An elliptical machine which is also known as elliptical trainer or cross trainer is fitness equipment that provides total body workout depending upon the type of model. This unit simulates motion of walking, running and cross country skiing giving you these benefits without the impact to your knees and joints. They provide a non impact aerobic workout which can vary from light to high intensity depending upon the type and duration of the workout.
This fitness equipment was first introduced in the 1990s and many manufacturers kept on improving this unit in terms of features and stability but it was Larry. D. Miller from Precor who was the first one to patent the new compact elliptical machines that we all use today.
Overall these units provide cardiovascular workout as opposed to building muscles which can be achieved using resistance training. They come in self powering variety where you just start pedaling and the power is generated based on that motion. Other variety is the electric powered ones where there is a need to plug in the unit to generate electricity for consoles and other features.
Different Elliptical Machines Varieties:
Depending upon motor and drive location there are 3 different types of elliptical machines. They are front drive, rear drive and the last one is the center drive.
The big question is which one is better? We have described all three of them below.
- Front-drive: When compared to rear-drive, in this type of elliptical trainers there is a need to add extra linkage so that the foot pedals are more comfortable. Also this type of unit uses a track that is susceptible to break down in the future due to accumulation of dirt. There are more mechanical components that will require additional maintenance as more moving components leads to more wear and tear. They are less smooth and because of the design which tends to push back the user, require them to lean forward not giving them good posture. This is not the case in a rear drive model.
- Rear-drive: Overall this type of cross trainer has intuitive design as it has better biomechanical motion. In addition to that it is has a natural motion. Also if ones goes to any gym you will see that most of the elliptical equipments are rear drive ones as they have a floating system with free rolling bearings resulting in less maintenance issues due to less moving parts. In addition this design allows the user to have better posture and the position while standing is in front so there is no need to lean.
- Center-drive: These types of fitness equipments are latest to come in to the market. Here the main the mechanical unit is in the center. It is too early to tell if they are better then other types.
Overall we think the rear drive elliptical trainers are the best among all of them.
Elliptical Machines Essentials:
Pivot points: Type of mechanical components used near pivot points is important. Ball bearings or bushings are used overall. Equipment with ball bearings at the pivot points compared to the bushings is more durable and reliable. Bushings are more prone to break down and they can also create the annoying sound which we all hate when doing our workout. It is equally important to know the difference between standard and sealed ball bearings. The standard ball bearing are open and require more maintenance and sealed ball bearings as name suggests are closed and required less maintenance as there little accumulation of dirt on them. The best sealed ball bearings are the self aligned ones.
Brake resistance: You need to see which type of break resistance is used before you buy an elliptical cross trainer. There are 3 types of resistance, they are electro magnetic break resistance, magnetic break resistance and self-generating induction brake.
- Electro magnetic break resistance: Out of all the three, electro magnetic break resistance is the best as it is electronic and has no moving parts which require less servicing. Normally this type of resistance is used in higher end units used in gyms and in other commercial setting.
- Magnetic break resistance: They are most commonly used in many medium to low price trainers. They are overall a good alternative but keep in mind that they need to be serviced and maintained regularly to give you an overall satisfactory performance over period of time. Most of the home use units have this type of resistance.
- Self-generating induction brake: Recently there are new commercial ellipticals introduced that have self-generating induction brake. These types of units do not have any motors and also do not require electricity. They require the least amount of servicing.
Frame: Elliptical machines fall in to either a small frame or large frame
- Small and Light frame: Most of the home based cross trainers have smaller frame, lighter in weight and requires less space in the house or apartment. They are quite in demand as these fitness equipments are easier to move around and lower in price. Some of the models have wheels under them so they make moving a breeze. The down side of the light and small frame is that they are less strong and stable when compared to heavy larger frame units. This means that their weight carrying capacity is overall less. Also the height can be a factor depending upon the type of model.
- Large Heavier Frame: The larger frames are made of stronger materials like steel that provides more stability. These units are more durable and can hold taller and heavier users without any issue. Most of the higher end commercial trainers fall in to this category. The negative of these larger units are that they are not easy to move around and require more space.
Foot pedal: There are two different types of foot pedals that come with elliptical trainers. They are articulated and non-articulated. The type of pedal on a unit can make a big difference in overall comfort during your workout. An articulated foot pedal is designed in such a way that it reduces the pressure from the ball of the feet. It helps to distribute the load evenly making your workout more comfortable. The non-articulated foot pedals on the other hand puts more pressure on the ball of the feet making that area numb after the workout.
In addition to above points, you should also look in to size of the foot pedal. It is important to ensure there is enough space for your feet. It helps to have a textured non slip surface giving you additional grip thereby reducing the chances of slipping.
Stride Length: The stride length of the elliptical trainer should not be too restrictive for the overall movement. So make sure that you take trial of the unit before you buy.
Hand Rails: Most of the elliptical machines come with either a fixed rail or moving sidebars. If your fitness equipment has a fixed rail it is important that you are able to maintain a proper posture while holding to these side rails. If there are moving sidebars the same point of able to maintain a proper posture should be taken in to consideration and at the same time your knees should not be touching them. If your knees come in contact with the moving sidebars then it is not a proper design of the model.
Central Console: Central console is a main feature in most of the newer cross trainers. They are the heart of the electrical system. It is imperative that the digital display of this unit is big and clear. Also you should be able to select different types of preprogrammed workouts without too much hassle. The quality of the central console should be taken note of as a cheap plastic material will not last over a longer period of time.
Additional Elliptical Machines Buying Tips:
The main question that most of the buyers have is which elliptical trainer to buy? We would highly suggest going over the previous section of elliptical essentials. Make sure that all the points discussed above are verified when you are trying to compare different machines.
In addition to that you should keep in mind following points:
Warranty: A warranty given by a manufacturer is one of the important things to consider. A better and better manufacturer will have a longer warranty period giving you a peace of mind after the purchase. The after sales service is also another point to look into. There are many instances where some of the parts may need replacement or servicing, if you have a longer warranty period then the cost of the replacement would be on the manufacturer depending upon the terms and conditions of the warranty and what parts are being covered.
Manufacturers: There are many manufacturers of this fitness equipment. Some of them are smaller and others are the big names in the fitness industry. Some of the most popular brands are Pro-form, NordicTrack, Life fitness, Horizon, Precor and Schwinn. You should check for how long the manufacturer has been in this industry and if there are any consumer complains against any of them.
Other Common points: Some of the other questions you should be asking are: if the elliptical machine makes noise? Is it stable? Does it have any space-saving design? Is this machine making noise and how much servicing will be required in the future.
Price: There are so many different types of cross trainers available in the market today ranging from $500-$4000. Most of the lower end models are in between $500 to $900 range and higher end models start at $1000. As the saying goes you get what you pay for is also applicable in this industry up to an extent. From our experience the larger and higher end models provide more return on investment. They are far sturdier and require less maintenance. You can look into this way, if you’re going to go and take a gym membership roughly a yearly fees is equivalent to a top end elliptical machine’s price. In addition to that you have your own convenience and can perform exercise any time without any restrictions. Health is wealth and thinking from the longer term makes sense.
Elliptical Machines Exercise:
A workout routine should have an aerobic and resistance component to it. The elliptical machine by its inherent design can give a total body workout encompassing the above two points giving aerobic more weightage .
Fat Burning Zone: When doing your workout it is important to keep your target heart rate checked and monitored. Most of the today’s modern units have heart rate monitor built in to the sidebars, you just have to grip them and can read your current heart rate in the central console. There is a fat burning zone which is mentioned on many units console display. Depending upon your age, target heart rate can vary. Normally people do only regular stride workout. But to add more fun and variety you can also do reverse strides.
Interval training: For more advanced users you can incorporate interval training. In this type of workout you raise your intensity gradually from low to high and back to low making a complete cycle lasting for 5 to 6 minutes. You complete this cycle 3 to 4 times and your workout is done in maximum of 25 minutes. It is short but an intense workout. Advantage of this type of work is that your metabolic rate remains high even after workout for many hours burning additional calories. But please note that this type of workout is only meant for advanced users as you require more strength and stamina. If you are new to working out then this type of workout with high-intensity can lead to injuries.
When performing your workout make sure that the machine is sturdy and it does not wobble or move when you are on it. This type of movement is not good for your overall posture and can cause uneven distribution of weight that may lead to other issues and injury.
Elliptical Machines Maintenance Tips:
A well maintained elliptical machine will give you many years of service. There are few things to consider while you look into maintaining your unit. As mentioned before depending upon they type of drive you have the corresponding amount of maintenance to be done. A rear drive unit requires less maintenance than a front drive one.
Regular Cleaning: If you have a front drive elliptical trainer than it is important to clean the wheel and tracks. The wheel and tracks of the front unit are the moving parts and are subject to the accumulation of dirt. The removal of dirt in regular intervals is necessary for smooth operation of the unit.
The rear drive elliptical on the other hand does not have this kind of moving parts but have ball bearings so less cleaning and maintenance is required as there is less accumulation of dirt around this area.
Lubrication and tightening: A regularly used unit will be subjected to loosening of screws over a period of time. These lose screws should be tightened and secured. All the moving parts need to be lubricated on regular intervals to avoid noise during operation. Also lubricating your unit will make the life longer as less friction will be generated near the moving parts making the movement smooth.
Mishandling: Each unit comes with maximum recommended weight limit. This should be adhered to as heavier weight can cause unnecessary strain and breakage. Also many people use this equipment for other purposes like hanging clothes or storing small items. This type of practice will lead to unnecessary moisture and breakage.
Replacement and repairs: Repairs are necessarily over the period of time. Depending upon the type of usage your fitness equipment will need a replacement part or repair. It is always advisable to get the replacement and repair done from professionals. This will ensure that parts are properly fitted which will increase the safety when you are working out.
Overall the elliptical machine provides excellent health benefits with an affordable price.