18 Questions To Ask When Buying An Elliptical Machine For Home-Based Workouts

in elliptical machine, elliptical trainers, ellipticals, exercise equipment, home fitness equipment, precor elliptical, sole elliptical trainers

Elliptical machine reviews are packed with details about the superb weight loss cardio workouts the machines provide. If you are gearing up for some thigh-toning aerobic conditioning, getting one of these fat-burning exercise partners is an excellent place to start. However, if you see one of these strange-looking gizmo’s and equate it with some kind of torture tool, you can’t be blamed! Exercise equipment in general, and elliptical trainers in particular, are evolving so rapidly that it is almost impossible to keep up with all the latest innovations.

An elliptical exercise machine is a low-impact, stationary trainer. You stand upright on the device, with your hands on hand rails. Your feet are comfortably positioned in foot pedals. You then simply ‘walk’ with your natural motion. Your feet never leave the pedals.

It is said that these trainers in effect combine a workout on an electronic treadmill, stair stepper, and exercise bike. As you can set your own pace, your age group and fitness level are of no concern. The equipment can even be utilized during joint injury rehabilitation sessions. The best devices will mimic your natural motion virtually to perfection.

Another major benefit is seen if you choose one of the elliptical cross trainers. Here movable upper body handlebars are added for a total body workout. Your chest, arms and shoulders are brought into play, enhancing your aerobic efforts. Now you will feel as if you are cross-country skiing, with the difference that the motion is so fluid and smooth that you won’t even realize how intense the workout is. Definitely not a torture tool!

If you decide that this is just the thing to get you into that sexy, skin-tight pair of jeans, make sure that you test the different brands and models thoroughly. There simply is no other way to discover the perfect training partner for you. If the elliptical machine doesn’t feel stable and puts up too much of a racket, go to the next model on your list.

Elliptical trainers range in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Get a clear picture of what you can afford, before visiting a home gym equipment store. It is also a good idea to ask yourself some questions beforehand. How many people will make use of the trainer? Will they use it daily or only a couple of times a week? Are they of average weight or are some family members on the bulky side? Will the equipment be used for marathon training? A single person of average weight, who plans to train three times a week can get away with a less expensive model. A family of four with two marathon runners among them, will need a top-rated set-up.

What are some of the questions you should be asking when the salesman saunters over?

1. What type of drive system does it have?

The drive system is a vital element, but it may be difficult for a novice to make a judgment as to its quality and durability. It will be worth your while to do some homework on the internet and check reliable review sites for suggestions. These guys usually know where the hiccups are and will point them out.

The least expensive options usually come with front drive systems and articulating foot pedals. Without the pedals that adapt to your motion with angle changes, this type of trainer will be very uncomfortable and could even lead to injuries or pain. Front drive system models have generally shown themselves to be reliable and don’t demand too much in terms of maintenance. Never purchase front drive elliptical trainers without articulating foot pedals.

The rear drive systems such as that found in Precor Elliptical Trainers are usually a bit more expensive. They don’t need the articulating foot pedals, as the system facilitates a very natural ellipse during operation. These devices are also fairly low in maintenance and come with a good track record.

The latest trend is towards center drive systems, but these still have some way to go to prove their efficiency and durability. An example of this is the new award-winning, space-age Center G Keys Elliptical Machine with friction-free magnetic resistance. The flywheel is located in the middle of the device and the operation is blessedly quiet. The design also makes it shorter and more compact than the other options.

2. What is the maximum user weight?

It is vital to check the maximum weight capacity of the trainer. There always is an upper limit and even this has to be taken with a pinch of salt. You don’t want to deal with not-so-good vibrations and balance issues, as well as eventual break downs due to overloading. If it gives the upper limit as 300 pounds and you weigh 300 pounds, rather opt for a 350 pound maximum user weight model to be on the safe side. Never use it if you are over the weight limit, as this may void the warranty.

3. What are the dimensions?

The dimensions of elliptical trainers vary tremendously. Ask yourself if your choice will fit comfortably into the space allocated to it at home. You can be looking at anything from 4 feet to 6 feet in length, and 4 feet to 5 feet in height. These contraptions can also be on the heavy side, so try to find one that comes with transport wheels for easy maneuverability. The center drive system models such as the Keys Center G are usually more compact. Some manufacturers are now designing space-saving, folding models.

4. How noisy is it during operation?

If the noise level is too high, it will just become irritating and may eventually prevent you from exercising. If you want to use a television or a CD player with some of the best workout music as distractions while training, you have to make sure that the sound won’t be drowned out by noise emanating from your training machine. In many instances a low sound level may be an indication of better quality. Take all of this into account when making your buying decision.

5. How robust is the frame?

Here it is a toss-up between lighter portability and heavier durability. Make sure that the base frame isn’t too compact, as this will affect the elliptical motion if you are on the tall side.

6. What are the foot pedal features?

This is one of the most important aspects as far as user comfort is concerned. A twenty or thirty minute workout can become really distasteful if you have to contend with numb toes and pain or discomfort in your feet and ankles. Oversized pedals are recommended. The pedals must be adjustable, to accommodate people of all shapes and sizes. Some brands, such as Sole Elliptical Trainers, have come up with a more comfortable, slightly sloped pedal. They also made the angle adjustable, in addition to the pedals being articulating. Articulating pedals adapt to the cycle of your stride with a change in angle. This gives you the best of both worlds. This feature also adds to workout variety and can make your training more efficient if utilized correctly. By adjusting the angle up or down, you can target your glutes or hamstrings more effectively.

7. What is the stride length?

Make sure that the stride length is comfortable for your body type and as long as possible. The norm is more or less between 19″ and 21″. Too short a stride will not give you the fluid, smooth action you desire.

8. What kind of resistance system does it have?

Now we come to the meaty stuff. Opt for variable magnetic resistance or an eddy current brake system if at all possible. This type of system can be adjusted automatically to your training needs, using controls on the display or handle bars. Once you are in a rhythm, it is vital not to have interruptions. If you need to stop to make adjustments, you will lose your tempo and throw off your heart rate. A variable magnetic resistance system also ensures a lower noise level and a more fluid action.

9. Is the ramp adjustable?

If your elliptical machine has an adjustable ramp, you will be able to add additional benefits to your workout. With a higher elevation, your back and legs will get a more intense workout, while a lower setting will focus the attention more on your upper body. A different ramp angle changes the elliptical path, bringing different muscle groups into play.

10. How many programs are included?

A variety of programs will motivate you to stick to your weight loss cardio workout regimen. It also adds interest and introduces an element of freshness every time you set a new challenge. The programs can focus on fat-burning exercise and weight loss, your heart, hill climbing, fitness tests and a diverse range of other options. In most instances the trainer will adjust the settings automatically according to your choice of program. Some will also automatically do what is necessary to keep you within your target training zone.

11. Does it come with iFit compatibility?

Many elliptical trainers come with iFit compatibility, which in effect gives you access to a personal trainer with personalized workouts. This technology allows you to connect to the iFit.com website where a trainer will guide you through various workouts. This is a highly motivating tool. The best workout music is used throughout. You can also use the CD’s and videos provided if you don’t have an internet connection.

12. Is the console simple to understand and easy to read?

These days the displays are state-of-the-art and ply you with information about a wide range of aspects. Here you can follow the workouts as programmed, and get details about your progress. All the functions should not be seen as vital. Some folks may prefer a very simple console that is easy to understand and use. Take a look at the size of the display and make sure that you will be able to read all the stats. Electronics can seem complicated. If you are going to use the home gym equipment regularly, you have to be able to get a grip on the display and how to use the various settings.

13. What does the feedback consist of?

Apart from the programs, the feedback may include details about the calories you are burning while training, your heart rate, the number of strides, the time, the resistance level you are using, and the distance. Some trainers also come with a carb counter.

14. What is the source of power?

A power source is usually needed for the control panel and resistance features. This can be electrical or battery power. Check this before making your decision and make sure that it is a cost-effective set-up.

15. Does it incorporate an upper body workout?

Some elliptical trainers come with movable upper body handlebars. This adds another dimension to the training and makes it more productive.

16. Does the trainer come with a reassuring warranty?

Look for a substantial warranty. This is usually an indication of the confidence the manufacturer has in the product and the level of reliability you can expect. Certain brands such as Sole and Precor are known for their extended warranty periods and they come with a solid reputation.

17. Does it have a heart rate monitor?

According to elliptical machine reviews, a wireless heart rate monitor isn’t crucial. In fact, many people find the chest strap to be irritating. As long as there are handgrip pulse sensors to monitor your heart rate, you should be fine. To get the most from your workout, it is important to stay within your target training zone. You can’t keep track of this aspect without monitoring your heart rate, so you do need this tool.

18. Does it have both a forward and a reverse mode?

If at all possible, try to get a trainer that has a reverse mode. This will give you the opportunity to change gear for a refreshing shift. It also pulls new muscle groups into action. Many fitness buffs are all too aware of the dreaded training plateau, which results in little or no progress for what seems like forever. By ‘waking up’ your muscles with a new routine, such as switching to reverse mode, you may be able to by-pass this.

Never be in a hurry when shopping for elliptical trainers. By taking your time and doing some careful testing, you may end up in a long-term training relationship that quite literally pays handsome dividends.

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