Gym Equipment

5 Critical Rear Drive VS Front Drive Elliptical Differences

rear drive vs front drive elliptical

An elliptical machine, often called a cross trainer, is a great option if you want to work the muscles of your lower body, increase your heart rate and lose excess body fat.

However, with different types of ellipticals available you may be unsure as to which one is right for you based on your fitness goals.

Recommended Reading – 3 Critical Treadmill Vs Treadclimber Cardio Comparisons

One of the most significant differences between different models is whether they have a front drive or rear drive design.  

Let’s look at this in more detail and whether or not it will impact your workouts.  

Rear Drive VS Front Drive Elliptical 

The main difference between front drive ellipticals and rear drive models is the location of the flywheel.  

The flywheel is the component that provides resistance and continuous motion as you work out.  

It can impact how smoothly the machine runs, how it feels, the amount of noise that’s produced and range of motion for the user.  

Front drive models have a flywheel located at the front of the machine so, when you work out, you’ll be directly behind the wheel.  

Front Drive Elliptical

Conversely, rear-drive elliptical trainers have the flywheel positioned to the rear of the machine, meaning that it’s located behind you during your workout.   

Rear Drive Elliptical

Front Drive vs Rear Drive Elliptical: The Basics

Both front and rear-drive ellipticals have their own benefits and drawbacks.

In the following sections, we’ll explore the key differences between front and rear-drive models and the pros and cons of each design.  

Whether you’re deciding which one to use in your local gym or maybe you’re looking to invest in one for your home gym, we can help you make the best decision.  

​Space Considerations

A rear drive elliptical design tends to be more compact and have a smaller footprint, making them a good choice if you don’t have much space.  

Their smaller size also makes them a good option for a home gym.  

However, it’s worth noting that whilst rear-drive machines may be smaller in size, they may not be as stable as a front drive design.

Be sure to factor this in before deciding on which one is right for you.  

On the flip side, front-drive machines tend to be much bulkier with larger flywheels and sometimes have larger foot pedals.  

Unless you have vast amounts of room, front drive models are often more suited to commercial gyms.  

Functionality & Design

One of the biggest advantages of rear wheel ellipticals is that they provide a more natural stride length.

This is because the side of the pedals are positioned closer to your body, which allows you to take longer strides. 

In contrast, front-drive ellipticals have a shorter stride length and it likened with using a stair climber rather than a natural walking or running motion.  

If you’re wanting a low impact workout, the rear wheel design would be better.  

Elliptical Machine Differences

The longer stride lengths and flatter motion make it much easier on the joints.  

Another difference is the pedal motion. 

Rear-drive ellipticals tend to have a smoother, more fluid pedal movement, which can be easier on the joints. 

Front-drive ellipticals, on the other hand, can feel a little more choppy and jerky, which may be harder on the knees and ankles.  

Rear drive ellipticals tend to offer a less restrictive range of motion which is similar to walking. 

In terms of noise, both most elliptical models are relatively quiet, but rear drive models tend to be quieter due to their position of the flywheel.

Different Adjustments 

Adjustable incline options and stride length are also important factors to consider.

Some rear-drive ellipticals will allow you to alter the incline level which can simulate running up hills giving you a more intense more intense workout.  

Front-drive ellipticals, however, sometimes have an adjustable stride length, which can be beneficial for users of different heights.  

Front Drive Elliptical Adjustable

Resistance levels are another consideration.

Both front-drive and rear-drive ellipticals offer different levels of resistance, but the placement of the flywheel can affect the type of resistance.

The different types of resistance can vary between eddy current, magnetic and air.  

​Budget Considerations

Often exercise equipment can be very costly, especially when you’re looking to buy a cardio machine.  

If you’re on a budget and want something in a lower price range, home use models are always going to be more cost effective.  

Typically, rear wheel ellipticals are lower cost when compared to front wheel models.  

Exercise On Front Drive Cardio Elliptical

That being said, you can still get commercial grade rear wheel designs which can run into the thousands. 

Maintenance Requirements

If you want an elliptical cross-trainer which is low maintenance, then a rear drive model is your best bet.  

Rear drive cross-trainers are less complicated in terms of design, meaning that less moving parts are involved making them easier to look after and maintain.  

Rear Drive VS Front Drive Elliptical Summary

Here is a quick summary of the main differences between front drive and rear drive ellipticals:

Front Drive MachinesRear Drive Machines
Flywheel located at the front of the machineFlywheel located at the back of the machine
More compactBulkier
Less incline levelsMore incline levels
Can be noisierQuieter
May require more maintenanceLess maintenance

When choosing between front drive and rear drive ellipticals, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and what you are looking for in a machine.

If you have limited space and want more incline levels, a front drive machine may be the way to go.

If you want a more natural range of motion and a quieter machine, a rear drive machine may be the better choice.

Elliptical Machine VS The Treadmill

Now that we’ve gone over the major differences between the types of elliptical machines, let consider how the elliptical is different when compared to another popular cardio machine, the treadmill.  

The key difference between the elliptical machine and the treadmill is the impact on your joints.

An elliptical machine is much easier on the knees, ankles, and hips due to your feet remaining on the foot pedals throughout your workout.  

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Conversely, running on a treadmill places more stress on the joints making it high impact.  

Both machines can help with fat loss but the degree to which will very much depend on how much you exert yourself during your workout.  

Even though they are quite different, both machines engage the entire body providing an effective cardiovascular workout by increasing your heart rate helping to improve respiration and endurance levels. 

The one you choose depends on which you prefer and any pre-existing conditions that should be factored in.  


To sum up, no matter what elliptical style you go for, both rear drive and front drive ellipticals have their advantages and disadvantages. 

Rear drive models tend to provide a more natural feeling stride, similar to walking or running on a flat surface, whilst front drive ellipticals feel more like walking uphill with adjustable stride lengths.  

When choosing the best type of elliptical trainer for you, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and specific needs. For small spaces, a front drive unit may be the better option.  

However, if a natural feeling stride is more important, a rear drive elliptical may be the way to go.

Overall, both types of ellipticals provide a great low-impact and efficient workout option that can help improve cardiovascular health, increase stamina, and burn calories.

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