November 25, 2020 4 min read

An elliptical machine is a popular option for home gym equipment because it provides a low-impact workout while still increasing your heart rate. However, there are several common mistakes you’re making on your elliptical machine that could prevent you from getting a rigorous workout and may even put you at risk of injury.

Not Setting Goals

Cardio equipment like ellipticals seem straightforward; you simply climb on, start moving your legs, and wait for the benefits to roll in. But if you’re going to stay motivated and keep up a consistent and effective routine, you’ll need to establish both short-term and long-term goals for yourself. Without goals, eventually, you’ll plateau and fall into the habit of completing the same workout over and over without seeing much progress.

When you begin using your elliptical, plan out a routine and keep track of your progress. The only way you’ll reach your goal is if you progressively improve and set new challenges for yourself. If you feel like you’re becoming complacent or your routine has gotten stale, try switching up your regimen with some interval training.


Posture is one of the most important elements of these home gym machines, and it’s something easy to forget or neglect if you don’t quite understand its importance and how incorrect posture can cause injury. For ellipticals, you usually see most slouching come from people who are leaning too much onto the handles, which can result from a resistance that is too high for them. A higher resistance does not always provide a better workout if you can’t maintain your posture or you’re struggling far too much to sustain good form.

Pushing With Your Toes

If you ever notice that your toes are going numb during your workout, you may be putting too much weight on the front of your feet. This may indicate that you’re leaning too far forward and slouching. Shift back onto your heels, and consider lowering your resistance if you keep finding yourself shifting forward again.

Bouncing Up and Down

A common mistake you’re making on your elliptical machine is almost certainly bobbing up and down. This habit is fairly unique to the elliptical, but as you would while walking or running, your body must remain in a level position during the elliptical motion. Staying level reduces the excess impact on your joints; otherwise, you may wake up in the morning feeling a bit achy and breaky in the knees. Staying level also stops you from “cheating” your workout because if you’re letting the machine take you up and down, you’re using your weight and gravity to move the pedals rather than working out your body.

Not Engaging Your Core

Even if you’re not slouching, make sure you’re also engaging your core so that you don’t place unnecessary stress on your back, risking an injury. To make sure you’re engaging your core, draw your belly button in toward your spine as you breathe. Engaging your upper body by using the moving handles will keep you from going too stiff and allow your legs their full range of movement.

Not Increasing Resistance

This topic goes back to avoiding complacency in your routine. While it’s tempting to get comfortable with a resistance level that doesn’t challenge you too much, you’re not doing yourself any favors. As you improve, continue to increase the resistance of the machine and push your limits bit by bit. When you do increase the resistance, try to keep a steady pace until you’ve worn yourself out, and you’ll see significantly better progress toward your goal.

Inaccurate Machinery

For most basic elliptical models, it’s a bad idea to put too much stock into the “calories burned” total, as these machines make estimated guesses based on general information such as your age, height, and weight. Instead, if you’re counting calories, a wearable tracker that can estimate your calories burned based on your heart rate is likely to give you a more accurate picture. Otherwise, you could invest in a home gym and consider our Precor elliptical trainers. Home gym ellipticals are typically more effective and better at tracking your progress, not only because you can personalize them to your specifications but also because they monitor your heart rate. Our machines even come with pre-programmed routines to help you figure out the best exercise regimens for your needs to help you achieve your goals.

Your Machine Is Noisy

Elliptical machines, in general, are not all that loud. If when you’re working out, you hear a lot of noise or a sort of “purr” coming from your elliptical, it means you’re going too fast with too little resistance. This route won’t get you very far as you’re not really challenging yourself. Your heart rate will drop, if it hasn’t already, meaning you’ll waste your time and burn very few calories.

Too Much of an Incline

Similar to a treadmill, ellipticals come with an incline adjustment feature. However, they differ in that ellipticals actually become less of a challenge with an incline because it’s much easier for your legs to push and pull through a stride. For a more effective workout, decrease the incline on your elliptical.

Not Going Backward

It only seems natural to move forward on an elliptical—after all, most people don’t run backward on a treadmill or pedal backward on a stationary bike. It’s a unique perk of an elliptical, though, that pedaling backward is not only viable but effective. By going backward on your elliptical, you put your larger muscle groups to work, such as your hamstrings and glutes. Give it a try if you need a change in your routine and your other muscles need a breather.

Only Using the Elliptical

As a general rule, you shouldn’t only use one machine. If you find yourself on your elliptical most of the time, try supplementing your routine with basic weightlifting training using dumbbells, or switch to a different form of cardio. This variety keeps your muscles from adjusting to only a single type of movement and will prevent you from getting bored with your routine.

Common Mistakes You’re Making on Your Elliptical Machine

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