Have you ever wondered why you constantly stand in line waiting for your turn on the elliptical machine? Or why is it the one exercise equipment that is always in demand? The answer to these is relatively straightforward. An elliptical machine is an all-rounder device that specializes in different muscle groups. So does elliptical build muscle for real well yes they do!

What muscles do Elliptical machines use?


One of the main parts of the lower body that an elliptical machine focuses on is the hamstrings. These are made of three muscle groups, semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris, found on the back of the legs. The primary task of these leg muscles is to flex the knees to help move forward, and it also helps bear all of one’s body weight.

Using an elliptical machine for an excellent aerobic workout, anyone can engage in this form of knee extension and burn more and more calories. Sometimes the elliptical cross trainer machines even come with incline facilities that mimic hill climbing, which exerts even more pressure on the hamstrings.

does the elliptical build muscle
elliptical building muscle


The next major muscle group that an elliptical machine work on is the quadriceps or quads. These are found in the front of the thigh and comprise four muscles.

Like riding a bike, the legs keep bending and straightening in a circular motion during an elliptical exercise. This causes the much-needed push and pulls of the muscles, making them more robust in the process.

However, keep in mind that, unlike a stationary bike ride, in the case of elliptical workouts, the quads, hamstrings, and glutes share the load.

Thus, making it feel like no work is being done, but that is not true. In such circumstances, over-working oneself becomes very easy and should be avoided to prevent cramps and injuries.


Have you ever experienced cramped calves after spending the entire day on foot? This happens because while walking, a significant amount of pressure is put through the ball of your foot on the ground.

Similarly, during an workout, one needs to pressure down the foot pedals through the ball of their foot. This activates the calf muscles, namely gastrocnemius, and soleus, that work in coordination with hamstrings and glutes to perform plantar flexion. An elliptical cross trainer machine in an incline mode puts even more pressure on the calves.

How Does Elliptical Build Muscle? 7 Growth Ways Decoded
How Does Elliptical Build Muscle? 7 Growth Ways Decoded

Triceps and chest

Moving up the human body, the chest and all the muscles surrounding it get affected by the elliptical workout. Most elliptical machines come with an upper-body lever and swing handlebars. Holding on to them during the workout improves balance, helps burn calories effectively, and engages in a full body workout.

It activates the various pushing muscles in the upper body, including the triceps, front deltoids, and the chest. Regularly, these muscles get worked while placing things on high shelves, lifting things, and applying pressure to open doors.

Biceps and back

Like the triceps, the upper body lever in many elliptical machines also exerts enough pressure on the biceps. The human back is comprised of several small muscles located on the sides as well as the around the rib cage.

They are attached to the third or fourth rib from the bottom of the rib cage and act as a support system for the chest. Together, they are often referred to as pulling muscles.

Now, while operating an elliptical machine, these weight-bearing muscles get activated by the continuous bending of the arms. As a result, they help with rhomboids and elbow flexion, which in turn aids in pulling or drawing the shoulder blades in. Hence, the name ‘pulling muscles.’

One of the significant advantages of this action is it helps achieve proper posture and cardiovascular health. In addition, this cardio machine in reverse mode can help build muscles even faster.

Core muscles

The word ‘core muscles’ gets thrown around while discussing full-body workouts, especially during cardiovascular exercise. But only a handful of people know what they comprise. It culminates in truck and hip muscles around the spine, abdominal muscles, and hips.

does the elliptical build muscle and give lower body workout
steady state cardio workouts

During a cross trainer or workout, these core muscles are targeted. Their primary purpose is to maintain balance within the kinetic chain, spine, and pelvis, thereby keeping a person upright.

It is essential to understand that relying too much on the handrails during the entire workout can diminish the effects on core muscles.


Another advantage of using the machines is working on the glute muscles and, more specifically, the gluteus maximus. Their principal task is to aid in hip extension. These devices often allow reverse motion, which, when tried, acts as hip flexors as they offer a backward movement of the thighs. Adding some incline to the mix for a high-impact exercise is best.

Pros of an elliptical machine: How Does Elliptical Build Muscle?

Boosts your stamina and cardio capacity

Regular cardio exercise is almost no alternative when achieving a long and healthy life. This is because the human heart beats with the sole purpose of pumping blood to different body parts. In this case, it provides blood and oxygen to the other muscles.

Now, the heart and lungs gain momentum while engaging in an aerobic exercise like the elliptical trainer. It has to work harder to maintain the supply of blood and oxygen during the workout.

This, in turn, strengthens the heart muscles and boosts stamina and endurance. Opting for a 15-minute high-intensity interval training each day on an machine can undoubtedly increase cardio stamina at an exponential rate.

does the elliptical build muscle and give a full body workout
elliptical training for muscle building

Puts less stress on your joints

Popular cardio activities like running, walking, ground jogging, or even using a calorie burn machine like a treadmill tend to put excess pressure on the joints. This is the sole reason why they are called high-intensity exercises. Sometimes, they cause achy joints and muscle injuries that intensify during old age.

On the other hand, elliptical trainers are low-impact workout machine that offers a chance to train the cardiovascular system without overworking the joints. Here, the feet do not lift off the foot pedals, which is why there is hardly any wear and tear, and a perfect option for older adults.

Burns body fat

Just like every other piece of equipment found in fitness centers, there are innumerable reasons to use an elliptical trainer. Nevertheless, the one motive which beats all others is weight loss. This cardio device burns calories at an exceeding rate in a brief period.

According to experts, unlike a stationary bicycle or a treadmill, going for high and medium intense exercise on an elliptical trainer can be a reliable way to burn calories. Combined with an interval training plan, this can help achieve the desired results in almost no time.

While opting for an interval plan, go for a 2:1 ratio. If you are engaging in 30 seconds of a solid workout, then make sure to give yourself a 15 seconds break. During the break, make sure to keep moving your legs. Elliptical trainers have the hold to burn 150 to 400 calories within half an hour, depending on one’s body weight and the speed of the machine.

Maintains fitness after injury

One of the most significant benefits of elliptical exercise is that it helps recover from injuries and surgeries. But, they are low-intensity workouts that do not cause much wear and tear to the joints.

Moreover, activities like treadmill jogging or ground walking only improves cardiovascular endurance. However, elliptical workouts offer a full range of motion, from working the bones, muscles, heart, and lungs to the coordination between the brain and the limbs.

They even take the stress off injured areas, making them a perfect rehabilitation choice after knee arthritis, knee surgery, ankle injury, and osteoporosis.

Cons of an elliptical machine: How Does Elliptical Build Muscle?

The elliptical trainer may seem perfect for beginners, but they, too, have their fair share of flaws. Following are three significant drawbacks that users have encountered while using this machine.


The machine offers next to little change in the plane of motion. The exercise is carried out in a fixed position with no visual stimulation, even if the speed increases, making it monotonous.

Provides low-impact

Secondly, the machine indeed offers both upper and lower body workouts. However, they allow only low-impact exercise, even at maximum speed. This makes it unsuitable for people aiming for high-intensity practice, equivalent to a steep climb or a fast run.

Unsuitable physical framework

Lastly, elliptical machines have a physical framework that supports users with an average size. As for people who are bulkier, taller, or shorter than average, it becomes tough to operate.

FAQs: How Does Elliptical Build Muscle?

What muscles are toned by an elliptical?

An elliptical workout covers all sorts of upper and lower body muscles. It focuses on hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, calves, biceps, and many more. Each of the individual muscles is pushed, pulled, and toned until they gain strength and shape.

Does an elliptical machine help lose weight?

A regular 30-minute exercise on an elliptical device helps aid weight loss like none other. This, when combined with medium-intensity interval training, can burn calories at an incredible speed.

Is it safe to use an elliptical machine after injuries?

The elliptical machine is an excellent rehabilitation device that has been part of professional medical advice for years. They can help regain fitness and balance after suffering from injuries. In addition, they allow low-intensity exercise that avoids stress on the injured areas.