Best Elliptical Workouts For Beginners

  • Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • Best Elliptical Workouts For Beginners

Last updated on September 5, 2022


The elliptical trainer is one of the most popular pieces of gym cardio equipment, and in this article we will going to discuss it, giving you some ideas for good elliptical cardio workouts targeted towards beginners. Let’s go!


Why Is Elliptical Trainer Beginner-Friendly?


An elliptical is a good option for burning calories, but if you only take this criterion, some other cardio machines such as the treadmill or rowing machines are a better option, simply because they burn more calories per hour. So why elliptical?

Elliptical trainers are an excellent choice for people who are not in the best physical shape. Unlike treadmills, training on an elliptical is low-impact. That makes it incredibly joint-friendly, perfectly suitable for overweight, as well as individuals with injuries. Elliptical trainers are much better suited for older people too, for the same reasons.

Also, elliptical trainers allow you to train your upper body at the same time. When running on a treadmill, riding an exercise bike or climbing the stair master, your hands are not doing anything. The elliptical trainer gives you an opportunity to use your upper body and core, which allows you to do total body workouts.

Elliptical trainers are also incredibly easy to use, and quite self-explanatory. The only thing you need to remember is not to slouch, and you are good. Because it is easy to perform, and low-impact, the elliptical trainer is one of the safest cardio machines you can use.

Also, elliptical trainers are very convenient to store, as they don’t require too much space, making them a good option for home gyms, tight on space.

All things considered, there is no reason why you shouldn’t use elliptical trainers if your gym has one. Combine it with other cardio machines; switching things up from time to time will make your workouts interesting, and you will enjoy your cardio sessions more. And if you enjoy exercising, weight loss is more likely to happen, longterm.


Elliptical Workouts For Beginners


So as you saw from the above, it is an excellent idea to choose elliptical if you are a beginner. But, like with all other cardio machines, the only way you are going to calorie burn and lose that fat is through consistent physical activity. And it is hard to stay consistent if you don’t know what to do, or if your workouts are boring. Fortunately for you, there is a S.M.A.R.T. way to train on ellipticals and to have fun while doing it. Here are some ideas great beginner elliptical workout ideas:




What makes High-Intensity Interval Training great is that it saves you a lot of time. One of the significant issues with steady state cardio is that it takes a long time to finish. If you are on a tight schedule, doing 30-40+ minutes of elliptical after every workout is not doable. Not to mention that steady state cardio gets boring.

HIIT corrects that. Most routines are 20 minutes or even less, but don’t think it is easy, on the contrary! Doing HIIT is challenging, and it is undoubtedly much more interesting than ordinary cardio.

A good HIIT workout on an elliptical is doing 45 seconds of high intensity, inclined work, followed by 90 seconds of lower intensity, lower incline, without breaks in between:

  • 2 minutes warmup, 3% incline, low effort
  • 45 seconds high intensity, 10% incline
  • 90 seconds low intensity, 5% incline

(repeat the above five times)

  • 2 minutes cooldown, 3% incline, low effort


The whole workout will last around 15 minutes, but you will be dripping in sweat. Because you can pick your own intensity, it is suitable both for beginners and for more advanced, providing just the right amount of challenge. Of course, if you can’t pull all five sets, reduce the total number, but at least try to go through three.


You May Also Like: 20 Minute HIIT Treadmill Workout


Increase The Incline


One of the ways to make elliptical more interesting is to play around with different inclines. We will call this workout “the incline game.” Not very creative name, but it is a fun, yet challenging workout:

The rules are simple, every two minutes, increase the incline by two percent, and then reduce back to the starting number.

  • 0-2 minutes – incline 6%
  • 2-4 minutes – incline 8%
  • 4-6 minutes – incline 10%
  • 6-8 minutes – incline 8%
  • 8-10 minutes – incline 6%
  • 10-12 minutes – incline 8%
  • 12-14 minutes – incline 10%

(repeat everything one more time)


As for the intensity, play around with it, and choose what works best for you. But don’t go below level eight or nine, the point is to stay challenging.  When the incline is lower, you pick a higher intensity and vice versa. Or, go two harder sets, followed by one slower.


Switch Rotations


People often forget that you can go “backward” on the elliptical, rotating the legs the opposite way. This will not only make the workout more fun, but it will also challenge your muscles in a different way, providing even better stimulation. Pedaling backward will target your glutes and hams more while going forward will put more emphasis on the quads.

You can use this in any type of workout, switching from “forward” to “backward” rotations throughout sets. So for example, you can opt to go backward every third set or to use your “rest” set in a HIIT workout for back rotations.

If you want to do a complete back/front workout, just pick an incline, and rotate the other way every two minutes. This slight variation is all it takes to make your elliptical workout more fun and more challenging at the same time.


Look ma, no hands!


Doing elliptical without using your hands is a good option if you want to target your core muscles more. Not using hands will force your abs to work overtime, as they are the muscles whose primary purpose is stabilization. The faster you go, the more challenging it becomes for the abs, as they have to work overtime in order to keep you upright. Just don’t go too far, you don’t want to risk falling down.

Doing the elliptical machine without hands is very similar to running, and in fact, is a great alternative when the treadmill is busy. Keeping your arms in running position will push this even further, completely mimicking the running motion.

Ellipticals for Runners

The Elliptical machine is a great choice to pair with running. While it is a very different movement to the running motion, it works the same muscle groups and provides variety when you can’t get out on the road due to bad weather or injury. It is also a lower impact form of cardio training than either running or using the treadmill, which again, makes it ideal for runners with injuries. Here are some valuable tips for runners using the elliptical trainer:

  • Go for 90 revolutions per minute (RPM). This very closely matches the ideal running pace of 180 steps every minute. It will take a bit of time to hit that RPM goal. Start off with a lower resistance level.
  • Adjust the resistance level. Keep your body challenged by varying the intensity level throughout the workout.
  • Stay focused on what you are doing. Do not watch Netflix or read a magazine when you are on the machine. Instead keep your mind connected with the muscles that you are working.
  • Do not use the hand rails on the sides of the machine to help balance yourself. You can use the movable handles but do not put your weight on them while you are exercising.
  • An elliptical trainer workout is suitable for any fitness level.
  • Because it burns more calories than a treadmill workout, an elliptical trainer workout is a better choice for people who are trying to lose weight. So, if you are a runner who is wanting to drop a few pounds, this is your best option.

Sample Elliptical Trainer Workout for Runners:

Tempo Workout

Begin with a twenty-minute warm up at a moderate intensity and a slow resistance level (no higher than 4). Then increase the resistance to between a 5 and a 7 and focus on tensing your quads and engaging your core. After that, drop the resistance right down to between a 1 and a 4. Finish with ten minutes at between 5-7 resistance.

Interval Workout

Start off with a ten-minute warm up at a resistance level of between 1 and 4. Then begin doing the first of 8 intervals where you do 90-seconds of high intensity work at level of between 10 and 15. Between each high intensity bout recover with 90 seconds at a low intensity of between 1 and 4. Finish off with ten minutes at a moderate intensity level of between 5-7.

Hill Simulation Workout

This is a 60-minute hill simulation workout where you change the resistance level every 3 minutes. You also adjust the angle if your elliptical pedal motion every five minutes. The angle should go up every five-minute for the first 30 minutes and then decrease for the final 30 minutes.

As a runner, you should add an elliptical trainer workout twice a week into your running workout program. Rotate throughout the three beginners workout programs that we have described above.

You May Also Like: How to Get Rid of Love Handles for Men



We tried to give you a few different options to make your elliptical workouts more fun including interval training HIIT. Now, you don’t have any excuses, you know exactly what to do for your cardio exerciseswhen you visit the gym or your own home gym next time.

Also, every modern elliptical trainer has pre-programmed workouts in it, designed for different purposes. Those are also a great way to train, as you don’t have to worry about tracking your time and changing the pace and incline, the machine will do it for you. Just create an energizing playlist, climb on that elliptical, and start burning that beer gut right now, the summer is just around the corner!

It is also important to note that healthy eating is important to achieving you fitness goals quicker so always incorporate good diet plans. Furthermore, if you are not sure if the elliptical is right core workout for your training objectives, especially elliptical for beginners, always ask a personal trainer to understand what are the best workout routines for you ( intensity intervals, strides per minute ).

Karla Isaac is an ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association) Certify Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach (ISSA CNC) with over 10 years of experience in Fitness and Nutritional one on one personal coaching. She has lived, work and study in California for 14 years. Karla’s passion for fitness began when she was 22, due to feeling unhealthy and overweight. Ever since she’s been passionate to change her life and help others transform their lives by making health and wellness accessible, so they can achieve their goals for a healthier and a more active life style.

Your Signature