SparkPeople Blogs  •  fitness  •  cardio

30-Minute Interval Workout for the Elliptical

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I know plenty of people who love their elliptical trainers—and there is plenty of reason to. The elliptical mimics the motion of walking or running but with very little impact on the joints. That means it's more comfortable for you to get your heart rate up and get really sweaty. Whether you want to go easier, go harder, or something in between, a standard elliptical has plenty of options for you.
But following the same elliptical programs day in and day out can make your elliptical workout turn stale—and hurt your results. So I developed a fun interval-style workout that'll challenge you and help pass the time. With frequent changes in speed and resistance, your workout will fly by—and you'll reap the fat-burning, time-saving, calorie-torching benefits of interval training!
Read below for more information to get the most out of this elliptical workout.


Get the Most from This Elliptical Workout
  • This workout was created under the assumption that your elliptical cross ramp (also known as grade or incline) is fixed, since not every elliptical is adjustable. So use your fixed ramp level or choose the appropriate incline for your fitness level—usually somewhere between 15 and 40 degrees (higher is harder).
  • The workout also uses a scale of 10 resistance levels, although some elliptical machines have more levels (even up to 20). Adjust accordingly (i.e. double the resistance level listed if yours has 20 levels instead of 10).
  • SPM stands for Strides Per Minute, a common speed indicator on elliptical consoles. If your elliptical uses revolutions per minute (RPM), simply halve the number indicated. For example, 100 SPM is equal to 50 RPM. Some ellipticals only measure speed in miles or kilometers per hour; there is no accurate way to guess how many strides or revolutions per minute equal one mile, so if you don't have this output, simply increase or decrease speed along with the workout prompts.
  • The RPE column is to help you gauge your overall intensity. Once you make the resistance and speed adjustments, your intensity level should line up with the number indicated. This is another scale of 1-10 where 1 is being totally sedentary and 10 is a maximum effort. If your perceived intensity doesn't match up once you adjusted your speed and level, this is your cue to change. If it still feels too easy, increase the level and/or speed, and if your intensity feels much higher than the indicated RPE, reduce speed and/or your level. This will allow you to follow this interval plan and further customize it to your own level.
  • Play with direction. If your elliptical trainer goes both forward and backwards, incorporate directional changes into your routine (even though they're not listed here). Set your own interval, such as switching direction every 5 minutes to work your muscles differently and keep your body guessing.
Like any workout, consider this plan a general guide. Use your best judgment and make adjustments to suit your fitness level, energy level, actual elliptical machine and other concerns.

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PATRICIAAK 12/28/2020
:) Report
CECELW 7/13/2020
I'm pretty sure I read this article before Report
thanks Report
I enjoy the elliptical as it's a good workout once you work up some endurance time. However as with most movements, check w/ not only your doctor but a sports physician or physical therapist before working in both directions. Going backwards can put strain on the knee.
I find that 15 is good but pushing up to 25 min was too much at once so even if fit, increase slowly adding a couple minutes every other week or so. And every ET is different! Slow & steady wins out plus prevents injury. Report
thank you Report
Thank you Report
Thanks Report
Great article Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
Good article - thanks. Report
Thanks Report
Thanks! Report
I really like this one, have been using for a while now. Really makes time FLY BY! Report
Thanks! Report
Any suggestions on incorporating incline? The machines at my gym have variable incline as well as resistance. Report
I used a machine called Nustep at the PT gym. It is like a recumbent elliptical. I loved it! Any chance we can get a review or get it added to the fitness tracker?
Thanks! Report
Thanks so much for this! I've been looking for an interval workout for the elliptical. Currently, I use my playlist - I slow down on a slower song and speed up on a faster song, making sure my steps match the beat of the music. Works pretty well until I get a couple of slow or fast songs in a row. Report
Just starting on the elliptical - and it is a real challenge for me. But, even if i do only 3 to 5 minutes, it is better than not doing any. Report
I find that a heart rate monitor is much better for measuring exertion level. A perceived exertion level of 6 versus 7 for example is too hard to distinguish. Report
I enjoy the elliptical so I'll try to varying my workout . I like using different types of music . Report
This is a great post. Thank you! Report
I will try this tomorrow
I general, I burn over 400 calories in 30 minutes on fat burn level 16 Report
Thanks especially for breaking down the Level, spm and rpe. I also have a hard time determining what level of work is needed for the rpe. Report
Thanks for the information. I'm going to hang this in my elliptical machine. Report
I started a new routine, every two minutes I increase my level until my last 5 minutes of cool down, when I go back down to the easier levels. Works great for me! I might use this to switch things up, too! Thanks! Report
i have a new gold's gym stride trainer anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes that thing kicks my rear. i am trying to gradually build up my endurance and using a recumbent bike in between elliptical workouts. Report
With knee pain sometimes being an issue for me, the elliptical has become my favourite workout friend! Report
I LOVE my elliptical time...I hope I can use this soon! :-D Report
Typo on minutes 21-23, says level 5 at 140 spm, but all other level 5s say 130 bpm. level 7 appears to be 140 bpm, so you might want to adjust or fix it. great plan though, I am going to try it next time I'm at the gym, and maybe add a playlist with bpm songs to mostly match it. Report
It is boring no matter what a person says, but it is a different workout than the bike or treadmill. I mix mind up about ten minutes each. Report
good article Report
This looks great, I'm printing it for the next gym trip. Thank you to Bronhi for providing the graphic link!! Report
Great information here. Report
I did this today and I enjoyed every bit of it. Report
is the direct url of the graphic. If you copy and paste that in your browser, it'll pull up the graphic only. That may make printing easier for some Report
I use the preprogrammed resistance routines on the ellipticals at my gym. Most of the programs are broken up into 12 segments, so I set the total minutes for my workout to 24. That makes each segment 2 minutes. I also switch from going forward to going backwards during those segments - it really works the legs differently. After I'm done with the 24 minutes, I move on to the treadmill for a cooldown. My gym has a 25-minute time limit on all the aerobic machines, but if no one is waiting for the elliptical, I'll stay on it longer.

Using the moveable handles also adds resistance to the program & upper body work. Report
Ctrl-P will always bring up a print dialog box in any Windows program.

I use my elliptical everyday and just use one of the "Programs" that are in it. The program will vary the resistance and makes for a great workout.

I've lost 45 pounds since June and want to lose another 25. I try to watch what I eat, to help me lose weight but I rely more on time on the elliptical.
For those asking about the 'print' option.... it depends on your browser. The button isn't on the Spark page. For instance... Internet Explorer - it's the little wheel on the right that contains the print option. FireFox - that is on the upper left under File like the article says. Chrome - on the right, the little symbol with 3 parallel bars. CometBird - top left, actually have to click the CometBird button with the down arrow, opens options including 'print'. Other browsers might be different, but I'm sure you get the idea... Report
gotta try this! Report
I have been combining elliptical workout and rowing. I elliptical on level 3-4 random after completing 5,000 meters full strength on the rower. After 65 minutes I am done! Report
I'm so going to try this! Report
Why can't I print this!!!! Report
This is perfect for me - JUST what I was looking for :) Perfect timing! Thanks, Nicole! Report
I love using my elliptical! Thanks for this article Report
where is the print button??? Report
Good article. I hope to make more use of ellipticals, though they aren't my favorite machines. Why isn't there a "print" button on the left? It's mentioned in the article, but it's not there. Report
sounds interesting. Report