Elliptical vs Treadmill: Which is Better?

Elliptical vs Treadmill: Which is Better?

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Whether you are trying to lose weight, burn calories or build muscles, you may be wondering which one is better for a home gym: elliptical vs treadmill. 

By gaining a better understanding of each of these cardio machines, their features and their pros and cons, you can more easily determine which is right for you.

Elliptical vs. Treadmill

To better understand the differences, let's first take a closer look at what is an elliptical and a treadmill.

Treadmills: What are They?

Most people are familiar with treadmills and their basic design, but you may not be aware of the many different features that today’s treadmills typically have to offer.

Designed to allow you to walk, jog or run with the help of a circular belt that moves at a designated speed, treadmills allow you to get a workout without needing to step foot outside.

Most modern treadmills come with several preset programs from which you can choose to help meet your fitness goals.

They also typically have a variety of speed and incline settings that you can select for yourself in order to get the type of workout that you desire.

Ellipticals: What are They?

Elliptical machines have not been around for as long as treadmills, but they have become fairly common place in commercial gyms as well as in home gyms over recent years.

Like a treadmill, an elliptical is a stationary machine that allows you to workout inside rather than going outdoors.

It differs from a treadmill, however, in that it essentially combines running, skiing and stair climbing all in one machine and movement.

Most elliptical machines feature a set of handles, one of which remains stationary and one that moves with the pedals as you complete your movements.

Just as with treadmills, ellipticals typically come with a variety of preset programs from which you can select to help you meet your fitness goals.

You can also make adjustments to the pace, resistance and incline on your own.

Elliptical vs Treadmill: Cardio Workout

Both a treadmill and an elliptical can help you get a great cardio workout.

With a treadmill, you can create a variety of walking, jogging and running routines ranging from springs to endurance runs.

Elliptical vs Treadmill: Muscle Building

A treadmill can be very helpful when it comes to building muscle in the legs and glutes, particularly if you set the machine to high incline to mimic the same effect as doing a hill climb.

An elliptical, however, can help you to target those same leg and glute muscles as well as muscles in your arms and in your core.

Therefore, when it comes to building muscle, an elliptical such as the Diamondback Fitness 1280ef Adjustable Stride elliptical is going to be the superior option.

When you work out with an elliptical, you do more than just move your legs. When used properly, your arms are also used to pull the handles back and forth while your legs pump the pedals.

You can even choose to vary your routine as you intermittently put more emphasis on using your arm muscles versus your leg muscles.

Due to the repetitive nature of the elliptical and its motion, it is always a good idea to change up your routine with different levels of resistance or even pedaling backwards.

This way, you can be sure you are targeting more muscles and getting enough diversity in your workout.

Elliptical vs Treadmill: Impact on Joints

While there are certainly many health benefits associated with running and using a treadmill, it is also well-known that the act of running can be harsh on the joints.

The constant impact associated with running can cause damage to the knees, ankles and other parts of the lower body.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3367158/, on the other hand, does not carry these same risks. In fact, using an elliptical is considered to be a “low-impact” workout.

Elliptical vs Treadmill: Easier on Health Issues

If you have certain health issues, using an elliptical is much easier than a treadmill.

If you are older or if you simply have difficulty with maintaining your balance, the handles on the elliptical give you a way to steady yourself in a way that cannot be achieved with a treadmill.

Similarly, if your stomach is prone to getting upset when jostled about from running, the smooth movement of the elliptical will help to prevent this problem from occurring.

Elliptical vs Treadmill: Encouraging Natural Movements

While the movements that you make with an elliptical certainly are not the ones that you typically make every day, you may be surprised to learn that the same is true with a treadmill.

Many people assume that running, jogging or walking on a treadmill is the same as running, jogging or walking on the ground, but this actually is not true.

This is because the surface upon which you run, jog or walk on a treadmill is a belt and not a solid surface.

As a result, your foot strike is different from usual. This can actually cause you to get out of alignment or to develop a heavier step.

Not only can this through your rhythm out of whack, but it can also lead to knee and shin issues.

To help reduce your risk of encountering these problems, it is essential to invest in a proper fitting shoe with additional cushioning.


Clearly, there are many things that need to be taken into considering when trying to decide between purchasing an elliptical or a treadmill for your home gym.

First, you should consider your fitness goals and your purpose for wanting to purchase the machine.

If you are a runner and you need something to supplement your running for those days when you don’t want to go outside, the treadmill is probably going to be your best choice.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for a good all-around machine for cardio and building muscle, the elliptical is the clear winner for most people.

Of course, you also need to consider your personal workout preferences. After all, you won’t get any use from either machine if you can’t fine joy in using it!