Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hating On The Elliptical

While I think Turbulence Training is one of the most effective, accessible programs around, I definitely don't agree with everything Craig Ballantyne has to say on the subject of fat loss.

In his latest blog posting, for instance, he rags on elliptical trainers as if they were the worst thing to hit the fitness world since the adductor machine. He objects to them for three reasons: (1) they tend to overstate the number of calories burned by users; (2) they're too easy; and (3) they're too easy. Okay, that's really only two reasons, but don't blame me, blame Craig, because it was he who said he had three reasons for not liking ellipticals.

Here's where else I think Craig's analysis is flawed:

(1) Sure, ellipticals may overstate the number of calories burned, but that doesn't make the elliptical bad in itself. It just means you need to ignore the calories-burned function, which you should be doing anyway because as we all know what really matters for fat loss is not how many calories you burn during the workout itself, but how many you burn around the clock.

Which brings me to the second problem with Craig's reasoning:

(2) He seems to think that the elliptical isn't challenging enough to create much of an afterburn effect. But as is true of any cardio machine, the elliptical can be as hard or as easy as you like. It all depends on how fast you go, how much resistance you add, how long your stride is, whether you incorporate arms, and so forth. While it's true that I can't push my heart rate quite as high during an interval training workout on the elliptical as I can running sprints on the treadmill, I can still get it high enough to count as HIIT. It's a nice option for days when my joints can't take the pounding of a high-impact workout.

It's perfectly true that there are a lot of misconceptions about the elliptical--that it tones your arms, that it tones your legs, that it tones your butt if you go backward on it, yadda yadda yadda. But that doesn't mean the elliptical itself is bad. It just means there's a lot of misinformation floating around. No sense in throwing out the baby with the bathwater. (For that matter, no sense in throwing out the bathwater if you can use it to water the plants or something, but that's another subject altogether. )