I read an article awhile back (John Briley, Washington Post) about using the elliptical properly in order to get the best workout and avoid possible injury in the long run. Although running is my cardio exercise of choice, I do cross train frequently on the elliptical. Understanding how to use a machine correctly and efficiently can save one a lot of time and hard work with a greater calorie burn.
Most of us who use the elliptical already know that we need to stand up to start, shoulders relaxed and back in line with your hips, and grip the handles lightly. Don’t lean on your arms or hunch over. Start to stroke and drive with your heels. This stance, as opposed to riding on the balls of your feet, helps keep you centered over your hips, which means that your legs – not your lower back – will do the work. Avoid bouncing on the elliptical. Your upper body should be almost totally still. Most of us tend to push our entire bodies up with each leg thrust and then allow gravity to sink us into the next one. Aside from cheating your legs out of some of the work, that bounce makes it almost impossible to hold your form intact. This puts knees, lower back and hips at risk of strain.
If you follow these recommendations you will find that your quads will work hard and the calories-per-minute burned will jump. If you’ve always assumed that pumping the elliptical handles will add to the calorie burn, try letting go of the support bars allowing your arms to swing forward and back then feel your heart rate climbing. You will also be challenging those stabilizer muscles to keep yourself balanced.
Following these recommendations will make your workout on the elliptical a little tougher, but get you much greater results.