Making Strides: The History of the Elliptical Machine

Elliptical technology has been described as “the 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.” That preferred pattern is where the word “elliptical” originates – egg-shaped, or oval. And that’s the pattern that’s created with an elliptical’s pedals. Created in 1995 by Precor, the elliptical was an instant success due to its minimal-impact cardiovascular workout. It was the first machine that worked equally as well for the beginner as it did for a trained athlete. According to, “the first models of elliptical machines had fixed upper handles providing you with balance while you were exercising the lower parts of your body. Later however, the upper parts were made mobile and were, thereby, included into the exercise process, making it even more effective.” After studying Precor’s model, Reebok took things up a notch, improving on the Precor model by adding an upper-body workout to the existing lower-body one. The result? A calorie-burning, body-torching workout that was on everyone’s radar.

Today’s machines come complete with moveable handles which are designed to exercise the arms, back, legs, torso, and other parts of your body. But, before you go crazy designing your new machine with all the bells and whistles, get acclimated with the basics. Average elliptical features:

  • The Drive SystemFront drive systems can typically be found on lower-end machines and feel somewhat rough. Rear drive systems are typically found on higher-end machines and are much smoother and more comfortable.
  • Resistance Systementry level/under $500 machines typically have a manual system that can be adjusted by hand, mid-range (or best for home-use) machines use a motorized brake system, and high-end machines use a reliable and so-smooth eddy current break system.
  • Stride length – On a lower end machine, the stride length is set at the factory. Mid and high-range machines allow the user to adjust their stride, making for a more personalized workout.

Today’s machines also offer a variety of extras including LCD panels, heart rate monitors, storage areas, and more. They’re all the rage because they use handles that are pumped in combination with the foot pedals, imitating the motion of cross-country skiing and fusing it with running. When you’re on the market for a new machine, it’s definitely okay to purchase from a well-known merchant like Costco or Target, but for the most part, it’s best to buy yours directly from the manufacturer – this will give you access to all of the knowledge you need to choose the model that’s best for you and your needs. When purchasing, there are a few things to consider:

  • How much are you willing to spend?
  • Where will you store the machine? Does your current living space have room for it?
  • Warranty! This is a big one, especially since many manufacturers offer lifetime guarantees.
  • Which features are important to you and which you could live without?
  • Maintenance! Opt for a machine that doesn’t require monthly maintenance. It’ll make your life much

Elliptical machines are one of the most widely-used ways to workout. They increase aerobic capacity, meaning they’ll help you perform activities for a longer period of time without getting out of breath, and they offer a comfortable way to work out since your feet stay still on the gliding platforms. Moreover, they give you a total body workout and burn more calories than most workouts – up to 400 in just 30 minutes! And, with a variety of styles and price options, there truly is one for everyone.