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The gym is an excellent place to be for many people to be! For them, it is a place where they actually tend to find peace despite all that blaring music and the smell of sweat running astray. And let’s admit it. Many of us are actually attracted to the gym for one reason or the other whether or not we actually go to the gym! For the fitness freaks, it is the opportunity to sweat all of the day’s frustrations out and for a large portion of the remaining population, it is those fancy machines put up in a gym. Those really intense looking machines whose usage and build makes absolutely no sense to many, but still, attract them in a manner that is totally indescribable. Out of many of these fancy machines, one is what is known as an elliptical machine which is the focus of this entire article. And so let us begin understanding them bit by bit.
What is an Elliptical Machine?
Well, that is the very first question that should be answered before proceeding right? So, an elliptical machine is the machine that is mostly situated just next to a treadmill at a gym. Its structure can be vaguely defined in the following words- “A machine with two bars supported through a digital display that has two pedals for standing on it with the pedals connected to a rotational unit that simulates a running sort of motion”. An elliptical machine (also known as a cross-trainer also known as an X-trainer) is a machine that is oriented completely towards the cardio side of a workout. The intensity of the workout on an elliptical machine depends totally on the speed with which you are running on it and on the amount of resistance that you set on it (similar to a bicycle in the gym). The best part about an elliptical machine is the fact that it does not lay off much pressure on the joints, thus protecting them from any sort of ligament injury, tendon injury, or a cartilage injury; basically any sort of injuries that have a long-term impact associated with them.
How to use an Elliptical Machine?
Using an elliptical machine is fairly simple and so let us break down the entire process of using it into steps-
- As discussed above, the structure of an elliptical machine involves a couple of bars coming supported through a digital display and also having a couple of foot pedals to step on. So the first step is to gingerly mount the pedals whilst facing the monitor. Gingerly because there is always a chance that the pedals may start moving the moment you mount the machine leading to a loss of balance that may cause you to fall down and hurt yourself. Always mount the machine while grabbing the bars.
- The next step is to set the amount of resistance and the incline that best suits you through the digital console in front of you. The resistance is all about how much extra effort you will have to put in to pedal the machine and the incline is all about deciding what kind of a virtual terrain you are going to be running in (a flat surface or a hilly climb of sorts). Mixing the right amount of resistance and incline will make sure that you get the most out of your workout. For example, choosing a high amount of resistance over a considerate amount of incline is bound to ask a lot from your body. So, choose and mix both accordingly i.e. in a manner that allows your body to get through the timer in a manner that puts up your body to a fine amount of work.
- Now start pedaling while gripping the handles of the machine with your hands. Make sure that the motion of the hands and legs are in sync with each other in the exact same manner that they are while walking naturally i.e. every time one foot goes down the opposite hand should be pulling the handle towards the body.
Start with slow pedaling and keep increasing the pace steadily. Once you think you have become comfortable on your current level, gradually keep increasing the resistance as well as the incline.
Some tips while using the elliptical
There are some things that one should always keep in mind while using the elliptical.
- Elliptical comes in 2 variants- one with movable swing arms and the other with static arms. It is preferable to work out on an elliptical with movable arms, for they allow more body parts to be involved in the workout.
- Keep your body posture lean and straight as in doing so, not only are your legs and arms putting in the effort but so are your core muscles as well as the abs. Leaning forward on the elliptical not only takes away some of the benefits but also deprives you of your balance.
- Never, and I repeat never ever lock your knees all of a sudden while on the elliptical. Doing so puts a tremendous amount of sudden shock to the entire kneecap region and the thigh muscles as well that can potentially lead to some really long-term injuries to the femur or to any of the components in the kneecap joint.
- Do not repeat your workout over the elliptical ever. If you are doing the same stuff day in and day out without feeling drained then you are not doing it right. Keep increasing the intensity of the workout to make it more effective.
Keep all of the above factors in your hindsight and you will be perfectly fine on the elliptical every time you step on or step off it.
What muscles does the Elliptical Machine work?
A workout on the elliptical machine puts quite a lot of body muscles to work. Since it is very similar to running and cycling, it is natural to comprehend the fact that the lower part of your body is primarily put to work but that is not entirely true. An elliptical workout also stretches away some of the upper body muscles, and so let us find out what all muscles of yours you are putting to test every time you step over onto an elliptical:
These are muscles directly in front of the thigh and are worked out every time the legs perform an up-down and a vice versa motion, basically every time the legs are extended.
Very natural to comprehend the involvement of the hip region in an elliptical workout since there is just no movement of legs possible without the hips being involved and so thinking of running without taking the help of your ribs is literally impossible.
These are the muscles located at the backside of the legs. The hamstrings work in a manner totally contrary to how the quad muscles are involved. Instead of being utilized while the legs are being extended, the hamstrings are put to use every time the legs are being flexed.
Calves are the muscles located on the backside of the lower part of your legs. The calf muscles are constantly used for the entirety of an elliptical workout with no rest at all. In fact, all sorts of stuff that involve walking and running ask the most of calf muscles as compared to other muscles.
Biceps, triceps, and the chest
As discussed previously, if the elliptical has dynamic arms attached to it, then not only the lower part of the body, but the upper part is also put to work and the biceps, triceps, and the chest is what is most put to work in the entire upper body.
Abs and the core muscles
Again, as mentioned previously, for an effective workout on the elliptical, one should make sure that they stand straight and upright. And in doing so, the body asks quite a number of questions from the core muscles of the body.
Elliptical Machine Benefits
Any sort of aerobic exercise gives you quite a number of benefits. And what can be a better aerobic exercise than running! Following are the benefits that one shall reap with constant running (be it out on the street or on the elliptical):
It’s a boon to the heart
The heart is, no questions asked, the most important muscle of the body and its well being is literally essential to the sustainability of life which is why keeping the heart in good shape (as in devoid of extra cholesterol, fat, etc. in the body that can cause it to work overtime and under pressure) is highly imperative.
Thanks to the elliptical though, all that running accounts for numerous benefits to the entire cardiovascular system of your body. All that aerobic activity on the elliptical ensures the fact that the blood flow and circulation in your body is always efficient, your heart is devoid of any and all sorts of coronary diseases, the blood pressure is always optimum, and a lot of other benefits that are going to help you and your health in the long run.
A slimmer waist
Who doesn’t like to keep and maintain the shape and figure of their bodies? The best way to do that is to keep burning all that excess fat that you keep on gaining and what better way to burn them down than running at intensive rates! Keep in mind though that using the elliptical does not guarantee you a loss in your weight, but rather ensures that you burn down all those extra calories in your body.
Low impact and protective
A workout on the elliptical is relatively of low impact as compared to that on a bicycle or a treadmill. As a result, the safety of your precious joints is always ensured at each and every step of the way provided of course that you don’t do something willfully that can cause you harm (locking the knees all of a sudden for example) doing the elliptical an excellent choice for a cardio machine for people having some troubles in the major joints such as the hips or the knees.
Elliptical vs Stationary Bike Benefits
The elliptical and the bike are both machines for doing cardiovascular exercises that help you build strength as well as endurance. Both the machines are almost identical in terms of their workout efficiency and are both perfectly safe for the joints, making them ideal choices for people looking to stay fit. But apart from the fact that they are both almost identical, the elliptical takes away a couple of benefits over the bike which includes:
- A workout on the elliptical works out more muscles and that too at a much higher intensity than a workout on a bike. The difference arises in the fact that while on the elliptical, the upper part of the body is worked out more intensively than when on the bike. The lower body is worked out almost similarly.
- The bike is more challenging to the knees as compared to the elliptical owing to the small angle at which your knees have to work. Some may think that this is good for the knees, making them stronger, but that is so not true. Working the knees at such small angles is bound to bring up some sort of injury sooner or later. The elliptical, however, allows you to extend your legs completely making sure that you don’t hurt yourself.
- The best thing about a workout on the elliptical in contrast to that on a bike is that it offers a more extensive workout at a significantly lower rate of exertion. The reason behind this definitely packs a scientific viewpoint behind the same which is beyond the scope of discussion in this segment, so let us just take it as a fact. This fact would definitely come as good news for the comparatively lethargic people out there who will now just rush to the elliptical knowing that they are getting worked out the same without tiring their body much.
The Best Elliptical Machine you can Buy Today
We have seen how elliptical machines are one of the best forms of cardiovascular activities that allows you to stretch a whole load of muscles in your body while allowing you to stay fit and in shape all the while making sure that your muscles and joints are protected in the best way possible and also that the impact of the workout on the entire body is not at a level that your body can’t bear. So if you are pondering over the idea of getting yourself an elliptical machine, be it for your home or for your gym, following are some of the best choice machines out in the current market:
Schwinn 470 elliptical machine
The Schwinn 470 elliptical machine is one of the cheaper yet good value for money elliptical out there. It has a really sturdy build to it that makes it a machine that is going to be with you in the long run. Another marvelous thing about the Schwinn 470 is that despite having a really solid frame to its name, it is surprisingly lightweight (with just 186 pounds to its name). Combine that with 10 years of warranty on the frame, 2 years of warranty on the mechanical equipment, and 1 year of warranty on the electrical wiring and everything, and what you get in return is an elliptical that totally gives a lot of other pricey and branded machines something to chase. The 470 has a total of 25 resistance levels for you to take your fitness to the next level. It keeps a track of 13 different parameters during a workout session that you can transfer to an app through Bluetooth.
The one disadvantage with the Schwinn 470 elliptical machine is that it has an inclination angle of a maximum of only 10 degrees. Not too low, but not too high as well, particularly for people looking to test their muscles to the extreme.
Sole Fitness E35 elliptical machine
With the name of a really good brand behind it, the E35 totally kills it when it comes to the looks department at least. The pedals are mainstream, but the handlebars totally take the game away with them. Apart from its looks, the Sole Fitness E35 elliptical machine also packs with it a really sturdy and a solid frame that can hold a person weighing at most 380 pounds (you don’t need to ask for anything more). A total of 16 resistance settings and an incline that goes as high as 30 degrees gives you more than enough options to find your suitable preference and put your muscles to test while burning away all that fat at the same time. The E35 also allows you to change the stride settings anywhere between 20-22 inches, allowing you to stretch your legs in the best manner possible. Throw in Bluetooth pairing and a lifetime warranty over the frame and you have to your name one of the best and most affordable elliptical machines you can possibly have.
With the backing of one of the best brands in the elliptical machine business, one would naturally expect a lot out of the E616 and to quite an extent we can say that the E616 does not disappoint. The frame is pretty solid and can support a maximum of 300 pounds (significantly lower than that of the E35). The movement of the E616 is pretty smooth though. It is in fact so smooth that one does not really feel the pedal sound or feel the resistance in the mechanical equipment even at high levels of resistance and incline. Like the Schwinn 470, the E616 also boasts of a relatively lightweight frame (standing firm at 186 pounds). It may have a total of 25 resistance levels, but just like the Schwinn, the E616 also disappoints in the inclination level settings with just 11 degrees to its name making it the only field in which the E616 falls behind in the competition.
NordicTrack C 7.5
Hearing the brand name of NordicTrack one immediately starts seeing money draining from their pockets. But the C 7.5 is one of their more budget machines and packs with it almost everything that one would want from an elliptical machine. Its build is really sturdy as well as bulky at the same time. Itself weighing 210 pounds and having the capability to bear a maximum of 330 pounds, the C 7.5 has a total of 22 resistance levels and a 20-inch stride (not bad but not too good for it becomes a problem to the tall people). The wheel drive is also fairly smooth in its operation. The most interesting feature of the C 7.5 is that it can download Google Map presets and customize your workout as per the location that you feed into it (thus eradicating the need for setting resistance and incline to some amount).
The one and only drawback with the C 7.5 is again a common feature shared by the E616 and the 470 and that is that the incline goes only up to 20 degrees; not bad but not great as well.
NordicTrack Commercial 14.9
This is one of the higher-priced machines by NordicTrack and the name in itself suggests that it is more oriented to be suited in a gym or in a “commercial” place. This is one of the most solid and heavy-duty units out there. Standing firmly at 230 pounds and having the ability to bear a maximum of 350 pounds, the 14.9 has a staggering 29 levels of resistance settings along with 35 preset workouts that make the 14.9 a really challenging as well as a fun machine to sweat it out. The front-wheel-drive is surprisingly smooth and quiet in its operation. It is so quiet that you actually don’t hear any sound that might be coming out of it.
A couple of drawbacks (because nothing is perfect) with the 14.9 are that
- The stride is fairly short (just 17-19 inches)
- The incline goes up to a maximum of 20 degrees. One expects more out of a commercial-grade machine.
Schwinn 430 elliptical machine
The Schwinn 430 Elliptical machine brings 22 preprogrammed exercise settings and 20 different resistance levels to make it both easy to use and to help you get to your fitness goals in the way you want. It’s easy to set up and quite stable once fixed on a level floor. The measurements are 5 and a half feet in length, 2 and a half in width and 5 and a quarter feet in height. It’s front-driven and the stride is fixed at 20 inces which is pretty much the standard length. It carries an LCD console which is 3 x 5 inches in dimensions and has all the important displays as you would expect. This elliptical machine can support up to 300 pounds in weight.
One of the features which you will miss here is the chest heart rate monitor, but you can still get a display for your heart rate with your hand grasp of the handles. Another bigger drawback for some is the lack of adjustable incline during the workout, which although is not much of a disadvantage, but still keeps you from targetting specific muscles in your body during the workout. You have to stop your workout and then adjust the handle to your liking.
Myfitnesspal and the Schwinn Connect apps can be connected for tracking and monitoring your progress and duration. Which helps you with maintaining your schedule, motivation, and accountability for your target fitness goals.
The built-in accessories include a bottle holder, inbuilt speakers with MP3 player input, a tablet or book holder, and a cooling fan with 3 adjustable speed settings.
There is a 10-year warranty on the frame, 2 years on parts, with the labor cover for 1 year.
On the overall, the Schwinn 430 elliptical machine is a fine choice for your home gym as long as you don’t mind the setting of the incline manually.