Home Elliptical Buying Guide
What is an Elliptical?
Ellipticals are part of the popular family of cardiovascular machines that include exercise bikes, treadmills, rowing machines, stair climbers and other similar fitness machines. All of these machines have the same objective which is to help users burn fat, increase endurance and improve cardiovascular health. Because elliptical work your upper AND lower body at the same time they are considered cross trainers. Your lower body workout comes from using the foot pedals and the upper body workout will be had by using the arm handles.
This is a machine that really allows users to feel that they’ve had an incredibly challenging and effective workout without having to endure impact that can bother knees, ankles and hips. It is because of this that is has become so popular. The purpose of the machine’s movement is to mimic both stair climbing and walking at the same time. It engages the hips, stomach, thighs, calves and butt simultaneously. Add in the back and forth movement of the arms which engage the shoulders, triceps, biceps and back and you can understand how this is definitely an all over body workout.
Important Questions to ask before You Shop
Trying to find the perfect elliptical for your needs in the vast array of styles, types and sizes that are available can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. It is rare that a consumer knows exactly the model and make of the elliptical they want before they shop.
In most cases, they may see an advertisement on TV or on the internet or they may use an elliptical in the gym they like, so they will start by looking at what they know, but this is guesswork at best. This buyer’s guide will give you all the information you need to choose the right elliptical for you that will give provide exactly what you’re looking for.
Before you get started on your search it will be very beneficial for you to ask yourself the following questions.
- Who will be using the elliptical and how often? – if you are the only one that is going to be using the elliptical then you can look for specifications and features that fit what you, personally, are looking for. If others will be using it as well, you will need to take this into consideration when shopping. This is because there are different styles and sizes of elliptical that provide more for the user than others. If it is going to be used a lot by a variety of users, you will want to look for one that is more durable and heavy duty than if you were going to be the only one on it.
- Will you be watching TV or listening to music while you workout? – Some people love to watch TV while they workout or listen to music and others will just want silence. If you want additional entertainment to keep you going while you exercise, you will want to look for an elliptical that fits into the space you have available where your TV is. You will also want to get a machine that enables MP3s to be hooked up to it if you love to listen to music while you exercise.
- What Features will You Actually Use? – Ellipticals come with a variety of features that will vary from model to model. If you know ahead of time what you are looking for, you will be more likely to get one that has features that you will get use out of each time you work out. DO you want one that will track different stats such as distance, speed, calories burned, etc? Do you need one that has a heart rate monitor? What features do you think will be most useful to you? If you’re not sure of the available features that many elliptical have, we have included common features in this buyer’s guide for you.
Different Types of Ellipticals
There are a lot of options out there for consumers who are looking for an elliptical. In general, the differences will be in the actions they provide, resistance, size and type of drives each model offers. Features are another way that ellipticals differ.
Available Drives in Elliptical Machines
There are three basic drive type categories that elliptical will fall into: Front Drive, Rear Drive and Center Drive. Each has different benefits that they provide.
Front Drive – The flywheels are located at the front end of the elliptical. The pedals on this type of elliptical run on rails that are located behind the flywheel. Some models have single wheels and others have double wheels. The double wheel varieties are generally more sturdy and durable. Because the drive axle is located in the front of the elliptical, the user’s weight is better centered towards the front. Front drive ellipticals take up less floor space than the other varieties.
Rear Drive – An elliptical that has a rear drive will have pedals that are suspended in the air and the flywheel will be located in the read portion of the elliptical. The user’s weight will be centered towards the back. Because the drive wheel is located at the rear of the machine is remains out of site when the user is exercising. The rear drive varieties contain fewer parts than the other types and this makes them a popular choice for fitness centers. Since they use less overhead space than other models, they are also quite popular with users who are looking to get one for their home.
Center Drive – Center drive axles can be found either in front, back or sometimes they have two axles. Center drive ellipticals center the user’s weight in the middle of the machine making it very smooth and balanced.
Out of all three types, the rear drive elliptical tends to be the most expensive and can include things like adjustable inclines and angle ramps. Front drive models that are equipped with large flywheels can also provide a great workout.
Resistance Choices in Ellipticals
There are two basic choices of resistance in an elliptical: air resistance and magnetic resistance. You can get different tension levels with either type of resistance model.
Air Resistance – Air resistance ellipticals don’t require electricity to run and are usually lower priced than the magnetic resistance models. Pedaling an air resistance elliptical turns a fan and the air provides resistance by working against the fan blades. It’s a pretty simple process and this type of machine very rarely needs fixing. This is due to the simple mechanics that are used to make them. One of the potential drawbacks to an air resistance elliptical is that they can be quire loud. The faster they are pedaled, the louder they get so if you’re interested in using your elliptical in the early morning or late night when others are sleeping, this is something you will need to take into consideration.
Magnetic Resistance – The mechanism of a magnetic resistance elliptical is a bit more complicated than the air resistance models and engages the use of magnets. This type of elliptical offers users many more training levels that are provided through a variety of resistance programs. Magnetic resistance ellipticals are very smooth and they make little to no noise, making them a great choice for odd hour workouts.
Differences in Action
There are two types of “action” than an elliptical is available in: dependant and independent.
Dependant – This type of elliptical minimizes the impact that users will feel on their joints due to the fact that during use, one leg helps to drive the other.
Independent – The workouts that a user will get with an independent action elliptical will be much more effective due to the fact that they force each leg to move forward in a sloping motion right along with the motion of the pedal.
Benefits to Using an Elliptical
The elliptical is one of the few pieces of equipment that works all parts of the body rather than just the upper or lower parts. You can get a great fat burning workout as well as strength training and you won’t need any special training or moves to accomplish that. There are many other benefits to using this popular workout machine.
Great for Your Health – For anyone looking to improve their cardiovascular health, the elliptical is a perfect choice. Good cardiovascular health affects all parts of your life from the energy you have to get up each day and work to doing things around the house like mowing or cleaning. It also is great for improving endurance for leisure sports such as tennis, swimming, racquetball and other sports you might do for enjoyment. Because the elliptical works all of your muscle groups at one time, you will be able to spend shorter amounts of time working out. One of the most well liked things about elliptical workouts is that it doesn’t put strain on your joints the way regular running can.
Very Easy to Use – Working out on the elliptical is really easy. You don’t need special training at all. Simply get on and start pedaling and you’re working out. The motion of the elliptical is a natural movement so pedaling and using the arm handles is very easy to do. Depending on the model you choose, it may have pre-set workouts and features that allow you to change the resistance. Using these features is also easy.
Easy to Move Around if Needed – The large commercial models that you see in fitness centers are not designed to move around, but the ones that are made for home are much easier to move from room to room if needed. Some might fold up for under-the-bed storage and others might come with rollers or wheels for easy pushing from one room to another.
How Your Elliptical Works
The regular way to operate an elliptical is to stand on the pedals and start the forward motion going with your feet. You will be standing while using this motion and even though pedaling while standing may sound complicated, you’ll be surprised how easy it actually is to get the motion down. If you have one of the cross trainer varieties, you may also sit and use it like a bicycle. Since most ellipticals have arm poles that work in sync with the foot pedals, you can either choose to work out your upper body too or you can hold the stationary handles and just work the lower body.
Pedals – Adjusting the resistance and the incline are two ways that you can increase the challenge and effects of an elliptical workout. The pedals on the elliptical give a smooth pedaling action by way of the flywheel they are attached to. How long the stride length is will also factor in to the smoothness of the motion as you’re pedaling. In general, the higher the stride length the better it will be for the user. Stride length will vary anywhere from 7” on a small, simple model to 21” on the higher quality, more expensive ones. Super tall users can even find ellipticals that have a 26” stride.
Exercise Arms – The arm poles on an elliptical provide a way to engage the upper body along with the lower body that the pedaling action is tackling. Users can hold on to the stationary handles and just focus on the legs, hips, calves and butt or they can hold onto the handles and work their shoulders, arms, back and chest along with everything else.
Stride Distance – The length of stride the elliptical offers is important for many reasons, most importantly, the ability to have a natural stride when you’re using it. Stride lengths can vary from 15” to 22” or more. In general, a longer stride capability is much more preferable than a shorter one. If you’re taller than average, you will want to look for a stride length of 21” or higher. Some of the higher end models reach as long as 24”.
Popular Features Ellipticals Have
Elliptical manufacturers add all kinds of features to the machine depending on the model and size it is; anything from heart rate monitoring to incline levels and other useful features. Below some of the more popular options that ellipticals can offer.
Heart rate monitoring – Not all elliptical have heart rate monitoring capability but it is a great feature to have, especially if monitoring your heart rate is important to you for either curiosity or health reasons. Heart rate monitors can either be pulse sensors that are built into the stationary handles, or they may have chest straps that are connected to the console in some way. Regardless of what kind of heart rate monitor you have on your elliptical it can help you stay in your target heart rate zone.
Adjustable Incline Ramps – Some of the higher end ellipticals have incline capability. This allows the user to work the legs, calves, butt and stomach even more intensely.
Resistance Levels – Resistance is what makes the elliptical harder to pedal. Most machines have different resistances levels that can be adjusted from beginner to much more advanced. Increasing the resistance of the pedaling makes the muscles have to work harder, therefore giving the user a much more intense workout.
Water Bottle Holder – Some ellipticals are equipped with a place to put a water bottle which is a great convenience when you are pedaling hard and dripping sweat. Keeping hydrated is an important [art of exercising, so having a place to store your water bottle that is accessible during the workout can help you attain the goal of getting the hydration you need.
Digital LCD Screen – Some ellipticals simply provide digital readouts, tracking things like speed, distance gone, incline, calories burned and time. Other models have screens that can be hooked up so the user can watch TV or movies. Keeping track of your data is always beneficial for the workout and can keep you motivated to keep going as you see the distance and calories burned increase.
Pre-set Workouts – Many elliptical machines come with pre-set workouts that users can choose to do. These workouts will usually start at a slower pace and resistance level and build up with peaks and valleys throughout the workout to really work your whole body. The benefit to a pre-set workout is that you just have to press the button associated with your chosen pre-set workout and then you don’t need to worry about it anymore, it’ll just follow the program on its own.
Cooling Fan – Cooling fans are great for keeping you from getting too hot during your workout. You’ll sweat regardless due to the all over body workout that an elliptical machine provides, but the cooling fan feels great when you’ve got sweat dripping down your face and causing your shirt to stick to your body. Most cooling fans have at least two settings low and high, but some have low, medium and high or some variation of that.
Built In Speakers – This feature is perfect for those who love to listen to their MP3 players while they are exercising. It can also be great for plugging in headphones if you want to listen to something on the TV or computer. Be certain that cords from headphones are not hanging down where they can get caught in the foot pedals or flywheel.
Using Your Elliptical Safely
As with any other piece of fitness equipment, safety is a top concern and should not be ignored or overlooked. Below are some of the basic safety considerations that any elliptical user should pay attention to.
- Keep children away from elliptical both when in use and when you’re not using it. Fitness equipment is never a toy or plaything for children to hang around on. It’s easy for children to get their fingers caught or pinched or even an arm caught in the pedals.
- Step onto the elliptical carefully. Your foot needs to go onto the pedal that is closest to the ground. When stepping off of the elliptical, be sure that it has stopped completely first.
- If you are new to using elliptical, start with the lowest resistance level and work up as your fitness level increases.
- Posture is important when using the elliptical. Keep your back straight and stand up tall, keeping your knees flexible.
- Wear athletic shoes when working out, never use the elliptical barefoot.
- Be patient with your progress. Elliptical workouts can be really challenging, especially in the beginning. Take your time to get the motion down properly.
- Your first workouts on the elliptical should be around 10 minutes or so unless you are a regular elliptical user. You will be using a LOT of muscles in both upper and lower body. Overdoing it can discourage you from wanting to get on it again.
- Keep water accessible throughout your workout. It’s important to stay hydrated which can help reduce muscle cramps later on.
Now that you have all the information you need to choose the perfect elliptical for your home, you are ready to tackle the fun part and that is shopping for one. There are elliptical machines that fit every budget and fitness level. As a general rule of thumb, if you intend on using the elliptical long term, spend as much as you can to get a good, long lasting one that will take care of your fitness needs for years to come.
- Proform – http://img1.findthebest.com/
- Exerpeutic – http://cardiosoundness.com/
- Body Rider – http://exerciseable.com/
- Comparing.guru – http://www.comparing.guru/
- Comparaboo.com – http://www.comparaboo.com/