We’ve all been on an elliptical machine that just feels…off. The handles are just a little too low, the pedals make your knees bend just a little too much, making you count the minutes until your workout is complete. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It comes down to proper ergonomics. Simply put: your elliptical should move the way you do.
This key idea is what the Horizon Fitness industrial design team used to create the SixStar frame found on Horizon ellipticals. True to its name, there are six key elements to the Horizon SixStar elliptical frame that help deliver the most natural feeling workout possible.
Ideal pedal placement. When you place your feet on the pedals and begin to move, the pedal placement should slightly overlap, eliminating stress on the hips and back.
Straight body posture. An upright body posture is the most comfortable position to be in throughout your workout. What’s better? It also yields the fastest results.
Low step-on height. It’s a simple concept, but pedals placed lower to the ground are easier to step on and off.
Optimal handlebar spacing. If you are interested in working your arms along with your legs, the handlebar grips are placed within ideal reach and distance for both small- and large-framed users.
A natural foot path. Similar to making sure the pedal placement is ideal, a flatter elliptical pattern is important so it closely mimics a natural running or walking motion.
Smooth momentum. The large drive-pulley ratio creates the smoothest, most efficient motion so you can focus on your workout, and not a clunky motion.
Walk into almost any gym or specialty fitness retailer and you will be confronted with row after row of treadmills and ellipticals. Although these machines are both classified as “cardiovascular equipment,” both have individual qualities that will suit some exercisers better than others. There’s a lot to consider when you’re faced with an “elliptical vs treadmill” scenario. Luckily, we’re here to help break it down and show you the best each machine has to offer.
For starters, before purchasing a piece of equipment this fundamental to a balanced exercise program, it’s important to consider which would be best for your fitness level, workout style and budget. Let’s walk through the benefits of both ellipticals and treadmills:
Elliptical Machine Benefits
The elliptical machine features two pedals that move in a smooth, uninterrupted circular motion that allows for an impact-free workout. This can be invaluable for individuals with injuries or weaknesses in their knees, ankles, hips and lower back.
Additionally, two long handles extend upward from the base of the machine and place resistance on your upper body. This full-body workout means that you have the potential to burn significantly more calories per hour with an elliptical than if you were to use a treadmill or exercise bike.
There are some potential drawbacks to ellipticals. Because the structure of the elliptical machine controls and limits your range of motion, the movement may take some getting used to. The stride length is also built into the machine, although some allow for slight adjustments, and exercisers with shorter strides may find themselves hyper-extending their knees, which can be problematic over time.
Another factor to consider is that you set the pace on an elliptical (unlike a treadmill, which provides a motorized speed). This can sometimes make it challenging to maintain a constant speed, and if you aren’t highly self-motivated, it can be tempting to go easy.
Video: Look for ellipticals that have simple assembly, one-step folding, a compact footprint like the Evolve 3 Elliptical.
Selecting an Elliptical
As with any piece of exercise equipment, it’s important to compare elliptical machines until you find one that perfectly fits your needs. Look for a durable machine that will be able to fully support the weight of all its users and has a heavy enough flywheel to offer a smooth, quiet workout. Quality ellipticals are designed to mimic your natural body posture and movement.
Benefits of Treadmills
Apart from the benefits associated with all forms of cardiovascular exercise, the key benefit of treadmills is accessibility. The running or walking motion required to use a treadmill is natural, comfortable and familiar.
Many home treadmills also fold up for easy storage. While running outside can be made difficult by terrain or weather, treadmills offer an even surface and the climate control of your home or gym.
Another advantage is that treadmills can have a built-in motivation factor. The belt speed and the incline will adjust automatically when you follow a program, reducing any tendencies to relax during a workout. Although you can stop or slow the machine at any time, the automated pace prevents you from easing up unintentionally.
The treadmill running surface is cushioned to reduce the stress on your joints from repeated impact, but this is still a concern for exercisers with a history of joint problems. Also, some people find treadmills repetitive, making them less likely to exercise as often as they should.
Video: For comfortable runs, look for a cushioned, maintenance-free belt like that on the Elite T7 Treadmill.
Finding the Perfect Treadmill
When shopping for a treadmill, look for a machine with a solid frame and a wide running belt. These features will allow you to use the machine comfortably without modifying your natural stride. The highest rated treadmills have larger motors that allow the belt to rotate smoothly and quietly.
Integrated support for media players is an additional feature that may help to alleviate some of the boredom experienced when running indoors. Features that allow you to track your progress through multiple workouts will also make your routine more enjoyable.
Elliptical vs Treadmill: Which is Best for You?
If you already enjoy running outdoors but find that your cardio routine suffers because of the weather, a treadmill might be your best choice. People who suffer from joint pain, however, would likely benefit from using an elliptical. Also, if you have difficulty incorporating an upper body workout into your schedule, you may find that the elliptical helps you save time by including these muscles in your cardio.
Regardless of which machine you chose, you’ll want to select a quality model that will last you a long time and help you reach your fitness goals.
Choosing the right piece of home fitness equipment—whether that’s a treadmill, elliptical, or exercise bike—depends on what you wish to accomplish from your home training sessions. As you set up your training plan, here are a few things you might want to consider:
Treadmill: Providing a natural workout (as simple as heading out for a walk!), a home treadmill means that your fitness is not at the mercy of weather or daylight. Cushioned treadmills are also a bit easier on your joints compared to walking and running outdoors. You can use your treadmill as a back-up to your regular, outdoor sessions or schedule it into your training plan as an active recovery that takes advantage of the added cushioning and controlled environment. You can also push yourself by including challenging interval runs or hikes, adjusting the incline and speed to push your heart rate and your fitness. Many treadmills also fold, making them easy to move out of the way, a particular advantage if your home gym space doubles as a living area.
Ellipticals: Elliptical trainers offer a simple, no impact movement, while continuing to burn serious calories and challenge your cardiovascular system. If you’re new to exercise, are concerned about the impact of running, or simply want to burn as many calories as possible while minimizing the wear and tear on your joints, an elliptical is a great option. Additionally, you have the option of strengthening the upper body at the same time, improving your posture. Ellipticals can also be used in a backwards pedaling motion –a benefit unique to this piece of equipment. This allows you to strengthen muscles on the back of your body, improving your ability to spike a volleyball or run downhill, while allowing the quads time to recover.
Indoor Bike: Indoor cycles are also a great, no impact option for continuing to work out through or following injury or to mix in recovery workouts with a higher impact program. If you’re vulnerable in your low back and knees, you may especially appreciate the natural seated position of the recumbent bike. Recumbent bikes, however, can make it harder to get your heart rate up if you don’t make a conscious effort to overcome that through increasing the resistance and speed of your workout. All indoor bikes are a great option if you’re looking for a convenient, no-impact workout that you can use for cross-training or recovery if you can see yourself branching out into road races or triathlons.
Vision Fitness is a company that strives to make products that are safe to use. See below for a list of guidelines that can help you use your cardio equipment safely. Remember you can always refer to your Owner’s Manual for specifications.
Safety Key – The safety key is a red (or rarely black) magnetic piece that has a cord with a clip at the end. Make sure you are wearing the clip from the safety key anytime you use the treadmill, and have the safety key in the correct spot on the console. In case you feel light-headed, nauseous or need to stop unexpectedly, place both hands on the side arm rests to hold yourself up, place your feet onto the side rails and pull the safety key to stop the treadmill running belt immediately.
Space – It’s important to have enough space around the unit for use. You can check your Owner’s Manual for specifics. Generally you should leave a clear zone behind the treadmill that is at least the width of the treadmill and at least 79” long. This zone must be clear of any obstruction and provide the user a clear exit path from the machine. For ease of access, there should be a space on each side of the treadmill that is equal to 36” (915 mm) to allow a user to approach the treadmill from either side.
Maintenance – Another small, but ever so important, step in keeping your unit safe is following the maintenance. Refer to your Owner’s Manual for specifics, but generally it will be tightening the assembly bolts once a month, wiping the machine down after each use, waxing the treadmill deck (IF NECESSARY), and vacuuming any dust and debris out from underneath the motor cover.
Ellipticals, Bikes, & Ascent Trainers
Space – There should be one foot of clearance in front of the elliptical for the power cord. For ease of access, there should be space on each side of the elliptical equal to 36” (915 mm) to allow a user to approach the machine from either side.
Maintenance – Refer to your Owner’s Manual for specifics, but you should be tightening the assembly bolts on your machine once a month, wiping down the machine after each use, and all for elliptical only, making sure the tracks and wheels are clean and clear of debris.
Check your Owner’s Manual for specific information, but keeping safety in mind will also help your machine run longer and stronger for you.
It’s no secret that what you eat highly affects the quality of your home workouts. Without the right fuel, you lose performance and motivation, making you sluggish. Need help planning your nutrition strategy? Here are a few common nutritional challenges and a little advice on how to make them work for you.
Challenge 1: You’re working to lose weight and battling a tight schedule with work and family. You’ll be hitting the elliptical at 5 a.m. and really don’t have the time or appetite for breakfast. Besides, you’ve heard that working out on an empty stomach can help you burn fat.
Making it work: Although working out in a fasted state forces your body to burn fat as fuel, you won’t train as hard or burn as many calories, so you’ll lose ground by the time you eat breakfast. A better bet is an easily digested carbohydrate immediately prior to or during your workout. Great morning pre-workout snacks include juice, a sports drink or a banana smoothie. You may end up taking in a few more calories ahead of time, but you’ll burn them off with better performance during your workout and improved recovery following. Within an hour post-workout, top off with breakfast, including carbs and protein, for the most effective recovery and your best use of nutrients. Eggs and toast or a smoothie containing fruit and milk are both great options. On the go, try a nutrition bar containing both carbs and protein in a 4:1 ratio.
Challenge 2: You and your treadmill are meeting up for a 75-minute distance run after work as part of your half marathon training plan. You don’t want to run out of steam, but the afternoon snack you tried before your last workout left you with a side ache for your entire run.
Making it work: Your last snack probably didn’t work for you because of the timing or the content. If your workout is more than four hours from your lunch, you’re going to need a carbohydrate-heavy snack before you run. If you are one hour out from your workout, think simple carbs like those given above. Two to three hours out, you can probably tolerate something that has a little more fiber and even some protein to give you better nutrition and staying power. Stay low fat, since fat is likely to lead to digestion issues and stomach upset during your run. You might want to start by trying some low fat yogurt and a piece of fruit or some whole grain toast and jam about three hours before your run. Since your run is more than an hour, you’ll also want to experiment with adding in some easily digested carbs, such as a watered down sports drink, during your run.
Challenge 3: Building activity into your daily life has you looking forward to a laid back ride tonight with your favorite playlist and your indoor cycle after the kids are in bed. You don’t want to skip dinner with your family, but you know that a big meal makes for an uncomfortable workout. You also know that proper refueling is important, but you don’t want to overdo it before bed.
Making it work: Since your workout is low impact, you have a little more flexibility on eating beforehand, but you’re still better off keeping your meal light and low fat. Try reducing your portions by a third to half and skip the butter on your bread and veggies (great steps for losing weight, anyway!). You’re right that post workout you’ll need a little something before bed. Once again, concentrate on getting in some carbs and protein for the best recovery, although a little fat at this point won’t hurt you and might keep you satisfied through the night. You could try some pretzels and hummus, apples and peanut butter, or toast and a boiled egg.
The keys to fueling your home workout are to use your pre-workout window to emphasize carbohydrates that are easily digested with a bit of protein and fiber if you’re at least 2 hours out from your workout. For long workouts (more than an hour), you’ll need to add in a little something during the workout to keep you going. This should be easily digested and primarily a carbohydrate, such as sports drink, energy gel, or a banana and water. Post workout, concentrate on getting a meal within the next hour or two or a snack that contains both carbs and protein to help you protect the muscle you’re building and to help your body access its fat stores for better results. Following these few basic steps will make a big difference in the results you see from your workouts.
When you are thinking about purchasing fitness equipment, you should also think about the location you’ll put it in as well as power requirements. As always, you can check your owner’s manual for specific requirements. Please note that, like a refrigerator and other large electrical appliances, treadmills, large ellipticals and suspension trainers are electrical devices that require an adequate power source to operate properly. Therefore we strongly recommend the following electrical guidelines.
Recommended Power Outlet
Preferred method: Properly grounded, dedicated 20-Amp, 120-volt circuit
A dedicated circuit ensures that the treadmill will not be sharing the circuit with any other electrical device, which can contribute to the unit starving for adequate power.
Alternate method: Same as above, but 15 Amps versus 20 Amps
If a 15-Amp circuit is used, it is even more important that the circuit be dedicated solely to the treadmill. A 15-Amp circuit is wired with lighter gauge wire than a 20-Amp circuit, thereby making the unit even more susceptible to power starvation if the outlet/circuit is shared with other electrical devices.
Power Sources to Avoid
GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets/circuits
The treadmill can cause nuisance tripping of GFCI’s, which can result in a damaged component(s) on the treadmill.
Surge Suppressors can impede initial inrush current necessary to properly charge capacitors, etc. Burned or damaged components can result.
Any extension cord
Extension cords can cause excessive voltage drops, thus providing the treadmill with less than sufficient voltage/current to operate properly. Burned or damaged components can occur as a result.
Any outlet connected to a light dimmer
Household outlets are frequently connected to lamp/light dimmers. Dimmers by their purpose reduce voltage/current to the connected device. Such reduced power to a treadmill will cause damaged components.
Operational Side Effects on Improper Power Supply
Undersupplied power outlets, i.e., outlets with 110 Volts or less, can cause running belt surges, especially when the elevation motor is operating
I realize this may not be the most entertaining blog to ever appear, but it is very important. Good power to your cardio exercise equipment can mean the difference between years of uninterrupted use to years of fixing. Often power issues do not show their true colors right away, but it will affect it down the line. Do yourself a favor and find the perfect place to put the unit, with the correct power requirements, and you will be a happy user.
The only noise you want to hear when working out on your elliptical is your music, or the sound of those calories burning up! Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world and noise can occur over time from using your elliptical. Not necessarily caused by worn parts, noises can occur with use of your machine as bolts loosen. Here are some helpful tips to help keep your elliptical in tip-top shape!
First thing to check is your owner’s manual for the maintenance that needs to be done (this can vary per model). Generally that starts with making sure the machine is level. There are adjustable levelers at the bottom of the elliptical frame, which you can raise or lower (one or both) to level the elliptical. Using a carpenter’s level to assist with leveling is recommended. Once you have the unit leveled, lock the levelers in placed by tightening the nuts against the frame.
*NOTE: Some ellipticals do not have levelers.
After verifying that the Elliptical is level, you can look through the assembly steps and verify that the unit is assembled properly (all the washers in place and in the correct spot). While checking the assembly joints it is important to go through and tighten them. Tightening the assembly hardware is something that should be being done monthly. Please reference the pictures below to check hardware and joints.
Link Arm / Handlebar Connection*:
*Verify hardware in Manual is present. Shake the joint in all directions to see if any noise is created. If noise is present, tighten hardware and/or add additional washers to eliminate any gaps.
Pedal Arm / Crank Arm Connection**:
**Verify hardware in Manual is present. Shake the joint to see if the crank arm is loose. If the end of the pedal arm has a plastic cover, check to see if the seam of the cover is catching or separated.
Link Arm / Pedal Arm Connection***:
***Please make sure that every washer shown on the Assembly Step is present. Tighten hardware as needed.
These are two very important troubleshooting steps that take care of the noise issues. However if you are still experiencing noise after trying the above steps, please check our YouTube channel for additional tips and information. Otherwise, contact the local dealer where you purchased your machine, as they should be able to help you out further.
There are numerous choices when it comes to Elliptical trainers. But which choice is best for you?
There are a number of things to consider when purchasing an elliptical for your home: How does the elliptical feel, what price point are you most comfortable with, which features you require, where will you put the elliptical and how much space do you have to work with. Two extremely popular choices are folding ellipticals and Suspension Elliptical™ trainers. Both choices offer space saving qualities, help you maintain proper form and provide the user with a great feel.
Vision Fitness was the first company to develop and deliver a folding elliptical and recently, we’ve created the next generation of folding ellipticals for those who are ‘tight’ on space. The Vision Fitness XF40 features a highly durable, welded-steel frame design with patented folding pedal arms that allow compact storage. It is easy to fold and offers a hydraulic assist that effortlessly lowers the pedal arms (similar to how a folding treadmill ‘drops’) when it’s time for your workout. When it’s folded, there are four wheels for easy maneuvering from within a room or moving the elliptical to another room.
The space-saving features are great but I know some are asking, “How does it feel?” Quite simply, the feel is great. The XF40 folding elliptical offers everything that a traditional ellipticals offers and more. Superior motion, zero foot pedal spacing, premium oversized footpads and multiple handgrip options all provide a comfortable fit for multiple users. Of course, not everyone requires a folding elliptical. Perhaps you are looking for something that offers a little more variety but are still conscious of space? Keep reading!
Quite simply, the incline of the trainer changes the angles of your legs while working out. Benefits of having incline are numerous:
Proven to burn more calories
Activates & targets more of your leg muscles, which is great for toning
Increases intensity, making your workouts more challenging
Decrease the effects of ‘muscle memory’
Provides the ability to increase length of stride when the incline is increased
Ability to change your routine and reduce workout ‘boredom’
Provides a customized feel for multiple users (i.e. Families)
Some incline ellipticals require the user to manually adjust the incline. Typically, this can be tedious and frustrating for a user. Ellipticals that have automatic/electronic elevation are generally better since they offer more range and don’t require the user to pause their workout to make the desired adjustment(s).
Another really useful feature of the incline elliptical is the ability to target specific muscle groups quickly and efficiently. When you pedal forward on an elliptical and change the incline, you incorporate different sets of muscles. When you pedal backwards and change the incline, you target the same muscle groups but different parts of the muscle. Going backwards and forwards, while using the incline, is a great way to change up your routine, utilize all of your leg muscles and minimize the dreaded ‘workout boredom’ that most people encounter at some point.
The Vision Fitness S7100, S7200 and S70 all offer the incline feature as well as the other benefits of a suspension trainer. Although the suspension trainers do not fold, they do take up considerably less space and offer the following advantages over most traditional ellipticals:
2-inch pedal spacing, which keeps the hips aligned properly
Vision’s ‘Perfect Stride’
Whether you choose a suspension trainer that offers incline or a space saving folding elliptical, the bottom line is to choose what feels best to the person(s) who will be using it. Remember, the best piece of fitness equipment is the piece that you will use and enjoy.
Shopping for an elliptical can be a little trickier than shopping for a treadmill or bike. The feel of an elliptical’s footpath is very personal. What may feel perfect to one person, may feel short and choppy to the next. Body size, hip width and upper torso dimensions can all play a role in choosing the elliptical that is right for you. It is important that you try a few different brands, preferably at a specialty fitness store where you can receive some expert advice as well. Here are a few tips on what to look for when shopping for a new elliptical trainer, or cross trainer.
The first thing you should think about when buying an elliptical is whether or not you are comfortable with the motion/movement of a particular brand’s unit. Unlike treadmills and bikes, each manufacturer’s elliptical will have a different feel. Some of that is due to a company’s philosophy, but in reality, much of it is due to the different patents that vendors have on their machines. Once you feel comfortable on a machine, you then have to analyze whether or not the design of the elliptical puts your body in a natural position for working out. Remember, you are going to be using this machine at least three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes. If the elliptical is not designed properly, your body will eventually “rebel” in the form of discomfort and pain.
You need to pay attention to three things when analyzing whether or not the manufacturer took the time to design the unit properly.
This is the distance between the pedals. Many ellipticals, especially on the lower end, will have 5-6 inches between their pedals, placing the hips too far apart. This can lead to pain and discomfort in the hip joint. If you have ever seen your footprints in the sand or snow, you’ll notice how close together they actually are when you walk or run. Pedal spacing in the 2-inch range or less is the most desirable.
Just as with the pedal space, the distance between the arms is important as well. Many elliptical arms measure 22-23 inches apart. This is too wide and will put undo stress on the shoulder joint. An acceptable range here would be from 16-18 inches apart.
While engaging the upper body, does the unit pull you forward causing a bend in the lower back? If it does, run – don’t walk – away from that elliptical because it will cause you lower back pain for sure.
Finally, if your budget allows, look for an elliptical with some sort of adjustable incline.
By changing the elliptical incline, you can target different muscles and change the pedaling motion from a running feel to a stair climbing motion.
The ability to adjust the incline will challenge you more, help you achieve your goals quicker and will work the quads, hamstrings and glutes at different angles. This can better develop and tone your lower body. It also adds variety to your workouts and can help prevent you from hitting those dreaded plateaus that can happen from time to time, because you will be constantly challenging yourself and your muscles with new levels of intensity. Fitness and personal growth most occur when people are pushed outside of their comfort zone. The ability to adjust the incline on your elliptical will do just that.
The Glute Burn program is found on the state-of-the-art Vision Fitness® Suspension Elliptical™ Trainers S7100, S7200 and S70. This interval-based, muscle-targeting program is made possible by the adjustable incline feature, which is not available from every elliptical manufacturer. The program automatically varies incline settings in ranges that target the glutes and hamstrings throughout the pedaling motion.
On the S7100, you are given eight 45-second intervals, which provide progressively challenging incline and resistance changes. The S7200 and S70 use a combination of incline and directional changes, along with console prompts, to help maximize results.
Glute Burn delivers movement and results similar to that of running stairs, but without the potentially harmful impact on the knees and joints. By reducing the impact-induced injury and fatigue, you will be able to put more energy into the workout. Not only is this program great for toning the posterior, but because the glute muscles are among the largest group of muscles on our bodies, this program is also highly efficient at burning calories. Use higher levels of resistance and lower RPMs to increase the muscle shaping and toning effects of this workout.