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Short On Time? Try This 30 min Elliptical Workout!

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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Exercise is critical to our overall well-being as humans, both physically and emotionally, but finding the perfect workout can be daunting.

Well, look no further as we have put together the perfect 30-minute elliptical workout that’s easy to fit into your lunch schedule, morning or evening!

A man doing the 30 min elliptical challenge
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Following this ultimate 30-minute elliptical workout will burn calories and improve your cardiovascular health, build your endurance and stamina, boost your mood and energy levels, and target multiple muscle groups to have you feeling your best.

The Benefits of a 30-Minute Elliptical Workout

Whether you have an elliptical trainer at home or at the gym, utilizing this machine has many benefits.

Used to simulate stair climbing, walking, or running the elliptical trainer has you burning calories, targets multiple muscle groups, builds your endurance, improves your cardiovascular health, and boosts your general well-being.

Combine these elements with less strain on your joints, and you have the ultimate cardiovascular workout.

Burns Calories

Using an elliptical will no doubt burn calories, but the exact amount will depend on your age, weight, and gender. Your pace, intensity, and resistance levels will also impact the workout.

Since our ultimate 30-minute workout includes a high-intensity interval training routine (HIIT), you will find yourself burning more calories than if you were to follow a low or moderate-intensity activity.

Here is a break-down of the approximate calories to expect to be expended based upon one’s body weight:

  • A 120-pound person will burn around 250-310 calories
  • A 160-pound person will burn about 300-400 calories
  • A 185-pound person will burn roughly 350-450 calories

If you are interested in knowing a more precise count of calories burned during your workout, you can use the formula (MET x body weight in Kg x 3.5) ÷ 200 to calculate how many calories you’re burning per minute.

(“MET” is a measurement of the energy cost of physical activity for a given period). Keep in mind this number will change based on your workout intensity.

A man doing the 30 min elliptical workout routine at home
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Improves Cardiovascular Health

Your cardiovascular system is responsible for supplying nutrients and oxygen to your entire body as well as removing waste. Made up of your heart and the many blood vessels throughout your body, this intricate network ensures every part of your body is getting what it needs while removing what it doesn’t.

Exercise is essential to keeping this system functioning at its best and will improve your cardiovascular health for years.

Physical activity, in general, causes an increase in oxygen content from 5 ml per 100 ml at rest to 15 ml oxygen per 100 ml during the height of your exercise, meaning the cells in your body are getting three times the amount of oxygen they were before you got on the elliptical.

Over time, you will notice that your blood pressure and recovery heart rate improve—you will develop a lower resting heart rate and can rest easy knowing your veins and arteries are healthy.

Some other positive impacts on your cardiovascular health include:

  • Increase in blood clotting time
  • Increase in white and red blood cells
  • Improvement of capillary circulation
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Improved insulin sensitivity

Builds Endurance and Stamina

The key to building one’s endurance and stamina is consistency, commitment, and the willingness to increase the intensity of your workout over time.

If you follow this 30-minute cardio machine workout and implement it into your regular workout regimen, you will undoubtedly see an increase in both your endurance and stamina.

The elliptical machine enables you to get an excellent aerobic workout, strengthening your heart, lungs, and muscles, thus helping to build your stamina and endurance.

A woman doing the 30 min elliptical workout
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Targets Multiple Muscle Groups

There are many muscles involved while working on an elliptical, which is why this intense workout makes for one of the best ways to burn fat fast and build muscle mass while keeping your joints healthy.

From your buttocks and thighs to your arms and shoulders down to your pectorals and abdominals, this workout will work it all. You will find the elliptical will strengthen and tone the muscles in all of these areas of your body and have you looking and feeling your best.

Each time you pull the handlebars towards your body, the biceps and large dorsal, which are the muscles that form that “V” on your back, are engaged.

When the handlebars are pushed, you work your pectorals and triceps. The abdominal muscles will also contract as you work to keep yourself straight and well-balanced while on the elliptical.

Your hamstring muscles and quadriceps are engaged through extension and flexion every time you push down on the pedals in conjunction with the gluteus maximus. Finally, your calf muscles are involved by using the incline and reverse features on the elliptical.

Boosts Mood and Energy Levels

Exercise is beneficial not only for the body but also for your mental health.

Implementing a regular exercise routine has been proven to reduce the likelihood of severe depression and anxiety. Physical activity has been found to increase concentrations of norepinephrine – the chemical in the brain related to one’s stress response.

Exercise also releases endorphins, the brain’s “feel good” chemicals—boosting your mood and self-esteem.

You will also find that you have more energy after your workout on the elliptical. Physical exertion causes your body to produce more mitochondria within your muscle cells, which create fuel out of the glucose that you consume in foods and oxygen from the air you breathe in.

Having more of these powerhouse cells increases your body’s energy supply. As mentioned previously, exercise will also increase the amount of oxygen flowing through your body, which also contributes to boost energy levels as your body is able to function better and use energy more efficiently.

A man at the gym doing the 30 min elliptical workout
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The Muscles Targeted

There are many muscles that are targeted when you hop on the elliptical exerciser—nearly every muscle in the body.

From your arms and pectorals to your abs, glutes, and legs, you will find your entire body feeling worked after using the elliptical. Let’s take a look at the different muscles in more detail.


Your quadriceps are the most prominent and strongest muscles in your body. Located at the front of your thigh and consisting of four muscles, your quadriceps are what help you to stand, walk, run, jump, squat, and move around with ease.

You will activate these muscles each time you press down on the pedals on the elliptical. The greater the elevation/incline, the greater the workout for your quads.


The hamstrings are located at the back of your legs, consisting of the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris muscles.

These muscles engage through extension and flexion during your elliptical workout. Again, increasing the incline on your elliptical machine will result in an increased flexion of your legs, requiring you to use your hamstrings even more.


Your gluteus maximus muscles work in conjunction with your hamstrings and quads. During your workout on the elliptical machine, the hip extension will play a crucial role in the engagement of your glutes. Another way these muscles are targeted is by increasing the incline on the machine every time you go from a seated to a standing position.


Your calf muscles are found in the lower back of your legs and are another group of muscles targeted during elliptical workouts. To engage these muscles, increase the incline on the elliptical or do some reverse pedaling.

Your calves perform plantar flexion, so when you press your foot down on the pedal, you stress these muscles. While you won’t gain any bulk muscle in this region with your elliptical workout, you will notice that the strength in your calves will significantly increase over time.

A man doing the 30 min elliptical challenge at the gym
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The Ultimate 30-Minute Elliptical Workout


The warm-up is essential to any strenuous physical activity you engage in, and the elliptical exercise is no exception.

Since the elliptical training will work for multiple muscle groups, you want to be sure to warm those muscles up prior to engaging them in exercise. It is critical to stretch prior to getting on the elliptical, and there are a few other things you can do to prepare for this ultimate 30-minute elliptical workout.

Here are a few tremendous warm-up techniques to get you ready for your workout:

  • Wall Stretches: These will stretch your calves. Stand about an arm’s length away from a wall in a lunge position. With the leg behind you straight, push the heel of the foot in front of you into the floor, bend your knee, and lean forward. Stay in this stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat for the other side.
  • Butt Kicks: Butt kicks are an excellent way to warm the muscles of your legs up while also increasing your overall body temperature and preparing you for your exercise. Just bend your knee and kick your lower leg behind you, changing from one leg to the other and repeating.
  • On The Elliptical: Now it’s time to get on the elliptical and complete your warm-up as you transition into your actual workout. Set the machine to its most accessible setting and move at a leisurely pace for about 5 minutes or until you feel warm and ready to begin.

You will know when you are warmed up when your heart rate has increased, you have begun to sweat, your body feels warm, your muscles feel relaxed, and your breathing has improved.

HIIT Intervals

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training, in which you alternate short bursts of high-intensity exercise with brief recovery periods. To customize this workout for your individual needs—depending on your skill level—you should set your max resistance level to 25%, 50%, or 75%, respectfully.

In this workout, you will be doing HIIT intervals for 15 minutes, as follows:

  • 30-second HIIT intervals
  • 90 seconds of low-intensity

Repeat this sequence seven to eight times to complete your 15 minutes of HIIT intervals.

A woman doing a 30 min elliptical workout routine
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Resistance-Based Intervals

Following your HIIT intervals, we’re going to move into resistance-based intervals in which we will change the level of resistance to accomplish the ultimate elliptical workout.

For this portion of your workout, you will change the resistance level as follows:

  • 1 minute of high resistance
  • 1 minute of moderate resistance
  • 1 minute of low resistance

Repeat this sequence twice to complete this portion of your exercise. While going through the different resistance levels, push yourself as hard as you can go, and know once you are done, you will begin to cool your body down.

Cool Down

The final five minutes of your workout will be the cool down. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned athlete, both the warm-up and cool-down portions of your workout are essential. 

Just as you did for the warm-up, you’re going to set the elliptical to the most accessible setting without any resistance and move at a slow but steady pace for 5 minutes or until your breathing has slowed down and returned to normal.

Maximizing Your Results

There are a few things you can do during your workout to ensure you are maximizing your results to your utmost potential. Be conscious of these factors to reap the most benefits.

  • Have good posture: Standing up straight will engage your abs, giving you an upper body workout as well and reducing muscle strain.
  • Don’t lean on the stationary handles: It’s natural to want to lean on the stationary handles once you start getting tired but resist the urge to maximize your results.
  • Listen to music: Do you have a workout playlist that gets you going and feeling good? Research has shown pairing upbeat music with your workout can make you put in more effort, thus maximizing your results.
  • Up the resistance level over time: You don’t want to stay at the same level forever. Instead, challenge your body every week or two and consider increasing the resistance level in your HIIT or use a faster pace.
A man beginning his 30 min elliptical session
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Should I Take a Day Off From Working Out on the Elliptical?

Yes! Actually, take two. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should give your body two days off every seven days on the elliptical when doing 30-minute workouts.

Will This Workout Help Me Lose Belly Fat?

Yes! Since you will be engaging your abdominal muscles while on the elliptical, you will begin to lose belly fat. The more muscles you are engaging, the more calories you will burn, which makes the elliptical the optimal exercise as it truly is a full-body workout.

Will I Be Able to Bulk Up My Muscles on the Elliptical?

Not truly. If you are looking to bulk up, start weight training. The elliptical machine is built for burning calories and slimming down. Not to say you won’t be building muscle with this workout, but it will be seen primarily on your endurance than physical.

Can I Do This Workout With Back Pain?

Unless you suffer back pain due to a lack of bone density or have osteoporosis, yes. An elliptical is an excellent option for those who suffer from minor back pain and is even used in physical therapy clinics and hospitals for a low-impact solution.

Can I Do This Workout With Knee Pain?Before you start exercising again, get clearance from your doctor or physician. Once you have been given the green light to start working out again, the elliptical is an excellent option for those recovering from a knee injury. The impact on the knees is very minimal while on the elliptical, as your feet stay on the pedals the entire time. Using an elliptical machine will also benefit your knees as you will be working out the muscles that support your knees.

Before you start exercising again, get clearance from your doctor or physician. Once you have been given the green light to start working out again, the elliptical is an excellent option for those recovering from a knee injury. The impact on the knees is very minimal while on the elliptical, as your feet stay on the pedals the entire time. Using an elliptical machine will also benefit your knees as you will be working out the muscles that support your knees.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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