Buying An Elliptical Cross Trainer
Elliptical cross trainers offer a full body workout helping to tone and strengthen the arms, shoulders, upper and lower back, hips, legs, thighs and butt.
This guide is designed to help you identify the various components that make up an elliptical cross trainer and how to compare the quality of various machines. As with all machinery, you get what you pay for so being sure of your usage requirements and matching these with the right machine will save you later in the form of possible breakdowns and repairs.
Elliptical cross trainers range from a basic lightweight model through to a more complete machine. Usually the more expensive the elliptical cross trainer the higher quality and more heavy duty it will be.
The first thing to consider before purchasing an elliptical cross trainer is that they come in two main styles – front and rear drive.
Front Drive Elliptical Cross Trainers
Front drive elliptical cross trainers are called this because the drive axle is located in front of the user on the machine. When you are using the machine you will see the drive wheel turning.
Rear Drive Elliptical Cross Trainers
Rear drive elliptical cross trainers are called this because the drive axle is located behind the user on the machine. When you are using the machine you cannot see the drive wheel turning.
The difference in the elliptical feel is up to personal choice, there is argument for and against both types. To find out what you prefer, try both options before you buy. Rear elliptical cross trainers appear in gyms more regularly in the modern day than front drive machines.
Elliptical Cross Trainer Frames
The size and construction of the elliptical cross trainer is important. Usually the cheaper option means the frame and construction will be lighter and less durable, and so goes the more expensive, the stronger the frame and more durable the construction.
Frame strength both in the steel tube and welded joints is very important. When an elliptical cross trainer is being used there are many stress points which carry quite high loads. Remember this machine is supporting your full body weight so you do not want anything breaking!
Frame stiffness is also important, if the frame is flexing when used the elliptical cross trainer will wear out quickly and annoying squeaking or scraping noises will appear.
Most of the more popular machines have a stride length between 35cm and 55cm. An elliptical cross trainer with a short stride length could feel choppy in its motion instead of smooth and fluid. Some of the newer machines even have the ability to adjust the stride length which adds more versatility.
Most of the inexpensive models have a magnetic resistance system in which a flywheel is surrounded by a u-shaped magnet that can reduce or increase the tension. These are fairly quiet and effective. In the more advanced models you usually find an eddy current brake system (ECB). The ECB works with an aluminium wheel and an electromagnetic current that controls the tension. Because the ECB system doesn’t have any moving parts it’s more durable and reliable than other resistance systems.
Console Controls and Displays
The control panel will have some form of LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) or LED (Light Emitting Diode). They are available in all sorts of colours, shapes and sizes; much of the choice comes down to personal preference and what type of information you wish to see.
Various displays will show speed, distance, time, laps, incline, calories burned, heart rate and more. Don’t be misled by thinking that more programs and electronic gadgets mean a better quality product. With the developments in electronics over the past decade this componentry has become cheaper in comparison to the engineering parts such as motors, rollers and bearings.
Heart Rate Control
Many elliptical cross trainers come with sensors for monitoring heart rate whilst exercising. The basic models have sensors for the user to grip which shows a read out of the heart rate. Better models have in built receivers which receive messages from a wireless chest strap; the information from a chest strap is more accurate than hand sensors.
The heart rate information allows the user to work within a prescribed zone as when set on the HRC (Heart Rate Control) program the treadmill will raise and lower the intensity of the workout to maintain the heart rate of the user within a preset zone.
These programs are very good for achieving specific goals, particularly weight loss goals.
Finally the most important consideration when purchasing an elliptical cross trainer is the company that supplies the product and the after-sales service and back-up spare parts.
This is a serious investment so be sure you are dealing with an established supplier that has a good history in the industry. Ensure they carry adequate stocks of spare parts and that they employ trained service technicians. This is especially important if you are purchasing online.
Check the warranties and make sure the supplier has the ability to back them up. Warranty promises are only as good as the company making them.