The elliptical machine is a low-impact exercise.
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It may be convenient to replace lower body exercises with the elliptical machine for both strength and cardio training but it's not an ideal switch. While the elliptical is effective for cardio, it lacks the muscle and bone strengthening properties of weight-bearing leg exercises. Think twice before ditching squats and leg curls because the elliptical doesn't deliver the same health benefits.
Ellipticals Can't Handle It All
Hopping on the elliptical machine is an efficient and effective way to knock out your cardio workout for the day. As with all forms of cardiovascular exercise the elliptical keeps your heart and lungs strong while helping to keep your weight at an optimal level. However, the elliptical doesn't provide a full range of health benefits on its own. Include a lower body exercise routine with your elliptical routine for enhanced muscular strength, bone health and enhanced weight loss.
Not Even High-Intensity
The effectiveness of HIIT -- high-intensity interval training -- at increasing your lung capacity and controlling your weight are well documented by the American Council on Exercise, but it has limited effect on leg strength. Boosting up the elliptical resistance and alternating between low and high resistance has a similar effect on your leg muscles as traditional endurance training -- increased muscular endurance but not an increase in muscular strength, according to the Nestle Nutrition Institute. Direct leg exercises remain your best option for developing strength in your legs.
The squat and leg extension certainly require more workout intensity than your average elliptical trek so dropping the weights may sound appealing. However, before you take that step, consider the weight-bearing advantage. As a weight-bearing exercise, weight training your legs has the advantage of strengthening and ensuring proper growth and development of your bones. The elliptical machine is considered a non-weight-bearing exercise and does not offer a bone strengthening benefit.
Don't Delay Fat Loss
An elliptical machine routine without leg exercises may hamper your weight loss goals. Since the elliptical does not build muscle, you only burn calories from the time you spend on the machine. In contrast, weight training routines can burn nine times as much body fat as your elliptical cardiovascular routine if you take into account the prolonged muscle recovery time from weight training, according to ExRx.net.