7 Hacks for Burning More Calories on an Elliptical

There’s no worse feeling than investing in an elliptical machine without gaining the desired result! This is especially disappointing if your goal is to burn more calories or shave some pounds off your body weight. Of course, this isn’t the machine’s fault — as people tend to use the trainer incorrectly thereby selling their goals short and retaining calories instead of shedding them.

Elliptical machines when used correctly are a surefire way to strengthen cardio capacity and burn calories without any of the impacts that are common with running. And depending on the resistance, workout, or incline settings used, you can also use the machine to build muscle strength and increase endurance. However, if you are not doing justice to the machine, you can drastically reduce its effectiveness and mar your calorie-burning goals. Thankfully, we’ve compiled a list of tips and hacks that can help you maximize the elliptical’s calorie-burning benefits.

1 Choose Settings that Complement Your Body Size

The “maximum resistance or incline” settings that effectively work for others may not work for you. This is partly due to differences in body size. For instance, cranking the incline settings (assuming your elliptical has one) to an extremely high level is a waste of time and effort if you are short on height.

Why? You need long enough legs to correctly engage the cycling of the foot pedals. Otherwise, you will use more momentum than necessary to complete the rotations, which is as good as undertaking an exhausting futile journey. When you use momentum to execute the rotations, your body will have a harder time burning calories. Plus, you will put in less effort and deny your body the chance to work out like it is supposed to.

That being said, ensure to choose incline or tension settings that are best suited to your body size or type. This means choosing a setting that makes your exertion the pull behind the pedal motion as opposed to the momentum of your weight. One way to know your settings aren’t the right pick is when you can’t rotate the foot pedals in a cycle without placing massive weight on one side of your body. Also if you notice a slight bend in your knees when performing an exercise, your settings may be on the wrong side!

2 Ignore the Fat-burning Zone

It is not uncommon for your elliptical machine’s screen to display a “fat-burning zone”. While this might appear helpful and meaningful, it is grossly misleading. You will be shocked to know that this so-called fat-burning zone is a far cry from reality; it doesn’t accurately depict the amount of fat your body is burning and working out according to this faux information will give you a false sense of goal actualization — and by the time you figure out the “error”, you might have wasted too much time and effort.

But why is the information inaccurate? First off, when you work out while in the fat-burning zone, you target only about 60 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. As such, you end up burning more calories from your body’s available fat than from carbs.

But when you ignore the fat-burning zone and focus on working the elliptical (as hard as you can), you will burn a ton of calories from both fat and carbs. Also, working out at an intensity greater than that of the fat-burning zone will have you burning calories non-stop, even when you step off the machine. This is known as extra-calorie burn, a phenomenon that occurs post-workout as your body recovers

3 Leverage Interval Training

Elliptical-based interval training might be the fastest way to amp your total calorie burn. When your body’s exertion rate goes up momentarily during an interval workout, the body works harder to replenish the used energy. Interval workouts typically maintain your elevated energy system from 48 to 72 hours after a workout session.

It is quite easy to perform an interval workout on an elliptical machine; start with 2 minutes at a 6-10 intensity setting, and follow it up with a minute of perceived exertion rate at a 9-10 intensity level. Repeat this cycle for 20-40 minutes and you will burn more calories than you would have while maintaining a regular pace. Your cardiovascular endurance will also improve.

To burn extra calories after a workout session, perform the Tabata-style workout; pedal intensively for 20 seconds and recover with a 10-second, lower-intensity pedaling. Repeat this pattern, eight times consecutively for four minutes. You can go all out by allowing just two minutes of low-intensity recovery and then executing four minutes of the Tabata-style once more. No doubt, this makes for an extremely challenging workout that is sure to produce substantial calorie burn.

4 Keep your Feet to the Ground

One of the biggest yet overlooked obstacles to rapid calorie burn on an elliptical machine is the position of the feet. How you position your feet while working out can determine your calorie consumption. It is important to keep your feet flat because raising them can cut through your calorie burn faster than you can blink your eye. However, if you cycle with your entire foot without raising the heel, you will engage a great number of muscles in your legs, leading to massive calorie burn and muscle build.

Also, placing your entire weight on your toes or heels can add unnecessary pressure to your knees, causing pain and maximizing injury potential. By doing this, you may also experience tingling or numbness in your legs or feet.

Ultimately, this defeats the original purpose of the trainer which is to replicate natural motions but with minimal stress on the joints. That said, you should strive to evenly distribute your weight to your entire feet so you can experience greater calorie burn and minimal pain.

5 Make Optimum use of the Machine’s Resistance Levels

What happens when you maintain a constant resistant level each time you use the elliptical? Your body gets accustomed to the intensity and you will feel more comfortable with the resistance settings with each passing workout. Though the workout might feel challenging initially, it will lose its “heat” with time and this is an invitation to less calorie burn!

When you become too comfortable using the elliptical trainer, it means you are burning fewer calories than you should. Hence, you need to upgrade your game by altering resistance settings for a varied workout experience. You can start by gradually increasing the machine’s intensity level. Sticking to the same resistance setting is not only boring but detrimental to your performance output.

Have fun with both high and low resistance settings. Essentially, the higher the resistance, the harder your legs will work. Lower resistance levels on the other hand give you time to recover, hence maintaining a healthy intensity equilibrium. If you employ this technique, you will lose a significant amount of calories and your legs will look better for it!

6 Try not to Zone Out

While workout entertainment is great and all that, it might be doing more harm than good. If you find yourself focusing more on TV shows than the workout itself, then it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities.

Admittedly, working out on an elliptical machine can get boring or monotonous quickly, and your phone or IPad can be a great way to pass the time. However, they shouldn’t take precedence over your calorie-burning and performance goals. So rather than watch addictive TV shows or series, listen to motivational music or work-out related podcasts.

Music is a good way to bridge the gap between moderate entertainment and exercise awareness. But if you can’t do without your TV shows, then you need to practice more workout consciousness or find a way to do both simultaneously without sacrificing workout value. Here’s a bonus tip; If you catch yourself leaning on the machine’s support bars or moving at a snail’s pace, correct your stance immediately and get back in sync.

7 Use and Let Go of the Handles Accordingly

You must have heard that elliptical machines are special because they integrate both lower and upper body workouts which translate to greater calorie burn. Be that as it may, you can only leverage this benefit if you know when to use and let go of the handlebars.

Ultimately, letting go of the handlebars activates the muscles in the lower body while making use of them engages the upper body. Using the elliptical “hands-free” will place more pressure on your lower body as the force goes through the glutes and the hamstrings. It also activates the core muscles as you ensure to maintain balance while working your legs.

The moment you’ve learned how to use the ellipticals without holding on to the handlebars, switch it up; let go and use the handlebars intermittently while noting the frequency with which you push and pull the handlebars. Alternate between pumping your upper body for 30 seconds and a minute of total body workout. Repeat this pattern for 20 minutes for good measure.

Ellipticals are great calorie-burning tools, but only when used correctly. Changing certain things or simply adopting these hacks will make a big difference to your workout output and you will notice a significantly greater impact on your calorie record. Every indoor exercise has benefits, you just need to do it correct to maximise the outcome.