الأربعاء، 2 نوفمبر 2016

The Best Way to Use an Elliptical Trainer

The Best Way to Use an Elliptical Trainer

Discover five proven benefits of an elliptical trainer—plus how to use the elliptical trainer to burn more calories, become a better runner, and get more fit while decreasing your risk of injury. 


I have some friends (dyed-in-the-wool exercise enthusiasts) who think that the elliptical trainer at the gym, or those funny looking outdoor standup elliptical trainers with wheels, don't really work at all, especially when it comes to making you a better runner.
Many personal trainers also tend to stop at the elliptical trainer, instead choosing modalities such as the treadmill, the rowing machine, or the bicycle for interval training or aerobic cardio.
But a recent study on elliptical trainers (specifically the outdoor type that are on wheels) caught my eye. The study, which was entitled “A Physiological and Subjective Comparison of the ElliptiGO and Running in Highly Fit Trained Runners” investigated elliptical training on something called the “ElliptiGO” as a potential form of cross-training that could to provide a low impact, running-specific, high intensity exercise experience without the actual joint jarring that running typically causes.
In this study, they compared the physiological response to running with the physiological response to an equivalent workout on the outdoor elliptical trainer. The study showed complete maintenance of the fitness necessary to maintain running performance in highly trained, fit runners when using the elliptical trainer. In addition, this fitness was achieved with a lower rating of perceived exertion and a higher rating of enjoyment.
So it turns out that elliptical trainers aren’t just silly exercise devices—they can actually be used to train both the general population and highly trained runners for enhancing fitness. But there’s even more good news when it comes to elliptical trainers, and in this episode, you’re going to discover five more proven benefits of an elliptical trainer, how to use the elliptical trainer to burn more calories, become a better runner, and get more fit while decreasing your risk of injury.

5 Benefits of an Elliptical Trainer

Benefit #1: Lower Joint Stress Compared to Running
The elliptical trainer was originally designed by an inventor who came up with the idea for the elliptical motion by filming his daughter running alongside his car, then replicating that running motion in a machine that gave running benefits, but put less strain on the joints.
And he was right. A study at the University of Missouri measured oxygen utilization, lactic acid formation, heart rate, and rating of perceived exertion on an elliptical trainer as compared to a treadmill, and found that the elliptical exercise was nearly identical to the treadmill exercise in every respect, but the elliptical trainer created far less joint impact.
Benefit #2: Ability to Fix Weak Muscles
Another study compared muscle activity patterns of the quadriceps and hamstrings in walking on the ground, walking on a treadmill, stationary bicycling, and the elliptical trainer. The elliptical trainer produced significantly greater quadriceps utilization and greater quadriceps and hamstring coordination than any of the other modes of exercise!And a study at Willamette University found that when you pedal backwards on an elliptical, your quadriceps utilization skyrockets even more.
Considering that most people have weak quadriceps compared to hamstrings, this is another definite benefit to using an elliptical trainer, especially if you’re a frequent runner or cyclist who wants balanced muscles.

Benefit #3: Targeting of Notoriously Weak Muscles
Another study that came out of Dalhousie University in Canada compared elliptical training to walking, and found greater muscle activation during the elliptical training for the gluteus maximus (butt) and vastus lateralis (external hip muscles), with a slightly lower activation of the hamstrings.
These “hip extensors” and “hip external rotators” tend to be weak in most fitness enthusiasts and couch potatoes alike, and if you need to get them stronger, it turns out that an elliptical trainer can be just the ticket.
Benefit #4: Ability to Maximize Training Effects
Interestingly, another study, at the University of Idaho (my alma mater—go Vandals!) found that as stride length increases on an elliptical trainer, more calories are burned – without you actually feeling like you’re working any harder – which is very good to know if you exercise on an indoor elliptical trainer with adjustable stride length or on the outdoor-style Elliptigo trainer, which also has adjustable stride length.
In other words, even though an elliptical can be close to a treadmill in terms of actual calorie burning, an elliptical that has a long stride length can ensure that you’re truly maximizing calorie burn.
Benefit #5: Upper Body and Core Muscle Utilization
On an elliptical trainer that includes arm motion, a shoulder, chest, biceps and triceps workout can be incorporated simultaneous to a lower body cardiovascular workout. In addition, the upright posture on an elliptical trainer will utilize more of your core muscles, and if you go “hands-free” without using the railing on an indoor elliptical trainer, you can increase balance and posture training effects too.
In short, you can save a ton of time by working your upper body muscular endurance, lower body muscular endurance, cardiovascular fitness, and core all at the same time on an elliptical trainer.

How to Burn More Calories with an Elliptical Trainer

In the Get-Fit-Guy episode “How to Burn More Calories with an Elliptical Trainer,” I introduce a study entitled “An Elliptical Trainer May Render the Wingate All-out Test More Anaerobic.” The study compared the use of a bicycle with the use of an elliptical trainer for a traditional 30-second all-out laboratory test for measuring power (a test known as a “Wingate protocol”). The researchers measured energy outputs from the oxidative, phospholytic, and glycolytic energy systems (your three major energy systems) and looked at oxygen consumption and peak blood lactic acid.
It turns out that due to the increased arm use, the use of more leg musculature, and the upright posture, the elliptical trainer was able to get the body into an even more exhausted state more quickly than a bicycle.
This means that if you’re going to the gym to do a high-intensity interval training session and you’re going to choose the type of cardio machine that will get you the most bang for your buck, you should hop on something that involves both arms and legs, such as an elliptical trainer (or a rowing machine, or a ski ergometer, or a stairmill while holding light dumbbells).

An Elliptical Trainer Workout

Now that you know the benefits of using an elliptical trainer, here’s an elliptical trainer workout that takes full advantage of the benefits of high intensity interval training:
  • Warm up with easy pedaling for 5 minutes.
  • Perform five, 30-second all-out efforts, each separated by 60 seconds of easy recovery pedaling. As an option, alternate between forward pedaling and backward pedaling with each all out effort.
  • Stop the elliptical and jump rope or perform jumping jacks for one minute. If your knees don’t like this, simply do body weight squats.
  • Get back on the elliptical and perform 5, 60-second all-out efforts, each separated by 30 seconds of easy recovery pedaling.
  • Stop the elliptical and perform squat jumps or lunge jumps for one minute. If your knees don’t like this, do body weight lunges.
  • Get back on the elliptical and perform 5, 2-minute all-out efforts, each separated by 60 seconds of easy recovery pedaling.
  • Stop the elliptical and perform regular push-ups or squat-thrust-jumps for 1 minute.
  • Get back on the elliptical and cool-down for 5 minutes, or repeat this entire workout one more time. If desired, you can substitute new exercises the second time through.       
By the way, when you do this workout, you should be sure to use the elliptical trainer that includes arm movements. Why? In “Which Exercise Machine Burns the Most Calories?” you learned that even though most computers on an elliptical trainer vastly overestimate the number of calories you burn, you can still get a fantastic fat-burning and fitness effect if you use an elliptical trainer that has arm resistance on it. The workout will be event more effective if you also use a combination of a high cadence and challenging resistance when using the elliptical trainer.            
Ultimately, an elliptical trainer is an excellent tool for both fitness and fat loss, and I recommend including it in your fitness routine—even if you’re a “purist” runner or cyclist!

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