Why Is The Elliptical So Hard? 8 Ways You’re Doing It Wrong

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There are different reasons why you might find the elliptical hard to use depending on how long you’ve been using it, how often, or even if you are using it right. Common mistakes when using the elliptical include an improper breathing technique, using the wrong speed for your comfort level, putting too much pressure on your toes, and leaning on the static handles.

Entering the gym without a personal trainer or no workout plan can lead you to these workout machines that look easy enough for anyone to use with minimal experience or training.

If you’re someone like me who gets a little anxious about what to do first, or what to use, or even if I’m doing it right, so I go for the simple ones like the elliptical, treadmill, or bike.

If you are using the elliptical at home and find it harder than it looks, maybe it’s worth checking your focus, breathing, or putting pressure on the right places.

Common mistakes when using the elliptical

1. Not entering your correct personal information

Sure, the machine could estimate your calorie burn, but you must put your accurate information and know your progress, even just the estimate.

Using the modes in the machine is not a problem but keep in mind that if you want to lose weight, you need to burn calories.

2. Not properly breathing

Mindful and proper breathing is a significant factor in any workout. Breathing right while doing all these movements with your body keeps the oxygen and blood flow well.

We sometimes focus too much on our posture or the way our body bends that we forget to sync our breathing to our movements.

3. You’re not using other equipment but the elliptical

Our bodies adapt quickly to the same movement and need to constantly change to reach a specific goal.

“Working out your body the same way every day can lead to overuse of certain body parts that may result in injuries,” says Ryan Halvorson, a personal trainer in San Diego, California.

“You’re making yourself good at one thing. Eventually, your body will adapt to that specific movement and you’ll plateau.”

4. You’re keeping the same pace and distance

Closely similar to using the same machine to exercise, keeping the same pace and distance, your body will adapt and reduce the overall calorie burn and physical improvement.

Always aim for higher goals to burn more calories.

5. Your balance and speed are off

For those first few times you use an elliptical, you might want to find your balance and comfortable speed to start, and once you feel easy enough, keep the momentum and increase gradually next time.

This is not always as easy as it sounds for beginners, but it gets easier once you get enough experience in the machine.

6. Putting too much pressure on your toes

Another common mistake in using elliptical is not distributing your weight evenly on the pedals and letting your toes take all the pressure. The machine was built to mimic running; only it’s easier on your joints.

That means you should move your lower body the way you would while running. As you pedal, start at the balls of your feet and roll through the entire length of your foot, ending at the heels.

7. Leaning on static handles

By making sure that you’re always standing straight and your posture is correct and not using the static handles for the support, you will avoid the most basic form of mistake that beginners make when using the elliptical.

While you are working out, your body may not work as hard if you are using the handles for support, affecting your workout.

8. Going too fast without enough resistance

“It’s a balance between speed and resistance. If you cannot maintain both, those things past a certain amount of time, don’t work past that time,” says Jessica Sander, a group fitness instructor at Chelsea Piers Fitness in New York, New York.

Finding your comfortable speed and resistance might take a couple of tries, but once you get it, you can aim for higher goals next time.

Benefits of using the elliptical

A young man and woman are using the elliptical at the gym next to each other.

Cardio capacity and stamina boost

The elliptical machine allows you to get a good aerobic (aka cardio) workout, which can strengthen your heart, lungs, and muscles. This, in turn, can help build your stamina and endurance.

When you do cardio exercise, your heart and lungs need to work harder to provide your muscles with more blood and oxygen. Using the elliptical, you can do both high-intensity interval training as well as steady-state cardio workouts.

Burns calories

Depending on your usage and how you weigh, the elliptical is a good calorie burner if used right. Burning more calories than you consume can help you lose weight.

To boost your calorie burn, consider increasing the intensity of your elliptical workouts.

Less stress on joints

Your knees, ankles, hips, and other joints can take a beating when running or doing other high-impact cardio exercises. Since your feet never lift off the pedals with an elliptical, this machine offers a low-impact type of cardio workout.

According to a study in 2014, an elliptical workout can significantly reduce weight-bearing compared to running, jogging, and similar movements.

In other words, with an elliptical, you can continue training without the wear and tear that comes with high-impact exercise.

Both upper and lower body workout

When done correctly, the elliptical can target your glutes, hamstrings, quads, chest, back, biceps, triceps, and core muscles.

An elliptical machine with handles is one of the few cardio machines that can provide you with both an upper- and lower-body workout.

Body fat burns

An elliptical can help you lose body fat and tone up your muscles in a shorter amount of time. To burn as much fat, try to focus on the intensity of your workouts.

You might also want to consider adding interval training to your elliptical workouts to give your muscles and joints some rest in between intensity movements.

Improving posture and balance

When used correctly, the elliptical machine can improve your balance by standing up straight and letting go of the elliptical handles. By doing so, you can target your core muscles and work on your balance.

Using it regularly could help you improve your posture too, since the machine would focus on your upper and lower back positions.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How long should I use the elliptical each day?

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity or 15 minutes of vigorous intensity per day for health benefits.

Suppose 15 minutes a day on the elliptical is all the time you have. In that case, the American Council on Exercise recommends you use that time as efficiently as possible by doing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which is a departure from the 30 to 60 minutes of continuous steady-state cardio that most people do on cardio machines.

When you train at a higher intensity, even for a short time, you burn calories more efficiently.

How long does it take to see results from elliptical?

Whether or not you see an improvement from an elliptical is highly based on the resistance and speed that you’re exercising.

With a healthy, balanced diet, most people can see improvements in their weight and overall health within a month. However, results are generally more visible after 6 to 8 weeks.

Why is the elliptical bad for you?

The differences in exercise machines can be vast. Many focus on certain parts of the body and work just those areas. The elliptical trainer is one that, if used properly, can provide an intense workout.

The results depend on you, however. The elliptical contains other disadvantages that may limit the full use of your body and prevent you from maximizing your workout.

To summarize

There are mixed opinions about the effectiveness of elliptical, but I think it’s a matter of personal preference. Just like any other workout machine, some might find it effective, but some might think it’s a waste of time.

My advice is to try it for yourself and use it right, and if you don’t feel like it is helping, you can choose to move on with another workout machine. You do you; whatever feels good is always the best choice.

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Eunice Alexis Rae Barbosa
I write about the topics that matter most to me, mental and physical health. Learning along the way and constantly seeking new facets to improve and be better as a mom and as a woman, healing and reinventing myself as much as I see fit. You'll find me burrowed in books or journaling my heart out in between the storms and stillness of this beautiful thing called life.

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