minutes to work up a light sweat. Then, increase your pace, the resistance level of the elliptical or the ramp height — or a combination of all three — to begin to approach your maximum level of exertion.

Read more: The Fat Loss From Long Cardio vs. HIIT

The Workout

Resume your easy pace for 2 minutes. At the 2-minute mark increase the variables to reach your maximum effort for 30 seconds. Then, reduce your speed to your recovery pace for 2 minutes. Continue to repeat the intervals for a total of eight rounds.

Follow this with a 3-minute cool down, reducing speed, resistance and ramp height below your recovery interval levels to allow your breathing and heart rate to come back to normal.

Vary Your Workouts

There are countless variations on interval workouts. As you become fitter, you can decrease the recovery period and increase the high-intensity period.

For example, an intermediate elliptical HIIT workout might include work periods of 30 seconds and rest periods of 60 to 90 seconds. An advanced HIIT workout increases the work period to 60 seconds or more and has an equal recovery period. Intermediate and advanced workouts may also include more rounds.

Using Your Heart Rate

It can be hard to judge if you're working hard enough or recovering enough between intervals. You can use your maximum heart rate and target heart rate zones to determine this.

Subtract your age from 220 to find your approximate max heart rate. During your intense intervals you should be working near your maximum heart rate — between 85 and 95 percent. During your recovery periods, you should reduce your heart rate to about 65 percent of max heart rate.

The best way to keep tabs on your heart rate during a HIIT workout is to wear a heart rate monitor. Check it often during your workout to make sure you're in the zone.

Read more: Cardio Heart-Rate Zones

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