Elliptical machines come in three main types: center drive, front drive, and rear drive. These names refer to the position of the elliptical’s flywheel, the weighted disc that provides resistance when you move your feet and helps to maintain the machine’s stability. Where the flywheel is positioned can change your experience on an elliptical, so it’s important to consider what kind of workout you’re looking for before you choose a machine.
Front Drive - A front drive elliptical has the flywheel positioned ahead of you, with your toes pointing at it. The pedals on front drive ellipticals are positioned at a bit of an angle, providing a workout that can feel more like climbing stairs. They also often require you to lean forward a little, engaging your back and other upper body muscles.
Rear Drive - Rear drive ellipticals, on the other hand, have more of a flat-ground feel to their movement, and are more likely to let you adjust the incline yourself. And because their pedals are lower to the ground, rear drive machines are the easiest to step into.
Center Drive - If you’re space-conscious, a center drive elliptical might be the choice for you. On these machines, the flywheel is positioned alongside your feet, minimizing the extra bulk. Center drive machines are well balanced and provide a workout that feels similar to a front drive: some elevation to your steps, a little like climbing stairs, but without the front-drive’s need to lean forward. The pedals are also typically closer together, putting your hips and knees in a more natural walking position.