Equipment Shootout: Elliptical Training Vs Treadmill Training
Walk onto the cardio floor of any gym anywhere in the world, and you are guaranteed to find at least two pieces of cardiovascular training equipment; the elliptical machine and the treadmill. Conditioning, fat-loss, and endurance training programs all rely on this training equipment to burn calories and increase the energy demand on the body.
However, the fitness community remains divided on their opinions of which piece of equipment produces the best results. Each side swears by their results and believes that their solution is the most effective at achieving their training goals.
So which machine should you use in your workouts? The elliptical or the treadmill? Which cardio machine burns more calories and most importantly; which machine will help you reach your goals faster? This article aims to give you the answers to these questions and more. Here is our head-to-head shootout of the elliptical machine and the treadmill, lace up your running shoes and let’s get to work.
The History of the Treadmill
The treadmill is the first cardiovascular training tool. Long before anyone ever thought about the elliptical machine, the treadmill was invented in 1818 by Sir William Cubitt. Cubitt’s design was a means to harness the labor of prisoners to produce for society by completing tasks such as grinding grain.
Interestingly enough, the treadmill was also used by Cubitt as a torture device. Some may find this fact ironic considering cardio work is so often compared to torture in the training programs of fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders, and athletes.(1)
William Staub developed the first commercial treadmill in the late sixties. The PaceMaster 600 was the first treadmill that spawned the multi-billion Dollar industry that exists today.
The Positive Benefits of Treadmill Training
- Treadmill training emulates natural movement – The treadmill is the closest replication of naturally walking, jogging, and running.
- Treadmill training offers versatility in training conditions – Control the incline, the speed and program the memory with your favorite workouts.
- Well-researched – Billions of Dollars of research has gone into treadmill design and development. Treadmills have been essential equipment for Olympic teams and the world’s top sports organizations for decades. Treadmills are used by medical professionals to simulate the body’s response to stressful environments. In short, treadmills are tried, tested, and proven to bring results.
- Treadmill training is universal – Treadmills can be found in a variety of locations anywhere in the world. Most hotels, conference venues, and even airport lounges have treadmills for their guests. Treadmills are as easy to find as the road, and they provide the same experience of running regardless of the make, model, or training location.
- Treadmill training suits both athletes and average people – Treadmills give anyone a great workout, regardless of their experience or fitness level. Treadmill training provides a weight bearing effect on the skeletal and muscular system, which is essential for maintaining their strength and mobility.
The Drawbacks of Treadmill Training
- Running posture problems – Research has shown that the length and width of the tread belt can have a negative impact on posture if it does not suit the stride of the person using the machine. The effect of this poor running posture can lead to the development of muscle imbalances and movement problems.
- Difficulty level – Running on a treadmill is still running, and people will always generally shy away from a challenge.
- Hard on the joints – The impact associated with the foot-strike in the running stride is said to have a negative impact on the joints.
- Equipment cost – Some specialist treadmills can be very pricey. A good quality treadmill can cost over five thousand Dollars.
- Safety issues – We have all seen the YouTube videos.
The Benefits of Elliptical Training
The elliptical training machine burst onto the fitness scene in 1995 with the introduction of the Elliptical Cross-trainer or EFX. This machine was a revolution in cardio training, and the original Precor’s design featured a design patent with the forward foot pedal and rear flywheel. Many professional athletes and average gym goers love the elliptical, and it has to be every bit as popular as the treadmill, for a variety of reasons.
- Very low-impact training effect – The elliptical machines most significant advantage is the fact that it eliminates the foot-strike from running. This impact reduction keeps your joints and connective tissues safe and reduces risk of injury and inflammation from occurring.(2)
- Cross-training action – The handles on the machine allow you to work both the upper and lower body.
- Easy reverse action – Running in reverse has a lot of functional advantages. However, its challenging to do and it’s easy to injure yourself on a treadmill running backward. Reverse running on an elliptical machine is almost effortless.
Drawbacks of Elliptical Training
- Resistance – Only the top end elliptical machines found in commercial gyms feature an electronically controlled resistance drive. Cheap home units are all manually controlled with a belt and tensioner and not nearly as effective as a home-based treadmill.
- Momentum – Elliptical machines produce a momentum effect that is not as effective as a static machine.
- Lower weight-beating effect – Elliptical machines do not provide as much stress to the skeletal system as treadmills, this makes them ineffective as training tools for strengthening the bones and connective tissue.
Elliptical or Treadmill – Which is Better for Burning Fat?
In research conducted by the Medical College of Wisconsin, studies showed that jogging on the treadmill for an hour burned between 705 to 866 calories, depending on the intensity of the exercise. In comparison, a study showed that an elliptical machine burned 773 calories. These results give the treadmill a slight edge, however, very little if any worth mentioning.(3)
Elliptical vs. Treadmill – Wrapping Up
Both elliptical machines and treadmills produce a similar training response and training effect. They both burn calories at more or less the same rate, and both do an excellent job of elevating heart-rate. The key difference between the two systems comes in the form of the movement needed to operate the equipment.
Use the equipment that you are familiar with and that produces the best results for you. If you have injuries to your knees, hips, or ankles, consider using the elliptical machine. If you love the feeling of running and the impact of your stride on the ground beneath you, then the treadmill will be your best bet.