If you’ve only just started setting up a home gym, you’ve probably looked at all the standard equipment, treadmill, exercise bike, rowing machine, but you may not have looked at another piece of equipment which is less well known, but becoming increasingly popular: elliptical trainers.
The first elliptical exercise machines provided a good workout, but only for the lower body. Most have some sort of handrail for balance, but many now have handles and provide a useful workout for the upper body as well, making the elliptical trainer and extremely versatile piece of equipment.
Elliptical machines are described as ‘lower impact’; although the legs go through a running motion, no actual running is involved so they make an excellent choice for many people especially when just starting on the road to fitness. In comparison to, for example a treadmill, there is far less stress on the joints.
Elliptical trainers have three major distinguishing characteristics.
Both front and rear drive systems are available, but while front drive was the original system in elliptical machines these are not as pleasant to use as rear drive systems which are generally far smoother.
The resistance system
At the lower end of the range, most elliptical machines use a manually adjusted resistance system, though some have a brake system which is motorized. High end machines use a different, smoother system which is called an ‘eddy current’ system.
Strangely, while stride length varies quite a bit from person to person, many elliptical trainers have their stride length fixed at the factory. Again this is not the case with high end machines which are far more flexible. Scientists at the University of Idaho recently showed that by lengthening the stride on the machine it is possible to use more muscles, and burn more calories, without feeling as though you are doing any more exercise.
As usual there are all sorts of advanced facilities available on different machines, from heart rate monitors to adjustable inclines and of course (as mentioned above) the adjustable stride length. If you’re thinking of buying one ,the length of the warranty is often a useful measure of quality in addition to your budget and of course any special requirements you may have with regard to the space you have available and the weight capacity of the machine itself.
Perhaps the best feature of an elliptical machine is that as your feet stay on the pedals you don’t feel as though you are doing nearly as much work as when, for example you’re on a treadmill. This alone makes elliptical machines popular, but if it doesn’t send you straight to our site to buy one, consider the clincher, elliptical trainers are also much quieter than treadmills, so if you live in an apartment, here’s one exercise solution that won’t disturb your downstairs neighbor!