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Incline is common on treadmills but what about elliptical trainers? Do they have an incline setting, what is it good for and do you need it for your home gym?
High end elliptical trainers often have an incline option that’s digitally adjustable and raises up the whole front of the machine. Some models have a manual adjustment that has to be set before the workout. Changing incline changes which muscles are targeted.
Find out how incline on elliptical trainers works, what you can use it for and why you might want to buy a machine that has incline capabilities.
Do elliptical trainers have adjustable incline?
There are elliptical trainers available that have adjustable incline. Let’s first quickly go over what incline actually is.
You probably know incline from treadmills since most treadmills have that feature. It’s when the front of the machine rises up. On an elliptical trainer it’s exactly the same. The front of the machine rises up so the angle changes. What that’s good for we’ll go into at the bottom of this article.
Some other machines raise up the slide rails the pedals slide over (if applicable). This will increase the angle the pedals go up and down on.
On treadmills this is a very common feature while on elliptical trainers it’s much less common although it’s becoming more common. It used to be a really high end ($3000+) feature on elliptical trainers but nowadays it’s trickling down to the more affordable models although you still won’t see it on entry level ones.
Types of elliptical trainer incline
Before we go into the details of why you would want incline on an elliptical, let’s see what the different types of incline are. There are two different types and it’s important to know the difference since it has a big impact on usability. The two main types of elliptical incline are;
The difference is pretty obvious. The powered incline models have a button on the console that changes the incline of the machine by pushing up the front. The button will control a motor that pushes out a leg that pushed up the whole machine.
Manual incline models don’t have a setting on the console that controls anything. You’ll have to change the angle with your muscles. Often there is a system on the front of the machine that can change the position of the front legs/feet. Usually there is a push pin or maybe a kind of ratchet system. That means you have to loosen up the mechanism, unlock it, change the position of the machine and reverse the process.
On a powered incline model, pushing the button is simple and you don’t have to do anything else. That means you can do this however often you want and it’s possible to change on the fly during your workout.
A manual model takes some effort to change and often it’s even a two person job. That means you can do this before a workout but it’s not something you’ll do often because it gets a bit tedious. So before you buy an elliptical trainer where the manufacturer says it has adjustable incline, make sure it’s powered.
How to adjust incline on an elliptical trainer
So if your elliptical trainer has an adjustable incline, how can you actually adjust it?
There are three ways. Which one you should use depends on which type of elliptical you have. Most of them are pretty self-explanatory.
- Adjustable with a button. This is the easiest, most convenient option. Push a button on the console and a little motor in the machine adjusts the incline to whatever setting you chose. Just make sure nothing is blocking the movement of the machine. You don’t want to burn out the motor or bend something since the repairs will be costly.
- Manually adjustable. Manual incline adjustment can be simple where you just pull a pin out and adjust the angle. You’ll have to lift the machine so having someone lend a hand is often necessary. On some of the mid-range models it’s more involved which means you have to use some tools to change the angle.
Here’s one you can try at your own risk if your elliptical has no incline adjustment;
- Put something sturdy under the front of the machine to raise it and change the angle. Weight plates are probably the best option you already have laying around in your gym. Be very careful when you do this. Use something very sturdy and don’t go too high. Make very sure the machine can’t fall off. Put something behind it to make sure it can’t slip off. This can help you gain a few degrees of incline. Obviously, the machines aren’t really designed for this so do this one at your own risk.
Why adjust the incline on an elliptical trainer?
Why would you even want to adjust the incline on an elliptical trainer? What’s the point?
Inclining an elliptical trainer does a few things;
- Tougher workouts. You have to lift your legs higher. Just like walking up a hill, this means you have to exert more effort which means your heart has to work harder which gives you cardiovascular benefits and burns more calories.
- Targets different muscles. Another big reason why people want to use incline and maybe even more important than the first one is that you use different muscles when using incline. Just like when walking up a hill, you’ll use your calves, hamstrings and glutes more than if you’re walking on a flat surface. That means if you have a powered incline elliptical, you can easily choose which muscles you want to target more than others.
Every degree of incline on your elliptical will make your workout tougher and targets more on the back of your legs. So if you want to get a tighter booty and hamstrings, using a higher incline is good. Of course at the same time it will be a tougher workout to do for extended periods of time since you’ll have to lift your legs higher.
By using a high incline setting and high resistance, you can focus more on muscle growth than cardio exercise and endurance. That’s because that will be quite tough on your leg muscles and you probably won’t be able to work out like that for long. That kind of exercise is good for muscle growth.
If you want to burn as many calories as you can, keep the incline a bit lower so you can keep going for longer. If you can hit your time goals, increase the incline the next workout. While a higher incline will burn more calories, you probably won’t be able to do it for as long so in total you’ll burn fewer calories.
When adjusting incline, go slow. Start with the lowest setting and work your way up. There is no use in getting one really heavy workout done with a steep incline but then not being able to walk for the next few days because of muscle soreness and skipping the next workout.
So there are good reasons why you would want to get an elliptical with incline. But is it worth paying a lot extra for it since this feature is mostly found in the upper middle and high-end models.
Do you need an elliptical with adjustable incline?
Should you pay extra for an incline setting on an elliptical machine? That depends on your goals and budget. If it’s not in your budget, it’s not in your budget. If you can afford a higher priced model and your goals include;
- Very tough cardio workout
- Most calories burned per minute as possible
- Target your calves, hamstrings and glutes more
- Train for something that involves walking/running up a hill.
That means that many people would benefit from having an elliptical machine with adjustable incline setting. However, it’s not necessary for everyone. If you’re just looking for a normal cardio workout, a normal (cheaper) elliptical machine without incline will do fine. Most ellipticals provide enough resistance to push the limits of many ‘normal’ peoples fitness.
And of course, if you’ve got the cash and you just want something that’s going to be able to handle anything you could ask from it, go for it. While the powered incline setting adds cost, usually the class of machines is also of high quality and just a great machine all around. So you won’t be disappointed.
Best Elliptical trainers with power incline
If you’ve decided that you want an elliptical trainer with adjustable incline after reading all of the above, let me recommend a few models to you that are great options.
These are elliptical trainers with powered incline which means the incline is easily adjustable with a button on the console.
NordicTrack Spacesaver SE7i
NordicTrack is always a good brand to go for if you’re looking for a cardio machine with a fancy feature. They are often the first brand to often a certain feature for a reasonable price. Other brands might be earlier but usually those are the really high end ones.
The Spacesaver series is a series of elliptical trainers that are perfect for home use and for reasonable budgets. They are compact and not too expensive while still having nice features. The SE7i is a good elliptical overall and also has a powered incline setting.
The incline can be set to 10% which isn’t too high compared to other machines on this list but it’s still enough to get a different workout.
Precor EFX800 line
Precor is the brand that basically invented the elliptical trainer. They know what they’re doing and their machines are very well engineered, have good features and amazing build quality. All that does come with a hefty price tag though.
However, if you’re looking for the best elliptical trainer you can get, this is a good contender. While all the 800 line ellipticals have powered ramping, they don’t all have moving arms. So if you want a full body workout, look for the 835 model.
Sole is another mid-range to upper mid-range brand that always has a lot of features on their machines. All their ellipticals have power incline just the amount varies a little. The E35 isn’t the cheapest machine they have on offer but it’s a bit bigger and has a heavier flywheel than their cheapest model. This makes this one quite a bit smoother and nicer to use.
Horizon Fitness 7.0 AE
If none of the above tickly your fancy, check out this Horizon Fitness 7.0 AE. It’s a very affordable machine as ellipticals go. They’re not giving it away but for the amount of features and quality it has, you’re getting a good deal.
Favorite Cardio Accessories
Check out these accessories that improve a home cardio workout:
- Equipment mat: All cardio equipment should be put on an equipment mat. The Rubber-Cal mat (Amazon) is an affordable yet very high-quality choice.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and workouts, there is no better choice than the GymNext Flex. It’s super easy to use and set up with a phone app.
- Tablet holder: Cardio can be boring. With this tablet holder (Amazon) you can follow along with on-demand workouts or just watch a movie on any cardio machine.
- Heart rate monitor: Monitoring your heart rate is very important while doing cardio. The Polar H10 (Amazon) connects to almost anything you can imagine and is very accurate.
To find which cardio machines I recommend for home gyms, click here.