The elliptical machine provides a means of exercising similar to walking or running but without the added stress on your joints. You can effectively improve your cardiovascular fitness, burn calories and target several muscles throughout your body using the elliptical on a regular basis. Altering the incline on your elliptical machine puts greater emphasis on specific muscle groups during your workout.
Using the Elliptical
The elliptical primarily targets the muscles of your lower body. If you use a model that has handles, then your upper body will also endure a bit of a workout. To move the pedals, your hips, knees and ankles continuously flex and extend. When the incline on the elliptical is set to zero, your joints move through a relatively small range of motion. As the incline increases, you're forced to lift your legs higher to overcome the incline, increasing the range of motion in your hips and knees.
Effect of a Higher Incline
Increasing the range of motion in your hips and knees with a higher incline ramp redirects the work emphasis to different muscles. Using an elliptical at a zero incline works your quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscles fairly equally. However, as the incline increases, the work gradually shifts so that the muscles on the posterior aspect of your body are carrying the brunt of the load. Your hamstrings and gluteal muscles perform more and more of the work as the incline increases.
Use of the Incline
Setting your elliptical at a high incline for the duration of your workout is guaranteed to leave you tired and sweaty. The increased incline increases the intensity of your workout, upping the difficulty level and calorie burn. If just the thought of going for 30-plus minutes straight on a high incline makes you tired, give interval training a try. This type of training involves alternating bouts of high-intensity work with periods of recovery. For example, after a sufficient warm-up, set the incline high and go hard for one to two minutes. Lower the incline and recover for two to three minutes. Repeat the high-to-low incline circuit for the duration of your workout.
Elliptical Workout Tips
Begin each elliptical training session with a five to 10-minute warm-up. Start at a low intensity, gradually increasing until you reach your workout intensity level. Each workout should wrap up with a five-minute cooldown to allow your body to gradually return to a resting state. Aside from altering the incline of your elliptical, you can also adjust the resistance to add a challenging aspect for your muscles. Be sure to give your body a day of rest in between workouts to allow for muscle recovery and repair.
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