Elliptical trainers offer key cross training benefits in addition to being a low-impact exercise that is comfortable to do.
While an elliptical can simulate walking, running, and climbing stairs, it does not put stress on the joints in the knees, hips, and ankles, a problem that occurs with other weight-bearing exercises such as jogging. That key difference makes an elliptical workout one of the most effective cross training exercises you can choose to do.
In sports, cross training refers to doing different exercises to benefit or condition the body for a specific sports activity (for example, running wind sprints to help your tennis game). An elliptical is also known as a crosstrainer because it offers so many different exercise benefits.
When they were first designed, ellipticals focused on conditioning the legs or lower body while providing an aerobic workout. These days you get additional cross training benefits; the machines incorporate features such as moving handlebars to put focus on an upper body workout. They also provide variable stride lengths, resistance levels, and incline and even decline ramps to help pack more cross training programs into a single machine.
Furthermore, some hybrid ellipticals now have the ability to change stride motions dynamically, allowing them to be used as a glide machine (like a cross-country skier), a long stride machine (to simulate running on a treadmill), and a climb machine (like a stair stepper).
All of these different motions create cross training benefits for working out various parts of the body. This way, the elliptical machine can provide any number of health and fitness benefits to match or even surpass what can be done on a treadmill, stepper, exercise bike, or ski machine. Additionally, the elliptical allows you to exercise at your own pace, whether you choose a slow stroll or a full sprint.
The elliptical provides an aerobic workout exercising the heart and lungs. Not only is this effective in burning calories, the raised heart rate and increased breathing rate helps to condition these vital organs, as well as improve endurance levels.
Another key advantage to note is that ellipticals are also beneficial for working the stabilizer muscles. While aerobic exercise is not a substitute for strength training, you will improve coordination and balance while striding on an elliptical since it requires assistance from the core muscle groups in your back and abs (the “core” muscles).
These muscles are recruited when you use the moving handlebars, pumping your arms back and forth, and especially when you stop holding onto any handlebar as you hold the core muscles in a constant state of tension to continually balance yourself while pedaling upright.
Since an elliptical can offer all these cross training benefits in one machine, it is easy to see why it is such a popular choice for people looking for a single piece of exercise equipment that gives them the biggest bang for the buck.
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Front vs. Rear Drive
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