The elliptical trainers – elliptical in the singular – are machines for indoor fitness and sports training that simulate cross-country skiing. Others are treadmill, stationary bike, horizontal bike, step, side step, rowing machine, excitement, climb, etc.
Therefore, the benefits of using ellipticals are the same as those of other aerobic activities; we are talking about cardiovascular and respiratory training and muscle. The preventive or curative impact on many types of disease or functional degeneration should not be overlooked. Compared to the treadmill, but less so than the exercise bike, these tools preserve many joints from rebound stress, such as the back, knees, and ankles. Importantly, you can train with ellipticals even without using your upper body – if you have a shoulder, hand, wrist, or elbow problems, for example.
On the other hand, the use of ellipticals can be contraindicated; we are talking above all about situations characterized by pre-existing pathologies or hypersensitivity – such as, for example, severe joint diseases or very high cardiovascular risk. One of the main disadvantages of ellipticals is related to the price, especially about quality; it is not difficult to find these low-end instruments at an affordable cost. However, they are almost always ill-conceived and unpleasant to use instruments. To report lower compliance of the elderly, other tools such as the treadmill and even more the exercise bike.
There are many ellipticals models designed for home fitness (they are among the tools recommended by the personal trainer to train at home ) or professional training – for example, in gyms. They can be distinguished by technology, materials, range, price, etc.; it is advisable to avoid those that are too short.
The physical requirements for ellipticals are the basic ones of a good and healthy constitution; they can find application in the therapy of those who have had cardiovascular events, those suffering from metabolic pathologies and functional rehabilitation, or the prevention of certain rheumatological joint diseases. Having a high energy cost and involving the whole body, ellipticals lend themselves to weight loss therapy against overweight – obviously, in association with the diet. Especially when sweating is very high, the use of supplements can be useful.
The choice of clothing is not particularly complex; it is sufficient to prefer comfortable clothes and shoes that let sweat evaporate. Conversely, product selection at the time of purchase can be anything but easy; in the dedicated paragraph, we will better understand why.
Here are some ellipticals available, which are ideal for beginners and great for cardiovascular training and keeping large muscle groups moving through resistance training.
Thanks to the training computer integrated into some models, it is always possible to monitor time, speed, distance, and calorie consumption.
These are stable and safe structures thanks to the steel frame, the handles.
This type of tool allows uniform and effective training of the legs, arms, and shoulders muscles.
The practical transport wheels, when present, facilitate the movement of the tool, which can be conveniently stored after training.
How do ellipticals work?
Ellipticals consist of:
- Two platforms on which to place the feet that allow you to perform an alternating “elliptical” movement
- Two upper arms equally, movable forwards and backward, alternately
- A single transmission moved synergistically by the footpegs and the arms
- A control center, now almost always electronic – the mechanical ones are considered obsolete
- A fixed base.
Ellipticals allow you to move your body without actually advancing in space. The movement can traditionally be forward or alternate backward.
The fundamental elliptical characteristic is the fluid and soft movement with which the exercises are performed; this makes them very different from the treadmill while they share them, for example, with the exercise bike – from which it differs in the upright posture instead of sitting.
In general, the elliptical trainers’ electronic console allows you to view and modify some basic variables related to programming – such as time, speed. Distance traveled, inclination, etc. and personal parameters – such as calories burned and heart rate. On some ellipticals, the adjustments may be manual – the incline adjustment may force the user to descend.
The use of the elliptical can be manual or, in the more technological versions, programmed. Some instruments have the possibility of varying training and involve the phases of warm-up, central body and cool-down. For an effective and targeted session, it is essential to use the heart rate monitor to monitor the heart rate – an indicator of the level of fatigue and the main metabolic effort.
Benefits and Advantages
Benefits of elliptical trainers
Ellipticals are known for their effectiveness in stimulating the aerobic metabolism – the basis of general resistance – and all the body’s muscles.
The elliptical forward – the most common “normal” gesture – mainly stimulates the quadriceps, abdominals, and glutes. On the other hand, the training of the muscles hamstrings ( flexors, like hamstring ).
By pulling and pushing the upper arms of the machine, it is possible to train the muscles of the upper limbs ( biceps and triceps brachialis, supinator, etc.), the pectorals, the shoulders ( deltoids and trapezius ), and the back ( grand dorsal, round, etc.).
In addition to muscle conditioning, elliptical training allows you to positively affect the joints and tendons. On the other hand, the stimulation of resistance has considerable benefits for the entire cardiovascular and respiratory system. How not to mention the positive effects on psychological balance, conferred by reducing nervous stress and the release of endorphins. Summing up:
- Reduction of psychological stress
- Improvement of cardiovascular and respiratory fitness
- Improvement of joint muscle fitness of the lower, upper limbs, back, and torso
- Prevention and therapy against obesity
- Prevention and improvement of many metabolic diseases
- Prevention and improvement of various joint diseases
- Increased tissue and heart oxygenation
- Reduction of cardiovascular risks
- Improvement of balance
- Improvement of body composition and potential for weight loss Increase in expectancy and quality of life.
Advantages of ellipticals
The advantages of using elliptical trainers, compared to cross-country skiing, are different but lower than many other fitness machines for indoor training:
- Decreased risk of falling
- Possibility to interrupt the execution with an emergency button in case of illness
- No influence of the climate – rain, wind, snow, etc.
- It saves time.
Note: the elliptical has a great advantage that it can also be used only to move the lower limbs.
Contraindications and Disadvantages
Contraindications of ellipticals
The use of ellipticals has no particular contraindications, and those present mainly concern pre-existing conditions or individual susceptibility:
- Severe obesity
- Severe heart disease
- High cardiovascular risk, including cerebral
- Severe low back pain and other types of pathologies of the spine
- Muscle or tendon impairments of the lower limbs that prevent movement
- Compromises of the hip, knee, or ankle that make the gesture impossible
- Severe balance problems.
Disadvantages of ellipticals
The disadvantages of using the elliptical trainer as a means of fitness training are mainly related to boredom and socialization. On the other hand, for trained athletes, this tool does not reproduce the athletic gesture very faithfully, making the session non-specific.
Physical requirements for using ellipticals
The requirements for the use of ellipticals are those of a healthy and robust constitution. There must be no serious cardiovascular, respiratory, and articular problems; it is also inadvisable for heavily underweight people and sometimes severely overweight people – severe obesity.
Note: even for those who use the elliptical at home, it is strongly recommended to perform a sports medical examination.
Clothing and Accessories
How to dress to use ellipticals?
To use the elliptical trainers, simply dress comfortably and lightly. The clothing items must not restrict movement and ensure the maximum possible comfort.
Moreover, given the ambient atmosphere’s control – the absence of adverse weather conditions and mild temperatures – it is not even necessary that the clothes are designed to have a high thermal performance. On the contrary, it is always advisable that they allow easy evaporation of sweat.
Short shorts and tank tops or half sleeves are preferred in cotton, microfibre, or similar materials. Footwear plays a less important role than running, as it does not have to cushion or catalyze any rebound.
How do you train with ellipticals?
Training with ellipticals must respect the same rules as any other protocol. The frequency can be two, three, and up to seven weekly workouts; obviously, this is directly proportional to the degree of training and inversely proportional to the load’s volume and intensity.
It is advisable to start with short training sessions, lasting about 10-15 minutes, trying to maintain fluidity, consistency, and moderate intensity. Later it will become possible to increase the training volume by extending the sessions to 30-45 minutes while maintaining the low intensity. Once 60 minutes have been reached, it will be possible to increase the load by intensifying (progressively) the effort level. Note: this may require you to restart from volumes of 30 minutes.
During training, it is very important to maintain a well upright posture, not bent forward. With a low level of training, it is advisable not to exaggerate with the backward pedaling movement, which stresses the knee joint more than the forward one. It is also important to maintain a continuous and harmonious rhythm, without “tearing” during the performance.
In elliptical models that allow it, it is advisable to change the resistance by increasing it when you are almost at the end of the exercise and gradually decreasing it until the end of your training session.
Lose weight with ellipticals
Slimming is perhaps the most widespread application of this machine. Let’s start immediately by specifying that, taken alone, the physical exercise of cross-country skiing – regardless of whether on the ellipticals or outdoors – is not directly responsible for weight loss. Instead, it is necessary to establish a negative caloric balance [ energy IN – energy OUT].
It is undeniable that the legs’ large muscles have – if well trained – an excellent aptitude for the oxidation of fats; moreover, also involving the muscles of the trunk and arms, the level of calorie consumption is always very high. Combining these two properties allows optimizing a possible weight loss protocol, involving both nutritional therapy and specific motor activity. Note: however, it should not be forgotten that movement drastically increases appetite; overdoing the exercise can lead to run the risk of overeating, negating all the work done in the field.
Elliptical trainers and supplements
Being used in a controlled environment, away from the harsh winter cold and the sultry summer heat, the elliptical allows you to optimize the physical resources of those who use it in every season. Nevertheless, even given the individual predispositions, any motor activity – especially intense and prolonged – increases sweating and the expulsion of water vapor with breathing. The expelled water carries with it large quantities of minerals, especially sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Therefore, it is no coincidence that athletes often suffer from saline deficiencies, with particular reference to magnesium and potassium. Note: Sodium can only become deficient in diets without discretionary salt and previously salty foods.
Furthermore, as cellular processes increase – which skyrockets in busy sportspeople – the need for coenzyme and antioxidant nutrients also increases. Among these, vitamins and certain minerals stand out. This explains why respecting a training protocol of significant intensity and volume. It is always advisable to supplement – even mildly – the diet with mineral and vitamin-based products.
Types of ellipticals
There are different types of ellipticals, which can be divided in various ways: technological level (presence or absence of the computer, applications, etc.), functions (training programs, rear pedaling), type of adjustment (manual or electronic), size/length, functioning, materials and resistance, brand, price, and range.
The quality level of the elliptical trainers is greatly influenced by the stride length. In this sense, they can be further divided into three types:
- Length less than 1 meter (m): often, they do not have a sufficient length to propose a real smooth elliptical movement; the movement of the legs is very circular
- The length between 1 m and 1.30 m: the greater width allows for more fluidity; allow good stress on the upper body
- Length over 1.30 m: these are high-quality ellipticals, also with a very robust structure. They are recommended for users with a height equal to or greater than 180 centimeters or those who want to train with greater comfort.
How to choose ellipticals
The choice of elliptical can vary based on many criteria. The most relevant is the price. However, the choice of the “recently” product does not always prove successful. Low-alloy ellipticals are often made of poor materials and have a not very resistant structure – instead necessary above all for those suffering from overweight.
Moreover, sometimes they cannot tilt or decline, they do not have an electronic interface – or even if they do, it is of poor reliability – but above all, they have a short stride length – which makes it impossible to perform a correct gesture by people with medium-high stature.
These characteristics do not lend themselves to a neophyte who must follow a slimming or curative therapy on metabolic diseases or preventive/therapeutic on joint discomfort – the difficulty in managing the machine can discourage the user – nor to a good sportsman. For its part, it needs advanced functions, such as increased speed, inclinations, programs, interaction with heart rate, etc.
Even “spending as much as possible” is not a correct attitude, because it does not necessarily ensure a higher total quality or adequacy of the product. The choice of a good compromise, on the other hand, is always the ideal solution. In the age of e-commerce, you can make excellent purchases, even with certain accuracy and good guarantees.