Abs are the dream. No number on the scale beats the moment you raise your shirt and find those rectangular muscles coming out of their hiding. But how do we get them to come to light?
If you have a cross trainer in your home gym or just prefer it for your sweat sessions, you’re probably wondering whether you can use it to drop the extra belly fat.
While the benefits of the elliptical machine on cardiovascular health and bone density are clear, the answer isn’t that direct when it comes to losing abdominal fat and bulking your core muscles.
In this article, we’re going to discuss whether ellipticals work abs and the right strategies to get these hunks of metal to strengthen your core and burn more calories as well as body fat. So let’s get started!
Is the Elliptical Good for Belly Fat?
The elliptical machine provides an effective aerobic workout that helps burn calories and reduce overall belly girth, but not in a direct way. To understand how that happens, first, you need to know that no cardio machine is capable of targeting a specific body area.
When you do aerobic exercise, you burn a certain amount of calories and consequently lose weight, but the area from which you shed fat isn’t determined in advance. During the weight loss process, fat stores are tapped evenly throughout your body, so it’s impossible to spot-reduce fat.
Many factors control where you lose body fat first, including your gender, genetics, lifestyle, and unique body composition. For example, women tend to lose weight from their hips and thighs first because they tend to store more fat in these areas. On the other hand, stomach fat loss is easier in men as fat tends to accumulate more in their abdominal areas.
So what elliptical machines do is that they target weight loss from your entire body and, consequently, your belly.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, a 30-minute elliptical trainer workout burns 270-380 calories. That’s more than what a stationary bike or a rowing machine exercise achieves. That also means you can drop 1-2 pounds by working out on a cross-trainer at moderate to high intensity for 30 minutes daily.
Does the Elliptical Work Out Abs and Core?
When it comes to abs, it’s a whole different story. Abs are a part of your core muscles. They aren’t fat, so they can be targeted by specific exercises.
The elliptical machine allows for circular leg motion with the upper body engaged through the moving handlebars, so it provides a full-body workout. When your arms and legs move simultaneously, your abdominal muscle gets involved automatically to support your body.
So the elliptical trainer does provide an effective workout for your core and back muscles, yet not as effective as resistance training.
This thing is your abs and core move when you exercise on the elliptical machine, but they don’t get damaged. This damage is what causes muscles to grow in size as your body replaces the damaged fibers with thicker ones to bulk up and protect them from future injury. Strength training, on the other hand, injures your ab muscles forcing them to grow and pop out.
So if you’re asking whether the elliptical trainer engages your abs and enhances your core strength, then yes, it does, but it doesn’t increase their mass. For that reason, it’s recommended that you mix elliptical machine workouts with strength training exercises, like leg lifts and mountain climbers, if your goal is to lose belly fat and reveal your six-pack abs.
How to Work Your Abdominal Muscles With the Elliptical Machine
Now that you know that elliptical training can help you engage your abs, here are a few tips to help you get the best core exercise out of the elliptical machine.
Focus On Burning Calories
There is a famous saying that ”abs are made in the kitchen.” Although most people think they can build abs by working out this specific muscle group vigorously, the primary way to achieve this defined shape is to burn calories.
The muscles are already there; you just need to remove this outer layer of fat for them to be visible. That’s why your workout program should be about getting you to be somewhere in the 8-12% body fat range.
The elliptical machine can help you achieve that goal, especially if you do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, which allow your body to keep burning calories even after finishing the elliptical exercise.
Let Go of the Handles
To incorporate your core in this cardiovascular workout, you must maintain proper posture and flex your abdominal muscles while moving your arms and legs.
The best way to achieve that is by letting go of the handlebars. When you aren’t supporting your weight on your upper body, your body exerts more effort to keep its balance, engaging your abdominal and back muscles.
If you feel like you’ll trip or fall when you let go of the handlebars completely, you can hold onto them while loosening your grip. This way, you’ll still feel balanced without taking away from your core muscles work.
Amp Up the Resistance
The more resistance you face, the more muscles you use while working out – these include your core muscles. When you increase the elliptical machine’s resistance, it becomes harder to push on the foot pedals, which requires you to use more force coming from your lower body and core at the same time.
That’s why it’s recommended not to keep your entire workout at the same low-intensity level and to challenge yourself with high resistance.
Mix Your Elliptical Workout With Abdominal Exercises
As we said before, the key to building a strong core is to blend cardiovascular workouts with strength training. You can’t reach your “defined abs” goal with only one of them.
According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, ab-strengthening exercises have minimal effect on visceral fat, while cardio exercises don’t build core muscles. Therefore, the only way to build abs is by incorporating both workout types in your training routine.
Mixed Elliptical Workouts to Tone Your Stomach
Time to put everything we’ve learned into practice! The following elliptical workouts are designed to help you sweat it while working on slimming your midsection.
This elliptical workout, designed by Allison Berry from Crunch, includes a mix of clockwise and anti-clockwise leg movements associated with “hands-on” and “hands-off” periods. The result is an exercise that engages the whole body, including the arms, lower body, core, and back. To perform this exercise, follow the following table:
|Time||Leg and Hand Rotation||Incline||Resistance|
|0:00 – 3:00||Legs forward – hands-on||9%||6|
|3:00 – 6:00||Legs forward – hands-on||9%||12|
|6:00 – 9:00||Legs backward – hands-on||9%||12|
|9:00 – 12:00||Legs forward – hands-on||9%||13|
|12:00 – 15:00||Legs backward – hands-off||9%||13|
|15:00 – 18:00||Legs forward – hands-off||9%||14|
|18:00 – 21:00||Legs backward – hands-on||9%||14|
|21:00 – 24:00||Legs forward – hands-on||9%||15|
|24:00 – 27:00||Legs backward – hands-on||9%||15|
|27:00 – 30:00||Legs forward – hands-on||9%||6|
This is an upgrade of the previous workout, where you apply varying intensities while engaging your core muscles. To perform this exercise, follow the following steps:
- Warm up for 5 minutes with the resistance set at 3.
- Jog on the elliptical with your hands off for 2 minutes – resistance at 4.
- Pedal backward with your hands on for 2 minutes – resistance at 5.
- Sprint forward for 1 minute with the resistance at 6.
- Jog on the elliptical with your hands off for 2 minutes – resistance at 7.
- Pedal backward with your hands on for 2 minutes – resistance at 8.
- Sprint forward for 1 minute with the resistance at 9.
- Jog on the elliptical with your hands off for 2 minutes – resistance at 10.
- Push hard with your arms at maximum resistance for 1 minute.
- Sprint forward with your hands off for 1 minute – resistance at 10.
- Cool down by going for a sprint for 5 minutes with no resistance.
Emma James, 29 years old professional fitness trainer with Bachelor’s degree in Physical Fitness Technician from Boston University.