Elliptical Trainer vs Step Machine
Stuck choosing between elliptical trainers and step machines? We’ve put together some of the advantages of both so that you can make up your mind (if both are out of the question).
Elliptical trainers, or cross trainers as they’re sometimes called, are far more versatile than you might think. Compared with step machines, if the same old thing each day for your workout is an issue, elliptical trainers are probably your best bet.
Whereas the movement is somewhat fixed, with a few variables you will be able to exercise different muscles. For example, by squatting back slightly so that your weight and the resistance is more behind you, your hamstrings will get a better workout. If you shift your weight to your toes, you’ll hit your quads. You have the option to cycle in reverse on an elliptical trainer too, which will also help target these leg muscles. Let’s not forget that your core will greatly benefit. Your abs – particularly lower abs and obliques – will be targeted with the twisting and leg-stretching motion.
Last but not least, of the two machines, elliptical trainers will provide your arms with the best workout, also leaving you the option to emphasise your leg workout if you opt for the stationary instead of moving handles.
One of the main traits of cross trainers is the resistance they offer, which will tone and strengthen your lower body. You won’t be able to pick up as much speed on an elliptical trainer as you would on a cycling machine or treadmill, but that isn’t to say it’s not ideal for cardio. To make the most of the cardio, focus on your steps per minute (SPM). If you’re looking for a sprint workout or high intensity, aim for upwards of 140 SPM.
Stepping machines, or steppers, strengthen and tone your leg muscles by targeting the ones you use when exerting yourself to climb stairs. There is little in the way of variety here, though by shifting your posture you may lean forward to better target your quads and calves, and your hamstrings and glutes by sitting back. As with the cross trainer, if your aim is endurance training, focus on your pace in place of resistance settings on the machine. For aerobic fitness, the two machines tie even with both offerings highly effective cardio vascular workouts.
When it comes to burning calories, the elliptical machine beats the stepper because it puts more muscles to use, thus using up more energy. Cross-trainers work your pecs, triceps, hips, quads, hamstrings, calves and lower shins. Stepping machines work fewer; as long as you keep good posture, a stepper will work your glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings and calf muscles, but if the aim is to tone your glutes, the stepper wins as (with good posture) you would bear most of the strain and resistance on your glutes.
In terms of injuries, both offer a similar level of stability and there’s not much risk of pulled muscles as there would be with a treadmill, due to the limited range of movement. Your joints, however, are always up for consideration when performing any exercise. Often it’s easy to think only in terms of cardio and muscles, but it’s your ankles, knees and hips that see the strain. This is another area where the elliptical trainer wins because of its gliding motion and the fact that your feet remain in contact with the paddles at all times so that there is no impact. However, steps are often recommended in place of cycling machines where knee injuries are a concern.