What is an Elliptical Machine?

What is an Elliptical Machine?

Elliptical training machines are also commonly known as cross trainers, or X-trainers. The idea of an elliptical trainer is to mimic the actions that you might take walking up a set of stairs, or walking, whilst staying on the same spot; however it is very different in design and function than a treadmill. Treadmills still require a forward propelling action, whilst elliptical trainers literally let you train in an ellipse shape – that is, virtually moving on air.

Elliptical machines are often chosen by people who have poor joints or injuries, as they are very low impact, and do not require direct impact on to a surface as a treadmill does. They can also decrease the risk of any new injuries occurring which is important for everyone, but especially for people who are more injury prone, such as those with arthritis or other such conditions.

There are two main reasons that people might want to purchase and use an elliptical trainer. The first is for weight loss reasons, and the second is for fitness. But most people are probably looking to achieve both, with the weight loss coming first.

Are elliptical machines good for losing weight? You will certainly burn calories on one, provided you use it often enough and at an intense enough level when you do. Burning calories, and burning more than you are consuming, is the way to lose weight; pure and simple.

You can most certainly achieve this whilst using an elliptical trainer.
What about when it comes to improving your fitness? Good elliptical machines will have enough resistance to ensure that you have a hard enough workout to push yourself – which is absolutely required if extra muscle is to be built, and if your cardiovascular system is to get a workout.

These are the cornerstones of fitness enhancement. One of the great things about elliptical machines is their ability to give you more of a total body workout compared with a treadmill, which is full focused on the lower half of the body. Elliptical machines still allow you to complete a good variety of workouts though, so you’re not just stuck with the one motion or program.

3 Benefits of Elliptical Machines

Let’s look at three important benefits of an elliptical trainer, and how they may contribute to you choose this type of gym equipment for your home work out needs.

2. Good for weak muscles

Elliptical trainers are generally much smaller than a treadmill, so are a great choice for those with only a limited home gym area, or for tight spots like garages. they are also generally lighter and easier to move around than a treadmill or other gym equipment.

1. Minimal space

If you have weaker muscles due to illness, aging, or other reasons, elliptical machines provide a very gentle introduction back into exercise, whilst giving you scope to increase the intensity of your workouts as your muscles gain in strength. The backwards pedalling movement that is possible on an elliptical trainer has also been found to be highly beneficial in particular for the quadriceps muscles.

3. Upper body workout

It’s not just your legs that will benefit, but your shoulder, chest, triceps and biceps are also worked on; allowing you to save time and get the most out of your workouts.

Important Features to Look

Elliptical trainers are fast becoming serious competition for the traditional treadmill. Part of the reason is the boredom factor. It can be hard to get enthused about a workout day after day using only a treadmill. But the other aspect is that elliptical simply provide a great range of motion for a great workout. They challenge endurance and coordination and really help keep you sharp.
An elliptical trainer can only provide those benefits, though, if it contains some must-have features.


In any piece of fitness equipment safety comes first. That’s provided by a sturdy frame and quality parts. It’s no accident that those attributes also give you a good deal for your money.

Look for an elliptical made from good steel alloy and high-impact plastic or composites.
The handrails should feel like the Hulk could not rip them off. The stepping pads should be able to withstand an insane six-year old jumping on them until he’s sixty. Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

At the same time, all those parts should be smooth and quiet. That isn’t just a matter of not being annoyed while you listen to music. Quality parts are quiet and vice-versa. They’re reliable and long-lasting and continue to perform like new even after years of use.
But beyond the basics, ellipticals have several unique features that will distinguish a great one from a merely good one.

Adjustable resistance and inclines will help you get the most out of your workout. As you use the machine over a period of time your strength and coordination levels will improve. That’s the whole idea. The machine should let you start out at your level, but keep up with you as you rise.

One important feature that ties into that is stride length. Since ellipticals, by design, allow you to emulate walking they have to be set for some stride length. Get one appropriate to your height, leg length and natural stride. Some are as short as 14 in/31 cm but 21 in/47 cm is the average. Taller individuals will want to look for something larger, of course.

Even though you need the right stride, be prepared to stretch yourself a bit. You don’t want to feel awkward forever. With an elliptical many people do at first – that’s natural. But you want the machine to have the capacity to challenge you. A longer stride length is a factor in making that possible.
The arm handles (not present on all models, but very handy to have, no pun intended) let you get a good upper body workout while you walk. If their resistance can be adjusted, that’s a great feature. Here again they should let you work them at your beginning level, but not be too easy as you gain muscle.

Look for quality that fits your body style and workout goals and you’re bound to find something that suits your needs.

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