The bane of all beginner gym-goers – the elliptical machine. While there are a plethora of benefits that the elliptical machine can extend to you, it is also the contraption that many dread when they first start going to the gym. “Why is the elliptical so hard?”, probably a phrase that every beginner must’ve asked themselves after trying this machine for the first time.

Many dread it owing to its difficulty in movement. It has mainly to do with the fact that machines such as the treadmill or the exercise bike do not offer the kind of resistance that ellipticals do – which is why the latter is also used to build endurance and stamina.

Since the elliptical machine may seem harder than the treadmill, many beginners may be reluctant in including it in their initial workout sessions. Some may even have reluctance, thinking that the elliptical is hard on the knees or joints. While there may be some truth to these, there are a lot of variables in play here. In this article, we’ll explore if the elliptical machine is hard to work with, or if the elliptical is hard on the knees and joints.

Once we’ve cleared the air around the notion, “why is the elliptical so hard for beginners,” you will see the advantages of incorporating it more into your routine!

What Is An Elliptical Trainer?

what is an elliptical trainer

If you have not been acquainted with an elliptical trainer before, then you’ll be glad to know that despite its apparent difficulty, it is actually quite a straightforward machine. By stimulating the muscles for walking, running, and stair climbing – the elliptical trainer or the cross trainer is actually one of the more manageable cardio machines. 

It is even the preferred choice for individuals who have internal or muscle-related injuries, as the machine prevents shock to your muscles and joints and stimulates low impact. Once you have a hang of the rhythm and the movement, the elliptical trainer or the cross trainer can reduce any and all impact on your joints. Meaning, the elliptical is easy on the knees and joints, and a rather preferable choice for people with arthritis, injuries or joint pain. This is in contrast to the treadmill, which is similar to moving on a flat surface or incline and can cause some impact to your joints if used intensively. 

Is An Elliptical Trainer Harder Than Other Cardio Machines?

elliptical trainer vs treadmill

The simple answer to whether the elliptical trainer is harder than other cardio machines is yes. For beginners, especially. The elliptical machine can feel tough owing to the higher degree of involvement of your joints and muscles than other machines you’re used to. 

As will be elaborated later, the elliptical also groups together muscles to work on intensively, making it harder for beginners to get used to. Additionally, the movement is somewhat stiff for the aforementioned reason, as opposed to the treadmill which feels more natural. However, there are more reasons why the elliptical trainer can be more difficult than other cardio machines, which we’ll get into in the next section.

Why Does the Elliptical Trainer Feel So Hard to You? 

1. You’re New and Your Co-ordination Is Off

If you’re only a beginner at the elliptical machine and cardio machines in general, then you may have a harder time than most. The elliptical machine requires you to coordinate movement between all of your muscles – whether your arms, your feet and legs, and your core. 

All of them need to work in tandem and in harmony in order for the elliptical to function smoothly – and once you have mastered this rhythm and the subsequent coordination that results from getting in the groove, then you’ll find the elliptical machine getting gradually easier for you.

2. You’ve Set the Resistance Too High

Essentially, your elliptical machine can be set to various settings of resistance, depending on how intensive you want your elliptical session to be. If you’re having a hard time on the elliptical and feel like the elliptical is hard to pedal, the resistance is a little too high for you. If you’re spending too much of your energy and are thus getting easily exhausted after just a couple of minutes on it, then it is highly recommended that you try to bring the resistance down in order to make the movement easier for you. 

This would also enable you to acquaint your muscles with the movement, so you can gradually build up the resistance with time when you feel like you’re ready for more.

3. The Resistance Is Too Low

As said before, the resistance of your elliptical machine can greatly affect the amount of energy you’re spending into the machine. If the resistance is too high, you may find moving the elliptical difficult and thus be exhausted in a short span of time. 

On the other hand, if the resistance on the elliptical trainer is too low, then it might be easy for you to go through the motions but it may greatly impact other factors. Since the movement would be easy for you, you will not be able to keep your form rigid and proper – as you might also find your coordination impacted. Needless to say, your workout on the elliptical trainer may be fruitless with resistance that’s too low.

4. You Haven’t Entered Your Personal Info Correctly

Like most cardio machines, you have to enter in your statistics as well as the duration of your workout in order for the elliptical trainer to calculate how many calories you’re burning within your session. 

However, if you’re unable to enter your statistics properly or they’re inaccurate, then you might be shown fewer calories than you have actually burnt – resulting in you thinking that you’re expending much more energy than you’re seeing as output. Thus, it is important you enter your details accurately on the elliptical.

5. You’ve Fatigued Your CNS and Aren’t Recovering Well

If you’ve been doing cardio and strength training fairly regularly and near maximum levels of intensity, then it is quite possible that your CNS or central nervous system may be fatigued. This fatigue then goes on to generate a host of issues such as reduced strength, stamina, and other problems – that are only accentuated if you do not recover well from the fatigue. This may very well be a reason for you to not being able to build any muscle, too. A worn out CNS keeps you from performing optimally in the gym.

If your recovery is poor, then that will lead you to constantly feeling lethargic and tired, further implying that the elliptical trainer may seem too difficult for you. However, in this case, all you need is optimal CNS recovery to get around the hurdle of the elliptical seeming too difficult for you.

6. You Aren’t Breathing Right

This is something you can achieve once you’ve been working on the elliptical machine for a while. If you find yourself constantly heaving lungfuls of air or just breathing heavily in general while on the elliptical, then it may be possible for you to be exhausted quickly. 

Once you’re used to the movement of the elliptical, it is advisable that you find the right coordination between the motion of your muscles, the resistance on the elliptical as well as the speed you’re working at – after which your breathing will get steadier with time in tandem with these other factors.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. Do Ellipticals Help Lose Belly Fat? 

Yes, like all cardiovascular activities, working out on the Elliptical will help you lose Belly fat. However, it will specifically target belly fat. Corresponding to the calories you burn and the net calorie deficit you create, you’ll lose fat from all over your body.

2. Which Is Better, Elliptical Or Treadmill for Weight loss?

It depends on person to person. Weigh loss is directly influenced by the amount of calories you burn per session. If you feel that burning X amount of calories on the Elliptical feels easier than that on the treadmill, the former is better for you for weight loss and vice versa.

3. Is An Elliptical Hard On Your Knees?

Working out on an Elliptical machine is a low-impact activity. Unlike running on a treadmill, you don’t lose contact with the ground and therefore virtually cause no strain on your knees. It can therefore be inferred that the elliptical is easy on the knees and joints, in general.

4. Does An Elliptical Burn More Calories Than Treadmill?

For beginners, a treadmill can actually burn calories faster than the elliptical – the latter is good for those who prefer low-impact workouts, however.

5. How Can I Make My Elliptical Easier? 

It is best to start small with low speeds and minimal resistance. Making your elliptical feel easier is all about finding the balance between speed, resistance and co-ordination.

6. Why Does The Elliptical Still Feel Hard On Lower Resistance?

If the elliptical machine still feels hard to you on lower resistance, it is very likely that you aren’t doing it right. Focus on finding the flow of the movement and use the momentum right.

Best Low Impact Ellipticals For Beginners 

1. Hybrid Trainer XT 

This amazing elliptical trainer for beginners is the perfect start that you need if you’ve been contemplating incorporating the elliptical trainer into your workout routine. With a large display, you can monitor all of your bodily statistics as well as your heart rate in real-time, enabling you to customize the intensity of your workout the way you want to. 

Additionally, you’re offered sixteen different resistance levels to choose from so you don’t have to compromise in terms of your resistance being either too high or too low. 

It also has a flywheel that is enhanced by inertia for the smooth movement that you’ve been looking for from your elliptical – and especially for beginners who are not used to the coordinated motion yet, the length of the stride is an added bonus so you can stretch those muscle sets. 

2. Sole E25 Elliptical 

An elliptical trainer for beginners that is slightly on the higher end, it is loaded with technological features that make it a luxurious purchase even while being an elliptical for beginners. There are over 20 different inclines to choose from – making it quite the challenge for individuals who are used to the elliptical as well. 

While loaded with all of the minimum requirements for any good elliptical such as a cutting-edge display and a heart-rate monitor, the Sole E25 Elliptical is equipped with Bluetooth speakers that are easy to set up and also make your workout experience as professional as possible. 

Lastly, your joints and muscle strains are greatly reduced due to the inward sloping on the foot pedals – making this an excellent purchase for beginners to the elliptical.

3. Bowflex Max Trainer M9 

The priciest option on this list, the Bowflex Max Trainer is full of features that make it worth the cost. For one, you can crank up the speed to however high you’d like – making this a great option for experienced users of the elliptical as well. And with the textured foot pedals that are naturally oversized, you don’t have to worry about your feet grip while you’re working your muscles. 

Of course, you have a built-in display with the finest technology that you can set up with a JRNY membership to enjoy features such as streaming your favorite shows while you’re working out or even receiving your own personalized trainer along with the membership. Additionally, there are around 20 resistance levels to choose from so you can find the perfect intensity for yourself.

Closing Thoughts 

As you have seen, while the elliptical may feel a lot more difficult than other cardio machines, it is one that can offer you a variety of benefits if you get past the initial hurdle of it feeling too rigid and awkward for your body. 

Once you take care of the above-mentioned reasons as to why the elliptical is so hard for you, then there should be no reason why you should not begin to incorporate elliptical trainers into your daily workouts. In fact, for beginners looking for low-impact workouts in order to burn fat quickly and work specific sets of muscles only, the elliptical is even better than other cardio machines.

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