Elliptical Buying Guide

The Basics: Elliptical Machines

Anyone who has been to a gym or health club recently knows just how popular elliptical machines have become! These low-impact fitness machines provide a great cardiovascular workout and exercise a wide range of lower-body muscles.

Elliptical machines -- otherwise known as elliptical trainers or cross-trainers -- combine the exercise motions of some of the most popular pieces of home fitness equipment. The term "elliptical" comes from the oblong pattern that the pedals make when in motion; this motion delivering an exercise that is part treadmill, part stair climber, part exercise cycle and part ski machine, all rolled into one. An elliptical machine enables you to either glide in an elliptical motion as you would on a ski machine or, with a simple adjustment of the pedals, increase the incline to get more of a stair stepping or bicycle action.
However you choose to use an elliptical machine, your feet remain flat at all times within the pedals, so there is no strain on back, hips or joints. This means that even while it provides a high-intensity workout, an elliptical machine offers an impact that is similar to that sustained while walking. This makes an elliptical machine a suitable home fitness product for those who are significantly overweight or suffer from back or joint pain.

An elliptical machine is all about the FEEL. Now we all realize that people are all different, in size, weight, stride length, mobility. So it is fair to say that a particular elliptical that may be great for one person may not be for another. An elliptical machine is a fixed path so if you are 5'4" a 21" stride may not be comfortable for you. Unlike a treadmill where you can choose your stride on an elliptical you are fixed to the design of the machine. It important to keep this in mind as we shop for an elliptical machine.
When purchasing an elliptical, the prices range from $500 to $5000 dollars. We do not recommend you spend less than $799 on a machine if you want something that is of any decent quality and one that will not give you any headaches. Make sure to talk with someone who can thoroughly explain to you all the differences with the machines and by all means, buy from a trusted source!

How to Shop

Look for build quality. This is a pretty easy visual and mechanical inspection. The machine should be steady (it should have a good solid footprint) since it does after all support your body weight. So in the case of an elliptical machine smaller may not be better. Look for welded steel, look for a machine that moves freely (get on the machine) and doesn't develop a dead spot in the rotation.

Front drive or rear drive? The first machines were rear driven (the resistance mechanism is in the back). This usually means that the machine is quite a bit longer. But lately more and more front drive ellipticals have come out. Many are excellent and offer a nice feel that is similar to the rear drive units but with a little less space needed on the floor. There is no physiological reason to choose a rear drive over a front drive. In fact, a front drive may make more sense because it is easier to get on and off.

A factor to consider is the weight of the flywheel. A lot of the cheaper models with have a light flywheel and cause the machine to be less stable and of a lesser quality. The heavier flywheel will give you a more "commercial" feel.

Stride-Length- This is very important. They vary from machine to machine. Make SURE you choose a machine with the proper stride-length!
No clunks and squeaks. If it clunks and squeaks on the sales floor it will not get quieter at your home. Ask the dealer to explain how this machine works.

Do you want upper body as well? Most offer this. So look for handles that YOU are comfortable with. Note that most handles will still move if your hands come off the bars, so make sure they are wide enough to cross your shoulders should you decide not to use the handles. Studies show you will burn the same amount of calories whether you use a machine with arms or not.

Resistance levels, most manufacturers use either a permanent magnet or an electro magnetic resistance. Both are excellent but some are smoother and offer higher levels. You may not need the higher levels so we suggest that you concentrate on the smooth changes between levels.

Software. What do you want to see on screen? I know there are machines that tout programs but we all know that most people just want to enter their exercise times and they will change their levels themselves. So programming is not as important as the mechanical aspects.

Pedal comfort is important as well. Elliptical machines are notorious to putting your feet to sleep as you exercise. This is because your feet aren't moving as you exercise. Some pedals offer a cushioned sole which helps alleviate this problem but may not solve it. Spirit has patented a special camber angle design on their pedals to offer the best gate, "q" factor, and comfort for your elliptical experience.

Warranties are important and most manufacturers offer a 3 year parts and 1 year labor warranty. Remember, the better the warranty, usually, the better the machine.

Your specialty fitness dealers have selected numerous machines that they are comfortable with. Machines that they know offer the best value and performance for the money and they certainly have something that is right for you.