What Resistance Is Best in an Elliptical?

People workout on the elliptical trainer in a gym.
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Resistance in an elliptical trainer affects how much force you have to exert on the foot platforms to complete the pedal stroke. Finding the best resistance mechanism and level for your fitness goals can help you achieve your desired results faster, making your workout program more satisfying and easier to stick with.


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Resistance Type

Elliptical trainers have either a manual, motorized or electromagnetic form of resistance. Ex-Smooth Fitness executive Fred Waters states on Fitness-Equipment-Source.com that electromagnetic resistance, commonly known as eddy current brakes, is the best choice in an elliptical trainer. Regardless of the type of workout you want to get, eddy current brakes adjust quickly and quietly to help maximize your performance on the elliptical trainer.


Weight Loss

Many people use elliptical trainers to lose unwanted weight. The resistance you set the elliptical trainer at to lose weight is variable depending on your fitness level and workout preferences. Some fitness advisers suggest that you need to exercise around 50 percent of your maximum heart rate to burn fat effectively. However, "The Washington Post" reports that this is a myth and any resistance level on an elliptical will work for weight loss as long as you meet your calorie-burning goal. Exercising at a slower rate is effective, but it means your workouts will need to be longer to compensate.



If you want to build muscle in your lower body using an elliptical trainer, use high levels of resistance. Familiarizing yourself with the controls on the elliptical trainer before using it will help you easily increase the resistance as you exercise. If muscle building is your goal, you may also benefit by increasing the angle of the incline, which further increases the resistance and changes the muscle groups you are working.


Adjustable Resistance

Some elliptical trainers have resistance that adjusts based upon your heart rate. For these ellipticals, you need to wear a chest strap heart rate monitor or periodically place your hands on the heart rate sensor grips. This type of resistance adjustment is useful if you are trying to stay within your target heart rate range, which is identified by the American Heart Association as the optimal exercising range if you want to improve your cardiovascular health.