How to Choose an Elliptical – 7 Expert’s Tips for Buying

Elliptical Machine Which One to Choose
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The elliptical machine represents an exceptional combination of low-impact cardiovascular exercise and its ability to deliver a full-body workout.

I learned that it was Larry Miller who, back in the early ’90s, invented the elliptical with the goal of creating a cardio workout that was effective yet gentle on the joints.

After testing out rowing machines, I decided to give this one a try.

Today, I want to provide you with the results of my research, and tips that will help you purchase an elliptical machine that will serve your needs the best.

Key Takeaways:

  • Finding a perfect elliptical machine requires going through several factors.
  • While stride length is often emphasized, comfort and proper biomechanics are more critical.
  • The durability and stability of an elliptical are heavily influenced by its frame construction.

1. Types of Ellipticals

Types of Ellipticals machines for workout

Elliptical machines come in various configurations, including center-drive, front-drive, and rear-drive designs, each offering distinct biomechanical advantages.

Rear-drive ellipticals, often considered more efficient and ergonomic, tend to place the user in a more upright position, which can reduce strain on the back and mimic a more natural stride pattern.

Front-drive models, on the other hand, may require the user to lean slightly forward, changing the workout’s dynamics.

Center-drive ellipticals offer a more compact design, ideal for those with limited space. 

Type of Elliptical Biomechanical Advantages User Posture Ideal Use Scenario
Rear-Drive Efficient, ergonomic design that mimics natural stride patterns. More upright, reducing back strain. Users seeking a natural workout feel and ergonomic benefits.
Front-Drive May engage different muscle groups due to a slight forward lean. Slight forward lean. Users looking for a challenging workout with a dynamic posture.
Center-Drive Compact design, saving space without compromising on workout quality. Upright, similar to rear-drive but in a more compact form. Those with limited space who want the full elliptical experience.

2. Frame Construction and Durability

When evaluating ellipticals, always pay attention to the frame construction.

The quality of welds is a critical indicator of its durability.

Full welds, as opposed to spot welds, offer improved strength and stability significantly reducing the risk of wear and tear under repeated use. 

The type of steel used in an elliptical construction is another important aspect.

High-quality steel, known for its strength and resistance to bending or deformation, provides the machine with the ability to withstand the stress of daily, intense workouts

3. Stride Length and User Comfort

Stride Length and User Comfort - Ellipticals

The focus should be on finding an elliptical that allows for a natural, comfortable stride rather than following strict specifications.

Just compare a few models to see which one has the right side for your preferences.

4. Resistance Systems

The type of resistance system significantly affects the quality of the workout it can provide.

Features like friction and advanced electromagnetic induction can affect durability, functionality, and overall experience. 

Electromagnetic induction systems, often found in higher-end models, offer precise control over resistance levels, allowing for highly customized workouts. 

5. Electronic Options and Connectivity

It should not be a surprise for anyone that there is a great selection of additional features available. I just love the one that can mimic more challenging outdoor terrains.

Connectivity options such as Bluetooth and compatibility with fitness apps allow for tracking progress over time, setting goals, and staying motivated. 

6. Ergonomics and Comfort

Ergonomics and Comfort - Ellipticals machines for workout
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Look for machines that offer adjustable stride lengths, comfortable pedal spacing, and handlebars positioned for a natural posture. 

Features like cushioned pedals and ergonomically designed grips can improve comfort and stability, making your workouts more enjoyable and effective.

Type of Elliptical Adjustable Stride Pedal Spacing Handlebar Design Additional Features
Front-Drive Varies by model Typically wider Fixed or moving Often includes cushioned pedals
Rear-Drive Commonly adjustable Narrower spacing Moving May feature a natural stride path
Center-Drive Less common Compact design Moving Promotes upright posture
Compact/Portable Rarely adjustable Fixed spacing Fixed Designed for easy storage
Commercial Grade Usually adjustable Ergonomic spacing Advanced grip options High-end comfort and durability features

7. Size and Space 

Before purchasing an elliptical, it’s essential to consider the space you have available.

These machines can vary significantly in size, and some models may require more room than others, especially when in use. 

Measure your space and compare it to the dimensions of the ellipticals you’re considering, keeping in mind any additional space needed for safe entry and exit from the machine. 

Consider the ceiling height, especially if you plan to place the elliptical in a room with low ceilings, to ensure adequate headroom during use.

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