What Muscles Does the Elliptical Machine Work?

muscles worked on ellipticals

What Muscles Do You Work On an Elliptical Cross Trainer?

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.

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.

Muscles Worked on the Elliptical

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.

Calve Muscles

Calve muscle 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 calve muscles, then you should consider weight training.


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


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.

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