Shopping for an elliptical can be a little trickier than shopping for a treadmill or bike. The feel of an elliptical’s footpath is very personal. What may feel perfect to one person, may feel short and choppy to the next. Body size, hip width and upper torso dimensions can all play a role in choosing the elliptical that is right for you. It is important that you try a few different brands, preferably at a specialty fitness store where you can receive some expert advice as well. Here are a few tips on what to look for when shopping for a new elliptical trainer, or cross trainer.
The first thing you should think about when buying an elliptical is whether or not you are comfortable with the motion/movement of a particular brand’s unit. Unlike treadmills and bikes, each manufacturer’s elliptical will have a different feel. Some of that is due to a company’s philosophy, but in reality, much of it is due to the different patents that vendors have on their machines. Once you feel comfortable on a machine, you then have to analyze whether or not the design of the elliptical puts your body in a natural position for working out. Remember, you are going to be using this machine at least three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes. If the elliptical is not designed properly, your body will eventually “rebel” in the form of discomfort and pain.
You need to pay attention to three things when analyzing whether or not the manufacturer took the time to design the unit properly.
- Pedal spacing
This is the distance between the pedals. Many ellipticals, especially on the lower end, will have 5-6 inches between their pedals, placing the hips too far apart. This can lead to pain and discomfort in the hip joint. If you have ever seen your footprints in the sand or snow, you’ll notice how close together they actually are when you walk or run. Pedal spacing in the 2-inch range or less is the most desirable.
- Arm spacing
Just as with the pedal space, the distance between the arms is important as well. Many elliptical arms measure 22-23 inches apart. This is too wide and will put undo stress on the shoulder joint. An acceptable range here would be from 16-18 inches apart.
While engaging the upper body, does the unit pull you forward causing a bend in the lower back? If it does, run – don’t walk – away from that elliptical because it will cause you lower back pain for sure.
Finally, if your budget allows, look for an elliptical with some sort of adjustable incline.
The ability to adjust the incline will challenge you more, help you achieve your goals quicker and will work the quads, hamstrings and glutes at different angles. This can better develop and tone your lower body. It also adds variety to your workouts and can help prevent you from hitting those dreaded plateaus that can happen from time to time, because you will be constantly challenging yourself and your muscles with new levels of intensity. Fitness and personal growth most occur when people are pushed outside of their comfort zone. The ability to adjust the incline on your elliptical will do just that.