Whether you’ve recently gotten into the gym, or you love nothing more than spending your weekday nights pushing yourself to hit a new personal best, an elliptical is one of the most effective ways to work your body.
When it comes to using an elliptical, it can be pretty tempting to jump straight on and start working out, especially as it’s one of the most fun types of gym equipment – not to mention being able to give you a full-body workout when used correctly.
However, this is one of the most common mistakes you can make, as forgetting to adjust the stride length in accordance with height can lead to a poor workout, discomfort, and even an injury.
This is where we come in! Below, you will find everything you need to know about how to discover your ideal stride length, as well as the benefits of choosing to do so. So, without further ado, let’s jump in.
What is an Elliptical Gym Machine?
Before we jump into the importance of determining the correct stride length while using an elliptical, it’s important that we ensure that you know the ins and out of this unique type of gym equipment in order to be able to properly benefit from using one.
Whether you’re a gym beginner or simply want to learn a little more about this unique type of gym equipment, an elliptical trainer is a versatile and popular machine that can be found in just about every gym across the globe.
In a nutshell, an elliptical trainer is a type of gym machine that is designed to work your lower body (mainly your legs) although they can come in different styles, which can also work your upper body.
Let’s take a look at the different types of elliptical machines:
Standard Elliptical Trainer
A standard elliptical machine simply refers to the most common type of elliptical machine available to you.
It is the most basic type of elliptical machine (and the original) as it only focuses on working your lower body.
Due to this, standard elliptical machines are usually one of the most affordable types to buy, and we’re willing to bet that they’re also a mainstay in your local gym.
While using a standard elliptical trainer, you can expect the following muscles to be targeted and worked out:
- Lower shins
If you’re already familiar with gym equipment, then you’ll likely have heard people using the terms ‘elliptical trainer’ and ‘cross trainer’ interchangeably, and technically, they’re not wrong.
A cross trainer is essentially the exact same as an elliptical trainer, however, the only difference between the two types of gym machine is that an elliptical trainer is only designed to work the lower half of your body, while a cross trainer is designed to work both your lower body and your upper body.
If you choose to use a cross trainer, you can expect the following muscles to be worked:
- Lower shins
As a side note, despite the fact that a cross trainer is designed to target additional muscles in your upper body area and the elliptical is designed to target only the lower body muscles, both the standard elliptical and the cross trainer feature the same stationery, user-generated motion ‘bike’ design.
So, for this reason, you’ll need to make sure that you adjust the stride length before usage, regardless of which type of elliptical you choose to workout on,
The Importance of Determining Your Stride Length
First and foremost, though it might be tempting to hop on your elliptical and start working out, it’s very important that you first take the time to determine the correct slight length for you.
Not only is determining the correct stride length for your individual height important because it will be able to ensure optimized comfort, but it will also help to ensure that you are safe during each workout – no matter how intense it might get.
Generally speaking, in terms of safety, elliptical exercise is generally considered to be a low-impact type of cardio ideal for those with injuries or simply looking for a less strenuous alternative to intense cardio, and this is for two reasons.
The first reason is that an elliptical machine allows us to be able to effectively mimic the strides we would make while running, without actually causing any impact to our joints.
The second reason is that, as all elliptical machines are user-generated, you’ll be able to use it with the peace of mind that you will always be in control of how intense you want the workout to be.
When combined together, it’s easy to see why an elliptical machine is so popular: they’re low-impact, effective, and comes with the promise of a low injury risk.
This is where the importance of making sure that you have the correct stride length comes into the mix.
It should go without saying that comfortability should be at the top of everyone’s priority list when it comes to a workout.
If you don’t feel comfortable while on your workout machine of choice, you won’t be able to benefit from a proper workout, not to mention potentially causing an injury.
If your stride length is way too short or too long for your body, comfort will be the first thing that goes.
If your elliptical stride is too short for your body, then you’ll notice that every stride will feel cramped, and you won’t be able to achieve that smooth, rhythmic motion characteristic of an elliptical.
In contrast, if your elliptical’s stride range is set to be too long for your height, then you’ll find that every stride feels as though your body is being stretched, which will not only run the risk of pulling a muscle but cause you to feel as though you are not in control of the elliptical.
Plus, regardless of whether the stride range is set too high or low if you exercise on an elliptical or cross-training machine that has the incorrect stride length for you, you’re ultimately going to discover that both your form and overall technique suffer, resulting in an increase of injury and a poor-quality workout.
This is because an incorrect stride length will decrease how effective the elliptical trainer will be, as your muscles will not be correctly targeted (both upper and lower) while outside of your ideal stride range.
How Is Stride Length Calculated?
Now that you know the importance of calculating a stride length, it’s now time to figure out how exactly you can go about doing it.
The good news is that stride length isn’t as complicated to calculate as you might first think.
When it comes to figuring out your perfect elliptical stride range, you’ll be able to calculate the stride length in a variety of different ways, although many agree that the easiest way of calculating the right stride length range for you is via a tried and true height-based calculation. Don’t panic!
Even though this method will require a little bit of math, the calculation is very easy to understand, so you’ll be able to quickly calculate your ideal stride length, even if math isn’t your forte!
To effectively do this, all you will need to do is first make sure that you accurately measure your height in inches.
Once you have the correct height figure, you will then need to go ahead and multiply that figure by 0.25, and you’ll have your perfect stride length.
As a side note, if the number you get has a decimal in it, simply round it up to the next whole number, and just like that, you’ll have calculated your stride length. Pretty easy, right?
Like we mentioned above, there are other ways that you can go about finding your ideal stride length so, alternatively, you can try out the chalk method.
Keep in mind, this is a little more complicated than the formula method above, and also has a lower accuracy rate, so you might have to repeat the test a few times to strengthen the accuracy of your result.
To do this, you will need to take a piece of chalk and stand in an area where you have plenty of space to walk around.
Then, with your chalk, bend down and make a mark on the floor, which will act as your starting point. From this point, stand back steps, relax and proceed to take 10 normal steps forward (using your natural stride).
As soon as you finish making those 10 steps, immediately stop where you are and make a mark on the floor, just above your right foot. This will count as your finishing point.
After doing this, you will then need to take a measuring tape and measure out the distance between your starting point, and the point that you finished in inches.
As soon as you have the distance calculation, you will then need to go ahead and divide the figure by 10, which will allow you to come to your ideal stride length figure.
Remember, if you do plan on using this method in place of the first formulation method, make sure that you carry this test out a few times, in order to raise the accuracy. This leads us to our next section.
What Stride Length is Best for Your Height?
Though it’s very important to know the ways that you can effectively calculate your optimized stride length range, this figure will mean nothing if you don’t know how it corresponds to your height.
So, assuming that you will have no calculated your stride length (or are making plans on doing so) we’re now going to be taking you through what stride length ranges will best correspond with your height, which will help you to ensure that the calculation you have is correct.
This is intended to help you double-check your results and help you to feel confident that the stride length you have calculated is right for you.
However, regardless of that, it’s important to keep in mind that, despite the eep in mind that despite your calculations, only you know your body best, so feel free to adjust the calculations 1 or 2 inches, depending on what feels right for you.
Everyone is different, so making a few tweaks to your calculated figure is to be expected and totally normal.
Don’t stress if you find that you work best with a stride range that doesn’t directly correlate to the optimized range for your height, as you’re the only person that will be able to make the best judgment call on what feels comfortable and in line with your natural stride.
As a general rule of thumb, people who are 5 feet tall or under will have an ideal stride length range of between 14 to 16 inches, while those who fall between the height categories of 5′ 3” to 5′ 7” will find that they need a stride length that falls anywhere from 16 to 20 inches.
The ideal stride length for those who are 5’7” to 6′ is about 20 inches, while a 20 to 22-inch stride length will likely be the best stride range for anyone who is over 6 feet tall.
In addition to this, there is a possibility that some people who are very tall may exceed the 22-inch stride length range.
Though this is rare, the only way that this can be remedied is by using a specialized elliptical that has been created to cater to people who have a longer stride length than other people.
However, to help simplify the standard stride length ranges, below you will find a table that will allow you to clearly see which elliptical stride range best corresponds to your height:
Ideal Stride Length Range:
5’ and under
5’3 to 5’7
5’7 to 6’
6’ and over
The Benefits of Determining Your Stride Length
There are so many benefits to taking the time to properly figure out what your ideal stride length is, with the first (and most important) being your comfort.
If you don’t correctly calculate your stride length, then you will not only have a bad experience using the elliptical, but you could even cause yourself to sustain an injury.
If you set your elliptical’s stride length too short, then your workout will feel cramped, while if you set the stride length too long, you’ll feel overstretched and uncomfortable.
This is why it’s so important to make sure that you determine the correct stride length for you, as you’ll be able to benefit from the most effective workout that will target all muscles while ensuring your comfort is not compromised.
Making Sure You Understand Your Equipment
Another important consideration to keep in mind is that different types of ellipticals might require different strides, which will ultimately play a part in determining your ideal stride range.
The reason for this is that elliptical machines are created using two common flywheel designs, with the most popular being a standard rear-drive system.
If you use a rear-drive elliptical, then you will likely find that your recommended stride range is what will work best for you, however, this will likely change if you opt for the second type of elliptical, which utilizes a front-drive system.
As the drive system is positioned differently on this type of elliptical than that of a rear-drive system, there’s a chance you’ll need to tweak your stride range.
The reason for this is because the drive system is the most integral part of an elliptical, which means that it will directly affect the motion and length of the pedals.
Generally speaking, front-drive systems will require a longer stride length as they have a flat motion, which means you’ll need a longer stride length to get the same feel as on a rear-drive machine.
As an example, a 20-inch stride on a front-drive machine would equal an 18-inch stride on a rear-drive machine, which equals a two-inch difference.
As a side note, another important part of getting the most out of your elliptical trainer is through good old trial and error.
Though pinpointing your height range is the most convenient way that you will be able to determine your ideal stride length, there are some other steps you can take to really maximize your elliptical workout – and it all comes down to not being afraid to test your equipment.
Like we touched upon above, only you will be the best judge of what feels most comfortable for you.
So, it’s important that you remember to not shy away from making adjustments to your ellipticals stride range in order to discover what works best for you.
If you are short but have long legs, you may need a longer stride length than what is recommended for your height, and if you are tall but have shorter legs, then you might need a shorter stride length than what is recommended for your height.
All in all, the best way that you’ll be able to raise the accuracy of your stride range and length is by making small tweaks and adjustments until you get to a range that feels most comfortable for you.
So, there we have it. You made it to the finish line!
Regardless of whether you plan on hitting your local gym, or you’re doing a little research before purchasing your first elliptical, it’s important to remember that stride length is one of the most important considerations that you should take
Not only will discovering your correct stride length help you to achieve the most effective results, but it will also ensure that you are using the elliptical properly, which will help you to reach your full potential and smash through personal bests.
It’ll also help to reduce the chances of any strain or injuries that could result from using the elliptical improperly.
As a side note, we also recommend remembering that it’s ok to tweak the elliptical and make adjustments as you go.
As soon as you have found your most comfortable length, don’t be afraid to see how it feels to make small, 1 inch adjustments.
By doing this, the little tweaks will help to target different muscles, increase comfort and help you to see results quicker.
So long as your strides do not feel uncomfortable or as though you’re stretching too much, then you’ll know that you’re in the correct range for you.
Thank you for reading! We hope that you enjoyed reading this elliptical stride guide, just as much as we enjoyed writing it.
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I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.
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