5 HIIT Workouts on an Elliptical Machine That Actually Work

An elliptical machine is a great way to get a no-impact cardio workout, but adding intervals makes your routine more efficient, so you can get fit, lose weight, or built stamina in less time. Here are some great workouts for HIIT elliptical training.

What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. With HIIT, you alternate short bursts of high intensity exercise with short recovery periods. HIIT workouts can be done for any session duration, at any fitness level, in any cardio workout; it’s not about the specific activity you do, but about how you perform the activity. HIIT workouts are difficult, but have some incredible benefits.

Benefits of HIIT

Saving Time

Research shows that just 15 minutes of HIIT done three or more times a week is as good a workout as an hour spent jogging on a treadmill. HIIT lets you squeeze great workouts into a busy schedule.

Burning More Fat

A HIIT workout burns more calories than continuous cardio while you do it, but it also speeds up your metabolism, burning more fat and calories for a full 24 hours afterward.

Improving Cardiovascular Health

HIIT workouts reduce your blood lipids and improves your blood oxygen maximum level more than continuous training , making you more fit for any cardio activity you undertake.

Improving your insulin sensitivity. Our body’s ability to manage blood sugar levels is an important aspect of our overall health and longevity, and HIIT training improves insulin sensitivity even in the absence of weight loss.

In other words, HIIT is a fantastic way to take any workout to the next level and get more results from your time in the gym. It’s also the best way to break through a plateau in your workout regimen.

How Does Interval Training Work?

To do any HIIT workout, you need to do the following:

Stretch and Warm Up Completely

These are strenuous workouts, and it’s critical to make sure that your body is warm and ready for an increase in intensity. Warming up protects your body from injury and prepares your body to release energy during your workout. Whatever your warm-up activity is, you know you are warmed up when:

  • Your body feels warm and your muscles relaxed all over
  • You are lightly sweating or have a warm skin temperature
  • Your heart and breathing rate are lightly increased
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Warming up before working out is important since it will help protect your body from injury.

For most people, this takes 5-10 minutes of light-to-moderate activity, but the time it takes to get there depends on the specific activity, as well as how warm your environment and clothing are.

Understand and Control Your Intensity

HIIT workouts involve working as hard as you can for short bursts of time, typically less than a minute, then backing off to a moderate activity level for a minute or two. If you are doing a new workout, or just starting your fitness journey, you may not have the skill or control to regulate these intensity levels. In other words, HIIT training is not the time to be concentrating on learning new moves or new machines; you need to be familiar with the activity so you can concentrate on the intensity.

Have Perfect Form

Because you are working so hard in these intensity bursts, aiming for the point of exhaustion, it’s critical that you have the form and posture that protect your body from injury. That’s one reason why the elliptical is such a great choice for HIIT workouts; because the machine protects the body from impact, there is reduced risk of stress and injury from improper form.

Use a Program

Most elliptical machines will allow you to program interval times and settings, which is another reason they are great for HIIT workouts. Because HIIT workouts require you to monitor time in seconds or minutes, using an app or watch can be incredibly cumbersome and require a lot of mid-workout fiddling with the device. If you aren’t using a programmable machine or a fitness app, then work out along with a video or a trainer or friend who will monitor time for you.

Cool Down Afterward

Like warming up, a cool-down period is critical for your health, particularly in HIIT workouts. A cool-down period allows your heart and respiration rate to slow naturally, and gradually reduces your body temperature, so that you can feel good after a workout.

Cool down periods also help the body reduce lactic acid in the muscles, preventing soreness and muscle cramps. In most cases, a cool down period can take as little as 5 minutes.

Continue gentle activities like walking at a reduced pace or gently stretching the body until you feel your body cool down and your breath slow to the normal rate.

Best HIIT Workouts on an Elliptical Machine

As mentioned above, you should not start HIIT training until you are very familiar and comfortable working out on the elliptical. You should be able to easily perform moderate and intense elliptical cardio workouts before you progress to HIIT. If you are already familiar with the elliptical, and want to take your workouts to the next level, here’s how:

1. Best HIIT Elliptical Workout for Beginners

This is a great 30-minute HIIT elliptical workout for beginners:

0-5 warm upEasyeasy
6-8 moderate55
9 intense105
10-11 moderate57
12 intense107
13-15 moderate79
16 intense129
17-18 moderate911
19 intense1411
20-21 moderate911
22 intense129
23-25 moderate79
26-30 cool downeasyeasy

Adjust any of these specific settings to your specific fitness level. The goal is to challenge yourself to go as hard as you can for one minute at a time, but every individual person has a different threshold.

Here is a great 30-minute video of a lower-intensity elliptical workout for beginners:

2. Best HIIT Elliptical Workout for Weight Loss

This 30-minute elliptical workout burns up to 300 calories and engages your arms for more toning in your upper body and core, while using the backward motion on the elliptical to target glutes and hamstrings.

0-3 warm upPush and pull arm levers33-4Forward
3-8Swing arms at your sides65-6Forward
8-13Push and pull arm levers65-6Backward
13-15Hold arms straight out to the sides and circle them forward76-7Forward
15-17Hold arms straight out to the sides and circle them backward76-7Backward
17-22Push and pull arm levers87-8Forward
22-27Push and pull arm levers87-8Backward
27-30 cool downPush and pull arm levers33-4Forward

Adjust incline and resistance settings for your fitness level. The goal of this workout is not to be at 100% at peak intensity intervals, but to hold at about 80% intensity for longer periods while engaging more of the body.

For a high intensity fat burning elliptical workout, check out this video:

3. Best HIIT Elliptical Workout for Busy Schedules

If you are on a busy schedule, you can still get a great HIIT workout on an elliptical. This HIIT elliptical workout is super flexible and fits into any time you have available.

3-minute warm upEasyEasy
20 secondsHighHigh
60 secondsEasyEasy
Repeat 10 timesAlternate high for 20 seconds, easy for 60 secondsAlternate high for 20 seconds, easy for 60 seconds
3 minute cool downEasyEasy

Try to repeat 10 times per session, but feel free to reduce repetitions to fit into the amount of time you have.

Here’s another 15 minute high intensity elliptical workout:

4. Best HIIT Elliptical Workout for Advanced Results

If you want an extreme HIIT elliptical workout, to really push yourself and get fit faster, or if your regular training routine has stopped challenging you, try this intense HIIT workout for the elliptical:

0-5 warm up510
5-6 fast pace712
6-8 moderate pace914
8-9 as fast as you can813
9-11 moderate pace914
11-12 as fast as you can1014
12-14 moderate pace914
14-15 fast pace105
15-16 fast pace115
16-17 fast pace125
17-18 fast pace135
18-19 fast pace145
19-21 moderate pace914
21-22 as fast as you can520
22-24 moderate pace914
24-25 as fast as you can520
25-26 moderate pace914
26-27 as fast as you can520
27-30 cool down55

Or here’s a video with a 30 minute HIIT elliptical workout that will push you to the maximum:

5. Best Tabata Training Workout on the Elliptical

Tabata is a specific form of HIIT training involving very short, very extreme intervals with even shorter rest periods.

Tabata training has been proven to deliver incredible cardio benefits and results in extremely short periods of time and is a very popular form of HIIT workout. This Tabata elliptical workout is not for the faint of heart.

0-2 Warm up45Forward
2-4 Tabata sequence: Go as hard as you can for 20 seconds, slow for 10 seconds. Repeat 4 times65Forward
4-6 Tabata sequence: Go as hard as you can for 20 seconds, slow for 10 seconds. Repeat 4 times105Backward
6-7 recovery45Forward
7-9 Tabata sequence: go as hard as you can for 20 seconds, slow for 10 seconds. Repeat 4 times125Forward
9-11 Tabata sequence: go as hard as you can for 20 seconds, slow for 10 seconds. Repeat 4 times85Backward
11-15 Cool down45Forward

Or check out this video for an intense Tabata workout on the elliptical:


Always remember to customize any of these workouts to your comfort and fitness level, and never begin an exercise regimen without first talking with your physician. HIIT workouts are tough, and it’s important to avoid over-straining and injuring yourself.

You can get intense, fat-burning, cardio-boosting workouts on the elliptical, and high intensity intervals are the most efficient way to get the most results from every session. Choose the workout that is best for you and get fit for life.

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