Exploring 8 Types of Ellipticals: Which One is Right for You?

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Written by Mia Jozipovic

Let me share a story about how I found the perfect elliptical trainer for my home gym.

At first, I was hit with a barrage of options; front-drive, rear-drive, gliders… I was totally lost on where to even start.

But then I was like “Okay, let’s dive into deep research”. 

This is how I found out that the location of the flywheel or drive system is a key factor to consider. 

So, after some thinking, a rear-drive elliptical was my winning choice. On the other hand, my friend opted for a front-drive trainer. Wondering why?

Stay tuned because in this article I’ll discover all the types of ellipticals and secrets you must know.

8 Types of Elliptical Machines

Classic Elliptical Machine

Alrighty, let’s first talk about the classic elliptical trainer – the one that most people are probably familiar with. 

It’s got foot pedals that you stand on and a handlebar in front to grip onto. Unlike some fancy models out there, this trainer has handlebars that don’t move.

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That means you’ll be focusing on giving your lower body a solid workout – think quads, glutes, and hamstrings – as you pedal away in a satisfying circular motion.


  • Great for lower-body workouts.
  • Satisfying circular motion.
  • Stationary handlebars for better balance.
  • Often a more affordable option compared to other types of ellipticals.


  • Limited upper body engagement.
  • Stationary handlebars can feel restrictive for some users.
  • Can be repetitive and boring for longer workouts.
  • May not provide as much of a challenge for advanced users.

Elliptical Cross Trainer

Does classic elliptical seem too boring? Want a full-body workout to get that burning feeling from head to toe? 

Then this machine is the one for you. What sets cross trainers apart is the inclusion of moveable handles that work your arms in conjunction with the pedals for your lower body. It’s like getting two workouts in one! 

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When you’re pushing and pulling on those handles, you’re targeting your elbows, shoulders, back, and chest all while getting in a killer leg workout. It’s the ultimate exercise multitasker.


  • Provides a full-body workout, targeting both the upper and lower body simultaneously.
  • Moveable handles add a new dimension to the workout, increasing the challenge and intensity.
  • Engages multiple muscle groups.
  • Can be less impact on joints compared to other cardio machines like treadmills.


  • May be more expensive compared to classic ellipticals.
  • Moving handles can take some time to get used to, and may feel awkward for some users.
  • Requires coordination and balance to use effectively.

Recumbent Elliptical Machine

Let’s now talk about a different kind of elliptical machine – the recumbent elliptical. With this sweet ride, you can sit back and pedal your way to a healthier you. 

And the best part? The longer pedaling motion is way gentler on your joints than a regular recumbent exercise bike

Plus, you’ll get a sweet arm workout too, thanks to the moveable handles. 

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This trainer is all about customization and comfort, so if you have limited mobility, don’t use it as an excuse. Instead, use the recumbent elliptical. 


  • Provides a low-impact workout that is gentle on joints.
  • Offers a comfortable, seated position while exercising, reducing strain on the back and hips.
  • Includes moveable handles for an added arm workout.
  • Provides customizable settings to adjust resistance levels and pedal speed to fit your abilities.


  • May not provide as intense of a workout as other elliptical machines due to the seated position.
  • The seated position may not be suitable for individuals who prefer a more upright or dynamic workout.
  • May not be as compact as other ellipticals, requiring more floor space.

Elliptical Glider

Let me now introduce the elliptical glider – the machine that will have you gliding your way to toned legs and a killer workout. It’s like a classic elliptical, but with a twist. 

Instead of circular foot pedals, the glider has pedals that move up and down in a fluid motion

Let me try to demonstrate – you’ll feel like dancing in the air! 

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And if you want to crank up the intensity, simply push the pedals forward for an extra challenge. 


  • A fluid pedal movement that’s gentle on joints.
  • Different hand and body positions provide resistance.
  • Ability to crank up the intensity with a forward pedal motion.
  • Provides a solid lower body workout, with emphasis on toned legs.


  • No resistance settings
  • May not provide as much upper body workout.
  • Might take some time to get used to the gliding motion if you’re used to a traditional elliptical.
  • Some users find the swinging motion too monotonous.

Rear Drive Elliptical Trainer

Remember my choice I mentioned at the beginning? So, here it is – the rear drive elliptical trainer. 

I chose this machine because of its unique design that places the flywheel in the back, allowing for a longer stride and central placement of the pedals. 

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This results in a more natural-feeling stride and a comfortable workout experience that keeps me coming back for more.


  • Central pedal placement can improve balance and stability during use.
  • The rear-drive design allows for longer strides and more natural motion.
  • It engages the whole body.


  • May be more expensive than other options.
  • Takes up quite a bit of space.

Front Drive Elliptical Machine

And do you remember that I also mentioned the elliptical trainer my friend is obsessed with? Well, buckle up, because this is the one she owns!

The flywheel on this machine is located at the front, giving you a killer stair-climber-like motion as you pump those legs. And, if prefer to keep your workouts down-to-earth, you’re going to adore the “shuffle trainer”.

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Seriously, though, this trainer is perfect for those who want a solid workout and impressive results. 

My bestie swears by it! She says it’s great for getting that heart rate up and feeling the burn in all the right places.


  • Provides a full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups at once.
  • Mimics a stair-climber motion, which is great for those who enjoy that type of exercise.
  • Can help increase heart rate and burn calories effectively.


  • The front flywheel may feel awkward or uncomfortable for some users.
  • May not be suitable for people with certain injuries or physical limitations.
  • The noise level of the trainer may be disruptive to others in a shared living space.

Center Drive Elliptical Machine

Let’s now learn more about the center drive elliptical trainer. This type of elliptical is designed with the location of the flywheel in mind, placing it in the center of the machine

The result? A compact and versatile option for home workouts.

One of the key benefits of the center drive elliptical is its ability to provide a full-body cardio workout. Moveable handlebars let you engage your arms, legs, and core for a complete workout.

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So, if you want to challenge your muscles and boost your heart rate, the center drives elliptical is definitely worth considering.


  • Flywheel placement in the center of the machine provides great stability.
  • Moveable handlebars engage the upper body.
  • Can help to challenge muscles and boost the heart rate.


  • May not provide as intense of a workout as other types of ellipticals, such as front-drive or rear-drive models.
  • May not be suitable for individuals with certain physical limitations or injuries.

Underdesk Elliptical Trainer

And do you feel guilty for spending long hours sitting in front of your laptop or TV? Good news – there’s a great solution for you! Underdesk elliptical trainers are absolutely the top option for those who want to stay active without leaving their seats. They’re compact and super easy to use.

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And the best part? You don’t need any special experience to get started. Watch TV or work while pedaling away to burn calories and improve your fitness – sounds amazing, right?


  • Convenient and can easily fit under a desk or table.
  • Low-impact, making them a good option for people with joint pain or injuries.
  • Cost-effective compared to traditional exercise equipment.
  • Easy to use and require no special training or instruction.


  • Limited range of motion and may not provide a full-body workout.
  • May not be suitable for taller individuals or those with long legs.
  • May not provide enough resistance for more advanced users.

By the way, if you want to read more about the elliptical pros and cons, you can find additional information here.

How Do I Choose The Best Elliptical Machine to Buy?

So, now you might be wondering which elliptical machine is the one for you after going through all that info.

No stress, I got your back! Let’s cut to the chase and break down the essential factors you need to think about:

  1. Flywheel weight: choose a machine with a flywheel of 25+ lbs for durability.
  2. Stride length: find an elliptical machine with a pedal distance slightly longer than your natural step length.
  3. Max user weight: select a machine that can handle your weight and any other potential users.
  4. Resistance: choose between metal chains/belts or magnets; magnets are quieter and require less maintenance.
  5. Noise levels: consider the decibel level and drive type, and read customer reviews carefully to avoid noisy machines.
  6. Watt levels: a good indicator of machine quality, with most machines falling between 350-400 watts.
  7. Console: choose a model with or without Bluetooth/WiFi connectivity, depending on your preferences.
  8. Warranty: look for warranties of at least 5 years, or even lifetime warranties if possible, and note any differences in coverage for different parts of the machine.

Final Thoughts

Alright, we covered all types of ellipticals! You’re now ready to dive in and find the elliptical machine of your dreams.

While I personally lean towards the rear-drive elliptical, there’s a whole spectrum of options out there, each boasting its own amazing perks.

Take your time, weigh the pros and cons, and select the machine that’s going to keep you moving and grooving toward your fitness goals.

Photo of author
I'm Mia, a 25-year-old fitness enthusiast who's on a mission to help people look and feel amazing. I live and breathe health and wellness, and you can often find me in the gym, trying out new recipes in the kitchen, or exploring the great outdoors. I love pushing myself to new limits and inspiring others to do the same.

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