Fitness Friday: “Ellipticizing”

Happy Fitness Friday friends!!

Today’s post is a slightly recycled post from August 24, 2009. But I think I’ve collected a handful of new readers since then (hi!) amongst my long-time followers (hi and thank you!).

I originally wrote the post on elliptical machines to point out the differences between the slew of cardio machines you’re confronted with at most gyms. To some people, an elliptical is just an elliptical. Well I am here to tell you they are all very different! Learning these differences will also help you find the machine that best suits you. I know, because that’s how it worked for me :)

We’ll start with the basics:

Rear Driven


I like to think of some ellipticals as almost a standing exercise bike. What I mean by this is that there is a wheel that spins based on the movement of your legs. On the rear drive elliptical, this is in the back. It’s meant to mimic running and walking without the high impact that strains your joints.


Front Driven


Because of patents on some of the ellipticals, other companies had to design their own. The wheel on this one is in the front. The main difference between this and the rear driven model is where your power comes from. On the rear driven model, you’ll notice you often lean backwards to force that wheel around. On this front driven machine, you’ll lean forward slightly. Your joints and muscles will respond a little differently and one will likely feel better than the other.


Center Driven


This is my personal favourite model. The motion here is coming from directly under your feet. Personally, I find the stride length on these machines matches my individual stride better. Finding a machine that matches your stride is key! Otherwise it will just feel awkward and could even hurt your joints.


Those are the basic elliptical designs and ones you’ll likely spot in your gym. There are however a few other kinds that offer different movements and resistance.


Precor Crossramp


A rear-driven machine with a “crossramp” in the front that moves up and down to add incline to the exercise. It’s almost like a smooth stair climbing motion. You also don’t get that slight bounce in the feet that you get on the other machines.


 Arc Trainer


TotalBodyArcJess 029

The arc trainer offers a slightly different motion, one I would compare more to skiing (or the Gazelle!) It’s supposed to take the pressure off your knees that happens on other ellipticals, with more work in the quads and glutes. This one also has an incline.


Adaptive Motion Trainer (AMT)

Precor AMT 100i Elliptical Trainers 

This is probably the coolest elliptical I’ve tried yet. As someone with freakishly long legs, I have trouble finding machines that move well with my body. On this machine, you can make your strides as small or big as you want to. You can rotate your feet in that classic elliptical motion, swing them back and forth like the Arc trainer, or step up and down like on a stair climber! If you push yourself hard enough on this machine, you can get a great workout without getting bored.


It’s also worth mentioning that as a trainer, I prefer putting people on machines that move their arms as well. Your posture is better when you don’t have a stable surface to lean on. It’s more natural to get upper body movement in there, and it’s a great way to warm up your whole body and not just your legs.

Now that it’s getting cold and snowy, you may find yourself retreating to the gym more often. Hopefully this will help you tackle the cardio area with more confidence. And let’s face it, December is just around the corner. A little extra “ellipticizing” can’t hurt ;) Have fun!

Posted on November 26, 2010, in Fitness Friday and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. what is your opinion on the Arc Trainer? When I used to attend to a gym last year, I found it to be my favorite due to less pressure on the knees.

    People have also told me it burns a lot more calories than the average elliptical-but i always found the reader to be a bit off.

    The AMT was my least favorite actually. I found it too awkward for my legs ha, the most important thing I guess is which elliptical the actual user enjoys and is able to use.

    • I personally find the Arc trainer to be reeeeally awkward. I never got the hang of how it moves. But I know lots of people who LOVE it! Because of the motion and placement of the foot plates, it’s supposed to relieve knee and hip tension compared to other ellipticals. As for the calorie thing, that’s bogus. I think they can claim that because you move your arms too, but calorie burn is always dependent on how hard you’re working, regardless of the machine!

  2. thanks for this post! i rock the elliptical about once a week at the gym but i normally just hop on one that’s free…now i think i’ll try out my options and try them all out until i find a style i like best!

  3. This is a great explanation! I’ve really never thought of all the different kinds of ellipticals. I usually stick to the arc trainer and 100i because they get my heart rate up more, but sometimes the 100i makes my knees hurt.

  4. I used the AMT for the first time yesterday and it was kind of confusing. Maybe it’s because I was stairstepping first, but I couldn’t get it to do anything other than stair step. I blame my crazy legs.

  5. When I get bored of running, i head to my school’s gym to try out the ellipticals. This post makes me realize our school gym is woefully understocked! Plus, the TV they have never really works. :(

  6. I’ve never paid so much attention to ellipticals. Thanks for the tutorial!

  7. This post was very useful! You know, I’m not even sure which kind I prefer. The one I own is front driven, so hopefully that…lol

  8. I used to spend sooo much time on the ellipticals before I started running. It helped me lose a lot of my weight.

    I recently tried the arc trainer and loved it!

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