If you’re on the shorter side of things, you might have noticed that some gym equipment just isn’t built for you. Ellipticals, with their wide stride and swinging armbars, are one of the chief offenders.
Cross Trainer Guides
Elliptical machines or ‘cross trainers’ are one of our favourite exercise machines on Home Gym Experts. There are a number of reasons for this; they’re suitable for all levels of experience and fitness, easy to get into without any experience, they’re a lot of fun to use and you get this great full-body workout. Pulling, pushing and striding make for a very efficient way to get in shape! They build your upper and lower body strength, your endurance and your cardio fitness. In this section, you can learn everything there is to know about this awesome bit of gym gear and find a machine that’s perfect for you.
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Getting Started - Cross Trainer Guides
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The BIG Elliptical Trainer Starter Guide
Ellipticals, sometimes also called cross trainers, are a common sight in gyms and health clubs around the country.
They’re so popular because they combine hard cardio workouts; working most of the major muscle groups in your body, with a lot of support.
Unlike with a treadmill, your body is in constant contact at all times, feet sitting comfortably on oversize pedals, so there’s much less force put on your body, especially your hips and knees.
Ellipticals are great for:
- Low impact, body safe cardio
- Working your whole body at once
- Burning a lot of calories (up to 450 calories per hour)
- Improving balance
- Rehabilitation after a long term injury
Ellipticals might not be so good if:
- You’re looking to increase muscle mass
- You’re particularly short or large
What is the difference between an elliptical and a cross trainer?
In the fitness industry, ellipticals and cross trainers tend to be synonymous terms, ie, they’re used pretty much interchangeably.
Now, this isn’t strictly true, but it’s so close that it might as well be. The main difference between an elliptical and a cross trainer is that, on a cross trainer, the arms move backwards and forwards. That’s really the only major difference.
What are the different types of elliptical machine?
Every day ellipticals
A standard elliptical machine has a set of movable pedals and a handlebar that you hold on to as you exercise. This means that ellipticals only really work the muscles in your lower body.
Because of the limitations, ellipticals like this are slowly being phased out. It’s far more common to see cross trainers as standard.
Elliptical cross trainers
The major difference between an elliptical and a cross trainer is that the cross trainer has large vertical handlebars that you hold on to, which move backwards and forwards as you exercise, working your arms and upper body as well as your lower half.
Front, rear and centre drive ellipticals
Defined by the location of their drive system; which drives the foot wells, each type has a different feel in use and will change the way it affects your body.
Front drive systems are slowly becoming more common, and put a lot of emphasis on vertical movement. This can make them feel closer to a stepper or stair climber, and means they work the lower body hard.
Rear drive ellipticals are the original design, which is slowly being phased out. Rear drive ellipticals tend to have a lengthier stride.
Centre drive ellipticals have a flywheel (or pair) in the centre of the machine, with the pedals moving backwards and forwards past them. This tends towards a more flexible stride, which is why high quality centre drive ellipticals tend to be the most expensive.
How much do ellipticals cost?
A budget elliptical designed for home use tends to be around £100 to £200.
At this price range, expect a simple machine that runs through basic motions, at limited ranges of resistance.
A system like this is really only designed for occasional use. If you plan on seriously training, consider stepping up to the low end of mid-range models.
Example budget ellipticals include:
Sportstech DFX100 Stepper
At anything from £200 to under £1000, the mid-range price bracket on ellipticals is expansive, with a lot of variation between different models and brands.
It’s common to see a step towards magnetic resistance here, as well as a better frame, higher user weight limit, and on the higher levels, smaller screens that are ready for interactive fitness apps.
Example mid range ellipticals include:
Commercial Style Ellipticals
Like all commercial exercise gear, commercial grade ellipticals are built with the same level of quality and care as a luxury car, and as tough as a tank.
Expect immovable frames and high-quality surrounds, packed with high-tech touchscreens and excellent sound systems, as well as other tech like heart rate sensors and interactive fitness apps built in as standard.
Also expect to pay a premium for these services, with prices upwards of £1500 for some of the best models out there as standard.
Example commercial quality ellipticals include:
How much should you spend on an elliptical?
The amount you should spend on an elliptical depends almost entirely on what you plan to use it for.
In general, we would avoid budget models, as they’re just not going to be strong or stable enough for a hard workout, and they tend to have a short lifespan, because of the cheap materials and weak construction.
For most people, a mid-range model will have more than enough features to give you a good workout, especially as you start to look at the upper price ranges.
We would lean towards a commercial level model if if we were investing for the future, or were buying for the whole family, as a lot of these will have fitness planners for multiple family members built into the price.
Are ellipticals good for exercise?
Yes. Ellipticals are a fantastic form of cardio exercise, especially if you’re directly comparing them to other types of exercise like treadmills and bikes.
An elliptical works almost every muscle in your body, burns a lot of calories, and are also a safe and relatively low impact form of exercise that doesn’t overstress your body.
Because they work almost all of the major muscle groups, ellipticals are also fantastic if you’re looking to lose weight, burning up to 450 calories per hour with just moderate effort.
Are ellipticals bad for your joints?
No, absolutely not. Ellipticals are actually one of the lowest impact form of cardio there is, because your body is in contact with, and constantly supported by, the exercise machine at every point.
This means that there are no heavy impacts on your joints, especially your knees, ankles and hips, and you’re not likely to suffer from long term issues if you use an elliptical as your main form of cardio.
This makes exercise equipment like this a great choice if you’re older, in recovery from a previous injury, or otherwise might struggle with cycling or running on a treadmill.
What is magnetic resistance in an elliptical?
Magnetic resistance, sometimes also called silent magnetic resistance (SMR) is a term for the way a specific machine generates the resistance you need for a good workout.
Unsurprisingly, SMR uses a series of magnets arrayed around the flywheel to provide its resistance, adjusting distance to increase or decrease it as needed.
If you’ve ever fought to pull a big magnet off of metal, you know how strong the resistance can be, and the rare earth magnets used the in the construction of exercise machines like this are incredibly powerful.
Not only does this provide a lot of generated resistance, it’s also a lot smoother and more comfortable, as there are no touching parts like you’d find in older, friction powered systems.
They’re also a whole lot quieter, commonly with the only sound the whooshing of the flywheel as it turns around, which everyone else in your home will thank you for.
If your budget allows it, always buy an elliptical that uses magnetic resistance.
Is a mini elliptical good exercise?
The answer to this depends on what you mean by ‘good exercise.’ A mini, under-desk elliptical can definitely help you burn calories, but they’re not a substitute for real cardio.
On average, you burn around 150 calories per hour using a mini elliptical, rather than the 300 plus that you burn on a full sized model. While this is a great supplement for a real workout plan, it’s not a substitute.
How do I know my stride length?
An elliptical’s stride length is the total range of motion its pedals have, and it should mimic your natural walking stride as closely as it can.
Most ellipticals are designed to accommodate most users, but if you’re particularly short or tall, you might struggle to comfortably use an elliptical correctly.
The most common stride length on an elliptical is 18 to 20 inches. This is generally more than enough for anyone who is between 5-6ft.
If you’re a little taller, you may need to look for cross trainers that are specifically built for people with a large stride.