Everything You Need to Know About Elliptical Trainers
Almost every gym has them, from the small ones at home or in the office to the large commercial ones. And yet, most people know very little about them. I’m talking about elliptical trainers.
Elliptical trainers changed the world of fitness and training for good. It is time for you to know everything about these amazing machines. That way, you will be better placed to make full use of them.
Besides, if you’re looking to buy one for your personal use, we will also guide you through what you should look for in an elliptical trainer.
Important Things to Look for When Buying an Elliptical Trainer
Buying an elliptical trainer for your home could the best fitness decision you ever made. It is also very hectic, considering how expensive some of these machines are. You need to be sure that what you’re getting is something you can use for many years to come.
Luckily, apart from personal preference, there are strong pointers of what a good elliptical trainer should be.
Most people do not know what the ideal stride length for an elliptical machine is. Mostly, it is determined by height. If you’re 5’3” or less, a stride length of about 18” is good. If you’re tall, 20-22” inches is great. A longer stride length will make you feel stretched out, while a shorter one will feel cramped.
A light flywheel lacks enough ‘damp’ and causes jerky motions, while a heavy one is smoother to operate. Make it too heavy though, and it gets harder to start and stop. Nowadays, flywheels are coupled with magnetic resistance. It is usual to have a flywheel weight of 7kg to 20 kg, depending on the size of the machine.
Just like other machines, elliptical trainers can break down. Given how expensive they are, it is a wise idea to get a warranty cover that is as comprehensive as possible and that will last as long as possible.
Workout programs are a great way to reach any fitness goal. Whether it’s weight loss or just regular cardio, the right one will keep you motivated and on track. This is why you need as many options as you can get on your elliptical trainer.
This is a feature that allows you to change the angle of the trainer to target more muscle groups and give yourself a greater challenge. The best machines typically have about 300 of incline.
Given that you will be using the machine in your home, you want it to be quiet. Any squeaks and hums could be annoying, not only to you but to other family members. The best-made machines are virtually silent, so this is also something you should consider.
The Different Types of Elliptical Trainers
Ellipticals come in many different types and can be classified in many categories. However, there are three major types based on the positioning of the flywheel. These are:
- Rear drive ellipticals
- Front drive ellipticals
- Center drive ellipticals
I. Rear Drive Elliptical Trainers
The rear drive elliptical trainer is the oldest model available, as well as being the most popular in commercial gyms. By rear drive, it means that the flywheel is located behind the pedals. The first EFX developed by Precor was a rear drive.
The flywheel is the engine of the machine. Easily the heaviest and largest part, its positioning is a major influence on all other features.
Rear drive elliptical machines tend to be big. The pedals and handles are attached to the flywheel using levers, which makes the machine take up more physical space. In return, however, you get a long stride length.
Rear-drive elliptical trainers require less sophisticated connections and are much easier to maintain compared to both front and center drive ellipticals. This is what makes them so popular with commercial gyms. Besides, they can have a full range of features including slope and resistance adjustments.
II. Front Drive Elliptical Trainers
Just like the name suggests, front drive elliptical trainers have their flywheel mounted in front of the pedals. This design is inherently more compact and is mostly adopted with compact elliptical trainers for personal use.
The front drive design has the center of gravity concentrated near one area. This makes it more inherently stable compared to other types. Besides, it is also easier to move around, and most will have little rollers or wheels on which you can roll the whole machine.
The disadvantage with front drive elliptical machines is that they require a more complicated lever system that lies on rails. It makes maintenance a bit of a headache because the rails have to be kept clean to avoid wear.
However, when all options are considered, front drive ellipticals are a great option for personal use and are much cheaper to purchase.
III. Center Drive Elliptical Machines
This type is the latest invention in the elliptical machine industry. It is the most eccentric yet. In design, the pedals are in line with the flywheel. To achieve this, manufacturers place the pedals between two identical flywheels attached with a rod to provide sync.
This design is even more compact than the front drive, making it more ideal for those environments where space is a premium. Also, having two flywheels makes is well balanced and stable.
The pedals of a center drive elliptical machine are placed closer to each other. This placement is more natural and places less stress on the hips, which would otherwise occur if they were placed further apart.
The major limitation that center drive ellipticals have is the range of stride length. Most are limited to low values due to the design. This is why their popularity is still low even though they are cheaper and much more compact than the rest.
House vs Commercial
If you’re considering getting an elliptical trainer for home use, there are numerous options available to you. Manufacturers were quick to realize that the market for residential (home) ellipticals was growing, just like it did with treadmills and the like. They developed many models to serve this new market.
The problem is, residential elliptical trainers are not made to the same standards as the commercial ones. For starters, you are not likely to spend 3 hours a day, every day, using the machine. Thus, they are made of lesser quality material.
Commercial ellipticals are almost always in use, and 8 hrs daily is common. They have to be more robust and built to the highest standards to avoid breaking down every other week.
Another factor that comes into play is the range of features. On a commercial elliptical, you want more resistance levels, a larger incline angle, a longer stride length, more inbuilt programs, more stats and more entertainment options than would be found in the typical machine.
While some home elliptical machines may come with all these features, Not many manufacturers pay as much attention to them. Instead, they are interested in making them cheaper and more compact.
There is also the big issue of price. Commercial ellipticals cost an arm and a leg. On the other hand, residential ellipticals have a wide range of price points that allows you to choose the best fit. Of course, commercial ellipticals have a much better warranty that will last for far longer.
In the end, it boils down to preference. Are you a minimalist who just wants an elliptical to help you work out at home, or do you want to go all in and get the best for yourself? Do you have money to spend, or you’re looking around for budget deals?
If you want top-notch quality, premium features, durability and a warranty to match, go for the commercial elliptical. Nowadays, there is even a subcategory for ‘light commercial’.
History of Elliptical Trainers
Elliptical trainers were first developed by a fitness company called Precor in the year 1995. However, there is a lot of background preceding this breakthrough.
During the late 1980s, researchers from Purdue University were looking into elliptical path generation. In their research, they used a four-bar linkage mechanism and showed that any point on a floating bar followed an approximately elliptical path.
An ellipsis, from which we have the term elliptical, is an elongated oval shape in layman’s terms. If you think about how your feet move when walking or running, you will find that they follow the same shape. For example, when jogging, what path do your ankles follow? An ellipsis.
Precor used this information, and with their knowledge and experience in fitness machines, came up with the Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer (EFX). The machines became an instant hit, and other manufacturers decided to get in on the action.
The original design of the EFX had been patented. Most companies, instead of paying huge fees, looked for ways to round the patent details. By introducing a few tweaks to the original design, they were able to market their own creations. The sum of this effort has brought us to the many types and models of elliptical trainers we have today.
Benefits for Different People
Elliptical trainers have numerous benefits for everybody. They have specific technical features that are great for specific groups of people. For example, elliptical trainers give you a non-impact exercise routine.
By non-impact, it means that your foot stays in contact with the driving surface all the time. Consider how a treadmill works, where you have to lift your foot and bring it down again. This creates impact which is spread out through your bones and joints.
The impact is not a bad thing in itself and may be beneficial to increase bone strength. However, if you’re particularly susceptible to injury, or are just recovering from one, then you would want to keep this impact as low as possible.
Another advantage of elliptical trainers is that you can train not only your lower body and legs but the upper one and arms as well. This is because most elliptical trainers have handlers synced with the flywheel. Instead of just holding on to them, you need to apply some force back and forth.
Not all elliptical trainers have this feature, but most do and are what are referred to as elliptical cross-trainers.
As a young person in the prime of your life and strength, you need a training machine that will challenge you in various ways. Elliptical cross trainers allow you to train your legs, arms, core, and generally your whole body in one workout.
In addition, they also come with features like slope adjustment. This is achieved through a ramp so that you can switch from jogging to climbing stairs as fast as you wish. Angles as high as 300 are available.
Finally, you get the usual resistance variation, with as many as 20 levels on some machines.
As an elderly person, fitness is very important. However, health and safety are even more so. You need to exercise in a way that ensures you are in no danger of harm. For this reason, elliptical trainers are the best option for you.
This is because elliptical trainers are non-impact trainers. Your bones and joints do not get exposed to the impact and stress of running, yet you get to train as hard as you want.
It is no secret that as we age, our bones lose strength and density. It becomes easy to fracture or break one. Not to mention the ravages of conditions like arthritis.
An elliptical trainer allows you to train smoothly and intensely without having to worry about any of these.
As a stay-at-home mum, getting the time to exercise can be hectic. You always have something to do. Leaving the house is out of the question.
This is why you need an effective training machine right in the comfort of your home. Elliptical cross trainers will give you the ability to train your whole body at a go. They are also fun and easy to use, as well as being silent and non-intrusive.
Knowing all this, you can now consider yourself an expert of sorts regarding elliptical machines. If you want to buy an elliptical machine, you can now make informed decisions.
The journey to your desired fitness goals is hard and full of setbacks. One way to overcome them is to get your own elliptical machine. It will help you cut through procrastination and time excuses.
That being said, the question that remains is not whether you should buy an elliptical trainer, but which you should get. Hopefully, now you can go out and buy the best fit for your needs.
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