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Elliptical machines are widely used for performing low-impact cardio, making them a great alternative to running. What’s great about ellipticals is that they are versatile and simple to use, ideal for beginners, seniors, and those recovering from injury.
An elliptical is not only easier on your knees and joints, but it also helps to strengthen the knees, including the knee joints, tendons, and ligaments. It engages the muscles surrounding your knees, making them strong and capable of supporting weak knees.
You will find ellipticals used at home and in commercial gyms because they are as popular as treadmills and exercise bikes.
If you’re suffering from weak knee joints, chronic knee pain, or a recent knee injury, you’ll love this guide no doubt. However, please make sure to seek your doctor’s approval before considering any workout, be it using an elliptical or other fitness machines.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about how an elliptical trainer works, why it’s good for the knees, and many more.
Table of Contents
How Do Elliptical Trainers Work?
Ellipticals are cardiovascular exercise machines with smooth-moving foot platforms and vertical handlebars that assist movements. The exercise itself is similar to running on a treadmill, and the machine allows you to adjust the resistance and speed.
Using an elliptical is simple! All you need to do is stand on the foot platforms, grip the bars, and do the running movement at your own pace. Speed and resistance can also be configured on many elliptical machines for preset workouts performed for time, calories burned, or overall stride count.
Who Uses Elliptical Machines?
Elliptical machines are low impact, low intensity, and easy to use. As such, they are often the go-to gym machines for beginners, seniors, those who are overweight or recovering from an injury/illness, and others who prefer to keep their workouts simple and cardio-based.
People with joint problems and injuries find the low-impact nature of the exercise ideal for avoiding knee pain, strengthening leg muscles, and speeding up injury rehabilitation.
What Are Elliptical Machines for?
Ellipticals are designed for improving cardiovascular fitness and general health. An elliptical works out the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, abdominal muscles (core), arms, and upper back, which makes it ideal for muscle toning and recovering from an injury. Combining resistance and cardio, ellipticals can help burn calories, lose weight, and tone muscles.
Related Article: Can the Elliptical Grow Your Glutes?
Overall, ellipticals are most effective for beginner-level weight loss and lower-body muscle toning. While not the best for intense weight loss or building large muscles, ellipticals are among the best workout machines for those who are just starting out or those who need to take it slow.
Why Are Elliptical Machines Good for the Knees & Joints?
Elliptical machines help strengthen the knees, including the knee joints, tendons, and ligaments, as well as the muscles supporting the knees.
Since ellipticals involve zero impact on the knees and hips, they are widely used by people suffering from knee joint issues or knee-related injuries. Elliptical machines help improve knee health, mobility, and strength.
For people with osteoarthritis, patellar tendonitis, runner’s knee, ligament strains, or cartilage damage, working out could be pain-free with an elliptical machine to strengthen the joints and increase blood flow to the affected area.
The Benefits of Elliptical Machines
To summarize the above points, the following are the key benefits of using an elliptical machine:
- Provides low-impact, low-intensity cardio for beginners and those suffering from joint-related injuries
- Helps in weight loss, muscle toning, and improving general fitness and health
- Strengthens quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes, core muscles, arms, and upper back
- Easy to use
- Alleviates pain by strengthening the tendons, ligaments, and surrounding supporting muscles (quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings)
Alternatives to Using Ellipticals
Exercising on elliptical machines is not the only way you can strengthen your knee joints. If your budget is tight, or you just want to think of other options, there are alternatives that you can check out before investing in a machine or enrolling in a gym.
- Squats – Squatting is also a low-impact exercise. You can do squats anytime, anywhere, and you don’t need any equipment.
- Exercise bikes – There are many types of stationary bikes, and if you have a knee issue that limits its range of motion, the recumbent type is preferable.
- Swimming – This is the perfect no-impact exercise if you have access to a pool. There’s a learning curve involved, and if you have mobility issues, it’s best to always have somebody with you whenever you’re going for a swim.
Comparison Between Ellipticals & Other Exercises
Ellipticals Vs Stationary Bikes
Stationary exercise bikes, like ellipticals, are common home workout machines that are also available in gyms. Since the exercise itself involves pedaling with resistance applied to the knees, it can also be used to strengthen knee joints as well as all lower-body muscles.
An advantage that stationary bikes have over ellipticals is that they can also provide a high-intensity workout, even when you’re used sitting down. Stationary bikes can cost around the same price as ellipticals, so it simply depends on which you prefer.
However, if you have a knee condition that can be aggravated by the knee-bending movement involved in an upright bike, you’re better off with an elliptical or a recumbent bike.
Ellipticals Vs Swimming
Swimming is an exercise that involves no impact whatsoever on the joints. It involves resisted movements that can help strengthen not only the knee joints, but also the hips, elbow joints, ankle joints, and more.
Swimming is a popular exercise for these reasons, which is also why swimming classes are often attended by pregnant women, seniors, and those recovering from joint-related injuries. An advantage here is that swimming is generally more cost-effective than buying an elliptical.
Looking for the short answer? Elliptical trainers provide a low-impact, low-intensity exercise that can improve knee strength.
They work out the leg muscles (quads, hamstrings, and calves), strengthening them so they’re more capable in supporting the knees.
Increasing blood flow to the knees can also speed up the healing process and provide short-term and long-term pain relief for common knee problems and injuries caused by aging and high-impact sports.
Don’t let a bad knee hold you back. There are many ways to staying healthy and living the life you deserve!
Written by Kathleen Langdon – TheHealthPot.com Founder
Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES)
Kathleen, a mother of two, struggled with ongoing weight and health issues. She created this website after she turned her life around. She built Thehealthpot.com to help inspire and motivate others with their fitness goals. Read more about Kathleen here.