An elliptical or commonly known as a cross trainer is a type of stationary workout machine that can be used to exercise different muscles of your body in simulation to walking up stairs, running, or climbing. Due to the stationary form of this device, people with injuries benefit greatly from them, especially people undergoing physical therapy. These trainers also offer different types of workouts based on the variety of resistance the user selects to use.
Elliptical were first introduced to the market by Precor in the 1990’s. The majority of ellipticals in today’s market focus on training the user’s lower and upper body. Even though these types of trainers are thought to have minimal impact on the body, they are well recognized as a type of weight-bearing exercise. Most of the ellipticals are self-powered by the user’s steps, however, some do need to be plugged in to help supply monitors or electronic equipment built-in.
The first base work on elliptical path generation, which is the use of a group of preset links that are used to help power ellipticals, was first published in 1988 by a group of researchers at Purdue University. Later, in 1995, Precor introduced the first Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer (EFX) of it’s kind.
This type of fitness machine was classified as a type of “low-impact” workout since the user’s heels are in contact with set pedals that help reduce tendon and muscle stress. This way, the user does not actually feel as if they are working out as hard as they actually are.
Types of Elliptical Machines
The three main types of ellipticals are characterized by the location of their driver or motor. The oldest have a rear drive, the second generation of ellipticals have a front drive, and the most current ellipticals have a center drive.
On some of the elliptical models, the incline that the user walks on can be adjusted based on the type of resistance is required for the workout they plan to do. This adjustable ramp, which either comes automatic or manual, can change the user’s stride length as well as hip actuation. While under this use, the user can help develop different muscles and alter their overall workout. Some trainers even come with automatic incline, resistance, and stride length based on their workout type. Some can also go forward and backward based on the user’s preference.
Most ellipticals are powered by the user’s stride, but some also have hand-held levers that are connected to the pedal links that drive the machine. The user uses the handles and shuffles them to and fro while walking, to power the device at their desired pace. Sometimes users can be dependent on the handles which prevent them from working on their leg muscles, or vice versa. The best way to get a full workout is to find a device that causes the user to be dependent on both.
Certain elliptical manufacturers create specific models for commercial use that withstand a variety of uses a day. However, these models usually cost much more money. Ellipticals for home use start at only $200 and are much more budget friendly. More expensive models come with more features and exclusive offers such as warranties that those with home gyms don’t necessarily need.
Advantages Of Using An Elliptical Trainer
Providing a great cardio and leg workout, an elliptical trainer is most similar to a treadmill. As far as the range of leg motion available, elliptical fall right between treadmills and exercise bikes.
According to a study completed recently, treadmills and ellipticals burn calories at a comparable rate. A nutritional and exercise physiology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia by the name of Thomas Altena completed this study. He compared users exercising on both the treadmill and elliptical. He measured their heart rate, oxygen retention, lactic acid build up, and their perceived rate of force exerted. Altena found that all physiological responses were practically identical with both the treadmill and elliptical. However, it is crucial that the resistance is set high on the elliptical machine. Additionally, when compared to treadmills, ellipticals are a lot quieter. This is because users do not remove their feet from the pedals. Users will not need to deal with the sound of their feet falling.
There was another study completed in 2002 that exhibited the benefits of elliptical training. This University of Idaho study concluded that by varying the length of the stride on an elliptical machine, you can workout a wide variety of muscle groups. When the stride is larger, the number of calories burned also increases without any increase in the user’s perceived rate of exertion. This study supports an emerging feature of some of the newer elliptical models, adjustable stride length.
How To Use An Elliptical
While the specifics vary between models, most ellipticals operate in similar ways. The use stands on the machine with a straight back. The user begins with straight legs with their weight evenly distributed throughout their feet. Then, they grab hold of the handles and glide one arm forward and one arm back. This also propels the feet to move too. This provides a full range of motion for the user as the elliptical machine operates smoothly and perpetually.