Elliptical Buying Guide

Whether you want a low-impact workout or diversify your exercise routine, an elliptical could be the perfect machine for you. Ellipticals have surged in popularity in both home and commercial markets; they’re efficient, space-saving, easy on knees and joints and offer a smooth performance that mimics a natural walking or running motion without the hard surface impact.

The motion of an elliptical trainer reduces stress on your legs by mimicking the natural path of your ankle, knee and hip joints. Because your feet remain on the pedals at all times, there is zero impact, making the elliptical a great option for those with sensitive joints or those going through a rehabilitation from an injury. A low-impact workout can also be great for someone starting a fitness program for the first time.

Ellipticals are also very efficient workout solutions. When you work out on an elliptical trainer, you get a full-body workout and tone several muscle groups all at once. An elliptical works the quadriceps, chest, back, hamstrings, glutes, triceps and biceps. You end up burning more fat while getting full lower- and upper-body workouts that keep your metabolic heart rate up and continue to burn calories long after your workout is finished.

The following guide will help you find an elliptical that matches your goals and needs, while showing you what features to pay close attention to so you can find the elliptical that’s perfect for you.

The Perfect Elliptical Made For You Shopping For an Elliptical What's Important?

What’s the Elliptical for You?

There are several things to consider when shopping for an elliptical. With the growing popularity of ellipticals in the fitness market, it can be tricky to know what to look for and what will work best for you and your goals. Before you begin the shopping process, you’ll want to nail down:

  • Budget How much can you spend? This is the most basic and important way to narrow down your search. AFG offers high quality ellipticals at mid- to higher-range price points that give you affordable quality and smart features at every level.
  • Goals What is your motivation for purchasing an elliptical? Do you want to lose weight? Tone muscle? Is this part of a physical rehabilitation program? How frequently will your goals require you to use the machine? Determining what you want to achieve will tell you which features and type of elliptical to look for.
  • Space Where will you use the elliptical? Do you have a dedicated home gym space or will you need to move the elliptical around?
  • Users Who will be using the elliptical? Will it just be you? Your family? The number of users and frequency of use are very important considerations when you look at the durability, frame and warranty of a prospective elliptical.

Shopping for an Elliptical - What’s Important?

There are several things to consider when shopping for an elliptical, but don’t get sidetracked by too many bells and whistles, which are often advertised much more prominently than the quality of the machine itself. While the extras are good for keeping your workout fun, fresh and motivating, pay close attention to the following items to ensure you get a high-quality elliptical that will meet your needs. And of course, be sure to step onto the elliptical to get a good feel for its motion and stability. Hands down, feel is the most important part of an effective elliptical workout.

Frame & Drive System The drive system determines how smooth, quiet and stable the elliptical machine will be. This is the heart of the elliptical and its quality determines much of the machine cost. Here are the key features to keep in mind:

Stride length is the overall distance the pedals travel during the elliptical motion. The length of the stride is an important factor in how the elliptical feels. Proper length depends on the size of the user, but a longer stride generally offers better range of motion. The stride should mimic the feel of walking or jogging, without the impact on your body. Stride length ranges from 12” up to 21” on higher-end models.

A full-size stride length offers a more natural feel and allows the user to get the full benefit of the elliptical motion.

Frame Design determines how easy it will be to get on and off the elliptical, and how stable it will be during use. Ellipticals are constructed on either a front-drive frame (the flywheel is in the front) or a rear-drive frame (the flywheel is at the back).

AFG ellipticals are constructed on a front-drive design only, which offers numerous benefits over a rear-drive frame. Front-drive allows for easy access to the pedals, a straighter, more proper body positioning, and increased stability with the weight of the unit placed under your body.

Flywheel is the feature that controls how smooth the elliptical feels. The heavier the flywheel, the smoother and quieter the elliptical will feel because the additional weight helps it spin efficiently. Flywheel weights for most home ellipticals generally begin at around 13 pounds, though AFG ellipticals offer flywheels ranging from 23 to 30 pounds.

The drive belt is the only link between the flywheel and the pedals. Quality belts use grooves to maintain an efficient transfer of energy between the pedals and flywheel. The more grooves on the belt, the less slippage the user will feel.

All ellipticals offer variable resistance. Typically, the resistance is controlled by a magnetic brake that applies resistance to the flywheel as it moves closer to the steel flywheel. A larger brake provides more contact area with the flywheel for more consistence resistance and a longer lifespan. The brake warranty is a good way to gauge the actual size and durability of the brake.

Be sure to consider the warranties associated with the elliptical, for the frame, brake, parts and labor. The frame and brake should ideally be covered by the same lifetime warranties, which tells you that the product is built to last and will have less need for maintenance down the road. For parts and labor, look for a warranty that offers at least 1 year of unlimited parts replacement and in-home labor repairs. This tells you a lot about the integrity behind the manufacturer and their products.M.

Pedals The pedal system on the elliptical shapes the fluid, non-pounding motion, and is the user’s main contact point with the machine. They should be comfortable and joint-friendly. Be sure you do several test-runs on the ellipticals you are considering. Feel is crucial when choosing the right elliptical for you, so pay attention to these two important factors for a quality pedal system:

Articulating pedals pivot as you move on the elliptical to support your foot’s natural movements. When you move through the elliptical motion, the natural angle of the foot changes. Larger pedals allow more flexibility for comfortable foot positioning. Better pedals use traction strips that are inserted into the pedal to keep your foot from slipping.

The AFG 4.1AE offers a specialized arched pedal design that utilizes the science of balance training to uniquely recreate a walking or running motion. Your foot flows through the motion just as it does when walking on sand -- your heel contacts first, then rolls up to the toes for push off. This eliminates the "tingling foot" sensation found on other ellipticals, and initiates core activation

Q-factor is the distance between the pedals. When we stand, our feet are far apart to give us balance, but when we walk our feet move toward the center of the body. This helps the body move efficiently and decreases stress on the hips and lower back. Better ellipticals have tighter pedal spacing to mimic the body’s natural movement.

Several AFG ellipticals are SixStar certified in the six key elements needed to deliver the most natural elliptical feel. Learn more about the key elliptical features and the SixStar™ certification here.

Electronic System The electronic console controls all aspects of the elliptical and determines how easy it will be to use the elliptical. There are three key areas that should be considered.

Basic Console Operation From warm-up to cool-down, operation of the console should be clear and easy to understand. The main function of the console is to control the operation, and higher-quality ellipticals offer more sophisticated features, but also simplify operation with “quick keys.”

The operation should be clear and easy to understand throughout your entire workout. Step on a machine and navigate through the programs and keys to make sure you are comfortable with the console and won’t have a problem understanding how to use it.

Console Feedback The console should clearly display useful information about your workout performance. Higher-quality ellipticals will help monitor your workout progress with various feedback options, such as heart rate and performance data tracking. This information should be easy to view during your workout.

Programming Elliptical workout programs provide an opportunity to target specific fitness goals. Higher-quality ellipticals give you more preset workout program options. A console should include at least eight pre-set programs to help reach fitness goals and keep the workout engaging.

Features like iPod- or MP3-compatibility let you connect your audio device to the console and work out to your favorite playlists through included speakers, and workout fans will provide added comfort to help keep you going. For meeting specific, long-term goals, features like Nike + iPod workout tracking will allow you to upload your workouts online, so all your data is easily accessible and you can track your progress at any time.

Fitness Tracking. In addition, as fitness apps become more popular, many people are looking for fitness tracking that they can use on their mobile device. The AFG Sport 5.7AE elliptical features tablet integrated fitness, enabling you to use your favorite tablet along with AFG Connected Fitness – a free, no-subscription fitness app – to wirelessly control your elliptical and your workout. Plus, you can monitor your performance, manage your programs and track your fitness goals, all on the familiar interface of your tablet. It’s easy to set up, easy to use and easy on you; offering a whole new way to bring connected fitness to your life and connecting you to the world of integrated fitness tracking.