Wondering how many calories the elliptical trainer burns? Here’s how much calorie burning you are doing, how the elliptical compares to other machines in the gym, and tips for how to burn even more calories on an elliptical.
Elliptical training can be absolutely spectacular for burning calories and losing weight.
One of the greatest benefits of ellipticals is that they can be utilized both for low-intensity and high-intensity workouts, letting you choose whether to burn calories through aerobic or more anerobic training.
No matter how you use the machine, it’ll help you burn calories and eliminate that stubborn body fat you’ve been trying to use.
Below, we’ll explore how many calories are burned in an elliptical training session, how you can max out fat-burning, and, of course, compare the elliptical machine to other gym machines.
By the end of this post, you’ll have a far better understanding of why the elliptical machine is one of the best cardio machines for weight loss in the gym—or an excellent addition to your home gym.
Calories Burned on the Elliptical
Let’s get right to the point and answer the question that brought you to this page in the first place: how many calories do you burn on an elliptical?
- A 125-pound person will burn around 270 calories in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity elliptical training
- A 155-pound person will burn around 324 calories in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity elliptical training
- A 185-pound person will burn around 378 calories in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity elliptical training
Of course, this isn’t an exact figure (hence the “around”), because calorie burning is dependent on a number of factors.
For example, people with a higher body mass index (higher body fat) will burn fewer calories per hour than someone with a lower body mass index (higher lean muscle mass).
Men tend to burn more calories than women, and younger adults burn more calories than older adults.
The intensity of your workout also will determine how many calories per hour you can burn. If you stick to a moderate-intensity workout, you’ll burn roughly the number of calories listed above.
However, up the intensity even 5 to 10% (by pedaling faster), and you’ll increase the calorie burn (though perhaps not an exact 5 to 10%). Slow down the intensity fractionally, and you decrease calorie burn in equal measure.
The good news, though, is that you can use the above numbers as sort of a “rough” guide to help you estimate the number of calories you can burn in a 30-minute elliptical training workout.
You’ll still want to monitor your calorie-burning—either on your fitness tracking smartwatch or the elliptical trainer’s built-in calorie counter—but you can go into the workout with a general idea of how many calories you’ll burn.
But what do you do if you want to burn more calories than just the average?
How to Burn More Calories on the Elliptical Trainer
If your goal is to max out calorie-burning on an elliptical trainer, there are a few simple things you can do.
Minor adjustments to your workout can lead to BIG gains in terms of muscle-building, fat loss, and calorie burning.
This is the simplest way to burn more calories. The faster you stride, the more intense your workout, and therefore the more energy will be demanded by your muscles and cardiovascular system throughout your training. A faster workout is guaranteed to burn more calories and tire you out faster.
However, be warned: as you increase the speed of your training, you’ll push your body from an aerobic state (that burns fat) into a more anaerobic state (that burns glucose).
It’s still highly effective at torching calories, but it’s less fat-focused, so it may not lead to the same long-term results as a lower-and-slower training session.
Increase the Incline
When you pedal flat, it’s like you’re walking on flat ground. Even at a faster pace, there’s far less demand on your body, so there are fewer calories burned.
To increase calorie expenditure, raise the incline as high as you want/can. If you raise it completely, it’ll turn the elliptical machine almost into a stair climber.
You’ll have to lift your feet extra-high and drive extra-hard through each step, which targets your glutes and hamstrings very effectively. You’ll not only burn more calories, but target your booty muscles to sculpt and shape them wonderfully.
To burn more calories, try increasing the resistance so each step requires greater effort from your leg muscles.
Even keeping it on the standard incline (which is to say, none), higher resistance demands more engagement of your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, so more energy is expended powering your leg muscles.
Push and Pull Harder
If you looked at any list of muscles worked on the elliptical trainer, you’d see it’s not just your lower body muscles worked, but pretty much your entire body.
That’s right: because you’re gripping the handles and pushing/pulling through the training session, you target your “Push” muscles (chest, shoulders, and triceps), your “Pull” muscles (back, shoulders, and biceps), and your core (abs, lower back, and obliques) have to work to keep you stable.
To max out the calorie-burning on the elliptical machine, reduce the amount of work your legs do for the actual pedaling process, and make your upper body do more.
Force your arms to really push and pull for each step, and I guarantee you’ll feel the burn in your upper body in no time.
Plus, all of those muscles working together to keep you moving will torch a lot more calories, especially if you increase the resistance.
Pedaling/walking backward works your muscles in a different way than pedaling/walking forward does. In fact, it will specifically target the lower quads, the muscles supporting your knees, which can do wonders to bulletproof your knees against injury.
And because these muscles are often under-trained (compared to your upper quads), you can increase the amount of calories burned with every step by strengthening and expanding these critical leg muscles.
High intensity interval training involves periods of very high intensity interspersed with periods of low intensity. And the elliptical is a perfect HIIT machine for this type of workout.
For example, using the elliptical trainer, pedal/walk at max speed for 30 to 45 seconds, then pedal/walk at a slower pace for 75 to 90 seconds. Repeat that for 20 to 25 minutes, and you’ve got yourself the recipe for serious calorie-burning.
The reason that HIIT burns so many calories is because you’re doing periods of maximum intensity, when you’re working as hard as your body possibly can.
Because you only keep it up for short periods (less than a minute), the intervals are sustainable for long enough to burn calories. It’s safe to say that a HIIT workout can easily burn 500 calories in those 20 to 25 minutes.
But the great thing is that the calorie-burning doesn’t stop even after you finish training.
Because the HIIT workout puts your body in an anaerobic state (during the high-intensity intervals) and targets your muscles, it keeps your metabolism burning for hours after the training ends.
That means you’ll keep burning more energy for much longer than you would following a low-intensity workout.
Get ready to feel the burn! Squats are excellent at targeting your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, and the activation of those leg muscles will burn a lot more calories.
To incorporate squats into your elliptical training session, just grip onto the machine’s lower handles and lower yourself into a squat position, then hold that position as you walk.
Gripping the handles will keep your body supported, and your legs will have to work insanely hard to support your weight as you walk in the squatting position.
Try to keep this position for a minute, then stand once more and take a break. Repeat as desired over the course of a 30-minute workout, and you’ll both burn an insane amount of calories and strengthen your leg muscles.
Try a Pre-Programmed Elliptical Workout
Last, but certainly not least, why not try one of the pre-programmed elliptical workouts available to you?
Many elliptical trainers come with their own built-in programs—some that vary up the intensity or resistance, while others vary the incline.
You can also look on your favorite smartphone-based workout app—such as Sweat—or find YouTube videos or online workout programs that will lead you through a guided video workout.
These workouts are typically led by trainers who have crafted programs that will be suited to all experience levels, but will push you to do more than just an easy, low-intensity elliptical workout.
You’ll love how much variety there is online (a quick search of YouTube for “elliptical workouts” yields literally tens of thousands of videos), and you can easily find a workout program that suits your fitness goals and current experience/fitness level.
How Do Ellipticals Compare to Other Cardio Machines for Burning Calories
As you know, the elliptical machine isn’t the only machine in the gym you can use.
There are plenty more, all of which can help you burn calories, burn fat, and get fit.
But which is the best? Which machine will burn the most calories in the time you spend?
According to Harvard Medical School, in a 30-minute workout, a 155-pound person will burn:
- 324 calories on the elliptical trainer
- 278 calories on a stationary bike, pedaling vigorously
- 252 calories on a rowing machine, at a moderate pace
- 216 calories on a stair climber machine, climbing at a moderate pace
It’s pretty clear to see that of the gym machines, the elliptical certainly stands out because of how effectively it burns calories.
The Bottom Line
If your goal is to burn calories, you’d do well to consider the elliptical machine.
Not only does it help you to get in a solid low-intensity, steady-state cardio workout that maximizes fat-burning, but it’s easy to adapt the workout (by raising the intensity, incline, and the pace of your walking/pedaling) to shift into high-intensity exercise that burns a lot more calories than just the basics.
Best of all, the elliptical machine will target virtually all the muscles in your body, helping to build both muscular strength and endurance.
A few simple adjustments to your training session—i.e. walking in a squat or reducing leg effort to force your upper body to push/pull harder—can lead to better muscle growth and increased overall fitness.
Now that’s real motivation to spend more time training with the elliptical machine in your weekly workouts!
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