Exercise Benefits of Elliptical Machines

By Sabah Karimi

  • Overview

    Elliptical machines, also known as cross trainers and elliptical trainers, are a standard piece of exercise equipment in most gyms and fitness centers but can also be purchased for home use. The machines allow exercisers to engage in a low-impact resistance and cardio routine while gliding forward or backwards on pedals and balancing with movable handlebars.
  • Function

    Elliptical machines are designed to deliver a targeted lower body workout, but some machines can also provide upper body resistance with weighted arm poles. Elliptical machines allow the user to move his body in the range of motion that imitates a cross-country skier. These movements target the hips, thighs, glutes, buttocks and calves with varying intensity, and the exercise can deliver a total body workout.
  • Effects

    The ability to increase resistance makes it easier to customize a workout and set different goals for each workout's session. Using an elliptical machine at different resistance levels and gradients allows the exerciser to train various muscle groups. A steep incline will give the glutes, upper thighs and hamstrings a vigorous workout, while a standard incline will work out all the major muscle groups in the lower body. Increasing resistance for the upper body can exercise the biceps, triceps, shoulders, abdominals and lower back areas.

  • Types

    There are two main types of elliptical machine styles, and different sports and exercise equipment manufacturers add their own set of features and functions. Rear-drive elliptical machines are typically designed with an adjustable incline ramp which allows the user to work out the upper legs, inner thighs, outer thighs and calves with ease. A front-drive elliptical machine is not designed with an adjustable ramp but still allows the user to pedal forward in a ski-like motion. Front-drive elliptical machines are typically lower in cost than rear-drive machines, and are typically the design of home-use machines.
  • Features

    Elliptical machines may be designed with a number of distinctive features and functions such as adjustable speed control, pre-programmed training sessions, distance monitors, built-in speakers, integrated cooling fan, iPod or MP3 player, water bottle holder, magazine or book holder, programmable memory card, or interface to keep track of workouts.
  • Benefits

    The natural stride produced by the elliptical machine may be a valuable alternative to high-impact cardio routines for individuals who have weak joints, are recovering from an injury, or those who want to build up endurance and stamina. The elliptical machines allow exercisers to imitate the movements of a skier, and control the resistance level and distance they cover so that they can burn a certain amount of calories. Elliptical trainers equipped with heart rate monitors and calorie-burning counters make it easier for exercisers to set, monitor and reach their fitness goals.
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