Which Muscles Do the Elliptical Work? HB101 Explains

Elliptical Work

Table of Contents

Are you a fitness enthusiast looking for an effective way to build muscle, challenge your muscles, and burn calories with a low-impact workout? If so, you might want to consider the elliptical machine.

The elliptical trainer is a great tool that engages a variety of muscle groups, both in your upper and lower body. In this article, we will explore exactly what muscles do ellipticals work and how to make the most of your elliptical workout.

Exactly What Muscles Does an Elliptical Machine Work?

Let’s dive into the world of elliptical workouts and discover the key muscles that come into play when you use this popular cardio machine.

1. The Glutes:

The gluteus maximus, commonly known as the glutes, are the muscles responsible for moving your hips and thighs. (The Gluteus Maximus is also the biggest muscle of the human body.)

When you use the elliptical, these muscles play a significant role in propelling your legs forward and backward. In fact, they are one of the primary muscle groups engaged during an elliptical workout.

Imagine the glutes as the engine that drives your elliptical workout, pushing your legs through each stride.

2. The Calves:

Your calf muscles, particularly the m.gastrocnemius and m.soleus, help stabilize your ankles and facilitate the smooth gliding motion of the elliptical pedals. These muscles are constantly at work as you push down on the pedals and lift your heels.

The calf muscles ensure your feet stay firmly on the pedals, allowing for a fluid elliptical motion.

3. The Quadriceps:

The quadriceps, a group of four muscles (the rectus femoris, the vastus lateralis, the vastus intermedius, and the vastus medialis.) located in the front of your thigh, are actively engaged when you extend your legs during each stride on the elliptical. They play a crucial role in pushing the pedals down.

Think of your quadriceps as the powerhouse responsible for extending your legs and driving the elliptical pedals.

4. The Hamstrings:

In contrast to the quadriceps, the hamstrings, (m.semitendinosus, m.semimembranosus, m.biceps femoris) located at the back of your thighs, are responsible for bending your knees and flexing your hips. They work to pull the pedals upward, creating a continuous elliptical motion.

The hamstrings act as the counterbalance to the quadriceps, ensuring a balanced and controlled stride.

5. The Upper Body Muscles:

Many elliptical machines come equipped with upper-body levers or handles. These handles engage your upper body muscles, including your triceps, biceps, and pec muscles, during your workout. This not only provides a full-body workout but also helps increase the overall calorie burn.

By using the upper body levers, you involve your triceps, biceps, and chest muscles, intensifying your elliptical session.

6. The Core and Lower Back Muscles:

Maintaining proper posture is essential while using the elliptical. Your core muscles, including your abdominal muscles (transversus abdominis,rectus abdominis, external oblique muscles, internal oblique muscles) work to keep your spine aligned, preventing you from slouching. Additionally, the lower back muscles provide support during your elliptical workout.

The core and lower back muscles act as stabilizers, ensuring you maintain an upright posture throughout your exercise.

7. Additional Muscles Worked

The elliptical is known for challenging various muscle groups across your entire body. Depending on your body weight and the elliptical model you’re using, you might also work your back muscles, pectoral muscles, and muscles located in your upper and lower body. The elliptical provides a versatile and effective full-body workout experience.

The elliptical is an efficient cardio machine that engages a wide range of muscle groups, providing a comprehensive workout.

Use the Elliptical For Muscle Activation and Coordination

One of the advantages of using an elliptical is that it promotes muscle activation and coordination. The elliptical’s smooth, low-impact motion allows your muscles to work together harmoniously.

This can be especially beneficial for those looking to challenge their muscles without placing excessive stress on their joints.

The elliptical motion encourages muscle groups to work in tandem, enhancing overall muscle coordination.

Customizing Your Elliptical Workout

Depending on your fitness goals and the specific muscle groups you want to target, you can customize your elliptical workout. By adjusting the incline, resistance, and speed, you can make your elliptical session more challenging and focus on different muscle groups.

Increasing the incline on the elliptical will engage your leg muscles even more, creating a more intense workout.

Maximizing the Benefits of Elliptical Training

To get the most out of your elliptical workout, it’s essential to use the machine correctly. Ensure that you maintain proper posture, engage your core, and push and pull the handles effectively.

This way, you’ll maximize muscle engagement and achieve the best results from your cardio exercise.

Using an elliptical cross-trainer correctly will target the right muscles and provide a more efficient workout.

Summing It Up: Key Takeaways

In summary, the elliptical is a versatile cardio machine that engages various muscle groups in your body. Whether you want to target your glutes, calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, upper body muscles, core, or lower back, the elliptical provides an effective full-body workout.

Here are the most important things to remember about what muscles the elliptical targets:

  • The glutes play a significant role in powering your elliptical stride.
  • Your calf muscles support the motion and keep your feet secure on the pedals.
  • The quadriceps extend your stride, driving the pedals down.
  • The hamstrings bend your knees and flex your hips, pulling the pedals upward.
  • Using upper body levers engages your triceps, biceps, and chest muscles.
  • Maintain proper posture with core and lower back muscles.
  • The elliptical provides a low-impact, full-body workout experience.
  • Muscle activation and coordination are enhanced on the elliptical.
  • Customize your elliptical workout to target specific muscle groups.
  • Using the elliptical correctly is essential for maximizing muscle engagement.

By understanding exactly what muscles do elliptical works and how to tailor your workout, you can make the most of this effective and low-impact cardio machine.

So, go ahead and challenge your muscles, build strength, and achieve your fitness goals with the trusty elliptical.

Share the Post:


Dr. Mehmet Eren Aksu In addition to his medical background, is a big fitness enthusiast. He has been interested in fitness and has been actively doing it for over 7 years. During this time, he had the opportunity to experience using many cardio machines. And he wants to convey these experiences to you, our valued readers.

How this article was written? How we choose the best cardio equipment?

We take help from AI in certain parts of the articles. This does not mean that our choices and evaluations are made with AI. We strictly hand-pick the best equipment and single product evaluations.


We are aware of how difficult and long a process it is to find equipment according to your needs. As Healthy Bodies 101, we want to help you in the purchasing and evaluation process by minimizing this process.

We may earn commission fees from purchases you make through our links. This helps us continue our work and enjoy doing it.

People Also Viewed

Scroll to Top
Seraphinite AcceleratorOptimized by Seraphinite Accelerator
Turns on site high speed to be attractive for people and search engines.