Head into a gym at 5PM on a workday and chances are the cardio area will be pretty packed. One piece of cardio equipment that seems to be always taken is the elliptical. Why? Ellipticals offer a great cardio session, or even a high-intensity interval training, or HIIT workout, for those who want to save their joints with a low-impact exercise. Because your foot never leaves the footpad during an elliptical workout, the stress placed on the hip, ankle and knee joints is minimal. This is ideal for those with bad knees who can’t run or get on a treadmill due to pain or flaring up of an old injury.
Some people, however, don’t use the elliptical because they feel it doesn’t give them a good enough workout. This may be the case when performing steady-state cardio, but if you throw in a HIIT routine on this piece of equipment, you’ll be convinced otherwise. By doing “sprints” on an elliptical, you get a great heart-pumping sweat going and are able to work your core all at the same time! Elliptical HIITs are also much safer than doing sprints on other machines, such as treadmills or stairmills, because your feet are always flat and secure on the footpads. Here is an example of a high-intensity elliptical workout:
*As always, be sure to check with your physician before starting any new fitness regimen. The idea is to get stronger, not hurt.
- Warm up for 3 minutes (or until sufficient)
- Increase resistance and/or incline to a difficult level and go full-force for 20-30 seconds
- Knock the resistance and/or incline down to an easy level for 60-90 seconds while catching your breath
- (Aim for 10x through, if possible. If not, do what you are capable of and build up to 10x)
There are variations you can try to mix up your routine. Let’s talk foot placement, for example. Feet can either be placed all the way back on the foot pedals (heel as far back as possible while still on the pad), the entire way to the front (toes as far front as possible), or somewhere in between. Feet can be flat, toes lifted, or heels lifted. Each of these small factors will create a different burn in a different way. For example, lifting the toes and really digging into the heels will create more of a burn in the glutes, while putting your weight on your toes and lifting your heels will burn more in the quads.
It’s up to you whether or not you want to hold on to the handles on the machine during your sprint bursts. If you do hold on, you will be able to up the resistance more. If not, you may have to kick the resistance down, as it will be difficult to drive through the motion purely off of core support. Irrespective of which style you choose, be cognizant of keeping your midsection tight the entire time. Not only is this good posture practice, it gives your core a workout as well!
By adding high-intensity intervals to your elliptical trainer session, not only will you save time, you’ll accelerate results. Experiment with variations of elliptical HIIT workouts and your body will thank you.