The forward direction of pedaling on the elliptical trainer recruits a different pattern of muscles than does going backwards.

Try it and you’ll feel the difference.

With elliptical backwards pedaling, your upper body is facing forward, opposite the direction of your movement, unlike in backwards walking/jogging or reverse stepping on a stair climber.

Posture and body alignment will be thrown off when a person is forward pedaling AND holding onto the machine’s rails.

In pronounced cases, the person is leaning forward, butt sticking way out while they hold tightly to the rails.

Remove the hands and let them swing in synch with the lower body, and this will immediately correct postural deviations.

For a real thigh (quadriceps) killer, pedal backwards on the elliptical but squat down a bit. Keep back straight.

The lower you go, the more challenging it will be to keep from holding onto the rails.

So if you feel a need to, I recommend lightly making contact with just the fingers – no outright gripping, since gripping or clasping with the entire hand will encourage pulling and yanking as you fatigue.

The idea is to induce a nasty burn in the quads while using the fingers on the rails only to maintain balance.

Try to keep back straight. The higher the pedal angle, the more difficult this maneuver will be.

This is a serious thigh burner. Your quads will KILL.

Because this type of exercise is so searing, it’s supposed to be done for only a few minutes or so at at time, after which you straighten and pedal forward for recovery.

If your thighs exhaust after only 30 seconds, then go into recovery mode. This is not supposed to be a sustained activity, but rather, a brief and intense interval.

Do three or four of these; think of this as a hybrid of squatting and pedaling: “Squadaling”

Backwards pedaling on the elliptical is also useful without the squatting or half-squatting, if for no other reason it alleviates boredom from the same forward motion. It definitely targets the quads more than forward pedaling.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



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