Workout Programs with the Elliptical Trainer

A popular exercise machine available in fitness centers and for home use, the elliptical trainer provides a workout that combines stair stepping with the front-to-back movement of running or skiing. Workouts on the elliptical machine vary depending on your stride speed, the resistance level and the height of the cross ramp. Choosing an elliptical with arm poles can help create a more challenging program.


Keep your heart rate in a steady zone of between 65 and 70 percent of maximum to build aerobic endurance and promote health. Choose a resistance level that you find challenging, but sustainable–usually between a five and an eight–and set the cross ramp at a 10 for a 30-minute workout. Monitor your heart rate using the sensors on the trainer,or with a heart rate monitor watch, and adjust the level of the resistance up or down to keep your heart rate in the aerobic zone.

Hill Climbing

Hill climbing builds leg and gluteal strength. To simulate hills, vary the height of the cross ramp during your workout. Find a resistance level that challenges you to maintain a speed of approximately 140 strides per minute. Start with a cross ramp height of one to simulate running on a flat road. Increase the cross ramp one degree each minute to reach a height of 15, and then return to a cross ramp of one for three to five minutes to recover. Repeat one or two more times for a 30- to 45-minute workout.

Interval Training

The American Council on Exercise reports that interval training utilizes both the aerobic and anaerobic systems to promote faster results from your workouts. Elliptical trainer intervals involve hills, resistance or stride speed changes. Begin with a cross ramp of a six, and pedal at a moderate stride speed–about 130 to warm up for five to 10 minutes. Increase your stride speed to as fast as you can go for one minute. Return to the moderate speed for a minute. Repeat this sequence 10 to 12 times. For variety, instead of increasing your speed, try increasing resistance or cross ramp for a minute and holding your tempo. Over time, increase the length of your intervals to 90 seconds or two minutes.

About this Author

Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.