Shedding belly fat, tightening up the abs, and toning the midriff are among the most common fitness goals out there. If you share some of these goals, how can a cross trainer be used to try to help you achieve them?
Is it the best form of exercise for tightening up the tummy or are there other methods out there that can get you results quicker?
Most importantly does a cross trainer tone your stomach? Cross trainers can tone your stomach because it is used in a broader workout and nutrition plan targeted towards weight loss, which in turn will eventually cause your stomach to look sleeker and more toned.
In order to have a tummy that looks toned and sculpted, it’s necessary to both enhance the abdominal muscles and to reduce belly fat so that these muscles are more visible.
Today, we look at some of the ways the elliptical can be incorporated into your fitness regime to help you cut stomach fat as part of a broader weight loss journey, as well as looking at some of its limitations in relation to building muscle.
Remember, true health comes from within. It’s not all about how you look in the mirror! Nevertheless, if you’re looking to lose a few pounds around the middle, read on to find out how the elliptical could help you on your way.
Does the Elliptical Flatten Your Stomach?
We can all get self conscious about our stomachs, particularly if we feel they’re slightly rounder than we want them to be! To make things more difficult, we often find ourselves living sedentary lifestyles surrounded by easy-to-grab food that rarely has our best interests at heart.
It’s unfortunate that obesity levels in the Western world have been steadily rising for decades, with all the associated health problems this entails.
It’s not surprising that internet searches for ‘how to shred stomach fat’, ‘how to get six-pack abs’ and ‘how to get rid of my belly’ are some of the most common typed into Google.
So can a cross trainer flatten your stomach? The first thing to consider is that the elliptical is primarily a cardio-fitness machine, with the added benefit of working a range of muscles in the upper as well as lower body.
However, it isn’t as effective at targeting specific muscles, especially not the abdominals, and even at higher levels of resistance you’re not going to get the same targeted muscle toning that you would associate with weights, specific body-weight exercises, or other abdominal focused work.
To give the stomach a flatter appearance, you usually have to lose belly fat as well as enhance muscle tone. We will be looking in more detail below about the role a cross trainer can play in reducing belly fat, but for now it’s worth mentioning that ‘targeting’ certain areas of fat for reduction through exercise is, regrettably, not something that we as humans can do.
To lose fat around your waist, you need to start losing fat overall, and different people will lose fat in different places at different rates. Thankfully, as part of a healthy exercise and dietary routine, the cross trainer can be a useful tool in helping us achieve our overall weight loss goals.
How can I target abdominal muscles on an elliptical?
You may hear cross trainer manufacturers claim that, when used correctly, the elliptical targets up to 80% of muscles, resulting in a total body work-out that few machines or gym exercises can match.
This is technically correct, although ‘targeting’ may be too strong a term for what is actually occurring, and the elliptical is unlikely to be your first or only choice if you’re looking specifically to work on and strengthen your core.
To say the elliptical engages a wide range of muscles is potentially more accurate than saying it targets them. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean all of the engaged muscles are being worked hard enough for them to be expanded significantly.
Remember, our abdominal muscles are ‘engaged’ practically all the time – even when we’re walking or sitting we rely on our abdominal muscles to keep us held upright, to adjust our posture, and generally just to help us move through the world.
To target them in a way that results in them becoming noticeably bigger means regularly putting them under a level of strain that they’re not accustomed to in everyday life.
Elliptical machines, even when adjusted to try to put as much tension as possible on the abdominal muscles, are unlikely to be the best tools for sculpting six pack abs.
If you want to specifically ‘target’ the abdominal muscles in order to build them up, you’re probably better off opting for exercises that are better suited for training that part of the body, such as crunches, planks, push ups, and mountain climbers.
However, there are ways you can adjust your elliptical workout to try to ensure that your abdominals are being worked as hard as they can be, which can help to tone and shape them at the same time as giving you a good cardio hit.
Don’t hold onto the handrails or arm handles too tightly, as this is likely to take resistance off your middle and lower body. A lighter grip will force your abdominal muscles to work harder in order to keep you properly balanced and steady.
If you’ve had some practice with the machine already and have got used to the range of movement you can even try to exercise without holding on with your hands at all.
This should maximise the amount that your abdominal muscles are being worked. Be careful though – this isn’t recommended unless you’ve got used to your machine and the way it moves!
We’d also advise not to do this if you’re trying not to exacerbate an existing injury, if you have back problems, or if you have general issues with coordination and balance.
You can also adjust the resistance and incline on many elliptical machines. Increasing both will force your abdominal muscles to work harder as well as your legs, which can in turn make it better suited for strengthening or maintaining muscle mass in certain areas.
Can cross trainer reduce belly fat?
‘Spot reduction’ is a phrase used to describe trying to reduce or eliminate specific areas of fat around the body. A brief internet search will probably yield numerous methods that claim to ‘shred’ belly fat specifically, implying that we have a choice in which part of our bodies we lose fat from first.
Unfortunately, as has already been mentioned, there are no evidence-based methods for reducing specific areas of fat through physical exercise.
As desperate as you might be to shift that beer belly, focusing on crunches, even though they work your abs, is not necessarily going to burn off belly fat any quicker than it does fat in any other location.
Fat cannot be targeted in the same way that individual muscles can. In order to reduce it, we need to take a whole body approach.
If you want to lose fat from around your middle, you’ll need to work on losing weight overall. Although it may sound like obvious advice, the most reliable and sustainable ways of doing this are through a mixture of exercise and nutrition.
The key is consistency – building a routine that can be sustained for months rather than just days or weeks.
The elliptical can be a useful tool in your workout toolkit, particularly if you find running and other aerobic workouts challenging on the joints or knees.
It can also, at lower intensity levels, be a good exercise for those who are relatively new to working out or who may be dusting off their old workout clothes after an extended absence from the gym!
The low-impact motion of cross trainers mean they are well suited to those looking to burn calories whilst also wishing to reduce their risk of injury or who need to avoid exacerbating existing injuries or pain.
Weight loss, when you bring everything back to basics, is essentially a numbers game. In order for you to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you consume. With this in mind, you’ll want to try to ensure that your elliptical workouts are burning through as many calories as possible.
Try to increase the level of intensity or the resistance of your workouts in order to expend energy in a shorter space of time. As mentioned, you can also increase the incline on some machines, forcing your body to burn through more of its reserves in order to keep up the pace.
You can also consider doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) using the elliptical. This involves ramping up the intensity of your exercise for short periods, interspersed with shorter periods of comparative rest.
There is some evidence to suggest that many forms of HIIT actually help burn more calories over time, because the sharp spikes in intensity help boost your metabolism for hours after you’ve finished working out, unlike with gentler forms of exercise.
When you stick to your routine and start to lose weight, excess fat may not start going from your stomach straight away, as your body may be predisposed to burning fat in other areas first.
The exact reasons as to why this varies from person to person are difficult to determine with any certainty, but it would seem that genetics have a crucial role to play.
Nevertheless, if you’re carrying excess weight around your middle, a general weight loss regime will eventually reduce or eliminate this, as long as you are able to maintain healthy patterns and remain active.
Elliptical machine benefits for the stomach
So, is the elliptical machine good for your stomach and the abdominal muscles? Although it may not target your core in quite the same way as dedicated, core strengthening exercises, your stomach can still benefit from the exercise afforded by a cross-trainer.
You can tone and strengthen existing muscles by ensuring you are working at a high enough intensity and by trying to ensure that the abdominals are working to maintain your balance and posture.
It’s also worth remembering that a healthy core doesn’t necessarily mean a visible six pack or ‘washboard’ abs. In reality, achieving this sort of sculpted look is simply not practical or sustainable for most people.
Such a look requires consistent attention paid to diet as well as a relatively stringent exercise routine. These need to combine in order to keep body fat levels extremely low as well as stomach muscles bulked out.
Abdominal muscles only start to become visible when the layers of fat covering them are reduced to a minimum.
It is still possible to have strong, healthy abs by using the elliptical regularly and supplementing this with some core-targeting exercises.
The benefits of having a healthy core are numerous. Once again, the elliptical can help improve our general core strength and stability, as well as our balance and posture.
All of these things can combine to provide healthier, more fluid function and mobility throughout life, as well as unlocking the potential of other exercises and sports.
Furthermore, weight loss for those who are significantly overweight is always a worthy goal, not only because you may feel more comfortable, more energised, and happier in your skin, but because of the reduced risk of obesity related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Numerous studies have also shown that belly fat in particular can be problematic, as excessive fat in this area can hinder the healthy functioning of vital organs that are contained within our midriffs.
Since belly fat can be reduced as part of a whole body weight loss programme, and since the elliptical offers calorie-burning, aerobic workouts from the comfort of your own home or local gym, the cross trainer is a useful weapon for you to have in your weight loss arsenal.
Does Cross Trainer or Elliptical Get Rid of Love Handles?
A cruel reality of belly fat is that it often doesn’t limit itself just to the front! Those looking to lose weight from around their middles may also find that they’ve got extra fat on their sides that they wish they could shave off too, fat which can prove just as stubborn as the beer belly poking out ahead!
As with body fat in general, and as discussed previously, ‘spot reduction’ is not possible with ‘love handles’ or excess weight carried around the sides.
Although you may wish to target specific parts of fat in your body, the reality is that our body loses weight from different areas at different rates depending on a range of factors not usually within our control, including our genetics.
Does Crosstrainer reduce love handles?
If you want to get rid of or at least reduce love handles and fat covering up the obliques, you’ll need to commit to an overall weight loss programme involving a caloric-deficit over time.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are the tried and tested methods for this, rather than fad-exercises or products that claim to ‘target’ or ‘shred’ certain areas of fat.
Is Elliptical Good for Love Handles?
If you happen to store fat around the obliques (love handle) then by using the elliptical consistently it is good for love handles by burning fat.
The elliptical can aid with a sustainable fitness and weight loss routine, particularly if you ramp up the intensity and resistance of your workouts to ensure you’re raising your metabolic rate as much as possible.
This can also lead to metabolic increases in the minutes and hours after you’ve finished on the elliptical which, over time, can result in sustainable weight loss when matched with a sensible, healthy diet.
The obliques are the abdominal muscles that run up the sides of our midriff. Those looking to get rid of love handles or side fat may wish to strengthen and tone their obliques as well, in order to increase overall core strength as well as gain a more sculpted, athletic look.
Remember, real core strength isn’t just about looking a certain way in the mirror! Indeed, the benefits of strong obliques are in the improved functionality and fitness you’ll have overall, rather than any short-lived cosmetic boosts!
Dedicated core exercises may prove more effective over time at building and strengthening oblique muscles, which can be particularly difficult to target without using certain exercises that engage them specifically.
Does the Elliptical Tone your Stomach?
Elliptical workouts will work the abdominals and the obliques, helping you to tone or maintain muscle mass without necessarily boosting it noticeably. As part of a muscle maintenance programme or ‘cutting’ phase of bodybuilding, the elliptical can prove to be a helpful tool.
An ex-triathlete, fitness coach and writer with a Masters in Sports Physiology. Fitness is my passion and I've had my fair share of home fitness equipment tried and tested!