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Have you been working out on an elliptical and are wondering if there are any disadvantages to doing this? They’re great for cardio, endurance, burning calories, etc. But there are also a few drawbacks to using elliptical trainers. Here are the biggest ones:
- Movement pattern
- Running is better for bone density
- Size might not fit you
- Running inside is boring
All in all the disadvantages of an elliptical aren’t too dramatic but let’s go into detail to see if they’re a problem for you.
1. An Elliptical Is Not The Same As Running
One of the biggest drawbacks of an elliptical trainer to be aware of is the slightly different movement pattern than running outside or on a treadmill. On an elliptical trainer, the pedals and levers move in a set pattern you can’t change. Running outside or on a treadmill means you can use your body however you want with small variations every stride. On an elliptical it’s always the same.
That can be a benefit but also a drawback. The benefit of an elliptical is that you train slightly different muscles in a different way with very low impact on your joints.
There are two scenarios where you have to be a bit careful;
- You are used to running outside/on a treadmill.
- You start running outside/ on a treadmill after training on an elliptical.
Both those scenarios means you suddenly change your movement pattern and the muscles you use. If you go hard from the beginning since you are ‘used to running’ you have a higher risk of injury. That’s because your body is trained to use certain muscles in a certain way. When you suddenly change this, there might be some ‘missing links’ in your physical development.
There is a lot of overlap between an elliptical and running but it’s not 100% and those little muscles that aren’t used to one or the other might be overwhelmed when you change.
2. Elliptical Trainers And Bone Density
An elliptical trainer has very low impact on your joints and also your bones. That’s great for people with joint problems or who are bigger. The low impact is one of the biggest benefits of working out on an elliptical.
However, that lack of impact also means that you don’t have the bone density benefits of other exercises. So called ‘load bearing’ exercises are shown to increase bone density. The impact, tugging and pulling on the bones is what actually cause the bone density to increase over time or at least slow the density loss.
Especially for older people, maintaining bone density becomes important. But the problem is of course that older people also have weaker joints so just changing to the treadmill suddenly might not be a good idea either.
3. Always The Same View
This is really a problem of all indoor cardio exercise: The view is always the same. This can get pretty boring after a while and could cause you to not do a workout because it’s not very mentally stimulating. If you run outside, there are always some changes however small they might be. Change makes life and your workouts a bit more interesting. On the flipside, indoor cardio is more consistent since the weather/time doesn’t matter.
Most people solve this problem by using some kind of distraction in the shape of a screen. That can be a phone or tablet. Another solution is to mount a TV on your wall. You will need a little bit of space in front of your trainer so you’re not too close to the screen. TV’s aren’t made to be viewed up close like phones and tablets.
If you want to know more about mounting a TV in your home gym, I’ve got two posts for you;
4. Not All Ellipticals Are Suitable For Everyone
Different elliptical trainers have different stride lengths. Simply said this is how far the pedals go back and forth. This stride length should be within a certain range of your natural stride length. Your natural stride length is how long your stride is when running outside.
If the stride length of the elliptical is too long or short it can feel very strange and ‘choppy’. This can cause muscle strains if the difference is too extreme.
people of average height usually don’t have an issue with this since most ellipticals are made for average height people. And if you’re within a couple of inches of the average height, you likely don’t have an issue. But, if you’re a lot shorter or taller than the average, this could become an issue.
In a commercial gym, you can’t really choose and you’ll have to use whatever is there. In a home gym where you buy your own elliptical trainer, it’s worth figuring out what your stride length is and buying a machine that fits.
If you want to know more about the stride length, how to determine yours and what that means for your machine, I’ve written a separate post about that. Click here to go there.
All in all, the drawbacks aren’t anything dramatic. Most of the drawbacks are able to be fixed or worked around. Some of the other drawbacks, you should just be aware of. Other things are drawbacks in some ways but if you’re aware of them, you can choose what’s best for your situation.
The disadvantages are well worth it once you find the benefits of using an elliptical. I personally always find that burning calories on an elliptical ‘feels’ the easiest. An elliptical is also very good for bigger people since it puts a lot less stress on the joints than running on a treadmill.
Disadvantages Of An Elliptical Trainer For A Home Gym
The general drawbacks is are one thing but if you are looking to get one for your home gym there are a few other things to think about.
1. An Elliptical Is a Big Piece of Equipment
For people that want an elliptical trainer in their home gym, it’s important to make sure that it fits. It’s a pretty big piece of equipment so measure your space and look up the measurements of the trainer before you buy. It would be pretty irritating if your machine couldn’t actually be used where you want it.
Elliptical trainers aren’t bigger than treadmills but they take up significantly more space than an exercise bike or rowing machine.
A thing to keep in mind is that the pedals and the other parts that are connected to the flywheel move around. And when they move, they can move outside the quoted dimensions you get from the manufacturer. Depending on the specific machine you buy, you might need some extra space in front and/or behind it.
2. Elliptical Trainers Need High Ceilings
The pedals of an elliptical trainer are higher off the floor than the belt of a treadmill on average. (If the treadmill is not inclined.)
If your home gym has a low ceiling (7’ or lower), an elliptical trainer might not be the best choice. Especially if you’re a taller person since you could bump your head on the ceiling.
To be able to use an elliptical trainer without any issues (hitting your head on the ceiling) you’ll want your ceiling to be about 1.5 feet higher than your height. Not all ellipticals are the same and some have a taller step up height than others. The higher the step up height, the higher your ceiling has to be.
For more information, check out this post; The best cardio machines to use under low ceilings.
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.