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How to use the Elliptical Trainer

This standard piece of exercise equipment is one of the most popular in many gyms. Ellipticals are a unique hybrid of a treadmill, stepper, bike and cross-country skier, that move your legs in an elongated oval pattern (hence the name elliptical). This low-impact machine is also easy on the knees, simple to use, and burns big calories.
  • Step onto the elliptical trainer, facing the console. You may have to start pushing the pedals to turn on the monitor.
  • Most will have a digital monitor. Follow the instructions given to either setup a pre-designed program, or start your own program. Notice where the controls for incline are located, as well as other important buttons for starting, stopping, and pausing.
  • Push the pedals in a forward motion (they also go backwards). It's easier to balance when moving forward, and backward pedaling can be hard on your knees.
  • Some machines have moving handlebars, and others have fixed handlebars. Using the handlebars will give you more of a full-body workout, but it will also take some of the emphasis away from your legs and butt. If using fixed handlebars, continue to stand up straight and avoid leaning your weight onto the handlebars or console.
  • Increase or decrease your resistance at any point, and feel free to switch between forward and backward pedaling (if your balance allows) throughout your workout.
For elliptical workout ideas, check out these SparkPeople workout programs:
Elliptical Training for Endurance
Elliptical Intervals
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Member Comments

Ehh, I've tried ellipticals (they seem to be the standard piece of cardio equipment at most hotel fitness centers.) I don't like the movement -- makes me feel as though I'm waddling. Although I'd use one if there were nothing else available, stair climbers and exercise bikes seem to suit my physique better. Report
I really enjoy using these. There are 2 at the gym at my apartment. Report
Tks so much for the tips Report
DRAGONFLY631
Thanks Report
Excellent Report
MUSICNUT
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Good article. Report
thank you Report
ROCKS8ROX
I'm eyeing one right now, I miss my old one! Report
I have a question. Is it better to stay on a lower level, but run faster on it, or be at a higher level, but run slower? Report
I love my elliptical machine. I use mine when I cannot go for a long walk. When the weather is bad or just to hot or cold I can sill get in a great work out without killing my knees and hips. Report
Hello! I can do 45 mins easily on my home elliptical. I use a proform elliptical with moving and stationary and moving handle bars. I don't push myself too hard or I'll quit. This is the only equipment I keep in my almost sedentary lifestyle (that im actively working on changing!) and I will slowly add other stuff to my routine as time goes by. My daily goal is to simply burn 400 calories on it. so that's about 45-1 hour for me.

@Jenn240308 - You are not alone! I get numb feet too! I haven't found any solution to this at all except pedaling back or slowing down. Report
I agree when I use equipment sp say different than the other equipment I use Report
i ove the elliptical as well, with my bad knee and all. here's the question though.

My ellipticl says I burned 184 calories
SP says I burned 304

That is a big difference. who's closer? Report
Walking Guide

About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.