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Do Ellipticals Bulk Your Leg Muscles?

author image Bethany Kochan
Bethany Kochan began writing professionally in 2010. She has worked in fitness as a group instructor, personal trainer and fitness specialist since 1998. Kochan graduated in 2000 from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, Medical Exercise Specialist and certified YogaFit instructor.
Do Ellipticals Bulk Your Leg Muscles?
Elliptical use alone should not bulk your legs.

Ellipticals are a popular form of exercise equipment found in most fitness facilities. It is appropriate for beginner to advanced exercise participants because it does not require any specialized training. Using an elliptical as part of your workout routine can lead to changes in your physique. However, your legs will not get bulky from elliptical exercise alone.

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Elliptical Exercise

Elliptical machines simulate running without the impact to your joints. Your feet remain on the the machine throughout your exercise session so there is no jarring, which makes it appropriate for many different types of people. Also, you have the option to exercise using only your lower body or increasing your intensity by using your arms as well. The purpose of the elliptical is cardiovascular exercise. It raises your heart and respiration rate for an extended period of time to improve the function and strength of your heart and lungs.

Hypertrophy Training

Hypertrophy is defined as the enlargement of muscle cells as a result of an increase in muscle proteins within each muscle cell. Progressive anaerobic training, not aerobic exercise, results in hypertrophy. To grow leg muscle you need to stimulate it with a regimented amount of sets and repetitions of different exercises that target your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps. Elliptical exercise uses the same muscles but at a lighter resistance and does not stimulate the same response as anaerobic exercise.

Changes with Elliptical Use

Regular sessions on the elliptical may change the appearance of your legs, as well as the rest of your body. Cardiovascular exercise performed three or more days per week at a moderate to high intensity for at least 30 minutes can contribute to lower body weight and body fat. This results in smaller legs that show more muscular definition. Even without resistance training you may notice that leg muscles are more toned due to the lower body fat and the fact that you are challenging them on a regular basis.


Genetics and body type play a role in how your body changes with exercise and how easily you put muscle on your frame. Men have more testosterone than women so gain muscle more easily. Some people are also naturally muscular so with little training they add bulk to their bodies. If you notice that your legs appear more bulky, evaluate your resistance training program and your diet. They are more likely the cause of larger legs than your elliptical use.

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