Elliptical Machine Workout Routines

by Erik Devaney

If you are looking to start a workout routine, but cannot endure the stresses involved with running, training on an elliptical machine may be the solution. An elliptical machine has two foot platforms or pedals, which glide -- independently of one another -- forward and backward in an elliptical motion as you apply force with your legs. As the American College of Sports Medicine notes, working out on an elliptical machine combines the movements of climbing stairs with those of cross-country skiing.

Elliptical Benefits

Working out regularly on an elliptical machine puts less abuse on the body in comparison to more traditional options, such as maintaining a treadmill or exercise bike workout routine. The movement of an elliptical machine follows the natural paths of the hips, knees and ankles as they stride forward, reducing the amount of stress that the exercise puts on the joints. In addition, using an elliptical machine puts less impact on your feet in comparison to running, as only your heels ever leave the pedals.

Types of Workouts

An elliptical machine workout routine can provide you with two different types of exercise: aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercise helps improve endurance and anaerobic exercise helps improve strength and power. Getting aerobic exercise on an elliptical requires that you workout for an extended period time at a low or moderate level of intensity. In contrast, getting anaerobic exercise on an elliptical requires that you workout at a high intensity for short intervals of time.

Timing it Right

A moderate-intensity aerobic elliptical machine workout should last at least 30 minutes. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that healthy adults get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days per week. Extending an aerobic elliptical routine to seven days per week, however, would not have negative health impacts and would likely be beneficial. In contrast, an anaerobic elliptical workout only needs to last 20 minutes. During those 20 minutes, however, an exerciser does not maintain a constant speed or level of resistance, but periodically changes them by increasing the resistance-level or the incline of the elliptical machine. In this manner, an exerciser can complete 2-minute bursts of anaerobic exercise on the elliptical, while cooling down in between these bursts with low-intensity aerobic exercise. According to Harvard Medical School, you should only complete anaerobic workout routines two or three times each week; otherwise your muscles may not have enough time to recover properly.

Elliptical Workout Options

In addition to performing the standard, forward-striding movement on an elliptical machine throughout a workout, there are two variables that you can change. First, some elliptical machines allow you to move in reverse, which changes the response of the muscles in the lower body when you exercise. Second, some machines incorporate handle poles, which move in conjunction with the pedals. By holding on to these poles, you can involve the muscles in the upper body in your elliptical machine workout routine.


Maintaining proper posture while working out on an elliptical machine can help prevent potential discomfort and injury. When working on the elliptical, keep your head facing forward, your shoulders back and your back straight. If you haven't exercised in a while or have any existing medical conditions, consult your doctor before starting your elliptical program.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.