When you are reading through all of the functions and features of each model it is easy to be impressed yet drown in detail, with lots of different gadgets to play with. The key to making the right choice is to work out if you are going to use them or not. Each feature has a big benefit is you will use it for your training regime. Some of the features you may already have on things like fitness watches. We are going to go through a few and see how they will work for you.
A lot of the mid range to high end models have LCD screens that give you a lot of statistics while you are training. This is a great feature for most of us as it presents the training statistics in a clear and easy to read format.
If you don’t have the best eyesight it is worth going for the largest screen that you can, the bigger the characters, the easier it will be to read at a glance. If you are training to very high levels and pushing your body in interval training it can become difficult to read your statistics at a glance on a small screen. A larger LCD will mean you can keep glancing at them at your leisure until you are finished.
On the other hand if you do all of your training from an independent training watch or heart rate monitor, this may be a redundant feature on your cross trainer. If you are taking your statistics from your watch then you may not need the screen. You may be doing long endurance style workouts where you only check your progress every 10 minutes, if this is the case a small screen will do the job very well.
For pure aesthetics it is nice to have a big LCD on the elliptical trainer, it makes it look more advanced, and adds to the quality of the trainer. Most of the mid range models upwards do come with an LCD anyway, but it’s well worth considering.
Heart Rate Monitor
This feature is used by a lot of people to measure their effort when training. Built in programs can be set to work to your heart rate levels. These programs vary to work on a steady heart rate or high heart rate dependant on what style of training you want to do. If you work to heart rate programs, this is a great feature and usually your heart rate statistics will be displayed on the monitor.
Some models will pick up a heart rate monitor that is strapped to your body, and others have hand heart rate monitors that you grab while you are training. Both are great for seeing how hard you are working.
If you have an independent heart rate monitor this is a feature you will probably not need. However if you want to make the best use of the built in heart rate programs it is a brilliant feature, as it can interact with the workout as you progress.
For those who are new to training this is a good feature to consider, as you get used to different training methods you may well start to use the heart rate programs as you progress. Monitoring your heart rate is one of the most effective ways to gauge just how hard you are working and a great guide to controlling the type of work out you are doing.
Multiple Resistance Levels
When you are looking at some of the models with over fifteen resistance levels, you may think this is a bit over the top. Well, there are a few things to consider when you are weighing up how important this is.
The trainers with less resistance levels are going to have a bigger jump between levels, this could be a bit uncomfortable when you are going to the next level up. On the other hand, if you have a lot of close together resistance levels, you will be able to seamlessly move up to the next level.
If you are a beginner it is good to be able to gradually step up the levels without putting to much strain on your body. Once you are fitter, it is a little easier to jump up to the higher levels.
Another benefit with some models is that you can fine tune the cross trainer to suit you with more resistance levels. You will be able to get the set up just right for the workout you are doing. This can be important if you are working on many long endurance style workouts where you need to get your effort levels just right.
Adjustable Stride Length
This really is a feature that is worth investing in for a number of reasons. Not all of the budget machines have this, but it is something that is good for everyone at every level.
The action that the elliptical motion gives you while training is designed to make it smooth on your body and have less impact on your joints. The adjustable stride length can be adjusted to suit the length of your legs so that you can get the optimum length to match your stride.
Different stride lengths are also suited to different styles of training. The shortest stride lengths are aimed at a walking pace going through intensity levels until you get up to the longer stride lengths for sprinting. The rough guide to stride lengths for different activities is below:
- 14 inches (35cm) for walking pace.
- 15 inches (38cm) to 17 inches (43 cm) for speed walking pace.
- 18 inches (40cm) to 20 inches (50 cm) for running pace.
- 20 plus inches (50 cm plus) for sprinting pace.
Above is a rough guide but you can instantly see the variety in lengths of stride for the different activities.
If you look at this from the point of view of different athletes and users you can see the importance. For the beginner, you will probably start off by training at very low intensity. Maybe even working on a lot of walking style exercises before moving into the harder programs and by the end of a few months of training you could be hitting the sprint intervals. All of these need varying stride lengths.
The experienced athletes may well be working on a combination of shorter high intensity programs combined with long endurance workouts. The longer endurance workouts will require a shorter stride length than the high intensity sprints.
Adjustable Incline Setting
Another nice to have feature is an adjustable incline, if you can afford to buy a model that includes this. When you adjust the incline of your trainer it will increase the height of your step. This makes it harder to keep working and in turn makes the work out a lot more intensive. You will burn more calories by increasing the incline.
The other benefit is that by changing the motion and increasing the size of the step you are changing the muscles that you are working on. If you are looking for a good all round session to tone the most possible muscles you could vary the incline during the session. Or focus on one incline setting per work out.
This is a great feature and not a gimmick. It will make your trainer a more all-round workout machine.