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Ready to kick things up a notch? No, I’m not the famed Emeril Lagasse (nor am I skilled at cooking), but I can turn up the heat with two epic elliptical interval workouts. Luckily for you, I’ve carefully crafted two stellar options for beginners and those with minimal time to spare.
Whether we’re talking about treadmills, exercise bikes, rowing machines, or ellipticals, I’m your girl. I’m a former NCAA D1 soccer player, so cardio is basically my middle name. I’m excited to give you two workouts you can enjoy (or hate me for, since they’ll be tough) and repeat over and over again. Let’s get into it!
What Is Interval Training?
According to a study published in 2021 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health2, interval training is a combination of “short bursts of intense activity” coupled with “periods of rest or low-intensity exercise”. In layman’s terms, this means going pedal to metal for a bit and then back to a slower pace to catch your breath. The period of going hard can vary anywhere from 10 seconds to two minutes or more, depending on your personal fitness level and the type of activity being performed.
Interval training can be done with almost any cardio-based activity. Whether you enjoy rowing, running, or swimming, you’ll be able to program intervals into your training if you wish. It is important to add periods of rest between intense spurts of activity, since you’ll want your heart rate to come back down before pushing hard again.
How to Warm Up For an Elliptical Workout
Not sure how to get your blood flowing before a strenuous, full-body elliptical workout? Never fear, NASM-certified personal trainer Anthony O’Reilly is here to help.
“Warming up at a moderate pace for an elliptical workout is no different than hopping on an exercise bike or going for a quick jog, but it’s still important,” Anthony explains. “Make sure to warm up and stretch your legs, focusing on dynamic movements that mirror the motions you’ll be doing on the elliptical. It’s also a good idea to get your heart rate up a little bit to prepare it for the intense workout it’s about to go through.”
Pro tip: Utilize muscle-recovery tools like rollers and massage guns before or after your HIIT routine. Your muscle groups (yes, in both your lower and upper body) will thank you for a lovely wellness treat!
20-Minute HIIT Elliptical Workout
Short on time but still want to get your sweat on? Complete this 20-minute elliptical HIIT workout to get that “glazed donut look” (as Peloton instructor Jess Sims says).
For reference, RPE refers to “rate of perceived exertion,” which is how I’ll be explaining the different effort levels in this workout. A 1 would be equivalent to you sitting in an easy chair watching television, whereas a 10 would be a breathless, max effort.
The industry standard for resistance levels on an elliptical is around 12, but you may have more (or less) options depending on your personal machine. If your elliptical can support higher levels of resistance, feel free to make this workout even more challenging by upping the ante.
It is also worth noting that not all elliptical machines have incline and decline. If your elliptical doesn’t have these options, don’t fret! You’ll still be able to get a killer workout with a little resistance and a lot of hard work.
Someone Call 9-1-1: You’ll be Calorie-Burning in Less Time!
- 0:00-2:00 minutes: Resistance level 3 (RPE of 5) (Option: 3% incline)
- 2:00-2:30 minutes: Resistance level 3 (RPE of 2)
- 2:30-4:30 minutes: Resistance level 5 (RPE of 6) (Option: 4% incline)
- 4:30-5:00 minutes: Resistance level 3 (RPE of 2)
- 5:00-7:00 minutes: Resistance level 7 (RPE of 7) (Option: 5% incline)
- 7:00-7:30 minutes: Resistance level 3 (RPE of 2)
- 7:30-9:30 minutes: Resistance level 9 (RPE of 8) (Option: 6% incline)
- 9:30-10:30 minutes: Resistance level 3 (RPE of 2)
- 10:30-12:30 minutes: Resistance level 11 (RPE of 9) (Option: 5% incline)
- 12:30-13:30 minutes: Resistance level 3 (RPE of 2)
- 13:30-14:00 minutes: Resistance level 12 (RPE of 10) (Option: 4% incline)
- 14:00-15:30 minutes: Resistance level 3 (RPE of 2)
- 15:30-16:00 minutes: Resistance level 9 (RPE of 8) (Option: 3% incline)
- 16:00-17:30 minutes: Resistance level 3 (RPE of 2)
- 17:30-18:00 minutes: Resistance level 7 (RPE of 7) (Option: 2% incline)
- 18:00-18:30 minutes: **Maximum Effort** Resistance level 8 (RPE of 10) (Option: 1% incline)
- 18:30-20:00 minutes: Cool down with no resistance (RPE of 2)
Elliptical Interval Workout For Beginners
Interval workouts for beginners don’t have to be boring! This elliptical workout focuses on short spurts of energy followed by lengthier recovery periods. Give this a try for a doable workout that will leave you feeling both sweaty and accomplished.
RELATED: Beginners Workouts for Elliptical
But You Gotta Put in Work, Work, Work Intervals
- 0:00-1:00 minutes: Resistance level 2 (RPE of 3)
- 1:00-1:30 minutes: Resistance level 3 (RPE of 6)
- 1:30-2:30 minutes: Resistance level 1 (RPE of 2)
- 2:30-3:00 minutes: Resistance level 4 (RPE of 7)
- 3:00-4:00 minutes: Resistance level 1 (RPE of 2)
- 4:00-5:00 minutes: Resistance level 5 (RPE of 8)
- 5:00-7:00 minutes: Resistance level 1 (RPE of 2)
- 7:00-8:00 minutes: Resistance level 6 (RPE of 9)
- 8:00-11:00 minutes: Resistance level 1 (RPE of 2)
- 11:00-11:30 minutes: Resistance level 5 (RPE of 8)
- 11:30-13:30 minutes: Resistance level 1 (RPE of 2)
- 13:30-14:00 minutes: Resistance level 4 (RPE of 7)
- 14:00-16:00 minutes: Resistance level 1 (RPE of 2)
- 16:00-16:30 minutes: Resistance level 3 (RPE of 6)
- 16:30-17:30 minutes: Resistance level 1 (RPE of 2)
- 17:30-18:00 minutes: **Maximum Effort** Resistance level 6 (RPE of 10)
- 18:00-20:00 minutes: Cool down with no resistance (RPE of 2)
FAQs About Elliptical Interval Workouts
Can you do interval training on an elliptical?
Yes, you can do interval training on an elliptical (or really any cardio machine). If you’re able to crank up the resistance, go faster, or even up the incline, interval training is possible.
Is 30 minutes on the elliptical a good workout?
What is “good” for one person may not be for another, so it is important to keep in mind your own limitations and personal fitness level. Thirty minutes on an elliptical might be a difficult workout for some, while for others, it may not be enough time to really get a sweat going. Consult your doctor with any questions or concerns about working out––you and your healthcare provider know your health best.
Is high-intensity interval training good for your health?
According to a study done by Diabetologia in 20161, interval training can be a good tool to manage “metabolic disease management”. It can also increase your fitness level, heart health, and mental health as well. However, if you already have health conditions or cardiac disease, it is best to consult your doctor before attempting any major high-intensity exercise.
What are some other workout routines I can do?
There are plenty of other cardio workouts you can do besides those done on an elliptical trainer. If you’re looking for another low-impact option, consider checking out rowing or pedaling away on an exercise bike.
RELATED: Best Bike for Exercise
For those who are interested in strength training, check out one of our dumbbell workouts to target your lower body. By the end of this one, your glutes and hamstrings will be screaming at you (just how we like it).
Is Tabata the same as interval training or HIIT?
If you enjoy the concept of interval training, you may enjoy Tabata. According to a study done for the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine3, Tabata is similar to HIIT, in that you’ll have a period of high-intensity effort followed by rest. However, the difference lies in the timing: During a Tabata workout, you’ll have a specific 20 seconds on followed by 10 seconds off of whatever movement you’re performing. HIIT and interval training don’t necessarily have defined times like Tabata does.
- High-intensity interval training: a review of its impact on glucose control and cardiometabolic health: 2016. Diabetologia. Springer.
- Evidence-Based Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training on Exercise Capacity and Health: 2021. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. National Library of Medicine.
- Exercise Intensity and Energy Expenditure of a Tabata Workout: 2013. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. National Library of Medicine.
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