Elliptical Trainer vs Treadmill

treadmill vs elliptical

The treadmill has typically been the most popular piece of exercise equipment for both at home and in traditional gyms.

Nevertheless, the recent popularity of the impact free elliptical trainer has given the treadmill a run for its money.

Let's examine the elliptical trainer versus the treadmill. How does it compare? What are the benefits of each? Is one better than the other?

Both the elliptical trainer and treadmill are great for beginners

First off, both the elliptical trainer and the treadmill are excellent equipment for getting a great workout for your heart. The treadmill is terrific for beginners because you can start out at a slower pace and work your way up to a light jog and even a full out run.

Besides the speed, you can also adjust the treadmill's incline giving you a greater workout of your hamstrings, quadriceps and gluteus.

The elliptical is also fantastic for beginners. Mimicking the same movement as walking, the elliptical trainer is easy to learn and use.

The elliptical trainer provides a low impact workout versus the treadmill

The elliptical's low impact movement makes it a great choice for anyone with joint, ankle, hip or back problems. The elliptical trainer is low impact because your feet remaining on the pedals throughout the movement, there is no impact on the ground.

In fact, scientific research has proven that the elliptical trainer is a more favourable exercise for overweight patients or individuals with back, knee, or other lower leg limitations.

The treadmill is not considered a low impact exercise. Yes, the treadmill mat is less jarring than running on cement; however, your joints still absorb a significant amount of impact every time you step down onto the mat. In fact, on a treadmill, your body is absorbing up to two and half times your body weight.

Both provide similar physiological benefits

Research studies have proven that elliptical trainers and treadmills are virtually identical in terms of heart rate, perceived exertion and oxygen retention. 2 So, when evaluating the elliptical trainer versus the treadmill, you are getting the same quality cardiovascular exercise and training benefits no matter which machine you choose.

The elliptical trainer with handlebars provides a great cross training work out versus the treadmill

The elliptical or oval shaped motion of the elliptical trainer mimics the normal motion of the foot, the extension of the leg and the rotation of the hip during walking or running. This elliptical motion uses all of your leg muscles, giving you a very effective lower body workout.

In addition to this fantastic lower body workout, an elliptical trainer with handlebars concurrently works your upper body. Approximately 30 percent of your upper body gets a workout. The treadmill only works the lower body.

In fact, many treadmill users ‘cheat' by hanging onto the handrail provided on the machine. Research shows that by hanging on, treadmill users are not burning as many calories and are creating an unnatural running stride.

Not only will get you get toned arms using an elliptical trainer versus the treadmill, but the arm action actually causes your heart rate to climb more quickly. In theory, this means you need less time to achieve more results.

If you are a runner, the treadmill allows you to mimic your outdoor running whereas the elliptical does not

If you train for running events, then a treadmill is likely your preferred choice. The treadmill allows you to train indoors while performing the same exercise that you do outside. The elliptical trainer will give you an excellent workout, but may not prepare you as well as the treadmill does.

The elliptical trainer allows you to reverse direction whereas the treadmill does not

When you're at the gym, you may notice many elliptical users moving in the reverse direction. When you change from a forward movement to a backward movement, you are working different leg muscles. Using the elliptical trainer in both directions during a workout allows you to utilize and exercise all of your leg muscles.

No matter which piece of equipment you prefer, both the elliptical trainer and treadmill will help you build bone density, improve your cardiovascular health, increase your energy levels, and burn fat and calories.

If you workout in a health club, try varying your cardio workout by using several different pieces of equipment. If you have a home based gym, try out both the treadmill and the elliptical trainer to determine which one you like the best.

All the best,


As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.

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