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Elliptical trainers are an extremely versatile and popular piece of exercise equipment, and they have been for many years. They allow an individual to engage in full-body cardio exercise without placing undue strain on their muscles and joints. As such, individuals seeking either a high-intensity or a low-impact workout enjoy this piece of equipment. As with any machinery, elliptical trainers evolved many times throughout the years, and each iteration became more dynamic and effective. We discuss a few different types of elliptical trainers currently on the market and provide the different advantages of each type.
At their most base level, all elliptical trainers can be categorized into one of three types. These characterizations are based upon the location of the elliptical’s motor, also referred to as the drive.
The rear drive elliptical may be the oldest design for elliptical trainers, but it’s still very effective and in wide use today. First patented by Precor in 1995, this design features a flywheel located at the back of the machine. Due to the position of the flywheel, rear drive ellipticals have the ability to provide a very smooth and stable range of motion. Additionally, due to the flywheel being positioned in the rear, the center of balance for this type of machine is located more toward the center. They also typically allow for a longer, more natural stride. These elements enable the machine to better replicate a user’s natural gait when walking or running, and it allows the user to engage in a more natural and stress-free workout. At American Home Fitness, we offer a wide range of Precor gym equipment, including their popular rear drive elliptical trainers and treadmills.
Front drive ellipticals are the converse of read drive ellipticals in nearly every way. This elliptical style places the flywheel in the front of the machine and roller tracks in the back. The pedals on this style of elliptical slide along these tracks and provide a slightly more vertical range of motion, whereas rear drive ellipticals provide a more horizontal range of motion. Depending on the slope of the elliptical, this type of elliptical can sometimes provide a workout similar to that of a stair climber. Front drive ellipticals are typically a bit lower to the ground, and they may offer a better option for users with a more limited range of mobility, as they do not require the user to step over the machine to get on.
Center drive ellipticals as the most recent iteration of the generic elliptical format. In this format, the flywheel is typically located on either side of the pedals. Like front drive ellipticals, center drive ellipticals offer a more vertical range of motion and slightly resemble the movement of a stair climber machine. Center drive elliptical allow the user to remain a bit more upright during the course of their workout, as they discourage the user from leaning forward or on the handrails. Since center drive ellipticals place the flywheel parallel to the pedals, they are often a bit more compact than both front and rear drive models. It’s for this reason that this elliptical style is very popular for individuals with a home gym. This model also tends to place less strain on hip and knee joints; the pedals are placed closer together and operate in a slightly more vertical fashion.
These three categories also contain several other quite popular types of elliptical trainers. These elliptical styles operate using one of the above listed elliptical styles, but they expand on the design to offer a more total-body workout.
Standard elliptical trainers are the most basic and common elliptical trainer model. This model focuses mainly on cardiovascular exercise and may place the flywheel in any of the positions listed above. While this type of elliptical trainer does focus mainly on lower body workouts, the scope and intensity of the exercise may vary depending on the location of the flywheel. Standard elliptical trainers tend to provide a lower-impact workout than some other elliptical models. They are one of the best pieces of exercise equipment for individuals seeking a low-intensity workout that can be easily adapted to fit the individual’s needs. Standard elliptical trainers reduce the strain on knee and ankle joints, allowing the user to achieve many of the same benefits as treadmill exercise without the added risk of shin splints or sprained ankles.
Elliptical cross trainers may appear more like a stationary bike at first glance, but don’t be fooled. This type of elliptical trainer offers many of the same benefits as a standard elliptical trainer, as well as a few added bonuses. The main difference between standard elliptical trainers and cross trainers is that elliptical cross trainers typically allow the user to perform the exercises from a seated or reclined position. Foot pedals and handlebars are provided just as like with any standard elliptical trainer, but the user can further reduce strain on their lower body by sitting in a seat similar to that of a stationary bike. Though this type of elliptical trainer may seem a bit more lax, it actually provides a much more comprehensive full-body workout than some other types of elliptical trainers do. The handlebars move with the user throughout their workout, so rather than remaining stationary as they do in some other elliptical styles, the user can exercise their upper body, core, and back muscles while they receive a great cardio workout.
Elliptical gliders are perhaps the least complex and most low-impact type of elliptical currently available. This elliptical does not typically have a flywheel, and the pedals operate on a swinging glider rather than a circular track. Like with other elliptical styles, the user’s feet remain fixed in the pedals which helps reduce the amount of strain placed on hip, knee, and ankle joints. Elliptical gliders also tend to be quite compact due to the fact that there is no bulky flywheel. This type of elliptical trainer provides an ideal machine for individuals seeking to build a home gym in a limited amount of space.