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wikiHow to Use Elliptical Exercise Equipment Effectively

Three Methods:Getting in the Starting PositionPerforming the ExerciseFrequencyCommunity Q&A

Elliptical exercise equipment, also commonly referred to as elliptical trainers or machines, are units of cross-training equipment designed to simulate the motions of walking, running, stair-climbing, and sometimes, even cross-country skiing. Elliptical exercise equipment often reduces the amount of pressure that is placed on your joints, which sometimes occurs when performing exercises such as running or stair-climbing. Most elliptical machines also allow you to control the intensity of your workouts by managing the resistance and incline levels of the equipment. To use elliptical exercise equipment effectively, you must first learn how to position yourself on the equipment, and learn about performing the exercise itself to ensure that you have a productive workout. Continue reading this article to learn all about the proper ways for using elliptical exercise equipment.

Getting in the Starting Position

  1. 1
    Step onto the elliptical exercise equipment.
    • Grab the stationary handlebar section of the machine, then carefully place your feet onto each pedal one foot at a time. The pedals are not resistant to your weight, and will most likely move after you place one foot on a pedal.
  2. 2
    Align your feet properly on the pedals. Your feet should be parallel to the inside edges of the pedals. This will also allow your hips to align properly with the elliptical machine.
  3. 3
    Straighten your spine. When using elliptical equipment, your spine must be straight to prevent your back from experiencing strain as you perform the exercise movements.
    • Pull your abdominal muscles in, and push your pelvis forward at the same time.
  4. 4
    Position your arms properly. Although most elliptical machines have stationary handlebars to help maintain your balance, some come with moving handlebars that simulate cross-country skiing movements.
    • Grip the handlebar of the elliptical machine, pull your shoulders down and back, and slightly bend your elbows. Your head should be upright and facing straight.

Performing the Exercise

  1. 1
    Pedal in a forward or backward direction with your legs. The leg movement created by the elliptical exercise equipment will result in an oval, or elliptical, shape.
    • Bend your knees slightly to encourage a smooth elliptical movement on the machine, as locking your knees can result in injury and discomfort.
  2. 2
    Adjust the settings on the elliptical machine to intensify your workout. Most elliptical machines allow you to adjust the resistance and incline levels to challenge your strength.
    • Increase the resistance level to make pedaling more difficult and to work the muscles in your legs and calves.
    • Increase the incline level to work your hamstring and gluteal (glut) muscles, and also to simulate stair- or hill-climbing.
    • Increase the overall intensity level of your workout if you feel as if your movements have become choppy or bouncy. Your movements on the elliptical equipment should be fluid and smooth to achieve an optimal, effective workout.
  3. 3
    Vary your workouts using different exercise programs. Elliptical machines can often provide you with a variety of workouts based on the criteria you enter into the machine; such as your age and weight.
    • Use the weight loss program. The weight loss programs on elliptical machines will focus on your workout's overall intensity level by adjusting the ramp and increasing the pedaling difficulty level. This program is most ideal for use by beginners.
    • Use the heart rate program. Heart rate programs will require you to grab onto sensors located on the handlebars of the elliptical machine during your workout. The sensors will track your heart rate and modify the intensity level of your workout accordingly.


  1. 1
    Pedal on the elliptical machine consistently for between 20 and 30 minutes. As your body becomes more fit and acclimated to your elliptical workouts, you can increase the intensity of your workouts using the console.
  2. 2
    Train using the elliptical exercise equipment at least 3 times per week.
    • Consult with a personal fitness trainer or expert regarding an optimal workout routine based on your personal fitness. A trainer may recommend an ideal frequency at which you should use the elliptical machine.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • How do I adjust stride length to avoid knee strain?
    Orlando Lambert
    Start with a short/small stride, and gradually lengthen your stride. Once you feel it being painful, decrease your stride slightly so you can exercise comfortably.
  • Should my feet stay totally flat when using the elliptical, or should I be raising my heel as if walking or running?
    User Contributor
    Heels may come up a bit, but toes should not move much. By keeping your foot down as much as possible, it makes it the low-impact exercise it is supposed to be.
  • Can you use the elliptical machine effectively if you use the stationary handles?
    Yes, the handles keep you steady on the machine. Most elliptical machines come with stationary handles.
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    • Take advantage of using the different workout programs presented to you by the console of the elliptical machine. Using the workout programs may prevent you from becoming bored with your exercises, and can help optimize your overall workout based on body weight, heart-rate, and more.


    • If using the moving handlebars causes your upper body to hug the machine console or lean too far forward, use the stationary handlebars instead to maintain a straight, upright posture. Leaning too far forward can place unnecessary strain on your back and potentially cause injury.

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