The History And Features Of Elliptical Machines
Elliptical machines are relatively new to the exercise machine scene, but they have surged in popularity as more and more people discover the benefits of elliptical workouts. Since they first appeared in the 1990?s elliptical exercise machines have been studied carefully for safety and fitness effectiveness, and found to be a great way to get a total body workout without the need for multiple fitness machines.
The First Elliptical Machines
The first elliptical machines to come on the market were quickly embraced by fitness enthusiasts all over. These early models worked the lower body quite thoroughly, but the upper body stayed stationary thanks to handlebars that did not move. Before too long, exercise buffs began asking for upper body action as well, and the manufacturers of elliptical exercise machines responded.
Now most elliptical trainers come with both lower body and upper body motion as a standard feature, with some offering handlebar motions and resistance that can help you get a truly intense upper body workout.
The basic features of elliptical machines include the drive system, the resistance system and the stride length. Let?s take a look at each of these separately.
Drive system ? The two types of drive systems are front drive and rear drive. Front drive systems tend to be used on low-end elliptical exercise machines and can produce a motion that is somewhat rough and awkward. Rear drive systems are far superior, providing much smoother motion and greater user comfort. Rear drive can be found on elliptical trainers from the mid-range on up to the very high end of the market.
Resistance system ? There are three main types of resistance systems used on elliptical machines today. Low-end machines typically have a manual system that the user adjusts by hand, but some low-end and most mid-range machines use a motorized brake system. High-end machines use an eddy current brake system, which is extremely reliable and smooth.
Stride length ? The stride length on low-end elliptical exercise machines is typically set at the factory and is not adjustable by the user. Mid-range and high-end machines, however, typically offer an adjustable stride length of some sort. As you would expect, the most expensive elliptical trainers come with stride length adjustment systems that provide maximum flexibility and customization options for the user.
There is an almost endless list of advanced features that can be found on elliptical exercise machines. The more expensive the model, the more sophisticated the features. Let?s talk a bit about some of the most common advanced features and how they might vary from machine to machine.
Control panel ? The control panel can be very simple and straightforward or it can provide the user with a wide variety of input, feedback, monitoring and guidance. They are typically electronic and run on batteries, which need to be replaced periodically.
Programmability ? Most elliptical machines are programmable in some way. They may be programmable for individual users and their preferences, they may come with standard pre-programmed workouts, or some combination of both options.
Heart rate monitors ? More and more machines today include some form of heart rate monitoring to help you stay in your optimum aerobic zone during your workout. Some monitor your pulse via special handgrips, while others use small clips that attach to your ear or wrist and connect back to the elliptical machine with a small wire or, increasingly, with a wireless connection.
Adjustable incline ? Just like a treadmill machine, many elliptical machines feature an adjustable incline to help you make your workout more or less intense. Some adjust manually, while others adjust remotely via a small motor.
Adjustable stride length ? A step up from the standard stride length is the adjustable stride length found on some mid-range and nearly all high-end elliptical machines. The adjustment of stride length is generally done manually.
How to Select an Elliptical Machine
Selecting an elliptical machine is more complex than just trying one out and deciding to buy it. You should consider a number of factors, including:
? Budget ? how much can you afford to spend?
? Size ? how big is the space where you will use and store the machine?
? Warranty ? how long is the warranty on the machine?
? Maintenance ? what kind of regular maintenance is needed?
? Features ? what basic and advanced features are most important to you and how much extra are you willing to pay to get them?
Where to Buy Elliptical Machines
With the surge in popularity of elliptical machines, there are more places than ever before where you can buy a machine for yourself. Different types of stores come with different advantages and disadvantages, ranging from price to quality to service and product knowledge.
Many people assume that the best place to buy an elliptical machine is in a specialty store that offers high-end fitness machines, and in many situations, this is true. Specialty stores generally offer higher quality products, more knowledgeable sales staff, and the opportunity to try and compare several machines side by side. However, their sales staff can be especially pushy because they work on straight commission, so they will try to sell you the most expensive equipment possible.
The internet is another avenue to research and buy an elliptical machine, but unless you visit a local retailer you cannot conveniently try out the machine before purchase. Online vendors can save you some money on the purchase price, but beware of high shipping charges due to the weight and size of the machine.
Another popular option is to buy from a well-known merchant such as Costco, Sears, Wal-Mart, etc. In some cases you will find lower prices at these locations, but don?t expect to find particularly knowledgeable sales staff or high-end, high-quality equipment. If you need service on your machine at some point, these large merchants will refer you to the manufacturer for assistance.
Elliptical exercise machines have taken the fitness world by storm in the last 15 years, rapidly becoming one of the most popular ways to get a full body workout. They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and price ranges, with a range of features to match. Your best bet when shopping for an elliptical trainer is to balance your needs against what your budget can bear.
About the Author: Julie-Ann Amos is a freelance writer for http://www.elliptical-machines-n-trainers.com, a consumer guide on elliptical exercise machines.
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