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I own a gym quality elliptical at home I'm using mainly to do cardio for weight loss purposes. Should I be looking into adding other equipment to my home gym or other exercises to my routine in order to get a more balanced workout or perhaps see better results?

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What would your goal be? Loose weight, increase overall fitness, be able to run a 10K? Now I can tell you to start doing sit-ups or buy half a gym and it would qualify :-) –  Ivo Flipse Mar 2 '11 at 22:58
    
I suppose it couldn't hurt to key words my question :) –  mootinator Mar 3 '11 at 0:57
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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Theoretically you can loose weight with doing just one exercise. However, if you want to loose more weight, you have to raise the number of calories you've burned. You can do this by exercising under higher loads or working out longer.

But fitness machines often fail at mimicking the natural increase in loads: on an elliptical trainer, when you increase the loads going 'round' get's harder everywhere. I've made a small model of the forces during an elliptical workout, when you increase the load from the light to the dark blue arrow, the forces get proportionally higher everywhere.

enter image description here

But the problem is, when you're leg is stretched away from the center of your body, those 'small' forces have a large moment arm (towards the center of your body). So while it's not an issue for the forces to increase under your body, it because extra hard when they increase far away from your body.

This causes it to be pretty hard to go faster and faster on your home trainer, even when your fitness increases. So that option is basically out, as there's almost no home trainer that doesn't make the same mistake.

Your other option is to workout longer, which happens to be a very good choice when you want to burn fat. Because burning fat happens mostly at lower intensities, so actually when you start to work out harder, your body shifts gear and moves away from fat to other 'faster' fuels. Therefore it would be better to burn 500 kcal at 60% of your maximal heart rate than at 80%, because at least you got rid of some fat!

enter image description here

There's another reason why you need to work out longer: fat is a slow fuel and your body doesn't really start to burn fat until you're 30 minutes into a workout. Luckily, nobody said you had to workout hard to get to this point, so I'd advise you to use a long, relaxing 'warming up' just to get your metabolism going and then get going with the real deal.

So basically: no, you don't need to go out and buy anything else! But if you like some variation, I'd really recommend you to start running outdoors instead. Running does become heavier 'naturally' when you increase your speed and it's generally more pleasant to workout outdoors as well.

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Note that the model isn't supposed to be very realistic, but more to explain the general idea! –  Ivo Flipse Mar 3 '11 at 17:36
    
It's fairly unpleasant to workout outdoors this time of year here (-35C), but thanks for the detailed answer :) –  mootinator Mar 4 '11 at 4:51
    
That would have been good to know beforehand ;-) BTW: another good thing of the elliptical is that opposed to cycling, you're off your butt which makes the workout harder. Also compared to a treadmill, there's no 'hard' landing which is nicer on your knees (and other joints) –  Ivo Flipse Mar 4 '11 at 6:36
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If you don't want to buy equipment, you may want to consider reading up on so-called prison workouts. You can do a lot of exercising using nothing more than a small room and a bench, and it won't cost you much, if anything.

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+1 for an awesome article –  Rhea Mar 23 '11 at 4:00
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A pound of muscle burns more calories at rest than a pound of fat. This fact alone should tell you that weight lifting is a two-edged sword: not only do you burn calories while you're performing the exercises, but you're also increasing your muscle mass which will burn more calories at rest.

Yes, you need to add exercises to your workout. You need to lift weights (even if it's just your body weight), challenge your body, and force it to improve. You can start out with standing lunges, pushups, pullups, and crunches. If you can't do those, there are ways to cheat the exercise to make it easier. Once that's no longer a challenge pick up a sledge hammer and swing it at a tire or toss a bag of sand around. Most importantly, switch it up so your body doesn't get use to one set routine.

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