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What Elliptical Stride Do I Need?
So you’ve decided to get yourself an elliptical (or decided to use one at the gym)! Great – it’s now time to think about how to use one.
Today we won’t be talking about what exercises to do while you’re on the machine – we’ve talked extensively about that in the past. But there are some adjustments you should be aware of before you hop on – most importantly, the elliptical stride.
What’s that, you say?
It’s actually a pretty simple concept.
Basically, elliptical stride is the distance between the farthest points of the steps made up of that rubber-metal mesh that your feet stand on as you’re working up a sweat. Here’s the catch though – if you don’t pick an appropriate elliptical with the proper stride length you could either injure yourself or worse…waste your time!
Plus, they’re built to match your natural walking stride.
As we’ve talked about in the past, the elliptical also helps you improve your balance and targets your leg muscles. You can guess what happens if there is a lack of resistance or too much. If it’s too short, it’ll feel too tight. If it’s too long, it’ll feel like you’re wobbling in Jell-O. Either case is a no-no if your looking for optimal results.
So, What Elliptical Stride Do I Need?
Here’s a rough estimate for most people: 20 inches.
Why a rough estimate?
When determining what elliptical stride you need, you are generally going to use your height as a starting point, but this method isn’t perfect.
That’s because measuring “height” doesn’t take some important things into consideration.
The truth of the matter is that the length of your legs is what’s really important when choosing elliptical stride length and just like some of us are gifted with hair that they can glide their fingers through while others are given… well… nothing – some people have longer legs/torsos.
That means that there exists a spectrum instead of a one-size-fits-all solution. But 20’’ is good enough if you happen to be within the height range 5’3-6’0.
If you’re of a shorter stature and you’re asking yourself, “What elliptical stride do I need?” please go for a shorter length stride. You’ll push yourself too hard and reap little benefit from it. On the other hand, if you’re above 6’0, then go for a longer stride. You don’t want to start lifting your heels like a ballerina on an elliptical.
But let’s back up a bit. Why does this matter again?
Your goal on the elliptical should be to mimic your natural walking stride as close as possible. Obviously, certain features of the elliptical mean that it’s always going to be a little different from the real thing, and that’s ok! There are benefits to using the elliptical compared to just walking that you don’t want to give up!
Regardless, if you want to get an elliptical for your home it’s important that you choose one with the right stride length to get the most out of your purchase.
Luckily, there are a variety of machines that cater to various heights.
Short (5’3″ or Below)
If you’re of a shorter stature, say 5’3 or below, then you want to be looking for ellipticals that have a stride length of 14-16 inches. This ensures that you are comfortable enough to focus on your workout and not on exerting yourself to push the machine. Remember, you don’t want to hurt yourself while working out!
The XTERRA Fitness FS3.0 Elliptical Machine Trainer is a great choice if you’re on a budget!
Medium (5’3″ – 5’7″)
If your height is within the range 5’3 to 5’7 then an elliptical stride length of 16-18 inches is appropriate for you. This length should be sufficient enough for you to plant your feet in a relaxed manner so that you can benefit from the upper body workout as well.
An Fitness Reality E5500XL is a great fit if you’re looking for something that falls within that medium range!
Tall (6’0″ or Taller)
If you’re on the taller side, then look for ellipticals with a stride length of 20 inches or more. The Sunny Health & Fitness Electric Elliptical Trainer is a compact elliptical with a 20” stride which is something you don’t see very often outside of the gym.
But what if you’re looking for a solution that helps out the whole family? Do I need to buy three ellipticals?! What elliptical stride do I need for my whole family?!
Ellipticals come in two forms: fixed and adjustable.
If you’re buying one for just yourself then a fixed one should get the job done. But if the whole family is going to be working out, go for an adjustable one that allows you to change the stride according to the stature of the person on the machine.
How much you can change the length varies but as a thumb rule you should be able to adjust 2-3 inches. Be sure to check those settings out before you make a purchase!
Still not convinced of the whole elliptical stride thing? Here are some benefits that come with them:
The Benefits of Having the Correct Stride Length
1. Full body workout
If you choose a stride that is appropriate for you, then you stand a chance to burn 300 calories in just 30 minutes – and that’s in addition to simultaneously exercising your upper and lower body.
2. Easier on the joints
Since you are equally focused on the upper and lower body, while avoiding any hard impacts motions, you are doing your joints a favor. They’ll come to your aid when you get on the treadmill!
3. Improve balance
If you can maintain your balance while increasing the speed of your workouts, you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of your desired environment. Brains and brawn y’all!
What Happens If I Have the Wrong Stride Length?
Okay, we’ve talked about the importance of stride length throughout the course of this article. But as the old saying goes: “You can only break the rules once you understand them.”.
Technically speaking, when you change the stride length you can target different muscle groups. So even if you’re on the shorter side – you can still get away with a 18” stride length sometimes. The same formula applies to the taller folks as well.
Just remember to not overdo it. You want to break the rules only as long as they challenge you. When you start feeling discomfort (not to be confused with resistance), then you know that it’s time to stop.
Alright, now that you’re well equipped with some nice statistics about choosing the right elliptical you can confidently make a purchase.
Hey I’m Patrick!
I built my first home gym in 2012, when I decided I was tired of waiting in line for the squat rack and I started GGC in 2020 to help people find the info they need to improve their fitness and their lives.
I’m passionate about fitness, especially when it comes to working out at home. I’ve learned a lot over the years about what to do and what not to do, and my mission is to share that knowledge with the world!