Elliptical machines are a firm favourite among gym-users because of the way that they help people achieve a full-body workout for improved fitness. The popularity of these machines means that there will always be brands out there trying to find the next new feature or quirky selling point.
In some cases, these new features are actually of benefit to the user. They can improve the workout, provide better comfort or just make the whole experience more entertaining. Others can seem a little gimmicky and might not have been such a great idea. One feature that we are beginning to see more and more in elliptical machines and similar multi-functional cross trainers is a 360-degree motion on the footplates. Is this a good idea? There are mixed opinions from users with some loving the additional advantages the concept brings and other questioning its long-term benefits. Below are some of the pros and cons to help you make up your mind
The benefits of a 360-degree motion include improved fitness and options for more experienced users
A 360 motion on the footplates of an elliptical machine means that you have a 360-degree range of motion. Most machines let you glide back at forth whereas these also go to the sides. Therefore, you can try out a lot more exercises and movements. You can take the legs out to the sides while holding onto the handlebars as though trying to do the splits. You can also rotate the legs in a more circular motion. The best machines will also have isolated motion where you can move one leg at a time. This is perfect for those that are new to the exercise and aren’t confident enough to try to work both legs at once.
Why is this so beneficial?
There are three key benefits here in using this 360-degree motion.
Here you get the chance to use muscles that aren’t engaged so much with the standard back and forth movement. One area that is difficult to tone and lose fat from is the inner thigh. This split leg motion will help you feel the burn in this area in ways you may not have expected. Then there is the impact of the circular motion on the movement and flexibility of the hip joint. Users with tight hips may be able to reduce pain and improve mobility in this area.
These exercises are all made so much easier when the machine has different settings on the resistance or other fun features. You should be able to work out at your own pace and progress with the machine until you notice those differences in tone, strength and flexibility. It also helps if the company provides an exercise chart with the different motions and modes. Some teach users how to “ski” with the machine. This rhythm is a great way to engage lots of different muscles and enjoy the exercise. Put on an episode from a box set on a table in the device holder and you can ski for ages.
What about the potential downsides of this 360-degree approach?
There are two concerns to mention about this 360-degree motions. First of all, there are some that question the long-term benefits for health and fitness because of the placement of the footplates. The mechanics and design of an elliptical machine often mean that the footplates aren’t naturally-positioned beneath your feet. The stride and motions don’t necessarily match up to a natural motion of walking or skiing.
Some wonder what impact that all has on the joints and posture. Could an unnatural stance and movements for a long time each day create an underlying issue with the posture of the back or the position of the hips? Or, does the increased core strength and hip flexibility from the workout cancel that out? In the end, the product isn’t going to help if it isn’t comfortable for the user and put those with hip or back issues at further risk. It is a small risk, but one to keep in mind.
The other issue here is the learning curve for experienced users. Elliptical machines are a bit intimidating for newcomers at the best of times. We understand what we are meant to do with a treadmill or an exercise bike. There is more coordination and concentration needed here. Therefore, it could be too much to ask first-timers to climb onboard something that can walk, jog, ski and help them do partial splits, especially if there are dual-function arms too.
A good 360 elliptical machine needs the right specification
Don’t forget that the worth and comfort of any machine can depend on the quality and construction rather than the theory behind it. There will be some brands that don’t quite understand the ideal placement for these footplates or can’t adapt their machine to make the 360-degree motion work. Others will take the time to ensure that the motion is comfortable and advantageous to the user.
Therefore, it is important to take the time to compare machines when looking for a 360-degree model. Don’t get too fixated on the motion of the plates and forget about the other dimensions and features of the machine.
Are the footplates big and sturdy enough to support you as you move?
Do you have additional comfort and support from the frame and handlebars?
Are the footplates too far off the ground?
Does the machine still have plenty of other workout features and a good console to measure the data?
So, should you get an elliptical machine with a 360-degree motion?
Those that are confident, fit and experienced with elliptical machines should find that a well-designed product can help them take their workout to the next level. The new exercises and impact on the body can be noticeable. But, this is a gimmick too far for the less-experienced user that just wants a simple daily workout to improve their fitness levels. Take a closer look at everything on offer and see if you will be comfortable enough with the whole package. If so, make the most of the feature and see how it can affect your fitness levels.