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What are the Different Types of Elliptical Machines?

Troy Holmes
Troy Holmes

It is typical today for all gyms to have elliptical machines. These machines are stationary devices that enable the athlete to burn aerobic calories. Elliptical machines include gliders, bikes, and cross trainers. Each machine is designed to simulate the activity that could be produced in normal exercise situation including biking, running, skiing, and climbing.

The elliptical machine is a machine that contains both a lower and upper body rotary motion device. The lower half of the machine includes pedals or walking pads, which are used for simulating walking, climbing, or pedaling. The upper half contains two poles that can be used for a pulling and pushing techniques for the upper body. Elliptical machines have the ability to switch between an upper- and lower-body workout during an exercise program.

Women on elliptical machines.
Women on elliptical machines.

Elliptical machines are considered good for low-impact exercise. The elliptical machine is one of the few pieces of gym exercise equipment that allows the athlete to burn as many calories as he would if he were running. Because it is a low-impact exercise, these calories do not come at the expensive of injuries to the back, feet or hips.

Elliptical machines come in two primary versions. These are seated elliptical trainers or standing trainers. The machines are designed to create a constant rotary motion during the exercise routine. With this design the athlete’s feet never leave the pedals, which creates a low-impact exercise.

Elliptical machines simulate difference forms of exercise, such as running.
Elliptical machines simulate difference forms of exercise, such as running.

An elliptical bike combo is a stationary bike that includes poles for the upper body. Most stationary bikes only have hand rails, which produce no upper body workout. The elliptical bike also includes poles that can be pushed or pulled with the arms. This upper body workout is a good exercise routine for the back and shoulders.

The foot pedals and hand poles of the elliptical machine can be used in a forward or reverse direction. This direction will target different muscle groups on both the upper- and lower-body areas. The intensity level can also be adjusted on most elliptical equipment to fit specific training goals. As the resistance is increased, the rotary motion becomes more difficult to turn, which creates a more difficult workout.

Ellipticals are commonly found in both fitness centers and home gyms.
Ellipticals are commonly found in both fitness centers and home gyms.

One of the best features of an elliptical machine is the upper-body exercise. Most treadmills and standard stationary bikes only focus on the lower-body during an exercise routine. An elliptical machine has an entire upper-body component that provides an additional workout blast during exercise.

Discussion Comments


My question is, from what I've seen there are two types of standing ellipticals: one that goes back and forth on a ramp, and another that actually let's your body "do the talking," so to speak. I am only interested in the second one that lets your body determine the movements and I was wondering if there is a special term for it? Thanks.


I love elliptical machines, especially how they focus both on your legs and arms at the same time, or separately, whichever you choose.

I also love that there are less chances of injuries on elliptical machines versus other machines or doing the same exercise without a machine.

The only thing I don't like is it seems like it takes me much longer and more effort to jog or walk on an elliptical machine than it does on other workout machines.

I guess this extra time and effort is because elliptical machines more accurate to the type of motion that you would be doing if you were doing the workout without a machine.


@aLFredo - The one thing that was a must that made the elliptical at home a part of my workout routine three to four days a week made my elliptical a bit more expensive but it was worth it because it makes me work out on it.

This one thing that I had to get was a TV to go in front of my elliptical while I was working out. Being on a stationary machine just gets too boring! With the TV I plan my workouts during TV shows I love, or I put in a movie (and watch it in parts), and I find working out on the elliptical to be much better.


For some reason I just cannot get into a groove on a treadmill and the elliptical never seemed to hurt my joints and gave me a great total body workout because I always had my arms on the handles so they were constantly working as they went back an forth.

When I realized that when I went to the gym I was typically using the elliptical, I bought an elliptical machine. I found one on one of those online sites where you can buy used equipment and I ended up finding one for a great deal!

Now I just need to figure out a way to make the elliptical a regular part of my workout, it seems that now it is in my house I use it less!


My husband bought a used elliptical exercise machine to help him lose weight. I have no problem with this, but instead of putting it downstairs in the basement where we have other exercise equipment, he left it upstairs.

This machine now sits in my breezeway that connects the house to the garage. He thought if he had to walk by it every day he would be better about doing his exercises.

It really is a great machine and I have even used it a few times and felt like I got a pretty good workout. It's just that the idea about using it more often doesn't seem to have made any difference.


I get bored pretty fast working out on stationary exercise equipment. If I have the choice between a stationary bike and an elliptical one with moving arms, I will choose the elliptical one every time.

Not only do I feel like I get a better workout, but it is nice to have something to do with my arms. This is a much faster way to get my heart rate up so I don't have to work out as long to be as effective.

It seems like it takes forever to get my heart rate up on when I am using stationary equipment. Finding the time to get my workout in is hard enough. If I don't like what I am using to get the job done, it is too easy to put off and not exercise at all.


There are so many elliptical machines for sale that it is tough to choose which one to buy. Does anyone know anything about the elliptical machines ratings that some of them have?

I was in a store yesterday and noticed that each of their elliptical machines on sale had star ratings, just like they would give a hotel. While I am not sure how they came about their ratings, are there any standard ratings for elliptical machines?

I am willing to spend more than $1000 for a quality elliptical machine, but I really want to make sure I am making the right choice and getting some great features.


Before you buy an elliptical machine for your home gym make sure you take the time to look at elliptical machines reviews before choosing your equipment. My husband and I were trying to save money and purchased a discount elliptical machine from an online site.

The elliptical machine we bought only lasted 2 months before it broke and we felt pretty annoyed, as when we went to return it we found out that the warranty was only good for the first 30 days. I guess other people had this problem as well and had ranted about it online. I guess it comes down to, you get what you pay for.


@JessicaLynn - The elliptical machine can be a good workout. However, I learned something interesting when I took health in college a few years ago.

Doctors are now saying that women need higher impact workouts to prevent osteoporosis. They recommend things like jogging, dancing, and tennis. The elliptical isn't recommended for that, because it's so low impact.

I guess that's just another good reason to vary your workouts.


All the different machines are one of the main reasons I love going to the gym versus working out at home. I could never afford to buy all the different pieces of workout equipment and keep that at home. I don't have the space for it either!

But if you have a gym membership, you can do the elliptical machine one day, the treadmill another day, and maybe a yoga class or something the next day. I like the elliptical, but I think I would get bored if it was my only option.


I start to find any exercise equipment boring after a while, so I make sure to switch back and forth regularly. I use the elliptical sometimes, especially if my joints are hurting as it's the gentlest. I also like the new kind of stair climber - I call it the "escalator from hell" - and the rowing machine, which works your core as well as your upper and lower body.

A lot of commercial elliptical machines actually don't have the upper body bars, just a place for you to hold on. Maybe that's because you can adjust the incline, and it would not be stable if your hands were moving? It seems like they either have adjustable ramps *or* moving hand bars, but not both.

I prefer the ones where you can adjust the incline because you can really target different muscles in your legs.


@Sneakers41 - I have used the elliptical machines that you are talking about and while I do get a good workout I don’t find it as satisfying as running. With running I really work a lot harder and the intensity seems to be higher than when I work on an elliptical machine.

I feel that with an elliptical machine my body gets used to the machine a lot faster and I am not making the fitness gains that I would if I were sprinting or running for a longer period of time. I have more flexibility with the running to increase the intensity and with the elliptical I have tried the machine at the highest level but after I few weeks my body becomes used to the exercise and I feel like I am going through the motions.

I guess if you are an intense athlete this type of exercise machine might not be the best for you.


Elliptical exercise machines are great to workout with because they tend to work your entire body and you don’t hurt your knees like you do with running. I like using the elliptical machines especially the ones that have the stair climbing feature.

It feels like you are hiking up a mountain because the steps are at an incline which causes you to burn more calories because it is much harder to exercise with this type of machine than a traditional elliptical machine. I wanted to buy one of these elliptical trainer machines for my home, but they were too expensive.

They cost about $1,000 which is a little steep for a home gym. I also looked into used elliptical machines but decided against it.

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    • Women on elliptical machines.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      Women on elliptical machines.
    • Elliptical machines simulate difference forms of exercise, such as running.
      By: Warren Goldswain
      Elliptical machines simulate difference forms of exercise, such as running.
    • Ellipticals are commonly found in both fitness centers and home gyms.
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      Ellipticals are commonly found in both fitness centers and home gyms.