A full-body workout is a key goal for many people when they workout. Targeting all of the different muscle groups lets us tone everything equally, burn fat in all the right places and improve our cardio and fitness levels. Some gym-users will work through different stations and machines to vary their regime each day. Others prefer to focus on one machine and smash their records and personal goals.
Some of the most popular exercise machines in the gym appear to focus on one area. We use the treadmill and exercise bike more on the leg muscle than anything else. So what about the elliptical machine? Is this a good way to engage in a full-body workout or not? Can you tone the arms while working the legs and what about the core?
Working out the lower body with an elliptical machine
It is easy to assume that the benefits of an elliptical machine are very similar to those of the exercise bike. It is all about the motion of the legs on those footplates. Therefore, we can expect to tone the calves, quads and hamstrings but perhaps not that much else. This isn’t the case because of the impact of the exercise and your position on the machine. The horizontal motion back and forth also helps you work the glutes and provides greater resistance for all the leg muscles.
If you want to increase the potential of these leg workouts then you need to look at the settings of the machine and the dimensions. You need to look at the resistance offered as this is what will make the difference when adding tone and losing weight. Also, look at the stride length. Is this comfortable for your height or is there the risk that it will either push you too far or not far enough? The last thing you want is to pull a muscle.
Working out the upper body with an elliptical machine
Many people will focus on this motion in the legs to build fitness, tone those muscles and work on their stamina. They will only use the handlebars as a means of supporting themselves and keeping their balance. This is fine if that is what is comfortable right now. But, it is a good idea to take advantage of machines that offer dual-function handlebars. This is where the machine has handlebars that can either move or remain locked in place. Once they start to move you can begin to increase the potential for a full-body workout.
You can think of the handlebars a little like Nordic poles walkers use. You can engage the muscles in your arms while pushing and pulling them back and forth as you continue to move your legs. This can take practice and coordination but it is worthwhile for the impact on arm, muscles and the shoulders. Again, look at the resistance on offer and the position of the handlebars. Are they comfortable to use and at the right height for you?
What about the core
Some people that are less experienced with elliptical machines may assume that they aren’t really full-body machines because they don’t tackle the core. With all that focus on the arm movements and leg movements, aren’t we forgetting about the stomach and the back? The truth is that it depends on how you work out. Some people won’t get this total-body experience if they use the machine more traditionally. But, it is possible to adapt the workout and engage muscles in the core and around the back.
So how can we do this? The first step is to watch your posture when working on these machines. The correct placement of the feet and a straight spine can bring everything in the right place. As you tone the rest of your muscles, you can see improvements here in the way you carry yourself. The next step is to make a conscious effort to draw in and tighten those stomach muscle as you work out. This tension can make a big difference. Finally, if you are comfortable to do so and have good balance, you could try and use the footplates without holding onto the handlebars. This makes you engage the core even more for better results.
Other ways to enhance your workout for a total-body regime
The impact of this full-body elliptical workout will often depend on the features and programming available on the machine. Some machines are fairly basic and just allow users to change the resistance workout at their own pace. This is fine if you want to focus on your form and stamina. However, other machines will provide pre-set programmes that help you target certain areas or achieve certain goals. This could be a weight loss program, a heart rate mode or something based on HIIT. A more varied workout plan over the week can help you see greater results in different areas.
It is also important that you are able to keep track of your progress if you have long-term aims for weight loss or fitness goals. The console on the machine should provide a clear reading of data on your time, distance, heart rate and maybe even theoretical calories burned. Be aware that if you want to use the heart rate mode, you might not be able to try that trick of letting go of the handlebars to engage the core. That is because most machines put pulse sensors in those handlebars.
It is all about how you use the machine to your advantage
The great thing about elliptical machines is that they are so adaptable. If you have never used one you can start with simple motions and focusing on the legs. Once they get stronger and you have more confidence you can add those arm exercises to target the upper and lower body simultaneously. Finally, you can increase the intensity and difficulty with those adjustments for the core. As long as you find your own pace and work gradually you can build up to a strong, effective full-body workout on an elliptical machine.