5 Parts of an Elliptical Trainer That You Should Know About…

Elliptical Parts You should know

5 Different Parts of Elliptical Machines Explained

Elliptical trainers are an indispensable part of the gym, and for some it is a part of their home gym as well. They offer one of the best non-impact cardio workouts and are great for everybody. If you have seen videos of people flying off treadmills, you know what I mean.

While it is true that elliptical trainers are of various types, their basic components are essentially similar. If you want to buy one for personal use or simply want to understand them better, we will look at the major parts that make up an elliptical trainer.

1. The Flywheel

The flywheel is the main part of an elliptical trainer. So much so, that its placement determines the type of elliptical trainer.

When the flywheel is placed behind the pedals, you have a rear-drive elliptical. If it is placed in front of the pedals, it makes it a front-drive elliptical and when it is in line with the pedals, then you alsoΒ  have the center drive elliptical trainer.

What makes the flywheel so important is that it is the heart of the elliptical trainer. When you work the pedals and handlebars, you are rotating the flywheel which provides the resistance against which you’re working.

One of the most important aspects of the flywheel is its weight. The heavier it is, the smoother and quieter the movement is. A light flywheel is jerky and unstable, but on the other hand, a heavy one is hard to set in motion or stop. A perfect balance needs to be obtained between these two.

In general, the size of the elliptical trainer determines the weight of the flywheel. It could be anywhere from 12 lbs to over 30 lbs. A good range is 18-22 lbs, which is what you will find in all the top quality ellipticals.

The placement of the flywheel mostly impacts its size, with rear drives being the biggest and front drives as the most compact. Functionality can also be impacted because rear drives offer a longer stride length than the other models.

2. Control System

Most elliptical trainers are electronic and come with fancy electronics, while some depend on the power generated while the machine is running. Either way, the control system is another major component that needs close consideration.

Any good elliptical trainer allows you to change the resistance levels depending on the intensity of the workout that you want. Mostly, this is achieved by the use of electromagnets placed around the flywheel. When the current is increased, magnetic resistance increases and which makes the wheel harder to turn.

Fancier machines come with an eddy current or electric brakes. At the end of the day, however, the aim is to give you fine control over resistance levels.

There are also manual systems that use a fan to vary airflow, hence resistance. Others simply use contact brakes for resistance. However, these are more unreliable because they only offer rough tuning and have fewer levels than their electrical counterparts.

Some of the higher-end elliptical machines also come with an incline ramp. The ramp can be varied to change the plane of the elliptical workout path to make it feel more uphill. This slope is measured in degrees, which can be as high as 300.

3. Deck and Rails

This consists of the base of the elliptical trainer as well as the rails or rollers on which the pedals rest. The length of the rails determines the stride length of the machine, which is a very important factor in its overall functionality.

Rear-drive and most front-drive elliptical trainers allow for longer rail lengths, which in turn translates to a longer stride length. A good range for the stride length is about 18-22 inches, depending on your height. A longer stride length feels unnatural and stretches you out too much, while a shorter one feels constrained.

The deck and rollers are the part of the machine that most needs maintenance. This is because of the moving parts involved. One of the biggest problems is squeaks and noises coming from the rollers. These could be the result of improper lubrication, or solid particles getting between the parts.

Rear-drive elliptical trainers tend to have the least maintenance issues, which makes them popular with gyms. Front drives have more moving parts and more issues, but in general, these are issues you can deal with on your own.

4. Console

This is the interface from which you can control the machine as well as get feedback about your workout.

Elliptical machines can have any kind of console, from rudimentary numerical displays to top-notch interactive touch screens. The most important thing about a console should be the ability to display all relevant stats like heart rate, calories burnt, mileage, resistance levels, incline angle, and any other relevant feature.

Some people might prefer to go for better displays, but this is something that can always be solved by using your tablet or phone.

5. Extras

Top of the range elliptical trainers come with many extras that are undoubtedly useful for the avid trainer. Even the mid-range ones carry some interesting features.

Some important ones include wireless heart rate monitoring from a wrist band or other wearable devices. This gives you the freedom to train unhampered and still get real-time statistics.

Another important extra is the number of installed workout programs. The more programs available, the better because it gives you more options. The high-end machines allow you to connect to professional programs like iFit either directly or through your smartphone.


Elliptical trainers are relatively simple machines. Understanding how they work, the various parts and their functions gives you an edge in your training. It allows you to make better use of the machine, deal with minor issues and even more importantly, make wise decisions when purchasing one.

Here we have looked at the major parts of elliptical trainers and how they work. We have also shown how differences in their functionality influence the various types of elliptical trainers.

Armed with this knowledge, you are better positioned to go and choose the best elliptical trainer for personal use. Even if you’re not looking to buy one, your training will be much improved by this information. After all, you need all the motivation you can get to get the body you deserve.

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