Types of Ellipticals You Need To Know (Before You Buy One)

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You’ve probably walked into a gym before and seen rows upon rows of exercise equipment, with various machines all designed to work different parts of the body. But if you’re looking for a low-impact, full-body workout that’s easy on your joints, you might have found yourself drawn to the types of ellipticals.

These machines have exploded in popularity over the past decade, and it’s no wonder why: they’re versatile, easy to use, and a great way to get your heart rate up without pounding the pavement. 

But with so many types of ellipticals on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for your fitness goals. That’s where we come in. In this guide, we’ll break down the different types of ellipticals, their features, and what you need to know to find the perfect one for you.

But before we go any further let’s compare them side by side:

Type of EllipticalMain FeaturesProsConsPrice Range (USD)
Rear-Drive EllipticalsFlywheel at the back, long strides, quiet operationSmooth and natural motion, low maintenance, good for tall usersCan be bulky and heavy, limited variability in incline and resistance500-2,500
Front-Drive EllipticalsFlywheel at the front, compact design, adjustable inclineVersatile workout, suitable for different fitness levels, good for small spacesCan be noisy, less stable than rear-drive models, less maintenance-free500-3,500
Center-Drive EllipticalsFlywheel in the middle, compact and ergonomic design, low-impactBalanced and natural motion, good for core engagement, space-efficientLimited stride length, less stable than other models, less variety in incline and resistance2000-3,000
Standard EllipticalsTraditional elliptical design, simple and user-friendlyAffordable, easy to use, good for beginnersLimited features and adjustability, can be boring over time200-1,500
Elliptical GlidersMinimalist design, compact and portable, low-impactAffordable, space-saving, good for low-intensity workoutsLimited range of motion, not suitable for high-intensity training, less durable100-500
Hybrid EllipticalsCombination of elliptical and other fitness machines (e.g. bike or stepper)Versatile and customizable workouts, good for cross-training, space-savingCan be expensive, less specialized than single-function machines, less durable500-3,000
Compact EllipticalsSmall and lightweight design, portable and easy to storeSpace-saving, good for home gyms, easy to move aroundLimited features and adjustability, can be unstable and uncomfortable for tall users100-1,000


Prices are approximate and may vary depending on the brand, model, and retailer.

Front drive ellipticals

Front drive ellipticals have the drive axle positioned at the front of the machine, making them unique from the other elliptical types. The pedals are attached to a crank that rotates around a flywheel located at the front. This creates a more horizontal elliptical path compared to rear-drive ellipticals, which can feel more like a stepping motion. The longer stride length on a front-drive elliptical can provide a more natural feel for taller users.

In terms of appearance, front drive ellipticals often have a sleek and modern design. They typically have a smaller footprint than other types of ellipticals, making them ideal for smaller spaces.


  • Longer stride length for a more natural feel
  • Sleek and modern design
  • Smaller footprint
  • Often less expensive than other types


  • Can be less stable due to the front-heavy design
  • Can require more maintenance due to the enclosed flywheel and drive system

Rear-Drive Elliptical

The rear-drive elliptical is the older and more traditional type of elliptical trainer. Unlike the front-drive elliptical, the drive system is located at the back of the machine, giving it a more natural elliptical path. This type of elliptical also tends to have a longer stride length, making it more suitable for taller individuals who want to simulate a natural running motion.


  • Provides a smoother and more natural stride motion
  • Usually more durable due to the simple design and fewer moving parts
  • Typically requires less maintenance and repairs than front-drive ellipticals
  • Tends to have a smaller footprint, making it easier to fit into smaller spaces


  • May not provide as challenging of a workout as front-drive ellipticals due to the more limited incline options
  • May produce more noise and vibration than front-drive ellipticals

Center-Drive Elliptical

If you’re looking for an elliptical machine that prioritizes comfort and balance, a center-drive elliptical might be your best bet. As the name suggests, center-drive ellipticals feature pedals that are located directly underneath the user’s center of gravity, which provides a more natural, comfortable motion during exercise.


  • More balanced feel during workouts due to the centered pedals
  • More compact design, taking up less floor space in your home gym
  • Often quieter due to a shorter stride length
  • Can be easier on the joints since the pedals are closer together


  • Often come at a higher price point compared to other types of ellipticals
  • May have a limited stride length due to the compact design

Hybrid Ellipticals

Hybrid ellipticals combine the features of two popular exercise machines – ellipticals and recumbent bikes – into one, allowing users to switch between the two modes of exercise. This makes them a great option for those who want to switch up their workout routine or who are limited on space in their home gym.


  • Two-in-one machine, providing both elliptical and recumbent bike workouts
  • Often come at a lower price point compared to other types of ellipticals
  • Low-impact exercise option that’s easy on the joints
  • Provides a full-body workout


  • May not offer the same level of intensity as standalone ellipticals or recumbent bikes

Elliptical Cross Trainer

Elliptical cross trainers are a type of elliptical machine that incorporate arm handles to create an upper body workout in addition to the lower body workout provided by traditional ellipticals. The arm handles move back and forth with the pedals, providing a full-body workout that can be beneficial for those looking to increase their overall fitness. Elliptical cross trainers are often found in commercial gyms and fitness centers, as well as in home gyms.


  • Provides a full-body workout
  • Can be used for cardio or strength training
  • Can help improve coordination and balance
  • Can be easier on the joints than other types of cardio equipment


  • May take time to get used to the arm handles and coordination required for a full-body workout

Standard Elliptical

The Standard Elliptical is the most common type of elliptical machine, featuring a long stride length and a stable base. These machines mimic the natural motion of walking, jogging, or running and provide a low-impact workout that’s easy on the joints. Standard ellipticals come with adjustable resistance levels, allowing you to customize your workout intensity.


  • Offers a full-body workout, targeting your arms, legs, and core muscles
  • Provides a low-impact workout that reduces stress on joints, making it ideal for people with knee or back problems
  • Can be used for both cardio and strength training
  • Allows for adjustable resistance levels to increase workout intensity


  • Can take up a significant amount of space in your home
  • May not offer the same level of intensity as a treadmill or stair climber

Compact Elliptical

Compact ellipticals, as the name suggests, are smaller in size compared to the standard ellipticals. They are designed to be compact and easy to store, making them ideal for people with limited space in their homes or apartments. These ellipticals are designed to provide an effective cardiovascular workout without taking up too much space.

Compact ellipticals are typically around 3 to 4 feet in length and weigh around 100 pounds or less. They usually have a smaller stride length than standard ellipticals, making them more suitable for shorter people. Most compact ellipticals are also foldable, allowing you to store them in a closet or under the bed.


  • Compact size makes them ideal for small spaces like garage, apartment room or even office
  • They are lightweight and easy to move around.
  • They are usually less expensive than standard ellipticals.
  • They offer a low-impact workout that is easy on the joints.


  • They may have fewer features compared to standard ellipticals.
  • The smaller stride length may not be suitable for taller individuals.
  • They may not be as sturdy as standard ellipticals.

How to Choose The Right Type of Elliptical

Choosing an elliptical trainer can be a daunting task, with so many different types and features available. But fear not, we’ve got you covered. In this comprehensive buying guide, we’ll help you navigate the world of ellipticals and choose the best one for your fitness goals.

Consider Your Fitness Goals

Before purchasing an elliptical, it’s important to consider your fitness goals. Are you looking to lose weight, build muscle, or improve your cardiovascular health? Different types of ellipticals may be better suited for different fitness goals.

If weight loss is your goal, consider a rear-drive elliptical or a hybrid elliptical. These machines typically offer a higher calorie burn and may include additional features like adjustable incline or resistance to vary your workout.

If you’re looking to build muscle, a front-drive elliptical or elliptical cross-trainer may be the best choice. These machines typically offer a more intense workout and can target specific muscle groups, like the glutes and quadriceps.

If you’re primarily interested in improving your cardiovascular health, any type of elliptical will do the trick. Look for features like adjustable resistance and pre-set workout programs to vary your routine and keep your heart rate up.

Features to Consider

Once you’ve decided on the type of elliptical that best suits your fitness goals, there are a number of features to consider:

Adjustable incline and resistance: Look for machines that offer adjustable incline and resistance levels. These features can help you vary your workout and keep your routine challenging.

Stride length: The stride length determines the length of your elliptical motion, and can affect the comfort and effectiveness of your workout. Taller individuals may require a longer stride length, while shorter individuals may prefer a shorter stride length.

Pre-set workout programs: Many ellipticals come with pre-set workout programs designed to target specific fitness goals, like weight loss or endurance training. Look for machines with a variety of programs to keep your routine interesting.

Heart rate monitor: Some ellipticals come with a built-in heart rate monitor, allowing you to track your heart rate during your workout. This can be a useful tool for maintaining your target heart rate and maximizing your workout.

Size and weight capacity: Be sure to consider the size of the machine and its weight capacity. If you’re tall or heavy, you’ll need a machine with a larger stride length and weight capacity to accommodate you comfortably.

Durability and warranty: Look for machines with a sturdy construction and a good warranty. A well-built machine will last longer and require fewer repairs over time.

Price: Ellipticals can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Set a budget before you start shopping, and look for a model that offers the features and performance you need within your price range.


What is the most effective elliptical?

The most effective elliptical is one that fits your fitness goals and needs. Each type of elliptical offers unique features and benefits, so it’s important to consider what you want to achieve and choose accordingly.

What type of exercise is elliptical?

Elliptical is a low-impact, cardiovascular exercise that targets the lower body muscles, including the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. It also engages the core and upper body muscles, making it a full-body workout.

Is elliptical better than running?

Elliptical and running are both effective cardio exercises, but elliptical offers lower impact on the joints, making it a better choice for people with joint issues or injuries. Running, on the other hand, offers a higher calorie burn and helps build bone density. Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on your individual needs and preferences.


Fawad Ahmad is the founder and chief editor at TenWeights.com, 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.