Elliptical machines don't burn as many calories as treadmills, but still tone your legs.
Elliptical machines provide a low-impact workout that mimics the motions associated with stair climbing and cross-country skiing, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Pedals can move forward or backward to work different muscle groups. Although some elliptical machines are equipped with handlebars to help exercise your upper body, the primary focus is your lower body. Elliptical machines help tone your calves and thighs thanks to the repetitive motions and resistance associated with this workout.
Smooth Ride, Hard Work
Working out on elliptical machines can feel like a smoother workout compared with pounding on a treadmill, but it's still an effective way to tone your calves and thighs. In a 2010 study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," research participants exercised on both treadmills and elliptical machines at the same level of perceived exertion. Participants' heart rates were higher on elliptical machines, but they used the same amount of oxygen and had the same energy expenditure levels on both the treadmills and elliptical machines. Although the elliptical machine's gliding, cycling motions might feel less impactful, you're still working out your legs.
No вЂњLift and LandвЂќ Function
Although elliptical machines can be effective alternatives to treadmills to tone your lower body, you'll burn more calories on a treadmill, according to the National Council on Strength and Fitness. This is because treadmills require you to lift your legs and land them back on the treadmill track, which burns extra calories and provides additional work. Because your feet remain stationary on an elliptical machine, you miss out on the вЂњlift and landвЂќ workout. You can burn additional calories on an elliptical by using the arm poles when available, but this will not affect your calves and thighs.
Functional Mobility, Endurance and Balance
Elliptical machines increase functional mobility in your lower body, according to the "Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy," while also boosting endurance and balance. In a 2010 University of Dayton, Ohio study, participants whose walking abilities were impacted by stroke successfully used elliptical machines to restore leg strength. Walking speeds didn't necessarily improve, however, leading researchers to include that training more than two or three days per week might be needed to achieve better speed.
Targeting Leg Muscle Groups
Ellipticals can help you fine-tune workouts for the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus and external hip muscles. Cyclists and runners especially benefit from ellipticals, giving quadriceps an extra boost to create a better balance of muscle strength between quadriceps and hamstrings. Pedaling backward on an elliptical mixes up your workout and challenges your thighs and calves in a different way. Elliptical training is the best way to challenge both quadriceps and hamstrings simultaneously, compared to walking, stationary cycling and treadmill walking, according to the National Institutes of Public Health. Longer strides also help promote a greater range of movement for your knees and hips.