Elliptical vs. Treadmill: Cardio Machine Debate


By Team Cellucor


The elliptical and treadmill are beloved gym staples that are perfect for a cardio session, with each boasting a variety of benefits.

But which machine gives you the workout you’re after, be it calories burning or strength building?

For muscle-building

Winner: Elliptical

It’s not going to bring you the bulging biceps of a bodybuilder, but the elliptical machine can strengthen a vast number of muscle groups as well as offering a full-body workout.

While the treadmill will serve your quads, hamstrings and hip flexors, the elliptical works your leg muscles, midsection, back, chest, shoulders and arms. According to the Mayo Clinic, the elliptical has the upper hand when working the calf and hamstrings muscles, too.

One study compared muscle activity patterns of the quadriceps and hamstrings in walking on the ground, walking on a treadmill, stationary bicycling, and the elliptical trainer. The elliptical produced far superior quadriceps utilization and greater quadriceps/hamstring coordination than the others.

For building strength

Winner: Treadmill

The treadmill has the advantage over an elliptical here as users can adjust the speed and incline on the machine while ellipticals either lack this feature or if they do have the option, it’s not nearly as effective.

Uphill running works the lower-body muscles much more significantly than horizontal running, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, with the glute muscles particularly engaged resulting in greater strength. So ramp up the speed and power up the ‘hill’.

Another benefit of treadmills is that they boast a weight-bearing effect which ellipticals do not have, as the pedals are raised off the ground. Weight-bearing exercises are key for strengthening both bone and muscle and play an important role in preventing osteoporosis in older people. 

For losing weight

Winner: Treadmill

The treadmill only wins by a hair’s breadth, as both machines are suitable for calorie burning.

The treadmill’s advantage is that you are supporting your own weight, thereby offering extra calorie torching potential. However, it does come with more potential for injury and stress on your joints.

Elliptical trainers actually burn as many calories as the treadmill, found a study in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. Elliptical trainers may feel easier but that’s because most people lean on the handrails, which takes the load off your legs. To ramp up the calorie burn, ditch the rails and pump your arms while holding a light dumbbell in each hand.

Which cardio machine is better for you?

Well, that all depends on your goals!

Choose wisely.



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