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Elliptical resistance level for weight loss

Elliptical resistance level for weight loss

If you have ever used an elliptical machine, you know that it can offer a decent overall workout. Now, the question you may be asked by people who have not used elliptical machines and are looking for options to get rid of extra weight/ fat is: can you use an elliptical machine for weight loss? Well, you can go ahead and suggest this article, or maybe answer them yourself that – yes, you can use elliptical resistance levels to lose weight.

Manual adjustment to resistance levels on ellipticals
Picture: Working out at resistance levels can burn more calories and lose weight

So as stated above, the best method to use an elliptical for weight loss would be to use the resistance levels available in the system. You can use a rotating dial or a knob that can be found on the front end of the machine to do so. Sometimes, elliptical machines have a electronic console that sets the resistance  and allows adjustments by buttons or a dial. 

With your body setting the speed at which you have to work out, you can easily make adjustments to your movement for the interval training where you will need to warm up, put in the maximum effort, and the period you will be needing to cool down. As an instrument for shedding the extra fat in your body, elliptical machines have worked miracles. Modern-day ellipticals are programmed in such a way that you can set resistance level to challenge yourself, and make adjustments accordingly. Higher resistance levels will require you to put in more effort, burn more calories, and get rid of any extra weight in due process. Any source of discomfort also leaves you with the option to adjust the resistance again so that your heart rate drops down and you can pedal along comfortably. Often you will find that your elliptical is taking in data like your age, weight, and height before your workout session. This data is then used to set the resistance level when you select the workout settings like interval training. In this article, we will look at what is resistance level in an elliptical machine, how it can become an effective workout tool , some useful workout schemes, and a few useful FAQ s for extra guidance.

Resistance vs incline on an elliptical machine

Resistance vs Incline on elliptical

You must understand the differentiation between resistance and incline on elliptical machines, as adjusting both of them will being about changes to your workout intensity. However, they benefits that they offer are unique to each other.

  • Elliptical Resistance

    As you boost resistance levels in an elliptical machine, you will need to put in extra effort to move the pedals. The pedal position, however, relative to the user – is the same as before. The muscles have to work more so that you can generate more force to push the pedals – which leads to more calorie burn. Muscle toning is also a result of added resistance while a faster heartbeat contributes to more gains to your cardio fitness. Remember that you can adjust the resistance levels manually or let the machine adjust them for you as you select workout programs.

  • Elliptical Incline

    Only the higher-end elliptical models come with the feature to adjust the incline – usually machines that have the rear-drive design.. You are changing the slope as you are adjusting the incline. You will need to put in more effort as the machine adjusts to incline slopes that are “higher”. You can target different muscle groups at higher inclines too.

Elliptical Resistance Level

As you use ellipticals for weight loss or any other purpose – pedal motion is possible as the legs are transmitting. With no pedal resistance, you would have been able to rotate your legs at high speeds even with minimal effort. This is why elliptical machines have resistance to oppose the pedaling motion. The braking system in ellipticals can be adjusted to different intensity levels – also called resistance levels. High resistance levels coupled with steady running speed will mean that you have to use more energy to pedal. However, these resistance levels do not follow any standard measures and you usually cannot compare the resistance of one machine to another.

  • While you have the option to manually set the resistance on many ellipticals and then adjust the tension accordingly – your body conditions, like weight and fitness, will primarily determine what resistance level is suitable for you on many elliptical models. Typically, if you are lightweight and engage in sports regularly, you can pedal against higher resistance levels.
  • Your purpose of using the elliptical is important too. You can engage a larger number of muscle groups if the resistance is adjusted correctly. For example, to exercise the arms – you will need to bring down the resistance level of the machine so that your arms are doing the majority of your work while your legs have to put in minimal effort. To engage your arms and legs simultaneously- too low a resistance would be better.
  • The intensity you want to exercise with will also influence how you should use your elliptical machine. Cardio workouts will need working out with smaller resistance levels but for a longer duration. Muscle building will need short and more intense workout sessions.

Things you should keep in mind while elliptical use

  • Start your workout by working out at lower resistance so that your muscles loosen up.
  • Stretch out before you begin and make sure that you are always hydrated.
  • If you are suffering from health conditions, avoid high resistance.
  • If you want to make adjustments to your workout, it is a good idea to take suggestions from your physician before.

Lose weight with ellipticals

The practices will allow you to use the resistance levels in elliptical machines for weight loss.

  • Adjust resistance level 

    As you increase the resistance levels on your elliptical machine, you every stride will need more effort. With more calories burnt, you can lose surplus weight. As stated above, you can build the muscles in your leg too – a great advantage of fighting against the resistance that you add by increasing its level on an elliptical machine.

    You can determine if the elliptical machine’s tension is sufficient enough to oppose your motion. If you can use the momentum of the machine to propel you, the benefits of your workouts are much less likely to show. Even if there are benefits of exercising like this – they will take even longer to produce any output.

  • Do HIIT

    Another efficient way to use an elliptical machine for weight loss would be interval training. Instead of going about your workouts at slower speeds that are rather comfortable – HIIT training will make you pedal at faster speeds and follow them up with active recovery intervals. The portions where you will need to pick up the intensity entails higher resistance, incline, and speed – combinations of the three will challenge you and push you to go the extra mile. The fruits are you getting rid of the extra weight!
    HIIT is very effective if you are looking to lose that flabby shape. While most elliptical machines offer the option of interval-based workouts – you may also bring about manual adjustments, like increasing the resistance level for a certain period of time and then again at lower resistance in another. The best way to do this would be to seek help from others who have been able to use the elliptical machine for interval training more effectively and efficiently.

  • Long term weight loss

    You can also use ellipticals to shed your extra weight in the long run. The variable resistance levels and incline settings will keep things challenging for you well into the future. The best part is there are very low chances of you injuring yourself if you use ellipticals with increasing age, when the joints in your body cannot adjust to the repeated impacts.

  • Engage in full-body workouts

    Since they can offer the benefits of workout for your full body, ellipticals are gaining much popularity. A range of muscle groups is being engaged as you work the pedals and the handlebars simultaneously. These muscles will range from your quads to your back and core – so basically most of your body gets involved. As losing weight is all about burning calories, with all these body areas using energy – losing weight will be evident.
    In some models, your legs will be driving movement while the handles do not have any function. As you are engaging your core to push-pull the handlebars, you have to involve your whole body. You can get some exercise for your upper body while you are pedaling to drive motion.

Use your elliptical machine for a full body workout
Picture: Use ellipticals to engage in full-body workouts

  • Engage in strength training

    Strength training can help you lose weight and also ensure that you do not get back lost fat. Combining weightlifting with the elliptical sessions will set you on the course to get better results. You are bundling a foundation for your body so that you do not gain weight in the future. With increased muscle mass, they burn the extra calories that were otherwise fat. You can try combining these two on the same day or also try them on alternate days

  • Adjust your workout routine

    Normally, you will get bored with your workout, feel disengaged, or feel that the trainer is unable to deliver output. This means you will need to mix your routines. Experts recommend that you should change your routine every 6-8 weeks so that there is no performance “plateau”. You can add more resistance to your elliptical workouts or just exercise at a faster speed.
    Another approach would be to alternate your cardio approach consistently as you mix working out with the elliptical and sessions of running or cycling. It is also possible to alternate with long elliptical sessions at a steady pace with HIIT workouts so that your body goes through a diversified set of workouts. This diversity will be the key to weight loss.

Benefits of using an Elliptical

  • With moving handlebars, you can work out your triceps, biceps, pectoral, and lats of the upper body while the calves, hamstring, and your glutes will be ranged with normal elliptical motion.
  • Your bones will lose minerals as you grow old. Working out with ellipticals will help minimize this.
  • Your feet and pedals are always in contact so your knees will not have to withstand repeated impact. This is why your elliptical workouts are comfortable.
  • You can modify the incline and resistance of ellipticals where you can burn more calories and have a proper cool down. With several pre-installed resistance settings that offer exercise routines replicating climbing hills and other options for customization.
  • Combine elliptical workouts with strength training and healthier diets for better results.
  • Your stress will be reduced, your mood will become better, and your immune system will receive a boost while reducing your risk of developing diseases related to obesity.
  • Your balance will become better as you focus on your core muscles by letting go of the bars. Just ensure that you can manage the incline and resistance.
  • The exercises are low-impact so that your joints are not put under additional stress. If you use ellipticals to recover from injuries, you can easily regain your natural motion range while reducing the stress on your injured area.

Effective workouts on an Elliptical

In the table below, we have detailed 4 interval exercises that you can use to burn more calories and lose weight in due process. They are:


2. Hill Climber

3. Mild Intensity ( Longer Intervals )

4. The ladder

 TimeSettingWarm-upMain setCool Down
HIIT30 minYou will need to pick the program for the short interval on your machine. The resistance can also be controlled by adjusting the ramp incline to moderate, from low.i) The initial warm up will involve workout at low level for 5 minutes.
ii) If your machine does not have automatic settings, 5 minutes of low- level pacing can do the job.
i) You will need to determine the maximum level. Set the resistance, incline, and the speed to determine where you have to deliver maximum effort.
ii) Manual adjustments are possible betwixt the resistance levels too. You can continue at the maximum level for 1 or 2 minutes. The settings have to be brought down to rest where you have to continue for the same time duration that you spent at the maximum level.
iii) Do these intervals repeatedly and again rest - for 27 minutes.
i) Bring down the resistance level and speed so that they are lower than that you experienced at the rest level.
ii) You will need to keep up at this resistance and speed for 3 minutes.
iii) Finishing off this 3 minutes - you can get off from the machine.
Hill Climber45 minPick the setting that says "hill climb" in your elliptical and set the time to forty-five minutes.i) Bring by working out at low-level for 5 minutes.
ii) You can carry out low-level pacing for 5 minutes too.
i) You will need to increase the resistance and incline for a duration that lasts 2-5 minutes for every session and then rest between each session.
ii) You may climb for the 1st half of the session by placing your arms centrally. For the 2md half, you can move them to the top of the handles and really pick up your effort as you push and pull.
iii) You will need to continue this setting until you have completed 40 minutes your exercise time.
i) Continue at level 3 resistance for 5 minutes and gradually bring down the incline settings from 10 to 1.
ii) Get off the machine after 5 minutes and get off from the machine properly and safely.
Mild Intensity
( Intervals are long )
45 minSelect the setting for long interval mid-intensity as you get on the machine. If your machine does not have this setting, just get on the elliptical and begin pedaling forwards.You will find that you have to begin with lower-level workouts. You can place for 5 minutes at low-level.i) Hike up the resistance level ( on the scale of 10, this has to be a 7 or a 6 ) and continue workout for a duration of 5 minutes.
ii) After you complete each set of 5 minutes, the settings have to be reduced ( 5 or 4 on a scale of 10). You can continue at rest level afterward.
iii) Do this repeatedly until 40 minutes have gone by.
i) 5 minutes should be spent at level 3 for effort.
ii) Reduce the speed of the elliptical machine to the top so that you can get off the equipment correctly and safely.
The ladder60 minSelect the ladder workout program for sixty minutes.

In the other case, read the outlined workout here.
Follow the 5 minute workout of the machine program. Manually, you can pedal for a period of 5 miles at low-level speed.You will have 3 sections here, each lasting for 4 minutes. After 5 minutes into every interval, the workout level can be increased as written below:
i) At a relatively lower resistance and incline, you will need to work for up to 5 minutes ( on the the scale of 10, this needs to be a 6 or a 5 )
ii) 5 minutes or 10 minutes workout at 7 or 6 on the scale of 10 - with moderate resistance and slope settings. At higher resistance and slope, you would need ten or fifteen minutes work ( eight or seven on a scale of 10).

In the middle of every interval of 15 minutes, you can continue for 2 minutes at the resting level ( on a scale of 10, this should be 4 or 3 ). Consider climbing off the machine and go for 25 squats or lunges too. 3 sessions that take up 15 minutes each should leave you at 56 minutes - when you can cool down.
i) At resistance level 3, continue for 4 minutes. The incline had to be decreased gradually to 1 from 10.
ii) As you see 4 minutes do by, reduce the speed of the elliptical so that you can it is possible for you to step off properly and safely.

Useful tips for Elliptical use

  • Do regular exercises

    To see the best elliptical benefits, you will need to engage in regular exercise. You should go for 30 minutes of exercise 2-3 times in one week. Maybe you can bring up this number to 3 when you feel comfortable. Remember that exercising regularly is the best way to use elliptical resistance levels shedding weight.

  • Upper body engagement

    Engage in full-body elliptical workouts as you push-pull the bars. Engaging your upper body and core will help you lose arm weight.

  • Stay upright

    As you are leaning forward on your elliptical, this position will put you under injury risk. With poor performance – you are very likely to be discouraged. This is why you should maintain an upright position that is correct and proper.

  • Increase RPM

    Hike up your RPM so that you can exercise with more effort, which is possible when you increase the resistance level. Do not go so fast that your muscles and body become disengaged while the machine’s elliptical helps with movement. This acts against weight loss.

  • Get the best shoes

    The shoes suited for elliptical are running shoes or cross-trainers. They should fit your foot properly and offer sufficient arch support, stability, and cushioning.

    • Running shoes are generally light and flexible and primarily designed for flat surfaces. They are optimal over trail-runners for the pedals of an elliptical machine that have even threads.
    • Cross-trainers have stable and wide outsoles to provide stability and support for your feet and ankles. They might lack cushioning but can do the job for low impact exercises with an elliptical.

Total caloric burn

The table below will give you an insight into calories that can be burnt with 30 minutes of exercise on an elliptical machine. We have also put up the number of calories lost when you will use other popular machines for the same duration of time.

Comparison table for calories burnt in an elliptical vs other cardio machines

F. A. Q.s

Q1. How long should I use an elliptical to lose weight?

Ans.: 150 minutes of elliptical exercise every week can help you with weight loss. This means 30 minutes a day – 5 times a week should be enough. How much weight you end up losing is dependent on the workout intensity. You must keep the intensity at a high – as 30 min/day exercise of higher intensity is better than spending more time at a lower intensity.

Q2. Would ellipticals help me to lose belly fat?

Ans.: Cardio workouts on your elliptical machine can help you lose your belly fat. As you increase the resistance level for the full-body workouts, you see engaging more muscles. With more calories being burnt, you will in turn burn your belly fat too.

Q3. How many calories can I burn on an elliptical with resistance?

Ans.: Ideally, you can get rid of more calories if the intensity of exercises on your elliptical is high – which means higher resistance settings. We have undertaken 60 minutes of exercise at three resistance levels: 2,5, and 8. This has been done for user weight 120 lbs to 240 lbs – with an increment of 20 lbs between each weight level.

Number of calories burnt in an elliptical with resistance

Q4. Why should I get off an elliptical?

Ans.: Plan out your workouts around the time you spend on the machine as intervals for active recovery. An example of how to do so would be to step off the machine for a period of 60 seconds and engage in lunges, push-ups, burpees, squats, etc. Use another 60 seconds for the resting period on your elliptical. These workouts are very effective because they can help you burn a lot of calories. Your results will be even better if your program incorporates strength. Working out on an elliptical cross trainer will also help you save time. It may be that you might not have 30 minutes for your elliptical and another 30 minutes for strength training. Or maybe you have 20 minutes overall. Cross circuit elliptical workouts are always going to be more intense and also help you get a full workout in that short time


As you make adjustments to the elliptical resistance levels, you are easily able to burn lots of calories and meet the fitness goals you set for yourself. Increasing the resistance level will help you indulge in more intensive exercise, burn more calories faster, and efficiently lose weight. Just ensure that the resistance levels are not so high that you are left burnt out – also note that it is not so low that they do not offer workouts that challenge you. Alternate between the high and low resistance levels so that your workouts are still engaging and not monotonous. Just make sure that your head is held up high, the muscles in your abdomen tight and your shoulders back. Grab ahold of the handlebars, and push-pull while peeling away to lower weight.

Useful Resources:

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Dion Lewis
My name is Dion Lewis.

I’ve been cycling from my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions.

At my college life, I took a part time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally.

Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or a bike gear.

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