The elliptical trainer, also known as a cross trainer, is a fairly new invention. Precor USA introduced the exercise equipment in 1995 and owns 170 patents on this machine. A daughter of one of Precor’s engineers is credited for the breakthrough technology after looking for ways to simulate running while recovering from a heel injury.
Since Precor has patent rights for the elliptical pattern of the pedal motion, some of its competitors invented front-drive ellipticals or other variation of the oval pedal motion. The difference, however, only becomes apparent once you’re on the equipment.
Elliptical trainers became an instant hit and still remain popular today largely because of its minimal-impact cardiovascular workout. It’s also the first machine that’s suitable for both beginners and trained athletes.
The first models exercised only the lower parts of the body until Precor added the incline ramp technology with a range of 10 to 40 degrees. Reebok company also added the upper body workout for a full cardiovascular workout.
Table of Contents
- Standard Elliptical Trainers
- Elliptical Cross Trainers
- Elliptical Gliders
- Compact/Foldable Ellipticals
Standard Elliptical Trainers
The main characteristic of a regular elliptical trainer is that it is designed to work the lower body only. The handlebars are stationary and therefore the lower part of your body gets the brunt of the workout. Elliptical trainers are designed to allow you to use your hips and knees for most of the exercise, which means they are great for building up the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. It is a great way to build up your cardiovascular health, which you can actually do without concentrating on your upper body as well.
Regardless of how much money you have in your budget, it is easy to find the perfect elliptical for your use, and whether you’re trying to build up muscle tone, lose weight, or improve overall cardiovascular health, the elliptical will help you do it. Their features usually include electronic measurements for aspects such as distance, speed, and heart-rate, among others, as well as stainless-steel frames for reliability, large foot pedals for comfort, cooling fans to keep you comfortable during your workout, and eight resistance levels on average to help you produce a more challenging workout whenever you’re ready.
One of the nicest things about researching ellipticals is that there is truly something for everyone, so whether you want to spend under $200 or are able to shell out more than $6,000, you can easily find something to accommodate you. Moreover, this doesn’t mean that the less expensive ellipticals are sub-standard in quality. In fact, all ellipticals made by reputable brands are built to last and sturdy.
They usually include amenities such as cup holders to store your water bottle, an easy way to plug in your cell phone or MP3 player so you can enjoy your music while you exercise, and touchscreen access that makes changing or altering your workout fast and simple. Furthermore, the companies that make these ellipticals are continuously coming up with newer and better features for your convenience, which means by the time you purchase your own piece of equipment, you’re sure to find a sleek, highly functional addition to your fitness routine.
If you’re not interested in a total body workout but would prefer to concentrate on your lower body only, a regular elliptical machine is perfect. One of the nicest things about an elliptical is that you get an intense cardio workout that is also low-impact, so there is no need to be concerned about shin splints, sprained ankles, or severe foot pain. At one time, it was thought that you couldn’t get a good workout unless you were out jogging or running, but now the experts agree this simply isn’t true.
The main reason most people exercise is to get their hearts in shape, and an elliptical does that while keeping you safe and protected from most injuries, thanks to its low-impact capability. In addition, because you can change the resistance level and the speed at which you use the machine, it is easy to make your workout a little more challenging at any point.
Since there are so many brands and models of elliptical trainers, the sizes will vary as well. The machines can be as long as 26 inches or even 76 inches in length, range in width from 17 to 30 inches, and have heights that can be from six feet to over 11 feet high. As you can see, the sizes of ellipticals vary greatly, but regardless of your budget or your particular height and weight, it should be very easy to find a size that suits you perfectly.
Of course, it is always best to test out these machines in person, because it’s only once you get on it and start to pedal that you’ll know without a doubt if that particular size is right for you. If you are in a hurry and don’t have time to do this, the exact measurements can always be found in an online store, and this should give you some idea of which elliptical to purchase in the end.
Elliptical Cross Trainers
Cross-trainer ellipticals provide a full-body workout because they have handlebars you can utilize at the same time that you’re using the foot pedals, providing great exercise for both upper and lower body. Cross-trainers are great for building up the muscles around the shoulder blades, upper back, shoulders, and chest. They are designed to get the entire body in shape, not just the upper or lower parts, and like regular ellipticals, you can get a great cardiovascular workout without damaging bones or shins because they are low-impact in nature. Unlike regular ellipticals, these machines have handlebars that move with you during the workout instead of remaining stationary, and their back-and-forth motion helps you get a great all-around workout. With your arms and legs moving constantly at the same time, a great exercise routine is sure to fall into place.
There are numerous features available on cross-training ellipticals, including some which offer more than one exercise type. These machines can provide ellipticals and one other type of exercise equipment, such as a stationary bike or a stair-climber. Of course, the main advantage of these types of ellipticals is the fact that you don’t get bored with your workout nearly as quickly as you do with standard elliptical machines.
You can easily and quickly switch back and forth between the two exercise machines, allowing you the variety that’s needed to keep your interest in exercising high. After all, regular exercise is only possible if it remains interesting and fun, and knowing that you can quickly switch from an elliptical to a stationary bike or some other machine at any time helps that become possible month after month, year after year.
There are many other features and styles of cross-training elliptical machines because the machines must be able to remain sturdy and functional for a very long time and therefore, they need to be well-made and have parts that are built to last. Their seats have thick cushions and are very comfortable, the LCD devices that show your heart-rate and speed are clear and easy to see, the foot pedals are both comfortable and provide grip, and the entire machine is filled with adjustable features such as incline levels and resistance levels. They contain high-quality parts and features, meant to provide you with the best workout possible and some variety to get you through the times when you don’t feel like exercising.
There are so many advantages to purchasing a cross-training elliptical machine that it is difficult to list them all here. The main advantages include low-impact workouts that are great for the cardiovascular system, a comfortable and accommodating machine that allows people of all sizes and fitness levels to improve their health, user-friendly options that make the machine easy to operate regardless of your past experience with ellipticals, adjustable features that allow your workout to be as simple or as challenging as you want it to be, and of course, the ability to get an extraordinary workout without causing harm to the shins, muscles, or bones. The cross-training elliptical will keep you sweating throughout the entire workout but takes good care of your muscles and joints, proving that you don’t have to destroy your legs and feet or huff and puff too much just to get the exercise you need to improve your health.
The great news about cross-training ellipticals is the fact that each part of the machine comes in various sizes and shapes, which means that whether you are five feet tall or over six feet tall, you should have no problems finding the perfect elliptical for your needs. They can be as long as 68 inches and as high as 85 inches, but you can find them smaller and larger as well. Many of the less expensive models are also smaller but still work just as efficiently as the larger ones. In fact, many of the more expensive ellipticals look more like machines you’d find in a professional spa or gym, but regardless of your budget constraints, you should be able to easily find a machine that feels comfortable as you work out each day.
This is, in many cases, the only difference between cheaper and more expensive cross-training ellipticals – their overall sizes. Their ability to provide you with a great workout is included in ellipticals of all sizes, and most of them also have amenities that include cup holders and accessories that allow you to play music or watch your favorite television program. In other words, all of these machines are high-quality pieces of equipment you are bound to be happy with, regardless of the size you were looking for or how much you paid for it.
Elliptical gliders are designed a little different than other elliptical machines because instead of going in a circular or elliptical direction, your feet essentially slide back and forth to give you the exercise you’re looking for. Again, there is little to no impact because the foot pedals remain above the ground, meaning you won’t jar any muscles or wreak havoc on your joints whenever you exercise because you’re not placing your body weight on a hard surface such as the ground. For people who prefer something other than the up-and-down motion of regular ellipticals, this design may feel a little easier for them, even though it gives you the same great workout as other elliptical machines. This is yet one of the many designs that ellipticals offer, which means it is easy to find one that is right for you.
The features of glider ellipticals vary between brands and models, but most of them include:
- Built-in pulse monitors that allow you to continuously monitor your heart-rate
- Extra-large, non-skid, comfortable foot pedals that reduce pain and discomfort in your lower legs
- Electronic measurement of speed, distance, calories burned, and heart-rate
- The ability to accommodate individuals up to 300 lbs., sometimes more
- The ability to go from a slow walk to a fast run without stopping or jarring muscles and joints
- Very user-friendly operations that can accommodate people of all fitness levels
- Advanced technology that allows for a smooth and quiet operation
There are, quite literally, hundreds of different features you can find on these types of ellipticals, but whether you want a small, economical model or a larger, more expensive, spa-quality machine, it will never be a problem to find it. With these types of ellipticals, you can get as standard or as fancy as you like, so once you do your due diligence and research the machines in regular and online stores, you can decide for yourself which feature is most important to you and which one to choose.
Much like other types of ellipticals, the glider elliptical is made for a great cardio workout that is also low-impact. As people age, many of them experience joint stiffness and frequent muscle pain, which can cause a break in your exercise routine, but if you choose a glider elliptical this will never be a problem. If you’re trying to find a reason not to exercise, the gliders can’t help you, because they are low-impact, cause no pain to your joints, and still provide you with a great workout every time, offering the best of both worlds. In other words, you’ll have to think of another reason not to exercise!
In addition to all of this, glider ellipticals are perfect for people who have never before exercised because they are easy on your body and allow you to build up slowly without experiencing any pain. You can more easily adjust and alter your workout slowly with a glider elliptical, as opposed to other types of exercise such as jogging or taking exercise classes. This is a big plus for those individuals who are out of shape or afraid to begin working out because it makes doing so a lot easier on them.
All ellipticals come in a wide variety of sizes, and the glider ellipticals are no different. They can range in length from 35 inches to over 50 inches, can be as wide as 22 to 33 inches, and come in heights that are usually in the 50-something-inch range. They are made to accommodate everyone regardless of gender, strength, height, weight, and overall fitness level. Smaller glider ellipticals are not as intimidating as the larger ones, making this a great option if you are new to exercising or haven’t done so in a very long time.
Compact ellipticals are designed with the intent of being able to fold up neatly and store away when you’re not using it, making it perfect for those individuals who have limited space or simply do not want their exercise equipment to be seen by visitors to their home. Of course, they are still designed with quality in mind; the only difference is that these types of ellipticals can easily and quickly fold into a compact form so that it is easily stored away in another location. In fact, many of these ellipticals even fit underneath a bed or in a closet, which makes them especially attractive and enticing to many exercisers.
Compact, foldable elliptical machines also come in many different designs, including those that are small and look like gliding ellipticals and those that are so large they look like they should be in a professional fitness center or spa. Their designs vary greatly, which means regardless of what you are looking for, you are all but guaranteed to find it.
Just because compact ellipticals are easy to maneuver and are made to open and close over and over again, doesn’t mean they are sub-standard in quality or will easily break. On the contrary, in fact, because most of these machines are high-quality pieces of equipment with stainless-steel frames, thick, non-skid cushions on the foot pedals, and high-tech monitoring devices for your heart rate, speed, distance, and other aspects of your workout. In other words, just because its design is compact and convenient doesn’t mean it isn’t sturdy, reliable, and built to last, especially if you stick with well-known brands that have proven themselves to be dependable when it comes to their equipment.
There are many advantages to purchasing a compact elliptical, but perhaps their biggest advantage is their space-saving capability. If you live in an apartment, have roommates, or wish to work out in your office occasionally, a compact elliptical gives you the best of both worlds, offering a great cardio workout with little to no impact on your joints and a simple, fast way to remove and store the machine when it’s not in use. The main purposes of purchasing one of these machines is a great workout that is also low-impact, and the ability to store it practically anywhere. If you add in the price of the machines, which is always reasonable, you’ll quickly understand why these types of ellipticals are so popular.
Another advantage of a compact, foldable elliptical is that even though it can be small in size, it will still accommodate people up to approximately 200 lbs., making it great even for those individuals who are quite heavy and have a lot of weight to lose. A smaller design, in other words, does not mean it can’t do what the bigger, more permanent types of elliptical machines can do. Unless you are exceptionally large or have hundreds of pounds to lose, the compact ellipticals will still do an amazing job for you, meaning you will always be happy with the results you see. This is yet another of the many advantages of these types of ellipticals, and the results will never disappoint you.
Even if you’re looking for a compact, foldable elliptical machine, it is good to know they come in all types and sizes, meaning you can easily find one to suit your needs. If you prefer the smaller ones because you are small yourself, you can get them in sizes such as 15” x 19” x 51”, and if you’d rather have a larger one you can switch to one that is 48” x 23” x 61”.
In fact, many people are surprised when they research compact ellipticals because they assume that all of them are going to be small, which simply isn’t the case. Their sizes usually vary considerably when it comes to the foot platform and the height of the machine because the other parts – including the handlebars and internal parts – are the same sizes regardless of what the elliptical looks like on the outside.
When it comes to compact elliptical machines, you can find them in dozens of designs, styles, and sizes, not to mention with dozens of amenities. If you want an electronic device that measures your statistics, you can find one that accommodates this need.
If you prefer something more basic because you’re on a tight budget, you can find this as well. In fact, whatever you’re looking for when it comes to these machines, you are all but guaranteed to find it, especially if you do your due diligence and start your research online. All elliptical machines offer great, low-impact cardio workouts and an excellent opportunity to build muscle tone, but if you can do all this without your equipment taking up too much room in your home or office, that’s the best-case scenario.
Many stores, including big names such as Hayneedle, even offer compact, foldable ellipticals that can fit under your desk, as well as other types of compact ellipticals, making it especially attractive to busy executives who wish to stay in great shape despite their hectic lifestyle.