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An elliptical trainer can help you fit in the 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five times per week as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. This machine, which looks like a hybrid between a bicycle, stairclimber and treadmill, mimics the movement of running without impact. Because it is easy on the joints, but provides a challenge, the elliptical trainer has become a popular fixture in most health clubs. In addition to training your heart, the elliptical tones most of the muscles in the lower body.
The elliptical machine trains the muscles of the thigh, particularly the semitendinosus and the rectus femoris. The semitendinosus lies at the back center of the thigh and is one of the three hamstring muscles. The rectus femoris is one of the four quadriceps muscles that are situated at the front of the thigh. A study of 10 healthy adults in the February 2011 issue of вЂњGait PostureвЂќ found that the elliptical activated these two thigh muscles more than overground walking, treadmill walking and stationary cycling.
Gluteals and Hip Flexors
Compared to walking, elliptical training more effectively tones the gluteal (buttocks) muscles, according to a study of 40 healthy males published in the April 23, 2012 issue of вЂњClinical Biomechanics.вЂќ The three muscles that comprise the buttocks are the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The pedaling motion on the elliptical also works the hip flexors that lie at the front of the hips and help pull the knee upward.
Even though exercising on the elliptical is a low-impact activity, your calf muscles get a workout. The gastrocnemius, the largest calf muscle, and the soleus, the smaller calf muscle, are both instrumental in your ability to stand and walk. These powerful muscles prevent the body from falling forward and fire every time you plantar flex your foot - or push the foot downward as if pressing a car's gas pedal.
An elliptical trainer can help tone some of the muscles of the upper body, if it is a model with poles that you push back and forth as you pedal. The muscles involved in such movement include the biceps, the deltoids at the front and back of the shoulders, the triceps, the trapezius at the upper back, the pectorals at the chest and the latissimus dorsi.
Maintaining proper form during your elliptical workout helps prevent injury or strain. Stand tall on the pedals with your shoulders back, head up, chin parallel to the floor and arms relaxed. Engage your abdominals to help strengthen your core during the workout. Avoid leaning forward or gripping the handles tightly because this takes some of the effort out of the legs and gives you a less effective workout.