Is it efficient to back-pedal on an elliptical trainer?

Back Pedaling on an elliptical machine

Why should you backpedal on an Elliptical Machine?

Elliptical exercise is very effective for working the cardio, and therefore burn calories. Nevertheless, it is essential to learn to change your workouts regularly if you want to continue to improve over the long term. In order to stimulate your muscles in a different way for effective muscle strengthening, and to work other areas more intensively, integrate back-pedaling into your training sessions.


What are the benefits of back-pedaling on an elliptical?

Back-pedaling consists of pedaling backwards on an elliptical machine or a home bike. It is a cardio or strength training exercise that allows you to target the muscles in a deeper and more intensive way.

A recent U.S. study has shown that incorporating back-pedaling phases into your training improves lymphatic drainage and significantly increases your heart rate, thus burning more calories.

When you pedal “normally” or forward, you mainly work the quadriceps and buttocks. During the backpedaling phase, not only will these two muscles be used much more, but you will also be recruiting hamstrings and hip extensors at the same time.

And that’s not all: the loss of stability created by the movement will require more effort from the abdominal and back muscles if you don’t hold the handles, thus reinforcing the abdominal strap in depth.

What are the benefits?

Elliptical were not designed to build muscles, but elliptical machines have many benefits. The goal was to create a cardiovascular training machine that would simulate running while putting less stress on the joints. But because you use your legs to move the pedals, it still helps build muscle. And because the elliptical can be pedaled forward or backward (also called back-pedaling), it works with different muscle groups and allows you to vary your workouts.

Muscles used

When you pedal forward on the elliptical, your quadriceps at the front of your thighs and your buttocks are stressed. When you reverse the motion to pedal backwards, you work the hamstring muscles at the back of your thighs and the extensors of your hips.

When you use an elliptical with grips, your biceps and triceps of your arms work regardless of the direction you pedal, as do the trapezius muscles in your shoulders and back.

Create a complete workout

Elliptical Machines are known to provide a complete body workout, but a small piece of information that is not often conveyed is that adding reverse pedaling to your elliptical workouts is essential to getting a complete workout.

How to include back-pedaling in your elliptical session?

As a general rule, you pedal faster forward. It is therefore a good idea to start integrating back-pedaling first during the active recovery phases following those of high intensity.

First of all, you start by warming up as you did before each session in order to prepare your body for the intensity of the training that will follow. This is an essential step to avoid any risk of injury and to gently increase your heart rate.

Next, you pedal for 3 minutes forward at high speed and recover for 2 minutes at low intensity. This is followed by a 5-minute phase where you alternate between high and low resistance to recruit the muscles of the lower body.

Then the same 5 minutes of alternating resistance and low resistance are repeated with variations in intensity, but this time in the opposite direction.

We finish with a 3-minute recovery in back-pedaling, for a return to calm at low speed and low intensity.

Adapt your sessions according to your level

Of course, this is just one example of the multitude of possible sessions. Remember to adapt your workouts according to your level, your goals and listen to your body and its needs. It’s very easy to add back-pedaling phases on an elliptical trainer to complement brisk walking to make your session even more complete for quality muscle strengthening.

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