Elliptical vs. Treadmill Training… Whats The Difference?

Elliptical vs. Treadmill Training

Treadmill training and elliptical training differ in many key areas. Both can serve for a great workout but function and challenge your body in different ways.

It is fantastic to change up your routine and use both machines regularly. This has given many of my client’s great results. I have trained many women to lose weight and I have found  that doing every workout on a treadmill becomes very boring and mundane. I recently came across a great article that broke down the key points between these fantastic machines.

To accelerate the fat loss and fitness results I will incorporate a challenging elliptical workout at least once per week. Between doing interval training on a treadmill, incline walking and challenging elliptical workouts, I am able to always keep their body guessing and this gives my clients incredible results.

There can be advantages and disadvantages to both the elliptical and treadmill. We will highlight which machine is best for what use in this article and provide a useful explanation to both cardio machines.

Who is the Treadmill Designed For?

The treadmill is better suited for the fitness enthusiast that is not battling any joint or muscle injuries. The treadmill is a much harder surface and your joints will take a lot more of a pounding. The treadmill is a high impact machine while the elliptical is a low impact machine.

If you are training for a 5K race, half marathon, or full marathon you need the treadmill for optimal results. The treadmill will give you a much more realistic running experience. If you are training for a long distance running race the treadmill will give you a great platform to train indoors. It will also give you monitors and a full range of running programs that allows the user to track his progress.

Treadmills are also better suited for athletes. High Intensity interval training and sprints are very common training techniques for basketball, football, tennis, soccer, rugby and even baseball workouts. All of my clients training for specific sports that require explosive movement will do a series of high intensity interval training.

I myself am a big basketball and tennis enthusiast and I will perform 2-3 High Intensity interval and sprint workouts per week on the treadmill.

Who is the Elliptical Designed For?

The elliptical has become quite popular recently due to the baby boomer generation. The elliptical is much easier on your joints and does not have the same amount of impact that the treadmill does. This is perfect for an older fitness enthusiast who does not require the normal treadmill.

Elliptical machines are also great for someone rehabbing or coming back from injury. This is especially true for ankle, knee, and lower back injuries.

I have had several clients who have complained that the treadmill has made their existing joint pain worse. One of my older clients has complained the treadmill has made his lower back and knees much worse.

We have switched his workouts to the elliptical and he is feeling much better. The hand positions on the elliptical machine actually encourage much better posture. I have found that the hand positions on the treadmill will sometimes promote bad posture thus creating increased risk for injury and lower back pain.

If you are looking for some great medical information regarding elliptical training check out this link from the Mayo Clinic.

Key Differences between Treadmills & Elliptical

  • Elliptical Runs on Momentum Only while a Treadmill runs with a Motor
  • Ellipticals are low impact so they are better for back,knee and ankle pain
  • Treadmills are higher impact and will be harder on your joints than Ellipticals
  • Hand positions on the Elliptical make for better Posture
  • Treadmills allow the user to get a much more Intense Workout by Adjusting Speed and Incline
  • Treadmills allow you to Run Sprints or perform High Intensity Interval Training
  • Elliptical uses the Upper and Lower Body Resistance
  • Treadmills are strictly a Lower Body Training Platform
  • Ellipticals have the advantage of Cross Training
  • Treadmills offer more impact which strengthens the Bones and Joints
  • Ellipticals are the Machine of Choice for Rehabbers and Senior Citizens
  • Treadmills are the Machine of choice for athletes and younger fitness enthusiasts


Both machines truly make for a great workout and I suggest doing both weekly. Although the treadmill will give you a more intense workout and gives you the ability to perform sprints and high intensity interval training, the treadmill will give you a lower impact full body workout. The elliptical also gives you the ability to “cross train” which is something that the treadmill does not. For more great information regarding elliptical training and some of its benefits check out this informative read.

Unless you are training for a marathon or a 5 K race I think anyone can benefit from using both of these machines regularly. Switching up your fitness routine between the elliptical and treadmill will give you a wide array of workout options and will ensure that you don’t get bored with your usual routine.

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