Elliptical Benefits and Disadvantages: The Good, The Bad, & The Sweaty

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Written by Mia Jozipovic

Want to get your heart pumping without killing your joints? Elliptical training might just be the perfect fit for you. 

Elliptical trainers mimic the movements of running or walking but with less impact on your body. This means that they won’t put any unnecessary pressure on your joints.

However, is elliptical training all sunshine and rainbows? 

Although this machine can be truly beneficial, it’s important to weigh the elliptical benefits and disadvantages before you jump on it.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do in this article. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

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The Pros of Elliptical Training

Joint-Friendly Sweat Sessions

One of the top elliptical benefits is its low impact. 

What does that mean?

Elliptical machines are gentler on your joints compared to high-impact exercises like running. You’ll place minimal stress on your knees, hips, and ankles, which can reduce the risk of injury.

However, you’ll still sweat and achieve great results.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

The elliptical machine gives you an aerobic workout that strengthens your heart, lungs, and muscles. In short, it can improve overall cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

And one of the coolest things is that you can adapt your workout style depending on your mood. Feeling super energetic? Choose a high-intensity training option. Want to take it easy? Simply increase resistance or select a low-intensity option.

Bye Bye Calories

Looking to torch some calories in a short amount of time? Hop on the elliptical machine!

In just 30 mins, you can burn anywhere between 270 to 400 calories. But of course, your weight matters.

Let’s imagine you weigh 125 pounds. At that weight, you could potentially burn around 270 calories. But if you weigh 185 pounds or more, that could possibly increase to 400!

Fat Melting

If used correctly, the elliptical burns more calories than other cardio machines, such as the stationary cycle, making it an excellent choice for fat loss. If you really want to kick things up a notch, try integrating some interval training.

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Here’s what I always recommend to my clients:

  • 30 secs of intense workout  
  • 15 secs of a recovery break


  • 60 secs of intense workout 
  • 30 secs of a recovery break

Working Your Way to Stronger Legs

The great thing about the elliptical is that on better machines you can adjust the resistance and incline of the foot pedals to work different muscles in your legs.

Let me explain how you can target the specific muscle groups:

  • Quads: Lowering the foot pedals on the elliptical will put more emphasis on your quads. To target your quads, make sure your feet are flat on the pedals and adjust the resistance as needed.
  • Glutes: Increasing the incline on the elliptical will work the backside of your legs, including your glutes. To target your glutes, adjust the incline to a higher setting and maintain a consistent stride.
  • Hamstrings: Use the elliptical pedals in reverse to target your hamstrings. Moving your legs backward targets the muscles on the back of your thighs. Increase the resistance to make the workout more demanding.
  • Calves: The elliptical can also work your calf muscles, especially if you adjust the resistance to a higher setting. To target your calves, maintain a consistent stride and focus on pushing off the balls of your feet.

Getting Back on Track: Speed Up Your Recovery

If you’re recovering from an injury and can’t enjoy your usual more strenuous activities, you can also try an elliptical trainer. Its use can help maintain or increase fitness levels – perfect for anyone who is injured but still wish to remain active!

It can also be useful in restoring the full range of motion while strengthening muscles and joints. Ultimately, it expedites recovery time so you can resume normal life as soon as possible.

Promote Balance

Straighten your posture and release the handlebars to boost your balance and engage your core muscles. Although it may seem daunting initially, it’s a great way to challenge yourself.

Of course, before doing this technique, be cautious and make sure the resistance and incline are set at manageable levels.

Easy to Use

Starting a new workout routine can be scary. However, an elliptical trainer is designed to be user-friendly. Even novice exercisers will quickly grasp its uses.

And if you still have a fear, no worries. Personal trainers can offer helpful tips and tailor a workout plan specific to you. 

As a personal trainer myself, I found that most of my clients feel more confident in using the trainer after receiving my guidance.

Let me give you a short explanation here:

  1. Stand on the pedals with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Start pedaling.
  3. Hold onto the handles and move them back and forth once you feel comfortable with the movement.
  4. If you’re feeling unsure, use only the foot pedals at first. And if your elliptical has stationary handhelds, use them for better balance.
  5. As you gain confidence, gradually incorporate the handles for a full-body workout and added challenge.

If you’re thinking of purchasing an elliptical (or cross trainer) but you’re not sure how they function check them out at the local gym.

The Cons of Elliptical Training

Limited Upper Body Workout

While the elliptical machine is a fantastic tool for lower-body workouts and cardiovascular exercise, it’s not the best option for building upper-body strength

Although a lot of commercial elliptical machines have movable handles, they still don’t offer any resistance. It’s not going to beat the variety of weightlifting or other upper-body strength exercises.


Some of my clients reported that the repetitive motion of an elliptical machine can become monotonous over time. That makes staying motivated during longer workouts difficult.

If you are okay with Bluetooth connected devices to provide entertainment or distraction then you can go with that and there are some immersive programs that may add more realism to a workout.

One approach I always suggest for keeping things interesting is adding interval training or other forms of cardio. I also enjoy incorporating additional equipment to make the workout more engaging. So basically, you don’t have to only stick to your standard elliptical training. Feel free to mix things up.


If you are looking for a home elliptical cross trainer, they tend to be costly compared to other forms of exercise equipment. And this may be an inconvenience for people if you don’t choose a machine that you like.

But, investing in a high-quality trainer is definitely worth it. And there’s no doubt – your body would be thankful for such a decision as long as it gets used.

And the best part? Working out from home can be great whilst working on your body goals.

Limited Range of Motion

Since it protects the joints, an elliptical machine comes with a limited range of motion. So, it’s definitely not for those people who want to increase flexibility and mobility.

Sure, the elliptical trainer can be helpful, but it may not yield the most impressive results.

Not Suitable for High-Intensity Workouts

Elliptical machines provide great low-impact cardio workouts. But if you prefer turbo training sessions, you might be disappointed. 

But, don’t let that demotivate you! 

To break the monotony, take dumbbells in your hands while working on the trainer. This will help break up the routine and maximize results. 

How to Avoid Boredom and Plateauing on the Elliptical Trainer?

Now that we’ve covered all the elliptical benefits and disadvantages, are you ready to make things super interesting?

Here are my top four tips:

  • Use the pre-programmed workouts on your elliptical machine. You can also create your own custom workouts with varying resistance levels, inclines, and intervals.
  • Consider using resistance bands to activate the upper body.
  • If you have a portable elliptical machine go outside to change the same, monotonous scenery.
  • Mix up your music playlist, watch a favorite TV show, or listen to a new podcast. This is how you’ll keep your mind engaged during your workout. And trust me, time will pass more quickly.
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Can Elliptical Training Hurt My Knees?

No, elliptical training is low-impact and gentle for your joints. In fact, it may help reduce the risk of knee injuries. Always check with your doctor if you have existing joint problems.

Is The Elliptical Machine Better Than The Treadmill?

It all depends on your goals and abilities. Treadmills can cause more joint strain due to the constant impact from their feet pounding the ground.
An elliptical machine provides lower-impact workouts with never leaving pedals. This means less pressure on joints and muscles.

Do I Need Special Shoes To Use The Elliptical Machine?

Although you won’t need special shoes, opt for comfortable and supportive athletic footwear. This is how you’ll prevent slipperiness during training.  
Go with cushioned soled shoes to offer support to feet and ankles.

How Often Should I Do Elliptical Training?

Your fitness goals and exercise regimen should dictate your training length. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity training 3-5 times each week.

What’s The Difference Between an Elliptical & Cross Trainer?

The difference between an elliptical & cross trainer can be found here.

Final Thoughts: To Elliptical or Not to Elliptical?

An elliptical trainer in fitness is like broccoli in the kitchen. Some people love it while others avoid it at all costs. 

However, if you don’t love its repetitive motions, you don’t have to settle for an ordinary workout routine. Include interval training and make your workout fun.

So, after reading about all the elliptical benefits and disadvantages, should you give this trainer a chance? That decision is only up to you. But if you ask me, I’m giving it a big YES

Visit a gym and try it first, or see if any of your friends own one before purchasing. This is how you can ensure that it is the right fit for you.

Thank you for reading & until the next time!

Photo of author
I'm Mia, a 25-year-old fitness enthusiast who's on a mission to help people look and feel amazing. I live and breathe health and wellness, and you can often find me in the gym, trying out new recipes in the kitchen, or exploring the great outdoors. I love pushing myself to new limits and inspiring others to do the same.

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