If you haven’t already used an elliptical machine for your workout you may wonder why they have become so popular. There are lots of good reasons including the type, intensity and variety of the workout they provide. Not only can these machines provide an intense, full body workout, they also provide a low impact workout that helps protect your joints.
If you’ve already experienced the benefits of using this type of exercise machine you may be looking for an elliptical for home use. To find the best elliptical machine for your needs it’s important to know a little about them and know which features you want or need.
Elliptical Machine Basics
An elliptical fitness machine is a stationary exercise machine, commonly found in gyms, that replicates the motion of walking running or cross-country skiing without the same impact or pressure on the joints. The leg motion produced on these machines is somewhat between that of a treadmill and a stationary bike, but there are some strong differences when comparing elliptical machine vs treadmill.
Elliptical machines are also known as elliptical trainers or simply ellipticals. They have become incredibly popular because they provide a great low-impact cardio workout and with most machines you get a upper and lower body work out at the same time.
Elliptical trainers work by having the user stand and push on pedals that glide on an elliptical-shaped track, typically on rollers, providing a movement that doesn’t create impact on the joints. Most elliptical exercise machines also offer the option of an upper body workout by using the arm handles.
To provide a customized workout an elliptical exercise machine can be set to varying levels of resistance. Besides providing a better workout the different levels of resistance can also help with warm ups and cool downs.
Some also provide incline options to help intensify and vary your workout. Depending on the type of elliptical some allow you to incline during the workout while others don’t offer this flexibility.
Elliptical machines also typically allow you to set a stride length. The stride length should be set to a level that feels natural but still gives the user a good workout; this will be largely based on the height of the user. Setting a different stride length can change the level of the workout. This can be helpful when using different types of elipticals.
Types of Elliptical Machines
Elliptical trainers are categorized by their drive system. There are front drive, rear drive and center drive ellipticals. Some people have strong opinions about which one is better but the best way to find the right one for your situation is to try various machines in a similar price range with each of these drive systems.
The first one available was the rear drive elliptical. At this time the only elliptical exercise machines on the market were club quality machines and they were all rear drive. Even now this is the most commonly used drive system on elliptical machines found in health clubs, but you can also find this type of drive system on moderate priced elliptical machines for home use.
A rear drive elliptical machine has the flywheel in the back, which typically provides a smooth feel for the user — although there are other variables that can create or take away from a smooth feel. Rear drive ellipticals also have fewer moving parts so they usually don’t require as much maintenance as some of the other drive systems. But they are typically more expensive and they often take up more space. Rear drives have a feeling that resembles walking or jogging.
The next drive system to hit the market was the front drive. Front drive elliptical trainers, as the name suggests, are designed with the flywheel, or drive axle, in front of the user.
Front drive ellipticals have pedals that run along a track on rollers. Because there are more parts on the front drive ellipticals and the rollers can wear with constant use they may require more maintenance than a rear drive, but they still have good service records. But buying a machine with dual rollers can help decrease this problem and provide a more stable feel. Front drives have a feel that is somewhat similar to that of a stair climber.
The center drive elliptical machine is the latest on the market and is a relatively new design. With center drive elliptical machines the flywheel or drive axle could be behind the user, in front of the user, or it may use two drive axles. With these units the weight of the user is centered in the middle.
Finding A Smooth Elliptical
When shopping for an eliptical machine you’ll want to find one with a smooth feel. There is a brand called Smooth Elliptical, but I’m talking about more than that here.
Your body type and build can have an impact on the feel of the machine but there are a few other things to consider. The quality of the equipment, the weight of the flywheel and the drive type can all affect the feel of the elliptical exercise machine. It is important to try and compare elliptical machines before choosing one to buy as your home elliptical machine.
It’s not too surprising that an elliptical trainer that has a better quality of construction will have a smoother feel. A heavier flywheel will also help create a smoother feel, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want or need the heaviest. There are other factors to consider.
When it comes to buying an elliptical trainer it’s best to save up and buy a better quality unit. With this particular exercise machine it seems to be more important to spend a little more, or at least avoid the cheapest models.
It’s a big purchase so you want something with a good feel and something that won’t easily break or wear. The more durable the elliptical machine and the better it feels the more likely you are to use it consistently.