What Muscles Does an Elliptical Work?December 1st, 2010
The elliptical trainer is becoming more and more popular in home gyms and among athletes in public gyms for a number of reasons.
One is that this type of fitness machine mimics the natural movement of the body when walking or running, which makes it easy to use for most. It also provides a workout that is virtually impact-free. (With little or no pressure on the joints, the risk of impact injuries is greatly reduced.)
Another reason for the increased popularity of the elliptical trainer is its ability to work both the lower and upper body simultaneously. The design of an elliptical machine is intended to target the major muscle groups and provide a more efficient total body workout in less time than other fitness machines. So, what muscles does an elliptical trainer work?
When both the foot pedals and the movable handlebars are engaged during workouts, an elliptical trainer targets a number of muscles throughout the body. Below is a list of the major muscles targeted when exercising on an elliptical machine, along with a brief description of how these muscles are used:
- Hamstrings – Hamstrings play a primary role in leg flexion. These muscles are located on the upper backside of the leg and work to flex the knee and bring the heel up towards the buttocks. Hamstrings also play a role in hip extension.
- Quadriceps – The front thigh muscles are called “quadriceps”. They play a part in leg extension and are worked when the leg is straightened. On an elliptical trainer, leg extension follows leg flexion, thereby exercising the quadriceps.
- Gluteus Maximus – The butt muscles, also known as the gluteus maximus, get a workout on an elliptical trainer. These muscles are used during hip extension, which constantly occurs during an exercise session on an elliptical trainer.
- Upper Body Muscles – When the user actively involves the handlebars, upper body muscles are also targeted during an elliptical workout. Bending and straightening the arms with the motion of the handlebars works the triceps (found on the backside of the upper arms), the biceps (found on the front of the upper arms), the pectoral (chest) muscles, and the upper back muscles.
By changing the intensity level of the elliptical trainer or working in both forward and reverse motions, workouts can be even more efficient. As the lower and upper body muscles are simultaneously exercised, the core muscles also work to maintain posture and balance. Compared to the effectiveness of other fitness equipment, the elliptical trainer is one of the most effective, providing one of the best total body cardio workouts available on an exercise machine.