Benefits and Instruction of Interval Training on the Elliptical

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Interval training on the elliptical is a simple way to get the benefits of an interval workout without having to find a suitable indoor or outdoor track. Interval training was first popularized by professional sports teams who often work out inside and need to get into shape quickly before a sports season. Physiologists and trainers have adapted the efficient exercise regimen to suit the needs of many different levels of athletes. Interval training allows for the intensity of a workout plan to be increased with decreased threat of burnout. Elliptical machines and similar gym equipment offer the benefit of having multiple intensity settings that are conducive to interval training.


The short bursts of intense energy that are the basis of interval training followed by lower intensity exercise as a rest period have multiple benefits for athletes. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, significantly more calories are burned with interval training as compared to other common types of training. When interval training is done on a consistent basis, the body responds with adaptation. New capillaries are built that deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles used during the intense activity. The body’s ability to withstand lactic acid build up in the muscles is increased as well.


High intensity interval training (HIIT) is quickly becoming the most popular form of interval training on the elliptical. HIIT often uses the perceived exertion scale to monitor the intensity of exercise. The chart uses the numbers 1-10 to help an athlete determine how hard he/she is working out. HIIT prescribes short bursts of exertion at a level 8 or 9 which translates to not being able to talk easily or feeling that the pace cannot be maintained very long. The recovery periods in between are done at a level of 4 or 5 which translates to being able to carry on a conversation and feeling just a little uncomfortable.

Planning a Workout

Workout time for interval training on the elliptical usually ranges from 25-30 minutes. The design can be fairly complex for conditioning athletes who may undergo various physiological tests to determine which settings on the machine will target the desired muscles, but for the general fitness population a basic formulation provides a targeted workout as well.

Taking the time to warm up for 5-10 minutes, and also doing the same for a cool down after the workout is recommended because engaging in intense exercise with cold muscles increases the chance of injury. The first interval of 30 seconds is performed on the elliptical with a perceived exertion of 4-5 determined by the pace of exercise and also by adding resistance on the machine. After this interval, the resistance and pace on the machine are turned down, and exercise is continued at the decreased intensity for 1-2 minutes. The overall pace of the workout should be steady but challenging.


Mayo Clinic: Interval Training: Can it Boost Your Calorie-Burning Power? -

American Council on Exercise: Interval Training -