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Type of elliptical machines

Types of elliptical trainers

Fitness equipment that always should be considered whenever you are looking to get a low-impact cardio exercise would be elliptical machines. You can easily pick them out thanks to their distinguishable pedals and handles. Considered amongst the exercise machines that offer great versatility – you can easily accommodate it in your home gym even if space is limited. Elliptical trainers offer users an alternative to cardio options such as actually running on concrete roads so that the effect on the joints of the user’s body is minimal. As you look to effectively and efficiently get a full-body workout here, you may wonder about the elliptical options that are available today. Typically, ellipticals differ from each other in terms of where the flywheel/ drive system is located on the machine. They are also available in different sizes, where manufacturers have incorporated distinctive features to make these trainers appealing. Over the length of this article, we have discussed these elliptical trainer types so that you can understand what will suit you the best. We have also noted how you may go about using these cardio machines, the benefits that they offer, how to choose the best of them, and what sets them apart from other fitness options for cardio available in the market. At the end of this article, you will find a few common FAQs to shed some more light on the elliptical trainer types.


Three types of elliptical trainers

  • Rear-drive ellipticals

These are traditional ellipticals that were, in 1995 – patented by manufacturer Precor with the location of the flywheel being at the machine’s back. This simplistic design offers a stable and smooth pedaling motion. You will find that the rear wheel elliptical is better balanced while longer stride lengths offer a natural feel. The elements that we find in elliptical machines makes them better equipped to mimic a running or walking motion. Your workout, as a result, will be free of stress and natural. The effectiveness of the design is why you can find rear-drive ellipticals being used widely.

Rear drive elliptical

➥ If you specifically want to buy a rear-drive elliptical, then, have a look at the prices of the Precor Elliptical line-up.

  • Front-drive elliptical

These ellipticals have the flywheel at the front of the machine while the roller tracks are at the back. Your platforms will slide along these rollers to offer a range of motion that seems very vertical. Front-wheel trainers can mimic climbing stairs too. Usually, we find that they have a much lower profile – which is perfect for users with limited mobility who may find it difficult to step over the machine to find their seat.

Front drive elliptical

➥ Have a look here, if you happen to be at a crossroads between a front-drive and a rear-drive elliptical

  • Center drive elliptical

These designs have made their way to the market in recent years only. Ellipticals that are center drive have the flywheel on both sides of the machine. They too offer a rather vertical motion range and will remind you how you move on the climber fitness equipment. Throughout the workout duration, these ellipticals can help you stay upright. With the pedals and the wheel aligned parallel to each other, they are more compact than other elliptical styles. This is why you should get this for your home gym. Additionally, knee joints and hips do not have to withstand any extra stress on these closely-placed pedals. This is again responsible for the more vertical motion on center- drive ellipticals.

Center drive elliptical

Other types of elliptical trainers

  • Standard elliptical trainers

They have the basic design which will help you with your cardio fitness, with the flywheel placed at any of the three positions that we have stated above. This is important because it is the flywheel location that will determine the intensity and scope of exercise. These low-impact trainers can adapt to your requirements, reduce stress on the ankle joints and knees – all without the dangers of sprained ankles or shin splints.

  • Elliptical cross-trainer

This elliptical style will offer similar advantages to standard ellipticals, and then some. You can take up a reclined or seated position on them and perform your exercises by using the pedals and bars. You can minimize stress by taking up an upright position too. They facilitate full-body workouts by working the back muscles, your core, and upper body using the handles too.

Cross trainer elliptical

➥ Given, you’ve set your sights on an Elliptical cross trainer combo, then we suggest you have a look.

  • Elliptical glider

Elliptical gliders offer the lowest impact exercises and perhaps have the most basic design. With no flywheel, a swinging glider will propel you along the pedals via its momentum. The feet of the user are to be fixed on the pedals so that less stress is exerted on the joints, knee, and hip. The absence of the bulky flywheel also means that it will take up very little space in your home gym.

Elliptical gliders

  • Recumbent Elliptical

While many elliptical machines will need you, the user, to stand on the pedals and swing away – recumbent ellipticals have a seat(often with a backrest). Their functionality is very similar to many exercise bikes you may have encountered. A recumbent elliptical will make you pedal and use the mobile handles to get an effective exercise for both your lower and upper body. It is ideal for uses who are aged or have an injury so that their mobility is compromised.

Recumbent ellipticals

What is an elliptical trainer?

An elliptical trainer is a piece of exercise equipment where users can keep their feet planted on the pedals while they move in an “elliptical” path. It is almost similar to running, with your back positioned in a comfortable upright position. Many elliptical models also sync the foot movement with additional handles. As you take each stride, the handles will move back and forth alternately while you are using the foot pedals. While your entire body is being engaged here, you are also completing a complete fluid stride that does not have any impact on the joints. You will be working against the resistance created by the flywheel so that more of your muscles are engaged.

Elliptical trainers offer manual resistance with a simple flywheel or an electronic resistance version where you can make adjustments to the resistance on the go. There are gripped handlebars that face upwards in some designs where the resistance can be adjusted with the bars and you need substantial effort to move them. On others, the handles are just there for the sake of it.

How to use an elliptical trainer?

To begin, climb into the machine, grip the handles, and then you may either plug the elliptical in for power or apply manual force for operation. As you press down on the pedals alternately, you can get going. You might need a second to get a hold of your coordination on the elliptical, but you should be able to settle in well. You can pace along at a constant speed or decide to pick up speed gradually.

Check out the video link below for better insight.

Why should you be using an elliptical?

  • Using the mobile bars, you can focus on your upper body muscles like biceps, triceps, lats, and pecks while your glutes, calves, and hamstrings are being engaged by the elliptical motion.
  • You can minimize the mineral loss that comes with old age by exercising with ellipticals.
  • Your knees do not have to experience constant impact since ellipticals need you to keep your feet planted always. In due process, your workouts become more comfortable.
  • The incline and the resistance of your elliptical can be increased so that you are burning more calories. You can also choose the pre-installed settings for resistance offered by the console of your machine for a customized workout.
  • Alternating between decent cardio sessions on an elliptical trainer and strength training such as lifting weights or squats, lunges will really help you set the foundation for your body. Your increased muscle mass will need more energy, which is obtained by burning excess fat.
  • Your mood will elevate, stress will be reduced, and your immune system will receive a significant boost thanks to regular exercise on elliptical machines.
  • When you are letting go of the handlebars and struggling to stay upright, you are actually engaging your core. This will improve your balance.

    To know more, have a look at the advantages of using an elliptical.

Choosing the right elliptical for you

You can choose among the elliptical styles so that they can meet your requirement. Go for machines that have adjustable stride lengths and other means to hike up the resistance. It can be brought down for cardio workouts that are low impact. They should also come with the best displays that will put up important information like your pulse, the number of calories burnt, etc. These data are an indication of how you are doing on the machine.

➥ The ideal stride length plays a vital role when it comes to choosing the right elliptical.

Things to look for in an elliptical

  • Levels of Resistance

Resistance has a key role in elliptical machines. Your body works against this resistance as you pedal, so adjustability features will tune the workout intensity. The flywheel allows changing the resistance on ellipticals so that you have to work harder to burn more calories and get rid of weight efficiently. On the contrary, you can bring down the resistance of your cardio workouts to help boost your stamina and endurance.

  • Incline

Incline adjustments can have a huge impact with regards to the workout you are getting on elliptical trainers. This will allow you to target a wide array of muscles in your legs. However, this is not available for all trainers. As you change the incline angle, you may generate large downward resistance that opposes the pedaling motion to make exercising tougher.

  • Dual/reverse directions

With bi-directional ellipticals, you can give your workout a different feel. They offer a different feel while giving your flexibility and coordination a boost. You also develop the ability to run/wall backward too ( the ability to run backward is highly valued in some sports ). A separate group of muscles is working in distinct ways so that you can get more benefit from using the machine.

Things that make ellipticals different from other exercise machines

  1. They will allow the user to engage in low impact exercises that will get your heart pumping. You will be exercising at high intensity without exerting any additional stress on your joints and muscles.
  2. Equipped with handles, any of the elliptical fitness equipment mentioned above can offer lower and upper body workouts. The goal is to avail the maximum benefits of working up your upper body while distributing your weight evenly.
  3. You can move your arms with the same intensity as your legs so that you can focus on the core muscles, biceps, triceps, back muscles, chest, and quads. You may also be able to engage in bi-directional pedaling so that a majority of these muscles move in different ways.

F. A. Q.s

Q1. Which type of elliptical is Best?

Ans.: When it comes to cardio machines that are easy on your joints, an elliptical is a good investment. Look for a stride length between 18 and 21 inches to get the most comfortable elliptical ride. They are less jumpy too. An elliptical workout should have minimal effects on your knees. The handlebars are a must to engage your upper and lower body, and if you are looking for different ways to work the muscles in your upper body – go for upgraded, multi-positioned handlebars. The adjustable incline is important too, but you do not want to get off the trainer every time to make a change. Check if the elliptical has a power incline so that you can make necessary adjustments from the console. Seek articulating pedals that are oversized to provide sufficient support for your ankles. The adjustable head-to-toe angle will help you get a fit that is customized. For the flywheel, heavier designs will facilitate smooth and noiseless rides while adding to the stability. Your elliptical trainer should also have a console display to put up your heart rate, calories burnt, speech, and other data points while many additional features such as speakers, USB charging are often added as incentives.

Q2. Are all elliptical machines the same?

Ans.: No, all elliptical machines are the same. They vary in terms of size and also on where the flywheel is located on the machine.

Full-size elliptical machines are best in terms of versatility and range of stride lengths. Usually, they come packed with a variety of features and is available for all drive types. You can also find gliders that will essentially have you suspended while you are using your arms and legs to replicate the running movement. With the absence of the flywheel, gliders require more strength and better coordination. Your body weight is the means of resistance in elliptical gliders. You can also use under desk ellipticals while you are seated. You have to pedal against the resistance that is offered by these machines and therefore is a great means to stay active and burn calories even when you may be at your office. They are popular because they will let you multitask without disturbing others around you.

For a proper elliptical workout, the machine must be using a flywheel. Where you find the flywheel will determine the drive type of the machine. An elliptical trainer that is front-driven is designed to have the flywheel at the machine’s front, usually in some sort of plastic housing. The stride resembles climbing upstairs as the pedals are using a track to glide along. Center drive trainers have the flywheel located around the central part of the machine and use a crankshaft to move the pedals on rollers (cylindrical in shape). They usually have a compact design and take up very little space while compromising with handlebar clearance. Your strides will be longer while the soft pedals can keep you comfortable. Rear-drive ellipticals are usually more expensive, often with versatile stride length and adjustable incline. The flywheel is located towards the rear end of the machine, where long pedal arms can suspend the pedals between the handles and the flywheel or the roller-on-track setup.

Q3. Which is better: front or rear wheel elliptical?

Ans.: So we know that front and rear wheel ellipticals are different from each other in terms of where the flywheel is located. The former has the flywheel placed ahead of the pedals while the latter is designed to have the flywheel behind the pedals. It is difficult to differentiate between two drive types, but we have done an extensive research to pick out two ways in which front and rear wheel ellipticals are different. The final purchase, however, should always be based on your preference.

  • Elliptical slope: Ellipticals that are front-wheel driven offer a slope so that the running pathway feels like you are climbing stairs or resemble the motion of stair-stepping. On the other hand, the slope is less pronounced on rear-wheel-drive ellipticals and therefore you will feel as if you are exercising on a flat plane.
    So basically it is your choice, whether you are looking to run on your elliptical trainer or climb uphill. If your elliptical machine ( front or rear wheel driven ) adds in incline, they will hardly differ in terms of the workout they can offer.
  • Stability: Many users feel that front-drive ellipticals tend to be more stable because the heavier flywheels are often placed closer to the machine’s center and therefore act as an anchor. These machines will not sway or give away under you during use, leaving you with a more planted feel on the ground. Particularly helpful for overweight users.

To decide which amongst the two drive types – front and rear-wheel drive are better, the factors mentioned can help to tilt the balance. However, at the end of the day- it all comes down to personal preference.

Q4. Would elliptical machines be better for me than treadmills for basic aerobic workouts?

Ans.: You can use ellipticals for cardiovascular conditioning and engage in basic workouts like running or brisk walking to pump up your heart rate. This is because unlike treadmills, ellipticals are designed with poles ( similar to those used in skiing) or handles so that both your legs and arms can get decent exercise. Ellipticals can also be bi-directional so that the hamstring and calf muscles have to work harder as you pedal in reverse. When used properly, running or brisk walking with an elliptical is easier on the knees – especially if you suffer from joint pain or arthritis. The great thing about elliptical trainers is that even if you are using a treadmill for running, you can use an elliptical for cross-training. You can minimize the risk of stress fractures or any injuries due to overloading.

➥ Here, you’ll get to know the difference between an elliptical machine & a treadmill.


All of the elliptical trainers that we have discussed in this article can offer you low impact cardio activities – getting your heart all pumped up and move your muscles with extra effort. To settle on a particular elliptical machine, the biggest consideration you might need to make is to choose what you want a great workout for your leg only or your entire body. Personal preference and bad knees can also affect your choice as you would not have to ensure the high impact of running or jogging exercises just to get a highly effective workout. Cardio will help you reap the results better and faster – just as long as you are using any of the elliptical types mentioned in this article to make the process easier for you.

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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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