How to Choose the Right Elliptical Settings


There are many ways to spice up your cardio. From running and sprints to biking, roller blading, and circuit training, you shouldn’t run out of interesting options to get that heart muscle pumping!

A fan favorite of ours is the elliptical machine. Among many of its benefits, it is a great low-impact, full body exercise that can burn a TON of calories in a shorter amount of time. You’ve probably poked around the machine and tried various settings, but it’s time to take a minute and learn about each option, so you can maximize your workout.

First thing’s first: No matter which program you choose, always put in your weight and age. This will help the elliptical get the most accurate calorie reading on you, so you’ll know if you’re reaching your goals.


This setting is what you make it. It is as simple as the quick start button, but the only difference is that if you hit “manual,” it will allow you to put your weight and age into the settings (again, key!). After beginning, you can adjust the resistance and workout length to your liking. If you select manual, you have to take personal ownership over pushing yourself!

Heart Rate

This is a good setting for those who have a target heart rate to hit. After entering your weight and age, enter your target heart rate. As your workout progresses, the elliptical will then automatically adjust the resistance to keep you around your goal. If your heart rate is too high, the resistance lowers; if your heart rate is too low, the resistance will increase.


This is a favorite fat burning option. The resistance increases periodically (flipping through two levels that you can adjust) so that the heart rate is going up, and then coming down for a rest. It is a lot like high intensity interval training (HIIT).

Weight Loss

This option is similar to the aforementioned interval option. The biggest difference is that the high resistance intervals last longer than the intervals on the other option, causing you to burn even more calories.


This is a great cruise control option. If you want to hop on for a certain amount of time and have the elliptical switch resistance levels up for you somewhat randomly, this is the way to go!


The performance option is beneficial for those working toward performance or endurance-based goals. It will increase resistance periodically and get more difficult as the workout progresses. For endurance athletes who want a break from the bike, this is a great option!

*Note: This blog entry was modeled using a Precor Elliptical machine.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Luke Andrus is a certified personal trainer, ACE health coach, writer, folk music drummer, husband, and a father. Most of his writing experience is in poetry and fictional short stories, and he also proposed to his wife with a self-published children's book. He is a Narnia nerd with a degree in History, a minor in English, and a semi-obsession with the French language. He believes that fitness is not just about vanity, but about lifestyle, integrity, and the ability to take control of your life.