Friday, 21 April 2017

Elliptical Trainer Buying Tips

Elliptical trainer buying tips
Elliptical trainers, or cross trainers as they are also referred to, are a great way to get fit in the comfort of your own home, giving you a total body workout that’s low-impact meaning that it’s kinder to your joints than many other types of exercise.

Proving ever more popular, manufacturers are now producing a wide range of elliptical trainers for the home gym market with varying features, build-quality and prices!

In this article we’re going to look at the different factors you need to consider when purchasing an elliptical trainer and offer tips on what to look for so that you get the best elliptical machine for your needs without spending more than you need to!

Price Range / Usage Guide

As a general guide, elliptical trainers tend to fall into the following price ranges:

$0 - $399
Lower end model for light use
$400 - $699
Light to moderate use
$700 - $999
Moderate to average use
$1000 - $1499
Average use
$1500 - $1999
Average to higher use
$2000 - $2499
Higher use
$2500 – $2999
Intensive use
Commercial use
How many people & how often will the elliptical trainer be used?

Your answer to how many people and how often the elliptical trainer will be used will determine whether you should choose an elliptical trainer in a lower or higher price range.

Generally speaking, a basic lower-priced elliptical trainer will be smaller in size with a lighter flywheel weight (see below) and is best suited for light exercise use, i.e. exercising around 3 times a week for between 10 to 20 minutes each time.

If you expect to exercise more regularly, say every day for around 30 minutes each time, then a mid-range elliptical trainer would be more suitable.

If you’re looking to perform higher intensity workouts or if there are several people likely to use the elliptical trainer on a regular basis, then you would need a higher-range machine that generally has a heavier flywheel weight and built to withstand more of a pounding!

Also worth bearing in mind is how many user profiles does the machine allow for.  The higher-range ellipticals tend to allow for 4 separate user profiles, allowing up to 4 different people to keep track of their workout stats on the machine’s console, while lower-priced machines only allow for 1 or 2.

Elliptical trainer with adjustable stride length, image, example
Elliptical trainer with
adjustable stride length
Stride Length

The lower-range elliptical trainers generally have a short stride length that is fixed, which is great if you're a short person but no good for taller people.

The higher-range elliptical trainers generally offer a wider and sometimes adjustable stride length so you can find the most comfortable and natural striding motion no matter what your height is.

Flywheel Weight

Generally speaking, the heavier the flywheel weight is on an elliptical trainer, the more smooth and consistent the momentum will be as it creates higher inertia to keep the drive system turning.

It stands to reason therefore that a heavier flywheel works better and is more durable for intensive workouts than a lighter flywheel.  A heavier flywheel is also more durable and forgiving for the larger person.

Drive System

Different manufacturers build their elliptical trainers with different drive systems.  Generally, there are 3 different types of drive systems – front drive, center drive or rear drive.  Each one affects differently how your body is centred over the machine.  There’s no right or wrong when it comes to this, it really comes down to personal preference so it’s always best, if you can, to try a machine out before purchasing to see which one works best for you.

·     Front drive – the drive axle is located at the front of the machine. 
Centers your body weight towards the front of the machine.
·     Center drive – can have 2 drive axles (front & rear) or just 1 drive axle (either front or rear).
Centers your body weight at the center of the machine.
·     Rear drive – the drive axle is located at the rear of the machine.
Centers your body weight towards the back of the machine.

Front-drive elliptical trainer, image, example
Front-drive elliptical trainer
Rear-drive elliptical trainer, image, example
Rear-drive elliptical trainer

User Weight Capacity

Be aware of the user weight capacity stated in the manufacturer’s description of an elliptical trainer as this should not be overlooked!  Basic elliptical machines tend to have a lower user weight limit than higher-end machines (although not always the case).

Your body weight could affect the smooth running of the elliptical’s motion, so make sure you’re under the user weight limit stated for an elliptical trainer as otherwise the machine may struggle, giving you an unsturdy and jolty workout.  If you’re close to the user weight limit, it may best to consider upgrading to a higher-range machine.

Workout Programs & Resistance Levels

Different elliptical trainers come with varying amounts of resistance levels and types of programs.

Obviously, the more resistance levels and programs the elliptical machine has, the more variety and challenge you can have in your workouts.

If you’re just looking for some light exercise then you won’t need a machine with lots of different options so you don’t need to pay extra for a machine that’s got more than you’ll use.  However, if you like more of a challenge then opting for a machine with a wider range of programs and resistance levels would definitely be worth spending the extra cash to keep you motivated.

Different types of workout programs could include challenges such as rolling hills, calorie burn, heart-rate programs and more.  Higher-range machines may also allow for custom workouts which allow the user to create their own programs.

Incline Feature

The Incline feature is generally more likely to be found on the higher-range elliptical trainers, allowing you to adjust the incline up/down for additional challenge and to work more muscle groups.  Lower-range elliptical trainers don’t normally have this feature.

Heart-rate Monitor

Not all elliptical trainers will offer heart-rate monitoring.  You may not find this feature on the very basic machines, but many machines nowadays do feature pulse grip sensors built into the handlebars for heart-rate monitoring, although their accuracy may vary.  The higher-range elliptical trainers also tend to offer telemetry heart-rate monitoring so you can use a wireless heart-rate chest strap for more accurate monitoring.

Console Display

Most elliptical trainers come with a workout console that features an LCD display that shows you motivating workout stats such as time, speed, distance, calories burned and pulse/heart rate.

Make sure that the display is clear and easy to read.  Basic models tend to come with a black/grey/white display whereas more advanced models will come with a blue backlit display that’s clearer to read and easier on the eyes.

LCD console with blue backlit display on elliptical trainer, image, example
LCD console with
blue backlit display
LCD console with black/grey/white display on elliptical trainer, image, example
LCD console with
black/grey/white display

Online Fitness Tracking

Higher-range elliptical trainers allow for Bluetooth connectivity or USB connectivity so you can connect your mobile phone or other mobile device to transfer your workout data to online fitness tracking apps.

iFit Technology

Higher-range elliptical trainers offer iFit Technology (subscription based) which allows for additional training with extra workout programs and the ability to workout following routes on Google Maps anywhere in the world.

Additional Features

Additional features typically found on higher-range elliptical trainers may include things like a sound system with MP3 input, cooling fan, USB charger port, media shelf and more.


Different manufacturers offer different warranties on their elliptical machines so it's always worth checking out the warranty offered before you buy.  It’s also not uncommon to find that manufacturers offer a different warranty on different parts of the machine, so for example the frame typically has a longer warranty on it than the parts or electronics.


Your elliptical machine may need lubricating from time to time to keep it in good working order.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for keeping your elliptical trainer clean and serviced.

It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s easier to keep the dirt and dust out of elliptical trainers with sealed bearings as opposed to shielded bearings.

N.B.  It’s advisable to consult your doctor or health care professional before undertaking any new exercise regime.

*Prices/discounts indicated correct at time of writing/publishing and may be subject to change anytime.  E&OE.

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