A Brief History Of Elliptical Machines

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By Natalie Martin

Chances are if you belong to a gym you’ve noticed a large number of people working out on elliptical machines. Also referred to as a cross or X trainer, these exercise machines have quickly gained in popularity with people of all ages and with various fitness goals. It seems like practically overnight ellipticals started appearing in gyms and homes around the world, and instantly became a favorite with fitness enthusiasts. To help explain the sudden and steady rise in the popularity of ellipticals here is a brief explanation of their history.


Ellipticals – A Brief History

The elliptical was created by Precor in 1995 and was instantly praised for its ability to provide the user with an effective low-impact cardio workout. It is also the first machine that can be just as effective for beginners as it is for trained athletes. This is due to what is referred to as elliptical technology which is defined as being,

“a generic name for devices that incorporate various linkages and mechanisms in an effort to create a preferred pattern of movement for a pair of foot pedals”.

Since the pedals on an elliptical are oval or egg shaped, that is the “preferred pattern” the definition refers to. This is also where the word “elliptical” originated.

When ellipticals machines were first introduced to the public they came with fixed handles that were designed to provide you with plenty of balance, while also helping to ensure that you had correct posture during your workouts. A few years later Reebok, after studying the original design for an elliptical, came out with a cross trainer that would work your upper and lower body. The ability to get in a full body workout on just one machine is one of the main reasons ellipticals suddenly became so popular.

Today’s ellipticals come with even more features that can improve the effectiveness of your workout, without increasing your risk for injury. The handles not only work your arms and shoulders, now they can target the muscles in your back, torso and even glutes and thighs. Ellipticals can also come with a variety of features, but this will affect the price. Some of the extras that are often found on the top rated models commonly include,

  • Bright LCD displays
  • Heart rate monitors
  • Convenient cup holders
  • Adjustable resistance
  • Adjustable stride length
  • Preprogrammed workout settings


Ellipticals are still one of the most popular types of exercise equipment, and with new features constantly being added this isn’t likely to change anytime soon. They are capable of providing you with a complete cardio workout, without putting undo stress on your knees, hips and joints. Most people find them comfortable to use thanks to the floating pedals and balance bars, and best of all in just 30 minutes you can burn up to 400 calories on an elliptical.

A Brief History of Elliptical Machines


Two Reasons to Use an Elliptical


There are two very simple reasons why elliptical machines have remained popular, other than the fact that they are continuously improving.


  1. Capable of providing a low impact workout.

Even though an elliptical is designed to mimic running, you don’t have to worry about impact shock every time your feet hit the ground. An elliptical is also less jarring on your knees, which is great news for anyone with an injury or suffering from arthritis.


  1. Can give you an effective cardio workout.

Not only can you build muscle and burn calories on an elliptical, you can also get in a full cardio workout. Adjusting the resistance will work your lower body, while the moveable handles strengthen arm and shoulder muscles. Some elliptical trainers even come with a reverse pedal function which can produce the same results you get from a cross-country skier.


A Few Things to Consider


While the invention of the elliptical was good news for the health and fitness world, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the perfect choice for everyone. There are a couple of factors that you might consider “cons”.


  1. Limited range of motion/exercise.

You can only move so much on an elliptical, and this is not ideal for some people. If you feel like you have to constantly move around during your workout, an elliptical machine might not be the best choice for you. Being stuck in one place repeating the same movements might cause boredom, and result in you quitting your workout plan.


  1. Can be costly.

If you choose an elliptical with all of the “bells and whistles” it can be expensive. People that aren’t dedicated to working out regularly or who aren’t positive that an elliptical trainer is the right choice for them might want to reconsider their decision.


For almost thirty years elliptical machines have been regular sights in public gyms and homes. Like any piece of exercise equipment it comes with its pros and cons, and deciding if spending the money on a top rated elliptical will depend on your needs and preferences.



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