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The elliptical cross trainer is a popular total-body exercise machine that offers both cardiovascular and muscular benefits. This multijoint activity targets several muscle groups in the upper and lower body. The elliptical cross trainer is advantageous because of its ability to increase or decrease resistance, which can produce a greater or lesser force of contraction by each of those muscles involved in the exercise.
Similar to running, exercising on the elliptical requires an extension of the hips. Hip extension involves a straightening of the hip joint as the thigh moves backwards. The gluteus maximus, hamstrings and hip adductors all combine to control hip extension during the elliptical exercise.
The knees also extend during the elliptical exercise, due to the lower leg moving backward away from the rear thigh. The quadriceps are primarily responsible for knee extension, and you may notice an increase in the size of these muscles after training on the elliptical for some time. The quadriceps consist of four individual muscles that run the length of the front thigh.
Shoulders and Elbows
The elliptical provides a greater resistance to the upper body than simply running on the treadmill. During the elliptical exercise, the shoulders flex and extend opposite the knees and hips. Shoulder flexion is controlled by the deltoids, pectorals and biceps, while extension is regulated by the latissimus dorsi, deltoid, pectorals, teres major and triceps. As with the shoulders, the elbows flex and extend during the elliptical exercise. Elbow flexion is controlled by the biceps, brachialis and brachioradialis, and extension is regulated by the triceps and anconeus muscles.
Not all elliptical machines have moving arms, however. With those machines in which the arms remain in a fixed position, the shoulders and elbows do not play a pivotal role in the exercise.
Scapula and Clavicle
The scapula and clavicle, located behind the shoulder and near the neck, respectively, protract and retract throughout the elliptical exercise. Protraction refers to a forward movement away from the center of the body, while retraction refers to a backward movement toward the body's center. Protraction of the scapula and clavicle is controlled by the serratus anterior, pectorals and levator scapulae in the upper back and chest. Retraction is controlled by the trapezius, rhomboids and lattisimus dorsi in the back.
The core region, comprised of the abdominal and lower back muscles, serve to support the lower spine during the elliptical exercise. At higher intensities, the core region must contract to prevent a high degree of strain on the lower back. The elliptical cross trainer is effective for developing isometric strength in the abdominal muscles and lower back.