5 Elliptical Trainer Parts Explained

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Elliptical trainers are the best low-impact trainers with the cardio advantage that gets your heart pumping to enhance your health and fitness. They mimic natural movements and offer a great total body workout.

You get to see different types of ellipticals on the market, but their basic components remain similar. While it is true that elliptical trainers are of various types, their basic components are essentially similar.

If you are planning to purchase an elliptical, it would be apt to understand how each part contributes to the working of the elliptical.

The Flywheel

Fly-wheel is the most important part of an elliptical trainer, and its placement determines how it functions. When we say different types of ellipticals, it is all based on the placement of the flywheel. For instance, when the flywheel is placed at the rear, it is a rear-drive elliptical.

Similarly, if the fly-wheel is at the front, you have a front-drive elliptical, and when in the center, a center drives elliptical. It is the heart of the elliptical trainer as it generates resistance against your effort while you work the pedals and handlebars.

A fly-wheel should be heavy to offer excellent resistance and operate smoothly and quietly. When it is light, it will be unstable and causes jerky motions as you work on an elliptical. However, you will find that the heavier fly-wheel is hard to move initially and to stop at the end.

If you find a perfect balance between these two, you will be able to achieve stability and ease of use without any difficulty. At the same time, fly-wheels weigh between 12 lbs. to 30 lbs. Sometimes, the ideal weight is 18 lbs. to 22 lbs.

This weight range is what you will find in the top-notch ellipticals, which consider every need of the users important.

Also, the size of an elliptical is determined by the placement of the flywheel. When placed in front, you get compact ellipticals, and in the rear are the biggest.

Rear placement increases the size of an elliptical and provides you with a longer stride length than other elliptical models. It indicates that the fly-wheel also impacts the functionality of an elliptical.

Control System

While elliptical trainers come in both mechanical and electrical, most users prefer electrical trainers for their versatility. Few come with fancy electronics, and some are equipped with a mechanism to utilize the power generated when exercising.

When the machine is electronic, it has a control panel to manage its settings, making it another prominent part of an elliptical. A decent elliptical has variable resistance settings to choose the challenge level you want for your workout.

When you modify the resistance settings, it is usually achieved by moving the electromagnets around the fly-wheel. These electromagnets offer resistance based on the current supplied to them, and when it is higher, you get to experience greater magnetic resistance.

Meaning it will be harder for you to turn the elliptical wheel. Also, the eddy current present in the fancier machines offers fine control over the elliptical and the electric brakes.

The manual systems which can vary the airflow to the fan can also modify resistance. Another way of using resistance is through contact brakes.

However, be warned that these methods found in cheaper ellipticals are crude, unreliable, and non-precise.

They also have lesser resistance levels than the electrical models. The high-end models provide inclined ramp facilities to simulate uphill or downhill terrain. You have models which can provide you with a slope of up to 300 degrees high.

Deck and Rails

The base and the rails are the next parts of an elliptical that require attention. The pedals rest on the rollers or rails, which help them move smoothly when operated. Rails play an important role in determining the stride length of the elliptical.

So, they become the prominent part as the stride length affects the overall functioning of an elliptical. Rear-drive ellipticals have the longest rail length among their different varieties.

While the front-drive ellipticals fall just behind but very near the rear-drive elliptical’s stride length, they are considered ideal.

As already mentioned, a comfortable stride length for an average individual is 18-22 inches. However, it might vary depending on your height. You can determine the apt stride length by seeing if you are overstretched, meaning it is longer and if you are constrained, meaning it is shorter.

Deck involves several moving parts making it the part that requires the most maintenance. Also, this is the place from where you will hear squeaky noises, and you need to check for the lubrication as well as debris stuck inside the machine.

Front-drive ellipticals are composed of more moving parts, meaning they require greater maintenance attention. Rear-drive ellipticals are the opposite and need less maintenance and are popular in gyms for the same reason.


The console is the interface between you and the machine where you can check your fitness metrics and control the elliptical. Depending on the model, price, and the type of elliptical consoles come in various varieties.

From a basic digital display to hi-fi touchscreens, anything is possible. The top-notch models offer interactive screens with touch facilities and display relevant statistics. You get to see the resistance levels, mileage, incline angle, calories burnt, heart rate, etc.

Also, the ellipticals, which can connect to smart devices, offer you a greater variety of options as they open up access to many fitness applications that provide you with better insights into calculations and analysis.


The top to mid-range ellipticals has various extra features that support your training. Wireless heart rate monitoring using a chest strap or a wrist band or similar wearable devices that offer live statistics is one of the important features.

Pre-programmed workouts give you many options to work out without getting bored and help you focus on a certain aspect easily. Few advanced models also allow you to connect to the iFit through your smartphone or directly.


Though ellipticals are simple machines getting them to know better does have an advantage when you work on them. You can use them efficiently and solve any minor issues, and if you are making a purchase decision, you can choose wisely.

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