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Elliptical Trainer Buying Guide

Elliptical Trainer Buying Guide

One of the most popular workout machines is the well-known elliptical trainer. In fact, elliptical trainer sales are actually surpassing those of treadmills. Why?

To start, ellipticals are much easier on the joints and back, yet provide a total body workout with the pedals and handlebars moving simultaneously, imitating the movement of walking or jogging.

So where do you want to start your search for the elliptical trainer that is right for you? Use our Elliptical Trainer Buying guide to make sure you know exactly what to look for!

Who Will Be Using and How Often?

First, take into consideration who, in your household, will be using the elliptical. Think about how much weight will be on the machine and how often it will be used. The maximum weight capacity will be listed by the manufacturer as a guideline to help determine which models will work best and safest for users.

Front-Drive vs. Rear-Drive?

This is probably something you didn’t realize you’d have to think about in your search for the perfect elliptical trainer. Let’s check out and compare what these two types of ellipticals are:

Rear-drive elliptical machines are more than likely the ones you will find in a gym, as they have dominated the commercial market for over 15 years. The main reason for this is that with the drive system in the rear, there is a much better feel for the motion. Greater inertia moving the feet forward allows the user to accomplish more work with no strain on the knees or other joints.

Front-drive elliptical machines< were once the only option for home use due to low manufacturing cost and retail selling price point. However, these types of ellipticals serve one big problem: roller tracks. Roller tracks have urethane wheels, which are connected to the pedals and roll through a steel or aluminum track. Essentially, is it a maintenance nightmare and can cut your fitness routine short, as the wheels need to be cleared regularly.

Although you may be spending a bit more on a rear-drive elliptical machine, essentially it is your best bet in the long run on your joints and posture.

Fortunately there is a new breed of rear drive elliptical machines on the market now available on a direct-to-consumer basis from the manufacturer. These elliptical machines are featured on our website and they are totally silent and incredibly smooth. How is this possible ? By eliminating the troublesome “roller track” design, it is now possible to create a silky smooth feel with no maintenance required whatsoever.

* Note - there are some rear drive elliptical trainers with tracks and rollers as well. While they may provide a better overall feel than their front drive counter-parts, they present the same maintenance challenge.

Ball Bearings vs. Bushings?

There is another element of which type of elliptical to consider: one that has ball bearings at the pivot points, and one that has bushings. Those which have bearings at the pivot points instead of bushings will be more reliable and durable.

There is also a difference between standard ball bearings and sealed ball bearings. Standard bearings are more open and collect dirt more easily, while sealed ball bearings are protected from air and dirt. Standard bearings need to be greased frequently, while sealed bearings require no lubrication.

It is also important to make sure the rear end of the pedal arm is equipped with a swivel bearing, which allows the pedal arm to play a bit left and right during your workout.

Electromagnetic Brake Resistance?

Typically found in higher end units, the electromagnetic brake resistance reduces the possibility of service issues because it is electronic and has no moving parts to break down.

Foot Pedals?

If you were thinking all foot pedals are alike, think again. Foot pedals are actually a big determinant in your comfort level, and therefore efficiency, of your workouts.

There are two types of foot pedals: articulating and non-articulating. The good thing is, neither leave a negative impact on the body. The only difference is that articulating pedals may be more comfortable because the feet are able to remain flat; pressure is taken off the ball of the foot and distributed throughout the entire foot. With non-articulating pedals, the ball of the foot absorbs most of the pressure, which results in numbness.

Yowza Fitness has patented articulating pedals (SUREfit) that allow more range of motion without creating any impact. They move with the natural motion of the user’s body, almost as if they have been customized for each user. They also work in forward and reverse motions.

Yowza machines also offer orthopedic padding on foot pedals, which provide added cushioning to the pedals for a more comfortable workout.


The frame size of your elliptical trainer is also something to take into consideration during your search. Smaller, lighter elliptical trainers have been more popular among households, mainly because of their mobility and weight convenience. Smaller machines also typically cost less then bigger ones.

However, smaller elliptical machines are not suitable for heavier or taller users. Larger, heavier framed ellipticals are made of higher quality materials that allow them to hold more weight. The stride on larger frames is longer than those of smaller frames, accommodating taller users.

The problem with larger, heavier frames, however, is that they usually take up more space in the home, and once you set it up, you are more than likely not going to want to move it.

Additional Features?

Variable Stride and Incline

Adjustable stride and incline machines allow you to change the length of your stride and angle, or incline, at which you are exercising. This works your muscle groups in different ways, creating a more challenging, higher intensity level.

S.U.R.E. Motion

Yowza’s patented S.U.R.E. (Swing Up Reactive Elliptical) motion feature provides additional adjustable patterns of motion instead of changing or limiting movement with increased tension. It keeps users positioned at the same level so that you don’t feel as if you are being thrown higher when the ramp moves to a higher incline level. It also allows your leg muscles to react naturally to the change in movement. The Yowza Miami is one example, with 12 levels of dynamic motion. Dynamic motion trainers allow you to constantly change the pattern of the existing motion to more effectively tone and strengthen both the lower body and the upper body.

CardioCore Motion

Yowza Fitness also patented another great feature: CardioCore Motion. Up until 2009, the handlebar movement on elliptical machines consisted of two perfectly straight handlebars that moved back and forth in a contralateral motion. This movement allows the user to move their arms and shoulders, but does nothing to work the core muscles. However, Yowza’s CardioCore handlebars allow the user to utilize these muscles during their workout. The CardioCore movement provides the ultimate in cardiovascular training while targeting the muscles of the internal and external obliques, rectus abdominus, and serratus. It also works with the S.U.R.E. concepts to increase the range of upper body movement when the incline level is higher.

Think about owning one machine that works your entire body.

CardioCore EVO

The latest innovation from Yowza Fitness is CardioCore EVO: a seated, cardiovascular exercise machine that is designed to target the portion of the body you want to train with its biomechanical movement. This Target Shaping, “seated elliptical” machine combines strength, muscle toning, and cardiovascular exercise.

The seated elliptical machines were first introduced in 2010, but Yowza’s CardioCore EVO as a CardioCore elliptical machine works a bit differently. By sitting on the uniquely designed seat with proper lower back support, it enhances the CardioCore effect with your hips fixed on the seat. A power-adjusted seat can change the body’s position to target the specific area you want to work on. For example, by lowering the seat, you increase the upper body workout by 80%; lifting the seat increases the lower body workout by 70%.

Optional Features or Upgrades to Consider

Built-in Workout Programs: Ideally, you'll want an elliptical that has at least a weight loss program and an interval training program. These programs are used in health clubs by personal trainers and have seen proven results. Almost all models of the Yowza Fitness elliptical trainers have 9 built-in programs that will keep you motivated as well as challenge your body to become stronger and fitter.

Built-in Heart Rate Monitor: Heart rate monitors are standard on most elliptical trainers. There are a couple of types of heart rate monitors. A wireless chest belt monitor gives the most accurate heart rate reading. The alternative is a contact heart rate monitor (which comes on most lower-end ellipticals). This type of heart rate monitor is not quite as accurate as the chest belt monitor. If you squeeze too hard or let go too soon, for instance, this can interfere with the reading. The best contact heart rate monitor is one that has sensor grips on the moving handle bars. The stationary grips take part of the workout away. Your heart rate reading will be more accurate if taken while working the upper body and not having to stop in the middle of the upper body exercise to check your heart rate.

Heart Rate Control: Having a built-in heart rate control on an elliptical trainer is like having a personal trainer to monitor your pace and keep you working in a desired training zone, such as fat burning. After you choose a training zone, the heart rate control will automatically adjust the resistance to keep you working in that particular zone.

Backlit LCD or LED Display: The display on the console of an elliptical trainer lets you program your workouts and keep track of your progress during each exercise session. Backlit LCD displays are more attractive and easier to read than LCD displays that are not backlit. Nowadays, backlit LCD displays are often equal in quality to LED displays. If you are of average height, LCD displays will seem clear to you. If, however, you are taller or shorter than average, an LED display may be a better choice. LED displays are easier to read at any angle.

Adjustable Resistance: Most elliptical trainers built in the U.S. measure resistance in levels. Other elliptical trainers measure resistance in wattage. Wattage gives the actual value for resistance and is, therefore, more accurate than resistance levels. Nevertheless, even when resistance is measured in levels, being able to adjust the resistance level allows you to control the intensity of your workouts. The more intensity levels found on an elliptical unit, the more adjustability the user has.

Stride Length: Low end elliptical trainers are smaller and have shorter stride lengths (around 18"). If you are short, the shorter stride lengths will probably feel comfortable to you. After all, you don't want to over-stretch and risk pulling a muscle. A stride length of 18" to 21" is generally perfect for someone of average stature or above. A longer stride length may be more suitable to a taller user.

When shopping for an elliptical trainer, make sure to compare different models within your price range that seem to best suit the needs of everyone in your household who will be using the machine.

If you are concerned about the cost of owning an elliptical trainer, think of the purchase as an investment in your physical fitness and overall well-being. After all, your health is worth spending a little extra on!