Ellipticals (aka cross-trainers) give you a great cardio workout that is low impact, so it’s easy on your knees, ankles and hips.
Resistance is how you increase the intensity of your elliptical workout. It’s created by the braking system on the flywheel. The harder the braking, the harder the resistance and the harder you work to overcome the resistance. Most elliptical machines use a magnetic or electromagnetic brake system which means there’s no actual contact between the flywheel and the brake so there is less noise. Look for models that allow you to easily adjust the resistance with a push of a button.
The stride length is the furthest distance between the pedals during motion. While finding the most comfortable stride will depend on your height, it is recommended you get an elliptical with at least a 17” stride. Some machines will let you adjust the stride to best suit you. If you’re shorter, go for a 16” stride. Average to tall height, go for a 18” – 21” stride. Extra tall, go for a 22” stride or more.
Once you find your ideal stride length, you may still want to adjust it since changing your stride targets different muscle groups. Shorter strides work your thighs, while longer strides focus on the back of your legs.
Most higher-end machines include an adjustable incline ramp that alters the shape of the elliptical motion, allowing you to target different muscle groups and increasing the intensity of your cardio workout.
The key to a good control panel is that it’s easy to read, especially when you’re moving. Displaying information such as speed, time, distance, calories and pulse is standard on the majority of models. More advanced displays will have a variety of programs. Other models will even let you plug in your MP3 player and cool you off with a built-in fan.
Programs that vary the resistance, incline and direction (forward/reverse) of the elliptical will add variety and motivation to your workout. The number and types of programs will depend on the model of machine, but look for at least a weight loss program and interval training program.
Frames & Space Requirements
Ellipticals with smaller frames take up less space and are usually easier to move around. However they may not be as stable or suitable for vigorous workouts. Larger frames tend to be made with higher quality materials and can support heavier and more active users. Before you buy, measure the space where you plan on setting up your elliptical and check it against the footprint of the models you’re interested in. Since you’ll be more elevated on an elliptical than on a treadmill or exercise bike, make sure you have enough head clearance, especially if you’re setting up in a room with low ceilings.
Once you’ve decided on the price, type of machine and main features you want, these little extras could help make the final decision.
- Heart rate monitor
- Adjustable foot pedals
- Self-generating electronics
- Space-saving fold-up models
- Wheels to easily move machine around
- Customizable programs