Elliptical Buttons: What Every Button on Your Elliptical Machine Means

We're decoding all your elliptical buttons so you can get a better workout.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever jumped on an elliptical machine with the intention of diving into your best elliptical workout—only to have your eyes glaze over at all the different buttons on the screen.

We’ve all been there. It’s tough to translate the terminology, which leaves many of us simply going through the motions (especially if we’re using an at home version like this). And that definitely doesn’t help with your elliptical workout plan.

We got the low-down on elliptical buttons from Aaptiv trainer Candice Cunningham, so you can exercise with confidence and intention.

Decoding Elliptical Buttons


This button is what you use when you don’t really have a plan but you want to squeeze in some sort of elliptical exercise. It turns the machine on and takes you right to where you can manually begin. All you have to do is start moving!


On some ellipticals (those without resistance and incline), you can adjust levels. This basically takes the resistance up. This will make it more difficult to achieve higher strides/minute or speed. It also helps with toning your lower body for a strength building workout.


You may not find this button on all elliptical machines, but if present, it’ll allow you to take the incline up. Doing so makes your workout steeper, which will target more of your glutes and hamstrings.


Similar to the levels button, this one increases and decreases resistance to make your workout more challenging. Expect to tone every inch of your body.


This is where you can do the elliptical equivalent of scrolling through your phone—because you’ve got several mini-programs to choose from. “Fat Burn” is more steady state/resistance, while “Intervals” focuses on timed portions of increasing levels or resistance and then lowering to recover.

“Weight Loss” differs depending on the machine, but it sets you up for an elliptical workout to lose weight, and “Performance” will set the machine to focus on cultivating harder effort in intervals and timed portions.


Much like the distance button on a treadmill, this refers to your total mileage/km during workout. The only difference is that how far you go is lower-impact to your joints.

S/M or Speed

Again, machines vary, but if you see a button that says “Speed” or “S/M,” that refers to your strides per minute: the number of rotations or strides you complete per minute at any given pace.

Heart Rate

Heart rate indicates how hard you’re working during an elliptical workout, and either movable or static handles (depending on the machine model) monitor this for you.


Want to know how many calories you’re burning during an elliptical workout? (This is our favorite tracker.) Stay locked and loaded on this one, as it tracks calories based on age, time and speed.

If you don’t input your age at the beginning of the workout, it’ll make this calorie calculation based on a pre-determined age.

Ready to get started with your elliptical workout routine? Explore the Elliptical section of Aaptiv and mark your favorites by tapping the heart icon.

The Aaptiv coaches will give you cues so you know when to make use of the buttons elliptical buttons in front of you.



Welcome to the guidebook to your healthiest life. Aaptiv delivers the highest quality fitness and health information from personal trainers and industry experts. Subscribe now for a weekly dose of inspiration and education.

I would like to receive weekly fitness articles and inspiration from Aaptiv Magazine.

Please click the checkbox to subscribe.