The beauty of the elliptical is that you can find one in almost any gym—even that dodgy hotel one with bad lighting. The less appealing part? There’s nothing to do but slog through your allotted time on it, dutifully moving your legs forward and backward while watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Hold up: That is not true. There’s so much more you can do on the elliptical than move in a boring linear motion, and certified personal trainer and creator of the Fit Body Guides Anna Victoria is here to prove it. “I didn’t use the elliptical for a while because I felt it didn’t do much, but then I was like, 'How can I make this more interesting?'” she says.
She started upping the resistance and changing positions to see how she could safely engage her muscles, keep her heart rate up, and make the time go by faster. “Sometimes you associate low-impact workouts with being like, 'Meh, I’m not doing anything,’ but you can still have a really intense low-impact workout,” she says.
Don’t believe her? Just try this workout she created the next time you’re on the machine.
How to use this list: Grab an elliptical at the gym. Anna Victoria is on the Technogym Cross Personal. Perform the moves for the times indicated below. Repeat the circuit 3 to 4 times through. “Really engage your core and abs so you’re not just moving your body,” she says. “That will help you get a better workout overall.”
1. Upright Backward Pedal
Start standing on the platforms with feet toward the back. Holding on to the handlebars, engage core and pedal backward like you're donkey-kicking the platforms away from your feet. You should feel this more in your glutes and hamstrings.
2. Squat Back, Stationary Hold
Holding onto the center console with an underhand grip, hinge at hips to sit back into a squat with arms fully extended. Pedal backward, pushing through your heels to engage the glutes. Try to keep chest lifted and upper body as still as possible.
3. No Hands
This will challenge your balance and core, so use a higher resistance to make it work. With heels at the back of the platforms and hands clasped in front of chest, hinge at hips to squat back as low as possible. Press through heels to pedal backward.
4. Single-Leg With Abdominal Crunch
Lower the resistance to medium. Holding on to the handles, lift right foot off the platform by drawing knee to chest. Perform a mini crunch then kick foot back to gain momentum. This will help you pedal forward, using only your left leg and arms. Sure, it may look a little funny in the gym, but just own it! Then repeat on other leg.
5. Push-Up Pedal
Holding onto the center console, lean forward and bend elbows to 90 degrees so that arms are in mini push-up position. Position feet toward the back of the pedals and kick back to pedal backward.
6. Squat Back and Pull
Up the resistance. With feet positioned in the back of platforms, grab the handles with an underhand grip—this will engage your biceps more. Squat back and pedal backward—the higher resistance will force you to put weight in your heels. Lightly pull handles forward as you pedal to challenge your upper-body endurance.
7. Upright Pedal Push
With feet in center of platforms, grab onto handles. Pedal forward to gain momentum. Once you have the machine moving, try to keep the momentum going with just your arms by engaging chest muscles to push handles forward and pull them back.