The Elliptical is the fastest growing fitness piece on the market. There are several reasons why the elliptical trainer is popular in both health clubs and home settings.
First, while the elliptical is weight-bearing, it is also low impact, making it an ideal choice for overweight individuals or anyone who simply wants a joint-friendly alternative to higher-impact exercise such as running. This is great for individuals that need a joint friendly exercise, but still want the intensity of a weight bearing exercise.
Second, ellipticals offer variety; including adjustable stride length, adjustable incline, variable resistance, arm motion and reverse motion. Combined, these features allow you to customize your workout, from the intensity to the specific muscles used, while at the same time minimizing risk of impact injuries that are more common with running and climbing.
So how do elliptical trainers stack up to other fitness equipment? Research has showed it is one of the most effective methods for improving cardiovascular fitness. Not only has the elliptical been used during rehabilitation to increase aerobic power and anaerobic threshold when high impact training may not be appropriate, but because it closely simulates running motion, it is also an excellent way to cross-train and improve running mechanics. In fact, the elliptical is effective for improving cardiovascular fitness even in elite level runners.
The elliptical trainer combines the motion of stair-stepping with cross-country skiing, providing a low-impact aerobic workout. Many elliptical trainers use alternating push/pull resistance bars to add an upperbody workout as you stride. The pedals can also be reversed (backward stride), which not only works the muscles in a slightly different manner but allows some variation in your workout.
There are two main types of elliptical machines available: rear-drive and frontdrive. Rear-drive units enable a true elliptical movement of the pedals and include an adjustable incline ramp at the front of the machine. A front-drive ellipticalmachine, on the other hand, needs to use articulating pedals in order to match a natural stride and lacks the adjustable ramp of a rear-drive unit. Most users tend to prefer rear-drive elliptical machines. The primary advantage of a front-drive unit is the cost; no matter how much of a bargain it seems, front-drive units without articulating pedals will result in motion that is unnatural and uncomfortable for most consumers.
Make sure that stride length is comfortable – some units accommodate a stride length of only 14 inches, which is too small for a tall person, while others are as long as 21 inches. A stride that is too short will make for an awkward, jerky elliptical ride.
SELECTING A MACHINE
Ask lots of questions. Take a ten-minute “test drive” on several different machines. You will quickly develop a preference for console options, set-up and frame construction. Basic consoles should display time, distance, rate of speed and intensity level. Intensity may be controlled manually or pre-set from a menu of programmed workout choices when you start exercise. If your ten-minute “test drive” is even remotely uncomfortable, consider a different machine.
• Do you have appropriate floor support for the weight of the machine?
• What is the maximum weight allowance of the machine? Most will have a maximum user weight of 350 lbs
• Determine your space considerations:– Is the space large enough?– Is the floor level?– Is the ceiling height sufficient?– Will the machine need to be stored periodically? Are there wheels that make the machine moveable?
Maintenance and Durability
• Is the manufacturing company reliable and reputable? Is the machine durable, easily assembled and easily maintained?
• Look for a product that is maintenancefree. A well-designed unit takes normal wear and tear into account.
• Does the machine come with a warranty? Are local technicians available for service?
• Look for a warranty that provides for a minimum of one year service and one to three years’ coverage on parts.
• Be sure your warranty includes electronics and other key components, such as the resistance/braking system. Power and Performance and Operation
• Check the difficulty levels available on manual mode as well as the range of programs available.
• Are you able to increase the difficulty of your workout as you increase your fitness?• Check the control panel features:– Is it accessible and easy to read?– Is it user-friendly?– Does it offer the information important for your needs (time, distance, resistance, calories, etc.)?• Is the noise level acceptable?