Muscles Worked on Elliptical Trainers: An In Depth Analysis

muscles worked on ellipticals

Muscles Worked on Elliptical Cross Trainers?

If you are planning to undertake elliptical training, then you might have asked what muscles do the elliptical work. Elliptical workouts are significantly beneficial that allows you to burn calories by providing highly effective exercise. These types of workouts are a quick way to strengthen your thighs, both upper and lower body, among many others.

Elliptical machines are easy to set up, and you can use them at the gym or home. This write-up aims to discuss the different muscles that elliptical workouts targets.

So, in short, the muscles worked on ellitpicals are:

  • buttocks
  • thighs
  • calves
  • arms
  • shoulders
  • pectorals
  • abdominals

As you can see, there are many muscles required when working out on ellipticals. This is one of the best options for anyone looking to burn fat fast while keeping the joints and articulations healthy.


An Overview of the Elliptical Trainer

An elliptical trainer is a motionless workout machine, which can simulate running, walking, or stair climbing without creating extreme pressure on the joints. It also offers non-impact workouts for cardiovascular that can vary significantly from light to high intensity. Most elliptical trainers allow users to work out both their upper and lower body. Since it reduces the risk of impact injuries, elliptical trainers have become an ideal option for people seeking low-impact workouts.

There are many benefits of working out on an elliptical machine. Studies reveal that exercising on the elliptical can improve one’s fitness significantly just as working out on a StairMaster or other related fitness equipment. Further research has found benefits that attribute to reduced load on the joints and improve cardiovascular health.

In contrast to the treadmill, which mainly involves the lower body, the elliptical trainer works the upper and lower body at the same time. The muscles of your body are developed through conventional cardio exercises.

The elliptical trainer strengthens and tones the muscles of your body and involves the stomach, arms, legs and buttocks. Avoiding all impacts on the ground, this equipment is suitable for people with joint problems. It is a good alternative to running, promotes the development of bone density and avoids osteoporosis for people without joint problems.

The pectorals, triceps and biceps, the great dorsal and abdominal muscles are targeted in the upper part of your body. Every time the handles are pulled towards the body, the biceps and the large dorsal, which forms a “V” on the back, are stressed. As for the pectorals, muscles of the chest, and the triceps, which are located at the back of the upper arms, they work when the handles are pushed. The long straight and obliques form the abdominal muscles where the core muscles contract to keep the body well-balanced and straight.

Elliptical are complete fitness machine

The elliptical trainer is therefore ideal for working and toning the whole body in a single workout. It allows you to strengthen the lower muscles, arms, torso, abdominals… It’s one of the most complete sports you can do from home. With a 30 to 45 minute routine, two to three times a week, it is possible to see results on the body after only a few weeks. It’s up to you to work on your endurance and keep fit with the benefits of the elliptical trainer.


Muscles Worked on Elliptical Trainers

In this session, we present different muscles that will benefit from elliptical workouts:


Hamstring muscles include semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris, situated at the back of your legs. The engagement of these muscles happens during an elliptical workout through extension and flexion. Leg flexion and extension perform an essential role when it comes to elliptical exercise. The former refers to any movement that diminishes the angle between two bones, while the latter does the opposite.

Some elliptical machines come with a mechanism that lets you increase the incline, thereby simulating hill climbing. It will lead to an increased flexion on your leg, which can further result in the greater use of the hamstring muscles. In other words, you engage your hamstring muscles every time you straighten and bend the legs.

You can increase the incline settings on the elliptical machine if you want to emphasize the hamstrings. However, you can pedal in reverse if your elliptical machine does not feature an incline function.


It is another muscle that elliptical workouts target it. It consists of four significant muscles, located between the front of the hip and knee. You activate these muscles every time you push the pedal down on the elliptical. As such, higher the elevation the greater emphasis will be on your quadriceps muscles. However, you can lower the incline if you want to put less stress on these muscles.

These muscles receive a substantial workout on the cross-trainer. But you will not feel or notice the burn until later. The reason is that elliptical workouts engage not only your quadriceps muscles but also many other muscle groups.

Triceps and Chest

Another muscle group that benefits from elliptical workouts is triceps and chest, considered as pushing muscles. During an elliptical workout, you engage both the upper body and lower body along with the triceps and pectoral muscles. The muscles on the back of the arm are the triceps, while the pectoral muscles support the chest.

Gluteus Maximus

Another group of muscles targeted during an elliptical workout is gluteus maximus, located in the bum region. These muscles work in combination with the quads and hamstrings. Hip extension is a crucial move when it comes to elliptical workouts, especially when you place the machine at an incline.

During a cross-trainer workout, motions such as the hip extension significantly engage these muscles. Besides, when you move from a seated position to a standing position, you heavily make use of these muscles.

Biceps and Back

During a workout on the moving levers, the pectoral and triceps muscles allow you to push the levers as your arms straighten. However, when you pull the levers back towards your body, you are engaging the biceps and rhomboids. In other words, the biceps and back muscles help you to complete the pulling motion.

You engage the biceps during elbow flexion, while the rhomboids assist in pulling the shoulder blades across the back. Unlike weight lifting workouts, an elliptical workout will not significantly build these muscles.

Abdominal Muscles

Elliptical workouts do not directly target the abdominal muscles, known as six-pack muscles. However, you can strengthen your abdominal muscles over time by adjusting your posture on your elliptical machine. One of the best ways to engage your abdominal muscles is to pedal without using the handlebars.

The reason is that without the support of the levers, you will have to focus on your abdominal muscles to gain balance. This modified posture can help you to activate your abs. You should note that a strong core muscle is essential for maintaining superior posture, which can further prevent back pain and injury.

Calf Muscles

Calf muscles is another muscle group targeted by elliptical workouts, located in the lower back of the legs. You engage these muscles by using the incline and reverse pedaling features on your elliptical machine. These muscles perform plantar flexion when pressing your foot against the pedals on your elliptical machine.

Gradually, these muscles will become stronger, thereby providing more endurance when walking for long-distance. However, you should note that elliptical workouts do not increase muscle bulk. As such, if your goal is to enlarge the calf muscles, then you should consider weight training.


Elliptical workouts are like aerobic exercise; as such, it also allows your heart and lungs to work out. During an elliptical workout, the breathing and heart rate increase. It further enhances the flow of blood to your muscles.

Practical Tips for working out on elliptical trainers

Before starting any training session, it is strongly advised to seek the advice of your doctor to avoid contraindications. Indeed, the exercises suggested by this equipment can be stressful, especially for sedentary, obese, elderly or unsporting people. Protecting you from knee pain, this fitness equipment is nevertheless effective after an injury.

Before each elliptical session it is necessary to warm up to help open the small capillaries that supply the muscles. It is also essential to calm down to avoid aches and pains. Stretching after each session is designed to restore mobility to the joints and muscles to their original length.

Whether your goal is to improve your endurance or lose weight, do at least 3 20-minute sessions per week. To keep your body functioning well, remember to drink plenty of water.

Ideal for fat burning, high-intensity exercise should be alternated with low-intensity recovery periods. For high-intensity sequences, you should adjust the resistance of your machine so that you can pedal quickly while controlling your effort to keep up the pace for about 40 minutes. This exercise consists of pedalling quickly and trying to get up to the maximum frequency.

The pyramid exercises consist of alternating between low, moderate and high intensity. You can also opt for rhythm exercises that allow you to work according to your shape and your goals. You will alternate low and high intensity sequences with this exercise and will have the possibility to stop at the first level.

To improve your endurance, fitness or to lose weight, you can opt for moderate-intensity exercises. Moderate-intensity exercises draw more efficiently on fat reserves compared to high-intensity sequences. It is strongly recommended that you determine your optimal heart rate for fat intake in order to maintain your health and easily achieve your goals.


Elliptical Machines Benefits

The elliptical trainer is good for the heart

If and only if you don’t suffer from any heart problems, the elliptical is a real machine for strengthening the heart. The elliptical trainer can quickly increase your heart rate. Without you even realizing it, the effort is evenly distributed between the muscles of the arms, legs and abdominal muscles. No pain will prevent you from reaching your maximum heart rate.

On the other hand, if you are a beginner, have a heart deficiency or are over 50 years old, be careful. To avoid attacking your heartbeat, ask for advice. A sports coach at the gym where you practice will be able to program the machine at your own pace. In any case, consult your doctor before registering. In any case, you will be asked for a certificate of no contraindication.

Good for the joints

Unlike running (and therefore the treadmill), the elliptical trainer distributes your body weight evenly over both legs. This spares your joints, while at the same time making a movement whose amplitude approaches the runner’s stride. Many athletes use this device to get back in shape after an injury.

Good for the muscles

The leg muscles are stressed by the push of the pedals. At the same time, the arms are mobilized to push and pull the handles. All in all, it’s a team effort! Even better, you can distribute the effort between the upper and lower limbs as you wish. Finally, as this exercise involves a slight rotation of the waist, it allows you to work the small oblique and large oblique abdominals.

Combined with other exercises for cross training

If you find prolonged use of the elliptical trainer boring because it is so repetitive, you can vary the training exercises, with different accessories (treadmill, weight machines, semi-extended bike…) or without any particular accessory (push-ups…). For example, the same hybrid device can combine an elliptical trainer and a semi-extended bike, the latter allowing you to pedal without putting strain on your back or neck.

Our Pratical Tips to optimize your muscular reinforcement

An elliptical machine is an excellent tool for burning calories and increasing cardiovascular endurance. When used properly, it can also help you build muscle in virtually every part of your body.

To get the best benefits in terms of muscle building, here are some tips to keep in mind when using an elliptical.

Tip #1: Choose the right machine

Some elliptical machines isolate the movement of arms and legs more than others. To ensure that your arms receive adequate training, choose a machine with handles that allow the most independent arm rotation. By pulling and pushing the arm poles instead of allowing the pedals to speed up upper body movement, you will be able to target your triceps, biceps, back, shoulders and chest muscles more effectively.

Tip: If your machine doesn’t have handles, you can target your arms and chest by applying pressure to the chest with a medicine ball, doing loops, or applying air pressure with a light pair of dumbbells while you work on the elliptical.

Tip #2: Use interval training

Interval training, which involves varying the direction in which you pedal, will help you engage different muscle groups. When you pedal forward, you engage your hamstrings and buttocks. When you pedal backwards, you engage your front thighs and quads.

Tip 3: Use the programs

Most elliptical trainers are pre-programmed with a variety of different training options that allow you to focus on different fitness goals. These programs will ask you to vary your routine in different ways, such as telling you to pedal forwards, backwards, or to complete your movement with your arms rather than your legs. These programs will also vary your intensity and resistance level. By simulating hill climbing, for example, you target different muscle groups while forcing your legs to exercise in a similar way to weightlifting.

Tip #4: Free your hands

With an elliptical machine, you can do more than just work your arm and leg muscles. In fact, if you take your hands off the handles and place them on your hips or pump your arms, you can also give your core muscles an effective workout. This is because your abdominal and other core muscles need to engage to help you maintain your balance.

Tip 5: Change your position

Changing the position of your body can also help develop your muscles and target other muscle groups. Cycling backwards on a half-squat, for example, will help target your quadriceps and buttocks. You can also increase your lower body workout by extending your straight legs for a longer stride rather than wrapping them tightly underneath you.


To sum up, elliptical machines allow you to engage full-body workout that ranges upper body to lower legs. It can also enhance your cardiovascular health. For this reason, it has become an ideal choice for people who suffer from some injuries. The above-listed points are some of the muscles that you train while working out on an elliptical machine.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

About Our Site
Naxus Fitness is fully dedicated to help everyone, from complete novices to experienced veterans, with fitness tips and recomendations. We excel in product reviews and go through extensive analysis based on expert criterias on every single review we do.
[lord-icon icon="get-in-touch"Β  class="full-size" animation="auto"][/lord-icon]

Subscribe to our list

Don't worry, we don't spam

Naxus Fitness
Compare items
  • Total (0)