What Muscles Do Ellipticals Work? [In-Depth Answer 2023]

When it comes to cardiovascular exercise, ellipticals have become increasingly popular due to their low impact and full-body workout benefits.

Elliptical trainers offer a fantastic way to engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously while providing a low-impact workout that is gentle on the joints.

In this blog post, we will explore the muscles that ellipticals target and provide you with tips on how to maximize your results for an effective and efficient workout.

Understanding the Muscles Engaged by Ellipticals in Depth

Elliptical trainers are known for their ability to engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making them a popular choice for full-body workouts. Let's dive deeper into the specific muscles targeted by ellipticals and understand their roles in the elliptical motion.

Lower Body Muscles

Quadriceps: The quadriceps are a group of muscles located on the front of your thighs. They consist of four individual muscles: rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. These muscles work together to extend your knee during the downward motion of the elliptical stride. The quadriceps are heavily engaged as you push down on the pedals.

Hamstrings: Situated at the back of your thighs, the hamstrings play a crucial role in stabilizing your legs during the elliptical movement. Comprising three muscles (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus), the hamstrings work eccentrically to control the extension of your knee during the upward motion of the stride.

Glutes: The gluteal muscles, including the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, are engaged during the pushing and pulling motion of the elliptical stride. These muscles help in extending and externally rotating the hip joint. The glutes are particularly activated when you consciously push your feet down through the pedals.

Calves: The calf muscles consist of two primary muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. They are located at the back of your lower leg and work to extend the ankles during the downward motion of the elliptical stride. The calf muscles are essential for generating power and propelling your body forward.

Upper Body Muscles

Chest: When actively using the handles of the elliptical, you engage the muscles in your chest, primarily the pectoralis major and minor. These muscles contribute to the forward and backward motion of the handles, working in a concentric and eccentric manner.

Back: The muscles of the upper and mid-back are engaged for stability and balance during the elliptical workout. The latissimus dorsi, which is the largest back muscle, along with the trapezius, rhomboids, and erector spinae, help maintain proper posture and prevent excessive forward leaning.

Shoulders: The deltoid muscles, located in the shoulders, assist in the forward and backward movement of the elliptical handles. The anterior deltoid is engaged when you push the handles forward, while the posterior deltoid is activated when you pull them back.

Arms: The biceps and triceps in the upper arms are engaged as you push and pull the handles of the elliptical. The biceps contract during the pulling motion, while the triceps engage during the pushing motion. This helps to tone and strengthen the arm muscles.

Core Muscles: Although the core muscles are not the primary focus of an elliptical workout, they play a vital role in stabilizing your body and maintaining proper posture throughout the exercise.

The abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, and obliques) and the muscles of the lower back (erector spinae and multifidus) contribute to maintaining balance and spinal alignment during the elliptical movement. 

The Importance Of The Elliptical

By engaging both the upper and lower body muscles, ellipticals provide a comprehensive workout that helps to build strength, endurance, and cardiovascular fitness. The combination of these muscle groups also promotes calorie burn and weight loss.

It's important to note that the exact muscles engaged may vary depending on factors such as the intensity, resistance, and incline settings on the elliptical machine, as well as individual biomechanics.

To maximize the benefits, it's recommended to focus on maintaining proper form, gradually increasing resistance, and incorporating interval training and other techniques mentioned earlier in the blog.

Remember to listen to your body, start at a comfortable intensity, and gradually progress as your fitness level improves. Consulting with a fitness professional can also help you tailor your elliptical workouts to meet your specific goals and needs.

Tips to Maximize Your Elliptical Workout Results

Warm Up and Cool Down

-Begin each workout session with a five-minute warm-up to gradually increase your heart rate and prepare your muscles.

-After your workout, take another five minutes for a cool-down period to gradually lower your heart rate and stretch your muscles.

 Adjust the Resistance

-Varying the resistance level on the elliptical machine challenges your muscles and helps you to maximize your workout.

-Start with a moderate resistance level and gradually increase it as your fitness improves.

Utilize Incline and Reverse Motion

-Most ellipticals offer an incline feature. Incorporating incline intervals into your workout engages different muscle groups and intensifies the workout.

-Reverse motion targets different muscle fibers and helps to balance the muscle development in your lower body.

Focus on Proper Form

-Maintain an upright posture throughout your workout to engage your core muscles and prevent strain on your back.

-Keep a slight bend in your knees and avoid locking them during the elliptical motion.

-Alternate between pushing and pulling the handles to engage your upper body effectively.

Incorporate Interval Training

-Interval training involves alternating between high-intensity and low-intensity intervals during your workout.

-This technique helps to increase calorie burn, boost cardiovascular fitness, and engage various muscle groups on the elliptical.

Add Resistance Training

-Consider incorporating resistance training exercises such as lunges, squats, and step-ups into your elliptical routine.

-Performing these exercises off the elliptical will further strengthen and tone the muscles worked during your elliptical workout.

Stay Hydrated and Fuel Your Body

-Hydration is crucial for any workout. Remember to drink water before, during, and after your elliptical session to stay properly hydrated.

-Consume a balanced diet rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats to support muscle growth and recovery.

Final Words

Ellipticals provide an effective and efficient way to engage multiple muscle groups and improve cardiovascular fitness while minimizing the impact on your joints.

By understanding the muscles targeted by ellipticals and incorporating the tips mentioned above, you can maximize your results and achieve your fitness goals more effectively.

Remember to consult with a fitness professional or your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine. So, step onto that elliptical, embrace the burn, and enjoy the full-body benefits it offers for a healthier and fitter you!

Back to blog