7 Different Types of Elliptical Trainer Explained

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Elliptical trainers offer weight-bearing exercises with a low impact on your joints. The movement is smooth and feels fluid without any jarring motions. It is less strenuous and more effective in comparison to a treadmill workout.

You can burn more calories and work for a greater period without getting tired on an elliptical trainer. Even though it seems easy to work out, it races your heart, helping you achieve cardiovascular benefits.

When you use an elliptical trainer for a long period consistently, it improves your health considerably. Since its action looks like an ellipse shape when you trace it along with the foot pedals, this machine is called an elliptical, which is similar to the natural running motion of your ankle.

7 Most Common Types of Elliptical Machines Explained

The full-time contact of your foot with the pedal implies that you do not need to subject your joints to experience impact multiple times but still mimic the running action.

Few ellipticals also offer upper body workouts and traditional lower body workouts.

When you know all the types of ellipticals available and what they offer, you will find it easier to choose the one that suits you. The concept is the same but has little additions that add more specific benefits through small changes.

Front-drive elliptical trainers

When the position of the flywheel is placed in front of the pedals, then it is known as the front-drive elliptical. The flywheel is the most prominently visible part of an elliptical. It is heavy and circular and responsible for resistance while working out.

The bars are attached to this circular part and smoothen the motion and maintain gravity. The front-drive ellipticals offer greater stability since the center of gravity is at the machine’s pivot point.

As the resistance is from the front, you tend to lean forward, giving you an action similar to climbing stairs. This stair climbing activity burns more fat than usual walking as it gives you a slope that requires extra energy.

This placement also supports the compact machine, making it an ideal machine for small spaces. They are not only space-saving but also affordable. However, they do require regular cleaning of the roller tracks.

Rear-drive elliptical trainers

The flywheel is mounted at the rear for these treadmills. These rear-drive ellipticals are the oldest form of ellipticals and are popular today.

You can find them mostly in high-end gyms. The rear-drive model was developed in the 1990s by Precor.

Unlike front-drive ellipticals, these machines require very low maintenance, which is one reason why this elliptical is so popular.

Compared to other models, they have only a few moving parts; they require lesser cleaning and fewer replacement parts.

They have a horizontal path that does not require much leaning allowing you to follow the natural walking path. People who require a straight posture due to various medical issues find this machine apt because it does not put much pressure on your spine.

One thing to consider is that these machines are a little expensive compared with other ellipticals. Assembling the rear flywheel is complicated and requires a lot of mechanics.

The automatic or manual slope adjustment is possible using a ramp lever that contributes significantly to increased cost.

But the best thing is, if you are through this stage and complete the assembly during the initial stages, you can forget about the maintenance. It requires minimal attention and does not require you to bother about it too much.

They can give an excellent fluid-like motion for both walking and jogging that simulates the natural motion precisely. This is another good reason for the great demand for these machines. The adjustability of resistance allows you to customize the machine to your needs.

Center drive elliptical trainers

Since ellipticals are wonderful exercise machines, manufacturers were eager to add them to their training machines list. However, many manufacturers couldn’t make them due to high popularity and sometimes patent rights.

They tried to create alternatives to address this issue and came up with center drive ellipticals. In center drive ellipticals, the flywheel is placed in the center, i.e., in line with the pedals.

You get two flywheels, one on each side of the machine, connected to pedals. It is popular for office and home use as it operates quietly and is gaining more attention recently for its smooth functioning.

The placement of pedals is also closer in comparison to the above two models, making it a more natural and convenient moment. It exerts lesser stress on the back, knees, and hips due to the close working of the legs.

Since the weight is well-focused in the center, it offers excellent stability and keeps you safe. The two flywheels are present on both sides giving it symmetry and thus distributing the weight evenly. Even this structure contributes to stability.

However, the disadvantage is that you cannot have an incline option, whereas it is available in front and rear drive ellipticals. It comes in a ramp that allows you to change the incline, but the center drive models cannot utilize the same technique.

Elliptical gliders

Elliptical gliders are a little different than conventional elliptical trainers. The usual up and down movement is replaced with the back and forth swinging of the pedals pivoted to a point.

The movement of elliptical gliders does not depend on flywheel motion, so you do not find one in these machines.

They offer a non-jarred motion that keeps you moving smooth and follow the elliptical motion similar to running or jogging. If you are afraid to exercise, an elliptical glider might be the right equipment.

Their ease of use and complete control over the speed gives you the choice of training at your preferred pace.

Even though you work out intensely using this machine, you will not find muscle or joint pain resulting from other elliptical machines.

They are highly versatile as you can do jogging, stretching, and a wide range of other exercises that support full-body workouts.

When you adjust your position on the machine, switching from one workout to another is possible. If you are easily prone to injury, heavyweight, scarred, or simply a couch potato, this machine is the right choice.

Compact/foldable elliptical trainers

This foldable elliptical is a boon for everyone eager to get fit and live in a small space. You can enjoy the elliptical trainer and spare the space after you are done by folding it into a compact thing that can be wheeled into storage.

The manufacturers have found innovative ways to fold an elliptical with such individuals in mind. You can detach the longer components or fold them to make it possible. This does not occupy the whole room for your exercise needs.

When you cannot afford a specific place for the elliptical but can find a place to put it temporarily and have some storage space to stow it away, these folding ellipticals are the best option.

Even if they are foldable, these machines are equally effective as normal ellipticals.

Since the compact ellipticals are made to fit in smaller spaces, they are the smallest of all types. They are designed by including the smallest-sized features and optimal placement, such as keeping the flywheel in the place between your legs.

They try not to remove any components to make them smaller but design the parts more amicable for small space. Few come with fixed armrests or elastic armrests for upper body workouts, and few do not have armrests that further simplify the design.

Due to its small footprint, you need not worry about its placement much, and it is fit for both home and office. However, they cannot function equally versatile as a traditional elliptical and are limited in their motion to walking and jogging.

You cannot take long stride lengths, but the limited movement helps you keep active. When there is no room for hefty exercise equipment, they serve you to keep going.

Also, they are for those who want to start investing small into fitness initially before they decide it is for them.

Standard elliptical trainers

The elliptical trainers are classified into two major types: standard elliptical trainers and cross elliptical trainers. The main difference is the workout they offer.

Standard elliptical trainers can provide lower body workouts such as glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

They come at an amicable price compared to cross trainers or other elliptical categories. These ellipticals come with an excellent combination of great value for the price with the high workout output they offer.

Since they have fixed arms, just like a treadmill, you get to train your leg muscles excellently. It can serve the purpose of getting you in shape, burning fat, and doing a cardio workout.

However, if you need upper body toning and a lower body workout, you must move beyond the standard type.

That does come with a price increase, but if you can afford it, you can go for a cross trainer or any other model that offers a full-body workout. The standard elliptical trainer is simple to operate and maintain and has the right functionalities you frequently need.

They come in a wide range of low-price and high-end options with added features. You can only choose to purchase a basic model with no bells and whistles that give you just the efficient workout.

Or go for an expensive functionality-loaded model with a touch screen, pulse checkers, built-in speakers, etc. Your desire plus affordability decides it all.

Elliptical cross-trainers

The difference between cross elliptical trainers and standard elliptical trainers is that they come with moving armrests.

These armrests are attached to the flywheel similar to the pedals and move along with the pedals in tandem, creating resistance for the arms.

This arrangement offers an excellent upper body workout, which is impossible with the standard ellipticals. Many fitness enthusiasts appreciate this feature, and the cross trainers are very popular despite the higher price.

Elliptical cross trainers come with several other features such as variable intensity or to work like a standard elliptical. You can vary the intensity of a cross elliptical trainer to mimic uphill running, bike riding, or stair climbing.

If you fix the position of your arms, you can use them for lower body workouts, just like a standard elliptical. When you do so, you can workout arms free if you can balance yourself without them, and they will not interfere or hurt you.

This allows you to start small with one part of the body at a time and gradually increase your training. Purchasing them requires a sizable investment, which goes up based on the size and functionalities it offers.

You get to find them in various sizes as the arm length should be comfortable for you to reach the handles properly for apt resistance. They are made to suit all short and tall people in various sizes.

Individuals go for them even though they are expensive as they offer total body workouts. Most people find it fulfilling enough for their exercise needs and do not find the need to go for other equipment. Even gyms and spas keep them for the same reason.

Final Thoughts

There are various elliptical trainers to suit your requirements, budget, and space. It all boils down to what you can afford, how much space you have, and your training needs.

They are all amazing machines to keep you fit by helping you lose fat and improving your endurance.

They differ in durability, size, and design, which is purely your choice. Even the features option is a personal choice.

If you need them, then you can have them. All I can say is you get to do a perfect cardio workout with low impact using these machines.

Understanding the nuances of an elliptical machine will help you choose the one that fits you the best. Just make sure that you get the best value for your money.

Also, it is important that you feel motivated to maintain consistency to reach your fitness goals.

Finally, I admit that the aerobic workout it offers is efficient in helping your blood retain oxygen, which reflects on your overall well-being.

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