how to build muscle on an elliptical

How to Build Muscle on an Elliptical

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Muscle growth is not always the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about elliptical machines. We know ellipticals more for the cardiovascular health and fat-burning benefits they offer.

If you want to grow muscles, it might surprise you to know that an elliptical machine can help you attain your goal. It is a fantastic muscle-building exercise machine especially for individuals who have joint difficulties or those who prefer low-impact exercises.

While you may not gain muscle as quickly as you would with traditional weight training, you will gradually build some muscle groups across your body.

In this article, we are going to cover what muscles are targeted by the elliptical, and how you can improve your technique on this machine to help with muscle growth.

Muscles Used in Elliptical Training Workouts

The elliptical can be a whole-body exercise when done right. Here are the muscle groups targeted by this workout.

Core and Upper Body

An elliptical trainer equipped with an upper-body arm option allows you to integrate upper body strength exercises into your cardio workout. Upper body resistance can improve your triceps, biceps, and chest muscles.

man with shirt off exercising on an elliptical building muscle

You may also isolate your core muscles by going hands-free and avoiding the arms or handrails. Simultaneously balancing and maintaining proper posture is an excellent way to stimulate the core.

You can build muscle quickly by varying the resistance levels of your workouts. This simulates lifting different weights by exercising different muscle groups at changing intensities.

As with weight training, it’s critical to use proper technique to get the most out of each exercise. Avoid slouching or excessive leg extension to prevent injury.

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Hips and Glutes

A distinctive motion of the elliptical machine helps strengthen the gluteus maximus (buttocks) and vastus lateralis (hips) muscles, which are particularly targeted with this machine.

This is helpful to cyclists and runners, who generally find it difficult to target these muscles during their training.

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The elliptical machine is effective for toning and strengthening the front of the thighs and lower legs because it targets a significant portion of the quadriceps,

As such, many people suffering from an imbalance between the hamstrings and the quadriceps find the elliptical very useful in improving balance in their legs.

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How to Effectively Build Muscle Using an Elliptical

If you want to build muscle quickly, then try some of these tips and tricks.


Try the Built-in Programs

Most elliptical machines now come pre-programmed with a variety of workout options focused on specific fitness goals.

For example, a workout will show you how to change your routine by cycling forward or backward or completing your movement with your arms rather than your legs.

The intensity and resistance will vary. By simulating hill-climbing, for example, you may target several muscle groups while simultaneously training your legs in a way comparable to weightlifting.

Switch Up Your Position

Changing position and the direction of your movements can also help in muscular growth and targeting specific muscle groups. For instance, pedaling backward while squatting isolates your glutes and quadriceps.

Additionally, you may increase the intensity of your lower-body workout by straightening your legs and taking longer strides.

Interval Training

Exercises like interval training, in which you alternate your direction and speed, will engage many muscle groups and help you burn more calories.

people working on muscle gain on ellipticals

To keep up with the pedaling, your glutes and hamstrings must work hard. When you bike in reverse, you put a lot of strain on your quadriceps and front thigh muscles.

Ride Hands-Free

On an elliptical machine, you may work out more than just your legs and upper arm muscles. By taking your hands from the grips and moving your arms or resting them on your hips, you also strengthen your core muscles. To do this movement, you need to put your abdominal and other core muscles to work in order to keep your balance.

The Right Machine

Certain elliptical machines are better than others in isolating arm and leg motion. To give your arms a good workout, use a machine with grips that allow for the most independent arm rotations.

lady stretching muscles on a cross trainer

Instead of foot pedals, you use arm poles to drive the upper body and effectively target your chest, shoulder, back, biceps, and triceps muscles.

If your machine does not come with these features, you may strengthen your arms and chest by doing other upper body exercises. For example, you can use small dumbbells to do overhead presses and curls, or use a medicine ball to do chest presses.


Elliptical machines strengthen a range of muscle groups, including the arms, chest, shoulders, stomach, and legs ( read more on the side effects of elliptical machines ).

While you may not have thought too much about the muscle-building benefits of an elliptical machine, it’s a perfect piece of equipment for getting in a whole routine in one quick burst.

With the right elliptical machine and correct technique, you can maximize the strengthening and muscle-building benefits of your workouts.