How Long Should Your Elliptical Stride Length Be?

Buying elliptical machines can be difficult. There are many different variables that can make one perfect for you or terrible to use. Stride length is one of those variables. What is right for you? I’ve done some research to give you the information you need.

The optimal elliptical stride length depends on your height. For an average 5’9 person a 20” stride length is suitable which is this is a common stride length in commercial gyms. For shorter people (5’5) a stride length of 16-18” is great. For people taller than 5’9, 22” is good.

What is the stride length of an elliptical machine and what does it mean? Keep reading to find out.

Looking for an elliptical machine with a 20″ stride length? Click here to see which one I recommend.

What’s the best elliptical stride length for you?

Elliptical machines are pretty expensive pieces of equipment that have tons of variables, bells, whistles, speakers, screens, iPhone docks, 1001 different programs, etc. Most of those things only have a small impact on the quality of your workout. One of the things that have a really big impact on your workout quality is the stride length.

Stride length is the distance between the pedals in the position furthest away from each other. If the stride length is too short for you, the movement will feel choppy, cut short and in general not as smooth as you’d like it to be. When the stride length is too long, you might feel like you’re stretching your inner leg muscles too far. Both situations can cause you to be uncomfortable while using the machine. In the worst case you could even injure yourself. Either way, you’re not getting as much out of the machine and your workout as you could.

That’s why getting an elliptical machine with the correct stride length for you. What is right for you depends on how tall you are. To be more specific, it depends on how long your legs are but since that’s not a common metric, total height is much easier to talk about.

Stride lengths vary from 14” to 22”. Of course both extremes of that range are reserved for the extreme ends of human heights. Most people are around average height so they don’t need the extremely short or long stride length.

Here’s a chart of which stride lengths are suitable for certain height.

User heightStride length
Under 5’14"-16"
5’9 and up20"-22"

These lengths are based on the average stride length for a person of that height. Of course not every human has the same proportions. Two people that are of the same height can still have different length legs. The length of the legs is the major deciding factor in the stride length. Another factor is how trained you are. Better trained individuals have a longer stride length.

If there is more than one person who’s going to use the elliptical machine, there are good chances they are different heights and need different stride lengths. If you’re in that situation, the solution can be to get a machine with adjustable stride length. Usually they’re not super easy to adjust but it can make the elliptical more comfortable to use for all users.

Another solution is to compromise and get a stride length that’s in between what both users mean. If you’re not sure if an elliptical machine is right for you, it’s best to try it out.

A stride length of 20” is suitable for the largest portion of the population. This is why you find this size in most commercial or publicly available spaces.

The elliptical machine I recommend has a 20″ stride length. Find out more here.

Stride length isn’t the only thing you should look at when buying an elliptical machine but it’s one of the most important variables. There are other things to consider like features, quality, load limit and more.

What is elliptical machine stride length?

What exactly is the stride length of an elliptical machine? It’s a term that I’ve thrown around quite a bit in this post but what does it mean exactly?

Simply said, the stride length is how far the pedals move backward and forwards. As a result of that it’s also the distance between the pedals in the position where they’re the furthest away from each other.

If you were walking outside of an elliptical machine your stride length is the distance between your steps. You want the elliptical machine to come as close to your natural stride as possible to make using it feel natural. Using a machine that has a shorter stride length than your natural stride, it feels very weird. It feels like your stride is cut short and almost like you’re on a tiny unicycle. It’s not a pleasant experience.

The same side of the same coin is if your machines’ stride is longer than your natural one. This will feel like you’re stretching too far and you probably are.

Types of elliptical machines

There are two types of elliptical machine. The difference is the position of the flywheel. A front drive machine has the flywheel in the front. A rear drive machine has the flywheel in the back. This has an impact on the stride length or rather the ‘feel’ of the stride length. A 20” stride on a front drive elliptical is comparable to an 18” stride on a machine with the flywheel in the back.

That means is worth taking a look at where the flywheel is located to accurately assess if the stride length is right for you.

Muscle activation

An elliptical machine activates your leg muscles in a different way than normal walking does. This research paper found that glute activation is higher on an elliptical machine than other methods of training.

That’s good news for people that want to tone their behind. You can compound that with findings that a longer stride length activates glutes more than a shorter stride. Combine these two pieces of knowledge to your advantage and train smarter.

Having a machine with a stride that’s too short for you can lead to incomplete muscle activation. Since you’re not going through the full range of motion you don’t use the full potential of your muscles but just a part of it. This can lead to worse results than you could have had with a better fitting machine.

Related questions

How long should a treadmill deck be to run on? Home gym treadmill deck lengths range from about 45” to 60”. The taller you are, the longer the deck should be. People over 6’ tall need a belt length of 60” to be able to run without altering their stride. Average height persons (5’5-5’9) can use a 58” belt length. For walking or jogging you don’t need such long deck lengths.

How much weight can an elliptical machine handle? On average, an elliptical machine for home use can handle 292 lbs./132.5 kg.  The weight limits for elliptical machines range from 220 lbs. (99.7 kg) to 375 lbs. (170 kg). The most common user weight limit is 300 lbs. (136 kg). Commercial machines have different load limits.

Click here to find out more about elliptical user weight limits.

How much does an elliptical machine weigh? The average elliptical machine for home use weighs about 136 lbs. Simple elliptical machines without electronics and lighter construction are much lighter at 60 to 80 lbs. while versions with electronics and more features range from 120 lbs. to 250 lbs.

Click here to find out more about elliptical machine weights.

Favorite Cardio Machine 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.
  • 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.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to I've been going to the gym for about 15 years and am now looking to build my own. In the process I've learned many things I'd like to share with you.

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