What Is Elliptical Stride Length And Why It’s Important

Have you noticed the phrase ‘stride length’ in elliptical trainer context. Are you not sure what it means and why it’s important? Here’s what you want to know.

The stride length of an elliptical is how far the pedals move forwards and backwards. Ellipticals have different stride lengths to accommodate people of different heights. Longer legs need a longer stride. If it’s too short/long, the the strides can feel choppy, uncomfortable and can cause injuries.

Let’s get into the details of stride length, why it’s important and what’s the practical differences are.

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 same spot on 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.

Why Is Elliptical Stride Length Important?

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.

However, if the stride length becomes too long, things can become a little uncomfortable. The longer the stride length, the further you spread the legs (forwards and backwards). At a certain point this starts to become uncomfortable.

When the stride length of your elliptical is too long, you probably won’t use the best form (pivoting the hips) which can lead to some injuries.

If you’re wondering what the best stride length is for your height, look at the chart below. Those are the ideal stride lengths. It’s not a big problem to be a few inches off that. In commercial gyms 20″ strides are common because they fit the most people.

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

Types Of Elliptical Machines And Stride Length

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. It’s pretty easy to see where the flywheel is located. Just look for a round thing the pedals are connected to.

Also be aware that there are elliptical trainers with adjustable stride length. That means you could get a machine that works well for all the people in your family. The best option in this category is the Sole Fitness E95S. It is a high quality, sturdy machine with many features but also a stride length that’s adjustable from 18″ – 24″. That means it’ll suit most people perfectly fine.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to HomeGymResource.com. After working out in many different gyms for almost 20 years and helping people build their own home gyms, i've learned a few things i'd like to share with you.

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