What to look for in elliptical machines

What to look for in elliptical machines

Buying an elliptical bike is an investment. It’s actually quite a large investment, not just financially, but more importantly, in your health and fitness as well. You want to make the right purchase decision, as the stakes are high. I’ve heard of many people buying the wrong elliptical trainer and then ending up permanently deviating and getting discouraged from their carefully planned fitness goals. So take a few minutes to read these key points to find out what to look for on elliptical machines:

* Price – If you have read any of my other articles on elliptical trainer evaluation, you will know that I am not a fan of cheap elliptical trainers. The best advice I can give you is to stay away from ellipticals that sell for under $ 500. It may seem like it goes against your grain, but the best value on home ellipticals is between $ 1000 and $ 2000. You can buy some very high quality homemade ellipticals for sale for around $ 1300.

* Reputation of the manufacturer – Spend some time researching the top elliptical machine manufacturers. Some of the top names are: Precor, Life Fitness Smooth Fitness, Tunturi, New Balance, and all ICON Health and Fitness brands such as ProForm, Reebok, NordicTrack, and Weslo. Research the quality and repair statistics of your machines and also the responsiveness of your customer service departments. Sometimes bigger is not always better in this market!

*Endurance – There are two types of resistors: belt friction and magnetic friction. Belt friction is found on low-end models and should be avoided. It is loud and unreliable. Magnetic resistance comes in three varieties: manual, motorized and eddy current brake.

They all use the concept of creating friction in a cast iron flywheel through a magnetic field. Where the motorized version moves a pair of permanent magnets towards or away from the flywheel by means of an electric motor, the eddy current brake increases and decreases the magnetic field with a series of coils that included an electromagnet. Eddy current brake is found on higher end models and is preferable as there are no moving parts to wear out like in motorized braking system.

* Stride length – Stride length is a critical specification on ellipticals. A few inches in this dimension will make the difference between your elliptical feeling like a choppy stepper or a smooth, slippery elliptical. Don’t settle for less than 17 inches. Some models, like the Smooth CE, have an adjustable stride length to accommodate people of different heights.

* Inclined ramp – some models have an adjustable incline ramp that can add a cross-training dimension to your elliptical workouts. The steeper the incline, the more stress is placed on the calf muscles, hamstrings, and glutes. Models like the commercial-grade Precor EFX 546i and the lower-end Reebok RL 645 from ICON Health and Fitness come with inclined ramps. Decide for yourself if this is an essential feature.

*Console – Displays come in 2 basic types: LCD or LED matrix. Some even combine both. The keyboard is typically a series of membrane switches to control resistance and select program options. Most elliptical consoles display essential data such as elapsed time, calories or energy consumed, pace, distance, resistance, and / or incline level, and heart rate, if supported.

The console may require separate batteries and / or be powered from the main power connection to the elliptical. The important thing is that the electronics behind the console are reliable. Unfortunately, there are too many stories about faulty electronics in some units causing the screen to malfunction or fail altogether.

* Programs – Most elliptical trainers come with at least some built-in programs. Many others come with more than you can use. And it’s not just the expensive models that have a lot of programs. Training programs can add variety and incentive to your workouts, and models with a heart rate control feature can dynamically vary resistance to keep your heart rate in a training zone. Call me boring, but I usually go for the plain and simple “Manual” mode. Sometimes I add my own variety by changing my pace to do interval training. This all comes down to personal preferences.

* Warranty – Like the price, the warranty should be a key indicator of the quality of the elliptical bike. If a manufacturer can only offer itself to offer a 90-day warranty on parts and labor, then don’t bother with their products.

At a minimum, you should receive a 1-year warranty on parts and labor. Many manufacturers offer very long warranties on the frame, up to 15 years or even lifetime. However, the frame on well-made ellipticals should last a long time as long as the welds are good.

It’s the drive mechanism and motorized components that take the beating and are expensive to replace. I generally don’t recommend buying extended warranties at all, but I make the exception when it comes to elliptical trainers.

These elements are some of the key points to consider when evaluating an elliptical exerciser. There are several others that space does not allow me to cover here, but you should also take the time to educate yourself on them.

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