The Don’t List: Elliptical Workout Don’ts

Are you making these common mistakes on the elliptical?

If you’re looking to get some cardio in at the gym or with the Aaptiv app, you may want to head straight for the elliptical. Not only will you get the cardio benefits of running without any of the impact on your joints, but you’ll also strengthen your heart, burn calories, and target both the upper and lower body at the same time!

On the other hand, to get the most out of your elliptical workout, you’ll want to take note. Certified personal trainers say it’s common to make mistakes on the elliptical that can keep you from getting results.

Here’s a look at some elliptical don’ts, so you know what not to do when you hit the elliptical machine.


Keep that posture in check, says Aaptiv Trainer Candice Cunningham. “Slouching puts a lot of unwanted pressure on the lower back—something you always want to avoid when working out,” she says. “Check in on your posture throughout your entire elliptical workout.”

Never Adjusting Your Speed or Resistance

It’s easy to zone out once you step on the elliptical. But that’s doing yourself a disservice, says Jamie Hickey, certified personal trainer. “Maintaining the same monotonous pace won’t get you very far if your goal is to lose weight,” he says. “That’s because a moderate level of cardio isn’t enough to rev up your body’s fat burning engines.”

Try an Aaptiv workout so you won’t have a problem with monotony again! 

Not Working Out Your Top Half

You want to give your legs a good workout, but you can make the most of your time at the gym by using the elliptical handles and working both your upper and lower body at the same time.

“Ellipticals are supposed to be a full body workout, that’s why the handles are there,” Hickey says. “The most common mistake is leaning on the static handles, an easy trap when you’re tired. If you always use the stationary handles your body doesn’t need to work as hard and you burn fewer calories. Another bad habit is letting your arms hang at your side, again you’re cheating yourself by not doing the extra motion and this can also cause your balance to be off. If you don’t like [doing] the arm motion the entire exercise, then do intervals—push and pull as hard as you can for 30 seconds then hold the static handles for 30 to 40 seconds.”

Not Engaging Your Core

Don’t forget about those abdominals. Keep them tight as you use the elliptical to help stabilize the movement. “Engaging your core does more than just strengthen your abs,” notes Cunningham. “It will help you keep a neutral spine to prevent stress on your lower back and it will keep your movement in line. Practice great posture!”

Not Getting Good Results

Wondering why you aren’t seeing results after your elliptical sessions? You’ve got to turn up the volume, according to Caleb Backe, certified personal trainer. “Using the elliptical on zero resistance for ten minutes is goodif you just want to add some movement to your day, but it’s unlikely to reap real results,” he says. “Without enough variety, you’re likely to plateau. Instead, use the elliptical like a HIIT workout machine by varying the resistance, speed, and time. If you want to really push yourself, change the direction of pedaling for some extra resistance and to engage a wider array of muscle groups.”

Holding on Too Tight

“If you have moveable handles, keep a loose grip and keep the focus on your lower body,” Cunningham recommends. “Using the handles as a means to balance yourself is fine. However, once you start holding on to too tightly, you’re using the handles to relieve some of the resistance you’re feeling during your elliptical workout. This means a less effective workout in the end.”

Relying on the Elliptical to Tell You Calories Burned

Sorry to disappoint, but the elliptical may be overestimating how many calories you’ve actually burned. If you’re trying to lose weight, that can be detrimental to meeting your fitness goals.

“If you rely on the digital calorie counter to see how well your workout is doing, then you’re going to be disappointed,” Hickey says. “For every 30 minutes of exercise, elliptical machines will overestimate an average of 100 calories burned. That means an hour-long exercise routine will burn 200 fewer calories than the machine says.” Luckily, it’s an easy fix. “Wear a dependable heart rate monitor around your chest, these tend to be the most dependable,” he recommends.

Looking to get the most out of an elliptical workout? Learn more here.

Check out our other “Don’t List” articles:

The Don’t List: Treadmill Workout Don’ts

The Don’t List: Cycling Workout Don’ts



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