What Muscles Do You Work Out on an Elliptical?

Ellipticals are a great piece of exercise equipment for new fitness fanatics and seasoned pros alike. One of the main reasons ellipticals are so popular is because they offer a highly versatile, easily adaptable, total body workout. It may sound like a mouthful, but ellipticals have reigned supreme as one of the best pieces of exercise equipment for many years. Elliptical exercises work various muscle groups simultaneously, and, depending on the type of workout you’re doing, they can pack a punch. This brief guide breaks down exactly which muscles you work out on an elliptical and how you can improve your workout for each muscle group.


The most obvious muscle group that benefits from an elliptical is your legs. Unlike a treadmill, ellipticals only operate with leg movement. Multiple leg muscles engage simultaneously when exercising on an elliptical. The leg muscles that get the most work are your quadriceps and your calves. Your quadriceps are composed of the four muscles at the front of your thigh. They become engaged with knee extension, which is the main driving force on an elliptical machine. To further engage your legs when working out on an elliptical, consider increasing the level on the machine or altering the incline. Many elliptical machines have pre-set options that replicate the feel of walking up and down hills. This will help work your leg muscles in more dynamic ways and will lead to a more successful workout overall.


As with any cardio exercise, an elliptical exercise will also engage your core muscles. In terms of elliptical exercise, this mainly involves your abdominal muscles. When walking or jogging on an elliptical, one must ensure that their posture always remains erect and stable. Proper posture on an elliptical requires that your back is straight and that you don’t favor one leg over the other. To maintain this posture, one must always keep a tight core. As you move through your workout, you may find that your posture has begun to slip. Pay special attention to your form throughout your entire workout, as subpar posture can increase the risk of injury and lead to an unsatisfactory workout.


It may come as a shock to some, but an elliptical workout does exercise various arm muscles. Most ellipticals have handholds that move in tandem with the foot pedals. Though you may not have any weights in hand, moving your arms throughout the course of your elliptical exercise does still engage the biceps and rhomboids. These muscles become engaged when pulling the handlebars in toward your body, while the triceps become engaged when pushing them away.

To find an elliptical that works best for you and to explore other pieces of exercise equipment in Ann Arbor and the surrounding areas, contact our team at American Home Fitness today.