Does an Elliptical Shape Your Leg Muscles?

Attractive young woman doing cardio workout
Elliptical training can help slim and define your legs. (Image: mocker_bat/iStock/Getty Images)

An elliptical training machine lets you mimic the movement of running or walking without any of the striking impact involved in a normal gait. Instead of the moving belt of a treadmill, an elliptical machine lets you keep your feet in foot pedals that oscillate in an elliptical pattern. Used correctly, you can work your major leg muscles and get cardiovascular exercise at the same time.

Ellipticals Vs. Stationary Bikes

If you're looking to work your leg muscles but want to avoid excessive wear on your joints, ellipticals, like stationary bicycles, make excellent choices. Whereas you sit during cycling, you stand upright during training on an elliptical. As a result, you can burn more calories in less time. While the higher caloric output doesn't directly affect your muscles, it does cut down on body fat, which helps produce an overall more toned look.

Ellipticals Vs. Treadmills

The elliptical trainer is even more popular as a replacement to the standard treadmill workout. If you're accustomed to jogging or running for exercise, adapting your routine to an elliptical is likely to soothe your knees and ankles, letting you comfortably perform for a longer duration or at a higher intensity. Otherwise, you work the same muscles as you would during running. If you reverse the direction of the elliptical, you can put even greater focus on your calves and hamstrings.

Engaging Muscles

To give your muscles the greatest workout, adjust the elliptical trainer so that you are walking or running against a higher level of resistance. If you feel that your legs are simply swinging through the motions, you have the intensity set too low. For the most effective workout, occasionally check which parts of your body feel the most fatigued. Ideally, you should be able to feel your upper and lower legs and your buttocks working. Keep your abdomen engaged, your shoulders back and your head facing forward throughout the workout. Some elliptical machines even have oscillating grips for your hands, so you can engage your upper body in the movement.

Aerobic Training and Strength Training

An elliptical trainer is an ideal tool for aerobic exercise, letting you elevate your heart rate and breathing while burning calories at an intense rate. With the weight loss of extended aerobic activity, your legs will naturally appear shapelier as you burn fat. However, if you're looking to build muscle mass, combine your aerobic workout with strength training, such as weightlifting. Strength training helps burn calories more efficiently while improving your muscle-to-fat ratio. While you can't dictate where your body first burns off fat, you can use strength training to dictate which muscles develop most in size.

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