Shopping for an elliptical trainer? You've probably noticed that there are 2 different designs on the market. These designs are based on where the main flywheel is located.
Front drive elliptical trainers have the flywheel placed out in front of the pedals and below the console. Rear drive crosstrainers will have the flywheel located behind or to the rear of the footpedals.
Which is best?
Well, there doesn't seem to be a definitive “best” design – they are just different. So what style is “best” really depends on you. But here are some things you should know about each to help you decide:
Front Drive Elliptical Trainers
Front drive elliptical trainers tend to give you more of an inclined elliptical path – similar to a climbing motion. Also, because the flywheel is situated right below the console, this tends to anchor the crosstrainer a bit more than a rear-drive machine.
So this design (all else being equal) can give you a more stable machine. This is especially important if you plan on heavy use of your elliptical – or have more than 1 user in your household.
If you shop around a bit, you'll notice that many of the higher-end, commercial-style machines tend to have a front drive design.
Rear Drive Elliptical Machines
Rear drive ellipticals give you some unique benefits as well. For example, the elliptical pathway on these machines tends to be flatter than a front-drive machine.
So it feels like more of a running motion than a climbing motion – which many people prefer.
Also, rear drive crosstrainers tend to be on the more affordable side of the market. So a lot of starter models under $1000 have this design.
Plus, you have a bit more flexibility in the design with these crosstrainers than with front-drive machines.
So for example, there are several rear drive crosstrainers that also fold up to save you space (which you don't find on a front-drive machine). So if you have a small workout space, a folding machine might be the right option for you.
There is another design that isn't seen too often – but it's worth mentioning. That is the center-drive elliptical.
This takes two smaller flywheels (instead of one large flywheel) and puts them on both sides of the pedals, giving a more square, compact machine layout.
This design keeps the user a bit more upright with footpedals closer together – which for especially long workouts can reduce the strain on your hips.
The downside to this design however is that you usually can't get incline on a center drive elliptical. (Incline changes the slope of the elliptical pathway and helps to give you better crosstraining).
So those are the benefits and drawbacks of the main elliptical trainer designs. As you can see, it really depends on what you want as the buyer.
The good news is that elliptical trainers are getting better and better each year – giving you more for your money. You can find ellipticals with iPod docks, speakers, decline, web browsers and even built-in TVs!
Just remember to take your time, do your research and go with a good brand name that gives you all of the features you need!