What is an Elliptical Machine?


So you want to buy an elliptical trainer. But you aren’t familiar with all the different types and their features. Hopefully, this elliptical machine purchase guide will help you get familiar.

Types of Elliptical Machine

Cheap Elliptical Trainer

Most of all, the cheap elliptical trainer is a no-frills machine that allows you to get a cardio workout. For example, while holding on to a handlebar you push on pedals (you are standing on) and make an elliptical motion. Now, this motion exercises your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Incidentally, these machines are very affordable. And, for the most part, these machines provide either air or belt resistance.

Low End Elliptical Trainer

As the name suggests, the low end elliptical trainer is a step up from the cheap elliptical trainer. For example, the stride length is a little longer. Also, it has a quieter magnetic resistance.  And, these trainers are a small step up in cost in comparison with the cheap elliptical trainer.

Mid-Range Elliptical Trainer

The mid-range elliptical trainer is more feature rich when compared to the low end elliptical trainer. Moreover, these features give you more out of your workouts. Accordingly, these trainers are a step up in cost when compared with low end elliptical trainers.

A related example is a recumbent elliptical trainer, which is great for those who prefer the safety of sitting while exercising. They are also great for those who are in recovery.

Furthermore, a compact elliptical is good for those with limited space for using the machine. Meanwhile, a long stride elliptical is good for those who are tall or have long strides.

Elliptical Cross Trainer

The elliptical cross trainer is similar to the elliptical trainer but you push and pull the arms in an alternating pattern with the pedals. Therefore, this trainer lets you exercise not only the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, but also your arms, shoulders, upper back and chest.

Elliptical Combination Cross Trainer

The 2-in-1 combination of elliptical and exercise bike is a machine that is configured as an elliptical as well as an exercise bike.

Yet, another example is the stepper elliptical trainer. This machine is a combination of climbing motion as experienced in a pure stepper machine, the pedal rotation as experienced on a bike, and the elliptical motion as experienced in a pure elliptical trainer.

Elliptical Glider

With the elliptical glider you hold on to a handlebar and glide the pedals back and forth, thereby working your legs.

Desk Elliptical Trainer

The Desk Elliptical trainer elliptical machine is used while you are sitting at a desk.


Benefits you get:

  • 1First of all, the elliptical machine minimizes the impact on your joints (especially the knees) and feet.
  • 2Secibd, the elliptical trainer exercises both the lower and upper body at the same time – particularly your arms, shoulders, back, chest, and legs.
  • 3Third, the elliptical trainer gives you an aerobic workout.
  • 4Fourth, you can burn more calories by increasing the intensity of your workout.
  • 5Fifth, the elliptical trainer helps with balance and mobility.
  • 6Finally, pedaling backwards strengthens your calves and hamstrings.

What to Look For

This section describes features of the elliptical machine that you focus on.


The lower the pedals are to the floor the easier it is to get on and off the elliptical machine. Also, being able to pedal backwards helps strengthen your posterior, calf muscles, hamstring muscles, and address muscle imbalances from running or cycling.


The elliptical machine provides a smooth, natural motion that stays solid and stable when you are workout out.

Weight Limit

The weight limit of the elliptical machine is the maximum weight that the elliptical machine can support and stay stable. Therefore, select an elliptical machine that can easily support your weight.

Stride Length

The stride length of an elliptical machine starts at 11 inches.  Individuals who are not tall would be able to get a workout with shorter stride lengths.  An elliptical machine with a +20 inch stride length works for most people. For a better fitting elliptical machine, find one which allows you to adjust the stride.

First of all, measure your stride length. Start by taking a tape measure and running it along the floor. Next, standing at one end, take a few steps in your normal gait, or run the length of the whole tape, while someone marks where your feet land. Furthermore, the average of the distances between the marks is your stride. Finally, adjust the stride of the elliptical machine to match your measured stride.

Physical Dimensions

Elliptical machines are, on average, about 6 feet (or 72 inches) long and 2.5 feet wide, but can range in length from 50 to 84 inches. In addition, add 20″ in the front, back and each side. These dimensions help you decide where to best locate the elliptical machine in your home.


An elliptical machine with fixed handrails limits you to only a lower body workout. On the other hand, an elliptical machine with movable arms allows you to get a full upper and lower body workout.


Some elliptical machines have the capability to adjust the incline. Most noteworthy, incline is used to adjust the intensity of your workout.

Adjustable Resistance

Resistance, on an elliptical machine, allows you to increase or decrease the intensity of your workout. Therefore, the elliptical machine should have a broad range of resistance. Consequently, you will be able to increase or decrease your resistance more gradually.

For example, having 50 incremental resistance levels lets you increase the intensity of your workouts more gradually than one with only 10 resistance levels. With smaller number of incremental levels, you may find the next step up in resistance too uncomfortable.

Console Features

An elliptical machine’s console helps you track your workout.  For example, a console that displays duration, lets you know how long you have been working out, as well as how long you want to work out.

Another similar indicator is the distance covered during your workout. Distance is another way you can use to gradually adjust your workout. For example, you may decide to workout for 1 mile today, and then 1.5 miles tomorrow.

Or, you might like to see how many calories you burned during the workout. And use the calories burned to increase or decrease your workout.

Or, you can use the time display to know when to stop your workout.

Finally, a display of your heart rate allows you to do your workout with as much intensity as you want and still be safe.


Most of all, a warranty is an indicator about how long the elliptical trainer is going to allow you to do your workouts before something goes wrong. The maker of the elliptical trainer is not going to give you a long term warranty if they know something is not going to work a month or two after you buy it.

Therefore, look for a maintenance-free elliptical machine. And a good warranty like 1 to 3 years for frame, 90 days for parts.


Now, as you look at the elliptical machine, use the information provided here to find one that best suits your needs.