June 14, 2024
Types of Ellipticals

The first time when I went to get an elliptical machine for me, I was literally trapped in deep confusion. I was like whoa!! What type should I pick now for my home gym because there’re different types of elliptical machines? But luckily I managed to find the right one. You must be wondering how could I escape from such confusion!

Well, not a big deal, that’s easy. You just have to have a basic awareness of your body condition, what are the goals that drag you to get an elliptical, and some other stuff that I will cover in the article precisely.

This blog will discuss different types of elliptical machines and their benefits with pros and cons. By reading this article, you can determine which type of elliptical machine is the best for you.

History Behind The Elliptical Machine

Elliptical trainer machines are excellent equipment for low-impact aerobic exercise but are effective for upper and lower body muscles. Researchers at Purdue University in 1988 first generated the idea of an elliptical path. Larry Miller developed the first crude version (prototype) of an elliptical trainer for his daughter.

In 1990, the elliptical training machine was introduced by Precor and entered the market as a brand of EFX® ( Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer™). The benefits of elliptical cardio equipment were first tested by the study of Dr. Barry Bates in association with the University of Oregon and popularized due to its low-impact but natural motion. 

Benefits of an Elliptical Machine

How it Works: An elliptical machine produces an intermediate range of leg motion by electromagnetic resistance. With the upper-body components (movable handles), an elliptical involves both the upper and lower body muscles. A study by the University of Idaho in 2002 shows that a large number of muscles are involved with varying the stride length on the elliptical trainer. 

Effective for Weight Loss: An elliptical trainer can help you burn many calories that lose fat and weight. Studies show moderate workout levels on an elliptical trainer can burn more than 324 calories in 30 minutes for a 70 kg person. You can burn more calories by increasing the stride length without any higher rate of perceived exertion. Read this Elliptical Weight Loss Guide to learn more.

Reduce Back, Hip, and Knee Pain: An elliptical trainer is a blessing for arthritic patients. Workout on the elliptical cross trainers puts less stress on your joints but is adequate for the lubrication process of joints. Lubricants reduce knee pain and can increase the smoothness when moving your joints. Striding on the elliptical can be helpful for hip joints and the back spine. An elliptical can also boost your stamina and improve your balance. Learn How to Protect Knee Pain on Elliptical Machine.

Why Should You Use an Elliptical Machine?

If you have a history of any injury or knee pain, you should do a cardio workout that puts less stress on your knee. A standard elliptical cross trainer is an excellent tool known as a low-impact workout tool and has less impact on your joints. It’s also a friendly tool for older people because they typically suffer from arthritis or knee pain. But elliptical is not suitable for children under 14 years old. 

Different Types of Elliptical Machines With Pictures

Depending on the location of the flywheel and drive, elliptical are three types: Rear-drive, Front drive, and Center Drive. There is more differentiation with these models: Compact elliptical or foldable elliptical machine, Elliptical gliders, Hybrid elliptical machine, Elliptical Cross trainer, Recumbent elliptical machine, etc. Here we will discuss each of these variations in detail with their features, design, pros, and cons. 

1. Rear Drive Elliptical Trainer

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3915 Elliptical Trainer

The rear-drive elliptical trainers were the first invented elliptical trainer by Precor in 1990. The flywheel or the drive system is located in the back of the machine (rear) of these elliptical cross trainers, and for that reason, these types are called rear drive elliptical trainers. The specifications of these types of elliptical trainers are given below: 

  • Flywheel is located behind the users. 
  • Pedal movement is more circular than other trainers. 
  • Bounce up and down.
  • Allow users to little more upright, or stand straight
  • Allow you to do more walking and running

Design/Style: Rear drive elliptical trainers were first designed by Precor in 1990 and patented as a brand of Precor named EFX®. The models of these types of machines are comparatively old. The drive is in the back of the trainer. It has movable arms for upper body workouts and accessory holders for water bottles and various lite materials. 

Pros: 

  • Can give you a smooth motion of walking or running
  • Tend to provide you with less of a slope
  • Stand straight that is helpful for the back spine
  • Because of the simple system, it requires less maintenance.

Cons: 

  • Comparatively old designed
  • Only for entry-level users
  • Price is not reasonable with its design. 

Size: Size is more significant than others that are not suitable for a short area. For that reason, it’s not recommended for those who do have not enough space at home.  

User Manual: Rear drive ellipticals are helpful for beginners. For beginners, mentorship is essential before using an elliptical machine effectively. Moreover, set up your equipment on flat ground. First, you have to hold on to a handrail, step on the foot pedals, and begin pedaling to start your exercise on an elliptical machine. You can set a program according to your goals. Lastly, End your workout by pressing the PAUSE/RESET key and stopping pedaling. 

Why Rear-drive Might Be Your Best Choice

  • Smooth Elliptical Path: Rear drive ellipticals feature a longer and more circular stride due to the placement of the flywheel at the back. This creates a motion that closely resembles natural walking or jogging, providing a comfortable and realistic exercise experience.
  • Incline Options for Intensity: Many rear-drive ellipticals come with adjustable incline options, allowing users to target different muscle groups and add variety to their workouts. The incline feature can intensify the training session, making it suitable for those seeking greater challenges.
  • Durability and Longevity: The sturdy design of rear drive ellipticals distributes the user’s weight evenly, resulting in reduced wear and tear on the machine’s components. This design characteristic enhances the overall durability and longevity of the equipment.

2. Front Drive Elliptical Trainer

types of elliptical machines

The second-generation elliptical design is the front-drive elliptical type, and the flywheel of these ellipticals is on the front of the machine. It’s the most common type of elliptical seen in the gym and home gym. The specifications of these types of elliptical machines are given below. 

  • Bounce forward and backward
  • Tends to lean forward
  • Some are with workout programs and Bluetooth connectivity 
  • Give a feel of climbing a hill or stairs.

Design/Style: The design of the front-drive elliptical trainer machine is attractive and home-friendly. It needs less area because the pedal resistance system is in the front underneath their consoles instead of on the backside.

Pros:

  • Best fitted for home uses with less floor place
  • Comparatively low price
  • Helpful for improving the balance

Cons:

  • It can’t give natural motion
  • Lean forward is terrible for the spine
  • Has more moving parts that tend to more maintenance

Size: The size of the front-drive ellipticals is less than others; for that reason, it’s the most popular tool for home users. 

User Manual: Front drive ellipticals have more moveable parts. So at the beginning of the workout, you have to ensure all aspects are set up correctly and all bolts & screws are tight. Training on this machine requires coordination and balance. In addition, You have to use lubricants to eliminate roller noise and increase the smoothness and longevity of your elliptical machines.

Exploring the Benefits of Font-drive Models

  • More Natural Stride: Front drive ellipticals offer a more natural and comfortable stride due to the forward-positioned drive system. This results in a smoother motion that is gentler on the joints, making it suitable for users with joint sensitivities or previous injuries.
  • Increased Stability: The weight of the drive system at the front of the elliptical provides enhanced stability during workouts, minimizing wobbling or shaking. This stability promotes a safe and confident exercise experience, even during high-intensity sessions.
  • Space-Saving Design: Front drive ellipticals often have a more compact footprint, making them ideal for smaller workout areas or shared living spaces. Their space-saving design allows users to enjoy the benefits of elliptical training without sacrificing a significant amount of space.

 

3. Center Drive Elliptical Trainer

types of elliptical machines

The most recent elliptical trainer machine design is the center drive ellipticals, which are rarely popular. The specifications of these elliptical types are given below.

  • Vertical or horizontal movements. 
  • Narrow pedal spacing
  • Comfortable for hip joints
  • Designed for longer workouts

Design/Style: Center drive ellipticals are designed as the motor located centrally on either side of the pedals. The shape of these types of elliptical machines is more square than a long rectangle. But the footprint is smaller than the rear-drive or front-drive elliptical machine. 

Pros:

  • Biomechanically correct to give natural motion
  • Naturally supports an upright posture
  • Easy to balance
  • Need less space at home

Cons: 

  • No option for wide pedal spacing
  • Too much expensive
  • No inclined choice (Most of the models) 

Size: The size of the center drive elliptical machine is more compact than the rear-drive or front-drive trainer. So, if you don’t have a lot of space in your workout area, a center-drive elliptical machine can be a good choice for you. 

User Manual: Narrow pedal spacing of the center drive elliptical machine allows you to low impact exercises with a comfortable feeling. Set your device on plane space on the floor and start your workouts slowly and safely. You have to clean your machine regularly to increase efficiency and increase longevity. 

Reason to Choose a Center Drive Elliptical for Home Fitness

  • Balanced and Ergonomic Workout: The centered design of center drive ellipticals ensures a more balanced and ergonomic workout experience. Users maintain proper alignment during exercise, reducing the risk of strain or discomfort and optimizing the efficiency of their workouts.
  • Comprehensive Total-Body Engagement: Center drive ellipticals engage both the upper and lower body simultaneously, providing a comprehensive total-body workout. This makes them an excellent choice for users with specific fitness goals, such as weight loss or muscle toning.
  • Space Efficiency: The centered drive system allows for a more space-efficient design, making center drive ellipticals a practical option for individuals with limited workout space or smaller home gyms.

4. Compact Elliptical or Foldable Elliptical Trainer 

Stamina Inmotion Under Desk Elliptical Trainer for seniors

The foldable elliptical machine is the new generation model which is best suited for home users. You can fold up your device after the workout in a few easy steps and store it in a small space in your home/corner. Features of these types are given below.

  • Usually lighter than other types
  • The flywheel is on the backside or front side.
  • Movable handlebar and display

Design/Style: The compact elliptical or foldable elliptical has been designed to fold and place in a short place. 

Size: The size of foldable elliptical machines may vary with the length of the handlebar and stride. You can minimize half of the size of your elliptical machine by folding it and storing it in the corner of your home. 

Pros:

  • Popular and attractive to look
  • Best suitable for home
  • Foldable parts
  • Easy to move

Cons: 

  • Most have less stride length
  • Lighter flywheel
  • High maintenance costs
  • Expensive price

User Manual: Be careful when folding or unfolding your elliptical machine. Handling with extra care can prolong your machine’s longevity and reduce maintenance costs. 

Why Compact Ellipticals Are the Smart Choice

  • Compact and Portable: Mini elliptical stair steppers are small and lightweight, making them highly portable and easy to store. Their compact design allows you to use them under a desk or in small spaces, making them ideal for home or office use.
  • Convenient Desk Exercise: Mini ellipticals are designed to be used while sitting, making them an excellent option for incorporating exercise into a sedentary workday. Using a mini elliptical under the desk can help improve circulation, increase energy levels, and combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting.
  • Leg and Core Workout: While primarily targeting the legs, especially the calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps, mini elliptical stair steppers also engage the core muscles to stabilize your body during the stepping motion. This can contribute to improved core strength and stability over time.
  • Low-Cost Workout Solution: Mini ellipticals are generally more affordable than full-sized elliptical machines, making them a budget-friendly option for those looking to add exercise equipment to their home or office.
  • Time-Efficient Workouts: With a mini elliptical stair stepper, you can enjoy short bursts of exercise throughout the day without having to set aside dedicated workout time. This can be especially beneficial for individuals with busy schedules.

5. Elliptical Glider

Best elliptical under 300

Elliptical gliders are slightly different from elliptical trainer machines. It offers you several workouts, including wide glide, forward push, or gliding without holding the handlebars to improve balance. It allows you to target your quads, hamstrings, inner and outer thigh, deep and surface glutes, biceps, triceps, chest, and even abdominal muscles. The specifications of elliptical gliders are given below. 

  • Move both forward and backward
  • Also, side-to-side movements and diagonally (360 degrees)
  • Adjustable incline and resistance
  • Some have pre-designed programs

Design/Style: The elliptical gliders are specially designed for a full-body workout, including great cardio and abs. The style of these models is best suited in the gym as well as at home. 

Size: Elliptical glider needs enough space for a wide glide. It’s better to place this piece of equipment in an accessible area for 360-degree diagonal lines. 

Pros: 

  • Allows to modify the intensity of a workout
  • Suitable for a variety of fitness levels
  • Most models provide a heart monitor to track heart rate
  • Give smooth motion

Cons:

  • Restricted for excessive weight people
  • Feeling numbness for a long time use
  • Not easy to use
  • Hard to balance it. 

User Manual: You may need proper instructions and mentorship to use an elliptical glider. Do various types of exercises like wide glide, and forward push according to your goals. You have to apply lubricants in every joint of your elliptical gliders to reduce the squeaking and get smoothness to movements. 

Top Reasons to Choose Elliptical Glider

  • Compact and Portable: Elliptical gliders are often compact and lightweight, making them highly portable and easy to move around the house. Their space-saving design allows users to use them in small apartments or rooms where larger exercise equipment might not fit.
  • Low Noise Level: Elliptical gliders are generally quiet during operation, which is particularly beneficial for home users who want to exercise without disturbing others in the household or neighbors.
  • Joint Flexibility and Range of Motion: Regular use of elliptical gliders can contribute to improved joint flexibility and range of motion. The elliptical motion helps to gently stretch and move various joints, promoting better joint health and reducing the risk of stiffness.
  • Calorie Burning and Weight Management: Elliptical gliders can be an effective tool for burning calories and managing weight. By engaging multiple muscle groups and providing a challenging cardiovascular workout, they assist in creating a calorie deficit that can contribute to weight loss or maintenance.

6. Hybrid Elliptical Trainer

2 in 1 elliptical cross trainer, elliptical bike combo , elliptical and bike combo

Hybrid means the combination of two or more distinct elements or characters. Hybrid elliptical machines have combined the elliptical trainer and the bike to exercise in two ways. One is a seated position for injured or older adults, and the other is a standing position. If you want to get these 2 in one, you can choose a hybrid elliptical machine wisely. The features of these types are as follows. 

  • Have a seat for the seating position
  • Usually, the flywheel is in the backside beneath the seats
  • Moving handlebars for upper body workouts

Design/Style: Hybrid elliptical machine is a combination model that allows you to do low-impact cardio exercise both in seated and standing positions. 

Size: Though it’s a combination of two pieces of equipment (recumbent bike and elliptical trainer), it occurs as usual. 

Pros: 

  • Get 2 in 1 
  • Comparatively not expensive
  • Helpful for injured/old person
  • Comfortable calorie-burning equipment

Cons:

  • In the seated position, less effective for the upper body
  • Maintenance is not easy
  • Armbars are only used in elliptical trainer mood
  • The plastic seat may break 

User Manual: You can do only one positioned workout at a time. Firstly you have to set up your machine according to your exercise nature. There are no armbars for seated positions, so you have to sit appropriately to maintain balance without a handlebar. 

The Superiority of Hybrid Elliptical Design

  • Dual Exercise Modes: Provides the option to switch between elliptical motion and biking motion, offering the benefits of both machines in one compact unit.
  • Enhanced Muscle Targeting: The elliptical motion targets various upper and lower body muscle groups, while the biking motion emphasizes leg muscles, allowing for a more diverse and targeted workout.
  • Cross-Training Variety: Allows users to engage in cross-training, helping to prevent workout plateaus and keeping exercise routines fresh and engaging.
  • Low-Impact, Joint-Friendly: Provides a low-impact workout that is gentle on the joints, reducing the risk of strain or injury.
  • Versatile Use: Can be used for standing elliptical workouts or seated biking exercises, accommodating users of various fitness levels and physical abilities.

7. Elliptical Cross Trainer

types of elliptical machines

An elliptical cross trainer (also called an elliptical trainer or X-trainer) is a stationary exercise machine used for walking, running, and stair climbing indoors. It puts low stress on the joints and decreases the risk of impact injuries. Cross trainer offers a non-impact cardiovascular workout as well as both upper and lower body exercises. Features are as follows:

  • Magnetic resistance flywheel
  • Foot stride for striding
  • Movable handlebar
  • Display and Bluetooth connection(some models)

Design/Style: Cross trainer is designed to low impact exercise and put less stress on the knee joints. By Precor, in the 1990s, rear-drive cross-trainers were first introduced in the market as a low-impact cardio exercise tool. Today’s many brands have produced various styles of cross trainers with the same (almost) benefits. 

Size: The size of cross trainers may vary from brand to brand with their handlebar and foot stride length. Some are small in size and best fitted for home uses. 

Pros: 

  • Helpful for low-impact cardio exercise
  • Effective for both upper and lower body
  • Increase balance and endurance

Cons:

  • No seated position for an injured person who is incapable to stride in the standing position
  • Maintenance is not so easy

User Manual:

  1. Set up your trainer on a plain surface.
  2. Tightening is necessary for bolts and screws.
  3. Start slowly with a program (optional) and listen to your body to go ahead.
  4. Apply lubricants (silicon-based) regularly (weekly) to improve the efficiency of your trainer and eliminate maintenance costs. 

Why Elliptical Cross Trainers Are Worth Considering

  • Low-Impact Exercise: The cross trainer provides a low-impact workout that is gentle on the joints, making it suitable for individuals with joint sensitivities or injuries.
  • Full-Body Workout: It engages both the upper and lower body simultaneously, targeting various muscle groups and providing a comprehensive total-body workout.
  • Cardiovascular Fitness: Using a cross-trainer improves cardiovascular health, increases heart rate, and enhances overall endurance and stamina.
  • Weight Management: The cross trainer can aid in weight loss and weight management by burning calories and promoting fat burning during workouts.
  • Versatility: Cross trainers often come with adjustable resistance levels and workout programs, allowing users to customize their exercise intensity and vary their routines for better results.

8. Recumbent Elliptical Trainer

Teeter FreeStep Recumbent Cross Trainer

A recumbent elliptical machine allows you to exercise while sitting. This elliptical is specially designed for people who suffer from joint pain, such as the elderly and the injured. For them, a recumbent elliptical provides similar benefits to a standard one, but with greater comfort and safety. So, if you’re one of them and want to lose stubborn weight while also quickly increasing cardiovascular endurance, you should invest in a recumbent elliptical machine. The features of these types are given below: 

  • Comfortable seats
  • Offer low-impact and seated workouts
  • Movable handlebar

Design/Style: The recumbent elliptical machine is specially designed to comfortably seated position workouts for injured/older people. 

Size: The size of these types of elliptical trainers may be larger than cross-trainers. But it would be suitable obviously for a homemade gym. 

Pros:

  • Helpful for injured/old people
  • Suitable for entry-level exercisers
  • Put less stress on the knee
  • More effective than a stationary bike

Cons:

  • Can’t be adequate for the upper-body
  • Not suitable for short people
  • Short stride (usual models)

User Manual: Firstly, you have to sit correctly and start your workouts slowly. Hold the handlebar and move back and forth with the leg striding simultaneously. 

Key Reasons to Choose a Recumbent Elliptical

  • Comfortable Seating: Recumbent ellipticals provide a comfortable and supportive seat, making them an excellent option for individuals who prefer or require a seated workout position.
  • Reduced Strain on Joints: The recumbent position reduces stress on the lower back, hips, and knees, making these machines suitable for users with mobility or joint issues.
  • Full Body Workout: Recumbent ellipticals engage both the upper and lower body, offering a full-body workout that promotes muscle tone and cardiovascular fitness.
  • Customizable Resistance: Many recumbent ellipticals come with adjustable resistance levels, allowing users to tailor their workouts to their desired intensity.

Guide for What Type of Elliptical Machine Should I Buy?

To select an elliptical machine for workouts, firstly, you should determine your goals. Then you have to choose the appropriate types of apparatus according to your goals. For example, if you want to do low-impact exercises with easy and comfortable tools, a recumbent elliptical machine is better for you. You need to check some factors before buying an elliptical machine, including resistance, workout program, stride length, warranty, etc. Moreover, you can compare the size and price to select the best one at a reasonable price. 

Bottom Line

No matter how your health is doing or how much weight you have, there is an elliptical machine for you, whether you want to strengthen your muscles, improve your heart health, or reduce your weight. Each type of elliptical, from the classic rear-drive ones to the space-saving compact ones to the new front-drive and center-drive ones, has its own benefits. So, whether you’re new to fitness or have been doing it for a long time, don’t be afraid to use ellipticals to take your fitness to new heights. 

22 thoughts on “8 Different Types of Elliptical Machines & Their Benefits

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