Treadmills and elliptical bikes are among the most common devices in professional and home gyms. Both offer an effective cardio workout and are great for burning calories. However, both the elliptical and the treadmill have their own advantages over the other. In this article we compare these two devices.
Advantages of a treadmill
- Versatility : light walk or HIIT training on the treadmill; it faces a challenging slope even in the middle of the Castilian plateau. Depending on the pace and incline, the treadmill offers you all the possibilities. Although at first you may think that “only” is good for running, you will soon realize that running is not the only option. You will be able to walk, jog, run, and much more.
- Naturalness : Of all endurance sports, running in all the above variants is undoubtedly the most natural. Not surprisingly, running is one of the aspects that has made human beings what they are today. Anyone can run (not counting those who have suffered a mishap). So why not train with one of our innate movement types? In summer you won’t even need a treadmill.
- Burning calories : With a full-body workout like the one offered by an elliptical trainer, obviously the caloric intake is very high. However, if you wonder which of the two (treadmill or elliptical) wins in terms of burning calories, you should know that it is the treadmill. This simply has to do with the elliptical helping the body to some extent. In the case of the treadmill, you should always move your entire body weight. This requires greater strength and therefore burns a greater number of calories. Anyway, this will always depend on the intensity, whether on the treadmill or the elliptical bike. If you walk very slowly on the treadmill and do a high intensity HIIT workout on the elliptical, you will obviously burn more calories on the elliptical.
- Strengthening: Often neglected is the fact that with particularly joint-friendly training, the positive aspects of the load are also partly lost. If done correctly, running actually also strengthens the joints, tendons, bones, and, of course, muscles. A healthy person practically does not have to worry, as long as he starts training slowly, so that the body can get used to the load. And at this point, the treadmill even shows an advantage over street running: treadmills have cushioning. While too hard a ground causes joints to suffer, the damping of a treadmill offers suspension similar to that found on a trail through the woods.
- It’s very simple : The treadmill is over 125 years old (look at the data!). Although it is not strange, since the principle is really simple. A treadmill moves and the person using it moves with it. This simple principle has made treadmills better and better. Tilt was included and smart programs were installed. But the basic principle has always been and will be the same (and just as effective).
- Consistency : The power or level of difficulty can be adjusted in the case of treadmills better than in any other fitness device. Consistent speed and incline keep the body facing the same challenge and require the same performance. On a treadmill, you cannot run faster than the set speed. In the case of ellipticals or exercise bikes, the pedaling speed cannot be adjusted, so the performance is much more variable.
- Easy to buy : The only fitness device even easier to buy than a treadmill is a dumbbell. In the latter case, weight is the most important. In the case of the treadmill, the purchase formula could be summed up like this: bigger, stronger and more expensive are synonymous with “better.” Elliptical bikes are more complex at that point. If you need more information, you can consult our treadmill buying guide.
Treadmill or elliptical bike ?: Disadvantages of the treadmill
- Joints : Despite the aforementioned, running can put a strain on the joints of less experienced people. A treadmill has in any case less impact on the joints than running on firm ground, although the elliptical is even more respectful with the joints. If your joints are healthy, yes, you can use the treadmill without any concern. The joints will also be strengthened.
- Feeling of insecurity : At high speeds, you can have the feeling that you could take a wrong step. But that hardly ever happens. Only on Youtube videos. Or when you are looking at other people in the gym. So if you go fast, better look ahead. The best place to train with the treadmill is in your own home, as you will have fewer distractions and your attention will be fully focused on the training.
- Temptation : It’s always very tempting to hold onto the handrail when you want to get a little rest while running, or reach for the hand pulse sensors to measure your heart rate. Either way, this brings the wrong stride or running style. The handrails are only there for safety. Hand pulse sensors should ONLY be used during pause. To measure heart rate during training, it is recommended to use a chest strap or a heart rate monitor.
- Posture problems : Many people tend to modify their stride when the running surface seems too small. Hence, we recommend a running surface as large as possible!
Advantages of the elliptical bike
- Joints : Joints are THE issue when it comes to comparing treadmills and elliptical bikes. Let’s cut it short: joints suffer less on the elliptical.
- “Crosstraining” : The term “cross-training” often refers to the “cross-movement” that is reflected on the elliptical. But we better put aside the crossing. What we mean by “crosstraining” is rather the integration of the arms. The muscle-building effect on the arms and back is overrated. However, by moving the arms, the whole body is activated, which means a greater calorie burn.
- Backwards : On an elliptical bike you can pedal in the reverse direction. This also activates other muscles and makes the elliptical so versatile. Naturally, you can also jog backwards on the treadmill. But it is still a more complicated challenge, in addition to looking a bit strange …
- Effort : For many people, the elliptical bike is less effort in appearance than the treadmill. At the same pulse level, on the treadmill, it is easier for the air not to reach you.
Disadvantages of the elliptical bike
- Guided movement : Due to the guided movement, on an elliptical bike you have some help for the dynamics. Naturally, you can adjust the level of difficulty, although this hardly changes the movement. For this, it would be necessary to resort to models with adjustable stride length or with adjustable incline. This gives elliptical training greater dynamics and is perfect when different people are going to train on the same device.
- Impact on the joints : The minimal impact on the joints when training with an elliptical is excellent, although it also has a downside. The joints look less trained and strengthened. Therefore, athletes should combine training with the elliptical and the treadmill.
- Inertia : And we are not referring to letting go, but to the mass of inertia. In ellipticals, you must move a flywheel, whose momentum is transmitted to the next movement, especially when the resistance is low, making you fool yourself a bit.
- High technology : Training with an elliptical cross trainer is very simple. Get on and start training. Therefore, any elliptical bike is ideal for all those who are starting out in training. However, if you want to get a little more in the way, elliptical bikes are a bit more complicated than treadmills. To give you a better idea, you can also consult our complete elliptical bike buying guide.
Which one burns more calories, with the treadmill or the elliptical trainer?
There is a clear answer: it depends. On a treadmill, you can reach higher maximum amounts, since you can give it more cane. If you train with a constant heart rate, the treadmill is also somewhat ahead. But it always depends on the pace at which you train, the incline, the force you use in your arms, etc.
Conclusion: treadmill or elliptical bike
The elliptical cross trainer is especially great for low-impact cardio training for your joints. For optimal fat burning, you should plan HIIT sessions, which you can also do on the treadmill. Basically you can say that the elliptical’s calorie counter tends to be somewhat optimistic. Without a doubt, more calories can be burned on a treadmill. Also, training on the treadmill is more varied. However, you have to be honest: anyone who wants to do HIIT sessions on a treadmill probably has no interest in lower walking speeds. And do not forget that the elliptical also offers variety, eg by running in reverse. Treadmills tend to push people out of their comfort zone, but burn more calories in return.
If you suffer from joint problems, you must clearly opt for the elliptical cross-trainer. The training effect is, yes, somewhat better on the treadmill. The issue of personal preferences also comes into play. And one thing is clear: both the treadmill and the elliptical are much better than the sofa.