Cardiovascular exercise is exercise performed in a repetitive motion for an extended period that raises heart and respiration rates and burns calories. An elliptical is one form of cardiovascular machine that provides a low-impact workout while secondarily building muscle. The lower body gets most of the workout on these machines, but some work the arms as well.
A basic elliptical trainer has foot pedals that glide back and forth in a smooth, oval motion. These pedals can be adjusted wider apart or at an incline to make your workout more challenging. During a workout on this type of elliptical, your hands grip fixed handles so your arms don't work. However, certain models of ellipticals have upright poles that move back and forth, working your arms and providing a full body workout.
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Mechanics of Elliptical Training
Once you step onto the elliptical, it is important to use proper form. This will improve your overall results and decrease the chances of developing a muscle imbalance or injury. Position your feet flat on the pedals and grasp the poles at about chest height. Keeping your abs tight, gaze fixed forward and shoulders lifted, begin moving your arms and legs back and forth in an alternating motion. Act as if you were cross country skiing when you work out. To ensure you get a good arm workout, push your arms out and pull them back in a full range of motion.
Specific Muscles Worked
Flexion is a motion that decreases the angle between two bones. When you flex your elbows, you work the biceps, or the muscles on the inside of your upper arms. Extension is when you increase the angle between two bones. Straightening your arms during your elliptical workout works strengthens the triceps -- the muscles on the back of your upper arms. You also work your shoulder, chest and back muscles in the upper body, and glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings in the lower body.
Ellipticals come equipped with a resistance adjustment. By increasing your resistance, you will make the workload more intense on your arms and legs and boost your results and improve your arm definition. An elliptical workout improves muscle endurance rather than building muscle bulk. Muscle endurance is the ability to perform numerous contractions over an extended period.