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Front vs rear-drive elliptical

Front drive vs rear drive ellipticals

To purchase an elliptical machine, the first step will involve choosing from the 2 basic styles that are available in the market: front and rear-wheel drive. You will find that elliptical users are always talking about their front or rear-drive elliptical machine that they use or have used at home/gym. Even though they are both ellipticals, front and rear drive trainers are primarily different in terms of where the flywheel motor is located.

When you pedal, you are moving the flywheel of the elliptical machine which originally creates the resistance you have to “pedal” against. The flywheel is positioned at the front end of a front-drive elliptical machine while a rear-drive elliptical comes with the flywheel located at the back. So – is one better than the other? If so, how can you know that it is the correct cardio equipment for you? In this article, we have ventured into both front and rear drive ellipticals, their advantages- disadvantages, their features you should be looking out for, and some typical questions that readers like you often end up across during purchase. By the time you end this article, you will understand that front and rear drive elliptical machines are unique to each other in many aspects, and we should not be deciding on a design only by where the flywheel is located.

Front and Rear drive ellipticals

Elliptical machines are used in gyms or homes as they allow users to work out comfortably. With the extremely high competition in the market – manufacturers have had to make their products more and more affordable. For any fitness equipment, affordability and comfort will go a long way.

Precor rear drive ellipticals
Rear-drive ellipticals from Precor were first available in the market

The first ellipticals were designed to mimic jogging “feel” for users, and the machine needed not to create any discomfort for your joints. At the beginning of the 1990s, fitness equipment manufacturer Precor patented the original design for a cross-trainer that was rear-driven. Due to this smart move from Precor, other companies had to find their way around this patent so that they could become players in the elliptical machine market too – as they did not want to pay huge amounts of money to Precor by producing rear-drive ellipticals. This is how ellipticals with front-drive designs were born. Both front and rear wheel designs have high-quality products available in the market today.

➥ If you’re interested in getting a good quality rear-drive elliptical, then, you should get to know more about the prices of Precor ellipticals.

Front Drive Ellipticals

Front drive elliptical trainers
Rear-drive elliptical machine


  • Less expensive (usually)
  • More compact
  • More incline possibilities
  • More muscle growth


  • Can be noisier
  • May require more maintenance
  • Flatter elliptical path

With the flywheel located at the front end of the machine, you will get the feeling that you are going up a hill or making uphill climbs. Therefore you will need less time to get adjusted to them. This will work the back of your legs a little bit more which will result in more muscle growth in the glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Front-drive ellipticals can be adjusted to more incline angles which is essential when you are considering an elliptical machine. These inclined positions will sometimes have you leaning more on the handlebars – something that is preferred by many users.

The designs are often compact and therefore they will need less floor clearance. Being more affordable, you can easily settle for a front-drive elliptical.

Some people argue that a front-drive elliptical feels more stable. This is because the flywheel is closer to the center of the machine – the console and your pedals. So the flywheel in the front (especially a heavy one) will tend to act as an anchor and offer higher stability. This is often why you see a lot of the machines at the gym with a front-drive design.

The profile of front-drive ellipticals is less flat and has more mobile components. A large number of moving parts are therefore much more likely to suffer a breakdown – which means they will need more maintenance. We also find that the foot pedals on front-drive ellipticals are running along lengths of rail placed at the rear of the machine. These rollers will wear out when used constantly too.

The stepping motion may feel more linear to you – resulting in an oval motion path that is flatter. Many front-drive ellipticals will also come without foot pads that are articulating so that the motion is not so smooth. Some are even inclined at an inward angle. The feet are positioned in such a horizontal position that they will feel numb after working out for a long time.

Rear Drive Ellipticals

Rear drive elliptical trainers
Rear-drive elliptical machine


  • Your exercises will feel more horizontal and natural
  • You can strengthen your core and your back
  • Incline options available
  • With minimal moving parts, very little maintenance is required
  • Can be folded for storage


  • They will need more floor space
  • They are more expensive

With the flywheel at the rear end of the machine, the natural design of these ellipticals will make you feel more parallel to the floor and less upright – similar to walking/jogging on the ground that is flat. This natural feeling, therefore, involves less leaning on the bars. The stride lengths are longer on rear-drive ellipticals. With a much simpler design, less number of moving components means that there are fewer chances of the machine breaking down. It also means that working out on rear-drive ellipticals will make less sound. Some even come with a folding design so they can be stored easily.

With the primary goal of a workout being core strengthening, you can easily achieve this with rear-drive ellipticals. While this machine offers a workout for your whole body – in due process, you can easily also get rid of excess weight, get toned, and shed any extra fat more efficiently. This is ideal because as you are working out with your arms, more pressure is being applied to the core and the abdomen. Since you can maintain a more upright position (usual thanks to the supporting armrests) – the spinal cord has much better support as it stays upright. With several options for setting the incline – you can activate more muscles so that you can tone and shape your body.

The only drawback to ellipticals that are rear-driven is that their incline settings are less intense. If you are looking for more intensity, you would need to elevate an elliptical’s front section completely. These ellipticals will take up more floor space and cost more than front-drive ellipticals.

Features to look out for

1. Stride length

Stride length on a typical elliptical machine is usually found to be 18″. If you have an above-normal height, 20″ stride length is better suited for you. Adjustable stride length on many ellipticals is great because more users with variable heights will be able to use them, especially if there is more than one active user of the elliptical in your home.

Cheaper ellipticals use a stride path that is more oval than elliptical. You want an elliptical machine where the stride is elongated but smooth. The stride length adjustments can work your calves, your hamstrings, or other muscle groups too much since you are changing the workout intensity by increasing or reducing the elliptical’s stride length.

Stride length on front and rear drive ellipticals Adjustable elliptical stride length will help control workout intensity
The adjustability of the elliptical’s stride length will change workout intensity

2. Maintenance of design

Front-drive ellipticals will typically need more maintenance, as they include rollers and tracks that we do not find in elliptical machines that have the flywheel at the back. These components are more likely to become dirty – something that obstructs the ability of the machine to allow the user to exercise smoothly. Rear-drive ellipticals have simpler designs that have fewer moving parts – which means fewer components breaking down and therefore less maintenance.

3. Movement

A rear-drive elliptical is equipped with an elliptical stride that mimics walking or jogging. You will find that your balance is better on these machines. On the other hand, you will usually be leaning on the bars while your movement resembles climbing stairs on trainers that have front-drive designs. However, as you are much lower to the ground on them – stepping on and off the machine should feel like a breeze.

4. Workout options

With ellipticals that are rear-driven, you have a ramp where the incline can be adjusted- something that we do not see in models that are front-wheel driven. As you change the angle of this slope, you are targeting different muscle groups in your body. While you can work on quadriceps and calves with front-drive ellipticals, the gluteal muscles and hamstring are worked more with the flywheel at the rear end of the machine.

5. Type of elliptical slope

Front-drive ellipticals usually come with designs that are similar to slopes, where the pathway you have for running is similar to climbing stairs or a stepper. On the other hand,  rear-driven trainers offer less slope but they also allow for both manual and automatic means of adjusting the incline.

6. Stability

Stability is a feature that is compromised in ellipticals often by making the machine lightweight. The machine’s weight and base design will determine how stable any elliptical is, irrespective of it being front or rear-drive. If you find that the cross trainer is rocking beneath you during use, or you find it swaying away – it is better that you refrain from using it. Remember that one of the main reasons why ellipticals have become so popular nowadays is that they can help with weight loss by burning more calories, and stability is a key issue for users who weigh a bit more than usual. Front or rear drive – a pair of wheel rollers will be more stable on both these styles – in comparison to single rollers which offer less stability. On front-drive ellipticals, you will find that the flywheel is placed towards the front. They are very close to the pedals and the console of the machine. The flywheel acts as an anchor in this design and gives you a feeling of stability.

Dual rollers can offer more stability
Dual rollers on your elliptical machine offer more stability


7. Smooth motion

Elliptical machines that are priced comparatively low are equipped with flywheels that weigh less. Moving on the machine might feel “choppy”, and not smooth. This is why you should go for ellipticals that come flywheels heavier than 20 lbs – which are often higher-end models. The motion that these ellipticals offer will feel more natural to you and allow you to work out better.

8. Overall quality

Keep an eye out for top recommendations so you can get the best quality elliptical in your price range. Do some research on the reputation of the manufacturer so that you have an idea of customer service and quality control.

➥ Here, you will get to know more about the benefits of using elliptical cross-trainers.  

Manufacturers who make front & rear drive ellipticals

Some brands will offer you all three choices, others two and still others just one. Let’s take a look at all of the popular elliptical manufacturers to see who offers what

Life FitnessYesNo

F. A. Q.s

Q1. Would a front-drive or rear-drive elliptical serve me with a better workout?

Ans.: As soon as you crank the resistance up in both front and rear drive ellipticals, both can give you a good workout. Whether you want to climb your way to better health or you prefer running – both these elliptical styles can help you with your fitness, health, and weight loss goals.

Q2. What is the major difference between a front-drive & rear-drive elliptical?

Ans.: Where the flywheel is located in an elliptical will determine if it is front/rear-driven. At the front, we call it front-drive while at the rear we call it rear-drive. On models that cost less, the flywheel is usually exposed for users to see. Plastic cases are often used to engulf the flywheel( usually on one side). You can also look at where the machines have the pedals connected to the elliptical.

Flywheel location is the main difference in front and rear drive ellipticals
Flywheel location is different on front-drive and rear-drive ellipticals

Q3. Do ellipticals help lose belly fat?

Ans.: Yes, you can shed your belly fat using an elliptical machine thanks to the cardio workouts targeted for your whole body – at different resistance levels. They will engage a larger number of muscle groups in both the upper and lower half of your body. As you can burn a lot of calories – you are torching your belly fat too. You will also appreciate that ellipticals will treat your body much better than other machines designed for cardio exercise.

Q4. Can ellipticals help with muscle building and weight loss?

Ans.: An elliptical is most effective for burning calories and in due process, a large number of muscle groups can gain more strength. This will definitely help with weight loss in both the short and long term. With 30 minutes of medium intensity workout every week, you can get rid of enough calories so that you shed 1 or 2 pounds easily. Just make sure that while you are going really hard on the elliptical machine to reach your weight goals, you should still follow a proper diet. Bodyweight training along with your elliptical workout sessions can further help with the weight loss process.

➥ You can have a look at the ellipticals for effectively losing weight.

Q5. Will ellipticals help with running?

Ans.: You can easily give your strength and stamina a boost when you can use the heart rate setting on your machine ( if available ). As your stamina improves by using the elliptical machine regularly –  you can proceed to use treadmills or set out running on the road.


Front-drive elliptical vs rear drive – you really cannot differentiate between the two by a lot, especially if you are using a machine that is built by a reputed manufacturer. The flywheel location is very less significant as other factors play more significant parts that set these two elliptical machine styles apart. The machine’s stride length, the workout that you are looking for, the incline, stability, smoothness – all these factors will come into play when you are looking to use the machine for a decent workout. Before you purchase your elliptical machine, find out what front and rear drive ellipticals can offer you individually, try them out, and see which is better suited for your requirements. Irrespective of the design – you can confident that you will get a decent workout on your smooth elliptical trainer. We do not want to push you towards one of these designs and would rather that you settle this debate by getting the one that is better suited to you than the other.

Which is better front or rear drive elliptical
Get a front or rear-drive elliptical that suits you the best


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Dion Lewis
My name is Dion Lewis.

I’ve been cycling from my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions.

At my college life, I took a part time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally.

Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or a bike gear.

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