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How to Burn more Calories on an Elliptical Machine - Make your Elliptical Workout Count

How to Burn more Calories on an Elliptical Machine - Make your Elliptical Workout Count

Read Time • 5 Min
  • Category Fitness
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An elliptical can be a great way to get your heart rate up without as severe of a jarring impact that running can sometimes have.

They are a great way to burn calories and depending on what setting, incline, and tension you use, they can be used for increasing endurance, toning & building strength.

While these cardio machines are a great way to burn some calories, people far too often use them incorrectly, or at least in a way that significantly reduces the effectiveness of their sweat session.

Here are some tips & tricks that will help you crank up your expenditure & help you get the most from your time at the gym.

How to Burn more Calories on an Elliptical

Increase your incline & resistance settings – Increasing the incline will target a different muscle group & increase your caloric burn (don’t go too high for your height-see below). Higher resistance makes it less likely that you are using momentum, which means more intentional movements from your body, and more calories burned.

Choose the right settings for your body size – The “maximum intensity” in terms of incline and resistance is not going to be maximally effective for every body size.

For example, it does you no good to crank the incline settings up sky high if you are lacking in the height department; if you don’t have the leg length to properly execute each cycle of the foot pedals, you will end up using momentum in order to complete rotations. Using momentum to complete the motion means fewer calories burned, and you’re allowing your body out of some of the work it ought to be doing.

Make sure that you choose an incline setting that forces your exertion to be the driving force behind the entire motion of the pedals, rather than the momentum of your weight. If you can’t do a cycle of the foot pedals without shifting weight heavily to one side of your body, or without keeping a slight bend in your knees, you may have your incline setting too high.

Use intervals – Intervals of higher intensity can drastically increase your elliptical calorie burn total, and end up giving you a bit of temporary metabolic boost. When you momentarily bump your exertion rate up to an intensity that would be hard to sustain over extended periods of time, it takes a while for your body to return to it’s normal rate of expenditure.

It’s very simple to implement an interval cardio workout: aim for 2 minutes of a 5-6/10 intensity, and then 1 minute of a perceived exertion rate of 8-9/10. Repeat that pattern for 20-40 minutes and you will have burned far more calories than you would have at a steady rate, plus you will make faster gains in your cardiovascular endurance.

Focus! Tune in to your workout – Ellipticals are maybe the easiest piece of equipment out there to just zone out on. Books and television can make a workout feel less monotonous but they can also sabotage you if they take up too much of your focus.

Music is the best way to keep yourself moderately entertained but still aware of the movements you’re making. If you can’t fathom spending an hour on a cardio machine without a good book or your favorite tv show, you don’t necessarily have to give them up – just make sure that you aren’t hanging on the support bars of the machine (cheating, not requiring any balance, and burning less calories), and that you aren’t unwittingly moving at a snail’s pace because all of your attention has been diverted.

Use ones that engage the upper body – Whenever you can, choose an elliptical that utilizes the upper body as well as the lower body. More muscle groups involved means a higher expenditure rate.

If you don’t have that option, you can increase the demand on your core & increase the effectiveness of the exercise by making sure that you don’t hold onto the support bars of the machine. If you feel wobbly or unstable on these machines, you can improve your balance by gradually reducing your reliance on the support bar by just resting your hands on it lightly. Once you feel comfortable, move your arms in time with your lower body in a similar motion to how you would if you were jogging.

Set goals when it comes to RMPS, METS, or distance – Set your eyes on a rough estimate of a goal for virtually any of the measurements or gauges on the machine and you will likely find that you work harder throughout the length of your sweat session. For example, if you set a distance goal and start slacking off sometime during your 30 minute workout, you’re going to have to work extra hard at some point in that time session in order to meet that goal you set for yourself. It helps to keep you focused on your exercising and can also help to increase your intensity.

Remember to add strength training to your cardio workouts in order to keep a well-rounded routine and to increase your metabolism, even while you’re sitting in front of the television.