HIIT Elliptical Workout Plan

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Are you one who always strives to up your fitness game? But are you worried your elliptical trainer won't live up to these expectations? Or are you not sure how to use it efficiently? 

Your worries aren’t without reason. The elliptical machine has been labeled as one of the most 'misused' machines in the gym, at least in terms of efficiency. Which in turn, might make you feel reluctant about using it.

Despite this, the elliptical is actually great for high intensity workouts such as HIIT, which can save you a lot of time. So if you crave some tips and ideas on how to do HIIT on your elliptical trainer, keep on reading.

What is a HIIT exercise?

HIIT (high intensity interval training) translates to high intensity interval training and it is exactly what it says. Namely, quick blasts of all you can give, treading and pushing, followed by a slower pace. This slower pace is to recover just enough to then repeat the cycle.

This particular workout ranked as the third most popular fitness trend during 2017, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Its popularity spiked through 2016 and remained firm in the third spot. 

Why HIIT has become this popular would probably be due to its efficiency. If you do it right, you'll be yielding results in a relatively short amount of time. And speaking of time, another definite plus is that it's perfect as an alternative to your midweek workout session. Especially when you're likely tight on time. 

HIIT's quick rounds of intervals will usually cut your workout duration in half, making it the ideal substitute for the working person who's always short on time. 

A specific type of equipment is not necessary when doing HIIT. It's very flexible and can be done using any or no tools. For example, you can also do it with an exercise bicycle, a treadmill or by using your body weight. Nonetheless, many tend to prefer the elliptical to get their HIIT session done. 

The general benefits

While doing HIIT, your body’s heart rate will reach up to 90% of its maximum capacity. During this time, your muscles are working extra hard as they're continually being surprised by new rounds of high intensity and recovery time. 

One significant benefit of HIIT is the metabolic raise it gives your body. It enables you to continue burning calories even hours after your workout has finished. Additionally, it will give your overall endurance a much-needed boost. 

However, in saying this, it should be fair to remind you to avoid overdoing it. Yes, it is beneficial in many ways, but it's not a replacement for your daily cardio session. Keep to one or two HIIT sessions a week. 

The benefits of HIIT on an Elliptical

An elliptical machine will benefit your HIIT session in many ways. For starters, it's a low-impact machine. The motion of your legs as you stride resembles that of running or walking. But your feet are securely planted on the pedals, which means there is nearly no impact. 

It's the perfect tool if you suffer from any ailments in your lower body, such as back, hip, knee or joint pain. Although the exercise bike is similar under these circumstances, the elliptical allows you to work more of your body.

In addition, the low-impact nature of the machine is also a benefit for heavier people, because a overweight person usually puts more pressure on his or her joints due to their weight.

As opposed to a stationary bike where you'll be seated most of your workout, the elliptical demands that you stand. So already you get a more intensive workout. 

Additionally, the moving handlebars permit you to target your upper body during your High Intensity Interval Training as well. If you feel advanced and need a challenge, you could spice it up by going backward and leaning back like you want to sit. This position will target your core and glutes, perfect for toning up those 'trouble areas'.

One significant advantage the elliptical has is that the perceived exertion is much lower than that of other machines. In other words, when using the elliptical, you probably won't notice how tired you really are. This enables you to do a longer high intensity workout and in turn burn more calories.

If you are concerned about contracting injuries, the elliptical is also a lot safer than the treadmill, for example. Since your feet rarely, if ever, leave the pedals, the hard impact is reduced significantly. So you can get the same activity as running but without joint pains.

Are You Ready for HIIT?

HIIT can be a very forgiving workout, suited for various fitness levels. However, if you're used to being mostly inactive, it's not a very good idea to jump straight into a HIIT session on your elliptical machine. 

Even though you are able to reduce the intensity to suit your level, jumping into it too early may be too much. You should refrain from HIIT until you're more comfortable fitness-wise. 

It is recommended waiting until you're able to do 30 minutes straight of low-to-moderate effort on any cardio machine before attempting HIIT. This could be the treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical.

Once you begin to feel comfortable and ready for HIIT, you must find your top level of exertion. Here's where the elliptical has yet another advantage. The machine offers more than speed and incline—namely resistance and handlebars. 

Play around with the console on your elliptical, and find your high intensity level and recovery. This will help you when you begin HIIT.

HIIT Elliptical Machine Workout Program

Here is a short HIIT program. You can change the time of the intervals if they don't suit you.

If you want to work your thighs and glutes, do it during the high intensity phases. Place your hands on the stationary handlebars, this will force your legs to work harder. 

In this program, you'll be doing two minutes of high intensity and one minute recovery. 

  1. Start with resistance and incline at level five.
  2. Increase it to resistance 10, but keep incline at five.
  3. Decrease the resistance to five, incline seven.
  4. Increase resistance to 10, keep incline at seven.
  5. Decrease resistance to seven, increase incline to nine.
  6. Increase resistance to 12, incline at nine.
  7. Resistance at seven, incline nine. Continue for a total of 20 minutes. 

Please watch this video for an easy to follow 20-minute follow-along HIIT workout:


By now you'll probably understand that the elliptical is perfect for a good HIIT session without feeling the hurt of your aching joints afterward. It lets you burn extra calories because you can activate more muscles and alternate by pedaling forward or in reverse.

Do you use your elliptical for HIIT? Please share your experience below.

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