By now there is no denying the need for cardiovascular exercise and the many benefits that go along with it. We know this kind of exercise will burn lots of calories, strengthen the heart muscle, help us breathe easier, give us more energy, and even give us a mood boost.
In the last decade, one of the most popular way to achieve a good cardiovascular workout has been through the use of the elliptical cross trainers. These machines are an effective and fun way to exercise indoors and when you see how they work, you will understand why they have become so popular.
In this article, we are going to illustrate why an elliptical is such a great piece of equipment. If you are training on a treadmill you should consider substituting that for training on an elliptical. It will work your muscles for the running stride better than a treadmill can.
The advantages of an elliptical cross trainer
The first benefit of an elliptical is the fact that they provide an amazing low impact workout. Although your legs are moving against resistance, your feet never leave the surface of the footpaths so there is very low to no impact on your knees, hips, ankles or your back like there might be when you go for a run.
Many people have been told by the doctors that they need to stop running or at least reduce their high impact exercise and add a low impact alternative into their weekly routine. The elliptical can be that perfect substitute.
But the aforementioned reasons are not the only for many people to enjoy the elliptical machine. Many people like the idea of a two-for-one deal: the fact that you can work your legs and your arms simultaneously while training your heart. The resistance can be set to be as challenging or as light as you like, making it a great workout for your legs. At the same time, the handlebars provide you with arm movement. So you not only get the bonus of sculpting your arms, but you increase the intensity and the calorie burn by using your whole body. The more muscle groups involved, the more calories burned.
How much resistance and how hard you push yourself, is an individual preference. Users of the elliptical would tell you that the perceived exertion or the way you feel when you are working out feels easier than when doing other modes of cardio training. Because there are no jumping movements, the legs stay in a low impact constant motion; and since the effort is dispersed between your arms and your legs, you can work hard but not feel like you are exerting yourself as much as you truly are.
In addition to these benefits, the elliptical provides you with the opportunity to get multiple workouts on one machine by changing the stride length, reversing the leg motions, or pushing or pulling the arms. These are just some of the ingredients of creating a new and different workout each time you get on the elliptical cross trainer.
To purchase an elliptical machine for your home, make sure that the movement stimulates walking. When your left leg is forward, the right arm should also be forward and then vice versa. If your elliptical machine has your right arm going forward at the same time that your right leg is going forward, it actually results in a situation that affects your coordination. However, before considering buying a machine, read elliptical reviews to make a comparison between features, prices, and brands.
Elliptical cross trainer vs. treadmill
We did an experiment. We placed an elliptical and a treadmill side by side. Though the mechanics are quite similar between the two strides, what you do is basically lifting your foot up and pushing into the ground. The running speed is a combination of two factors: stride frequency and stride length. Stride length is your ability to put your foot on the ground and move yourself a certain distance.
Let’s suppose a guy has a stride length of three meters and another guy has better abilities that allow him to have a stride of four meters. If they both have the same stride frequency, then the person who has the greater stride length will be the one that’s running faster. Now you may ask yourself what does it have to do with an elliptical versus a treadmill.
The important key factor is how the resistance is applied by the elliptical machine and how the treadmill belt moves at its pace. The treadmill belt moves horizontally but the elliptical has resistance on the pistons that forces you to push it downwards into the ground. The treadmill does not have resistance up and down so you can’t really work force application to create stronger strides.
With an elliptical, if you crank up the resistance, the foot pedals have a stronger resistance to moving up and down. Thus, your leg has to pump like a piston to push the pedal to the ground. By adding resistance to the stride movements that an elliptical machine can provide will give you stronger legs, stronger strides, and allows you to move further with each stride.
Another good thing that the elliptical trainer does is it keeps your knees directly underneath your hips. This is a position to apply maximum force to the ground. It is called a triple extension that consists of the extension of the ankle joint, knee joint, and hip joint.
One great way to train on an elliptical is to not hold on to anything. When you are running, you can’t hold on to something for your balance. You have to learn to balance on just your legs. So when you are on the elliptical trainer, allow your hands to freely move to the normal running stride. Pump your arms and pump your legs in unison. Remember the foot pedals have resistance to them so you are going to have to pump the legs fast and hard down with each stroke to keep up a good pace.
Another way to train on the elliptical machine is lifting your foot off the pedal and then striking it down as hard as you can to produce force. This is called “force application”.
So both the elliptical and the treadmill have very similar mechanics but the added resistance that the elliptical provides will train your legs better to apply force into the ground. You are able to push the ground harder, you are able to move further, and you are on your way to running faster.
However, it’s important to say that training on an elliptical won’t necessary make you a faster runner but will set you up to be a faster runner. It does this by training your muscles to apply force onto the ground harder. If you are able to push the ground harder, you are able to run faster.
Our recommendation is to take the treadmill running and the elliptical running and split them 50-50. The elliptical training will train your legs to push the surface harder. That will set you up to be a faster runner. Then, when you are running on the treadmill, that’s going to focus on your stride frequency and stitching all of the running mechanics together.