What Muscles Does the Elliptical Work – Ultimate Guide 2024

Of course, you could avoid writing an entire article and simply answer the question we posed in the title by limiting yourself to a simple list of muscles that you will improve as you train on elliptical machines. However, it’s a lot more complicated than providing a simple list with a list.

Using an elliptical trainer correctly is a simple enough thing if you look at it from the technical execution side, but sometimes you can get it all wrong and focus on the wrong areas.

That’s why we’ve decided to walk you through the ins and outs of using elliptical trainers for an effective workout and find the answer to the question – What Muscles Does The Elliptical Work.

A Better Understanding of What Muscles Does The Elliptical Machine Work

What Muscles Does The Elliptical Machine Work

The basic understanding of success with this equipment is that you, the one using the elliptical, want to create the necessary energy to run the machine by putting your own effort into it. This is the main difference between an elliptical trainer and a conventional treadmill.

You can use the treadmill by setting the desired speed, switching to easy walking mode, while planning your day or dreaming about the future. Using an elliptical, on the other hand, requires you to focus both physically and mentally, so that every effort you make will benefit you.

Buying expensive equipment or taking professional advice is only up to a point, in the end it is you who will put in the effort and you calculate your capabilities, this is a major aspect that should not be forgotten as you progress in your workouts, improving your results.

You should also remember that while an elliptical trainer is capable of giving you effective ways to train your whole body, it is unlikely to be able to give you the ability to increase the girth and size of your frame as conventional weightlifting offers.

The main benefit of working out on elliptical machines is to stabilize your cardiovascular system and the endurance capacity of your muscles, not to increase your physique. If your goal is to become muscular and get bigger and fitter, we advise you to leave the elliptical machines and do weightlifting.

You can start with a basic training plan based on a set of standard exercises including squats, deadlifts, and bench press, and then when you’ve perfected the standard set of exercises, gain weight and move on using the popular progressive overload method.

We also want to detail for you the main advantages that the elliptical trainer offers over other cardio machines.

What Muscles Does The Elliptical Work: Ellipticals vs. Other Machines

What Muscles Does The Elliptical Machine Work

Treadmills can put a serious strain on your body during a workout. Many runners claim that one kilometer of outdoor running equals four miles on a treadmill.

However, the impact it has on your joints doesn’t get much lower when you compare it to running outdoors, so we conclude that it simply puts a drastic increase in the standard load on your joints.

The elliptical keeps your feet constantly on the pedals, which removes the risk of severe joint strain and creates the necessary cushioning, making it a good option for people who suffer from severe arthritis pain but still want to keep their body in shape.

Rowing machines are good for training your arms and heart, but they cannot give a proper workout for your legs. Many people don’t realize this at all, but your arms are just as effective on an elliptical as on a rowing machine, while improving your legs, heart and endurance.

And moving on to the last point: cycle trainers, which are considered to be a great option and also low resistance. In fact, these are machines that many physiotherapists recommend for warming up patients after knee surgery.

They are able to give a low impact, but effectively keep your leg muscles toned, especially at high resistance, and help you through a cardio workout. But there is a drawback here too: these machines do not affect your arms in any way, not improving them at all.

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So once again we come to the conclusion that if your goal is a full-body workout, you should opt for an elliptical trainer.

What Elliptical Muscles Do Elliptical Workouts Focus On?

What Muscles Does The Elliptical Machine Work

Elliptical Muscles Worked of the Upper Legs

Here’s a list of the muscles that will get an effective workout on the elliptical trainer:


Many people put the thigh muscles, especially those in the hamstrings, at the top of their muscle list. It is the hamstring muscles that play a big role in the issue of stability. You hardly pay attention to them when you’re walking down the street or up a hill, but they work for you fully when you’re making the descent from a very steep hill.

Have you ever been running down a high hill and had the feeling that you were about to fall and roll down if you couldn’t keep your balance during the descent? Remember that feeling of slight resistance you might have felt at the back of your legs?

This is a sign that your hamstrings have kicked in. They play an important role in maintaining balance, so it’s a very good idea to keep them toned and stretched at all times.

  • The semi-tendon muscle – it is a great aid in rotating the tibia on the thigh bone when you choose to bend your knee and rotates the femur when you extend the hip. It also helps you bend forward by serving as a counterforce.
  • Semimembranosus – it plays a big role in hip extension and when you bend your knee. Gives you some support because it rotates the knee joint medially.
  • Biceps femoris – both of its heads help to bend your knees. The longest of the two is in the pelvis and gives you extra support when you bend your hip.

This is very important to understand because when you start working out on an elliptical and start your forward movement, your hamstrings are activated and start working to keep your hips straight and your knees on the correct trajectory, so they help you hold your body during the workout, especially when you are actively moving.

The result will be the right amount of tension placed on the hamstrings, enough to load them normally while getting the output you expect: increased stability, toned muscles and strength.


Another advantage is the quadriceps anterior thigh muscle.

  • Rectus Femoris – This fits to the hip joint, facilitates hip flexion and enables you to extend your knee.
  • Vastus Intermedius and Vastus Lateralis – Tendons of the quadriceps muscle that attach to the base of your patella and to the tubercle of your tibia with a ligament. Helps to extend the legs at the knees.
  • Vastus Medialis – Tendon of the quadriceps muscle, which is attached to the base of the patella and to the tuberosity of the tibia by a ligament. Allows leg extension at the knees.

What muscles does the elliptical work out? This set of quadriceps is quite important when you use your elliptical trainer for training. They work together to extend the knee joint and support it during any type of movement, be it walking, running, jumping or bending.

These muscles can be trained very effectively because they are one of the main driving forces in our body when you train on an elliptical trainer.

Don’t panic if you suddenly don’t get the feeling that your quadriceps are working out along with the other muscles. There is a reason for this: The fact is that the elliptical trainer is designed to train the entire body while providing low resistance.

Therefore, your quadriceps are subjected to a lower load than in other forms of training. If you still want to feel some return or sensation from the workout, simply increase the resistance level on your elliptical or work out by pedaling backward.

It is worth noting that training on an elliptical trainer will benefit you far more than using an exercise bike for the same purpose. Scientists have been able to prove that if you train consistently for thirty minutes on a specific program five days a week, you will quickly notice great results and feel the progress of a productive workout.

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Other Muscles

Consider other body parts that will benefit from elliptical training – the gluteal muscles and hip flexors. What muscles does an elliptical tone? All gluteal muscles will always be toned if you don’t neglect your elliptical training and increase your activity.

  • Gluteus Maximus – Extends the hip at the gluteus femoris and iliotibial tract. Flexes the femur at the hip, turns the femur sideways, abducts the femur at the thigh.
  • Gluteus medius – insertions on the lateral and upper faces of the large trochanter of the femur. Operates on retraction, turning the hip to the side and to the inside.
  • Gluteus Minimus – Inlays on the front face of the large acetabulum of the femur. Pulls back and swings the thigh onto the inward side of the thighbone

The gluteal muscles are quite a big muscle, if not the biggest muscle in your body, and yet they are often forgotten about during your workouts. There are only three of them and they are inextricably linked as they work side by side, allowing you to make movements from one side to the other, extend your hip and control hip rotation, both on the outside and inside.

By slowly rocking the elliptical movement, you can strengthen your gluteal muscles quite a bit without putting as much strain on all your joints as you might see with a treadmill workout.

By strengthening these muscles carefully, you will avoid a lot of future injuries and develop into a great athlete in many sports, giving you the incredible opportunity to train in a balanced way and excel in disciplines such as running, jumping and other workouts.

There’s a fairly simple yet great way to increase the effectiveness of the elliptical in terms of working these muscles – just try experimenting with it.

For example, you can set the resistance level a couple of notches higher to put more strain on your muscles and make them work harder and you’ll be pedaling a lot harder, which will not only tone up your muscles but your cardio as well.

Let’s give you another rather useful tip for your training – just squat. If you have ever seen the squatting technique in your life, you can use this technique directly on your own elliptical.

We give you a one hundred percent guarantee that your gluteal muscles will start to pump quite quickly, while you will also improve your quadriceps. That’s interesting enough, don’t you think?

It’s worth saying that it’s likely to pass you by improving your abs and trunk, but we guarantee you that if you use this technique and pedal, your trunk will thank you a lot too.

After all, it will get involved in order to maintain your balance while you move, without even paying attention to the fact that you are actually in an irregular squatting position.

Muscles of the Upper Body

Almost every exercise available will give many benefits to these muscles. Since the time you spend with an elliptical trainer is called aerobic exercise, you will bring a huge amount of benefit to your heart. What does an elliptical machine target?

If you use this elliptical trainer correctly, you’ll be able to repeat fairly smooth movements, such as going up and downstairs and riding your bike lightly at ease.

As we’ve said many times before in this and other articles, this machine will protect you from injury, but it will also work elliptical muscles targeted all over your body, including your heart.

You will also have access to cardiovascular training through exercises that will help you effectively get rid of excess calories, greatly increase your endurance and improve your overall muscular tone.

Exercising on an elliptical will also give you many benefits for your upper body, especially if you have purchased so-called poles in addition to the elliptical to help you simulate cross-country skiing in winter. Working the sticks will engage your triceps, your chest muscles, as well as your deltoids and biceps.

In addition, you will quickly notice significant benefits for the upper half of your back and shoulders. But the middle and upper arms are not the only areas that will benefit from regular use of the elliptical trainer. There are other elliptical muscles used groups that you can effectively improve on it.

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Muscles of the Lower Leg

As we wrote above, you will be able to work on your hamstrings and your quadriceps in the upper leg, and you will also do a great job on your calves.

The ability to pedal backward and adjust the incline means you can concentrate on your legs and thighs far more effectively than you would on a normal walk or ride on a stationary bike.

All two main muscles of the lower leg will slowly become stronger, which will make it much easier for you to lift after sitting for long periods of time. You will eventually realize and be surprised to find that your legs have increased in stamina significantly and you can now walk long distances without any previous fatigue.

In General: What Muscles Does An Elliptical Work

What Muscles Does The Elliptical Machine Work

The benefits of the elliptical machine are that it simultaneously trains several muscle groups. What muscles do ellipticals work? The elliptical trainer trains many parts of the body at the same time:

  • the back;
  • arms;
  • waist;
  • the buttocks;

The elliptical trainer could well be called a universal machine. In terms of its properties, it is capable of replacing five fitness machines at once. It can simulate running, skiing, steppers and dumbbells. However, it does not cause any damage to your joints that a strength-training session might provoke.

This means that the machine will be useful even for older people who want to lose weight. The benefits of the elliptical trainer for different muscle groups have been proven practically.

The benefits of exercising on the machine are manifold. The ellipsoid offers quite comfortable movement dynamics. Exercising on an elliptical is reminiscent of bobbing on waves, flying on an airplane or skiing. This workout will not only help you lose weight but also relax you. Its benefits also include minimal risk of injury, as well as a lighter load.

When a person works out on an elliptical trainer, their legs will remain slightly bent. This ensures that the muscle groups, rather than the joints, are under more strain. While running can cause damage to your knee or ankle, this risk is completely eliminated on the elliptical.

Elliptical machine muscles worked is an excellent cardio benefit for people with joint problems or obesity. The benefits come from the absence of shocks and jolts.

Other benefits include the use of many muscles and minimal strain on the joints. Not only the buttocks and legs but also the back and arms are strained during the workout.

This means that a single workout is a group exercise that involves the upper and lower body. The benefits of the elliptical trainer can be compared to the effects of skiing but in a slightly distant way.

To maximize the benefits and avoid harming yourself when exercising, certain rules must be followed. A warm-up of 10 to 15 minutes is required before the workout.

This is necessary for the proper functioning of the heart and blood vessels. This applies not only to the ellipsoid but also to all other exercises.

You can then start exercising on the elliptical. As soon as you start moving your legs, there is a feeling of weightlessness. This effect means that the exercise puts very little strain on the spine and joints.

However, if you immediately start exercising too intensively, you can be self-harming. To benefit from this, you should start with the easiest exercises and gradually progress to the hardest ones.

Only then will the benefits of training become visible very quickly. During the exercise you may feel that your body gets hot, your pulse becomes rapid and you start sweating a lot.

All this means that fat burning starts quickly and the necessary effect of the elliptical device is produced, helping to burn a large number of calories.

Based on the above, the health benefits and harms of the elliptical trainer are unique. It can help you lose weight and improve your body shape if you follow certain rules when exercising on it. The contraindications for using the machine are minimal.


Author of article
Steven Hopkins
Welcome to my website, or even a blog. For the past 15 years, I have regularly visited the gym, spending at least 2 hours a day there. I love protein shakes, quality athletic shoes, and I know a lot about exercise equipment. This is my hobby. Every day I run kilometers on the treadmill, do dozens of push-UPS, and hundreds of pull-UPS on the uneven bars. Sport is my life...  
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