An elliptical trainer is an exercise machine wherein the user rotates a flywheel by the application of force from both their arms and legs. Elliptical cross trainers are an increasingly popular option for their ability to work multiple muscle groups, produce a high calorie burn and all while being easier on the joints. They’re a great alternative to traditional treadmills, as they are low-impact, and incorporate both the upper and lower body.
Front Drive vs Rear Drive
The first thing to understand about cross trainers is the difference between a rear drive machine and front drive. A rear drive will feature a fly wheel at the back, whereas a front drive will position the flywheel at the front. Which one you choose will likely have a big impact on the type of workout you can get out of it. Rear wheel cross trainers are a popular home gym option as they are typically smaller and more cost friendly in comparison to a front wheel drive. The motion of a front drive vs rear drive elliptical is different, with the rear drive providing a more rounded up and down stride whilst the front drive creates a flatter, more natural stride. The flat smooth motion of a front drive is largely due to the dual roller guides that cause the pedals to roll backwards and forwards along the rail as you pedal, creating less interruptions. Whereas, a rear drive pedal follows the shape of the cross-trainer body lending itself to a forwards direction producing a downhill motion whilst pedalling. Some of our cross trainers are structured with reversible motion, making it possible to pedal forwards or backwards. Pedalling in either direction will allow you to engage more muscles groups in the lower body from your ankles, quads, calves, thighs and glutes.
The stride length will be an important consideration for finding a cross trainer that’s compatible with your body. You want a stride length that’s compatible with your height, with taller users generally requiring a longer stride. Front drive models tend to offer the largest strides, with the longest being around 50cm in length. Most users should look for a decent 40cm+ stride length to feel comfortable with.
Incline levels are a common feature on front drive ellipticals that can be manually adjusted to add more resistance and versatility to your workout. Training on an incline can lead to muscles growth and definition as the high resistance movement simulates climbing up a hill or stairs, similar to walking on a treadmill incline.
Types of Resistance
Depending on the machine, resistance can be adjusted in one of two ways. There’s mechanical resistance, which is controlled using a twist dial on the machine, or there’s variable automatic resistance, or VAR, which allows you to alter resistance on a touch screen. VAR uses a high-quality motor to allow for quick, smooth changes on the fly. This makes interval training and varied workouts easier, allowing the user to switch between a low impact or high intensity cardio session. Choosing a machine with higher resistance levels available will ensure you can progress to those greater intensity workouts, especially if you’re looking at high intensity interval training. Our cross trainers come with resistance levels ranging from 8 levels up to 24 levels on our larger front drive models.
If you do get a machine with VAR, you’ll also be glad to hear that your cross trainer comes with workout programs. These are pre-programmed exercises wherein you’ll be guided through a specific workout, with automatic resistance changes throughout. This will be tremendously useful if you’re a beginner, as you can go about your workout with the confidence that you’re getting the most out of your machine. It’s just like having your own personal trainer! For advanced users, you’ll find great value in being able to lock down a set routine for consistent results. There’ll even be options for create your own custom programs for personalised training. Workout programs allow you to fine tune your workout, such as using lower resistance levels for warm ups, then gradually increasing as you warm up, then lowering for a cool down. They’re also effective for your HIIT workout, allowing you to easily switch between high and low levels of resistance automatically. It’s always good to look out for a machine with programs, especially for beginners.
Like many cardio workouts, elliptical cross trainers provide great cardiovascular health benefits. Regular use of a cross trainer is linked to improving your general aerobic fitness, increasing endurance and toning the entire body. For users with limited fitness capabilities or pre-existing injuries, a cross trainer is a perfect supplementary training option to add to your fitness routine that is low impact on the knees, joints and back. This also reduces the likelihood of an injury. For regular gym goers and athletes, an elliptical can be easily adapted to meet your training needs through increasing resistance, incline and pace.
An elliptical cross trainer is also one of the best ways to burn calories and lose weight. You will typically burn more calories on a cross trainer as opposed to other cardio equipment such as an exercise bike. An elliptical recruits more muscles through the use of both your arms and legs to provide a full body fat burn workout. You can burn more calories on a cross trainer by increasing your pace, intensity, resistance and incline. An elliptical relies on you to generate the pace and speed of the workout, so the number of calories you burn each session depends on the intensity of your workout.
If you find that the more traditional options of treadmills or spin bikes don’t quite work for you, we’d highly recommend checking out an elliptical. These simple machines can create a powerful workout that trains most of the major muscle groups, while delivering a fun, aerobic workout. There’s plenty of variety of choose from, so you’re bound to find one that suits your needs. If you have any questions regarding Lifespan Fitness’ range of elliptical cross trainers, don’t hesitate to reach out to our friendly team and we’ll help you along your fitness journey.