Most of us know that exercise provides a host of benefits, including weight management and weight loss; more energy; greater confidence; decreased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease; improved stress management; and better mood, among others. Plus, regular exercise yields enhanced quality of life and overall health.
The human body was designed for movement, and our current sedentary lifestyles require that we make deliberate efforts to be active. While recommendations for frequency, intensity and duration of exercise sessions vary according to your personal goals, health conditions and current fitness level, any exercise is better than none. And it’s never too late to begin to exercise, even if you’ve never worked out before.
What’s critically important to exercise effectiveness is consistency, which means you have to commit to working out and make it a habit. While you may have seasons where you exercise less due to health issues or life’s obligations getting in the way, the best way to reap the benefits of exercise is by making it a regular part of each week, to the best of your ability.
And ditch the excuses – everyone is busy. The bottom line is that for optimal health, you must make exercise an ongoing priority and find ways to fit it into your schedule. It must become part of your lifestyle, and it is an investment in yourself that pays huge dividends.
Major Muscles at Work
Working the major muscle groups in exercise is the best way to get fit. It’s important to tax both the lower body and upper body, along with the core, to balance strength and enjoy the best results. A combination of cardiovascular sessions, strength training and flexibility work is ideal to optimize your fitness level. Cardiovascular exercise conditions the heart and lungs, strength training works the muscles and stretching enhances range of motion and can help prevent injuries.
The major lower body muscles include:
- Hip flexors
- Hip abductors and adductors (outer and inner thighs)
- Quadriceps (front of thigh)
- Hamstrings (back of thigh)
For the upper body, the following muscle groups are considered the most important:
And, of course, the core, which is comprised of the abdominals and middle to low back, is critical in facilitating many movements.
For cardiovascular work, notice that many machines exercise only the lower- or upper-half of the body, including treadmills, stationary bikes, stairclimbers and upper-body ergometers. That means you are skipping the other half of the body, which can impact your results over time. Why limit yourself to one-half of the body when you can work everything at once?
Total-body machines, such as ellipticals, rowers and alternate motion trainers, hit all the major muscle groups at the same time. That means more bang for your buck. In fact, ellipticals offer numerous advantages:
- More muscle groups involved for better toning
- Greater caloric expenditure
- Ability to isolate upper- or lower-body for targeted strength intervals
- Variety with forward and reverse motion
- Weight-bearing exercise helps build bone density
- Low-impact movement minimizes stress to ankle, knee and hip joints
- Can deliver better results, which enhances motivation and adherence
While total-body workouts deliver valuable benefits, note that cross training leads to superior results. That means you shouldn’t necessarily do the same workout every session, and you don’t have to limit yourself to one modality. If the elliptical is your favorite machine, then don’t do the same program every workout. Try different routines and vary the intensity level and duration to keep your body adapting.
Even more, your body will respond better and you can help prevent boredom if you incorporate a variety of modalities – whether that includes jogging, cycling, dance class, strength training, swimming, yoga and more. Mix it up when you can!
Variety of Ellipticals
Elliptical machines are popular because they provide low-impact, total-body exercise that virtually anyone can do. And today, equipment manufacturers like Octane Fitness provide several different types of ellipticals to help you capitalize on variety:
- Traditional standing ellipticals – These are the original total-body ellipticals that offer smooth, synchronized lower- and upper-body motion and forward and backward movement.
- Recumbent ellipticals – The xRide delivers all the benefits of a standing elliptical, but has a seat with a backrest for comfort. Plus, research shows that exercisers burn more calories and use more glutes on the xRide over a recumbent bike.
- Lateral ellipticals – One of the newest variations on an elliptical, the LateralX combines elliptical motion with adjustable, side-to-side motion for workouts that engage the inner and outer thighs and work in a plane of motion that most cardio machines neglect.
- All-in-one cross trainer – The XT-One lets you vary your workout within your session, by jogging or running like on an elliptical, or hiking or climbing like on a stairclimber. The variety leads to effective routines that quash boredom.
Total-Body Elliptical Workouts
Whatever elliptical you choose, many options exist for different total-body workouts. While the Manual program is a simple choice, you can add variety by changing your direction and resistance level. And be sure to try many of the other options, such as these on Octane machines, to progress and enjoy maximum effectiveness:
- Custom Interval – lets you determine resistance levels and frequency and duration of intervals on the elliptical
- Heart rate interactive – you can set heart rate targets, or follow the elliptical’s recommendations, and the machine automatically adjusts resistance to keep you at the prescribed intensity level
- Goal programs – tackle a 10K or half marathon, or burn 350 or 750 calories in one workout; the program guides you along the way
- 30:30 Interval – train like an athlete by working at your maximum intensity for 30 seconds and then recovering for 30 seconds to build stamina and torch calories
- MMA – this creative workout mimics real-life MMA bouts and provides customized challenge as the machine “fights back” and commands exercisers to “throw it” and “punch and move” to maximize power.
- Workout Boosters – X-Mode, GluteKicker, ArmBlaster and more mix up cardio sessions and ramp up variety for cross training intervals
- Stride length (on adjustable stride models only) – With PowerWalk, Stride Interval, Dual Direction and Lateral Interval, experience the advantages of varying your stride
And, exclusive to Octane, CROSS CiRCUIT uniquely combines cardio intervals on the machine with strength-training exercises adjacent to the machine. You get double the total-body benefits! The variety in terms of number and duration of intervals, strength exercises and accessories to use, is virtually unlimited, resulting in exceptionally efficient and effective sweat sessions.
With CROSS CiRCUIT, you select among hundreds of exercises that use body weight, Octane’s Powerbands and PowerBlock adjustable dumbbells. Or add other accessories, such as medicine balls, kettlebells, stability balls and balance trainers, for even greater variety. You might choose to focus on lower body one day, or core or upper body, but the most bang for your buck comes from a total-body workout, where you hit all the major muscle groups.
Octane offers multiple CROSS CiRCUIT exercises and routines to choose from, and on some models, video demonstrations are included so you can easily follow along.