Front Drive Vs. Rear Drive Ellipticals: Which One is Best?

Are you looking to buy an elliptical for your home gym? Are you confused about what to pick between the front and rear drive elliptical?

If yes, the article will explore both design types and help you pick the ideal elliptical machine.

Training with an elliptical machine can provide you with a good aerobic workout. You can improve your overall fitness, stamina, and endurance.

Front and rear drive are the two popular elliptical designs. The rear drive model was first created and patented by Precor. Other fitness brands had to get creative with the elliptical design or pay Precor to use their patented design. Thus, the front drive elliptical came into existence.

The movement pattern on the front drive is like walking uphill, whereas the rear drive offers a flatter experience. The front drive provides higher-intensity workouts with its incline and resistance levels. And rear drive models are easier on the joints.

So, what is the difference between front vs. rear drive elliptical, and what should you choose? Let us find out.

What Are Front Drive Ellipticals?

What Are Front Drive Ellipticals?



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The front drive ellipticals have their flywheel positioned at the front. The design has a natural incline to it. You may find yourself slightly leaning into the machine towards the handlebars while working out.

The design itself simulates the experience of walking uphill. Then you have further incline and resistance adjustments, adding intensity to your workouts.

The flywheel position lets manufacturers develop compact designs. Thus the machine takes up less space and is cost-friendly. But this also results in a shorter stride length which can have a higher impact on your joints.


  • The elliptical takes up less floor space.
  • It offers better incline and resistance levels.
  • Several budget-friendly ellipticals are on offer.


  • It can have high maintenance costs.
  • It can be comparatively noisier.
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What Are Rear Drive Ellipticals?

What Are Rear Drive Ellipticals?


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The rear drive elliptical has the flywheel positioned at the back of the machine. The movement pattern is similar to walking or jogging on a flat surface. Your overall posture is maintained; you do not strain your back while training on a rear drive.

The machine typically offers a minimum stride length of 20 inches. This helps stimulate a more natural stride and works well for taller people as well. It can also provide effective workouts for people with joint issues.

These machines are comparatively bigger in size and also cost more. They have fewer moving parts, so the maintenance costs are lower.


  • It offers a longer stride length.
  • It has a low impact on the joints.
  • It has lower maintenance costs and is durable in the long run.


  • These ellipticals tend to be expensive.
  • It needs more floor space.
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Front vs. Rear Drive Elliptical – How Do They Fare?

So we now know about the two elliptical machine designs and their pros and cons. Next, let us consider their features, cost, and maintenance to understand which elliptical type is the best.

1. Incline

One of the major distinguishing factors between front and rear drive ellipticals is the incline and resistance they offer.

If you prefer working out with adjustable incline and resistance levels, the front drive elliptical would be the better choice. The position of the flywheel in the front drive offers a natural incline form. The design mimics the experience of walking uphill.

On the other hand, rear drive ellipticals mimic the experience of walking or jogging on a flat surface. Your back will be in a much more upright position. Rear drives also come with incline and resistance level adjustments, but the variety pales compared to the front drive.

So, if you are looking for a high-intensity workout overall with good resistance, opt for the front drive elliptical.

2. Floor Space

Floor Space

Ellipticals can significantly vary in size depending on make and model. But in general, the front drive machines take up less floor space. As the flywheel is placed at the front, the design can be made more compact by reducing the stride length.

The flywheel position at the back and the flatter movement pattern make the rear drive ellipticals take up more space. But they do offer better stride length and are suitable for taller users.

So, if you are building your home gym and space is a constraint, pick the front drive design. If you can afford the space or do not want to compromise on the stride length, go with rear drive.

3. Maintenance

If we compare the number of moving parts, the front drive elliptical has more of them. So this means more parts that go through wear and tear. In the long run, the cost can add up as you may repair or replace these parts.

The rear drive comparatively has fewer parts, so the maintenance costs are also on the lower end. The fewer parts also result in quieter operation and long durability.

Of course, every elliptical machine, front or rear drive, comes with its own set of cleaning, storing, and maintenance instructions. And following them is imperative to improve durability.

4. Cost


The front drive machines will be the better option if you are looking for cost-friendly ellipticals.

The front drive machines are not cheap as such; you will still be investing about $1000+ for a quality elliptical machine from a good brand. For example, the NordicTrack Commercial 9.9 model is originally priced at $1499. You could get the machine at a sale price of $999.

On the other hand, if you look at ellipticals from Precor, they start from around $2799 and can go up to $10,000+. The rear drive ellipticals are more durable with low maintenance costs.

If we consider cost as the sole metric, front drive ellipticals have the upper hand with several budget-friendly options.

5. Popular Ellipticals

Here are some popular front drive ellipticals you can explore:

Here are some popular rear drive ellipticals you can explore:

How Should You Choose an Elliptical?

Front and rear drive ellipticals have their pros and cons. But they both provide an effective workout. The choice between the two comes down to your requirements and budget.

Here are some factors that can help you pick the elliptical that best suits your needs.

1. Stride Length

Stride Length

Front drive ellipticals typically have a shorter stride length of around 17 to 18 inches because of their compact size. This works fine for most users. If you are a taller user, then you would need a minimum of 20 inches stride length, which rear drive ellipticals provide.

2. Build Quality

Buying an elliptical is an investment. Even quality budget-friendly options are around the $600+ mark. So pay attention to the build quality, as the machine should last you for years.

I recommend you stick to well-known brands. There are better options than buying a cheap elliptical to deal with high maintenance costs or the machine falling apart.

3. Weight Limit

Choose an elliptical that supports the weight of all the users intending to use it. Cheap machines with low-weight capacities can be a safety hazard. The machine may not be able to provide enough stability, and there would be a risk of it tipping off.

4. Warranty

A good warranty period indicates the brand’s confidence in the machine’s build quality. It also provides you with a safety net in case of any issues with the elliptical.

What Are The Benefits of Using Ellipticals?

What Are The Benefits of Using Ellipticals?
  • Are you on the fence about buying an elliptical machine? Here are some benefits that can help with your purchase decision.
  • A proper elliptical workout targets major muscle groups like quads, glutes, hamstrings, back, triceps, biceps, deltoid, and core muscles.
  • It can also help you improve heart and lung health. This can help build your stamina and endurance and give you more energy to complete daily tasks.
  • You can bring versatility to your workout sessions. The incline and resistance levels can simulate walking, running, and hiking experiences.
  • The ellipticals offer low-impact workouts as your feet never leave the pedals. The elliptical motion is also easier on your joints and muscles. So you get the benefit of walking or running but with less impact.

Overall, an elliptical can be a good addition to your home gym.


Is the front or rear flywheel elliptical better?

Front flywheel ellipticals offer better incline and resistance. They take up less space and are budget-friendly. On the other hand, rear flywheel ellipticals offer a natural stride, are easier on the joints, and are durable in the long run.

Can ellipticals help me lose weight?

Yes. According to Healthline, an elliptical can help you burn more calories in a 30-minute session than other cardio machines like a stationary bike. It can help you work out your upper and lower body. You can also burn more fat with interval training.

Is it necessary to place mats under front drive ellipticals?

It is not a necessity, but placing a mat under the front drive elliptical can provide more stability, reduce noise and protect your floor from any damage.

How long should I train on the elliptical?

On average, 30 minutes on the elliptical for five days a week can give you a good workout. If you are warming up for strength training, a 10 to 15-minute session should be enough. If you are focussing on cardio, keep the workout time below an hour.


Front vs. rear drive elliptical – the choice boils down to your requirement.

If you are on a budget and want a cardio machine that offers a high-intensity workout, the front drive would be the better option. It is smaller in size and provides several incline and resistance levels. It can be a good design for home gyms.

On the other hand, rear drive ellipticals offer a natural stride and are easier on the joints. These machines can be larger in size and more expensive. But they have lower maintenance costs and are more durable.

Both ellipticals offer effective workouts and are capable of meeting your fitness goals. Consider factors like build quality, stride length, weight limit, and warranty when choosing an elliptical.

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