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While any exercise is better than none at all, an ideal workout routine includes cardiovascular exercise, strength training and flexibility work for overall fitness. One category of exercise isn’t necessarily better, but they all play a role in making the body function best.



Cardiovascular exercise raises the heart rate for a sustained period of time, and keeps it steady or elevates it and lowers it periodically with intervals. Running, cycling, swimming, stairclimbing and cross-country skiing all are examples of cardiovascular exercise that strengthen the heart, lungs and entire cardiovascular system, as well as burn calories and fat. You can look for additional information right here.

Many cardiovascular modalities tend to favor the lower body, such as cycling, jogging, walking, jumping rope, stairclimbing and more. Although these certainly are effective forms of cardiovascular work, exercise that also works the upper body – such as the elliptical or rowing – results in more balanced conditioning and potentially greater caloric expenditure.

An elliptical is a great option for working both the lower body and upper body, and the more of the body’s 650 muscles you work, the better your fitness level. Let’s first look at the major muscle groups of the upper body and what they do.

Major Upper-Body Muscles

  1. Chest
    • Pectoralis major – works to adduct, flex, extend and medially rotate the arm
    • Pectoralis minor – depresses the scapula (shoulder blade) and elevates the ribs
  2. Back
    • Latissimus dorsi – adducts, extends and medially rotates the arm
    • Trapezius – elevates, depresses, retracts, rotates and fixes the scapula; also extends neck
    • Rhomboids major and minor – retracts, rotates, fixes and slightly elevates (minor) the scapula
    • Teres major – extends, adducts and medially rotates arm
    • Erector spinae – extends abducts and rotates vertebral column
  3. Shoulders
    • Deltoids – flexes, extends, abducts and rotates the arm
    • Rotator cuff (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, teres minor) – extends, adducts, abducts, medially and laterally rotates the arm
  4. Biceps
    • Biceps brachii – flexes and abducts the arm; flexes and supinates forearm
    • Brachialis – flexes forearm
  5. Triceps
    • Triceps brachii – extends and abducts the arm; extends forearm

With all that anatomical terminology, here’s a quick glossary of terms to help understand how these muscles work:

  • Flex the arm – move straight arm forward, lift from hanging down
  • Flex the forearm – bend at the elbow
  • Extend the arm – move straight arm back
  • Extend the forearm – straighten the arm at the elbow
  • Abduct the arm – move the arm away from the body – out to the side
  • Adduct the arm – move the arm in toward the body from the side
  • Medially rotate – turn interally
  • Laterally rotate – turn externally
  • Elevate the scapula – lift the shoulder blades
  • Depress the scapula – lower the shoulder blades
  • Protract the scapula – pull the shoulder blades apart
  • Retract the scapula – pull the should blades together

This group is not all of the upper-body muscles, but it constitutes the largest ones. The upper body musculature clearly is responsible for a lot of movements, which makes it more compelling to involve it in cardio workouts.

In addition to expending more calories, challenging the upper body in workouts helps tone the muscles and improve muscular strength and endurance. This contributes to greater functional strength, thereby making activities of daily living, such as carrying kids, toting luggage or putting grocery bags in the car, easier.

Targeting the Upper Body in Elliptical Workouts

What’s most important if you’re aiming to work the upper body on an elliptical is that it has moving handlebars, of course. Some older models incorporate only stationary handlebars, which won’t let you target the upper body.

Today, equipment manufacturers like Octane Fitness offer various versions of the elliptical, all of which you can use for total-body workouts, including the traditional standing machine, the recumbent elliptical, the lateral elliptical and an all-in-one cross trainer that blends walking, jogging, hiking and climbing.

Keep in mind the following recommendations to work your upper body on an elliptical:

  1. Maintain good posture. Stand up tall and don’t slouch. Pull the shoulders down, keep the back straight and open the chest. Engage your core by drawing your navel to your spine.
  2. Utilize a full range of motion. The handlebars are connected to the leg pedals on an elliptical, so ensure that you are using a full range of motion in the legs so that your arms are fully extended and flexed throughout your strides. Concentrate on fully pushing and pulling. The greater your range of motion, the more muscle you use.
  3. Change your handgrips. Shift your hands lower or higher on the moving handlebars to alter the feel of the motion. Octane Fitness ellipticals feature MultiGrip handlebars, which let you target different muscle groups with a different grips: Chest – overhand and wide; back – parallel and narrow; biceps – underhand and narrow; and more.
  4. Move forward and in reverse. You’ll notice a difference in both your lower body and upper body when you shift from moving forward to reverse. Go in both directions throughout workouts.
  5. Change the resistance level. Alter the resistance level with higher and lower intensity throughout workouts to vary the challenge on both your legs and arms.
  6. Capitalize on the incline. If there is an incline feature, use it to change the direction of motion and create more intensity for the arms and legs.
  7. Alter your pace. A steady pace is fine, but by speeding up, you’ll have to engage your upper body more.
  8. Work one arm at a time. If you can balance, rest one arm on the stationary handlebars while you actively work the other. This way, you get double the work on each arm. After a minute or so, switch arms.
  9. Visualize your muscles. Think about the muscles you are working and feel them contracting. Studies show that visualizing the muscles better engages them.
  10. Try different workouts. Veer from the old standby Manual program and embrace other options, such as interactive heart rate programs, goal workouts and custom routines that let you alter the resistance and stride length. This way, your muscles have to adapt to varying routines.
  11. Take on advanced routines. Try advanced programs, like Octane’s MMA and 30:30 Interval, which incorporate vigorous intervals to push you harder than you might work on your own.
  12. Use side steps if possible. Some Octane ellipticals are equipped with side steps that let you step off the moving pedals periodically and focus exclusively on your upper body. Experience how much harder it is to keep the elliptical moving using only your arms.
  13. Do Workout Boosters – If you are on an Octane elliptical, Workout Boosters incorporate one-minute intervals that command you to go in reverse, squat, lean back and more. Try the ArmBlaster for a rigorous upper-body challenge.
  14. Combine cardio and strength – Integrating cardio and strength lets you really target specific muscles. With Octane’s exclusive CROSS CiRCUIT routine, you can customize sessions to include cardio and exercises like push-ups, rows, lateral raises, biceps curls and kickbacks, to name a few. And every workout can be different – keeping you motivated and getting results.

Next time you hit the elliptical, focus on the many ways you can work the upper body.