The elliptical trainer is a favourite of many fitness enthusiasts. It’s beginner-friendly, low impact and ideal for a full-body exercise. But are you making the most of your elliptical workout for optimum benefits?

You see, unlike automated exercise machines, elliptical trainers need your physical input to work. And so, if you slouch or lose focus, you are reducing the rewards of your hard work.

Knowing how to use your elliptical trainer correctly is then key to achieving the best results. Here are some ways to improve your elliptical workout plan and start your fitness journey right!

1. Maintain an Upright Posture

Keeping your body straight during your elliptical routine has several fitness benefits. One of which is it minimises muscle stress, lower back pain and the risk of injury.

Staying upright also lengthens your abdominal area and keeps your core muscles engaged. That means you are getting a lower and upper body workout in one go.

So, from now on, keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed and head up during your elliptical workout. If you find yourself slouching or hunching over, scale back the machine resistance or incline.

That way, you get to maintain your proper form rather than keep up with an intense workout.

2. Use the Moveable Handles Properly

Midway through your elliptical session, you tend to lean on the handles to lessen the stress on your legs.

While it may make you feel more comfortable, it also reduces caloric expenditure and increases the risk of muscle tightness.

You can do these instead:

  • Actively push and pull on the arm handles using your strength. The addition of arm movement while pedalling will tone your upper body, including your arms, chest, shoulders and back.
  • Keep your arms moving without holding the handrails. Position your arms at a 90-degree angle, then pump them forward and back as if you’re running. This variation exercises your core muscles and lower body more while improving your balance.
Health Constitution_Moving the Handlebars during Elliptical Workout

3. Keep Your Entire Foot on the Foot Pedals 

Do your legs or feet feel numb while doing your elliptical workout? You are probably exercising on your toes.

Putting all your body weight on your toes will only stress your knees and inhibit proper blood flow. Aside from pain, it can also affect your balance.

For a strain-free and effective workout, keep the entire length of your feet in contact with the foot pedals. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed on your feet as you move.

Aim to mimic a natural walking or running motion.

4. Up the Resistance or Incline Level

It’s alright to start pedalling at a slow pace and on a flat surface. But, over time, it will be too easy for you that you are no longer exerting maximum effort. And less effort means lower caloric burn.

What you can do instead is to adjust the resistance or incline of your elliptical machine based on your fitness level.

For example, gradually increase your resistance level after warming up, then raise the incline setting.

Higher resistance will increase your heart rate and muscle strength. While working out on a steeper slope is excellent for your glutes.

Also, diversifying your elliptical routine prevents monotony and keeps you motivated.

5. Try Pedalling Backwards

Similar to adjusting the resistance and incline, this tip can spice up your elliptical workout, too. But there’s another reason why you should try exercising backwards.

Backward pedalling lets you target various leg muscles. If you pedal forward, for instance, you are working out your quads. Moving backwards, on the other hand, focuses on your glutes and hamstrings.

This variation also helps improve your balance and agility. To do this, try switching between these two pedalling variations within your workout time or week.

Now, if you want to make this exercise move more challenging, let go of the handrails, then squat down your legs while pedalling backwards.

Try doing this for about 30 seconds before switching back to normal pedalling. This move should give you shapely thighs and butt!

Health Constitution_Adding Pedal Variations during Elliptical Workout

6. Do Interval Training

High-intensity interval training or HIIT involves the alternate switch between short bursts of intense exercise and slow movements.

Compared with exercising at a steady pace, an interval workout lets you sweat more, boost your heart rate and optimise calorie burn.

It’s also a better alternative than doing pre-programmed exercises. And good thing this technique is easy to do on elliptical machines.

All you have to do is allocate minutes for warm-up, fast pedalling, and recovery when designing your entire workout.

As your elliptical workout improves your stamina, you can gradually spend more time pedalling at top speed with a shorter rest period.

You can incorporate HIIT into your treadmill workout, too.


Proper form and technique can turn your daily elliptical routine into an effective calorie-burning workout.

Best of all, elliptical machines let you adjust your stride rate, resistance or elevation to make your exercise time challenging and fun!

And with an elliptical trainer at home, you can work on your fitness goals no matter the season or time of day.

If you’re keen on owning one, my buying guide and reviews should help you find the equipment that suits you best.