Does The Elliptical Work Your Arms?

Man Exercising with Elliptical Trainer Machine

Ellipticals are great all-around workout machines that engage many parts of the body. While it’s clear that the machine works your lower body, what’s not so clear is whether they work your arms.

The elliptical machine is a great way to get a full-body cardio workout, but do not expect insanely toned arms just by using this machine.  While the machine works the arm muscles, it does not work them to the degree that strength training will.

In this article, you will learn the proper ways to use the elliptical machine to help tone and strengthen your arms.

The Elliptical Can Work Your Arms

Man Working Out on Elliptical

When you step onto an elliptical, you are preparing for a full-body workout, which means you are going to focus on all muscle groups.  Ellipticals come in a variety of models.  Some have stationary handles, while others have handles that move back and forth with the motion of your legs.

Many people believe the handles provide your arms with a killer workout along with your legs, but this is not true.  Your arms can get a good workout from the elliptical machine; however, you need to be intentional to see results.  Below, we will cover ways to maximize your arm workout while on an elliptical.


Having the correct posture on the elliptical will allow your body to fully benefit from your workout. Not only will it help prevent unnecessary injuries, but it will allow you to properly engage your arms while on the machine. The rule of thumb is to have a straight back with your shoulders back and glutes out.  Not only does this engage your lower and abdominal muscles, but it will also allow the proper motion of arms.

Because using an elliptical involves your arms, back, and chest, you want to find a comfortable balance that will allow you to maintain the correct posture throughout the workout. 

(Source: Gym Source)


When you choose to use an elliptical machine to tone your arms, you need to make sure you are moving at the proper pace.  A quicker pace will help ensure that you are engaging your arms for the workout.  This increases the probability that you will see arm toning results.

(Source: Live Healthy)


When you are holding onto the elliptical, the grip you use will directly impact the quality of the arm workout you get. It may be tempting to grip the handles tightly, which means you are putting a lot of pressure on them- and while this may make you feel more secure, you are cheating yourself out of a good workout.  You only need to apply gentle pressure to the handles to get an arm workout.

(Source: Aaptiv)


Like any workout, you need to make sure you are adding variety when using the elliptical machine.  Of course, elliptical machines operate in one general motion, but changing the resistance as well as speed and duration will help speed up your results.  

To ramp up your arm workout, you could use an elliptical that does not have handles- this way, as you are treading on an elliptical, you can do a variety of moves with your arms, such as punching and arm raises.

(Source: Fitness 19)

As you can see, there are many ways you can help focus the attention on your arms when using an elliptical machine.  While the results will not happen overnight, you will likely see some differences with time.

Can an Elliptical Machine Injure My Arms?

Arm Injury Sportsman

An elliptical machine is a great full-body workout machine; however, you may be wondering if an injury can occur from using it.  Any time you exercise, there is a risk of injury, and that risk increases with both machine overuse and machine misuse.

The most common ways to injure your arms with the elliptical machine are by not warming up and by having incorrect posture.  Incorrect posture can place unnecessary pressure on your arms and shoulders, which can cause injuries.

As with any exercise, posture is critical for both safety and form.

(Source: Plancher Ortho)

Is There a Best Type of Elliptical for Arms?

Ellipticals in the Gym

There are a wide variety of elliptical machines, but there is not one that is necessarily best for an arm workout.  If you want to focus on your arms, you may choose to look at a machine that has moving handles.

Alternatively, an elliptical without moving handles can also benefit your upper body because you can use your arms as you would in a running motion by not holding onto any grips at all.  While this takes practice to become comfortable with balancing yourself, it is a great way to get in an upper body workout, much like you would with running.

When will I See Results in My Arms?

It is important to remember the elliptical machine is a full-body workout machine, which means you will not notice a drastic change in your arms in isolation. Typically, it takes 6-8 weeks of consistency to see any changes from working out (Source: Orbit Fitness). So, within a month or two, you may see some differences in your arms in addition to the rest of your body.

When working out with any machine, other factors determine the results you will see.  Some of these factors include but are not limited to:

  • Diet
  • Exercise Frequency
  • Proper use/Form

If you exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, the changes you see will likely be much more noticeable and rapid.

How Long Should I Work out on an Elliptical Machine?

Woman Exercising on Elliptical

There is a wide variety of time recommendations when it comes to working out on an elliptical machine.  It is important to remember that this is a full-body workout piece of equipment, and you need to be careful to avoid injury.  Below is a table of general time recommendations.

DurationHow Many Days a WeekWho is this best for?
30 minutes3-5If you are new to using the elliptical machine, it is best to start with a short amount of time.  This will allow your body to build up endurance.
45 minutes3-5After you have used the elliptical consistently and feel comfortable with a shorter workout, you can begin to add minutes. A beginner should not start for this length of time because this could increase your risk of injury.
1 hour3-5After you have been using the elliptical consistently for 3-5 days a week at the 45-minute mark, you can move up to one hour.
1.5 hours3-5This is the maximum amount of time you should aim for when using the elliptical machine. If you choose to go over this time, you are at risk of injuring yourself.

Once you are acclimated to the elliptical and are using it consistently, you will be able to determine the best length of workout for yourself.  Typically, if you are only working out three days a week, you will want to increase your duration.  If you are working out five days a week, you can do shorter workouts.

(Source: Psychreg)

Final Thoughts

Elliptical machines are great full-body workout machines and will likely give your arms a workout. However, you should not depend on this machine alone to give you jaw-dropping results when it comes to your arms.  With consistency and proper form and use, you will be able to see subtle results from the machine, but for the best results, you should have an alternative way that you are working out your arms.

Team HTF

We are the team at High Tech Fitness and have a love for educating and sharing our insights on all things tech and fitness with you.

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