Elliptical machine benefits: 5 reasons cross trainers are a great workout

Want to step up your workout? Reap the benefits of the elliptical machine 

Elliptical machine benefits are numerous - we list the top five
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You might only think of hopping on the treadmill or stationary bike when engaging in cardio at the gym, however it’s now time to enjoy the benefits of the elliptical machine.

You know that awkward looking contraption with the skinny vertical arms? Yup, that’s what we’re talking about here.

The elliptical machine (AKA cross trainer) offers a great full-body workout, and is ideal for taking things at your own pace. Plus, it’s a doddle to use.

Maurice Ryan is a personal trainer and manager at Fitness First Harringay in London.

He says that the elliptical machine is simple but effective; you essentially hold on and move your feet. Plus, you can increase the resistance level or intensity, so you can either go light and fast, or slow and heavy.

‘The elliptical machine is one of the least complicated machines you can use in a gym. You could leave one in your gran’s front room and be confident she’d work it out,’ explains Maurice.

In fact, it’s ideal for using whilst binge watching your favourite show. You won’t even realise that the time is passing whilst on one of these! What's more, you only need 20 minutes to get a good elliptical machine workout in. 

Maurice recommends increasing the difficulty level from one up by one per minute for the first 10 minutes, then head back down, trying to maintain the same speed throughout.

He adds that a period of time at a chosen level is a good way to get into some steady state cardio. It’s also ideal for a warm up to get the body prepped before a main workout.

Check out these five other amazing elliptical machine benefits...

1. Burns the same calories as a treadmill

Before you start thinking that a treadmill is the calorie burner extraordinaire, think again.

‘When compared to a treadmill, the elliptical machine offers equal oxygen consumption and energy expenditure when performing submaximal exercise,’ says Maurice.

‘So walking on a treadmill is not better than using an elliptical for 15 minutes. Oxygen consumption and energy expenditure to the average person means burning calories. If your goals include racking up the calorie count without killing yourself on an assault bike, the elliptical could be a quick win for you.’

2. Great for rehab or activation

As Maurice explains, in some cases you will want or need to stimulate specific muscles and mimic the walking pattern without doing actual walking, which involves impact. 

‘The elliptical has been proven to stimulate the rectus femoris (the muscle that helps extend or raise the knee) more than walking on a treadmill. A footballer, cyclist or kickboxer would all benefit from activation before the event.’

3. It works the whole body

‘On an elliptical we move 10 joints,’ says Maurice. 

‘There’s a pushing motion and a pulling motion. We get hip flexion and extension; granted it’s a small degree of hip flexion, but even some movement is good movement. Our knees and ankles also get these benefits.’

Maurice adds that if you’re planning on doing a full body workout at the gym, say, with weights, then this is a great way to get blood flowing into the right places, ready for action!

elliptical machine benefit

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. It's a low maintenance bit of kit

If you’ve ever bought a piece of cardio kit for home workouts, you may be all too familiar with the nightmares you face when trying to fix them.

‘In the five years I’ve managed gyms I have never called out engineers to repair an elliptical machine,’ reveals Maurice.

‘Compared to other pieces of cardio kit they are extremely reliable. If I was thinking about some home kit, as a lot of people are right now, this would go on the list.’

5. Low impact 

Knees feeling sore from all that running? Give them a break and focus on low impact movement that isn’t so harsh on the joints.

Maurice explains that sometimes ‘it’s good to just say no to the pounding’.

‘We protect our bones and joints with straps, the perfect shoe and amazing running surfaces; using an elliptical should be seen in the same way.’

Your 20 minute elliptical machine workout

Ready to sweat it out? You only need 20 minutes to get a good elliptical machine workout in. 

Maurice recommends increasing the difficulty level from one up by one per minute for the first 10 minutes, then head back down, trying to maintain the same speed throughout.

He also adds that just a chosen period of time at chosen level, is a good way to get into some steady state cardio.

‘It’s also ideal for a warm up to get the body prepped before a main workout.’