Front vs. Rear-Drive Ellipticals: Differences, Pros and Cons

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Are you tired of trying different elliptical machines that don’t seem to fit your needs? As someone who has gone through the same frustration, I understand the importance of choosing the right machine that aligns with your fitness goals. 

That’s where the Front vs. rear-drive ellipticals debate comes into play. The mechanics and design of these two types of ellipticals are significantly different, and understanding these differences can help you make an informed decision.

Front-drive ellipticals have the flywheel in front of the user, while rear-drive ellipticals have the flywheel at the back. This difference affects the machine’s center of gravity, stride length, and overall feel. 

But which one is better? Let’s dive into the details and find out.

What is Front and Rear-Drive Ellipticals?

Regarding ellipticals, “drive” refers to placing the machine’s flywheel. The flywheel creates resistance as you pedal, simulating the feeling of walking or running. Front-drive ellipticals have the flywheel in front of the user, while rear-drive ellipticals have the flywheel at the back.

Front-Drive Ellipticals

Front-drive ellipticals have their flywheel located in front of the user, which gives the machine a slightly forward-leaning design. Front-drive ellipticals are typically more compact than rear-drive models and are popular for home gyms.

These machines tend to have a more upright posture and more vertical motion. The pedals are suspended from the flywheel at the front, giving users a more pronounced forward lean when using the machine.

Rear-Drive Ellipticals

On the other hand, rear-drive ellipticals have their flywheel located at the back of the machine. These machines tend to have a longer stride length and a more horizontal pedal motion. The pedals are connected to the flywheel at the back, creating a flatter, more natural motion that can mimic the feel of walking or running.

While these differences may seem minor, they can have a significant impact on your workout experience.

Note: One thing to keep in mind is that not all front and rear-drive ellipticals are created equal. Some models may have a longer or shorter stride length, varying resistance levels, or different levels of adjustability.

Pros and Cons of Front-Drive Ellipticals

  • Smaller Size: Front-drive machines tend to be more compact, making them ideal for those with limited space in their home gym. This is because the flywheel is located at the front of the machine, and the pedals are attached directly to it.
  • Smoother Motion: Front-drive machines offer a smoother elliptical motion due to the positioning of the flywheel. The pedal motion feels more natural and fluid, making the workout more enjoyable.
  • Quieter Operation: Since the flywheel is located at the front of the machine, it’s positioned away from the user. This makes the machine’s operation quieter than rear-drive machines, where the user is closer to the flywheel.
  • More Affordable: Front-drive ellipticals are less expensive than rear-drive models. This makes them a great option for those on a budget.
  • Less Stability: Front-drive ellipticals have a higher center of gravity, making them less stable than rear-drive machines. This instability can be more pronounced when you increase the resistance, making it challenging to maintain your balance.
  • Limited Incline Options: Front-drive ellipticals typically have limited incline options. This can disadvantage those looking to simulate hill workouts or target different muscle groups.

Pros and Cons of Rear-Drive Ellipticals

  • More Stability: Rear-drive ellipticals have a longer frame and a more stable base, making them ideal for high-intensity workouts. These machines can handle more weight and can be used by people of different sizes and shapes.
  • Higher Incline Options: Rear-drive ellipticals have a higher incline range than front-drive models. They can simulate running up hills, which is great for improving their cardio and endurance.
  • Lower Impact: The longer stride length and flatter motion give rear-drive ellipticals a lower-impact workout. This can be beneficial for those with joint problems or injuries.
  • Larger Size: Rear-drive ellipticals are larger and heavier compared to front-drive models. They take up more space and can be difficult to move around.
  • Bumpier Motion: The longer stride length of rear-drive ellipticals can create a bumpier motion, which can be uncomfortable for some users. This can also lead to a higher risk of injury if the machine is not used correctly.

Winner: Which Type of Elliptical is Better?

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You now have a better understanding of the differences between the front and rear-drive ellipticals and their respective advantages and disadvantages. But which one is the winner? Let’s dive into some factors you should consider when choosing between the two types of ellipticals.

Fitness Goals

Your fitness goals should be the primary factor when choosing between front and rear-drive ellipticals. Front-drive ellipticals are ideal for users who want a smooth and low-impact workout, while rear-drive ellipticals are better for users who want a more challenging and intense workout.


Budget is another critical factor to consider. Front-drive ellipticals tend to be less expensive than rear-drive ellipticals, so a front-drive elliptical might be the way to go if you’re on a tight budget. 

However, remember that the less expensive option might not always fit your needs best.

Personal Preference

Finally, personal preference plays a significant role in choosing between the front and rear-drive ellipticals. Some users prefer the smooth and quiet front-drive ellipticals, while others prefer the intense and bumpy motion of rear-drive ellipticals. It all comes down to what feels right for you.

Final Verdict

So, which type of elliptical is better? As you may have guessed, it ultimately depends on your needs and preferences. Both front and rear-drive ellipticals have advantages and disadvantages, and it’s up to you to decide which factors are most important.

If you prioritize a smooth and low-impact workout and are on a tight budget, a front-drive elliptical might be the way to go. However, a rear-drive elliptical might be the better choice if you want a more intense and challenging workout with higher incline options and are willing to spend more.

In conclusion, there is no clear winner when it comes to front vs. rear-drive ellipticals. It all comes down to your specific needs and preferences. Take the time to consider your fitness goals, budget, and personal preference, and you’re sure to find the perfect elliptical for your needs.


Are there two types of ellipticals?

Yes, there are two main types of ellipticals: front-drive and rear-drive ellipticals.

Are rear-drive ellipticals more expensive than front-drive ellipticals?

Not necessarily. The cost of an elliptical machine depends on various factors, including the brand, features, and size.

Can I fold up a front-drive elliptical for storage?

Yes, some front-drive ellipticals are designed to be foldable for easy storage.

Do the front and rear-drive ellipticals offer different workout experiences?

Yes, front-drive ellipticals tend to have a smoother and more fluid motion, while rear-drive ellipticals offer a more natural stride and greater range of motion.


Fawad Khan

Fawad Khan is the founder and chief editor at, a website dedicated to helping people make informed decisions about their health and fitness. Through clear, concise writing and a commitment to cutting through industry jargon, Fawad and his team strive to provide valuable guidance on topics such as bodybuilding, home gym equipment, and more. 

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