How to Buy an Elliptical Machine

by Chee Gates

How to Buy an Elliptical Machine

Elliptical machines have reached VIP status in the fitness gear world. People take notice of them because they get results. But with so many sparkling choices, how do you know which one to choose? The most important factor to consider is drive.

Drive Basics

Drive refers to the moving parts of the machine, such as the axle, bearings, and drive belt, and where they’re placed. That placement can greatly impact the "feel" of the apparatus and how your weight is distributed, which is very important to your comfort level. There are three types of drive: Front drive, rear drive, and center drive.

Front Drive

A front drive elliptical sports a forward-leaning workout position, similar to the feeling of walking up stairs. Because your upper body is perched slightly forward, you’ll really zero in on your butt, thighs and calves. And that area can never get enough attention.

Our pick: NordicTrack Freestrider 35 SI


Rear Drive

These models mimic an upright walking or jogging position. You'll be able to focus on your posture and engage your core and upper body as much as your tush and legs. Many people report that this model feels very natural.

Our pick: ProForm 990 CSE Elliptical


Center Drive

All elliptical machines boast the low-impact benefit of being easy on your joints. However, the center drive apparatus is renowned for being particularly friendly to achy knees. Try this model, if knee pain is a concern for you.

Our pick: NordicTrack A.C.T. Pro Elliptical


Bells & Whistles

At a basic level, you’ll want to have at least six pre-programmed workouts and heart rate monitoring sensors. Look for comfy foot pedals—that means you’ll have to test drive it!—and a minimum stride length of 18 inches. Do you need iFit Live and Google Maps technology, oversized foot pedals that pivot, and an adjustable stride length? Such extras will cost you, of course, but if they also beckon you back for more, it may be worth the money.

Make your new elliptical machine last forever—or as long a possible--byinvesting in a Sears Master Protection Plan. It covers wear and tear, yearly upkeep, and rental reimbursement. But most of all it gives you peace of mind, which is priceless.