It’s no secret that the elliptical is one of the best ways to burn calories and lose weight. But it’s also not a secret that working out on the elliptical can be boring. And if you don’t do it right, it can even hurt your knees and joints.

That’s why we created this guide—to give you all the tools you need to make sure your workout is effective and safe. We’ll show you how to choose the right machine for your needs, how to adjust its settings so they work with your body type, and how to get the most out of every single minute you spend on it.

We also want to give our readers some advice about what not to do when using an elliptical machine. There are certain things that can actually slow down or stop your weight loss progress (and even cause injury). So before we dive into all of that info, let’s talk about WHY ellipticals are so great.

Right here on Buy and Slay, you are privy to a litany of relevant information on elliptical workout plan for weight loss beginners, effective elliptical workout, obese elliptical workout, and so much more. Take out time to visit our catalog for more information on similar topics.

Elliptical Machine Workout For Weight Loss

Elliptical workouts are an excellent option when it comes to having an all-rounder exercise avenue. Because of the weight-bearing motions that ellipticals offer, less impact is placed on your delicate knee joints, making it a safe alternative to running. It helps you simultaneously tone and strengthen muscles while also giving you cardiovascular exercise modes. 

The elliptical machine can easily be embedded in your weight loss plan, and knowing how to use this machine to lose weight can be paramount to your success. Continue reading to find out which elliptical workouts will help in your weight loss.

Why Elliptical Workouts Help With Weight Loss

If you’re looking for a way to burn calories in a short amount of time, then the elliptical is your answer. The elliptical can burn about 270 to 400 calories in approximately 30 minutes, depending on how much you weigh, of course. 

When you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll shift the weight. The elliptical gives you the flexibility to increase the intensity through resistance and incline, making you use more energy, which burns the excess calories. 

Elliptical machines also give the advantage of providing cardio exercise, which is essential as part of a balanced fitness routine. Combined with the versatility of adding in resistance and incline, you can make your workout more intense to maximize fat burn.

You can also incorporate high-intensity interval training with your cardio workout, which is impossible with many other cardio machines. HIIT workouts burn calories in short periods, which helps you shed that body fat and give your muscles the toning they need. 

To help you find a workout to get you burning maximum calories for weight loss, we’ve put together three calorie-burning plans to help you on your way to your goals.

High-Intensity Interval Training

Your elliptical workouts can incorporate HIIT training. In this training plan, you have 30-40 seconds of high-impact work, where you put in your maximum effort, then have 10-15 seconds of rest. In your rest period, you should continue moving your legs but just slowly. 

Warm-Up: Begin with a warm-up to allow your body to get ready; spend about 5 minutes pedaling at a moderate pace to raise your body temperature slowly. While pedaling, play with the resistance, speed, and incline to see what settings suit you enough to give you a challenge.

Work: Set your timer to about 20 to 30 minutes. Put your maximum effort in and work for 40 seconds and then slow down for a 15-second break. Do this until you complete 20 minutes. Make sure that you aren’t just pedaling with no resistance or incline – have some setup so that your body is challenged to work hard and push through.

Cooldown: When the 20 minutes are up, reduce your speed and pedal slowly for about 5 minutes to lower your heart rate. Come off the machine and stretch out your hamstrings and quads as well as your back to safely complete the workout. 

When you’re ready to move from beginner level to intermediate level, you’ll notice how your recovery times are faster. That’s when you can start your intense bursts for 60 seconds and rest for seconds.

This HIIT training plan on your elliptical is a weight-burning beast. It gives you a fast and effective method to shift weight and burn fat rather than a regular-paced elliptical workout. Short bursts of high intensity will improve your metabolic rate and help you burn calories even after the exercise has been completed. 

Incline Ramp Challenge

This incline challenge is 20 minutes long and uses a combination of pedaling (RPM), incline, and resistance at variable levels to make your muscles work hard to complete a full pedal cycle. 

This workout will add resistance to your pedaling, making it challenging to move your feet. Therefore, you must start slow and add more time to the particular incline level instead of increasing the incline level first. 

Warm-Up: Begin with a 5-minute warm-up to allow your muscles to get ready. Pedal at a moderate pace, which will warm you up, and while pedaling, add some incline and resistance, minimal at first.


  • Set your timer for 5 minutes, perform fast momentum RPM (pedaling) at a low incline and a medium-resistance level.
  • Set another 5 minutes but now perform low momentum RPM (pedaling) at a medium incline and a high-resistance level. 
  • Set 5 minutes again and perform fast momentum RPM (pedaling) at a high incline and a medium-resistance level. 
  • Set 5 minutes and perform medium momentum RPM (pedaling) at a low incline and a high-resistance level.

Cooldown: When your 20 minutes of work are up, reduce your speed and incline and pedal slowly for about 5 minutes to lower your heart rate. Come off the machine and remember to complete the cooldown by stretching out your hamstrings, quads, and glutes to complete the workout safely.

Low to Mid-Intensity Intervals

In contrast to the high-intensity workout that is 20 minutes long but with maximum resistance levels, this one lasts for 45 minutes but at a less intense resistance and incline level. Of course, it does mean that you’re working out for longer, but if you prefer not to use maximum resistance levels, then this one would be ideal for you.

Some elliptical machines have a setting specifically for mid-intensity long intervals, but if they don’t, then follow the steps below.

Warm-Up: A warm-up, to begin with, will support your muscles to prepare them for the work ahead. Pedal slowly with a low level of resistance and incline and do this for 5 minutes.

Work: Split your 45-minute workout into 5 minutes of work. Next, alternate 5-minute sets with difficulty levels of 6/10 and then 4/10, where you apply resistance and incline to challenge yourself. Repeat these circuits till the 45-minute mark.

Cooldown: After completing the workout, spend 5 minutes at a difficulty level of about 3/10, which will allow you to return your heart rate to a resting level. Make sure you complete the essential stretches for your legs to finish. 

Final Words 

Elliptical machines provide perfect workouts for weight loss. Some of the best ones are the Schwinn Elliptical 430, the Proform Elliptical 520E, the Spacesaver SE7i, and the Body Rider Dual Trainer.

Use the HIIT on elliptical workouts above to plan your workouts so that you can burn maximum calories to aid your weight loss journey. 

All three workouts have different styles, and some have shorter periods than others, so even if you’re short of time, there’s no excuse not to take advantage of your elliptical machine. If you’re a beginner, start gradually and build your endurance and muscle mass so you can perform better. 

Don’t be put off if you aren’t able to complete the whole 20 minutes at first. But remember not to give up; remind yourself of the benefits working out can provide!

Are ellipticals good for weight loss? 

There is a formula that estimates the number of calories burned on an elliptical machine during a 30-minute workout, based on weight. The approximate number of calories someone burns while exercising for 30 minutes on an elliptical is their weight in pounds multiplied by 2.16. 

Remember that this is just an estimate. Each person exercises at a different level of intensity, and it’s impossible to determine an exact amount of calories that will be burned while doing this type of exercise. 

The average daily caloric intake for a moderately active 26-year-old woman is 2,600 calories (to maintain their weight). Estimating a weight of about 150 pounds, a 60-minute workout would burn about 650 calories. Adding in any other activities, such as steps taken or flights of stairs climbed throughout the day, ellipticals for weight loss may be a viable option.

Benefits of cardio training

One of the biggest benefits of using an elliptical for weight loss is that it can incorporate cardio training into a workout routine. According to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, in order to attain the most health benefits from physical activity, adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking or fast dancing. Adults also need muscle-strengthening activity, like lifting weights or doing push-ups, at least two days a week.

An elliptical weight-loss plan can accomplish both of these suggested tasks.

Studies have also shown that these forms of exercise can improve creativity in children; improve sleep, energy levels, hormonal balance, sexual function, and mental status in adults; increase blood flow to the areas of the brain that are responsible for cognitive functions (in all ages); and decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.

Elliptical training tricks

There are a lot of myths about the benefits of exercise as well as how and when to do it. As with any other exercise, it’s important to allow for time before and after the elliptical workout for stretching and cooling down. 

Certain phases of the menstrual cycle can increase susceptibility to heat-related conditions. Taking extra steps to keep cool and hydrated during a workout can be a good preventative measure. This can be accomplished by working out during the cooler part of the day or by having air conditioning or a fan nearby. However, exercising at any time during the menstrual cycle can be beneficial, including during your period, to relieve cramping and bloating. Listening to the body’s signals and regulating workouts accordingly can help keep exercise sustainable and manageable.

Elliptical machines are designed to simulate cross-country skiing. It is meant to be a smooth, gliding motion. When the legs and arms are moving forward and backward, the rest of the body should not be bouncing. This takes away the low-impact benefits and can actually cause harm to the joints if done improperly. Exercises should not cause pain or hurt in a particular area when performing them. This could be a sign of an injury or that the exercise is not being done correctly.

Elliptical Workout Plan For Weight Loss Beginners

With their no-frills features and intuitive design, ellipticals might just be one of the least intimidating machines at the gym. But just because they’re simple in nature doesn’t mean they can’t give you a fire workout.

“Ellipticals are helpful to build cardiovascular endurance—so it’s good for your heart,” says Amber Harris, an ACE-certified personal trainer and RRCA-certified running coach. “It’s also low impact, so it’s good for beginners or those who have joint issues, and it’s easier on your hips on knees than running or walking on the treadmill.” Add in the resistance from the incline and the movement you get from holding onto the machine’s handles, and you’ve got a total-body cardio workout.

Plus, this combination of low-impact work and ease of use is what makes it a great tool to introduce cardiovascular exercise to gym newbies, says Harris. When you take a jog on the treadmill, you put all of your body weight onto one foot with every step. As your foot hits the ground, the impact travels all the way up through the body, she explains. An elliptical, on the other hand, is designed to stay in contact with your feet throughout the entire workout, meaning you don’t get the same jolt of impact when you move the pedals.

That same trait can make ellipticals a safer cardio option, especially if you’ve never used a machine before. “I think the treadmill can be intimidating, especially if you’re just starting out, and I think a lot of people just go balls to the wall,” says Harris. “If you’re running and don’t know how to properly use it, you can fly off the back and injure yourself. But with an elliptical, you just hop on it, hit the manual button, and go.”

Ready to give the elliptical machine the ‘ol college try? Follow these tips to build an effective cardio workout the next time you hit the gym, then try out an expert-approved elliptical workout for beginners.

How to Build an Elliptical Workout for Beginners

Ellipticals often get a bad rap for being ~easy~, and to be fair, they can be if you’re just moseying around on an incline level of one. In order to have an effective, efficient elliptical workout, you need to be intentional with your time, says Harris. “You should see your heart rate go up, your breathing rate should increase, but if you’re just getting on there to read a magazine or hang out, you might not see the benefits that you’re looking for,” she says.

Admittedly, using an elliptical—or any cardio machine—to get your sweat on can be incredibly boring. That’s why Janeil Mason, the creator of Fit and Lit fitness classes who holds a masters in exercise physiology, recommends having a playlist of bops, a go-to podcast, or an e-book at the ready to actually enjoy (*gasp*) your time on the machine. “Listening to lectures if you’re a student or listening to something for work while on an elliptical is doable since it’s an exercise that requires less thought as you become more comfortable on the machine,” she explains. Just make sure you’re still giving the elliptical machine your A-game while you do so.

And while you might feel tempted to painstakingly watch the little screen showing the number of calories you’ve burned, Mason stresses that there’s no need to obsess over it. “The caloric expenditure calibrated on the elliptical is usually inaccurate since it’s calibrated using steps and the action you’re doing on the elliptical is not a stepping action,” she explains. “Instead focus on your rate of perceived rate of exertion (RPE) to measure if you are getting a good workout.”

Adding Incline and Speed

That RPE is the key factor in starting an elliptical workout for beginners—and adjusting it as your fitness increases.When you first jump on the elliptical machine (after situating your entire foot on the pedals and grabbing hold of the handlebars), set your incline at a grade that’s anywhere between a flat road and the steepest incline available. Your RPE should be at a 4, and you should be able to move at a conversational pace, meaning you can sing your ABCs and not feel like you’re out of breath for 10 minutes. If it’s too tough, dial the incline back until you reach that RPE, says Harris. (Reminder: Your RPE is a way to measure your activity’s intensity level, based on how hard you feel like your body is working on a scale of 1-10. An RPE of 1 would be easy peasy and 10 would be an all-out maximum effort.)

Once you can hold that steady pace for 10 to 15 minutes, it’s time to incorporate intervals into your elliptical workout for beginners. Doing so will provide some much-needed mental variety *and* help you improve your aerobic capacity and burn more calories. Start your workout out with a 5-minute warm-up at RPE 4, which will help lubricate the joints and increase blood flow to your muscles, says Mason. Then bump your RPE up to a 6 or 7 (you should feel just winded, but not like you’re dying) for 2 minutes, suggests Harris. To hit that RPE, try increasing the ramp incline or your speed (re: the rate at which you’re pedaling).

After that 2-minute interval of working at a higher intensity, bring your effort level back down to an RPE of 4 for 3 minutes to recover. “Recovery is important for your body to reset,” says Harris. “You’ll bring your heart rate back down and bring your breathing under control so you can up that work effort again.” When you’re just starting out with your elliptical workout for beginners, your work-to-rest ratio shouldn’t dip below 1:1—so if you’re pushing hard for 2 minutes, take at least 2 minutes to let your body recover. If you skip this rest period or make it shorter, you could create extra stress on the body, possibly causing injury or stress to the heart, says Harris. “It’s just safer to do [a 1:1 ratio] for a beginner.”

Once you’ve recovered a bit, repeat this interval cycle as many times as you’d like. Then, follow up with a 5-minute cool down at RPE 4. (And if you love this type of interval training, you’ll definitely want to add these workouts to the to-do list.)

Incorporating Resistance

If you’re using an elliptical machine that allows you to increase both incline *and* resistance, Harris recommends holding off on adjusting resistance until you’re comfortable exercising for 20 to 30 minutes at a conversational pace, as this setting requires a bit more endurance. Once you’re ready to start incorporating resistance into your elliptical routine, dedicate one workout each week to adjusting only the resistance (re: don’t touch the incline) and follow the same RPE guidelines as you would when changing the incline. And by switching up the resistance, you’ll see a few small gains in the muscle department: “The more resistance you have, the harder your body’s working and the more muscles you’re using,” says Harris. (This cardio-strength interval workout will also give you the best of both worlds.)

When you do adjust the resistance, find a setting that makes you feel in control of the elliptical machine, rather than the machine’s in control of you, she adds. You should have enough resistance that you don’t feel like you’re pedaling at 400 miles an hour, but you shouldn’t have too much that you can barely move.

Determining the Length and Frequency of Your Elliptical Workouts

If you’re completely new to cardio, the expression “the more, the merrier” doesn’t necessarily apply. “A lot of beginners start out extreme, and then they [get] hurt, can’t move, and then quit,” says Harris.

For that same reason, Mason recommends those who have a completely sedentary lifestyle start off by using the elliptical machine for 10 minutes a day, three times a week, and slowly work their way up to 30-minute workouts, five times a week. Once you create that routine, you’ll meet the American Heart Association’s recommendation to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, she explains. “Some movement is better than no movement, and everyone’s beginner fitness level will be unique to them,” Mason says. “Start with what feels attainable for you and then gradually start to challenge yourself as the weeks go by and it starts to become too easy.”

And remember, rest days are not the enemy. By spacing out your elliptical workouts with a single rest day in between, you’ll give your body enough time to recover from the sweat session. Plus, it’s still frequent enough that the machine doesn’t feel completely foreign every time you step on it, says Mason. “If you take a more moderate approach, working at that conversational pace, taking a day off, and hitting it the next, you’re going to be able to move and function,” adds Harris. “Your body’s going to feel good.” (PSA: Rest days should be about active recovery, not sitting on your butt doing nothing.)

20-Minute Interval Elliptical Workout for Beginners

Ready to tackle the elliptical but don’t know how to get started? Follow Harris’ simple elliptical workout for beginners to get all the cardiovascular perks of the machine. As you become more conditioned, decrease the recovery period in between pushes—just don’t go below a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio

Effective Elliptical Workout

Love it or hate it, the elliptical is a mainstay when it comes to cardio machines. The treadmill’s lower-impact cousin, the elliptical, mimics the movement of running without all that stress on your joints while also building endurance and strength. And while it may seem easiest to zone out on the elliptical at one speed, there are tons of dynamic workouts to pick from when it comes to leveling up your cardio session. To help, trainers share the best elliptical workouts for folks of all fitness backgrounds, whether this is your first time setting foot on the machine or you’re a seasoned pro.

Beginner Circuits

New to ellipticals? No problem. Get a feel for the machine and the different resistance settings with this simple but effective circuit workout from certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist Holly Roser. Cycle through the below intervals five times total for a complete sweat session.

  • One minute at level six
  • Two minutes at level seven
  • One minute at level four
  • One minute at level six

Beginner Endurance Intervals

Loved Roser’s circuit sequence? Take it up a notch with these longer intervals to challenge your endurance while still keeping things straightforward as you adjust to new equipment. Repeat the intervals twice through for a full 20-minute session.

  • Three minutes at level four
  • Two minutes at level six
  • Three minutes at level four
  • Two minutes at level six

Beginner Booty Back Workout

Looking for an easy hack to diversify your elliptical routine? Certified personal trainer and fitness instructor Donna Walker has got your back. Just do your usual workout, but pedaling the elliptical backward instead of forwards. To switch things up, try the above beginner workouts with reverse pedaling to better engage muscles like your calves and quads and keep things interesting, she says.

Intermediate Cardio HIIT

If you’re somewhat friendly with the elliptical and want to crank up your cardio, Roser’s 25-minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout is sure to deliver. Alternate short bursts of intense exercise with periods of less strenuous activity to get your heart pumping and leg muscles working more quickly than lower-intensity workouts.

  • Five-minute warm-up at level five
  • Three minutes at level seven
  • One minute at level 12
  • One minute at level eight
  • Repeat five times. 
  • Three-minute cool-down at level six
  • Conclude with a stretch. Roser recommends stretching each major muscle group for a minute each.

Intermediate Push and Pull Workout

It can feel strange to pedal the elliptical in reverse, and there’s a reason for that: It engages other muscles and challenges your balance and coordination differently than using the elliptical the traditional way, says Walker. And this workout takes full advantage of those challenges by switching between forward and backward pedaling to boost your mobility and coordination while still building strength and endurance. Stick with level 5 resistance after your warm-up, or opt for a different setting based on your preferences to customize this workout to your body.

  • Five-minute warm-up at level five
  • Pedal forward for two minutes.
  • Pedal backward for two minutes.
  • Repeat 10-12 times.
  • Cool-down at level five for five-to-ten minutes.

Intermediate Resistance Intervals

You don’t need to have access to hills to get a hill workout in. This interval-based sequence from Roser is heavy on the resistance so that your legs have to put in overtime to keep the elliptical pedals turning before you wind down with a lower-resistance reprieve. Though it may not be easy at the moment, your body will thank you.

  • Two minutes at level seven
  • One minute at level ten
  • One minute at level five
  • Two minutes at level 10
  • One minute at level seven
  • Three minutes at level six
  • Repeat three times.

Advanced High-Resistance Bursts

Perhaps the elliptical section is your go-to spot when you hit the gym. If that sounds like you, then this advanced workout from Roser could be the latest addition to your cardio routine. But advanced doesn’t necessarily mean complicated: This sequence features one high-resistance interval on repeat to help you feel the burn quickly and efficiently.

  • One minute at level five
  • One minute at level 13
  • One minute at level five
  • Repeat for 20 minutes.

Advanced Repeating Interval

If you loved slaying those tough intervals in the previous workout, then this challenging HIIT session from Walker will get your heart pounding all over again. Keep your heart rate up by alternating high-effort and maximum-effort intervals to get your sweat on in mere minutes.

  • Five-minute warm-up at level five

Section one:

  • Two minutes at level 10
  • One minute at level 15
  • Repeat twice.

Section two:

  • One minute at level 10
  • Two minutes at level 15
  • Repeat four times.

Section three:

  • One minute at level 15
  • Two minutes at level 10
  • One minute at level 15
  • Five-minute cool-down at level five 

Advanced Slow and Steady Circuits

Moving fast isn’t always best, and this workout from Roser is no exception. Alternate high- and then higher-resistance intervals to put your muscle strength and endurance to the test. Though you may not be moving quickly, there’s no doubt that your body will be working hard.

  • One minute at level 12
  • Two minutes at level 11
  • One minute at level 13
  • One minute at level 12
  • Repeat five times.

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