Which Muscle Group Does an Elliptical Machine Work Out?

Elliptical Trainers

What Body Part Does The Elliptical Machine Work On?

Ellipticals are one of the most beneficial workout machines out there. They help you exercise your entire body as you use nearly every muscle you have, giving you a fantastic workout.

They are extremely easy to set up and use, and through this article, we will talk about the muscles that an elliptical machines work on the most, as well as some of its best benefits.


Starting from way down below, your calves get an immense amount of training whenever you are on an elliptical machine. Your calf muscles, whether the gastrocnemius or the soleus, perform plantar flexion, or the action of moving your foot up or down at the ankle. Some elliptical machines allow moving at an incline, which works the calf muscles even more. While ellipticals may not necessarily make your calves bigger, the workouts will generally give your calves more definition.


Quadriceps, or simply quads, are a group of four muscles in your thighs’ fronts. Quads become activated whenever you extend your knee. However, elliptical machines do not put that much effort on your quads, so do not go expecting to feel your quads burn.

An elliptical machine is different from a stationary bike. Where a stationary bike puts most of the work and effort on the quads, an elliptical machine divides the effort equally between the hamstrings, glutes and sometimes the upper body. And this is the reason why you are less likely to feel an amount of pressure in your quads. The intensity on your quads can be enhanced with longer strides.

Hamstrings and Glutes

Your hamstrings are located on the back of your legs. They perform knee flexion. Leg flexion and extension have a significant role in elliptical aerobic exercises. The gluteus maximus, which is considered to be the largest of all three gluteal muscles, is majorly involved in hip extension. Extending your hips while using an elliptical machine is very important and yields great results, especially if the machine is at an incline.

Many elliptical cross trainer machines contain the mechanics to increase the incline, simulating the process of hill climbing.

Having your machine inclined increases your legs’ flexion making you use your hamstrings and your glutes even more. Even more, some ellipticals have the ability of moving in reverse; utilizing this mechanism will increase the effort of your hamstrings, thus assisting you with hip extension as well as your thigh’s backward movement.

Arms, Chest, and Back

Elliptical machines work on both pushing and pulling muscles. Whether its the triceps, biceps, pectorals, shoulders or back, an elliptical machine will exercise all these muscles. 

Triceps and pectorals are pushing, or press, muscles; they are most used whenever you push against your body. Biceps and the back are pulling muscles; they are activated when pulling the elliptical arms toward the body. This movement also works the rear deltoids, which is part of the shoulders.

When comparing an elliptical workout against strength training at the gym, strength training is almost always going to give you a better, more targeted workout. However, an elliptical workout is one of the few cardio exercises that allow you to workout your upper body as well.


You can use your elliptical machine to strengthen your abs and lower back. However, you will need to maintain the right posture; whenever you perform the right posture, your abs and back muscles will begin to contract; therefore, they will become stronger over time. But if you lean a lot of weight on the elliptical machine’s handles, the involvement of your core muscles will decrease significantly.

We will now discuss some of the elliptical machine’s benefits.

Boost your Stamina and Cardio

Aerobic exercises or cardio are an essential part of every balanced exercise routine. Whenever you do cardio, your lungs and heart are involved, so they work harder to provide your muscles with more blood and oxygen.

Further, performing cardio will increase your stamina as, over the long run, you will be capable of enduring tougher and longer exercises. An elliptical with several resistance levels, capable of moving at an incline with a solid flywheel can provide a great cardio session.

Burn Calories

This benefit is very obvious. However, an elliptical machine is one of the best ways to burn calories quickly. Depending on your weight and intensity level, using an elliptical machine for 30 minutes, you can burn between 270 to 400 calories.

So if you want to burn more calories and lose more weight, you need to increase the amount of time you spend exercising on your elliptical machine. Interval training can increase calories burned as well.

Target Specific Muscles

Elliptical machines come equipped with the ability to change both the incline and the resistance. You can set both of them to target specific muscles in your legs.

For example, if you increase your incline, the backside of your lower body will be burning. Moreover, if you lower the foot pedals, your quads will exert more effort. Some of the best elliptical machines on the market will provide you workout programs that can better target your desired muscle groups. 

Final thoughts

It is safe to say that no matter which muscle you choose to exercise, whether your core, quads, glutes, hamstrings or even your upper body, an elliptical machine can give all of them a run for their money while providing you with some great benefits.